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This trip takes you through unexplored territory to some magnificent but less travelled places. The Siachen Base Camp has now been opened to tourists and so is the outpost at Thang near POK. We start with Mulbekh, a small village that was often attacked by enemy kingdoms who would steal away property, cattle, horses and small ruminants. Mulbek served under the King of Chiktan that was the epicentre of the political drama enfolding in the region. The Chiktan Fort (Khar) is in ruins but the view from the top can give you a glimpse of the historical importance of bygone era.
Next we visit the Brokpas (also Drokpas) – Referred to as the ‘last Aryans’ or Alexander’s people; you can easily recognise the Brokpa’s by their elaborate floral headdress that includes the never drying flower called Shoklo (also Monthu Tho). There are many stories surrounding this unique race. They are nominally Buddhist but also worship their own animist pantheon of gods. They have an Indo-European appearance in contrast to the predominant Tibeto-Mongol inhabitants of most of Ladakh.
The drive to the Nubra valley and further on to Tutuk is yet another example of man’s achievements. The prominent Khardung ridge runs north of Leh. The traditional pass of Khardung La across the ridge is the world’s highest motorable pass in the whole world! This road is the lifeline of the people and the army here and often laid with heavy traffic, which carries supplies to the remote but fertile Nubra and Shyok valleys. From here we visit the border post before heading on to the other side towards the Siachen Glacier.
Our last destination is the mesmerizing blue of the Pangong Lake that was made popular by the Bollywood movie ‘The three idiots’. You may note that this lake is shared with China with only One –third being in India.
If history, travel and exploration is your thing then this should definitely be in your bucket list.
As per flight time on Day One
Early morning, take the flight to Leh. Met upon arrival and drive to our guesthouse in Nurla. After breakfast, we will take complete rest in order to acclimatise to the altitude. IMPORTANT: It is important to take complete rest today to acclimatise properly.
After breakfast, drive to the Kargil. On the way, take a photo break at the ‘moonland’ depressions – fantastically formed sediments.
Scientists believe that there was a lake here around 40 000 years ago formed due to tectonic activity damming the valley. It then disappeared around a thousand years ago also as a result of tectonic activity leaving the lunar landscape behind. You can view/visit the dramatically located Lamayuru monastery perched dramatically on a crag.
Cross the Fotu-la 4092m/ 13427ft & Namika-la La 3809m/ 12497ft (La – Pass) to reach Mulbek, where you can view the 9meter tall rock sculpture of the Maitreya Buddha (7th –8th century AD) carved into a limestone that may remind you of the now destroyed statue at Bamiyan, Afanisthan.
We drive back about 25Kms to take the small road towards Sanjak. We stop to look at the mesmerizing views of & from the ruins of the magnificent Chiktan Fort.
We continue on to reach the land of the Brokpas (also called Dards or Drokpas) popularly known as the Aryan Villages. Afternoon we explore the village.
Referred to as the ‘last Aryans’ or Alexander’s people; you can easily recognise the Brokpa’s by their elaborate floral headdress that includes the never drying flower called Shoklo (also Monthu Tho). The head-dress also includes rows of coins stitched together for orna-mentation, with some dating as far back as 1890, and bright ribbons. The women tie their hair in interlocked long multi-stranded braids similar to knotted dreadlocks.
They are nominally Buddhist but also worship their own animist pantheon of gods. They have an Indo-European appearance in contrast to the predominant Tibeto-Mongol inhabitants of most of Ladakh. The villages are rustic and construction is of mud and stone. The local deity abhors cows and chicken; hence both are con¬sidered taboo. Fraternal polyandry—with brothers sharing a wife—is also prevalent but instances of this phenom¬enon have gone down considerably now.
After a lazy morning, we head back towards Leh stopping enroute to visit Alchi. The Alchi monastery is one of the oldest monasteries of Ladakh and has unique sculptures. Carry on to Leh.
In .AD 985, the king of Ladakh brought 32 painters from Kashmir to paint these wall paintings. During the reign of Langtarma, the Buddhist religion was banned in this region. Lotsav Rinchen Zangpo, the head priest of the then king established Buddhism again in the region. He arranged from Kashmiri expertise to be used in building 108 Buddhist temples & decorating them during the reign of King Yeshe. Out of these, three gompas were later turned into universities of Buddhist learning. The biggest of them was Nyarma Chhoskor, which has become extinct. It was situated near Thikse, about 14 kms away from Leh.
After a late breakfast, we shall visit the Shey Palace, Rancho school and the Thiksey monastery. Rest of the day is at leisure.
We start early for the long drive to Turtuk. It takes us an hour and a half to we reach the top of the world’s highest motorable pass, the Khardung La (5602m/ 18380ft). After a photo stop, we descend down to the Nubra valley that spreads out in a Y-shape expanse. After a lunch stop at Diskit, we cross the pretty village of Hundar which was the last village permitted to visit till 2010. We carry on through the beautiful valleys to Turtuk as the road stays close to the River Shyok.
Beyond Hunder, you will notice that the people look different as we move from Ladakhi Buddhist to Balti Muslim culture. The mountains transform from mounds of loose rock & soil to the solid rock of Karakoram range with its forbidding, jagged peaks seemingly closing in from all sides. The placid Shyok river transforms into a roaring, jade-green torrent as it rushes to converge with the mighty Indus in Pakistan. We are now in Baltistan (region) and very close to the Pakistan border.
The actual village is located on a ridge above the road. We pick up our bags and walk to our nightstay. After a short rest, we go for a walk around the village that is a picture of beauty and serenity. There are two parts: Turtuk Youl (Older part. Youl – village) and Turtuk Pharol (Newer part: Pharol – other side of the river). We follow the old bridge to crossover to Youl. Small water channels guide us as they gurgle through the winding village lanes. The houses, of stone and wood, stand in the shade of giant apricot, walnut and mulberry trees. We look at the old mosque, water mill and listen to the stories of the Yagbo dynasty that ruled here. There are some ‘chill caves’ in the village that probably have an underground glacial stream flowing beneath that keeps them so cool. Locals use these ‘natural fridge’ to store fruit, butter, meat and even pashminas.
You can walk up to the waterfall early in the morning as the climb becomes too strenuous when the sun is out. After breakfast we drive to Thang, the last border to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. We take the road back to Hundar. Later we drive to the nearby sand dune to ride the double humped camels in a little desert that lies between Hundar and Diskit.
Hundar lies on the bank of Shyok River and was once the capital of former Nubra kingdom. There are several ruined buildings, including the ruins of the King’s palace, the Langchen Khar (“Elephant Palace”). There is a fort at the top of the hill, called Gula. Hundar also has two Buddhist temples: white temple (Lhakhang Karpo) and the red temple (Lhakhang Marpo).
After breakfast, we drive to Diskit. The Diskit monastery is located on a hilltop and retains the old world charm. We head towards the other side of the valley that leads to the Siachen Base Camp. After a brief halt, return to Panamik.
After breakfast, we drive along the Shyok river to the Pangong Lake (4350m/ 14270 ft). Afternoon explore the lake on your own.
Pangong is 134 km long and extends from India to China (Tibet). Two thirds of the length of this lake falls in China. It is 5 km wide at its broadest point. Even though it is a salt-water lake, in winter the lake surface freezes completely. The lake acts as an important breeding ground for a variety of birds including a number of migratory birds. During summer, the Bar-headed goose and Brahmini ducks are commonly seen here. The region around the lake supports a number of species of wildlife including the Kiang and the Marmot. This lake has become more popular due to filming of various Bollywood films especially ‘the three idiots’.
After breakfast, we will visit the ‘photo’ spot made popular by several Bollywood movies. Later we drive back to Leh, passing through the third highest motorable pass in the world, the Chang La (5360m/ 17590ft). Visit the Hemis Monastery on the way.
Transfer to the airport/ check out of hotel. End of Services.