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On the Way to the Top of the World

Ladakh-128The minute we left Leh the road started climbing, zigzagging endlessly to the highest point we both have ever been: Khardung La, the highest motorable pass in the world at 5.602 meters / 18.380 feet. At the foot of the mountain we passed Gangla Village, a wide ribbon of grass and fields that spreads over the semi-flat terrain. Not the last bit of green on the way to the top, but the largest one. Even in this high altitude desert, once in a while small patches of grass run down a slope, nourished by tiny streams gushing straight from the bowels of the mountain.

At such a mountain oasis, we had our first sighting of yaks, Dzos (half cow / half yak) and marmots. All leisurely grazing, though the marmots immediately raced into hiding.

Yak (Bos Grunniens), Nubra valley, Ladakh, India

Yak (Bos Grunniens), Nubra valley, Ladakh, India

Half way up the pass groups of construction workers become a common sight – very skinny, short and dark skinned men from Bihar, a state in the northeast of India. These men build roads often with their bare hands. Doing this in the blazing sun for 300 rupees (4 Euros) a day could also be called slave work. They sleep and live in tents along the road. Even while taking a break from their hard work, they are exposed to the merciless sun – there is no shade anywhere.

The road was originally built in 1976 and due to its strategic importance is open all year. The tireless workers from Bihar keep it in good condition for the daily convoy of army trucks and during the summer months, for tourists from all over the world. Lately it has become THE destination for bikers.


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