Ladakh and Hemis Festival + AMG G55, a treat to die for

Yogesh Sarkar

When Vishal bhai first asked me to join him for Ladakh Escapes’ Hemis Tour, I wasn’t quite sure. Since I already had my flight for Ladakh booked. Eventually circumstances and lure of photographing the mighty Mercedes G55 AMG and Hemis Monastery Festival proved too much and I decided to join in.

Even though my confirmation for trip came late, Vishal bhai had reserved a spot for me already. Then with just 3 weeks to go for the trip, things changed drastically and I had to call Vishal bhai and cancel my plan. However by evening circumstances changed once again and I called him to see whether the slot was still available. Sadly return flight ticket was gone, so instead of doing Nubra and Pangong and coming back by flight, I was to take flight to Leh, visit Nubra, Pangong and Tso Moriri and then take the land route back to Delhi.

With just a few weeks to go for the trip, Ladakh Escapes WhatsApp group was abuzz with activity and everyone was getting to know a little bit about the people they would be traveling with, even before the trip began. There was even a meet in Delhi scheduled, just before the commencement of the trip.

However at the last moment, a short drive plan for Kumaon came up with my best friends and I went for it, since I had never been to Kumaon earlier (First drive to Kumaon).

I came back to Delhi on 22nd and I was scheduled to fly to Leh on the morning of 25th, not leaving me much time to prepare. And just when I thought things couldn’t become more hectic, they did! On 24th evening I was to pick up Canon EOS 5DsR along with EF11-24L and 100-400L II for review from Canon.

So by the time I reached Canon office, got the equipment, signed a 6 lakh rupee bond and left for home, it was already late in the evening and I hadn’t packed a single thing for the morning flight.

Thankfully everything got packed properly before the morning fight (though I didn't get a single moment of sleep) and I managed to reach the airport ahead of time, where I met rest of the group heading to Ladakh. It was nice to finally meet people who I had chatted with on WhatsApp and board the flight for my 6th trip to Ladakh!

June 25th, Leh

After an hour and a half long flight, we finally landed in Leh and while the weather was somewhat cold, it was nice. It felt good to be back here and we were greeted at the airport by Ladakh Escapes coordinator and moved to our respective cabs, to take us to our hotels.

Leh Chen was the hotel I stayed at during my Ladakh trip, it is located a few doors down from Shanti Guest House and has a decent parking space and nice staff. I got a room with 3 beds and a fantastic view of Namgyal Tsemo Gompa. However on the first night I was supposed to be staying alone there and would next day be joined by Vikas Shokeen and Shikhar.

I chatted for a while with Lalita, while Shivani slept as she wasn’t feeling well (effects of AMS). Outside it was raining, so I couldn’t go out to pick up the motorcycle I had hired. Soon Lalita was tired as well and she too went to bed, while I played around a little with 5DsR, shooting from my room’s window. Taking a few candid photographs of a kid riding cycle on the road.


Around noon the drizzle finally stopped, so I decided to walk down to Planet Himalaya, located just a few meters after KC Garden Café. En route I met Laviral Kalra from International Youth Club and while I was talking to him and his friend, I saw Jigisha and Amit riding towards the hotel.

After a nice long chat, I went down to Planet Himalaya and got the formalities done and got my Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350 and 3 helmets. Then I rode back to the hotel and found many of the group members having lunch in hotel restaurant, where Amit and Shivani were sitting as well. After chatting for a while, Amit left. I too decided to ride till Shanti Stupa to get used to the ergonomics of Thunderbird.

While coming back, I spotted Kavita walking to Shanti Stupa (a member of the group), I offered her a lift and as soon as she sat on the motorcycle, bike engine died and the refused to start! I called up Planet Himalaya guy and parked the bike at the side of the road, after multiple attempts to even push start it, didn’t work. I came to the hotel and around half an hour later, mechanic had arrived, fixed the fused and parked the bike in the parking lot.

By now sun had emerged from behind the clouds and everyone was enjoying the warmth it brought. From the small sitting area of the hotel, I had a perfect view of Namgyal Tsemo Gompa and with 100-400L II mounted on 5DsR, I got some really nice shots of the Gompa.


Meanwhile Lalita and Shivani had decided to go down to the stream, I too decided to follow them there and so did other members of the group and we got some really nice photographs there.






In evening we were supposed to ride with Amit and Jigisha, which is why I had brought 3 helmets, however Amit was getting Jigisha’s bike fixed. Left with no other choice, I called Dorjey Chubi at the last moment and asked him to arrange a cab for us. Hoping that next day Amit will arrive and I will finally get to do the Thunderbird photoshoot I had been planning to do for over a month now. Half an hour later, Dorjey arrived with Mohamad, a young chap from Srinagar, who was going to drive us around.

Shivani, Lalita and I headed out on the Manali - Leh Highway for photography and stopped en route when we spotted a few horses. While I didn’t get a good shot of the horses, I got some good photographs of Thiksey Monastery and Shivani.



Then we drove to the vantage point where Rigzin had taken me last year for some more photographs of Stakna Monastery.



Thanks to cloud cover, we couldn’t really think of doing star trails, plus neither of the girls had tripod. So I instead thought of driving them towards Tso Moriri route, in hopes of finding a place where we could get down to Indus River. Since both of them were quite interested in sitting next to the river. We drove quite a bit far, but road conditions were bad and darkness was beginning to engulf the sky. So we came back to a vantage point we had seen earlier and just enjoyed the flow of Indus. Sadly I forgot to check 11-24L was on manual focus mode and ended up with out of focus images :D.

Afterwards we drove back to the hotel for dinner and asked Mohamad to come early in the morning next day, as we wanted to head to Shanti Stupa for sunrise photography.

Day 2, Leh to Alchi ->

Day 2, Alchi, Likir to Leh ->

Day 3, Hemis Festival ->

Day 4, Leh to Nubra Valley ->

Day 5, Nubra Valley to Leh ->

Day 6, Leh to Pangong Tso ->

Day 7, Pangong Tso to Leh ->

Day 8, Leh ->

Day 9, Leh to Jispa ->

Day 10-11, Jispa to Delhi ->
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