written by - Shreesuman/ Himanshu Suman
Leh – Ladakh Diaries – Nubra Valley to Leh (131 KM)
Nubra Valley, a tranquil place where one could easily spend few days relaxing in the arm of nature but we need to say good bye and move ahead as per our schedule plan. We admired the unique beauty of Hunder Sand Dunes that is located between Hunder and Diskit village. A completely contrasting feature of white sands amidst snow-capped mountain ranges and water stream. The sudden change in topography, while moving from thick vegetation to sand desert was unbelievable. It all changed within a short drive of 5 minutes from our campsite. An amazing and rare sight of nature where one can find snow, sand, water, forest, and double hump camel at one place. The landscape was spectacular with overwhelming effect of nature. We went for camel ride on the sand dunes and spent beautiful time amidst natural masterpiece. By the time we left from sand dunes it was lunch time and we found a suitable place just after Hunder village. After lunch we headed towards Diskit Monastery built in 1420 AD @ 3:00 p.m. with trip meter at 3229 KM. After a short drive of 9 KM with view of valley and sand dunes in a span of 15 minutes was all that needed to reach Diskit. We visited the Gompa to enlighten the spirituality within ourselves. The view of Nubra valley from Diskit Monastery was like an oasis on a cold desert. Finally, after a break of one hour we left for Leh to conquer mighty Khardung La. We followed the below route for our journey:
Hunder – Diskit – Khardung – North Pullu – Khardung La – South Pullu – Leh
Just after Diskit one could see a vast expanse of desert in the valley and a tarmac running through it. To drive through such an amazing route is a dream of every adventurer and the essence of passing through it was sufficient to give that extra push. We drove beside the Shyok River with varied landscapes and as usual every view was spectacular. The drive till Khardung was very smooth and road conditions were good. We reached Khardung @ 5:30 p.m. thereby covering 56 KMs. It just took 1 hour 15 minutes to cover the distance of 47 KMs. We took a small tea break and proceeded towards our onward journey @ 6:00 p.m. with a scale to accomplish. Everything looked seamless as the drive was comparatively silky as compared to the known devil of “Khardung La” till North Pullu where we reached @ 7:00 p.m. thereby covering a distance of 74 KMs. By that time we have ascended to a high altitude before even realising it because of the good road conditions and scenic view.
The moment we crossed North Pullu there was a drastic change in road conditions. Earlier we were cruising on high altitude and now we were moving at a snail’s pace. This was why we were here, isn’t it? Once again we were getting tested at the wee hours of the day. The daylight was fading and we had to deal with these treacherous terrains at night. At some point it seemed like we were hardly moving. We crossed two water streams with close co-ordination and at one such stream of almost 2 feet of freezing cold water one of our biker got stuck but we managed to pull it off. We still enjoyed the beautiful terrain, passing through snow covered mountains, and crossing water streams with a continuous drop in temperature. After crossing these water streams we took a very small halt just to take the blessings of mountain goddess and moved ahead. Finally after an arduous test of driving skills we managed to cover the distance of 15 KM in 1 hour 30 minutes at an average speed of 10 KM/hr.
Khardung La – conquered! This is it! We have done it! Let us enjoy the moment of scaling the highest motorable road in the world @ 5602 mtrs (18,380 feet) even though the claim is not accurate. We reached Khardung La @ 8:30 p.m. thereby covering a distance of 89 KMs.
We spent very less time at Khardung La as we could easily sense the thin oxygen level at such a high altitude. We did not want any effect of harsh conditions on our team and decided to quickly move ahead. By the time we left from Khardung La it was pitch dark and drive ahead was more challenging as we had to negotiate the twist and turns without natural light. Very cautiously we started the downward journey and the route was equally challenging till South Pullu. There were no barriers and sign boards for direction as well. With close co-ordination we finally covered the distance of 15 KM till South Pullu in an hour. The sight of tarmac seemed like heaven and we covered the next 17 KMs till Leh in just 30 Minutes and reached our guest house @ 10:00 p.m. thereby covering 131 KM. This trip passed the endurance test with flying colours powered by CEAT. CEAT Tyres provided the much needed stability to overcome the treacherous terrains.
On day 8 we travelled 131 KMs with a running time of 5.5 hours thereby clocking an average speed of 24 KM/hr by far the slowest average registered on this tour. Overall, the drive was very challenging with quite a few twists and challenging phases that needed skills and patience to pass through the treacherous terrains. We were filled with a sense of pride and accomplishment after completing this summit. I must admit a spine chilling experience. Finally, we were back in Leh after conquering Chang La and Khardung La along with unforgettable memories of Pangong Tso, Nubra Valley, Sand Dunes, Shyok Valley, and scenic as well as challenging routes.