Khardung La: My first experience on one of the highest roads in the world

Nubra-valley-lehThere is this quote that I like “You know you are truly alive when you’re living among lions” and I really felt like one on my first solo expedition to Khardung La in Ladakh. Known for being one of the highest motorable roads in the world at a staggering height of 18,380 feet, I was intrigued to visit on my recent trip to Ladakh. So my trip began after I arrived in Leh, known for beautiful Buddhist monasteries and green pastures of land. It had a varied landscape with the dramatic Rocky Mountains surrounding the peaceful valley and high altitude floras. I had rented a car for my drive over one of the highest roads in India.


The next day, I woke up to a peaceful morning; my rental was delivered to the hotel. And after stuffing my mouth with warm breakfast, I got ready for my first-ever expedition to Khardung La. In Khardung La, La means Pass in Tibetan Language and Khardung La combined means Pass of Lower Castle. This pass is the gateway to some of the remote valleys of Nubra and Shyok. It is also a favourite playground for motorbike, automobile and mountain biking enthusiasts. But when there are no cars passing by, it is completely silent, you hear nothing. It’s just you with the mountains and hairpin roads that escalate the peak. This sole factor really gave me peace, a moment to connect with the unseen force of nature.


On the contrary, one of the scariest moments on my way to the pass was when I had to stop on the edge of the road to allow army trucks through. Although it was cold even during mid-summer; I literally socked my inner shirt with sweat, hoping I don’t lose balance and fall off the cliff. Fortunately, there were friendly army guys to direct me throughout the process. I could see a drastic change in scenario, the brown mountains slowly covered in snow. The edges of the roads had melting ice and snow-covered peaks.


Kissing signs of BRO (Border Road Organization) I slowly passed some of the eye-catching sights of valleys and snowy mountains. After an hour half drive, I could see colourful Buddhist prayer flags flapping in the wind. Just a hairpin turn from there was my final stop. I was on one of the highest motorable roads in the world. For a moment, I was in a state of disbelieve, I had never seen such a wonderful sight, clear blue sky dotted with fluffy clouds and snow all around the area. I snuck inside a small cafeteria for a warm cup of tea and some namkeens only to realize, it is the highest cafeteria in the world. I lingered for a while with a thought to how lucky I was to have come here and witnessed the true beauty of Khardung La.


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