Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Nubra Valley (Ladakh continued)

We were up bright and early to start the long journey to the Nubra valley. The jeep collected us at our guesthouse and then we were off in a different direction from when we went to Pangong Tso. Today we would be driving over one of the highest drivable mountain passes in the world...altitude tablets at the ready and we were off!

Something I've noticed about myself the older I get is that I am much more prone to getting travel sickness now than before. Especially when we are driving at extremely high altitude. As we began to get higher and higher I was feeling quite sick and tried to focus on the incredible scenery outside the window to keep my mind preoccupied. About an hour in to the journey we came across a big traffic jam (which is quite random on the Ladakhi roads) But it was because the only road to the Nubra valley and its surrounds was closed because they were bomb blasting on the mountain. We had to wait about an hour at this random military stop for them to finish which suited me just fine because it gave me time to get over my travel sickness. The main thing on everyone's mind at that stop was trying to use the toilet and it was also here at this stop that I used the worst toilet (if you could call in that) in my life.

The incredible views as you are leaving Leh and making your
way up the the Khardung La.


A beautiful monastery that we passed on the way.



and another view of it...

I know I shouldn't really be talking about such disgusting things as Indian toilets in this blog, but sorry, I can't help myself! There were quite a few tourists at this stop and the only toilet available was a shower cubicle, yes a shower cubicle with a tiny drain in the corner which meant that there was just a huge puddle of pee (among other things) in the cubicle. With a scarf covering up my sense of smell I entered and managed not to vomit which was great (Incidentally I did vomit while using a toilet in Cambodia because of the smell)

Anyway, moving on...after waiting about an hour for the bomb blasting to finish we were off again on our way up the mountain to get to the Khardung La mountain pass. I must mention here that this drive was most definitely the most beautiful drive I've ever been on! We drove through such a diverse landscape. But right now the landscape was rock and snow, still beautiful. After getting to the top of the pass (having passed a few vehicles that weren't too luckily and had toppled over the edge of the mountain road in the past). We took a little break and had a chance to climb a bit higher up to get some incredible views and some photos with the many prayer flags that were around the pass before the altitude hit us.
Up on the Khardung La pass.


View from the pass.

So many prayer flags!


Some stupas at the top.




After the break we headed down the other side of the mountain and after another hour or so we were driving through incredible canyons and valleys, very different from the snowy mountain pass we had been on earlier. The scenery was really like something from the Grand Canyon. Very arid and beautiful! It was hard to think that anyone could live out there but every once in a while we would come across some patches of villages that had planted grass and trees in the area.
The views as we got closer to the desert.

You really can't take a bad photo in Ladakh!

A random mini festival in the middle of nowhere that we drove past.

Beautiful scenery!


It almost looks like a painting.


Taking a break to enjoy the views.

Me overlooking a town in the desert.

As we were getting closer to the Nubra valley we began to notice huge sand dunes and a beautiful waterfall. We then got in another traffic jam as we had to wait for more bomb blasting on another mountain. But we had an otherworldly view so none of us minded. The scenery in this area really felt like we were back in a time when dinosaurs roamed, it was so beautiful. After only about 30 minutes we were on the road again and getting closer to our destination.
The waterfall.


The views while we were waiting for the bomb blasting to finish.

Traffic jam.

The sand dunes.

Once we arrived we decided to go camel riding before going to our guesthouse. Honestly after going through the experience I don't think I would recommend the camel riding here. I felt bad for the camels as they didn't get much rest time but I'm hoping that they were treated well. These camels ancestors used to travel through Tibet and on to the Silk road. It was quite strange riding the camels and mine wanted to make a run for it a couple of times but it was a good way to see the sand dunes. One of our camels had a baby so he would just run after his mom no matter where she went and if she was going too fast he'd let out the cutest little wail for her to stop.
More sand dunes.

The area where we would be camel riding.

Camels sitting in wait.

Ilze all set to go.

Me getting ready.

And we are off!







Baby camel.
Sand covered mountains!
Once we were finished with the camel riding (which was hugely popular among the Indian tourists) We were off in to the beautiful country roads that had trees and flowers everywhere (strange considering we were in the middle of a desert) and found our beautiful newly built guesthouse. Ilze decided to take a walk around the area and the rest of us decided to relax in the garden and enjoy the last of the sun while playing some cards. It was so peaceful there! We had a great Indian buffet for dinner and then just relaxed for the rest of the night.

The next morning we were going to take a look at one of the impressive monasteries that are jutting out of the mountains, see a giant gold Buddha statue and then begin the journey back in to Leh. The monastery was so impressive! The monasteries in this area are so beautiful because it's not just one building but it's almost like a little village of buildings, the views from almost every part of the it was equally impressive, something I won't forget for a long time to come. Each building has it's own purpose and finally at the very top of all of the other buildings is the temple itself. There was a very friendly monk there (let's face it, what monk isn't friendly!) The building itself was so beautiful and in a dark back area there were paintings that were thousands of years old. There were also photos all around from when the Dalai Lama went to visit the monastery. Myself and Jason had been wanting to buy some prayer flags and incense for quite a while and decided that this was the perfect to buy them, so we now have some beautiful prayer flags hanging on our balcony here in Korea.

The beautiful monastery that we visited.
and again...
Jason taking in the surrounding views.

One of the prayer wheels.


The Buddha statue.

Walking within the monastery area.

There were many inscriptions on the stones.

View from the temple.


After our time at the monastery we went to take a look at a huge golden Buddha statue that was close by...again it had an incredible view of the impressive scenery of the area.


Drew and Bec trying to recreate the pose.

Myself and J posing Korean style ;)







Once we had our fill at the Buddha statue, it was time to make the long drive home, we were hoping that there wouldn't be any bomb blasting or diversions this time around. There wasn't any bomb blasting but there was a crazy mishap that had us delayed by over an hour.

After about 3 hours driving we were beginning the climb up to the Kardung La mountain pass again. This time around the sun had been shining for the last couple of days which meant that quite a few streams had began to form from melting snow. One stream in particular was pretty bad, when we arrived at it we found that a car had gotten stuck in it. Our driver and some work men managed to free the car from it and then another car went through just fine. Then it was our turn...unfortunately our jeep managed to get stuck in the worst spot possible. We were stuck there for about 30 minutes with crowds beginning to form and do what they typically do in India, just watch. Poor Jason and Drew had to stand in the icy cold stream trying to get the jeep unstuck. At one stage this sweet old Indian man had asked Drew to take some photos of him, while taking the photos the man exclaimed "Watch me dance!" and broke out in to a full on dance. This whole situation just had me laughing so much, finally the army came and after a lot of standing around they managed to help us out and we were off back to Leh.

More bomb blasting on our way back.

One of the local workers that helped to free our jeep.

The dreaded stream!
STUCK!
More and more people gather.

At least we had the beautiful views...

And another one gets stuck!

The wonderful man dancing for Drew.

and again...

and again...

We thought help was here...but they just drove past us.


More of the beautiful landscape!



Once we arrived back at our wonderful guesthouse (for a third time!) we decided to stay a couple of more days in Leh, partly to relax and prepare ourselves for the crazy 26 hour journey that we would be taking out of that region and also because we genuinely didn't want to say goodbye to this awe inspiring place!
We spent the rest of our days organizing our transport to Manali and eating lots of food (including some good Korean food that we were craving and lots of yummy homemade cake).

It was so sad to say goodbye to this place as we both truly had the time of our lives. Saying goodbye also meant that our wonderful travels were finally coming to an end with just a couple of short weeks left...

Getting there and away:

This is probably the toughest part about Ladakh is getting there. There is only 1 option for 9 months of the year and that is flying which can be quite expensive. During June, July and August the snow is cleared on the mountain passes which makes driving possible. It's a long journey that took us about 26 hours on our way home. We had heard that many jeeps take 2 days to do the journey which we would have preferred but there was nobody offering this option when we were trying to book our way out of Leh.

We flew up from Delhi and then drove back down.

Travel agent: 

For the life of me I cannot remember the name of the travel agent that we used to book our trips while in Ladakh. He was a really nice man and genuinely seemed interested in keeping costs down for us. His shop was on the main street and right by the delicious bakery/restaurant that everyone frequents while in Leh. (I hope that helps a little) He organized a jeep to and from the Nubra valley and Pangong Tso lake for us.

Where we stayed:

In Leh: Oriental Guesthouse: We moved to here after leaving our ice box of a room at the previous guesthouse. We had seen that this place had excellent reviews on tripadvisor. We definitely weren't disappointed! For the same price as the other place we had a beautiful room that had the most wonderful views of the mountains. It was about 15 minutes walk away from the main area of Leh, but this walk was down wonderful small streets with beauty all around. I 100% recommend staying in this part of town, it was an amazing experience!

In the Nubra Valley: Unfortunately I don't remember the name of the guesthouse in the valley. It was quite new and our jeep driver brought us to it. But tripadvisor has some really nice one's on their website.