January, that time of the year when the winter has set up north, the weather is nice and cool down south, and Mumbai is..... well.... Mumbai!
It is also that time of the year when professionally, you get one of the most important pieces of information you would need for the rest of the year. And that is....... the holiday calendar! The relief you get when you see a 4 day weekend happening without you having to take any leave of your own is a feeling worth savoring!
So, in January, the wife and I set about planning our holidays for the year. And we had only one place where we just had to.... HAD TO go.
For the uninformed, Ladakh is a district in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is famous for hosting some of the highest motorable passes in the world, and renowned for its mountainous terrain and beauty. And the people are just the best! This is a place everyone should visit once in their lifetime!
The number of days of the trip was decided by the toss of a coin. Heads, 1 week, Tails, 2 weeks. The first coin toss came up Heads......we said 'Let us take best of 3'! We continued so till we got a Tails maximum.
The route was simple to decide. We would be thorough in our travel, and go from Manali to Leh to Srinagar, thus enjoying two of the most mesmerizing road routes you will ever get to see on this planet.
The time of the year to travel was decided to be the time when the rains would have just started in Ladakh. Hence, July 22nd -August 7th was chosen. It also strategically meant we could take only 10 days leave, but still get a good 15 days out of it! SMART! ;)
We needed people to come with us! We spoke to people we knew, and 3 other people agreed to come along. AWESOME! It's always great to travel with good company!
Having had just about the experience in riding a motorcycle as a young kid learning to ride a cycle for the first time, I did not want to take any chances (rather, I did not have the balls!!!) in doing a Bullet roadtrip. The fact that I did not have a car of my own (or people who were coming along who had a car of their own), meant that a hired cab was the way to go! Sorted!
The wife was very efficient in choosing the hotels. Those with a good rating with good comments as well were chosen. Ah, the vast amount of knowledge the internet holds, that is of so much value to us! If not for them, how would we even survive?!?!
On to the most difficult part of the entire planning process. How to get your leave sanctioned by your reporting manager. Here, each man (& woman) was to themselves, there was no other way out! It just had to be done, by hook or crook! Strategies planned to get them to agree to the leave were hatched, and they just had to be executed!
So the stage was set, the five of us were ready to take on the world! Nothing could stop us from experiencing the greatness that is Ladakh...... or could it?
Skip to June end, and the 3 other people who were supposed to come dropped out.......this left with just me and my wife, and having to go through the exercise of bringing in a few more people! With every 'No yaar... can't do it... won't get any leave' and 'I would love to make it, but I just did a trip recently!!', we were losing hope. Then, at the last moment, a lovely couple agreed to tag alongwith us! We were saved! The trip was ON again!
Then, in July, this happened. Our trip included a couple of days stay at Srinagar. We were close to the date of the trip. The situation was not getting any better. Others who we knew were traveling around the same time were frantically canceling or rescheduling their trips and skipping the Srinagar leg. What do we do? Do we take the risk and continue with our trip? Do we frantically change our schedule to limit it just to Manali- Leh? So many questions to be answered.... so little time!
What actually happened was a memorable trip that would be forever etched in my memory. The ups and the downs, the drama that unfolded closer to the end of our journey (During the time of our planned Srinagar phase) is something that can only be experienced! I will try my level best to pen down the phases of our trip as much as possible, in coming posts! Stay tuned!