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Kargil to Leh Highway


Kargil, on the way from Srinagar, Kashmir, to Leh, Ladakh, India

Canyons so narrow that you wonder how a street would possible fit in and valleys bright green with vegetable gardens and wheat fields. This was our most pleasant diet after leaving Kargil. The closer we got to Leh, the more the term “high altitude desert” – took on a real meaning: mountains, rocks, sandy slopes, no vegetation. Only the gushing milky blue Indus provided a contrast to the light brown cascades of mountain ranges, once in a while a snow capped summit peeks from behind.
In Mulbekh, we had our first sampling of an ancient Buddhist monastery, plus a giant Buddha carved into a rock pillar. More monasteries lay ahead: Lamayuru, Ladakh’s oldest monastery, sits high up on a singular rock pillar overlooking the valley. The view of the monastery from the distance beats everything. Sadly large parts are in ruins.


Chamba Statue, picturing a standing Maitreya Buddha or Buddha-to-come overlooking the old trade route, Mulbekh Monastery or Mulbekh Gompa, Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir, India

Immediately after Lamayuru, we passed through an area called Moonland Landscape: a canyon framed by barren, creamy-colored eroded rocks. We immediately knew we would come back with our own transport that would allow us to stop every 100 meters, because this is exactly how we felt, stopping and marveling.

To take matters (=driving) in our own hands was what we had wanted to do for a while – our driver’s aggressive rushing and constant honking was getting on our nerves. Driving on the wrong sides of the road and honking constantly to warn the other drivers, who is on the correct side of the road, had no logic to us.

Indian drivers also love racing towards groups of people, no matter if they are children or laborers fixing the road. They simply expect everybody to be chased away by the shrieking horn. It is something we could not get used to… We also had enough of feeling guilty whenever we asked him to stop. Of course we felt horrified at the idea that he had to take tourists back to Kargil, maybe even Srinagara that same evening! Why anyone would travel that scenic road during the night beats us – a crime.

With a brand-new road in excellent state, driving ourselves was an easy decision. At least that was the plan…


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