As winter sets in Leh turns from a bustling tourist destination to a ghost town. The hotels, restaurants and shops close down by September end. Only the local Ladakhi people are left behind to brave the extreme conditions. Where do these shopkeepers go? They go to Goa!! The tourist season in Goa is from November to March and they set up shop over there. Visit both these places and you will come across many familiar faces.
Winter in Leh has its own charm. This place is a favorite destination of those interested in winter trekking. The Indus and Zanskar freeze by December end and then starts the Chaddar Trek up the Zanskar. It is an extremely difficult one week trek from Chilling to the Zanskar valley. And although you are walking on ice the river is still flowing swiftly a mere 5-6 inches below your feet. This is not for the faint hearted!!
Another winter sport that the people enjoy over here is ice hockey. There is a small lake in Leh that is a sight to behold in summer. The crystal clear waters of the lake act as a mirror and you can see the nearby mountains reflected off it.
And in winter this becomes the ice hockey ground.
Small kids glide over the icy surface with the ease of ballet dancers. I decided to try it out and simply standing still on the ice turned out to be a herculean task. It is an art that needs to be mastered otherwise it can lead to serious injury. I was content to stand afar and watch the players in action.
I was lucky that I got the opportunity to see Leh in its snow clad form. Everywhere you see the land is white.
However a disturbing trend has been observed in these parts. Global warming is knocking on the door here and the effects can be seen very vividly. There have been instances of heavy rainfall and cloud burst that caused heavy damages. While the Indus and Zanskar have frozen in the higher reaches, in Leh the Indus had not frozen even in peak winters. The river continued to flow as before.
This is a warning sign that the natural cycle of things is being disrupted. Such minor incidents will snowball into catastrophic events. Mankind is clashing with nature and we will end up as the losers. I pray that we pay heed to this and change our ways or there will be little left of this pristine beauty.