Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tempting Altitude Sickness

Hunder Valley

The Himalayas boasts the highest mountains in the world, but also the highest motorable roads in the world, and what better place than the Northern Indian state of Kashmir to explore these mountain passes.

First stop Pangong Lake. At an elevation of 4,350 m (14,270 ft) and lies in both India and Tibet. Its emerald blue color and backdrop of high elevation desert mountains brings visitors from all over the world. The lake is accessed by crossing Snow covered Changla Pass 5,360 m or 17,590 ft of elevation. The road between the Leh and Pangong Lake is mainly paved with a few dirt road shortcuts and segments.

Top of the highest motorable road in the world
Nubra Valley. This two day trip from Leh takes.  you over what India claims is the highest motorable road in the world Khardung La. Although its has been proved that Tibet has the highest road based on GPS information. Khardung La is at 5,359 m (17,582 ft) even though the sign says 5,682 m (18,640 feet). At the pass is the "Highest Cafeteria", where we enjoyed our highest Chai tea ever. It was snowing and very cold at the pass. The bathrooms are a mess and many of them are inaccessible due to large piles of snow in front of the doors.

After the pass we descended into Nubra Valley a high desert valley. In Hunder, a small village, we mounted Bactrian Camels to walk about 15 mins into a small dune dessert. It was entertaining but the walk was not too exciting. After the camel ride we headed to a small guest house in Hunder.

Disket Monastary

From the guest house we decided to explore the small village. We were not sure which way to go so we just followed a small creek heading toward the local monastery perched up on a mountain top. We ended up arriving at a bunch of gompas near the main road. From here we had an amazing view of the valley and the surrounding mountains.

We woke up early the next day to visit the Disket Monastery which boasts a 32 meter tall Buddha statue. Here we climbed the steps to the many small temples at the top of the mountain and visited the local lama elementary school. At the school we distributed coloring books, crayons and pencils.

We headed back to Leh over Khardung La once more back to Leh.

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