Posts Tagged ‘ khardung la ’

solo trip to ladakh – Nubra Valley

Erik, Shozeb and I set off on our 2 day trip to the Nubra Valley early the next morning – around 7 am. Nubra means green and its a very fertile valley. it was to be a 4-5 hour drive going all the way up to Khardung La- the highest motorable road in the world – then down to the Valley. we were all excited about it. you need a permit to go to most places from Leh, there are a couple of checkpoints along the way. Erik’s permit showed him traveling with 1 swedish person and 2 canadians! i guess they don’t read these things too closely. the permits are organised by the taxi guys.
i had heard so much about Khardung La that i couldn’t wait to get there. we set off driving up a mountain, quite slowly as the narrow road encircling the mountain began to get lined with snow. what makes this journey treacherous in winter is that the snow makes the tires slip. most of traffic at this time consisted of trucks, regular and plenty of army ones. it was good we left early or we would have been stuck behind lots of traffic as most of the trucks begin to slip and cannot cover the incline easily. despite that, we had our fair share of stopping as vehicles kept stalling along the way. our own vehicle swung 40 degrees to the left i.e. the edge of the road at one point due to the slush and since i was sitting in front, it was scary! chains on tires are a must. throughout the climb, we could feel the air getting thinner and the temperature dropping. the bends are all hairpin but thankfully traffic flows one way on one day and the opposite way on the next.

ultimately we reached the top! from 11,000 feet (Leh) to 18,380 feet, Khardung La (La means pass) is snow covered and the temperature that morning must have been zero or just below zero! even i couldn’t resist having a glass of hot chai – that’s all one get there in an army run canteen. the souvenir shop + museum (yes, there was a shed with a sign) was closed since it was off season. i did envy the army guys their snow boots, cos i slipped and fell flat on my butt at one point. after spending 10 odd minutes there (since its basically a pass, there isn’t anything to do there), we began the descent to head to the valley.

the landscape changed, and soon we were out of the snow, heading towards the valley just below, passing along the shyok river. we stopped at khalsar village for lunch – a small village surrounded by mountains. driving down into the valley, we were now on a huge river bed that had dried up many many years ago.

the river does flow, but not as wide as the bed is. there are actually 2 rivers, Nubra and Shyok. and soon enough, there we were, at the sand dunes! yes, Nubra Valley has sand dunes, and double humped camels – though we didn’t see any at the time. the mini desert has camel safaris in summer. it was quite a view, snow capped mountains around and the wide expanse of the valley with the sand dunes & seabuck thorn bushes. if it wasn’t for the snowy mountains, you could believe you were in Rajasthan.
from here we headed to our stay for the night, Hotel Yarob Tso in Tiggur village in Nubra Valley. highly recommended, its a lovely place, the family lives in an extension of the guest house and we had dinner and breakfast the next morning in their beautiful living room.

before heading Yarob Tso though, we stopped off at the Deskit monastery – the oldest & largest in this area – built in 1420 AD. we also headed to Panamik, near Tiggur, for the hot water springs. they have 2 bathing rooms into which the hot water has been channeled. the 2 ‘boys’ headed off for their natural water shower. i didn’t do this, i know the water is hot, but its still very cold outside! we even walked over the hill to see the other side of the hot water spring, where its much hotter and according to Rigzin, one can boil eggs in that water.

after heading back to the hotel, Shozeb and I went for a walk, Erik was in his room meditating (yes, he has learnt it). we tried unsuccessfully to find a) a bottle of mineral water b) a packet of Lays. most of the smaller towns and villages don’t stock mineral water in winter as the water freezes and the bottle bursts.

we all stayed up late, chatting about everything from Dalrymple to Tibet to scientific research (Shozeb is a doctor involved in cancer research in England, Erik is a) a tree planter b) he works in parks c) he also works in a cemetery – all in Canada, his home). it was quite refreshing, especially since both of them had very different points of view.
the next morning, we set off at 6 am to see a monastery that Shozeb had spotted – Shozeb is also writing a book on monasteries so he is really interested in seeing them all and taking tons of photos. this particular monastery in Charasa village has almost been abandoned. its situated on a rock across the river bed, and in several places the river is frozen but in the places where its flowing, the locals have constructed make shift bridges made of twigs. and they begin to shake as soon as you step on them, its quite a balancing act! i needed
help from the locals both to and fro as the swaying got to me. while the water isn’t that deep, its extremely cold and i didn’t fancy death by hypothermia.
the monastery itself had an old world charm, and like the older monasteries, it blended with its surroundings as it was predominantly beige and white. the newer ones shout out yellow and red and don’t quite have the same charm. driving back through charasa village, i also took what i thought was the best photo of the entire trip, a villager out with his herd in the morning, the animals kicking up dust and catching the sun rays.

from there it was back to Leh, via Khardungla. more trucks stalling and slipping, some needing to be pushed, and eventually we arrived back safely. the driver was extremely calm through all the winding roads and the slipping tyres, must say we were lucky to have him.

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