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High On The Himalayas

Travelling through the spectacular locales of Ladakh and Bhutan, Reema Sisodia experiences a new high as she acquaints herself with these exotic and mystical regions with the Far Horizon team

A Land Like No Other

Let me share a recipe for an exotic getaway with you. Take the month of July, add the rain-shadow region of breathtaking Ladakh and complete it with a travel experience with Far Horizon, the result is nothing short of a perfect holiday. It all began in the month of July, when I, along with four friends, boarded the 06:30 am flight leaving the capital, which transported me straight into the thick of action - Leh, approximately 11,000 feet above sea level. The flight itself was an experience. Our tour leader Davinder mentioned, “The Delhi-Leh sector is one of the three most spectacular air routes, over the Himalayan range, the other two being Kathmandu-Tibet and Kathmandu-Bhutan.” Flying over the Pir Panjal, Zanskar and Nun Kun mountains of Kashmir, my seven-day experience in the terrains of Ladakh began exactly at 7:40 am.

Maitreya Buddha in Thiksey Monastery Ladakh,

Hopping into the jeeps, which took us straight to our temporary abodes, it was a day meant for total acclimatisation. Plenty of water, light lunch, a casual stroll in the Leh market, followed by a trip to Sankara Gompa. His experienced words, “Take it easy guys, lots of action yet to come with every passing day. If you push yourself too much, you will push yourself out of a holiday.” And I must say, he was so true. A new experience, a new vision unfolded everyday, from the exciting tours through the streets and settlements of Leh, to the breathtaking views of the sunset from the Shanti Stupa, from the visit to the Stok Palace to sipping the traditional Gurgur Chai (made of barley) in the Tibetan village, every experience was unique. Remember to pick up some interesting Tibetan silver jewellery and teak handicrafts at the villages and in Leh. The following day, we took a trip right into the heart and culture of Ladakh, to inimitable places like Likir, Lamawiu and Alchi.

Lamayaru Ladakh

With every passing day, we picked up pace, with the highlight being our two night stay at the base camp at Tso Morari Lake. Reaching destination Tso Morari was a visual treat, driving along side the river Indus, stopping at the beautiful Thikse Monastery, passing through Mahe, the brigade head of the Indian army, and experiencing the splendid flora and fauna of the region. From our camp, perfectly blending convenience and comfort, we explored the region and discovered the various facets of nature in quick succession.

The ultimate finale of our skillfully-planned holiday ended in a spiritual fashion. We were fortunate to witness the Hemis festival unique to the region held for just two days in July. We offered Khatak (silk scarves) at the monastery, which is believed to bring good luck and fortune. With memories of this everlasting experience lingering on, we left the Hemis monastery to set out on our journey back to metropolitan musings.

Experience The Last Himalayan Kingdom
April and its spring time in both India and Bhutan. But for Bhutan, the month of April means more than just spring, it is time for their most spectacular festival - Tsceshu in Paro. Having pre-planned to visit Bhutan during this unique festival, I boarded Bhutan’ national carrier, Druk Air, with the Far Horizon group. Flying over Kathmandu, we were fortunate to view the breathtaking aerial splendours of the Himalayan peaks of Kanchanjunga, Makalu, Lhotse and the mighty Everest. As the plane descended at Paro airport, we saw the holiest mountain of Bhutan, Chomalhari. This was truly the grand finale to my 2 hour, 45 minutes flight via Kathmandu. Clearing the basic formalities at the airport, we joined the Explore Bhutan expedition.

Post-lunch at Druk Hotel, we drove through Paro town, which is only a half kilometre street with houses and shops on either side. Crossing rivers and valleys, we reached Ta-Dzong, formerly a watch-tower, now a national museum housing some of the best paintings and artefacts of the region. An adventurous lot that we were, we decided to trek back to get a closer feel of the landscape. Reaching Druk by 6 pm, we were treated to an entertaining evening with Bhutanese folklore and dances around a lovely bonfire organised by the Far Horizon team. It was only the next day that we truly experienced the colourful Bhutanese festival. Mask dances, unfurling of the Thangkha (scroll painting), processions of the monks, and the entire mood and movements which characterise this festival, are magical and mystical. Continuing beyond sunset, it is a blend of prayers and partying in a common area.

Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan

The sunrise next morning had a whole lot of surprises in store that unfolded in the capital - Thimpu. The two hours drive to Thimpu took us through an enchanting journey upstream along the Paro Chu reaching the confluence of Paro Chu and the Thimpu Chu. Explore the Thimpu bazaar and do invest in a special Bhutanese outfit called Kira, but don’t forget to exercise your bargaining skills here. The entire region has a unique aura surrounding it, be it the Wangdi or Punakha valley.

Undoubtedly, the Drukyul Kingdom (Land of the Thunder Dragon) is a world in itself, a society and culture strong and captivating. The impressions of this Himalayan kingdom still linger on...