14th July, 2008.
Route: Leh – Khardung La – Khalshar - Diskit – Hunder.
Distance Covered: ~126km.
The day of driving on the world’s highest motorable road.
We got up late in the morning. The permits were to come by 10-10.30am. After lazy morning and heavy breakfast we started for KhardungLa at around 12 noon, partly because of delay while obtaining permits; the owner of our guest house was the most worried man for our permits. The bikes were lighter as all our luggage was at guest house, the plan was to cross Khardung La and try to reach Hunder by daylight. A distance of 126 km.
The road to Khardung La from Leh is in good condition; the bikes were traveling at an average speed of 35-40 km on the ascent of KhardungLa. It is advised to start the climb to KhardungLa early in the morning in order to beat the slow moving army convoy. We started much later, the convoy had already gone. There was absolutely no traffic on the road to KhardungLa. As we were climbing up the landscape was changing constantly, more and more mountain peaks were joining the view, and the snow capped mountain range at far distance was looking stunning. The final few km of the ascent are in bad shape, otherwise the road is well maintained.
KhardungLa, at an altitude of 18380ft is the highest motorable mountain pass in the world. Spent some time at the top, it was certainly cold at the top but the newly purchased riding gloves at Leh had done their work of keeping the cold out. It was much easier as compared to Baralach La under similar conditions. Had hot black tea at the army operated canteen at the KhardungLa top; took some snaps and started for onward journey.
The descent or rather the road on the north side of KhardungLa is worst, the south side that is towards Leh is in much better condition. Hunder and Panamic, part of Nubra Valley, are the last points in India where tourists can visitl; beyond that only army personal and locals are allowed. Hunder is cold desert in the Himalayas while Panamic has hot water springs. Both of these places are very beautiful, the landscape along the route is changing continuously every few kilometers. The roads were in good condition after we crossed Khardung village. Somewhere near Khalsar the weather changed a bit, became rainy, slight drizzle and again back to sunny. We got to see rainbow here, a complete semi circle. The landscape is at its best from the Khardung village onwards, changing from arid desert to a small oasis.
We managed to reach Hunder by 7pm, a small village amidst fields of rye, barley, fruit orchids and sand dunes. We decided to spend the night at Hunder at the only available guest house. The scenery was not visible in its full glory as it was late evening time, which we were to appreciate the next morning.