Route: Leh – Khardung La – Leh Bazaar
After a good night’s sleep, woke up at 8 and geared up for the drive to Khardung La. We quickly had breakfast, packed some for Shah and went straight to the hospital. Shah looked a lot healthier and was finally smiling after a couple of horrendous days. After a little chit-chat, we headed towards Khardung La.
Khardung la or Khardung Pass is boasted to be the highest motorable road in the world at a height of 18,380 ft. Within two hours drive, we climbed from 11,000 ft to 18,000 ft. Khardung La is situated 39 km by road from Leh.
The first 24 km, as far as the South Pullu check point, are paved. From there to the Khardung la, the roadway is primarily loose rock, dirt, and occasional rivulets of snow melt. The weather changed drastically in these two hours. We pulled on our caps and gloves after crossing South Pullu.We were awestruck when we saw cyclists going uphill through those disastrous roads and terrible weather.
There were lots of tourists and bikers on the Ktop, and there was an expression of achievement on everyone’s face. We took a few pictures, played in the snow and bought souvenirs. It was an amazing feeling as if..
….we were on the top of the world.
Khardung La may be a bitterly cold, desolate wasteland for most of the year, but during the summer it grows quite a busy, impulsive population. There’s a medical tent for the people who needs help to keep up with the thin air, a souvenir shop with t-shirts, mugs and cups, a temple, strings of prayer flags, may be the world’s highest toilet, and a canteen doling out hot, sweet black tea called ‘kahwah’ (a free cup for getting here, courtesy the Indian Army). It was very cold and we couldn’t exert much because of the thin air at that altitude. After a proud and fabulous half an hour, we headed downhill.
- Khardung La is not the coldest Pass in Ladakh, but it’s the highest, so better get completely acclimatized before planning for ‘The Highest Motorable road’.
- The wind can be harsh, so wind proof jackets/pants will be the best thing to wear up there.
After so many days of tasteless food we were craving for south Indian food. We went searching for restaurants serving dosas and vadas which is very uncommon in that part of the world. Finally at the corner of a narrow lane, Sirjim saw a small restaurant with dosa and vada written on its windows on bold yellow letters. For those who would like to go there, it’s close to the Leh vegetable market. The food was awesome. They also had amazing Chinese dishes. We packed dosas for Shah and headed back to hotel.
We quickly reached the hotel to find Shaz comfortably settled in the room. We freshened up and happily chatted over tea and biscuits in the cozy garden enjoying the weather.
At around 6.30 pm, Sirjim came to take us to the Leh bazaar (market). Ruby had a wonderful time shopping and bargaining and shopping and bargaining!!! while I was busy capturing the feel of the colorful Leh bazaar. All the shops are kinda similar on both sides of the road, with a variety of bags, handicrafts, Kashmiri shawls and jewellery.
The crowd was a mix of local tourists, foreigners, and the ladakhis. The place was peaceful and the people were really warm. The air was cold and filled with the aroma of fresh garam samosas and aloo tikkis being prepared in small tea-shops.
After a pleasant walk through the heart of Leh bazaar; we went back to the hotel and joined Shah for dinner. We had delicious soup for starters and for the main course we had chapathis and veg curry made from hand-picked vegetables from the garden. After a very exciting and comfortable day we all went to bed expecting even more excitement the next day.
The Himalayan Road trip continues….