Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Ladakh (Leh to Hunder)

Day 10: July 2, 2012
At Khardung La, the thrill amongst us riders was pretty high. Many of the riders climbed atop the snow-clad peak, in one go! They just overlooked the caution against over-exertion – ecstasy was way too high and with adrenaline pumping, even the ones reaching southwards of their age made it to the top in flat five minutes! Then there were hugs, rather bear hugs flowing amidst congratulations! I had not seen so many of us hugging each other so lovingly!

Photographs with friendly and till-then-not-so-friendly co-riders were clicked alike all over the Top. Similarly, everyone wanted that glamorous signage and their bike to be clicked in the best possible pose! Emotions were at an all time high and the band of brothers was in its full form! Accurate or not, we were just elated to ride atop this magnificent top of the world!

The Royal Enfield Trip Wagon

Forget men and sages; this was indeed our ‘boys’ moment.

Riders atop the Khardung La Peak

Manoj and RRG at Khardung La

Rinku and RRG at Khardung La

Snow-clad Peak at Khardung La Top

This frenzy continued for about 30-minutes, after which some of us started to ride ahead and gradually the rest of us followed.

Magical Himalayas after Crossing Khardung La

Magical Himalayas after Crossing Khardung La

Magical Himalayas after Crossing Khardung La

The stretch after Khardung La top was as bad as the ascent. However, it was equally panoramic if not more! Snow all around us; it seemed a different world altogether. We also encountered a convoy of army trucks; and the traffic was really slow. So, it did give me an option to stop several times and capture the magical Himalayas. Some snippets for your eyes…

Signage at North Pullu

After 14kms of descent, roads became better and we sailed through easily to reach North Pullu. This was our lunch-destination. However, this place boasted of only two Dhabas and as it turned out, they weren’t very well equipped to manage the 65 hungry souls!

Shashi and Mile Anna – the senior riders!

Good weather, excitement and whatever little exertion till now the day had brought upon us ensured we seek sumptuous solace in Maggi and mutton-momos! So, amidst all fun and frolic, we ate whatever came our way! See Shashi and Mile Anna – all smiles!

After a short break, we proceeded towards Hunder; a small Ladakhi village wherein lay the famed Nubra Valley.

Amazing Rock-formations

Amazing Rock-formations

From North Pullu, the ride to Nubra Valley is about 75kms. The ride was smooth, with roads in very good condition.

As the snow-clad peaks passed by we entered the desert-terrain, the view of the rocky mountains and gorges became really captivating; one of the stretches in between was really out-of-the-world – the view was fascinating. Sadly, I didn’t stop much and hence, now regret having very few images of this part.

En route, we crossed villages of Khardong, Khalsar and Diskit. Diskit is the district headquarters of Nubra Valley. This village is also famous for the Diskit Monastery, which was built in 1420AD. Rested on top of a hill overlooking the town of Diskit, the monastery provides some spectacular panoramic views.

Diskit Monastery

Between Diskit and Hunder lie several kilometers of sand dunes. I was stunned to see white sand dunes all around me! Ladakh never fails to surprise the rider in me – this is a desert at a height of over 10000ft AMSL!

Sand Dunes of Hunder

I must say that I encountered very unusual views as I entered Nubra Valley.

Unsual Views of Nubra Valley – Greenery

Unsual Views of Nubra Valley – Mountains with flowing gravel

Unsual Views of Nubra Valley – the Cold Desert starts!

While descending, I saw the River Shyok flowing at a distance. As I rode further, I came across the road widening into sandy plains long-drawn-out between the rows of mountains. I stopped and filled in the changing views – the river, the mountains, barren sandy plains on which the roads look like thin, dark lines drawn till horizon.

Hereinafter came several small villages, where kids would waved at me, tempting me to given them a Hi-five! The mountains around me were full of gravel, which threatened to come down anytime! This was indeed one of the most unusual places on the planet!

The exquisite Nubra Valley lies north of Leh and leads to the peaks of the eastern Karakoram. Siachen Glacier lies further north of the valley. This used to be a restricted area until very recently; and is now touted as the most beautiful region in Ladakh. To visit it you need permits which are easily obtainable from the DC’s office in Leh. As I wrote earlier, South Pullu and North Pullu check-posts would require these permits to let you through.

The Cold Desert at Nubra

The Cold Desert at Nubra

Located on the ancient Silk Route, this was where the double-humped camel caravans historically used to trade between Yarkand and Leh and would have passed this way. You can still see the near-extinct specie of double-humped camels here! In fact, as a tourist, you can also enjoy a ride upon them, of course at an interesting price. After riding my single-humped royalty for last eight days at a stretch, I didn’t try that!

Nubra Valley houses its tourists in several campsites that have sprung all around it in last few years. Setting sun had turned the sight quite amazing and Aman & I decided to ride into the town, after settling down in our camp. The view around made my friend Aman gasp, “Amazing!

This is that part of the world where sand dunes, rivers & water-bodies, greenery and snow-capped mountains exist simultaneously! What a wonder!” Well, he was very right. Nubra Valley is indeed a strange confluence of plainly opposite geographical elements! You’d see farms and deserts at the same time here! See for yourself…

As Aman and I rode into the town area, I was surprised to witness this well-laid-out town in the middle of a remote valley. Smartly dressed youngsters, decorated stores selling jeans and T-shirts, including Adidas merchandise, et al. It didn’t look any different from any other small Indian town! Herein, we met owners of the Anand General Stores.

Once the discussion ensued, I could observe they were fellow Haryanvis! They turned out to be a father and son duo from rural Haryana, and were really glad when I greeted them with the customary ‘Ram Ram’, the favourite salutation of Haryana! As they learnt that I was from Gurgaon, they opened up and offered us tea. Sheer warmth flowed thereafter and amidst some heartfelt talk, they shared that they are settled in Nubra from last 40 years.

Whew! Their forefathers came along with the armed forces and chose to settle as traders in this beautiful valley. World indeed is a smaller place!

Camp Hunder Sarai at Nubra Valley

Our stay was booked at a campsite called Hunder Sarai, a campsite that housed a flowing stream of water. Quite useful, it turned our later that evening, when the group faced a challenge – how to chill the beer! This cold water-stream came to resolve this mammoth issue – all we need was to keep the beer between two rocks; rest job was done by the chilled water!

Cold water-stream at the Camp Hunder Sarai at Nubra Valley

Fun! Do notice the sole beer bottle in the flowing stream in the extreme right corner!

Bon-fire at Camp Hunder Sarai at Nubra Valley

Amidst the moonlit night, the campfire and bonhomie, we spent the evening! Details are classified.

15 Comments

  • SilentSoul says:

    Good description of a lesser known place.

    what is the van in first photo ?

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    Looks like you had a great time celebrating at Camp Hunder. Cheers.

  • Neeraj Jat says:

    ?????? ???? ??? ?? ???? ???? ??? ?? ?? ????? ???? ???? ????? ??? ???? ?? ???? ???? ??? ????? ?? ????????
    ????? ?????? ????? ??????? ?? ?? ??? ???? ?? ????? ?? ???? ??? ???, ???? ???? ?? ?? ???? ??? ???? ???

  • Surinder Sharma says:

    Very good photos and nice description. Camel ride looks good to take photos.
    Thanks for share with us so wonderful Bike journey

  • venkatt says:

    Once again great reading and wonderful snaps, Rishi. I did read the piece on THE HINDU referred by DL on the Himalayan Odyssey in comments to your previous post. By any chance, was the news item detailing your journey? Did u have any riders from Coimbatore or Tiruppur(Tamilnadu) in your group?

  • Nubra valley specially the Diskit Monastery is looking like a place in fairy tales. Thanks for showing us such marvelous places.

  • Deependra/Surinder, thanks. I am glad you liked the post.
    RRG

  • Nandan Jha says:

    I guess I am reading about Nubra valley for the first time. May be it is the excitement (and growing age) and the stunning photographs which is making me feel this way but the place looks definitely unusual. Your description of market has made me crave even harder to someone reach here.

    What happens after Nubra ? Is there is a army post at the end ?

    The wagon is looking ‘Classic’. On to next one.

    • Nandan, Nubra valley is hailed as the finest landscape in Ladakh region and is really stunning. The region beyond Hunder is very green because of its lower altitude. Also, the Turtuk village in Nubra, opened to general public two years ago only, houses a tribal community of Ladakh; apparently a very sought after place now for peace-seeking public.

      After Hunder, there are several border posts and this is also a route to the famed Siachin glacier and the Karakoram Pass. Routes from Nubra to Baltistan or Yarkand were historical trade-routes; now stand closed in 1940s.

      Though I didn’t travel that far (blame the group riding), I also heard about the hot springs of the Panamic village after Nubra.

      Some day, I look forward to riding that far!

  • Tanmay Banerjee says:

    Hi, Gud pics. I lov such amazing views and places. Even I like your way to achieve this.
    Moreover, I have plan to visit Leh, Ladakh during March or April or suggest if it could be May to June.
    I have Planned for 6 days tour from Srinagar. Could you plz, suggest the tour routes, places and fares.

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