Local city tour was good and comfortable for all of us. Today, we are going to cross world’s highest motorable road as claimed – Khardung La Pass. The pass is 39 kms from leh at an altitude of 18350 ft. Khardungla pass is an important gateway to Nubra & Shyok Valleys and most importantly to Siachen Glacier.
The area is maintained by Indian Army therefore remains open throughout the year. Salute to BRO (Border Roads Organization) they really works very very hard in such extreme conditions.
We started at 9:30 in the morning and it took more than 2 hrs to reach there up to pass through steep inclined roads with strong winds. The Army had maintained the roads very well.
Khardungla pass has an army check post and a temple and of-course a big sign board by BRO notifying the travelers that you are passing through the highest motorable road in the world as claimed.
It was frozen cold & windy and the temperature was -21°C. Surrounding mountains were all covered in snow. We were able to see and feel the snow particles in the air. The army suggested (even warned) not to stay more than 10 mins.
At this altitude the oxygen remains only 1/2 of the oxygen of sea level.
We stayed there for 20 mins, did almost impossible photography in that cold. Fingers were freezed despite the 2 layer of gloves including wind proof gloves and then I realized that the photography is the most adventurous in that condition. After standing in that wind for 20 minutes straight we were not able to feel the toes and got frozen to the bones.
We and one other group of 5 boys were the only groups there at that time.
At this altitude people often start feeling dizziness, breathlessness and tend to easily affect by AMS which can be very serious. It is where Diamox comes in the existence. Diamox is a popular drug to prevent AMS, in addition it helps reduce the symptoms of AMS like nausea, dizziness and shorten of breath which often occur in high altitudes.
Consult with your doctor before going for Diamox course as there are some side effects too.
Ladakh Marathon – The Khardungla Challange
Okay, now the most amazing fact about Khardung la –
Every year, Ladakh Marathon is organized in ladakh and of the 4 races from merathon, The Khardungla Challange is the highest and toughest ultra merathon in the world.
Did you already know this? 🙂
Well, we started towards Nubra Valley and reached Hunder followed by Diskit Monastery. It is situated at uphill and it has a 32 meter statue of Maitreya Buddha near the monastery, the tallest one in that area and again an awe-inspiring sight. The surrounding views of valley, Shyok river and mountains are astonishing.
Sometimes time does stop and it happened to me as well. Everything stopped moving there and I want to immerse myself in that quiet life. As far as my eyes can see..all is tranquil nature..the valley, the barren mountains and river. The only moving object are clouds and all silence.
White Sand Dunes
In a while, Rigzin broke that silence when he asked us to move and we left the place. Just 5-6 kms ahead, the terrain turned into the desert of white sand dunes. Welcome to hunder sand dunes, Rigzin said. Nubra valley is a high altitude cold desert amidst some scanty vegetation. It is home to double humped bactrian camels and white sand dunes.
We got out of the car and stopped before the village to play in sand dunes and after 1 hour of ups, downs & playing in sand dunes we walked up to the village. We didn’t see any camel not even a single human around but Rigzin arranged one camel for safari on our request. He is ‘Marco‘ and we all did Marco Safari 😉
Habib Guest House
We stayed at Habib Guest House at Hunder, they offered us a four bedded room that had an attached washroom but no running water. Hot water was provided in bucket only.
Our most comfortable and warm stay ever because of BUKHARI (Bukhari is a traditional setup to keep the room warm. It’s a burning wooden heater with a pipe attached to vent the smoke outside of the room)
It was an excellent location and very close to sand dunes. A beautiful sunset can also be seen from surrounding high mountains.
Mr. Rehman and his wife runs this guest house and it is the only option which remains open in extreme winter too. They are indeed a wonderful host, very sweet and humble. We had delicious ladakhi food in their kitchen area(which was the most comfortable and warmest place to eat in the guest house). Their hospitality touched us and made our stay memorable.
After dinner we came out to see the starry sky but because of cold we couldn’t stay out much longer and returned to our cozy room.