This is 3rd Part of the series Budget Trip To Ladakh. To reiterate again, we are on our 15 Day trip to Ladakh following the below itinerary (roughly).

28th July : Day 1 : Kolkata – Srinagar / Sonmarg
29th July : Day 2 : Srinagar / Sonmarg – Drass – Kargil / Lamayuru
30th July : Day 3 : Kargil / Lamayuru – Sham Valley Sightseeing – Alchi / Uleytokpo
31st July : Day 4 : Alchi / Uleytokpo – Dha and Hanu Villages – Leh
1st Aug : Day 5 : Leh Local Sight Seeing + Arrange Inner Line Permits
2nd Aug : Day 6 : Leh – Khardung La – Diskit (Nubra Valley) – Hunder / Diskit
3rd Aug : Day 7 : Hunder / Diskit – Turtuk – Hunder / Diskit
4th Aug : Day 8 : Hunder / Diskit – Agham – Wari La – Shakti – Chang La – Durbuk – Tangste – Pangong Tso / Nubra Valley – Agham – Shyok Village – Durbuk – Tangste – Pangong Tso
5th Aug : Day 9 : Buffer Day
6th Aug : Day 10 : Pangong Tso – Man – Merak – Kakstet – Chusul – Tsaga – Loma – Hanle
7th Aug : Day 11 : Hanle – Loma – Nyoma – Mahe – Sumdo – Tso Moriri (Karzok) / Hanle – Salsal La – Charchagan La – Tso Moriri (via Chummur)
8th Aug : Day 12 : Tso Moriri – Tso Kar – Moore Plains – Pang – Sarchu – Baralacha La – Darcha – Jispa
9th Aug : Day 13 : Jispa – Keylong – Rohtang Pass – Manali
10th Aug : Day 14 : Manali Sightseeing. Manali – Delhi (Evening Volvo)
11th Aug : Day 15 : Delhi – Kolkata

NOTE : (1) For Permits, you’d need to mention the exact name of all the places, and not only the destinations. Thus it’s very important to make a note of the possible routes too. (2) In case of Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri, you may see that I have used or sign (/) as there were two possible routes, and accordingly based on various parameters we had to opt for one.

The Budget Trip To Ladakh Series :

1st Aug : Day 5 : Leh – Khardung La – Hunder / Diskit :

Today we woke up by around 5:30 AM in the morning and were done with our morning chores within an hour. However we took our own sweet time to prepare the breakfast and have it. It’s just been 3rd day that we were preparing breakfast, but this preparation of Tea and Maggie every morning felt too monotonous and boring. However considering our budget we knew we have to continue the same.

Later at around 8AM Rigzin Ji accompanied Achu to handover the permits. Rigzin Ji was kind enough to get the necessary photocopies too. I quickly took a glance through them and was glad to find out that we had got the permit for Turtuk and Hanle. Well, getting permits for both of these places depends more on luck. We had to pay a large portion of our agreed cost to Rigzin Ji and were asked to pay the remaining balance to Achu after dropping us to Manali.

After chit-chatting for a while finally we started our joruney by 8:45 AM. Well, today we had plans to cross Khardung La which is famous for being World’s Highest Motorable Road. Truely speaking, this is the day we were most afraid of, because of all the horror stories regarding low oxygen and AMS that we had heard before, in various blogs and YouTube.

Willpower and determination concurs all. People do not lack strength, they lack will. Thus we decided to stay mentally strong. And anyway we started taking Coca 6X twice daily from Srinagar onwards and had Diamox handy in case we needed it. And in worst case, we knew we are carrying the Oxygen Can too.

Way To Khardung La

Once you start driving outskirts of Leh you’d notice the greeneries are dwindling away gradually. It took us around 2.5 hours to drive to Khardungla. In between we had to stop a while for the documentation procedures and to submit the permits. Also before reaching Khardung La, we were stucked in a traffic congestion on narrow one-lane.

Once we reached Khardung La, achu warned us not to spend more than 15-20 minutes at such high altitude else it can be a risk for us. Avik, Sushmita, Ayan and Piu went ahead to a gompa nearby, whereas Me and Suparna choosed to visit the local summit sign and click some pictures instead.

Khardung La

Khardung La

The journey upto Khardung village was mostly uneventfull as most of us were feeling a bit uneasy due to severe headache. Thus we started smelling camphor which gave us a bit of relief. Let me give you a tip here, always carry camphor and popcorn while going to high altitude. It comes to a great rescue in such cases.

Also I must mention that, there are army hospitals right at Khargung La, where you can visit in case you are facing severe issues. They are equipped with Oxygen Cylinders and necessary medications for the tourists.

Although we were not feeling hungry due to the uneasiness, but Achu advised us to have some food, else we’d feel more weaker. Finally anyhow we completed our lunch and started proceeding.

We reached Diskit Monastery by around 3:45 PM. Due to the scorching heat of Sun, we choosed to stay in a shade nearby, whereas Ayan went ahead to click some pictures.

Diskit Monastery - Nubra Valley

Hunder and Diskit both are the major towns of Nubra Valley, so one can choose to stay at either of the place. Although after discussing with achu, he suggested us to stay at Hunder instead. It’s just 7KM and took us around 30 minutes to drive to Hunder. Achu drove us to a homestay named Shayok Guest House and we loved it at our first glance.

Shayok Guest House - Nubra Valley

Again, as usual, a bit of buttering and bargaining, and we were settled!!

The homestay itself looked like a honeymoon suite with breathtaking view of the mountains. Being situated beside Shayok River, one can hear the splashing sound of the same which is pleasing to ears.

Shayok Guest House - Rooms - Nubra Valley

The girls were very tired and thus they hit the bed, whereas we boys went upstairs to the balcony and pulled a chair together!! The rest of the evening we spent chit-chatting amongst ourselves.

Well, one thing I must mention here is that, post Leh, electricity is mostly based on solar and thus at all places after Leh, you’ll get electricity in between 7PM to 11 PM to charge your necessary items. And another important thing to note is that, all the hotels / guest houses post Leh, offers rooms with Meal Plan (Breakfast & Dinner). Although you can choose to take room without the meals, however I’d strongly advise against that, considering the lack of other possible options.

Diskit - Nubra Valley

Although specifically at Hunder / Diskit, there’s a small market, but considering the remoteness of the place, they mostly prepare food based on head count if ordered in advance. Well, situation can be different during peak season when there are lots of tourists around. However the rooms with meal plan are generally cheaper and most viable option than taking rooms only and having food outside / seperately.

Well during the evening, the weather started becoming chilly and thus we decided to go to the room instead. Now that we were feeling hungry, we thought of having the famous bengali snacks i.e. Muri – Chanachur (puffed rice with bombay mix). Later a hotel staff came in to enquire if we needed WiFi to make calls back home and we grabbed the opportunity. However the connection was very slow and we can understand the reason behind it, considering the situation of infrastructure there. Although after trying a quite few times, we could successfully connect with our family and informed them that we might not be able to connect with them regularly and asked them to not to worry in such case and that we’d try to connect with them wherever possible. Although we had already informed them all these before leaving Kolkata and again at Leh, but you know how parents are like!!

Finally at around 8:30 PM we were served dinner. Girls were still sleeping and thus we had to woke them up. We just loved the dining place. It’s like authentic ladakhi style. However unfortunately, the food was not that tasty. We thought, it might be their cooking style and we can’t expect more than this at such remote place.

Shayok Guest House - Dining Room - Nubra Valley

Avik couldn’t take that anymore and choosed to have puffed rice with water (jol diye muri) instead. Later we were chit-chatting for a while, when Avik informed that he’s not feeling well and having stomach ache due to digestion issues. Well the lunch we had at Khardung village was very bad and even the place was very unhygenic. Infact almost all of us faced more or less issues including achu himself due to that lunch of ours. However in case of Avik, he seemed to have developed some kind of food posioning instead.

Sushmita got very tensed and considering the situation, we decided that I’d move in with Ayan and Piu at Girl’s room whereas Sushmita and Suparna will be here with Avik at Boy’s room. Sushmita and Suparna decided to gave Avik a medicine (something related to gastric, I’m not much aware of the medicines though).

Well we didn’t had much to do later that night and thus we called off the day and hit the bed.

2nd Aug : Day 6 : Hunder / Diskit – Turtuk – Hunder / Diskit :

Today again, was a rest day for us and thus we slept till around 7:30 AM. Yes, 7:30 AM is considered late, considering the fact that most of the days we had to woke up by 5:00 – 5:30 AM. After being done with our morning chores, we were served breakfast by around 9 AM.

We came to know that Avik had vomiting last night and that Suparna and Sushmita was awake till late night while we slept. Considering the situation, we decided to take him to a Army Hospital nearby, however Avik denied and asked us to relax as he was feeling fine now. It’s good that he had vomiting, else it was becoming uneasy for him. We too thought that, as he already had vomiting, the issue is now solved. We had no idea what was going to happen next.

After having our breakfast, while looking out for achu, I found that he’s still asleep and thus I had to woke him up!! While he got ready, we chatted for a while. And finally we started at around 9:30 AM.

Today we had plans to make a day trip to Turtuk. Turtuk is a village which comes under Baltistan and was a part of Pakistan until 1971. After that India gained controlled of 4 such villages of Baltistan region. It was around the year 2009, after which Govt. decided to allow tourism to Turtuk.

Considering this strategic change, tourism is very limited and so are the permits. And you’d be amazed to know that, Turtuk is the last village after which Pakistan controlled Gitgit-Baltistan begins. Turtuk is also the gateway to Siachen Glaciers. And thus you’d be able to spot all those brave-hearts of whom we have only heard of, in TV or internet.

Well, we all know (or might have heard sometime), that Gilgit-Baltistan is the most beautiful part of (undivided) Kashmir which is unfortunately now under Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK). And you’d know how much true is that, if you visit Turtuk (as it’s a part of Baltistan). A village located on the bank of Shayok River offerring a breathtaking view of green valleys feels like heaven.

It took us around 2.5 hours to reach Turtuk. It’s a small village enfilled with beauty. One can also choose to stay here, as there are lots of homestays around the village. However considering our plan, we’d have to travel a lot in order to reach Pangong Tso tomorrow. And thus we decided to stick to the plan and return to Hunder.

One must be there to embrace the nature’s beauty. It’s like god have created this place on a spree!! However my pictures doesn’t justify the beauty of the place.

Turtuk

Achu asked us to follow him to the old Royal House which is now considered as Museum. Well, it’s actually not a museum as such, however it being a royal house, have the weapons which belonged to their heriditary. A person – who is the current king himself, explains who and how invaded the village and the whole heriditary of him. He also explains the story of moving into Pakistan and again back to India. Unfortunately I don’t remember anything!! However the royal house is situated deep inside the village and I just loved the walk through the village.

You can still find Balti peoples here in Turtuk. The locals here are very nice and smiling however kind of afraid. Whenever I tried clicking some pictures, they would turn away their face.

Turtuk Portraits

Turtuk Portraits

Turtuk Portraits

Turtuk Portraits

Turtuk Portraits

Turtuk Portraits

Turtuk Portraits

Finally after spending some time around the villages, we went ahead to a nearby restaurant for having lunch. I just loved the location and appearance of the restaurant. Strategically palced in the bank of Shayok River overlooking the mountains and the beautiful valley, what can be a more great place to eat?

Finally we started back at around 2:30 PM. The journey back to Hunder was mostly uneventful except an instance where a lots of kids approached our vehicle for chocolates and upon giving them a handful of chocolates, the locals started yelling at us, as due to this of their behaviour they might get into an accident.

After reaching Hunder, achu drove us to Sand Dunes as we wanted to experience camel ride. Here in Hunder, unlike the common ones, one can see bactrian camel mostly. The packages were of 15mins, 30mins and 1 hour. We took the package of 30mins which costed us Rs. 350/- each. We were allocated a ticket and a token number and were asked to wait till our turn comes up.

Hunder - Nubra Valley

Suparna refrained from going for a ride as she felt afraid of felling down or whatever, however rest of us proceeded. And once we began the ride, we thought 15 mins would have been more than enough and we might have took wrong decission by choosing the 30 mins slot. However the ride was fun and enjoyable. After that, we spent around an hour there clicking pictures and later achu drove us back to our hotel.

Rest of the evening we chit-chatted amongst ourselves over a plate of Muri – Chanachur (Puffed Rice with Bombay Mix). Today we requested the staffs to allow us to have later dinner if possible and they agreed.

Later at around 9:30 PM, we were served dinner. Again the food was not that good however surviable. Post dinner, we chit-chatted for a while and later we called off the day and hit the bed, as tomorrow we had to start early.

However this article would be incomplete without our Coca story which we named as “Coca Kando” (Coca Incident). Well it’s like, every morning and every night the girls would comeup to their husband to give us drops of Coca 6X. And it used to taste so raw that we all used to avoid it. Well going by these, we even created a song based on the tones of infamous “Sonu Viral Song”. However unfortunately, I won’t be able to present it here on a public forum considering all the foul languages we used for the same.

The Budget Trip To Ladakh Series :

Important Points To Stay Safe :

  1. In Jammu & Kashmir, only postpaid connection works. So get yourself a postpaid connection before hailing to Kashmir. Also throughout most part of Ladakh, BSNL is known to work best and then Airtel.
  2. Even with BSNL, you would be out of network at most regions. So inform your family beforehand about the situation. Although at places, you’d get local options to call your home and inform. Most hotels offers that service for free or for a premium for their guests. In case it’s free, use it wisely and make room for next one. Your amazing travel stories can wait.
  3. Ladakh is a land of Cold Desert, and thus during the day, it too hot. Unlike Kolkata, the humidity is very low, thus you won’t be sweating, but the heat feels like burning a hole on your skin. Use Sunscreen, Body Lotions, Lip Balms etc. daily.
  4. However the nights are cold and depending on the region nights can be really chilly.
  5. Most importantly, whatever it be, whether starts changing post 4:30 PM – 5:00 PM, and one shouldn’t be without a basic winter garments like pull over / windcheaters / thermals etc. As that’s the time when the weather changes and if you are not protected / covered, it easily affects you. Believe me, we are the sufferers.
  6. In this part of the country, sun sets late, during 7:30 PM – 8:30 PM. However don’t be misguided that sun rise late too. Unfortunately that’s not the case and thus you get a lot of daylight to travel and explore.
  7. Most regions in Ladakh is situated at very high altitude and thus Acclimatization should be given top priority if you really want to enjoy Ladakh and stay safe.
  8. Ladakh can be approached in various ways – (1) Starting from Srinagar i.e. travelling through Srinagar – Leh Highway, (2) Flying to Leh, (3) Starting from Manali i.e. travelling through Manali – Leh highway. Considering the Acclimatization, the options are given in order i.e. 1 is best, second best is 2 and worst option is 3.
  9. Unless you are travelling with very less number of days in hand, I’d always recommend Option 1 i.e. travelling through Srinagar – Leh Highway
  10. Well Ladakh is known for harsh weather i.e. too hot during the day and too cold during the night. Also the thin level of oxygen plays an important role for your dissatisfaction. Unless you are acclimatizing properly, it’s really hard to enjoy the trip. Instead you’d always think of going back. During first few days, we felt same. But when we had a first glimpse of Pangong Tso, everything changed!!
  11. There are lots of guides available in internet regarding AMS. So I’ll refrain from writing a story about the same again. In short, AMS depends and varies from person to person depending on their health, age and various other factors. However below are few important and helpful tips which would help you enjoy Ladakh safely.
  12. Never rush it. Better do it some other time with more number of days in hand and properly acclimatize at every 3000 ft gain. Although you don’t need to follow this rule hard and fast, however don’t change altitudes everyday. The idea is to acclimatize every other day with every possible altitude gain.
  13. Don’t compete. Don’t be a superhero / superheroine. Well as I said, every person is different. So is their health. So don’t compete and take your own sweet time and instead enjoy the beautiful landscape.
  14. While at high altitude, you’d feel exhausted even by going to toilet or loo. It happens because of the thin layer in oxygen. Steady and Slow wins the race. Don’t walk faster or run as you’d do in your hometown. Keep it slow.
  15. Communication is a key point. Never feel ashamed and hide it when you are having issues. AMS can strike anyone. Thus if you are having any kind of problem, communicate with your Team Members. May be you are affected with low level however if not communicated and treated in time it can turn into severe. And in that case everyone have to leave and descend.
  16. At all points you’ll come across Army Hospitals / Base Camps which can come to your rescue in case things turns worse. So there’s nothing to fear.
  17. Keep AMS Medications handy like Coca 30 / Coca 6X / Diamox. We started taking Coca 6X twice daily (5-6 drops) from Kargil onwards. Remember these medicines prepares you for the high altitude, i.e. these are considered as preventive medicine. Once AMS had striked, these might not come to resue depending on the condition. Don’t be a doctor yourself, instead in case of any issues contact the locals and go to Army Hospital / Base Camp nearby.
  18. Drink lots of water. Yes hell lot of water i.e. 3-4 lts. minimum per day. This is very important to keep yourself safe. If possible mix ORS to it, which is even better. We carried 2 packet ORS per person per day.
  19. You might be a foodie. But to stay safe the myntra is to eat light. Avoid spicy foods and avoid over eating. Infact eat a bit less than what you generally eat. When your body is getting low oxygen, most of it is driven to your brain to function properly and thus indigestion is a common issue if you are eating heavily.
  20. Very importantly, avoid Smoking, drinking Coffee (or any kind of Caffine) and Alcohol. This single point will keep you fit and fine. People have even died due to drinking alcohol. You might not face issues while drinking alcohol, however your body might get collapsed after you sleep. This has happened to a lot of people already. You might notice foreigners drinking and smoking, however again as I said don’t compete. Their upbringing and yours might not be same.
  21. Most importantly, be positive. Yes there’s no medication or nothing than being positive and believing in yourself.
  22. Last but not the least, your god’s sake keep your plan flexible and don’t be a stubborn to stick to an specific itinerary even if your health is not permitting it. You are the best person to know if your health is permitting or not. And if not, descend. Because, if you don’t, it can be a life risk and a lot more risk for other team members. And Ladakh is not a top priority than your life.

Reviews :

Shayok Guest House : Truely speaking, my vocabulary is very limited to justify the beauty of this place. We being the only tourists enjoyed the whole guest house. The room were no less than a honeymoon suite. The entrance is beautifully decorated with flowers with a shade in the garden to have a cup of tea while embracing the beauty of mother nature. The whole guest house, rooms and the washrooms were very clean and well maintained such that we kept our shoes outside. The dining place is one of the best I have ever seen. It’s designed like actual Ladakhi Style dining, which helps to guests to get a taste of their culture. The staffs are very nice, humble and always smiling. They are very helpful and in case you need anything they just a call away. However we didn’t liked their food much, though it might be an issue with our taste buds as we are not used to different kind of cooking styles.

Shayok Guest House - Nubra Valley

Shayok Guest House - Bedroom - Nubra Valley

Shayok Guest House - Washroom - Nubra Valley

Shayok Guest House - Dining Room - Nubra Valley

Costing :

Shayok Guest House : Rs. 8000/- (2 x Double Bed Room @ Rs. 2000/- x 2 Days). The price includes breakfast and dinner. We stayed 3 pax in each room.
Tickets at Turtuk Museum : Rs. 300/- (Rs. 50/- per pax)
Camel Ride at Hunder : Rs. 350 per pax for 1 Hour Ride.

We were travelling with flexible plan and had a budget of Rs. 60k per couple + Rs. 10k as buffer (i.e. Total 70k with Buffer per Couple) which we were carrying in cash accordingly, excluding Flights & Manali – Delhi Volvo Bus which we booked in advance. Finally we made it within Rs. 70k per couple for the whole tour Kolkata to Kolkata including the Fights and Manali Delhi Volvo Bus. That means we made it within 54k per couple excluding the flights and Manali – Delhi Volvo Bus.

CCU – DEL – SXR : 7334/- (For Me & Suparna)
Manali – Delhi HPTDC Volvo Bus : 2840/- (For Me & Suparna)
DEL – CCU : 5126/- (For Me & Suparna)
Vehicle : 64000/- (For the whole tour)

NOTE : I have omitted the costs of personal in nature and meals to keep things simple but informative.

Contacts :

Shayok Guest House : +91-94694-57784

Bakir (Our Achu, The Driver, Very friendly young chap, Works for Rigzin) : +91-94696-66401 / +91-70514-45539. He drove a white Aria which belonged to Rigzin, under registration number JK 10A 4036.

Mr. Rigzin (The driver who took us to Stanti Stupa) : +91-94697-31211. He drives a white Maruti Suzuki Eeco under registration number JK 10 6530.

Mr. Rigzin (Driver, The single point of contact, The Showstopper) : +91-96229-54779 / +91-94694-72772.

The Budget Trip To Ladakh Series :