Leh > Khardungla > Nubra Valley > Leh > Pangong Lake > Leh
We spent the first night in Leh, at a darling little place I cannot bring myself to remember the name of. It held a cosy courtyard in its center, with giant blossoming trees of juicy apples and velvety apricots. I think I went slightly ballistic as I sabotaged their fruit, trying to knock off the little devils with a walking stick I found. The owner was visibly relieved when we left.
khardung la pass (18,380 feet)
Once we were acclimatised to the altitude (they advise complete rest for the first 24 hours), we set out for Nubra Valley, passing Khardungla on the way. Khardungla is widely considered to be the world’s highest motorable roadway, but this is debatable with some laying claim that there are roads at higher elevations in some parts of Tibet. At Khardungla, it was painfully cold and so we bolted out of the van just to click pictures in the fairytale snow, before huddling into the only café that the pass has to offer, for Maggi (this was before the ban was lifted, so they probably had a secret stash).
At this point, we had set out with one SUV and one motorbike (there were 7 people + 1 tonne of luggage). As we took turns on the bike, I reckon we were trying to cross biking in unthinkable altitudes off our bucket list, though I can’t be sure why we decided to risk losing our appendages to godforsaken frostbite. A theory I’ve developed over time is that the reduced levels of oxygen affect one’s ability to make a sound judgement with respect to transport options.
On the way back, we dumped the bike into a lorry, to bring back to Leh.
pangong lake: the last stop
Our last stop was Pangong Lake, which I found spectacular; the waters were virgin and iridescent, and sparkled under the blazing sun. Of the 7 of us, 3 of us decided to brave the sub zero temperatures by spending the night in a tent, on the edge of the lake. I prepared by wrapping myself in 7 layers of clothing. I thought I’d done a splendid job keeping the cold at bay, until I realised that I couldn’t sleep because I’d paralysed myself into a mummy.
Of course, I found Ladakh a mystical, enchanting place. I have never seen a landscape so barren, yet so diverse. From sand dunes to snow, it’s like the whole world’s elements have been packed into its boundaries. If I could have, I’d have cut out a piece for myself and brought it back with me.
Having been brought up across 7 cities and 2 continents, she considered herself the quintessential gypsy growing up. When she was 21, she made herself a bucket list to cover 100 countries before she dies. She is 31 down, with 69 more to go.