Hunder, Ladakh

IMG_0341Photo Credits: A. Mittal

As mesmerizing this picture is, so is the story behind it. I always take joy in telling my enthralling experience on the highest motorable road in the world – Khardung La Pass in Ladakh.  The Khardung La Pass is located 40km away from Leh town, Every rider who loves challenges thrown by nature would find this road perfect for satisfying his adrenaline rush. The road is located at an elevation of 18, 380 ft.  At any given month of the year, you can find the snow mountains encompassing Khardung La.  It is really a nature’s miracle that people use this snow-covered road to reach Hunder, a village amidst  the cold desert of Nubra Valley. Well, my trajectory was no different. Hunder is located 130 kms away from the Khardung La Pass and it is advisable to reach there early in day time since the weather can be really nasty at the Khardung La in the evenings. The other reason that should tempt  you to go to Hunder is riding on a double humped camel.

ladakh-map Photo Credits: flycatcheradventures

We were also set to experience this sudden transition from snow-capped mountains to riding a camel in sand dunes.  As my family and I were proceeding towards Khardung La, our driver-cum-guide informed that many years ago this road was a trade road between India and China.  Ladakh is a very difficult terrain to drive plus you can’t use your private vehicle for excursions for security reasons, hence it is a mandate to hire a local taxi.

We were very much aware of Ladakh’s unpredictable rains, but what we didn’t know was, since it was at very high altitude, it can snow even in summers. In minutes, the whole road was covered with ice not even snow making it whole slippery and difficult to drive on.  As we reached at the check post to begin our memorable ride, we noticed our taxi was slipping towards the abyss. We were aghast for a second. My mother clutched my hand, though for me the whole situation was no less than an adventure. Our driver, however, took control and reversed the car, but every time he tried driving forward, the vehicle would go slanting. Our driver then stopped the car, took out iron chains from the trunk and rolled it around all 4 wheels and tried steering it again. To our driver’s surprise it still didn’t work and this time one wheel of our car went outside the road. My mom screamed with it and started cursing me as usual for jeopardizing all of our lives at that moment.

IMG_0342Photo Credits: A. Mittal

Our driver suggested we start walking down the road while he’d fix the car issue and meet us in the way, to which we all agreed, at least it was better than falling into that gorge. We walked. It was still snowing and the road sill slippery. I was leading the troupe making footsteps for my family to walk. 1 hour passed, we were still walking in a snowstorm on the deserted road, without any shelter in sight. Though some military trucks passed by but didn’t stop because if they did, the vehicle would lose its friction on the road.

I believe that was the best walk of my life stuck in nature, with spectacular landscape all around me, I had a moment of epiphany. Suddenly, this urge of connecting with God ushered in and thought maybe this is the way God wants me to his best creations. It still remains the best experience of my life.

IMG_0370Photo Credits: A. Mittal

My brother kept looking for our driver, but there was no sign of him. It was thundering, foggy and the chills in the air were making all of us nauseating. I was shaking with cold with the fatigue of walking for so long but didn’t show it to my family. Finally, my mom saw a shack that looked like a military bunker. We started moving towards it. Soon we realized it wasn’t near as we thought we still had to walk a lot, a lot I mean. But we didn’t want to die frosting in that snow, so we paced up. It took us another hour to reach to that shade and found it was abandoned and had nothing inside. At that point of time, even roof looked like a blessing. Mostly, my parent would freak out in a situation like this, surprisingly they were quite calm and were enjoying this adventure in their elderly age. We spent at least 30 minutes there, catching back our breaths and stabilizing our swiveling heads. Outside, the snowstorm stopped and everything looked calm. As we decided to head on, saw our driver speeding towards us. That moment was precious for my mom at least. He started explaining his delay but we were just too happy to see him there.  Well, we almost walked through the whole of the Khardung La road and were now descending.

IMG_0371Photo Credits: A. Mittal

I was marvelling in a sense that within 10 kms the whole scenery around me drastically changed from snow to sand, from white to brown, even the texture of the mountains changed. We were in Nubra Valley that homes the cold desert of Ladakh. Our driver took us to Hunder which was just 45 kms away from the Pakistan border. Hunder contrastively was greener with sand dunes and double-humped camel. I know a very odd combination, but it is totally worth it.

IMG_0374Photo Credits: A. Mittal

IMG_0388Photo Credits: A. Mittal

IMG_0380Photo Credits: A. Mittal

Ladakh is truly a wonder of nature. I am still waiting for the time when I can again visit Ladakh and this time going even more remote and feel blessed again in the lap of nature.

About Ladakh

Ladakh lies in the Jammu and Kashmir state of India. Still remote, place is now often visited by nature loving tourists. The capital of Ladakh is Leh town, a buzzing Buddhist town.

How to get there?

To reach Leh you can fly directly from New Delhi. Though drive to Leh is cumbersome, but is worth all the pains. New Delhi to Leh is about 1,300 km and can take about 4 days. It is an experience of life, you won’t regret it. You can either take Kashmir route or Manali route. Both are amazingly scenic. Leh to Nubra Valley can be reached by any hired taxi.

IMG_0657Photo Credits: A. Mittal

When to go there?

Summers are the best. While the Manali route gets cleared of snow only in June, Srinagar route gets open in the end of April. For more details on the routes, you can visit the government tourist site with Leh here.