I looked on the blog today for pictures of the ride into the Nubra Valley and found I hadn’t posted them. So, this is about 18 months late…
Picked up a 350cc Bullet, fuelled up, and headed out of town. Late start, about noon, but I wanted to make sure I could get around town on this new machine before going anywhere too remote…
The road starts out pretty well, climbing steadily:
My new wheels:
First army checkpoint before the pass:
There is room for vehicles to pass. Carefully.
Another motor cyclist:
A bit of a hold up for road works. Or to clear up after an accident. The information I got from others waiting (bikers, and a few cars and trucks) was a little sketchy but, apparently, a car had just (or recently) gone over the edge, killing the four occupants.
I noticed the remains of a couple of trucks but didn’t see any cars. Once you go over, there isn’t much to stop you rolling.
Then I reached the pass, the supposed highest motorable road in the world. Or so the local tourism businesses like to claim. But it is not actually at 5602 m; recent surveys have it at 5359 m, still plenty high but only the tenth highest. (This didn’t stop me buying the T-shirt, though.)
Then, down the other side, into the Nubra Valley, closed to non-Indians until a few years ago.
Beautiful and remote. First through another army checkpoint, then into Khardung village, where a group of Indian bikers had stopped for tea. I pulled up beside them, anxious to know whether there was any accommodation. These guys were continuing for another 60 km but most of it would be in the dark so I wasn’t keen on that, given my almost total lack of motor-cycling experience. But they fixed me up with the man providing the refreshments: I could stay in a room in his house for a few dollars. And an evening meal, too.
The next morning, I woke to light showers. I decided to wander about for a while until the weather made up it’s mind what is was going to do. I didn’t want to risk being stuck on the wrong side of the pass if it started to snow. I had a very pleasant morning, wandering around the village and surrounding countryside.
The weather seemed to be holding and I rode on, through the administrative ‘town’ of Diskit and on to Hundar where I found a hotel. A jeep load of Westerners arrived; they had been here the night before and were heading back to Leh when they were informed that the Khardung La was closed. Maybe I’ll have to cut short my trip in case I have to wait for the pass to open, I thought.
I had time for a bit of sight-seeing in the morning. What a spectacular place!
When I walking around the sand dunes, I talked with an army officer who told me the Khardung La pass was closed but would be open in the late afternoon for a couple of hours. Time for me to head back.
I passed back through Khardung village, a little worried about the amount of fuel I had. There was a gas station in Diskit but it didn’t look like it had been open for years and the locals told me the nearest gas was back in Leh.
On the climb back up to the pass, I was turned back at the army post: the road was closed again. Sleep in Khardung, maybe open tomorrow, I was told. I turned around and went, reluctantly, back towards Khardung. A car passed me going the other so I turned around again and followed it back to the checkpoint. The driver argued with the soldier at the barrier and they were both getting quite animated when an officer arrived and got involved. A few minutes later, he threw up his arms in despair, the barrier was lifted and the car sped under it before the officer could reconsider. Now or never, I thought, and followed.
Halfway up to the pass, I saw a convoy of (mainly) trucks heading down towards me: the road must be open again – at least in the northward direction.
There were a dozen or so Enfields abandoned in the snow or on the roadside; local, or more sensible, riders had seemingly got a ride back to Leh and would pick up their bikes when the weather settled.
At the summit, the road was too slippery to walk on and I dropped the bike. I did manage to right it, and get to the side of the road. The road down to Leh, I was told, was currently closed but would open in an hour or so. Time for a bowl of noodles in the chilly, windswept restaurant.
I was back in Leh about an hour after dark, tired and cold but still excited by the beauty of the countryside and the little adventure I’d had.
Not much more to say: a flight to Delhi delayed by a day because of the conditions. These delays are a regular occurrence and I had allowed for an extra day before my flight home from Delhi. In fact, it was to my advantage – I had an extra day to spend in Leh which was more enjoyable than spending it in the heat and rain of Delhi during the monsoon season.