“Coming weekend when I get to the base, I will most probably be doing Stok Kangri,” he said.
“You are one lucky officer to get posted in such a cool place,” I commented.
It was during one of my mountain trips that I met this army officer. And the conversations that ensued were very engaging. He had been almost all over the country as part of his job description demands and as a fellow travel enthusiast we had a lot to exchange.
We talked about many lesser known places, touching upon a few world-famous sites as well.
While talking about travel destinations, the army officer mentioned how every destination is the same. Whole travel agencies are overenthusiastic about sending off people everywhere – they do not embark on responsibility of either educating tourists about better travel sojourns or using part of their revenues in development of sites.
I wholeheartedly agreed with him, almost every place I had recently motorcycled to – led me to piles of garbage. If you are aware, the most famous one you can encounter is “Bomb Guard".
Before you jump to conclusions, let me state Bomb Guard has nothing to do with military movements and especially with bombs and ammunition.
It is a very young, slowly growing mountain. An artificially created mountain, a mountain of garbage.
Bomb Guard is a landfill just outside of the beautiful mountain town of Leh. When the tourism boom arrived, when the local economy flourished, on the other side the pile of garbage also prospered!
With romantisation of Ladakh in pop culture – the advent of tourists brought in a range of good things – economy prospered, people gained employments and small businesses started thriving. But of course it came at the cost of garbage and environment impact.
But to be fair, who doesn’t get charmed by the beauty of Ladakh?! No one can blame the tourists who visit or want to visit Ladakh, because the beauty of the landscapes of Ladakh is mesmerizing and no one would have a different opinion about it. Whenever I see a video of someone riding an Royal Enfield Bullet through the surreal landscape of Ladakh, my mind craves for such a trip to happen.
Recently, while surfing the internet for more Royal Enfield videos, I stumbled upon their Leave Every Place Better drive, it warmed me. A brand which has become synonymous with everything travel and motorcycles, took the first step to give it back to the sites that make travelling worthwhile.
Royal Enfield, in their attempt to reduce plastic waste has installed water filtration units at Camping sites and service stations – encouraging travellers to carry their own bottle and refill them with these clean and portable supply.
But the conversation around waste cannot be restricted to Ladakh alone. Move across the country to Taj Mahal, Elephanta caves, Char minar – in fact the very own Chennai’s Marina beach where thousands of plastic bottles covered the area is a rather upsetting sight.
All these famous tourist spots as well as other places have been suffering from the menace of plastic bottle explosion. And if we all come together, put in efforts to stop this menace, then maybe we can reclaim our travel sites from garbage and dirt in no time.
Remember, one responsible traveller gives way to many more such travellers. We can be the change we wish to see in our world.
We want to preserve India’s most visited places like our monuments, mountains and forests for our future generations as well. They also should experience the surreal nature of these landscapes. It doesn’t happen if we leave our trash wherever we visit.
We should ideally leave a place better than we’ve found it. This isn’t only for Ladakh or the mountains, but it should be for all the places that we visit to. #LeaveEveryPlaceBetter.
Swearing to keep this promise, now I can ask my new friend to show me around lesser known parts of Leh-Ladakh, maybe some places only a military officer can take you!