Ladakh Calling… (Part 4) Leh – KhardungLa – Nubra

Day 6 (27th June 2010)Rest at Leh

A well-deserved day for rest after 03 days of hard-core bone shaking ride. The first thing that we did in the morning was we shifted from that guest house to a decent hotel not for the reason of comfort but to stay closer to the beautiful market of Leh. We checked in at “Khan hotel” just below Leh Palace which was at a walking distance from the main market. The scenery from the roof top was breath taking.  We spent that entire day roaming around the local market. We also identified a good Bullet mechanic and got our bikes serviced.

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Shanti Stoop

Shanti Stoop

27th June being a Sunday, we were forced to stay at Leh as we failed to get those inner line permits for “KhardungLa”, “Nubra Valley” & “PangongTso”. We discussed the same with one of the bullet-on-rent agents (Koncho) & he promised that he will get it arranged for us by Monday afternoon.

Leh Market

Leh Market

While roaming around Rambo Rawat “RR” identified an open air resto-bar which had a projector and a screen arrangement to telecast live football world cup matches. In the evening we had rounds of beer while watching the match. We simply loved that place for that electrifying atmosphere and, of course, for gals around.

Day 7 (28th June 2010)Leh – Nimu – Leh (80 Kms)

Next day we planned to explore the nearby places with a local ride of approx. 80 Kms. The place we finally decided was “Nimu” – A small beautiful village engulfed with greenery, situated on the banks of River Indus. This is exactly the same place which got washed away later in August 2010 due to overnight rains which triggered flash floods in and around Leh.

on the way to Nimu

on the way to Nimu

On the way to “Nimu” we stopped at a famous spot called “Magnetic Hill” – it is believed by locals that the hill has some  magnetic effect which pulls vehicle uphill even when the ignition is turned off. The fact behind that is the surrounding land that produces an optical illusion. The very slight downhill slope appears to be an uphill slope.

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After a round of photo session we continued our ride to our days target “Nimu”. The first sight of “Nimu” was awe-inspiring. It was a beautiful small village with different shades of green, brown, black & blue. We spent couple of hours there & had our lunch in a local restaurant. By afternoon we got confirmation from Koncho on our permits. On our way back from “Nimu” we had another round of photo session near Indus River.

1st view of “Nimu”

1st view of “Nimu”

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Rambo “The Power House” in frame

Rambo “The Power House” posing for me.

We spent the evening leisurely at the same beer bar in “Leh” watching live football match. With inner line permits in hand we were ready for the next level of challenges in the pack.

Day 8 (29th June 2010) Leh – KhardungLa – Nubra Valley (150 Kms)

Next morning with all the enthusiasm we kick-start for the much awaited… much discussed… & most talked about milestone… “KhardungLa” – the gateway to the Shyok and Nubra valleys. The road/dirt track to “KhardungLa” is considered as “The world’s highest motorable road” at an altitude of 18380 ft.

The distance from “Leh” to “KhardungLa” Top was just about 40 Kms. The first check post on the way to the Top is called as “South Pullu” & the one on the other side which opens up into “Nubra Valley” is called as “North Pullu”. Both these posts are maintained by B.R.O officers & Indian Army. The road from “South Pullu” onwards was majorly a dirt track mixed with mud & snow, and to make it further more difficult it was complemented with occasional rivulets of melted snow.

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See Surya chasing us before reaching the top

Surya chasing us before reaching the top

For the Highest Motor-able road

For the Highest Motor-able road

Khardungla Top

Khardungla Top

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A view of Army Canteen at the KhardungLa Top

A view of the Army Canteen at the KhardungLa Top

The view at the Top was extraordinary & satisfying to each biker. The sense of achievement overrode all our discomforts & pain. It was like we had traveled all the way to the high heaven & we could easily see the clouds right above our head. There was hardly any valley view or scenery visible from that height as it was all covered with snow & clouds. Few things that still kept that place alive & beautiful were the “colorful Ladakhi Prayer Flags” & continuous support of our Indian Army Jawans with Medical & Canteen facilities. There is a souvenir shop at the K-top selling “KhardungLa” memorabilia.

Deepak & Surya enjoying at the Top

Deepak & Surya enjoying at the Top

We spent around an hour there & for the first time in my life I saw snow fall & that too at a place where we had the best of the trip celebrations, not with beer or any hard drink, but with hot tea & bread pakoras which are offered by Army Jawans. One of the old school pals of Surya met him there after years. Wow what a place to meet an old pal @ 18380 ft. They exchanged their nos. hugged each other discussed about their old friends & girlfriends. Soon bad weather started hitting the Top and after all the action we decided to quickly move towards “North Pullu” gateway to “Nubra valley”.

Bad weather at KhardungLa

Bad weather at KhardungLa

From “North Pullu” into the “Nubra Valley”, the road was well maintained (except at few places where washouts or landslide occurs). Roughly 30 Kms away from “KhardungLa” top is “Khardung” village located at the foothills of “KhardungLa”. Here one can easily get hot & fresh Maggi along with tea.

Playing around at the local Praying place

Playing around at the local Praying place

May be they had impressed her as well

May be they had impressed her as well

With our tanks full we were off & easily covered another distance of 30 odd kms on well tarred road of Nubra and reached “Khalsar” – A preferred pit stop of taxi/bus operators for breakfast/lunch.

Basin near Khalsar

Basin near Khalsar

Few kms down from “Khalsar” the road bifurcates into two, the road on the left lead to “Diskit” while the road going straight lead to “Panamik”. We totally missed the spot & continued on the straighter road. On our way to “Panamik” we crossed villages named “Sumur” & “Tiger” when checked with locals we realized that we covered approx. 38 Kms on a wrong passage & had missed the turn for “Diskit”.

See where we made the mistake

See where we made the mistake

It was 4 in the evening & we were enjoying our backward journey to “Diskit” when Rambo’s bike met a puncture in the rear tube. While we were busy fixing the puncture our “Baadshah Akbar” was enjoying the sceneries & was trying his hands on my DSLR, to which our Rambo reacted with some solid non-veg. stuff and we all had a good laugh.  After fixing the puncture we continued our journey back to “Diskit” & on the way stopped occasionally to capture the beautiful landscapes.

Fixing a puncture

Fixing the puncture

beauty of Nubra

beauty of Nubra

road back to Diskit

Road back to Diskit

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Life in “Ladakh” is like a blind turn. You don’t know what is waiting for you ahead. This time again it was not Man but the Machine, My Explorer, who met the challenge. I suddenly realized that one of my bike’s one rear shockers broke down.

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Can you see that black rubber on the shocker rod

Without wasting much time we decided to shift some weight from my Explorer to other two bikes & tried to reach quickly to “Diskit”.

We looked out for a place of accommodation at “Diskit” leaving aside the plan of visiting “Hunder” with a broken shocker. We easily got a room in a local guest house in the main market & after unloading our entire luggage we searched for a mechanic shop where we either can replace or at least get the shocker fixed. But, there was hardly any shop for bikes or any mechanic who could fix it up or do some kind of “jugad” even. We came back to our room & we discussed about the situation & our next day’s plan of crossing KhardungLa with a broken shocker.

All the worries went out of window the moment we were ON with our ritual of enjoying our evenings with small doses of drinks and discussing about the beauty of that place. This was the first time when I tested my “BCB survival cooking unit”, Which Bear Grylls use in his “Man Vs Wild” series, for making noodles as there were no snacks available at that place.

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We spent our evening having some large pegs & had our dinner @ 20:00 Hrs. We all had a good cozy sleep that night.

Day 9 (30th June 2010)Nubra Valley – KhardungLa – Leh (120 Kms)

Next morning we decided to visit “The Diskit Monastery” which was 10-12 Kms uphill ride from Diskit village. I was a little worried for my Explorer but to check its strength & feasibility of crossing “KhardungLa”, I had to put it to test. We reached to that monastery slowly and without any difficulty. The patience got paid. The view from the top was breathtaking. We spent around half-n-hour & interacted with the locals to understand the history of Monastery.

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from the Top

View from the Top

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Another view from top.

Monastery God in Picture

Monastery God in Picture

Road from Diskit to North Pullu

Road from Diskit to North Pullu

With some morning breaks we reached safely to “North Pullu” by 12:00 Hrs but were forced to take a halt as the convoy of Sh. Dalai Lama was coming from the other end to visit Monasteries in Nubra valley.

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All for Sh Dalai Lama

Here also we got a chance to see snowfall as the weather drastically changed. We were a little concerned with the condition at the Top. While having tea at the army canteen with Thepla (Gujrati stuff) & Punjabi attitude we thought “chalo hatao yaar chai aur thepla pei concentrate kartay hain

The moment convoy of Dalai Lama reached “North Pullu” we quickly made our move leaving behind heavy traffic of trucks & congestion of local taxis. I was very conscious during our uphill journey & after every few meters I used to touch the shocker with my hand to check if it is still there or not & was praying in heart that it remains there. We reached comfortably at the Top.

My Explorer impressed  us all with its performance & achievement. It was a fully loaded bike with another 80 kgs of my weight & that too with a broken shocker had reached the “KhardungLa” top without any difficulty. Amazing bike…

As I have said earlier also “Life in Ladakh is like a blind turn. You don’t know what is waiting for you ahead”. While we were there at the Top Surya told us that he is finding it difficult to keep his eyes open & there was a little itching & pain as well in his eyes. We were not sure about the reason behind that & were making our own guesses. Thanks to that lady who suggested that we should take it lightly immediately take him to the Army camp which was a few meters away.

Leaving our bike on the road at K-top, we accompanied Surya & visited the doctor in the Indian Army camp. Guess what the doctor said? It is Photokeratitis – a kind of eye infection in simple terms. It was the consequence of leaving the eyes unprotected to the UV rays. Surya was not wearing sunglasses due to the discomfort of fog coming on his sunglasses while breathing in balaclava under his helmet.

Guys take some Gyaan here. Remember at low altitudes UV rays are not so strong & also gets easily absorbed by the earth’s surface whereas at high altitudes UV rays are more intense and gets reflected back from snow to our eyes, leaving behind infection, irritation, running eyes, & temporary blindness which if not treated, can lead to permanent blindness as well. So do not forget to use sunglasses at high altitudes.

Surya posing with infected eyes

Surya posing with infected eyes

The doctor gave him the eye drop to use it after every half-n-hour interval & advised us to take him to an eye specialist, if it does not show any sign of improvement, once we reach “Leh”.

We reached back leh @ 16:30 Hrs & went straight to Khan Hotel, the same hotel we checked in earlier. Looking at the condition of Surya Khan sahab gave us a room on the ground floor making it easier for us to move in with so much of luggage.  Surya immediately crashed down to sleep, which was understandable at least this time. Deepak & I decided to move out & looked for a mechanic to replace the clutch plates & the shocker of my Explorer. By 19:30 Hrs we were done with all the repair works. We came back to hotel to check if Surya need some further treatment. To our surprise the Tiger was fit to roar on the streets of Leh after a long 3 hrs sleep. We all got dressed up & reached the same open resto-bar for celebrations. We enjoyed the evening at the bar discussing about the day’s journey & our next day’s target “Pangong Tso”.

20 Comments

  • Your post is treat for the eyes !!!!!

  • Vishal says:

    Thanks Mahesh :)

  • Nirdesh Singh says:

    Hi Vishal,

    Enjoyed the series a lot.

    Photos are excellent. Maybe you can give some tips to us amateurs.

    • Vishal says:

      Hi Nirdesh,

      Thanks for liking the work.

      I think it is more of one’s perspective to look at things than any technique. Keep clicking more and more and see if your hands are delivering what your eyes want to see. This is the tech. what I follow + you can do some tweaking with the help of any software or so but, remember software don’t click photographs :)

  • smitadhall says:

    It’s getting more and more interesting! As usual, great pictures and very inspiring!

  • Vishal says:

    Thanks a lot Smita. :) Will share the next part soon with you.

    Thanks for doing all the good work for me from back end.

  • A very well written post, with good details and wonderful capture of scenery and local people. Thanks

  • Vishal says:

    Thanks to you Mr. “desi traveler” for appreciating the work. :)

  • A little bit late but enjoyed the well written series. photographs are excellent.

  • Vishal says:

    Thanks a lot Naresh for reading through.

  • ashok sharma says:

    very good post,great photographs.seems you are a professional photographer.congrats.

  • Vishal says:

    Thanks a lot Mr. Sharma.

    No I am not a professional photographer :) but yes love photography and try my hands on it.

  • Saurabh Gupta says:

    Again a very good post with wonderful photos.

  • Vishal says:

    Thanks a lot Saurabh.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Brilliantly written and magnificently shot :-).

    My most fav pic is the one showing ‘Leh Market’. The sublime mountains and heavenly views are all beyond-imagination, the market pic took me back to reality. If possible, more local life pics.

    Hope Surya got better by next Suryodaya. I am myself not very regular in wearing glasses but I guess it is a must, esp at high altitudes.

    I think with BCB (tell us more), puncture-kit, driving with a weak and injured shocker to Khardung-La (of all the roads in the world, it waited for this moment) and what not. Hope you guys had a good time at the rest-bar.

    • Vishal says:

      Thanks Nandan for liking the work .

      This is the beauty of Ladakh which attracts and calls me back again and again…

      :) Ya Surya was feeling much better by next Suryodaya… hahahaha. Believe me even I don’t wear
      glasses while riding but, yes we all learnt a lesson & I think this experience will help many others also to be careful while approaching high altitudes.

      BCB means (British Crusader Cooking) system used by SAS forces (Special Air Services) during operations. Basically, a small compact cooking unit which includes a Mug, a small Stove at base and a water bottle which all fits each other. Got it purchased through ebay.com

      It is easy to say it now that “yes we had a good time doing all this action” but believe me it was not that easy and comfortable and it can never be wen u have a loaded bike with a damaged shocker, bad weather conditions hitting you on way and a dear friend has some serious medical problem.

      But yes despite all odds it was our humor and our basic knowledge/understanding of things which made it looks less troublesome.

  • Archana says:

    Brilliant pics!

    I am really really impressed with your photography. This post in particular tells the story through the pictures and captions more than the words :) The text is excellent, no doubt. But I fell for the pics.

    Thank you for another colorful and mesmerizing post!

    Cheers.

    • Vishal says:

      Thanks a lot Archana.

      In fact, I was waiting for your comments :) Thanks for all the appreciation and liking the post. Hope to see your comments on my coming posts as well :)

      Juley.

  • Harish Bhatt says:

    Great going Vishal. Thoroughly enjoying the journey with you. Just to let you know ( even I came to know this last year) that KhardungLa pass is not the worlds highest motorable road any more. This crown is now owned by Mana Pass after crossing Badrinath. It beats KhardungLa pass by just a few ft. in height at 18,406 ft. Perhaps we can plan our next journey on that route ;-)

  • Vishal says:

    Hello Bhatt Saab.

    Yes I also heard a couple of yrs back that Mana pass has become the highest motorable pass in the world.

    Mana pass is fully under ITBP observation and civilians are not allowed to go further from a place called Ghastoli… even till Ghastoli one needs permit from Joshimath.

    Let’s see when it will be able made open for public.

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