And while even thought of Ladakh is exhilarating enough, nothing excited me more than the idea of seeing the sand dunes at that altitude, or just taking my time off from the camera and notes to go-karting, or ride the Bactrian camels. And saying that Hundar touched me deeply and in many ways would rather be an understatement. There cannot be one word for Hundar, or I wonder if even a complete phrase would do it justice. Calling it the village of contrasts, with the verdant fields, the sand dunes, and then the mighty Shyok river, all falling in one line of the sight, could be the closest appropriation. But fairly this small dot of a village can live without any sobriquets. And ardent Ladakh lovers will vouch for it.
My enthusiasm was uncontrollable that morning, for a complete change in me from the usually calm and laidback, to nosy and noisy was noticeable. I am usually an easy-peasy company, but not that morning. The thought of covering the Nubra valley (read my post on Nubra Valley here), which I had intuitively put at top of my ‘to have experiences’ list was both overpowering and overwhelming. I could see that enthusiasm turn to strain but I brushed that thought aside as something ephemeral. Just that it lasted till the time we reached Khalsar after crossing the Khardungla pass. From Khalsar village the road breaks two ways one leading to the Nubra valley and the other to the Shyok valley. We took the Shyok one which takes one to Diskit then Hundar and then all the way to the last frontiers of Turtok in the Baltistan region (some 80 km from Hundar village).
We were destined to Hundar with a short halt at Diskit to visit the famed Diskit monastery. The giant statue is believed to be facing the borders to bless the border regions and bring peace and harmony. And then another halt to have my daily share of momos and thukpa, a charm and feel of Ladakh that goes missing from many travel stories. From Diskit to Hundar is a short journey of less than half an hour. But this is full of its wonders. And you need no educated guess for that. Hundar, sitting at an average altitude of 10,000 feet, takes the pride of being one of the world’s highest deserts. And the road to Hundar is equally enticing with the Hundar sand dunes on one side of the road. After crossing Diskit town, one can spot the rolling sand dunes on the right side of the road. Feral Bactrian camels can be seen grazing on the dune-like landscape between the foot of the mountains and the Shyok River.
And then after a while, spent in some random laughs and jests, we entered the Hundar village through a gate. Hundar has a quaint charm, and as we drove through the village we imbibed its charm and vibe. It’s quaint ambling through the village where hostels, guesthouses, and resorts may outnumber the houses, and tourists the locals. It seems the entire local economy runs on tourism here. And the villagers are equally warm, giving you warm, hospital smiles, or a random conversation with you. They won’t let you feel you are a traveler here. The village also has a roadside monastery called the Chamba. Opposite the gompa is a wall that marks the traditional pilgrims’ route orbiting several other shrines set high in the cliffs. The route may call for a good hike for some splendid views of the valley and the sand dunes. This being a part of the ancient Silk Route which extended up to China and Nubra being one of the significant trade points, there are scattered many a ruin of forts or rest houses, including the ruins of the King’s Palace, the Langchen Khar. Then, there is this fort, called Gula, which you can also include in your itinerary. The hike is worth it and gives you a nomad adventure escape. Unwind and splash up the staggering views in the solace of the mountains.
We soon reached our humble Airbnb. It seemed sustenance brightens up the estimation of an untouched get-away. The food was refreshing and arranged with rich native ingredients and the freshness of the Himalayas. The local touch to it was palpable. We chose to sit outside baring the cold winds, but there was the warmth of emotions to make us comfortable. And also the bonfire that was soon lighted. The sound of the crackling fire, the aroma of food being cooked, and the crisp fresh air in the courtyard made our evening memorable.
And after we had our share of rest and meals, we headed to the dunes now gleaming like particles of rare jewels. And then and there we realized Hundar is a dazzling landscape with sand dunes, patches of vegetation, Shayok river flowing by, picturesque bare mountains, and clear skies. It cannot be compared to other places in Ladakh and has rightly been the fancy of many travelers, who just like me, get excited with the thought of sand dunes at such high altitudes. Locals have also backed on this growing traveler’s love for the Hunder sand dunes. They spotted the tourist potential and started organizing camel rides in the dunes, charging around INR 500 for a one-hour ride. We returned to our Airbnb for more warm conversations, before agreeing to amble through the village. Some fancy restaurants have also come up in the village, and seeing a board of ‘Jazz night’ we entered one of those, marveling at the thought of listening to Jazz at an altitude of 10,000 feet. Hundar was all surprise for us – a good base to cover Nubra valley, views of amazing landscapes that would stay with us for a long time, breath-taking views on the way, and a whole set of options of adventure sports like rafting and karting to discover. And to spice that all were some bountiful moments spent in Hundar in listening to jazz or taking a stroll through the lanes of the village in a star-studded night.