“…..Almost heaven, West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River.
Life is old there, older than the trees, younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze.
Country roads, take me home to the place I belong….”
Country Roads…Take Me Home…The Road Trip to Nubra Valley (Hunder Village)
John Denver’s magical tunes were like a magical relief amidst the monotonous aura inside our SUV. It was so cute of Hassan Ji to play this wonderful country ballad soon after we had left the small eating joint at Khardung. We were obviously not travelling in West Virginia under the Blue Ridge Mountains along the Shenandoah river, yet the changing mountainscapes after leaving the village of Khardung left us simply awestruck.
The Changing Mountainscapes from Khardung Village
Roadmap of Khardung Village to Hunder Village (Nubra Valley) [Courtesy: Googlemaps 2016]
The Changing Mountainscapes
To our surprise we were passing by the side of a vast grey canyon lying to our right. The mountains around us had a heavy and rugged look that we had hardly seen before in our almost four hour ride from Leh. There were more ridges, folds, ups and downs apart from the bare rocks dominating the slopes of the huge mountains.
The mountains around us had a rugged look
The greyish slopes were dominated by darker shades that made these mountains mysterious and alluring. Amidst the towering grey mountains a lovely snow capped peak peeked out in the distant north-east direction displaying its whitish arrogance amidst the monotony of the grey mountains.
A large plateau like mountain was now bordering the canyon
A large plateau like mountain was now bordering the canyon which was slowly moving away further from the side of the road. The skies above us were once again going to be little bit darker with an approaching cloud cover.
The amazing canyon lying to the right side of our road
Suddenly the canyon took a stiff bend towards the road and it was bang in front of us. Its ridges, folds and rugged crests reminded us the picture of the Great Grand Canyon we had seen courtesy the wonderful images published by the National Geographic.
The Shyok Basin
The canyon disappeared majestically behind the mountains and with a sharp bend we now entered a cliff top with a huge river basin lying way down. It was none other than the Shyok Basin with the serpentine Shyok river flowing elegantly from the direction of the snow capped mountains lying in the far North-east.
The Shyok River Basin
There was a peculiar massive fog cover over the entire river basin, although its effect was hardly anywhere on our road way above the river valley. Hassan Ji corrected us immediately. He indicated that this was none other than the infamous sand storms of the Nubra Valley.
The myterious Shyok Basin..with the advent of a gale
We took a break from our SUV ride to have a peek into the amazing view of a full-fledged sand storm blowing across the river basin way down the valley. The view of the Shyok River was getting darker and darker with the visibility of the valley going down with the winds picking up like a mad gale. The gale was fast catching us up across the valley.
The Shyok Basin way above from the road towards Khalsar
The amazing roadscape..beside the Shyok Basin
The Desert Storm at Khalsar
We were soon captivated by the desert storm lurking all around us. There was an amazing beauty of the road taking us further down into the valley with the turning of each bend. It looked like a huge, dark serpent emerging out of no-where. We reached Khalser, a small village where we were soon joined by the Shyok road from our right.
The appraoching Desert Storm near Khalsar
This is an amazing road that can take you towards the magnificent Pangong Lake via Tanyar, Shyok villages and Durbuk town. Very few people dare to venture this road due to the infamous landslides in and around the Shyok river basin.
Roadscapes of Khalsar..amidst the Desert Storm
The gale picked up into a massive storm with sands engulfing us from all sides. We had to stop our vehicle near a ridge in this growing adverse condition. There was hardly anything visible. The Shyok river was roaring beside the road with massive waves now appearing on its apparently smooth journey down the valley. The other bank of the river was entirely capsulated under a dark sand cloud cover which was hardly penetrable by vision.
The Desert Storm Captivating the Shyok Basin
Bits and pieces of rock were gushing down the mountain slopes around us. Although the road was quite far away from the mountain slopes lying to our left, it was a hell of a scary moment to witness an approaching mud and rock slide.
The Desert Storm…Mud and debris were pilled up on our road..the Shyok River looked furious
The gale seemed to shift more towards the other bank of the Shyok river leaving a clear passage way ahead allowing us to continue with our ride. It was a shocking sight to find so much of rock and mud debris lying on the road. Looking at our nervous gaze, Hassan Ji remarked that this kind of sight was very normal in and around the mountains of the Nubra Valley.
Shifting of the Desert Storm to the other Bank of the Shyok River
The entire valley was a cold desert with strands of huge sand dunes waving up and down beside the banks of the Shyok and the Nubra rivers. Having sudden gales, sand storms and rock slides on these roads was a part and parcel of the day to day life of travellers in and around Nubra.
The retreating Desert Storm
We were now moving all through a flat stretch of the desert with the Shyok river running to our right. The visibility around the road had improved a lot. There was something peculiar about the desert. Instead of sand dunes the desert in this part of the valley had a completely different look with a pebbled and stony floor.
First Hand Look of the Nubra Valley after the Desert Storm
We could see several resorts and entertainment camps being set up by the side of the almost straight road leading to the Diskit town.
The amazing Nubra Valley..with the distant view of the Diskit Monastery
After climbing up again from the desert floor, we took a sharp bend towards our left, and the first clear view of the Nubra valley lay stark open with its out of the world beauty in the backdrop of the now receding sand storm.
Crossing the long stretch of the Nubra desert before climbing the up-hill road to Diskit
The memorable Roadscape on our uphill climb towards Diskit Town
The sunshine was begining to spread its golden exuberence in the Nubra Valley
There were tinges of several oasis greenery spanning here and there amidst the wide desert pierced by the blue Shyok river down the valley. The desert sands had a glittering shine with the advent of a now clear blue sky and the late afternoon sunshine scorching the valley floor with its golden exuberance.
The oasis of Nubra Valley
The tinges of greenery were now growing bigger and bigger blooming into colourful oasis bushes bordered by tall trees.
We soon entered Diskit town. The amazing Diskit Monastery was looking mysteriously grand and beautiful on the top of the huge grey mountain walls lying to our left. The small town was buzzing with local people. It was more like a visual treat to find people on the roads after our long journey from Khardung La. The town consisted of a small market comprising of a fair number of shops, small eating joints, along with a small bus cum taxi stand for tourists and local commuters.
A distant view of the Diskit Monastery
We found that the town had quite a few number of camps, resort cum hotels for tourists visiting the Nubra Valley. Hassan Ji mentioned that many tourists in these parts of Ladakh preferred to choose home stay options to resorts for better care and fooding. We stopped at the nearby Petrol Pump to refuel our SUV for the next day’s road trip to Pangong Lake and other sight-seeing in and around the Nubra Valley.
On our way to Hunder Village from Diskit
We still had another 7 Km from here to reach our destination – the picturesque Hunder Village. With the evening catching us soon, we decided to speed up to our destination in order to make up ample time for the desert safari at Hunder Village and local sight-seeing including the famous Diskit Monastery.
The Picturesque Hunder Village
Picturesque Hunder Village
If Nubra Valley is a beautiful portrait of Nature’s most amazing landscapes, Hunder village certainly is the crown – the true “Taj” of this beauty..Past compare…Hunder is an amazing oasis bordered by lush green tall trees, colourful bushes and numerous fruit orchards making the place resemble a mini paradise or “Jannat” on the earth. It was just an out of the world feeling to drive across the valley to enter the village leaving the huge sand dunes of the Nubra Valley to our right.
Hunder Village..a little Paradise…
Hunder Village..Amazing Roadscapes
We turned towards the right leaving the Indian Army camp and the Military hospital to join a small village road leading us to the interior of the village. The entire road was now bordered by tall green trees and colourful bushes.
The beautiful Apple Orchards of Hunder Village
The amazing thing was that most of the resorts and hotels were nestled beautifully in small clearings amidst the canopy of tall trees and orchards. After moving another 100 metres we finally reached our guest house Ldumra Oasis.
Our Guest House..Ldumra Oasis
The scenery around us was really amazing. The guest house was surrounded by lush green apple orchards and flower gardens other than the colourful forest cover bordering its back drop.
Mountainscapes around Ldumra Oasis
The amazing Flora and Fauna around Ldumra Oasis
The rugged mountainscape around our guest house
Amidst this amazing oasis we soon found our fatigued bodies thoroughly rejuvenated by sipping hot black tea and biscuits in the guest house lobby.
…..to be continued…
Resorts & Guest Houses: Lotus Resort, Desert Himalaya Resort, Nubra Eco Lodge, Hunder Resort, Chamba, Hotel Olthang, Kharyok Guesthouse, Himalayan Eco Resort, Ldumra Oasis, Sand Dunes View Guest House, Habib Guest House, Double Humped Camp, Hunder Resorts
Tourists are also advised to choose suitable Home Stay Options in and around Diskit or Hunder
How to Reach Diskit/Nubra
One may reach Nubra Valley (Diskit/Hunder) by an almost 5 to 6 hour car drive from Leh. Tourist SUVs can be booked from authorised tourist agencies at Leh. Travellers may also reach Hunder fro Pangong Lake by cars using the Pangong-Durbuk-Shyok-Tanyar-Khalsar road. This road might be perilous during summer (i.e. June-July) due to severe land slides around the banks of the Shyok River. In late September and early October this road remains more or less safe for travel. This route takes approximately 5 to 6 hours hours to reach Nubra from Pangong depending on road conditions.
Heavy woolens and jackets are a must for these parts of Ladakh. Travellers interested for hiking and camping should carry their own kits and backpacks.