Saturday, October 24, 2009

worlds highest motorable pass

World's highest motorable pass are ocated in Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir in Ladakh. some time back Ladakh used to be an alien place for us and we had only heard of the great warrier General Zorawar Singh's expeditions to Tibet through Ladakh through our elders.

Khardung La (La means “ Mountain Pass ” in Tibetan language) is located at an altitude of 18,380 feet above sea level. The local pronunciation is "Khardong La" or "Khardzong La," but, as with most names in Ladakh, the spelling varies. Historically, it is quite important, as it lies on the major caravan route from Leh to Kashgar in Chinese Central Asia . The pass itself lies North of Leh and is the gateway to the Shyok and Nubra Valleys (the latter is home to the Siachen Base camp). A branch of the famous Silk Route used to pass through Khardung La centuries back. The Yakandis, Tsaqandis and Mongolians used to bring merchandise like silk goods, opium, and carpets to Leh, which has been a central business place. And in exchange they would take Indian cotton clothes, raw cotton, sugar, gur etc.

About 10,000 horses and camels used to take the route annually, and a small population of Bactrian camels can still be seen in the area north of the pass, mute witnesses to history. During World War II there was a futile attempt to transfer war material to China through this route.

When Ladakh came under British rule, a Joint Commissioner was appointed during 1867 to look after the administration. The Britishers also gave due attention to this route and maintained the bridle path over Khardung La. The motorable road was constructed during sixties and was opened to motor vehicles in 1988 and has since seen many automobile, motorbike and mountain biking expeditions. The wars with Pakistan in 1965 and 1971, and the Siachen Glacier issue gave further importance to the Khardung La road.

The journey to Khardung La from Leh is 37 kms and takes about one-and-half-hours to reach. The first 24 km as far as the South Pullu check point, are paved. From there to the North Pullu check point about 15 km beyond the pass the roadway is primarily loose rock, dirt, and occasional rivulets of snow melt.

From North Pullu into the Nubra Valley , the road is very well maintained (except in a very few places where washouts or falling rock occur). Hired vehicles (2 and 4-wheel-drive), heavy trucks, and motorcycles regularly travel into the Nubra Valley , though special permits may need to be arranged for travellers to make the journey.

At south Pullu an army TCP stops all the vehicles and an entry is made in their registers. If you are moving only up to Khardung La, you don’t need an Inner Line Permit (the permit to visit some prohibited areas). But if you are planning to move across Khardung La, then an ILP is compulsory and it can be obtained either from the Leh Deputy Commissioner or the SSP’s office. ( Dal Lake )

In South Pullu , one finds some facilities that seem to be a luxury in this difficult terrain - a tea shop, rest rooms, hot water etc. One can never imagine that sipping a hot cup of tea can be so heavenly in cold dizzy heights.Khardung La is a mini tourist stop with jeeps and bikes, and even a souvenir shop! Most travellers go up to Khardung La only to see the world’s highest motorable pass, buy some souvenirs from the souvenir shop, click some pictures and come back.

There is a temple of Lord Shiva at the top. The soldiers crossing the Pass stop here and pay their obeisance to the Lord of the Himalayas . The Tibetan Religious Flags with mantras on them flutter atop the Pass. The general belief here is that with the wind, these mantras spread to all the directions taking with them good positive vibrations.

There is a "Rinchen tea stall" at K-Top that serves some high altitude tea and snacks - mainly Maggi noodles. Other than that the main thing to do here is to take a photo next to the “World’s Highest Motorable Road ” sign. Acute Mountain Sickness is a serious risk and visitors are not recommended to spend too long at the top. But needless to say, the views from the top are stunning. Due to its sheer height, the pass gives you jaw dropping views of deep valleys and narrow twisting roads and high altitude traffic jams.

On the other side, after crossing the Pass is North Pullu . From South Pullu to the North Pullu check-point about 10 kms beyond the pass the roadway is primarily loose rock, dirt, and occasional rivulets of melted snow, mainly because the Pass remains snowbound all the time.

It is very difficult to cross the Pass in winter, especially for big vehicles like the Stallion of the army, as many feet of snow accumulate here. And then the snow freezes on the road making the vehicle prone to skidding. Chains are tied to the tyres to prevent the vehicles from skidding off the road and also facilitate them to move through the snow.Though Khardung La receives heavy snowfall, the Himank (Border Roads Organization) keeps it open round the year as all the essential supplies to Siachen troopers go from here only.

If you are traveling to Khardung La, the ideal time is summer. Do take an ample stock of batteries with you as extreme cold conditions tend to exhaust your batteries. And don’t forget to cover yourself well, especially your head as one faces drowsiness, hangovers, high altitude fever, vomiting when traveling through this high altitude region.Road connectivity to the Pass is through Manali and Srinagar and daily flights operate from Delhi and bi-weekly from Jammu . From Leh, a daily bus service to Nubra Valley plies through Khardung La.

No comments: