The verses of the noted Kashmiri poet & lyricist, Khwaja Habib was floating in my mind…..
Ra’na zeba gulab ay,
Shab-boy manziposh sonaposh dray,
Karipatl ta sombalan kar gray,
Madano kati canI jay?
The rose has come, graceful and lovely,
The tuberose, the balsam, and the Sonaposh have bloomed,
The larkspur and the hyacinth burst daintily into bloom,
Love, where are you?
(Courtesy: J.L. Kaul, 2008, Kashmiri Lyrics, Sahitya Academy, p:31)
Our Guest House… Ldumra Oasis, Hunder Village, Nubra
We were seated in the garden of our guest house Ldumra Oasis, Hunder Village, Nubra. The rose bushes around us bordered by a line of apple trees were dancing with the breeze. Although it was going to be evening soon, the fading sunlight was exuberating its graceful warmth taming the chilled breeze blowing from the rugged mountains lying to our back.
The bushes adoring their colourful autumn makeup with tinges of yellow, orange, red and light violet
The sight around our garden was amazingly colourful like James Cameron’s Planet Pandora with the bushes adoring their colourful autumn makeup with tinges of yellow, orange, red and light violet surpassing the fading greenery. There was an aura of love, passion and virgin natural grace in the air around Hunder and remembering Khwaja Habib’s immortal verses was perhaps well timed.
We had skipped the Diskit monastery on our way to Hunder probably to have a much deserved break and get charged after an almost 6 hour drive from Leh. Diskit monastery is one of the most popular and old monasteries in Ladakh after the monumental Thiksey Monastery in Leh. The monastery was founded by Changzem Zangpo, who was a renowned disciple of Tsong Khapa the founder of “Yellow Hat” or “Gelugpa” clan of Buddhism from Tibet.
The Hunder-Diskit Road..the evening looked so mysterious
After quickly finishing the hot black tea and bread toast, we were once again driving out from the Hunder village. The SUV crossed the military hospital and joined the almost straight Hunder – Diskit road. We had the entire Hunder sand dunes lying to our left waving their ups and downs along the accelerating motion of our vehicle.
The Sand Dunes of Hunder
The rugged mountains adored the right side of the road like a monumental wall guarding the Nubra Valley. The rugged slopes, the dark grey rocky ridges of the enormous mountains and the evening sun bathing the valley from our back created an amazing visual spectre hard to describe.
A snap near the Diskit Monastery
We had to stop for 10 minutes at the only petrol and gas pump near Diskit town to ration our fuel for the next day’s long road trip to Pangong Lake exploring the treacherous Shyok road. After leaving the Diskit town we soon swerved to the right slowly climbing up into a well maintained uphill road leading us to the Diskit Monastery looking mysteriously graceful down from the valley floor.
The distant view of the Diskit Monastery
The Diskit Monastery
With each bend of the uphill road, the magnificence of the Nubra valley was gently blooming into an amazing paradise. We could see the trails of the confluence of the Shyok and the Nubra rivers bifurcating deep into two valleys guarded by an enormous mountain range lying in the North-west direction of our sight.
The uphill road to Diskit Monastery
A Chorten on the way to Diskit Monastery
Suddenly the road was engrossed by numerous white stupas or “Chortens”
We found that suddenly the road was engrossed by numerous white stupas or “Chortens”. With another bend of the road we had the much awaited view of the Diskit monastery lying majestically on the slopes of a dark grey mountain. It was getting late and Hassan Ji doubted whether we would be allowed to get in to the monastery at this hour.
The Diskit Monastery…amazing view
Chortens..near Diskit Monastery
It was almost 5.30 pm, we parked the car in the parking zone lying in front of a huge paved courtyard with a gigantic gate leading to a long staircase up into the monastery. Our apprehensions came true when an official dressed in traditional red Tibetian gown and a matching pull-over sweater approached us humbly to inform that visitor’s hours were closed for the day. It was a disappointing moment. We had to take the denial in a positive frame of mind and returned to the car parking compound.
On our way back from Diskit Monastery
Nubra Valley Unplugged from the way to Diskit Monastery
Nubra Valley….a wow moment
The Chortens, the Road and the Nubra Valley..a delightful combination
Adieu Diskit Monastery
Another snap before returning back to the SUV
We came down to the spot of the road where the Diskit monastery was looking amazingly alluring and mysterious. The sadness of our denial into the monastery was soon washed away by the Godly sight of the Nubra Valley lying wide open with its full natural brilliance. The sun light was fading fast behind the mountains of the west and we had to rush to the Sand Dunes of Hunder Village to catch up with the evening Desert Safari and Camel ride.
The Desert Safari
The shadows of the tall mountain walls were growing larger..On our way back to Hunder
We were now driving back towards Hunder. The shadows of the tall mountain walls were growing larger. The twilight was beginning to cast its romantic aura. And it was fun that we were driving more and more towards it. Perhaps the Sun was in a hurry to set its journey back to the west making the way for an amazing night in the Nubra Valley.
The Desert Safari, Hunder
After reaching Hunder, we took a small bumpy trail lying in the opposite direction of the road leading to our guest house. We soon joined a gushing brook lying to our left and found that out of nowhere there were huge sand dunes ahead of us. We had to park our vehicle along with other numerous tourist cars in a small clearing near a small dune.
The car parking spot below deside the sand dunes
A small wooden bridge took us to the other side of the brook. Unlike the other side, these parts of the valley apart from the sand dunes were dominated by large thorn bushes which are familiar in deserts of Rajasthan. After moving another 200 metres over the sand, we found a pack of double humped camels seated in the desert and their owners enjoying a camp fire.
The small wooden bridge over the brook
The thorny bushes, the gushing brook, the huge mountain walls and the sand dunes..
There was something unique in these camels. In contrast to the one hump Indian camels of Rajasthan, these double humped camels were far bigger and stronger with thick dark grey wooly skins as compared to the smoothly textured skin of their Rajasthani cousins.
The Double Humped Camels of Hunder Desert (Nubra)
The Double Humped Camels
Inspite of the growing cold in the evening, these animals seemed to be absolutely relaxed and unbothered by the change in the weather. With tourists booking their owners for a pleasure ride, the animals were reacting in a pretty cool and relaxed way from their sitting posture to stroll their way out into the dunes.
Exploring the Desert…Hunder Village..amazing aura..
We had to cough Rs 400 for a package of 15 minutes ride including all three of us. The bumpy ride over the dunes was a total fun and thoroughly enjoyable.
It was getting darker and out of nowhere a severe cold breeze engulfed the valley. We knew we had to run for cover as the wind had already started picking up the sands towards us.
Desert Storm brewing after the sunset
Capturing the advent of another Desert storm in Nubra
The cold breeze engulfing the desert
Hassan Ji was waving desperately to us from the other side of the brook indicating that the weather had suddenly gone wrong out of nowhere. We were lucky to be back in our vehicle before the winds picked up their full force. Visibility was suddenly at zero. We had to put on the fog lights, and soon we were out from the dunes back to the roads of Hunder.
There were hardly any trace of the bad weather around our Guest House
We reached our guest house at 6.45pm. To our surprise there were absolutely no traces of any sandy breeze anywhere in the village. This was perhaps the magic of Nubra and we were completely bowled out by its spell.