The Srinagar-Leh road, skirting the banks of the Drass river reveals a canvas full of colours, painting a soulful harmony. It composes a moment when Nature is in creation.
Once past the Zoji-La (pass), the change is dramatic and stark. The green valley suddenly becomes barren and awesome. The air gets brisker, the sun warmer. And before you is a gigantic sculpture in desolate rock, silencing the mind and compelling the imagination to stand back and gaze in awe at this vast expanse of solitude.
Now you are a little closer to the skies. The once forbidden land of Ladakh unfolds itself. An amazing land, top of the world.
The small villages, with towering edifices of granite and gravel mountains encompassing them, look frail and inconsequential. This is Ladakh – the land of rock.
Ladakh – the land of many passes, of freezing high barren landscapes lying across the lofty Asian tableland – is among the highest of the world’s inhabited plateaus. Remote yet never isolated, this trans Himalayan land is a repository of a myriad cultural and religious influences from mainland India, Tibet and Central Asia.
Situated on the western end of the Himalayas, Ladakh has four major mountain ranges – the Great Himalayan, Zanskar, Ladakh and the Karakoram – passing through it. A maze of enormously high snow capped peaks and the largest glaciers outside the polar region, dominate the terrain where valley heights range from a mere 8,000 feet to 15,000 feet while passes of up to 20,000 feet and peaks reaching above 25,000 feet can be seen all around. The world’s largest glacier outside the polar region, Siachen is here. Such daunting heights no wonder determine the land’s temperature where Leh and Kargil experience temperatures as low as – 30° C and Dras -50°C. Three months of sub zero temperatures (Dec-Feb) and the, rest of the months facing zero degree temperatures, it is a long and hard winter here.
Waterways, waterfalls and lakes freeze, and the water vapour freezes to break into the most intricate and attractive crystal patterns. But on clear sunny days, when the average temperature goes over 20° C, the sun can bescorching hot in its intensity and its ultra violet rays cause deep sun burn. Rainfall is a mere 2 inches and it is the melting snow in summer which sustains life in this arctic zone. High aridity and low temperatures lead to sparse vegetation as a result of which the landscape is desert-like with sand dunes and even occasional sand storms occur.