Warming up in India (2) : Ladakh and Kashmir

After 2 days of travel between Spiti and Ladakh, we spent 4 nights in Leh, the capital city of Ladakh, in order to rest a little. We usually travel by bus or by sharing taxi (just imagine a car packed with as many people as possible, and you'll get an idea !), which makes the travel quite tiring. The 4 days of rest and preparation for the next was definitely needed !

After that, we went to a small village named Tar. To reach it, one needs to take a bus to Nurla and get down a bit before the village. There is a footbridge. Cross it and then hike up during about one hour and an half or 2 hours (or only 45' if you are a local), along a nice and peaceful stream that you'll cross many times on stones or wooden bridges. Pass through some narrow and scenic gorges. You'll then arrive in a beautiful village named Tar, set like a diamond in the mountains.

If you like to spend time in the nature and in a small village, then Tar is made for you. Pierrick, a solo french traveler met in Leh, had exactly the right profile, so we invited him to join us.
There, we met all our friends : Konchok, Tashi, abi Dolkar and so many others. They announced us that a wedding was taking place in the village 2 days later.  Lucky us ! We decided that we would spend 4 nights here and really enjoy the place.

We would spend our time hiking around, drinking a tea with neighbors, or reading in the spare October sun.

Because of the wedding, many people were in the village and we met people that are usually living in another place, like the brother-in-law of Tashi, Konchok Raften, who is a guide and who does speak French perfectly. We enjoyed long and interesting discussions with him.

With Tashi and Konchok Palmo, we would enjoy dancing and having fun together. And Abi Dolkar, well,... she's just so sweet !

The colors of autumn perfecly suits apricots trees. They display green, yellow, orange and deep red at the same time.

While the villages are green and yellow in the summer, we discover how the (already cold) October month brings unexpected brightness to the landscapes.

The D-day of the wedding is already today. Around 12, the bride reaches the village. She is accompanied by dancers and by her family. When they reach the village, they are welcomed by the groom's family. People dance on the music and all the ceremonial is accomplished following the rules.

During the dances, people receive food and drinks. They talk a lot, exchange news of the family and friends,... nothing really different from what we do in Belgium.

Except maybe the money run... we laughed a lot with this one, so I need to explain you a little bit this custom... even if there is not so much to explain : at a certain point, the men of the bride's family started to run, followed by all the people of Tar, all ages together. Then they threw 10 roupies banknotes that were flying everywhere and that the villagers tried to catch, nearly struggling to get them. The old ladies were part of the fun, it was a bit crazy !

During these days in Tar, we also went to hike in the nearby mountains, a way to train for our upcoming 3000 kilometers hike in New Zealand. We hiked twice, each time about 5 hours.

Pierrick is not used to walk, but he adopted immediately a slow and steady pace. Seeing that, we proposed him to join us for the "exit walk" between Tar and Mang Gyu, another small village lying in an adjacent valley and that is connected to the Leh road.

It was a though hike. We left very early and had to climb 800 meters to reach a first pass, the Ipti La. From there, we hiked up and down till a second pass. It is a bit strenuous and it seems it will never end. But eventually, we reached the second pass and started going down to Mang Gyu.

To finish our adventure in Ladakh, we went to visit Konchok Palmo's sister in her village, before heading back to Leh. We stayed a few more days there before finding a sharing taxi to Srinagar, in Kashmir.

Goodbye Deachan and all her family, goodbye Ladakh, see you soon !

 Soooo... What about Kashmir now ? I recognize it might seems a bit frightening to go there.

BUT : if you prepare your travel and have good contact people there, it's definitly a great place to see, with very nice people. Interested ? Read a little, I'll share my good addresses !

First, we went to Pahalgam. That's a 3 hours ride in sharing taxi. Pahalgam is in the mountains and it's a quiet village. I would recommend to stay in the old village, near the river.

We stayed at Beach Resort, a family run guest house, very nice and quiet, with a fantastic view.
One of the son is a tourist guide and we went with him to Sheshnag Lake. We stayed there one night and enjoyed the beautiful view. Next time, we would stay longer there, at least one week, so that we can hike longer with Mehraj.

The best season there is July - August - September. October was already a bit cold. But the sights on the snowy mountains and the glaciers were gorgeous.

At the guest house, all the family was taking care of us and it was possible to have our meals there. It was a great opportunity to discuss with everyone in the family. They are very nice and open and we discussed about many different topics.

After 4 nights in Pahalgam, we decided to spend 2 nights in a houseboat on Dal Lake. It was also a great experience. To choose well your houseboat, the best is to ask good addresses to someone that you trust. Mehraj could without problem advise one or another place and can also organize the transportation.

It was 2 days of total relaxing, reading on the boat and eating delicious kasmiri traditional dishes. We also enjoyed observing the birds.

The morning of the second day, we went to see the vegetables floating market, which was great to visit other parts of the lake.

It was a great experience and a good relaxation before our next destination : New Zealand !


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