2014, Sept…Day(8) Leh-Khardung la-Diskit

18th September 2014, Thursday……Day (8) Leh-Khardung la-Diskit 116 km

Red Knight and I were raring to go after a day’s rest and rejuvenation. This was day I was waiting for since long. I had been dreaming about it since childhood and barely missed it 20 years ago. Red Knight and I shall be riding on the highest motorable road in the world this day.

Weather was absolutely perfect. It was sunny, bright and pleasant morning. I said goodbye to my wonderful hosts and rode to Shanti Stupa first up. Although I was there last evening still I wanted to begin the day by paying a visit to Shanti Stupa.

Lucky and excited to have been there at Shanti Stupa, Leh on that beautiful morning.
Abandoned Leh Palace is a nine storey building which is modelled on the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet.
Hall of Fame…a museum maintained by the Indian Army in memory of soldiers who lost their lives during Indo-Pak wars.
Spituk Monastery (Left) and Kali Mata Temple (Top Right)…..8 km on Leh Srinagar Road.
Posing with Red Knight outside Spituk Monastery.
On the way back to Leh town
Friendship Gate, Leh
Typical Leh homes….Leh Castle perched on top of a hill in the background.
View of Leh town from the road to Khardung la Pass.
Climbing up to Leh Castle….which is visible from everywhere in Leh.
Leh Castle

There are many things to do and see in Leh. I did see some of them in the morning like Shanti Stupa, Leh Palace, Leh Castle, Hall of Fame, Spituk Monastery, Kali Mata Temple and Leh market. After visiting Leh Castle which is a little excursion on the road to Khardung la, I decided to ride on the highest motorable road in the World from Leh to Nubra Valley which passes through the highest motorable pass in the World, Khardung la. Khardung la is 39 kilometers away from Leh and ascent to this pass begins from South Pullu, 15 kilometers short of the pass.

And the ride to highest motorable road in the World begins.
Hats off to BRO for this beautiful road…..painted rock on the side looks like a frog.
Nearing South Pullu…An army check post and a stopover on the way to Khardung la. All of 24 km from Leh to South Pullu are paved.
Beautiful Road and the landscape on the way to Khardung La Pass.
Traditional Silk Route on the road to Khardung La Pass….road quality decreases near the pass.
Road widening processes was on.
Ladakh Range as seen from Khardung La road. Leh town is down there in the Indus Valley. Also see the road winding up from South Pullu.
Another view of the road and landscape near Khardung La Pass.
Very close to Khardung La Pass now
Khardung La Pass.

The world’s highest motorable claim (wikipedia)

 Khardung la is widely, but incorrectly, believed to be the Highest vehicle-accessible passes in the world. A well-graded Indian military road (visible on imagery on visual globe systems such as Google Earth) reaches 5,610 metres (18,406 ft) 250 meters west of the 5,545 metres (18,192 ft) Mana Pass on the India -Tibet border. It connects with an equally well-constructed, slightly lower Chinese military road based on SRM data at posting intervals of 30 meters. A similarly visible well-graded road crosses the 5,582 metres (18,314 ft) Marsimik La in Ladakh just four km west of the Line of Actual Control. There are also higher motorable passes at Suge La, west of Lhasa, 5,430 m (17,815 feet), and Semo La 5,565 m (18,258 feet), between Raka and Coqen in Central Tibet. Modern GPS and SRTM data confirms these elevations; the latter was also measured by a Catalan expedition supported by the Cartographic Institute of Catalonia.
Hurrah…….finally made it to the highest motorable pass in the world (said to be)….Khardung La (18380 ft)

Reaching Khardung la Pass on my own bike was a long pending dream. Twenty years ago I came very close to achieving it when I reached Leh riding Yamaha RX 100 on Leh Manali Highway in August 1994. It was raining heavily on those days and I was missing my family. My daughter’s 2nd birthday was on 27th August and I knew if I went for ride to Khardung la, I would be one day short and may not reach home to celebrate my daughter’s birthday. So I put off going for Khardung La top during that trip instead chose to ride back home to celebrate my daughter’s birthday.

Standing over the top this day I feel proud that I chose the right thing that day. As the same daughter is helping me in living tension free life. I put off one dream that day and got return gift in the shape of living my dream every day.

The food and tea at this Army canteen situated at such a height was amazing.
It’s risky to stay at Khardung La Pass for more than 20-25 minutes due to low oxygen level.
This ‘home on wheels’ belongs to a man from Italy who is travelling all over the World in it.
The road and landscape towards North Pullu as seen from Khardung La top. 15 km road from Khardung La to North Pullu is again a dirt road.
On the other side of Khardung La Pass…..notice flag on Khardung La Pass.
Tsolding Buddha Park just before North Pullu.
Landscape just before North Pullu
Tsolding Buddha Park just before North Pullu.
Road and landscape after crossing Khardung La Pass….North Pullu in view.
Road widening process going on, just after crossing Khardung La Pass.
North Pullu (15 km from Khardung La Pass)…..Army check post and first stopover for travellers after crossing Khardung La Pass.
Beautiful Nubra Valley road and the first village enroute Khardung (17 km from North Pullu)
Road to Nubra Valley passes through Khardung village which has home stays and restaurants.
Beautiful Nubra Valley road and landscape just after crossing Khardung village.
Bend near the Shyok River….left (Khalsar, Nubra) and right (Agham, Wari la)
I took the left towards Khalsar…..Nubra Valley. First view of Shyok River.
View of Khalsar (19 km from Khardung village) from up above the road.
Google map showing route followed for the day.

By the time I reached Khalsar shadows started lengthening. It started getting dark. The road was along beautiful Shyok River now. It was tarred and good. In the fading light, the surrounding looked rugged, strange and eerie, yet I was riding and enjoying. At the same fear of unknown was fast gripping as the area was totally unknown to me. I was not sure where I was going to stay for the night either. When I began riding in the morning I had Hunder in my mind for night stay, which was still 30 kilometers away.

I did not feel like staying at Khardung and Khalsar and continued riding till a point where there was a turn to the left mentioning Hunder. The drive from thereon was a delight. It was a single tarred road and looked like right through the middle of a river bed. Rode full on. The scenery around was just out of the world. It was a dream come true.

Soon it became dark and the same scenery became scary. Crossed Diskit and reached Hunder and rode through the lanes of Hunder hoping to find someone to enquire about accommodation. It was kind of strange, there were many large single storey buildings but hardly any soul around. It seemed as if the place was abandoned and no one was around. Found dim light coming out from few buildings. I met someone and enquired about accommodation. Checked one or two places, but they did not appeal to me. Decided to head back to Diskit, which looked a better place to me.

And indeed it was. Rode back in the dark of the night to Diskit and found a very nice place to stay. The room was on the upper flour of the building and pretty good. I saw some other travellers staying at the place. Asked for Egg Curry and Chapati in the dinner, which was well prepared and served in my room.

After dinner I walked on the large open roof in front of my room. It looked fantastic. Sky was clear and full of stars. The dim light coming out of windows of few of Nubra homes looked wonderful. After an amazing day’s ride in some of the most beautiful mountains I was having equally wonderful night.

This ends the 8th day of my Solo Bike Ride to Ladakh 2014!!!


 

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