Though our Epic Journey from Mumbai to Leh had completely drained out the energy in us the mystical beauty of Ladakh and the gorgeous landscape were enough to pump in all the energy back into us to set us on a new adventure to explore the wonderful land of Ladakh. Ladakh region in India’s northernmost state of Jammu and Kashmir has some of the incredible and breathtaking locales. The glimpses of the astounding beauty of the land throughout the journey from Jammu to Leh had left us in utter astonishment and we could not wait to explore them all ourselves.
Next day we applied for our permits with a travel agency in Leh; permits are required by all the tourists to travel in Ladakh. While we waited for our permits we rented bikes and explored the surroundings of Leh which also helped us get acclimatized.
The Third day with the dawn of the day we set on the most thrilling ride of our life through the serpentine roads of mountains to reach Khardung La at 17582 ft. Starting early may help avoid unseen consequences of traffic congestion or landslides. Our new friends from Delhi whom we met in Jammu Joy and Imran too accompanied us. The road up to the South Pullu checkpoint was asphalted and in pretty good shape cut along the dry rocky cliffs. Enroute we stopped at the South Pullu checkpoint to present copies of our permit.
Though Khardung La being claimed as the highest motorable road is highly disputed but the ride through the winding road skirting the mountains and the stunning landscape is unbeatable. As we rode higher the dry mountains started showing signs of snow and soon we rode through the narrow slushy dirt roads with high snowed cliffs on one side and deep drop valleys on the other. Border Roads Organisation ministers the continuous maintenance of the roads while the avalanches and the rivulets from snow melt deteriorate the roads.
While huge clumps of snow mounted on one side of the road the other side had amazingly structured icicles which would sometimes go up to a meter.
The landscape through which we rode are inspiring enough to keep you going but that instant when you feel like you need motivation and you see some adventurers riding up to Khardung La on their bicycles is an adrenaline rushing sight.
The clumps of snow rolled up along the edge of the road, the undulating white mountains rising high through the clouds deep into the perpetual blue skies beseech us to stop for a picture perfect capture.
The journey from Leh to Khardung La took us around 4 hours with occasional stops to get down and push our bikes through sludgy and slippery gravel filled roads, gather our momentum and jump back onto our Pulsar. The idea of riding to a height of 17000 something ft is a mind-boggling experience and the Euphoria to reach the summit of the pass amidst scenic vistas and the feeling of being on top of the world was second to none.
The trail to the top passes through some of the remote areas so it is recommended to be well equipped with water, snacks, and medications. The arduous journey and the chilling cold weather had made us hungry. The pass summit has a cafeteria where we had several cups of hot tea and some hot soupy noodles. The cafeteria claim to be the highest cafeteria in the world may again be dubious but drinking a hot cup of tea on the freezing summit definitely seemed heavenly.
The pass is bedecked with colorful prayer flags and several boards stand with information about Khardung La. The pass has an Indian Army post, a temple maintained by the army and Army souvenir shop.
The pass is surrounded by stunning and picturesque vistas of snow-capped mountain peaks that look like a never ending horizon embracing the overcast skies afar.
Everyone is allowed or say recommended to stay at the top for not more than 30 minutes owing to the low oxygen levels which may cause serious health problems. We clicked few quick photos, soaked up the magical views and began our descent back to Leh.
The winding roads of the mountains skirting through the mist, snow and finally the dry terrain back into the city accompanied by the remarkable vistas epitomizing nature at its best left an indelible mark on our souls.
Khardung La is an important gateway to the Nubra and Shyok Valley. Many continue onto the Nubra valley from Khardung La Pass which requires at least a night’s stay at Nubra. The best time to visit Khardung La is between May and October when the pass remains open unless there is any change in weather conditions like heavy snowfalls or landslides.
If you are planning to visit Ladakh you may want to plan during the Naropa Festival held every twelve years.
Have you been to Khardung La? Were you able to make it to Nubra and Shyok Valleys beyond the Khardung Pass? We would love to learn about your experiences.
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