We spent quite a while in Leh, mostly recovering after 5 weeks of intense cycling and after days in bed we needed a new adventure. We decided to visit Nubra Valley – famous of its proximity to Pakistan and high passes that one needs to climb to get there.

 Climbing Khardung La

Leh - view from above

To reach Khardung La from Leh we had to climb almost 2000 metres! This is definitely too much to climb in one day, so we took a rest on our way up. Khardung La is called the highest motorable pass of the World – which is not true. It is in fact a huge scam, mostly to attract motorcyclists that can later put nice pictures on facebook and say that they are cool. What is more – it is not 5602 m as you can read on the board – but “only” 5359 m. You can read more on Wikipedia.Cycling Khardung La


The ride down was – as usual – a pleasure and a joy.

Don the Khardung

On the way down Mat almost run over a huge marmot – Himalayan Longtail Marmot to be precise. The area is full of them, and they cross the road in big numbers, not looking around.

Longtailed Marmot


The valley of River Shyok turned out to be stunning! We needed to obtain a week long permit to get there and could stay only for 7 days. The end of the valley, right at the border with Pakistan, was closed to foreigners until 2010. We rode all the way to the last accessible village – Turtuk – that is situated only 7 kilometres from Pakistan. 210 kilometres from Leh.

Around Diskit

On the way to Turtuk we could already feel that we are not in Buddhist Ladakh anymore. This region is inhabited by Muslim, Balti people, that are of a Pakistani origin.

Since the villages of Bogdang and Turtuk were closed for the tourists for so long, people there are very curious and rather direct when meeting foreigners.In Bogdang

Bogdang children

Bogdang shop

Bogdang boy

This is all Bogdang…

Bogdang girl 1

Bogdang girl 2

Bogdang girl 3

Nubra river

As soon as we entered Turtuk, we realized that we got to a place that is frozen in time. Turtuk was taken over by India in 1971 – before that time it was a part of Pakistan. It is a magical little village, with a stone-and-wood architecture, small fields squeezed between houses, narrow cobble stone streets and a river flowing through.

Turtuk old bridge

Narrow Turtuk

Turtuk boy

Turtuk roads

People grow barley in Turtuk and harvest it in a traditional way. Mainly women work on the fields…Tutuk barley

Brley carrying

Mostly women (and young girls) carry the crops on their backs – the streets are so narrow, that it would be hard to get through even for a donkey.Balti Turtuk

Turtuk harvest

Turtuk harvesting

Turtuk mother

People are very friendly in Turtuk, we enjoyed it a lot!Nubra - Turtuk Balti Man

Young people of Turtuk are very curious of “our” world. They ask a lot of questions and see the potential and opportunity in this cross cultural exchange.Schoolboys Turtuk

Turtuk schoolgirls

After 2 days in the village we had to come back the same way that we took the first time. Luckily there was another way out of the valley – through Warila Pass.Nubra camping

One special thing about Nubra Valley – sand dunes and the only population of camels in India.

Nubra sand dunes

Only the villages next to Pakistan are Muslim – the rest of the area is mostly Ladakhi Buddhist.

Diskit Ladies

Nubra valley Ladkh

Nubra Vally

River Nubra

The whole area is very dry and sand storms prone. We experienced one and it is not fun to cycle against strong wind carrying dust and sand.Sand storm Nubra

The pass of our choice was not as popular as Kahardung La (maybe because there is no board with exaggerated height on the top?) and the villages we passed were rather sleepy. Agham old lady

Right before the pass we decided to visit the village of  Tangyar to get some supply for the hard climb in front of us. Mat went up to the village, and on the way down lost our stove somewhere in the village. When he went back after just 5 minutes it was gone and nobody had seen it…

Village view

Nubra village

We could not quite believe that the stove magically disappeared and we stayed in the village for 2 days asking all the people! For us a stove is a super important thing – we use it everyday and can not travel in the mountains without.

We were invited to the monastery to discuss about our problem with the elders of the community.Monastery

Monastery oil lamps

The temple at the top of an eroded hill turned out to be more that 500 years old. Local people went there to offer barley flour and yak butter to the Lama living there.Flour weighting

In Monastery

Cowboy Ladakh

We did not get our stove back, so during the next days we had to use an open fire improvised stove…Mat cooking

On the fire

Warila cycling

Warila pass flowers

The climb to the top of Warila Pass was gorgeous – we saw a lot of wild yaks, Himalayan plants and spectacular earth formations.Mountain slope

We did it! Another high pass on our list – 5320 meters!Warila on the top

Yaks grazing

Yak Warila

Right before entering Manali – Leh highway again we passed a beautiful monastery – Chemrey.Around Shakti

Monastery around Shakti

That is it! We hope you enjoyed our short adventure!