Profile of Ladakh
In the far north west of India lies the province of Ladakh. Here is precariously sits at the border with Pakistan, India and China and is sandwiched between the giant mountain ranges of Karakoram and Himalaya.
This is itself a mountainous terrotry with the Stok, Zanskar and Ladakh ranges it is no wonder the name Ladakh is derived from “Ladags” which means “land of high passes”. Although a high altitude arid dessert land with beautiful rock ridges, it is in fact a myriad of colour drawn from exposed strata on the hillsides, and bright oasis of the villages.
The indigenous people of Ladakh are of Tibetan origin, they practice Buddhism and are incredibly genious at creating an existence from such an inhospitable environment. They manage this through a complex series of irrigation channels which direct glacial water through the fields on a rotation basis. Crops such as barley, with perimeter borders of willow groves are able to be grown for food and building purposes. As with other Himalayan Buddhist societies, here you can find monasteries, chortens and mani walls as you trek through the villages. The culture encourages a basic way of life which is in balance with the natural surroundings.
Historically, Ladakh has been part of Nepal and Tibet. Indeed as you view the map Ladakh may be seen more easily as an extension of Tibet lying geographically along similar lines of latitude. As the religion & culture of the people as well as their genetic inheritance also suggests Tibetan origins, it is no wonder that Ladakh is colloquially known as “Little Tibet”. It is worth mentioning here, that many people view Ladakh as having greater representation of Tibetan life than Tibet itself (given the influence of the Chinese invasion). This remains to be a politically sensitive area due to the borders between the great powers of India, China and Pakistan. Indeed for this reason Ladakh was a restricted by the Indian government as a no access zone for tourists. This was lifted in the 1970’s and since then Ladakh has become another mecca of Himalayan outdoor adventure and a destination for Buddhist cultural experience and education.
There is now a well established tourist infra-structure in Leh which operates during the season which is May – September. During the winter months the region is extremely cold with temperatures peaking at -5 degrees Celsius in the daytime! The trekking routes vary from well established trails such as the popular Markha Valley, to remote routes across Zanskar or south from Leh to Tsmorori. What all routes have in common is a distinct lack of trekking infrastructure in terms of accommodation so all trekking is self sufficient tented camps. There are some good home stay opportunities for those seeking a taste of the Ladakhi way of life. Leh is a bustling centre from where you can access not only trekking but rafting and cycling adventures as well. Flying into Leh from Delhi you navigate over the Himalayas and land in a basin between the Stok and Ladakh mountain ranges. There is a distinct feeling that you have arrived in one of the world’s outposts.
So mountains, colourful people, Buddhist culture and outdoor adventure are the themes of Ladakh. And last but not least colour – a Russian artist called Roreich famously painted in Ladakh with myriads of colour – once you’ve been there you’ll agree just how realistic his imagery really is.