World’s only alpine crane species, the elusive Black-necked crane breeds on the high-altitude Tibetan plateau and winters at lower wetlands, alpine meadows, and river marshes in China, Bhutan, Eastern Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh in India. Now that Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh in India are not a part of the same state, each will have to crown their own UT bird and for Ladakh, no other bird could be more appropriate than the magnificent Black Necked Crane, the king of birds in the Himalayas.
I remember the first time I saw Jupiter and its moons through a telescope that could fit in my backpack, I was spellbound! So when I got the opportunity to visit one of the highest astronomical observatories in the world that too in Ladakh, I was ecstatic and I wondered if we could see planets, stars or distant galaxies through the telescope at the observatory!
To reach a place as isolated in the Himalayas on motorbikes requires a heart full of courage and a spirit of adventure, other than a map of course or you could end up in China! Crossing some of the highest mountains passes in the world on broken, sometimes non-existing roads or mere dirt tracks to lead the way, it’s a challenging bone-chilling ride.
As we climbed higher it became cooler passing through breathtaking Himalayan scenery. Pristine white snow-covered mountain roads are a sight to behold but they’re a tough climb. Riding in thin cold air through wet & slushy ice on the road was a challenge and the potholes added to the bumpy ride. Adding to the excitement one of our motorbikes broke down on the slippery road a few meters from Chang La pass!
Other than mountain goats, sheep, horses and Yak that are commonly seen grazing around the pastures, the trans-Himalayan plateaus of Ladakh are home to several rare and endangered species of mammals and birds. The jaw-dropping scenery of Ladakh is mesmerizing enough and the exotic animals add magic (and perspective), to the scene!
Countless shades of blue change with the falling light, turquoise blue waters merge into cobalt blue cloudless skies, reflecting in the ripples of water with a mosaic of colorful stones shining underneath; the Ladakh Blues!