09.08.2008 - 12.08.2008
Our most interesting excursion thus far has been to the Nubra Valley. The Nubra is quite remote, close to the area of the Siachen glacier,
an uninhabited place of rock and ice where Indian and Pakistani troops have faced off for many years. Most die from exposure or are buried by avalanche rather than actual gun fire. Why anyone cares is another question, but I suppose this is true for many war zones. We journeyed there, with Hitesh and Ruschi, an engaging young Indian couple we met at our guest house. Hitesh lived for many years in the States, and returned home to take care of the family business, now failing, after his father died. Ruschi is an educated working woman, and although they have been an item for several years, much to their parents chagrin, they have never married.
The trip took about four hours by jeep over what is called the highest motorable rode in the world, At 18,300 feet it must be close.
The narrow, but paved track led through endless vistas of moutains and rivers through the high and dry terrain that is Ladakh.
When we got to Hunder, our destination, there was much greenery as the valley is lush, located as it is, between the Indus and Zanskar rivers.
Approaching Nubra Vallley
At the edge of town, we sat on sand dunes in between small pools of water created by underground springs, and watched the mat knife light carve up the cliffs above. Nanette and Ruschi went for a camel ride, while Hitesh and I sat and watched the unfolding scene, toking on a joint now and then.
Nanette and Ruschi on Camels, Photo by Hitesh
We spent the night close by in a small guest house with a wonderful flower garden, and while the menu was limited, the apricots we picked off the trees were delicious.
The next day we drove on to the nearby town of Diskit to its famous monastery. It too, was perched on a cliff, right next to a large gorge and waterfall. We took the newly built road up to the base, and then climbed up the many steps to the the temples above. The monastery is really like a small town, complete with places of prayer, residences for the monks, mani walls, chortens, and prayer flags flying from everywhere.
Ruschi in front of Diskit Monastery, Photo by Hitesh
Hitesh on the Stairway to Nowhere
Monk and Kitchen at Diskit
It was one of the most spiritual places I have been. The enormity of the universe, its eternal emptiness, is a living presence here, and for me to feel that, not your most spiritually enlightened being, takes some doing.
Looking out at Vast Nubra Valley from Diiskit Monastery
The ride back took us through snow showers, grappel, sun and rain, not to mention the 40 truck Indian army convey that our driver managed to pass by, one truck at a time, by going right next to the edge of the cliff. We leaned the opposite way hoping that would keep us from sailing off into space. Several times we asked him to slow down, but to no avail. The closer we got to Leh, the heavier his foot became, anxious I suppose, for another fare.
Tomorrow we leave on our trek with Tashi. Nanette will come for eight days, as will Mari, the woman from Spain, and I will go on for a grand tour of 32 days, hopefully ending in Tashi's village, Nanette will return to Leh, eat more apricots from her very own roof top terrace, and paint. If all goes according to plan, we will rendezvous in Srinigar.