Most tourists planned their escape from Padum with the Sani festival as cover. Police were confident no tourists would be harmed. None were. Despite Zanskar being an acknowledged difficult holiday, a curfew is a bit too much to handle. The big problem with this place is it’s so dependent on Kargil. That’s the only realworldy place it’s connected to. Once the Padum-Leh road becomes operational (knowing how BRO works this could be sooner than expected), the potential for tourism in Zanskar will grow manifold. It will spoil some of the fun for people who’re looking for a change in lifestyles but it will work in favour of the locals who happen to have very little access to modern facilities. You can argue till the sun sets if it’ll be good or bad (and it won’t matter).
Better Leh than never
Best way to reach Leh from Kargil is to take a bus. Costs less than half of what taxis will charge if they can tell you aren’t local. It is also more comfortable. Just takes a tad longer. Some may see all these as positives. Even though there are very few taxis to Zanskar, surprisingly, you have more leverage to get a bargain than with a taxi to Leh.
Leh is midways between a busy metro and a sleepy village. There is everything you need, yet travel few kilometers out and you’ll enter mountainland. The Khardungla Pass is where you’ll see Bullet riders taking pictures of themselves. It is supposedly the highest motor-able road. Problem here is once it starts snowing. Quite a number of trucks travel through this to get to, among other places, Nubra Valley and Siachen.
Snow can be a very tricky for vehicles. Tyres ought to be protected with a solid iron chain (so you don’t slide down the mountain). When you’re up top at the pass it all looks fantastic. But alight from there towards the two Pullu villages and you find mangled remains of trucks strewn around. This is properly scary if your taxi driver hasn’t chained the tyres. Those guys are good but they can’t beat physics. Lack of friction can take down the best.
The Nubra Valley accounts for the dual villages of Diskit and Hunder on one side and the hot-spring famous Panamik on the other. Hunder is where the sand dunes are. There are camel rides and some wild asses. It is a weird place. Most of the activity around here is related to the army. Further north from Hunder lies the Siachen glacier. So you can imagine…
And then there were some
There are few other places in Ladakh which can be on the to-see list. Hanle is said to be a crowd magnet waiting to be discovered. Pangong Tso is still considered the pièce de résistance of a Ladakh visit. Tso Moriri and Tso Kar have their own set of fans and are far less crowded than Pangong.
In Zanskar, you can rest assured even the mountain-monastery census guys haven’t yet seen every one of them.