Day 7 & 8 - Khardungla calling to Nubra n Turtuk
What strikes you first when in your wildest of dreams you see yourself scaling a height of 18,380 feet or 5,602 metres? Loads of snow, milky white mountains, breathlessness, Oxygen cylinder clutched firmy in your hands with your nosetrills vying for every atom of the gas oozing out of the cylinder? Some of you who are hardcore movie buffs would probably fancy themselves surrounded by a battery of villains as you strive to get your lady love released from their den. Barring the last i had all of the earlier speculated scenarios shadow rehearsed already as we took off for the mighty, the highest motorable road in the world, the Khardungla Pass.
As our SUV started climbing the "upward only" kachcha road i heard our driver getting the update that it has snowed today on the heights. What more auspious start to the thrill ride! There came numerous mountains having their own unique identity but today was not their day probably as i just wanted to be air-lifted to the TOP without wasting any more time on lesser immortals. As the fate would have it we found that there were many tricky road blocks along the way which were being cleared by the ever so reliable BRO (Boarder Roads Organization) at a break neck speed.
I tried to capture few of the most tempting dessert offerings in my MoCam but wouldn't get satiated. I got my taste buds rolling vigorously when i first got the glimpse of snow peaked mountains even as there still was lot of ground to be covered before we claimed the summit. In the subdued sun rays the half-melted snow would sit pretty like a jewel in the crowns of these blessed timeless beauties. I tried to create some masterpieces of my own by making use of some amazing features of my MoCam & i didn't have much to do as the naturally gifted wonders provided for the perfect picturesque settings.
There were few cyclists & motor cyclists who crossed us and it was a telling testament on human endeavour.
After crossing the Khardungla ranges we entered the Nubra Valley. Here we had the first (& possibly last) let down of the entire trip as we visited the Pamanik "Hot Springs". Though it had a stream of near boiling hot water coming from some unknown natural resource & it was claimed that it could cure some illnesses the cure came with certain preconditions which definitely could put ice cold water on the visitor's enthusiasm. Given that i won't very highly recommend this nondescript & isolated spot which if included, could jeopardize your day's plan by 4 hours & your trip by one full day.
Hunder (in Nubra Valley) offers several choices suiting different tastes. It has some naturally developed options offering overnight stay to the nature lover in you. They are in the form of both tents n home stays.
Visit to Turtuk is recommended for someone with absolutely in no hurry. From Hunder it takes roughly 3 hours to reach the army check post in Turtuk which is 7 Kms short of the actual border with Pakistan. Special permission is needed to go those few extra miles.
After this disappointment (of not getting to see the real border), thanks to the driver's young son who took over the vehicle for 2 days & his friend, i could see the Turtuk village which is around 200 metres of steep hike on an actualy hilly terrain and let me tell you that no tour operator would include this awesome nature trail in their itinerary for you. One has to first know it him/herself. These kids goaded me & i am glad i took their recommendation positively. From the hill top the view of the down was just so magnificent. Even the most aesthetically shot aerial scene of a Chopra romantic won't be able to hold a candle to it. I passed through some of the lush fields & loved the experience. I also set on the cliff, which directly overlooked the base of the valley, dangerously to pose for a couple of all time gems of my own even as a massive stroke of vertigo was surging in.
I met few local residents to understand what changes they have felt ever since 1971 when Turtuk became a part of sovereign India. It sounded pleasing to ears that since there was lot of cultural & social influence between people living on the two sides already not much has changed ever since even as some of them had to vacate their homes in 1999 when Pakistan fired shells heavily on this peaceful town.
All those pleasant memories from Turtuk came looking to get crashed when all of a sudden our vehicle wavered violently on a concrete road. I realized that there was a mild avalanche the moment we were supposed to cross a particular juncture. For all his youth our driver's son handled it very maturely without getting panicked. It could have been a real close shave.