And so we continue…….
This was my fourth Parle G with tea. The biscuit was the fourth but my tea was the second. I usually don’t keep track, but the view that I was looking at would undoubtedly compel me to stay a bit longer which would eventually mean more tea and biscuit. But that’s just part of what I wanted to say – what was truly capturing my attention was the spectacular view of the ‘valley of flowers’ also known as the ‘orchard of ladakh’ also known as the nubra valley.
We were at the monastery, which was up the hill at Hunder village. The beauty of Hunder village is the sand dunes as well as the sound of the water where the Shyok river meets the Nubra river. Hunder is a small quiet village around 7 kms from Diskit, and Diksit was where we were going to spend the next two nights as we explored nubra valley. Hunder is considered to be the greenest and most fertile of all places in the Leh-Ladakh belt. The forest is a palette of multiple greens, adorned by rare birds of varied colours. Sinec Hunder lies along the silk route; one of its ancient, closely retained characteristics is the camel ride. We had just returned from one of the camel safaris done on Bactrian Double-humped Camels, which was a reminder of the bygone era of Silk Route trade. The vast stretch of sand dunes between Hunder Village and Diskit is where one can see the Bactrian Camels grazing in the sea-buckthorn forests. It is also where most of the safari rides are offered.
As I sipped tea and relaxed at one of our make shift arrangements, I soaked in the beauty of nubra valley situated at an altitude of 3,048 metres above sea level and thought about our trip so far. I never realized when I started this trip that I would have such a multitude of experiences. Even though I knew the itinerary, the experience in itself could not be listed. If we considered this single day in itself, it was filled with the sun, sand, water and forests, all in one day. I woke up in the heart of Leh this morning. At around 9.30am we set out for Nubra Valley via the most famous Khardung La pass.
Khardung La is considered to be the world’s highest motorable road at 18,380 feet. Indians require an inner line permit while foreign nationals require a protected line permit in order to get from Leh to Nubra valley. We had to show our permit at South Pullu after which we reached the top of Khardung La pass at the army base. The drive was pretty smooth and when we stepped out at the top, the sheer white snow capped mountains were so enormous, and felt almost like a few steps away. I captured that moment in a Haiku:
the closer I get
the farther you seem –
We just needed an excuse to stretch our legs and drink tea – and Khardung La pass was it. So we stayed there and soaked in the coolness and strength of the great Himalayas. The Army souvenir shop sold hats, caps, t-shirts and kitchenware proudly stating “Khardung La.” Some of my friends bought memoirs, I clicked away with my camera and stored some memories in my heart. 45 minutes later, we were on our way to Diksit where we were to have our lunch. We went past several villages and the beauty helped us sail through an otherwise tiresome journey.
At Diskit, we stopped for lunch. Our lunch was elaborate and we really needed it. The tea and maggi at Khardung La had vanished into the crevises of our body and the cold air of the mountains. Lunch was a typical local affair comprising of momos – both steamed & fried & also a nice spicy momo’s soup.
A good leisurely 90 minutes later, we were on our way to Turtuk. Turtuk is a part of the ancient Bactria – a popular trading region in the Silk Route. In todays political world, it is the border of India & Pakistan occupied Kashmir. The sheer beauty & grandeur of nature left me spellbound. That such beauty & desolation should coexist & that too in India left me wondering as to how many places in my own country am I yet to visit.
Our last halt was Hunder Village where we were left free to explore. I sat at a local tea store & was wondering about my life.. I did not realize but I had snoozed on the easy chair and all these memories formed a part of my comfort sleep. My friend awakened me and reminded me that it was time to head back to Diksit, where we were to spend the night. I sat a few minutes longer and let the orange sky announce the arrival of dusk and night. Pulling my jacket closer, I filled my lungs with the foresty air, and shut my eyes and clicked the sight of the nubra valley – the oasis in the middle of the desert.
To be continued…….