Our journey towards Leh continued it turned dark at around 8 PM yes the days are very long in these mountains the daylight usually starts by 4:30 AM or 5 AM and ends by 7:30 or 8 PM. Due to the high altitudes, the daylight starts very early and shades into darkness very late. In that way, it was very helpful for us to start the days really early and cover good distances. It was completely dark and we were still driving towards Leh. We crossed Lamayuru Buddhist Monastery that we were supposed to visit but canceled. It was a full moon day and with the clear skies on the road, we had a beautiful view of the Moon. We see the moon everywhere but the view at that high altitude completely gives a different perspective.
It was a long day for us or to be precise I could say that it was a long 3 days with very little sleep and a lot of driving our, 2 primary drivers drove all of it by taking turns. As I mentioned in my first blog all of us knew how to drive but 2 guys were the most experienced and they loved to drive. However after driving the whole day they were tired. I had to take over the driving for the last 80 km to reach Leh. It felt amazing to drive on those nicely maintained moonlit long empty roads and the steady burble of running water with the cold winds, it was a treat to be there. The burble of running water was from the Indus river to which I was driving in parallel. Around 30 Kms before Leh we have the Magnet hill. As it was 1 AM in the night we did not get out of the car. But I did stop our car, shifted to neutral and when I released the breaks there was a powerful pull in reverse. It was astonishing, tried that few more times and the magnetic pull was around 30 Kmph in reverse. After having fun for few mins we started driving further and suddenly there was a pack of dogs or maybe wolves started chasing our car, I tried to go as fast as I can and drove past them. We realize not getting out of the car was the best decision we made at that time.
We reached Leh called our Hostess to guide us the way to the guest house. The route we took was very narrow. I could not drive in those roads hence asked one of our better drivers to take over. After some challenges, we reached our guesthouse at 2:45 AM checked in to our rooms. planned to get some sleep for 3 hours. Reaching Leh marked us covering all the time we lost due to delays and put us back on our original plan. Most importantly no more losses or misses due to the delays.
After a few hours of sleep, we woke up at 6 AM. Got ready and talked to our hostess if she can help us get the permits to visit places Ladakh. Permits are mandatory to visit any place in and around Leh. There will be specific fees for each location you plan to visit like Pangong, Nubra Valley, Spiti Valley, etc. Before we enter any of those places there will be a check post where you will have to provide your ID proof and a copy of the permits taken. We got in touch with an agent who came to the guesthouse collected all the basic documents needed for the permits and he told us he will get it done and give us the same by 10AM. We finished our complimentary breakfast consisting of omelet, Maggie and sandwiches with Tea. We packed our bag and loaded our stuff back into the car and checked out of the guest house at 10 AM.
We waited at a place advised by the agent. While we were waiting for the permits we had stopped near a small pond which looked interesting with various types of plants and flowers grown in and around the pond. There was also a small shop who sells Shawls and souvenirs, we looked at a few things but did not buy anything that day as we were coming back to Leh in 3 days. after waiting around 30 mins the agent met us around 10:30 and gave all the permit documents and its photocopies. Yes, we can go and get the permits ourself but it will take some time to get all of that done. Hence to save our time we had to go with an agent instead of getting it ourselves.
We said bye to Leh and started heading towards Kardung la believed to be the highest motorable road in the world situated at 18380 ft above the sea level. The final plan was to go to Hunder in Nubra Valley and the road to Nubra goes through Kardungla. Kardungla is around 39 Kms from Leh but that 39 Km is full of climbing up the mountain. Even though these are mountain roads but the BRO(Border Road Organization) has maintained the road pretty well we did not face any issues while traveling to Kardung la. We reached Kardung La at around 1 PM. it was pretty crowded the air was thin even walking a few steps at that hight made us breath heavy but the view and the feeling of being at that place are indescribable.
After staying there for 40 mins we started driving down towards Nubra. It is not advisable to stay longer at Khardungla due to less oxygen. But we had prepared our bodies for high altitudes by taking Diamox from a week before our trip. of course, we did consult our doctor before taking any and all medication. Even though we were prepared for the high altitudes we were not impervious to the effects it just made us strong enough to easily adjust with low chances of adverse effects. But that does not mean we can stay at Khardung la for any longer than 30 mins we were breathing heavily after a few mins over there so staying longer would have created problems. So, in conclusion, don’t spend too much time at Khardung la. If you start seeing any altitude sickness symptoms take precautions/medications and try to climb down sooner don’t think you are superhuman to power through the symptoms.
Our drive towards Hunder was around 86 Kms we were driving down the mountains. we crossed Khardung village and were in the Nubra valley road the view was awesome mountains all around and a road in the middle with very minimal traffic. There are a lot of military bases almost everywhere in the Leh Ladhak province. So I am not mentioning any of them as I feel I am not supposed until they are relevant to my story. Even on our way to Hunder we saw few military installations which looked neat and disciplined as the Army is supposed to be. For us, it was a completely new thing to see the Army up close and the hard work they do to keep us safe. Below are a few awesome picturesque views from the Nubra Valley.
We reached Hunder sand dunes around 5:30 PM we planned to go the sand dunes first instead of checking in to the hotel. We parked our car and started walking towards sand dunes. There was a sand dune festival and that was the last day of the festival hence there was a lot of crowd. It was sand everywhere, for me it was unusual to see the sand without a sea nearby as I have not been to any deserts. Hunder sand dunes are famous for the double hump camels. They do have camel rides available there. We had gone for a Camel ride it was my first time on a camel ride it was exciting and fun. After the camel ride we roamed around a bit then got back into the car and drove to the hotel.
After checking in to our room we settled down had some tea and rested for a bit. We had enquired the Stay owner if they serve dinner and they did. The dinner they served had Rotis, 2 types of Sabjis, Rice, Dal, sweet and papad. It was simple but tasted really good. It was the first time we had good food after Haveli. After dinner, we chilled for some more time in the common area, met an interesting guy from Jammu who was traveling with his wife almost on the same path as we did. As he was from Jammu he knew the places in and around Kashmir. Suggested we should visit those places next time when we are there. After chatting for some time we went to bed around 10:30 PM it felt good to get a good night’s sleep on an actual bed. We were so excited about the next day but that is a story for next time…