Day 3: Leh to Nubra Valley via Khardungla
We got up early that morning after a night of intermittent sleep. She was feeling much better, but hungry nonetheless after not eating anything the previous night. She could not come to eat the oily Poori and Paratha for the breakfast and so we requested for Maggi. The weather was fine with sun beating down upon us and temperature hovering around 20 C, which made for a fine travel day. We left the hotel at about 9.30 am to Khardungla pass, which was about 40 km away. Before we left the hotel, the hotel staff gave us one of those small oxygen cylinders to carry with us in case of emergency at the top. The climb to Khardungla is quite steep, going from 11,000 ft. to 18,000 ft. in a span of 2 hours. The road till South pullu, which is 14 km from Khardungla, was quite good. The view was quite breathtaking. In fact, more than the view from Khardungla top, we found the views from our journey to the top more exciting. The roads are quite narrow, hardly wide enough to let 2 vehicles pass side by side. Your heart will skip a beat when the driver takes a fast turn on one of those blind curves. Fortunately, you will not encounter much incoming traffic till you reach the top (as the travelers coming back from Nubra will only reach the top by 11-12). The road from South pullu to Khardungla top is quite bad, but the surrounding scenery will make you learn to ignore these things.
We reached the top at around 11.30. The pass is quite busy with lots of vehicles trying to park close to the top and tourists trying to take their pics in front of the signboards. There was a long queue for using the bathrooms and one had to wait for almost 20 mins to get to their turn. The state of the bathrooms are quite pathetic to say the least and advisable to not use if you can resist. There is a shop on the top where you get some good mountain tea, Maggi and other snacks.
A word of caution, since the air is so thin on the top with very little oxygen, staying there for more than 25-30 mins can be dangerous. We decided to leave after spending around the same amount of time on the top. When we were about to start our car, we came to know that there was snow slide about a km ahead, which had to be cleared before we could proceed. The army got involved and was trying hard to clear it as soon as possible. But that meant we had to spend more time at the top than we were comfortable with. Eventually, it took about 1 hr to clear the snow and let the vehicles pass. By this time, my wife started feeling uneasy again. The smoke from the diesel cars in front wasn’t helping her much either. We decided to open the can of oxygen we had got with us and she felt better after taking a couple of puffs of oxygen. MakeMyTrip also sends an escort vehicle for around 10 passenger vehicles, carrying oxygen cylinder for emergency. We later came to know that there were 5 other people in the larger MMT group for whom they had to administer oxygen. We finally started descending down, to North pullu, which was again about 14 km from the top and roads equally bad till then. It was time for lunch and we got down at Khardung village for lunch.
Our next stop was Diskit monastery, which was about 90 mins drive from there. This monastery hosts a big Buddha statue and offers very good views of the Nubra valley.
Hunder Sand dunes is situated very close to Diskit. Its a small sand dune but quite interesting to see it being surrounded completely by mountain ranges. You also get to see the double humped camels which is unique to that place. We took a 15 mins ride on the camel.
Our stay at Nubra was arranged at Lharimo North camp, which was on the other side of Hunder. It took us around 90 mins to get to that place. It was around 6.30 pm when we reached there, it was quite a long and hectic day of travel for us. We freshened up and made our way to the dining hall where we had some tea and pakodas. Unlike in other camps in the region, the stay was in a cottage and not in tents. It was quite cozy and came with an attached bathroom with provision for hot water in the mornings. Since there is no power supply in that region, we had to wait for the power from the generator which was from 7-10 pm in the evenings and mornings from 6-8 am. The dinner was quite good and we hit the bed early.