Its strange to be cut off from rest of the world for days. I have no clue about the outcome of yesterday’s match. I wish Netherlands won. A kiwi lady at the restaurant enquire about the result as she has seen me watching matches before in the common guest room. Finally am told that Netherlands won by 3-2 and he heard it in the radio. I wish farewell to Nina and her mom as they are leaving to London today. She said she will mail me and possibly meet for a coffee in London. We didn’t exchange any contact details though.
I am all set for 2 night stay. I dropped rest of my things in a storeroom. Though the guest house management is good in suggesting places and booking tents, it’s business for them to suggest expensive pretty ones. I am not that bothered as I am here to have stress free travel and don’t want to rush or look for cheap unattractive options.
Today plan is to drive down to Nubra valley through world’s highest motor-able road and stay in a Turkish tent in a small model village called Sumur. The driver is the one who drove me to Alchis. He speaks little English but understands what i tell him which is more than sufficient for me. Also this time he has improved a lot in taking pictures. The drive started from west of Leh. The initial part is up slope which is steep and the roads can hold only one vehicle. Also there are many heavy vehicles on the road than contract tourist and private vehicles. At one point, there are 4 heavy vehicles and 2 contract hires negotiating a curve. Its utter madness to drive in this place. The weather pattern change as we went up the mountain and also very foggy. The visibility went from worse to worst. Then the snow added to other difficulties. After much struggle, we reach the highest point in the world’s highest motorable road in the world.
Its cold and am desperate for a hot drink. A couple from Rome in the tea tent is interested to know the world cup results as they are also cut off from rest of the world. After a warm tea, the drive start towards Nubra valley. The drive on down slope is hilarious as at every corner vehicles negotiate the snow ridden single carriage road. At one point, when we stopped for giving way,a rock fell on a car before us. Its a small rock and therefore not much damage. One of the curious stop is near a frozen pond surrounded by green pastures grazed by Yuks. Indeed i want to walk on the frozen pond and take photos with the snow clad mountain in the background. The driver is not happy but eventually helped me out.
The terrain became very normal down slope and I closed my eyes and had some sleep in the car for a while. When i wake up for lunch, its a small village in the tough terrain. I always wonder how the Ladhakis survive in this tough terrain. They look fragile in appearance but not in heart. They must have high endurance which they could have inherited from their religion. It still amuses me the way the kings and monks have constructed Buddhist temples and stupas in very unusual and unyielding terrain. Also the material is sand and clay which stood the wrath of extreme climates. I wish i have a heart like them and not to give up even under extreme dire circumstances. The Ladhakis smile is incredible and their life is so simple, content and self sufficient. Behind the calmness and humbleness lies the hardship and survival instinct without compromising integrity. But the current generation in Leh is fast getting westernised which is major concern to many traditional Ladhakis. One good thing is it’s not happening in places other than main towns. There is concern that this may also change as more foreign trekkers pass through the villages and share western products.
After lunch the drive continue towards Nubra valley. I learnt from the Ladhaki driver that the Kargil war between India and Pakistan in 1999 was fought in and around Nubra valley. When kargil war took place, i was doing my 3rd year at University. Pakistan army and PoK mujahideens entered Kargil and mountain region during winter when heavy snow covered the mountain when usually both Indian and Pakistani troops retreat to lower grounds. During summer, Pakistani soldiers started advancing to the valley & India was shocked to see them and defended the territory.There were heavy casualties on both sides and the war ended after Pakistan and mujahideens retreated. One of my immediate senior’s brother at university was a Army Major during the war and died defending his battalions. He was posthumously awarded Param Veer Chakra which is the highest award for bravery in Indian Army. Now the valley is safe with huge Indian army presence. There are constant checks when travelling through important passes bordering Pakistan and China. Clearly this is a buffer zone between the nations and the terrain is the highest battling ground in the earth.
After few minutes of drive, the valley iss visible. It’s another incredible sight as the valley stretches for miles with villages as green patches in between them. River Sheby flows through the valley and it’s breath taking panoramic view. This is one of the view that attracted me to Ladakh in the first place.
The destination is a village by name Sumur. The drive went through beautiful scenic stretch which makes this place special. There are buddhist temples and stupas all over the place. The flora is a velvet bush like flower which looked amazing from distance. We finally arrive to the guest house in Sumur where i am going to stay that night. After refreshing, we drive towards Sumur monastery. It’s comparatively modern to the ones i have seen so far and a function being arranged to celebrate Dalai Lama’s birthday. Later heard from the driver that Dalai lama is going to visit the monastery in September and offer his blessing.
The driver is very keen to show me hot springs not very far from Sumur. But its very close to the Line of Control between Pakistan and Indian and in a place called Panamik. Most hot springs are indication of seismic activity but the driver and the locals have no recollection of any earth quake or seismic activity in the place. The hot spring is bigger than i expected and its very active.
We return back to rest and be prepared for the next day. Its a long day and one of the best visual days of the trip.