Yesterday we went over Khardung La pass to the Nubra Valley. Khardungla is the highest motorable pass in the world, peaking at 18,380feet. I was surprised to find at least a portion of it was paved, but as we neared the top, the pavement ended and the road became dirt with rocks of varying sizes. Once again, our driver expertly managed hairpin turns and blind curves on a single lane road with minimal if any guard rails to stop a vehicle from plummeting into the abyss. Add lorries, cars and motorbikes whizzing in every direction, rockslides in various state of repairs, and the odd cow wandering about, and you’ll have a vague idea of what it was like. And don’t forget the dust. Picture being on an old roller coaster. For several hours. At one point our vehicle got stuck, and our driver had to get out and arrange rocks under the wheel to get us out. It was definitely a wild ride, but fun in a twisted, adventurous way.
I had to admire the motorcyclists crossing the pass. I can imagine it would be great fun, yet for me it would be a short ride into my next life, as I’ve only ridden on the back of a motorcycle as a kid. The folks that truly amazed be were the handful of bicyclists that were crossing the pass. I can’t even imagine the stamina needed to do it. Or the cojones.
As we got out on top of the pass, I could definitely feel the heady, dizzying sensation of being oxygen deprived, but the views were worth it.
We arrived at Diskit monastery where we had lunch and then climbed the stairs to a giant Buddha rupa (statue). The views over the Nubra valley where the monastery sits high on a hill were vast and breathtaking. I know I’ve been using that word a lot, but this is some incredibly beautiful country, and everywhere I go, I am just amazed.
I climbed the stairs of the monastery to the temple on my own, as there were a lot of them. Many of the buildings appeared to be rooms for the monks. Lots of up and down for them, but what views. The temple at the top was a peaceful place to watch the breath – or lack thereof.
In the evening we went out for a short camel ride on Bactrian (two humped) camels native to the region. When returning over the pass the next day, I was thankful we had not ridden for a longer period of time. Fifteen minutes was enough for the experience, and I’m sure the camels appreciated the shorter ride as well. There were baby camels there as well who were very curious, and as I put my face forward in a proper camelid greeting, I got a gentle nose bump from one of them.
We stayed last night in yurts to complete the experience, and I have to say these were much better insulated than ones I’ve been in before. Definitely not the cold, windy and noisy experience that I expected.
I’d like to give a shout out to our driver Rigzen from Omasila hotel in Leh. He’s been driving tours for 13 years, and he’s awesome. I would definitely recommend him and the hotel to anyone interested. And they’re not paying me to say it either!-)
The Internet at the hotel, however, leaves much to be desired. Sorry for the lack of photos on this post.
Tomorrow we may be off to Pangong lake, depending on road conditions. I’ll post again when I can get reliable internet, but it’s very unsure. Be well everyone!