After our ride full of thrills, we realized that we have lost the entire day, and just have one evening left for all shopping, seeing around, experiencing the town, and packing. Soo, we sent the cars away, decided to walk down and marched towards the main bazaar.
As I said already, Leh is a small town, a typical touristy hub at that. You would find bistros and street side Cafes serving all sorts of food, from Ladakhi to continental to Israeli, fleet of white-skinned tourists clad in exotic hippyish attire and internet cafes, tour operator offices, bike rental facilities and woollen shops mushroomed everywhere. It is possible to get lost in this web, but we did not. All of us wanted something different to take along, and hence we roamed around pretty independently.
I and Hrushi had already roamed around the market even a day before, after our return from Nubra. We had a nice walk in the pleasing weather. We sat in a modish cafe, and had cappuccino and Cafe latte. I spotted a heap of fresh apricots (not the dried ones, the fresh fruits, they look like lichies) and bought handful of them, got some souvenir knick knacks like fridge magnets and Tshirts.
Today, we sat in a nice open-to-sky cafe at a corner, had something else than Dal-rice (Sagar and Shruti went adventurous with mint juice and humus-Pita!) , engaged in just some small talks, and it just struck us that our trip had come to an end. All the planning for last 4 months, all looking fwd to, all passionate discussions and debates, all was over. The atmosphere outside was boisterous, market well-lit, we were tired yet satisfied and I remember this small patch of evening in a very pleasant way.
We went some shop-hopping, bought other exquisite knick knacks like Sea-buckthorn juice, prayer flags, apricot jam, and a cotton tote bag saying 'Julley', and returned to green villa to some excellent Ladakhi food, personally cooked by dear Angmo. Momos were quite amazing, and Thukpa was not really a favourite dish of many, but I did not mind, considering eating local is always good.
Eat local, think global. :)
We looked at the oh-so-beautiful sky for the last time, saw the outline of now sleepy Leh, looked at the glowing Shanti-Stupa from our terrace, and went off to sleep. Next morning was pretty uneventful, with a car dropping us off at the Leh airport (quite a mini-airport), we boarding a flight to Delhi and then onwards to Mumbai, we landing in Mumbai- a direct journey from 11500 to 0 ft!
It was humid as usual, the traffic and the dust and the sweat greeted us and mobile networks got a range, people got hooked on to their cellphones on our way back. We halted at the food-mall and hogged on the usual comfort food like Pav bhaji, reaching Pune around 6pm, ending our voyage.
As I write this today, I see the images of flooded Srinagar on TV, and I feel sad, thinking of the good time we had at that place.
I saw the images of PM's visit to Kargil war memorial and I could immediately relate to it.
I remember the star-studded sky very clearly, and it comes to me every time I close my eyes.
I keep on looking at the 3000-odd photos every now and then, and one of the photos at Nubra has gone on a wall, framed.
The prayer flags adorn walls and work-desks, the apricot jam is eaten.
I wrote multiple blogs, trying to explain the feelings Ladakh gave me.
I finally wrote the account of our travel, and yet I feel that something is missing.
I also decided that next year I am again going to Ladakh, as I have left something there. And I know what that is.
A piece of my heart.