Our driver told a day before that we will leave early because 29 Km stretch of road near Khardung La was not in good condition and we have to drive slow. We started at 9.00 AM from Leh after breakfast. The distance from Leh to Nubra Valley is approx 125 Km and estimated travel time is 5 – 6 hours including halts on the way. The initial 24 km road from Leh to South pullu checkpoint was paved but next 15 km of the road till Khardung La pass was mainly dirt & loose rock. After crossing Khardung La pass another 15 km of the road until north pullu was loose rock and dirt but afterward the road till Nubra Valley was paved.
Our driver was skilled and maneuvered the vehicle skillfully on high & narrow roads. The mountains and valleys on the side of roads were mostly barren but created a beautiful landscape with blue sky. We drove for nearly 2 hours on this gravel road. Then suddenly our driver pointed at an arch shape rock pillar on the left side, it was marked India Gate. After seeing the pillar he announced that we are about to reach Khardung La pass, which was few hundred meters ahead.
Finally, we reached Kardung La pass the highest motorable road in the world at 5,359 m (17,582 ft). We stop there for photo op and tea. There is a small cafe at the pass, it serves black tea, Maggi noodles and sometimes Momos. We had tea and momo, clicked some pictures and started for Nubra Valley.
We drove for another 3 hours and then took another tea break near a small village. As we moved closer to Nubra Valley landscape started changing. Now we have a river flowing on one side and there was some greenery. After another hour’s drive, we reached our hotel. I quickly dumped my luggage and we started for Hundar sand dunes.
The main attractions in Hundar village are double hump camels. This species of camel can survive in cold and high altitude areas. They keep their camels in good conditions and the timing for the ride is fixed between 4.00 to 6.00 PM, when the sun is not too harsh for animals. Hundar is highest altitude desert with sand dunes and camel walk on these dunes during the safari. These safaris last for 15 minutes and then animal goes for rest. I spent some quality time there and after sunset returned to my hotel. There are some tents in Hundar village for an overnight stay. There were no activities in the area so, I retired to the hotel after dinner.
Next day morning after breakfast we went to Diskit village. On the top of a hillock, there is a 32-meter tall statue of Maitery Buddha opposite Diskit Monastery.
There is a legend attached to Diskit Gompa, according to it a Mongol demon once lived here and was considered to be a sworn enemy of Buddhism. This is one of the oldest monasteries and dates back to the 14th century. It owes its inception to Changzem Tserab Zangpo, the elevated Coppola in the monastery is adorned with a beautiful fresco that illustrates the Tashilhunpo Gompa of Tibet. There are hundreds of Tibetan and Mongolian texts stored inside the temples inside the monastery.
On the way back we stopped at Panamik, it is popular for its hot water springs and a sacred Yarab Tso lake near the entrance of the village.
While we were coming back, we have to cross a fast flowing stream (Nullah) near Khardung La. It was not there while we went a day before and came to know that it appeared due to the sudden melting of the glacier.
Travel tips for traveling from Leh to Nubra Valley via Khardung La Pass –
* Keep hydrated during the trip, it helps in combating high altitude.
* There are limited washrooms on the way.
* On the way you will get tea, Maggie noodles and momos only.
* Don’t stay for more than 15 minutes at Khardung La pass.
* There were an army dispensary and first aid center at Khardung La pass and they have a basic arrangement for AMS.
* Some times due to the sudden melting of glacier water starts flowing from mountains and roads get washed away. This can create delay but the army and HIMANK repair the road on priority.
* Roads are rough and winding if you have motion sickness problem then take the medication before traveling.
P.S. If you can add one more day then visit Turtuk.It is very different in terms of landscape and cultural orientation in comparison to the Nubra Valley. In Apricot season you can see trees loaded with trees around the entire village and you can also view Karakorum range.