When you visualise deserts, chances are the first visuals that come to mind is the vast emptiness of the Sahara, with its extremely hot temperatures, or closer here in India, the famed Thar desert. Until I ended up in Hunder, in the Nubra valley.
I’ve seen plenty of photographs and friends recount their experiences travelling through an area marked by a stunning lake, beautiful monastaries and mountains that simply take your breath away.
However, nothing prepared me for what I experienced in Hunder, about 150 odd kilometers from the capital Leh. Nestled within the Nubra valley and sandwiched between the mountains on either side, this town was once the capital of the former Nubra kingdom. The ancient Silk Route across which the caravan trade across Central Asia plied, also passed through this valley once upon a time.
Driving past barren mountains between Diskit and Hunder, the last thing I expected to see was a desert, at an altitude of more than 3,000 meters. But a desert is what greeted me.
If you are there early in the morning or late in the evening, take some time off to watch as the desert mesmerises you. That’s when the rays of the sun bring alive the desert, as shadows and light play with each other to paint a surreal image. Believe me, it’s unlike anything you will have seen.
Hunder is also home to the double-humped Bactrian camels. Because of their unique feature, these animals, around since the bygone days of the Silk route which passed through the valley, can withstand this extreme cold, drought and high altitude. Sensing a business opportunity, a few entrepreneurs now use these animals to take tourists around the area. Camel safari with a difference.