Ladakh, located in India, is among the most beautiful places on earth. The region, with its administrative centre in Leh, lies in the north of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Since the Indian government opened this high-altitude plateau for tourism, the response from travellers has been beyond usual expectation. As per official reports, till 2009, more than 750000 national and international travellers had visited the region. Much of this splendid region lies above 9000 feet in altitude, and it gets extremely cold here. In Dras, the temperature regularly falls to -45 degree Celsius, making it the coldest place in India.
When and How to Go
Summers are the perfect time to visit this part of the country as the weather remains on the cooler side, though not as cold as in the freezing winters. In Leh, between May and September, the day temperature stays between 16 and 25 degree Celsius while the nights can get sufficiently cold. There are two main approach roads to Ladakh: National Highway 1D from Srinagar and the Leh-Manali Highway, which forms a part of NH 21. To reach Srinagar by road, travellers need to first reach Jalandhar in Punjab and then follow NH 1A. The state is served by three airports, one each in Srinagar, Leh and Jammu and domestic carriers ferry passengers from Mumbai and Delhi. Those, coming by train, can avail the services of Indian Railways till Jammu Tawi and then take buses or taxis from there.
A way to travel up here, quickly gaining popularity, is by motorbikes. Over the years, a lot of motorcycle clubs have formed all over the country, especially in Delhi that organise regular road trips to this rugged and cold magnificence. Narrow roads, winding through the hillsides, beckon a lot of adventure-enthusiasts who combine their thrill-seeking personalities with their love for biking. At high altitudes, deep ravines and gorges are visible from roads that become perfect spots for taking photographs. The majority of the roads at higher elevations are narrow and often dotted with potholes, making it a bumpy ride that sometimes elevates the joy of biking. Many riders travel all up to Khardunga La, a mountain pass, more than 17000 feet above sea level. Riding on one of the highest roads in the world adds to the already adventurous journey. Due to being a high-tension zone, the area has a lot of military presence and seeing army trucks, meandering along the roads, in a single file is a sight, worth observing.
A vehicle with a powerful engine and one with high fuel capacity should be chosen as the path involves a lot of ascent. Vehicles with low fuel capacity and less strong engines tend to get incapacitated at extreme altitudes. Riders are also cautioned to keep iron chains, arranged in a circle, ready with them. On soft turf and on snow, the rubber-tyres slip and the chains, woven around the wheels, provide the much-needed grip. Another important thing is that when travellers rest for the night, they should leave the engines of their vehicles on. Doing so, keeps them warm and they do not freeze due to the plummeting temperature.
Going to such extreme elevations carries with it a lot many health hazards, altitude-sickness, being the most common. As people reach Leh, they should spend a day or two there just to acclimatise before going any higher. The usual symptoms of altitude sickness are headache, nausea, weakness and dizziness and as soon as any of them is felt, medical attention should be sought. The Khardung La pass takes travellers to the valley of the Nubra River with its major town of Diskit. It is becoming quite popular with tourists as it is the site of the famous Buddhist monastery. The area lies close to disputed territories of Aksai Chin and the Siachen Glacier. Owing to it, the Nubra Valley too has a sufficient military presence and those, coming from outside India, are required to get special permits to enter it. At an army check-post just before Khardung La, everyone is required to get their permits and official documents like passports and visas checked and hence, travelling along with them is recommended.