Monday, January 28, 2013

Leh Road Trip - Khardung La, Nubra Valley and Panamik

After yesterday's journey and a good night's rest, the plan was to head off to Nubra Valley on Day 4. Around 150 kms from Leh (5 hours), the route goes through extreme ups and downs. The famous Khardung La pass is on the way. We started the morning with a walk through the Tibetan market and then a quick visit to the Shanti Stupa.
Shanti Stupa
Leh is at an elevation of approx. 11,500 feet. And Khardung La is at 18,500 feet. The distance between the two places is just 40 kms. So, you gain an immense amount of altitude in a very short span of time - the fastest way to get altitude sickness! Each one of us popped a Diamox (alt sickness med) and crossed our fingers. The view is breathtaking and the air just keeps getting thinner and thinner. The roads are pretty decent till South Pullu, but after that its the highway to hell! By the time we reached Khardung La, some of us had started bearing the brunt of it - nausea, throbbing headaches, breathlessness. I know I am not painting a very good picture, but don't give up yet!
Khardung La


All of us!
Khardung La is supposedly the highest motorable pass (sure felt like it!), but someone mentioned that Tibet has a higher one. The Rinchee cafetaria there almost cures you with hot black tea and Maggi that tastes so good, it can bring you back to life! :D They even have a Maggi Story written on the front wall. With faint smiles back on our faces, we were taking in the view all around us. And then, out of the blue, it started snowing! For few of us, that was a first. The faint smiles broke into huge grins. The bitter cold was instantly forgotten. Nature floored us that day. First, with its ferocity, and then with its beauty. Saw the might of human spirit too. So many people who cycled their way to Khardung La! Cannot fathom the level of strain that puts on the system! Oh did I mention that Coco was there too (the Bengali couple's dog), in a shiny red jacket!
The Maggi story :)
Coco revisited!

Cycling to Khardung La
Just when we were supposed to leave for Nubra Valley, road maintenance began and we were stuck at that high altitude for hours! It is suggested to halt at Khardung La for maximum 30 minutes and move downhill before altitude can take its toll. Well, what happened next was inevitable. I was horizontal in the backseat of the Xylo. The others zoned out too. The last man standing was the thinnest and frailest of the lot! Ironies of life. :) After what seemed like forever, we finally started for Nubra Valley. The moment altitude decreased, ears popped and sanity was restored. We spent the night at a camp in Nubra. Good food and comfortable tents!

The one thing that stands out about Nubra is sand-dunes! Right in the middle of those snow-capped mountains! Its such a jaw dropping sight! :) Camel ride was what we did the next morning. In my opinion, skip the smelly ride and just let yourself go on the dunes! Exactly what we did after getting off those camels. We rolled in the sands, danced, ran. Some meditated too. :)
Nubra sand dunes




Few hours there, and then we headed off to Panamik hot springs. A 40 km diversion en-route to Leh. As far as scenic views are concerned, this place might not be very high on the list. But what is up there on the brilliant list is the hot spring bathing area. A small indoor pool and a few showers with water from the hot springs. Needless to say, we had the best bath ever! God knows if the water blessed us with medicinal goodness; but standing in that steaming hot natural water was the nicest sensation in the land of low temperatures and poorly equipped homestays!
With school kids at Panamik
Maggi had by now become our staple diet. A couple of rounds of it followed by some mingling with the local school kids and we were good to go. One of the kids was quite the rockstar; dancing gangsta-style to whatever the others were singing. This was the fifth day of the trip and we were getting very used to the scenery around us. Greenery, mountains, snow, valleys, desert - we were not turning back to stare again and again at all that was whizzing by. And then, while we were on our way from Panamik to Khardung La, a dust storm started far away. And sun rays were filtering in through the dust. We not only turned, but stopped, got out of the car and took in the view in awe.
Incredible views!

Dust storm at the far end

Sun rays!
The trip was half done. Next was Tsomoriri. 

23 comments:

  1. That's an awesome trip. I really want to do this, but not sure am fit enough.

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    1. Fitness is required only if you plan to trek through the region. Otherwise, it is just another trip :) So go for it!

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  2. What an amazing trip and trust me your shots are marvellous. Loved the shots with reflections

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    1. Thanks Arnab! The reflections were just amazing. There was this one particular reflection which we saw while going from Khardung La to Nubra, but I was too altitude sick to click. Still regret it! :)

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  3. Lovely account!

    http://www.rajniranjandas.blogspot.in

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  4. I sometimes wonder how nature can be so beautiful. Hatds off to the creator the almighty.

    Cheers!

    Himanshu Nagpal | Being Traveler

    Being Traveler

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    1. You get an all new level of respect once you go to Leh!

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  5. Would you recommend travelling to Leh alone? I am enjoying solo travelling but only by other fellow travellers recommendation. What is the cost like for a shoe-string backpacker? Seriously, I am starting to make plan to get to Leh-Manali when I read your blog. I'm being intoxicated reading your posts. Thanks a lot.

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    1. Well from a safety perspective, it should be fine. But I would suggest travel with a group. There are many groups which arrange Leh trip. You can join in one of those. There is a women only group too. If you take public transport in Leh, you should be able to do it in less than INR 10,000. Food and stay is pretty cheap. Email me on suravi.shome@gmail.com in case you need any help.

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    2. I travelled solo all the way from kerala to nubra valley. I dont think it's gonna be a problem, infact you will enjoy more.

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  6. Thanx mate...nice info indeed...going on two wheels...will share if return..

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    1. Two wheels is the nicest way to do the route! Good luck :)

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  7. hey girl... Did you khardungla in Jan.. I wanted to know if it is accessible in jan

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    1. No, heard it is frozen solid at that time. We had gone in August. A friend of mine had gone for a trek in Jan end. Can check with him. Let me know.

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    2. Oh if you like trekking, go in Jan. There is a chadar trek hosted by Indiahikes. Supposedly super. :)

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    3. Hey Suravi,,,We are going Leh in june 1st week, shall we find lots of snow on roads and sides towards Khardungla?

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    4. Hey Pooja...from what I hear, yes you should get a lot of snow on roads in June.

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  8. Hi ..
    I have booked Chadar for coming January.
    What places will be accessible then to tour around for a couple of days ?

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  9. Hello,
    Can you please confirm me can i go khardungla pass & Pangong lake in April 1st week?

    Thanks,
    Soumyadip

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  10. Thank you for the blog on Leh trip along with wonderful photos. Leh is a district located in Ladakh. The town is dominated by the ruined Leh Palace, the former mansion of the royal family of Ladakh. Mountains dominate the landscape around the Leh and there are many more places to visit in Leh. It is an amazing vacation spot.

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  11. im going for srinagar and leh.
    may 5th noon i rec srinagar by flight. i have return flight on 16th may

    i want to cover srinagar, phalgham, gulmarg (gondala) , sonmarg, kargil, leh , nubra valley , sand dunes, pangpong lake
    we r 2 of us.
    we have a budget of 60k for both of us. is that enough??? for entire 12 days?
    if any other good place you can recommend wil be great.
    can someone guide me how can i plan the entire tour and things to take care of.
    tq
    regards
    rohith

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