Sunday, August 23, 2015

Ladakh Diaries - Day # 4

Since we had saw most of the things on the Leh - Uleytopko route the day before, I faced the prospect of being in my Leh hotel room by as early as noon. This was a problem, as I had just spent all that time acclitimising and I didn't want to be indoors so soon in the day. So over breakfast, I came up with this whacko idea: why don't I go river rafting?????

Even before I could finish my breakfast, I could feel the rush of adrenaline. But first, Alchi Monastery. This is- if I remember correctly- the oldest monastery in Ladakh and arguably one of the prettiest. It is the only monastery that is not situated on a hill top. The village is pretty and full of al-fresco restaurants. The main temple is a very run down building with paintings going back a thousand years. It's very delicately preserved. Alchi monastery is a must- see place in Ladakh and if you don't wish to stay in Uleytopko, you could also try and find a motel here in this village. Do spend a few hours, atleast at this place.

Next stop: river rafting. We drove a few kms ahead at the meeting point of Zanskar and Indus rivers. I was getting nervous. I don't know swimming and I had never done rafting before, so I had little idea of what to expect. But one step at a time. This is one of the most famous rafting spots in Ladakh. Rafting starts at about 10 am here. The best time to do rafting is first half of the day. By the time I reached, only two couples had come. We need a minimum five people atleast on a boat (excluding the  guide). One couple (the husband was an army man and so was stationed in Ladakh itself) backed out because the wife was scared and wasn't convinced. The other couple stayed put, though this wife too was scared. But they stayed put till the end and finally did rafting with me in my boat and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We were also joined by a boisterous group of about 7-10 boys from Nashik, who kept the atmosphere lively by their constant jokes and chattering.

Once we enrolled, we were made to sign a declaration that we knew the risks (if any) we were taking. We were given body suits, helmets and life jackets. We were then taken in a car (in our own vehicles) to the starting point, 14 kms away, upstream. The Zanskar - Indus confluence was actually the end point of the rafting trip.  We were given safety instructions and very soon our rafting began.

There were about 7-8 rapids but the first two rapids and the last I think were the most ferocious. The guide was very good and apart from clear instructions, he guided us all very well. There were two boats in our group; I was in one of them obviously. For a moment in one of the rapids, we were caught in a whirlpool. Our boat was caught in a merry-go-round incessantly but our guide told us to just sit tight and do nothing. There isn't much to do when caught in a whirlpool, he says. Once the rapids were over and the water became calm, the guide gave us the ultimate shock: Now, jump in the water!!! I was like, are you mad? I don't know swimming. He reassured us and told us to just jump and hold the ropes that surround the boat. Our life jackets would also help. I hesitated and asked myself what should I do.

Well, I had never planned to do rafting before I went to ladakh, despite knowing of the possibility. But I did it, didn't I? I said to myself if I didn't jump in the water there and then, I would regret for the rest of my life. Especially, since the guide had said nothing would happen. So I did it. I caught the rope tightly and my guide nudged me in the water. At first, I was shocked. The water was icy cold and I could feel no support from the bottom. I felt like I was hanging for my life with that rope. But slowly, the more experienced guys and the guide on the boat encouraged me to stay calm and just start to float. I tell you, the experience was divine! I felt like I had conquered a big fear, though for those who do rafting or swimming regularly, this would be nothing. Still, for me, it was something very big. Then, the couple who were also first timers like me, also took the plunge. It was real fun.

Then, the guide pulled me up in the boat. And lo behold: I took the plunge again. Yes, yes second time. Man, this was awesome!!!

Before you know it, we reached the end point of our trip. This was an experience, I'll never forget. As I said in my previous post, God indeed has been very kind.

After the rafting, we made another surprise halt at the Gurudwara Shri Patthar Sahib, yet again. But this time we stopped by for their traditional lunch (langar). Since it was a Sunday and since we also had to have our lunch, we decided to eat the Gurudwara. The elaborate and lip-smacking vegetarian meal was prepared by the army people and they served us. It was very humbling experience of being served by the Indian army people. No wonder the Sunday langar (mass meal) I was told- and I could see- is a well attended one.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, nice write up.. enjoyed seeing the pic though could not read the blog fully...
    Hotel asia ladakh


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