Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Nubra Valley... Ladakhi Heaven

After a day acclimatizing in Leh (photos), and a 10-hour round trip jeep ride to Pangong Tso on the Ladakh-Tibetan border, we again commissioned a land cruiser for a two day trek into the North-Eastern corner of Ladakh. With permits on hand, we enter the Ladakhi paradise known as the Nubra Valley.

The Nubra Valley is linked by 150 km of road to Leh, and requires one to pass over the highest motorable highway in the world. At 18,380, the Khardung La pass offers one steaming garam chai, military handshakes, and prayer flag vistas toward peaks that tower above and below. Beyond the Nubra Valley is the Karakoram Pass which links Ladakh to Xinjiang province in Western China. This is not accessible even with a permit.

Descending over the Khardung Pass into the Nubra Valley, after snapping picts with a requesting Punjabi family, we came upon a desolately straight road. Always above 10,000 feet, even the bottom of the valley offers unprecedented topography. Glacial green rivers run clear over smooth stones, and the verdant banks provide food for wandering yaks. Hundreds of white and brown horses wade knee deep in a lush marsh at the banks of arid crags which descent thousands of feet from snow-capped knife-edged corners. The marsh is a verdant quiver for the arrowheads of granite which stretch, puncturing clouds, and slicing knife edges like obsidian into the deep blue sky.

On a solitary road that crosses the valley floor, we stop aside a moonscape of sand dunes untouched by humanity, only whipped by the Karakoram winds (photos). Ripples show in its silver surface. Beyond, visibility must be a hundred miles. The valley extends ad infinitum into a diminuendo of spikes, black, gray, silver, and green. The sky melts from a deep indigo above into a painted white canvas on the horizon. Giddy with discovery we attack the sand dunes, yell, pause, listen to the silence. We dive off the dunes, twirl and then stop in awe of our surroundings; Heaven.

We continue down the valley where we find a seated group of Bactrian Camels like those once used to cross the Silk Road. For $3 we commission rides across the dunes through a sand storm, before returning to the land cruiser for sunset at the Diskit Gompa hundreds of meters above the valley floor. The vista from the whitewashed buddhist gompa nestled into sheer rock walls is spectacular. Punctuated by the maroon robes of laughing children studying toward peace, we sit, breathless because of altitude and spectacle, feet dangling off the wall. The sun powers its way past a far off crag in straight rays which illuminate patches on the valley floor. Its yellow lines paint color into an already infinitely nuanced canvas, each hollow and line illuminated by the 5pm shadows, and called to attention by the angle of the light.

4 comments:

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ASCET2006 said...

I have read your blog completely and watched your youtube channel.i think you are one of the few foreigners who understood india better.i am from india and i am currently on a 6 month business trip to US. i am staying at Dublin, California and i think its the best state in the United States.

Hima said...

Who are you? What are you? Man! you must be exploring and enjoying india more than we indians. We are so stuck with this mechanical life who have no money and time to go around and see places. I visited most of the major cities in US than in India.

जाट देवता (संदीप पवाँर) said...

शुभकामनाएँ आपको ऐसी शानदार यात्रा करने के लिये, इस मार्ग पर मैं बाइक से गया था