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Newsletter 48 - sent on the 25 October 2021
Join us on the Roof of the World!
Travel has become considerably easier since our last newsletter. In the United Kingdom, the reviled travel 'Red List' has dwindled down to a few countries in South America, and expensive PCR tests are no longer required for those who have been double-vaccinated., and our friends in Australia are finally allowed to leave the country! Consequently, many of us are dreaming of being able to finally hit the road again, and are making plans for future trips. Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring each of our three tours that still have places, to give you a more in depth look at the sort of amazing things that you will be able to see, and photograph. This week, we will be looking at our Impressions of Ladakh trip, which will happen in July 2022.
Impressions of Ladakh
The high altitude region of Ladakh in India, is one of this entrancing country's best kept secrets. Nestling into a high altitude plateau, lying between the Himalayan and Kunlun Mountains, the feeling in Ladakh is more Tibetan than Indian! The predominant religion is Tibetan Buddhism, and the high altitude is quite literally breathtaking! The main city of the region, Leh, is at an altitude of 5324 metres.
You can see the full itinerary on this link and download the pdf for the tour here. On this newsletter though, I want to give you a flavour of what it is like to travel in this most stunning corner of India.
One of the advantages of Ladakh from a travel perspective is that the best time to travel here is during the summer months, when the rest of the country is hot, and often wet. The altitude of the region means that it is far cooler, and much drier during this time. For many years Ladakh has only had a couple of road routes leading to it, and was frequently cut-off during the winter months. New road tunnels, and a new road leading from the remote Zanskar Valley to the city of Manali, have increased access during the winter, but it is still a distant and relatively little travelled part of the World.
This geographical isolation has led to Ladakh having more cultural links with Tibet than the rest of India. Leh Palace was modelled on the Potala Palace in Lhasa, and the main religion is Tibetan Buddhism. This cultural link can be seen in many of the faces of the people, as well as the architecture of traditional buildings and monasteries.
Even in the summer, you will often see ice and snow on the summits of the many mountains that ring the verdant Leh Valley. Depending on the local weather, you can sometimes have to drive through snow drifts on the high passes - most notably the Khardung La pass, which leads from Leh to the remote Nubra Valley. Khardung La used to be hailed as the highest motorable pass in the world. It has since been surpassed, but at a height of 5359 metres, it is still breath-taking. Having a snowball fight, and making snow angels in India, in July is a delight, especially for the few local tourists who make it this far.
Once you cross the pass, you are in an even more remote valley, where you can photograph local Bactrian Camels against a back-drop of soaring mountains.
Ladakh is seemingly peppered with ancient and Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries, where monks, and sometimes nuns worship amongst colourful murals and Buddha images.
Many of these monasteries are perched on rocky outcrops, or even set amongst snow-capped mountains. Generally they comprise of an open courtyard, which is used for religious dancing during festivals, and a dark and atmospheric prayer hall where monks chant and pray, amidst the heady aroma of incense and yak butter candles. We will endeavour to witness at least one set of morning prayers - a haunting experience.
Once you leave the Leh Valley, then the roads are somewhat adventurous! Driving times can be long, and sometimes uncomfortable, but the views and the scenery are spectacular. You will pass through harsh valleys, ringed with mountains often on switchback roads. We will pass lakes, glaciers and where possible, we will stop for photographs of many of the best views.
Many of the roads we will drive are seldom travelled - and many of the vehicles that you will see are the atmospheric Indian trucks that crawl along for days on end, bringing goods up into this mountain realm.
India is a land of colourful festivals, and Ladakh is no exception. Every monastery in this land will hold at least one festival a year, and our itinerary is timed to visit one of these, in a small monastery in the Zanskar Valley.
Ladakhi Monastery festivals feature religious and sometimes masked dancing, that contain moral messages, and recount the history of Buddhism in the region and even sometimes individual monasteries. The dances are performed for the throngs of local pilgrims who congregate at the festival. They are very colourful and fantastic subjects for photography.
We have also timed out trip to take in the Leh Polo Festival, where we can watch and photograph this spectacular game.
For all of the mountains and monasteries, it is the people of Ladakh who are the undoubted highlight of any trip. Their warmth, humour and incredibly photogenic faces will help you to bring back more memories, and also incredible portrait photographs, than almost any other trip you have ever taken.
The Zanskar Valley has recently been joined to the rest of India by a brand new road, that leads to the town of Manali in Himachal Pradesh. We will aim to drive this route as a way to leave Ladakh, without having to retrace our steps to Leh and fly out. This route, allows to be amongst the first to use this road, and also to see the atmospheric town of Manali, and travel on to the Sikh city of Amritsar in order to fly home. Manali is a remote city in its own right, but will seem like a thriving metropolis after two weeks in the remote corners of Ladakh.
Impressions of Ladakh departs from New Delhi on 5 July 2022 for 18 days. Under our new variable pricing policy, the cost is from £2695 if 8 people travel to £2400 for the full 12 people. You can see more information on this link. You can see the full itinerary on this link and download the pdf for the tour here.
Private local courses
Our private local courses allow you to treat yourself to some intensive one-to-one tuition in some of the most stunning and iconic landscapes in the country, or even to a private photography course with a group of friends. This is the perfect way to focus on the areas that interest you, and concentrate on the skills that you want to improve.
This time of year is the ideal time for shooting in the UK: not only can you enjoy the glowing Autumn colours, but sunrise and sunset are at a far more civilised times, and you can often see your subject with a dusting of morning mist.
Photographically, you can concentrate on photographing birdlife, brush up on technical skills like stacking images and shooting long exposures, or even learn how to shoot astro-photography.
Since Steve moved down to the West Country, he has been exploring his local area, and now has a range of options for photographic excursions. These include extensive photography tours on Dartmoor, explorations of Dorset and photographing the wildlife and landscapes of Somerset. You can see sample course itineraries on this link.
Other scheduled tours for 2022
Apart from our featured Impressions of Ladakh tour, we have a number of exciting tours organised for 2022 that also still have places, which will see us head to some of the most photogenic parts of the World. All of our 2022 tours are organised through Intrepid Travel, which means that you have the full back-up and industry protection of one of the largest and most experienced players in adventure travel.
Our 2022 schedule starts off with Impressions of Uzbekistan in May 2022, which explores this fascinating Central Asian country which has been at the crossroads of history for hundreds of years. More information on Impressions of Uzbekistan on this link.
Our final departure in October/November 2022 is a return to India, where we will explore the vibrant desert state of Rajasthan, visiting the iconic Pushkar Camel Fair and the lesser known Bikaner Mela. More information on Impressions of Rajasthan here.
Better Travel Photography
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