The name Ladakh does something to travellers. I have actually seen that effect on travellers. Either they get too excited about planning a trip to the place, or they have already been there and think too highly of themselves. When Indian travellers visit Ladakh, there are three kinds of people that come back from those mountains—one who think they have discovered they were ‘born’ photographers, the other think they have made a mistake earning a livelihood through jobs, and they should quit working to become full-time travellers, and then there are people who think there’s nothing more beautiful than Ladakh and they can share their views on the place through numerous social media platforms.
Before you start judging me…
Being a travel writer, I have been to a lot of hill stations across the country. True, I haven’t been to Ladakh, but I want to be there sometime. Even I want to explore the ‘breathtaking moonscape’ and realise how it feels to show my back towards the camera and make that arms-extended-SRK-pose standing in front of Pangong Lake. When I look at the similar-looking, filter-infused photographs from Ladakh, even I feel like going out there and exploring it—not because it’s cool, but nature still breathes freely in that place—or at least it appears to be so. Not to forget, I also want to know how it feels to camp by the Pangong Lake, no matter how supremely expensive it has become due to the hype.
I will never go biking to Ladakh because…
Every goddamn person with money and Harley Davidson is doing it! Of course, I am not jealous. You know what I am worried about? Ladakh is no more the place it used to be. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that nature is to be blamed for that. It’s us who are leading to its decay day by day.
The horror stories
It wasn’t the first time that I heard a scary testimonial about the area around the Pangong Lake. Thanks to the so-called ‘bikers’ and the ‘photographers’, Pangong Lake has turned into the most favourite picnic spot of the Himalayas. Every now and then, a new Maggi shack comes up with the name of either Rancho or 3 Idiots. And guess what? The idiots love to have the pahad waali Maggi over there! You know the best part? When they are gone, the wrappers and waste are still visible. But hey, remember to cover them up using your newfound editing skills and the oh-so-cool filters. Click here for the proof!
The immensely popular Chadar Trek of Ladakh will soon become a thing of the past. The reasons are simple—an ever-increasing Global Warming phenomena in the region due to an unchecked rise of human traffic. Apparently, if this is how things continue to be, Zanskar River might even cease to exist in the next 2 to 3 years. So much for that all-famous, not-to-miss frozen lake trek of Ladakh.
I am happy to not visit Ladakh. Not because it’s bad, but the way we travellers have been treating this heavenly destination. If you are one of those 10, 20 or even 100 people who are reading this, take a step back and think how we would feel as travellers if Ladakh as a destination ceases to exist. Take a step back and realise how ashamed we would feel to be unable to care for a place so beautiful. My advice to myself and to all of you reading this post—don’t fall for those beautiful looking pictures. Pause. Reflect. And plan a trip to the place if and when the tourist pressure reduces in Ladakh. Trust me, you will feel good to have done your bit for the environment, for the wonder that Ladakh is. And if the travel bug bites you too hard, choose to plan a trip to places like Lahaul and Spiti instead, because they have very similar landscapes.
Making a wish
Not everyone deserves Ladakh—especially not those who don’t care about its natural beauty. I strongly wish that the government, be it state or central (for I am not political), take major steps to limit the number of travellers and number of vehicles that can visit this place.
Long live Ladakh!