Unfortunately I was somewhat annoyed by Leh. It doesn’t matter because there is a lot to discover around Leh.
We can cross the highest drivable road of the world (“officially”) and the “unofficial”highest road of the world. We can discover the Gonpas around and dive into the Tibetan Buddhism. We can also dive in the highest saltwater lake in Asia – the Pangong Lake. Additionally, there is the rumour in the city that the Dalai Lama is coming. I guess there are enough possibilities to spend our time outside of Leh.
Dive into Ladakh
The officially highest drivable road in the world – Nubra valley
Behind one of the mountains around Leh is the Nubra valley.
It is a centre of Tibetan Buddhism outside of Tibet with a lot of Gonpas. The valley is around 3.300m high and the stunning landscape is changing. Here you can find everything from sand dunes, grassland, rocky areas and many more. But the Nubra valley North of Leh is situated close to the Pakistan border. Pakistan and India have different opinions regarding the borderline. It is a military restricted area.
However to go there you must cross the Khardung La. The Khardung La is the highest drivable road in the world. Close behind Leh the road goes straight up and is in a quite good shape.
However after the first checkpoint in South Pullu, you cannot speak longer from a road. One of the worst tracks we have ever driven goes up to the Khardung La. Due to rain, snow and a rocky area it is really hard to keep the track open for the Indian Border Roads Organization.
And it is busy. Many Indian and foreign tourist visit the Khardung La by taxi, by own or rented cars or by own or rented motorbikes. Convoys of the Indian army climbing up the Khardung La as well. It feels like hours to go up. The steeply road is no problem for Loki, but the road is annoying. For the driver it is not possible to enjoy the incredible view over the valley of Leh.
But is it really the highest drivable road? The Indians say the Khardung La is roughly 5.600m high. However our GPS shows 5.370m just a bit higher than the Tanglang La we crossed from Manali to Leh. But it is so far the highest road we have ever driven.
The road into the Nubra valley is the same – 15km of annoying driving.
In the Nubra Valley we spent some days between sand dunes and camels in Hundar and close to Sumoor. And we join the making of a new Bollywood blockbuster (Unfortunately no pictures were allowed to take.)
However the Nubra Valley is a centre of Tibetan Buddhism. So we visit some incredible old monasteries in in Diskit, Tegar and close to Sumoor. And I should look better for the ceremony times in the Gonpas. The monks are really friendly and I could join several ceremonies. However the monks serve tea and an incredible number of unhealthy foods like – chips, cookies and… during the ceremonies.
Hello Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama is really visiting Leh and some Gonpas around. So back in Leh we have to find out his time schedule. When is he arriving? However, the answers differ. He is arriving at the airport at … Mhhh. What time? So we are waiting in the morning from 7 o’clock at the airport. In the beginning we are nearly alone between some tourist coming and leaving Leh. One hour later the picture is changing. Ore and more monks, traditional dressed women and men arrive.
A small party with music and dance starts in front of the airport. At 11:30 the Dalai Lama finally arrives. We can see him, but the cars are driving fast through the mass of people. And I guess he greats me.
The unofficially highest drivable road in the world – Lake Pangong
The Lake Pangong belongs to one third to India and two third to China. It is a discussed borderline as well. The memories of entering China last year are coming back.
The Lake Pangong itself is situated at 4.200m above sea level in a stunning landscape.
However to go there we have to cross another pass – the Chang La with a height of 5.360m.
The road is in a better shape than at the Khardung La. It is busy well.
When we arrive at the top our GPS shows 5.388m. That is higher than the highest drivable road in the world. Goes something wrong? No, I guess the Indian know it. But they want to keep the illusion of the highest drivable road in the world at the Khardung La.
It is a nice way further to Lake Pangong. When we arrive there, we stop at the beginning. It is close to famous place, where a Bollywood blockbuster was made. Hundreds of tourists stop there every day. We stop some hundreds meters away. It is more quite here. Unfortunately, there are no old monasteries close to the lake. So we cannot dive further into the Tibetan Buddhism. But we have our dive equipment in the car. So we can dive in the Lake.
Alchi and Lamayuru
After nearly four weeks in Ladakh we are heading west to Srinagar. On our way are two famous monasteries. Their history goes more than 1.000 years back.