Srinagar Leh Highway #2 –  the high altitude desert of Ladakh

Engulfing our 360 view – “Little Tibet” loomed large. Surrounding blue sky. Massive brown mountains. Snow jagged peaks. Tails of bright prayer flags. For me, it was a dazzling flashback to Tibet (in China in 1994) but simultaneously fresh and exciting. And for my novice-traveller GF Wei, mind-blowing.

buddhist-stupas-lamayuru-ladakh-india

Buddhist stupas at the Lamayuru Monastery, which is located at an altitude of 3510 meters and on route to Leh on our trip across Ladakh.

fertile-valley-mountain-desert-ladakh-india

Regions such as Ladakh (and other Himalayan areas) are high altitude deserts. Similar to the standard desert stereotype like the Sahara, everything is arid until a flick of water is found and then fertile oases bloom amid the harsh terrain.

kargil-war-memorial-ladakh-india

Indian War Memorial amid mountains of Ladakh dating from the Kargil War fought in 1999 against Pakistan. The figure in the center is Sunny, our 5th paying passenger and an Indian guide (off-duty) who thanks to his knowledge we arranged for the driver to stop at sights on route to Leh.

ladakhi tibetan women portraits

Ladakhi Tibetan women with personal prayer wheels, gemstone necklaces and tons of local fashion style pose at the Lamayuru Monastery.

ladakh-tibetan-landscapes

Harsh environmental reality – and beauty – of a high altitude desert. Ladakhi Tibetan villages and monasteries were dotted along the Leh Srinagar Highway at isolated intervals.

tibetan-monastery-collage-ladakh-india

Lamayuru Monastery interior: ancient, sacred, psychedelic; exciting as hell to just … feel the place. Lamayuru is one of the largest and oldest gompas – about 1000 years old – in Ladakh. Today about 150 permanent monks reside here.

tibetan-prayer-flags-snowy-peak-india

Tibetan prayer flags line the highest pass of the entire trip at Fotu La @ 4108 meters during the second day along the Srinagar Leh Highway.

turquiose-river-ladakh-india

Brilliant turquoise / green waters of icy mountain water running down somewhere from western Tibet in China.

two-rivers-meeting-ladakh-india-panorama

The confluence of the Indus and Zanskar Rivers near Nimmu: one of many wondrous panoramas on route.

ladakh-tibetan-monasteries

Spectacular mountain monasteries, ruined forts and palaces, ancient buddhas, brilliant blue skies, puffy white clouds; the road trip to Leh hinted what was in store in the coming days across Ladakh.

READ – Part #1 for trip story and travel advice: Srinagar Leh Highway

Travels in India – 2016