Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Camel walk

New to Nubra
Leh, Ladakh

Tomorrow morning at 5.30 AM, I board the J&K State Transport bus to Nubra Valley. I got Seat #2. This is extremely important. When riding any bus in India, but most especially a State bus (ie, cheap bus), you absolutely must get a seat in the forward section. Otherwise you are really not only in for nausea and discomfort, but possible danger. The taller you are, the more danger you are in....because when the bus hits bumps (which it does often), you will actually fly up in the air, off the seat, and bang your head against the luggage shelf above...then slam down onto the seat with spine-fracturing force. When I was in Bihar earlier this year, I heard no less than three separate reports of foreigners getting such injuries on local long-distance buses. I can think of much more interesting ways to fracture your spine.

The ticket for the 7-hour ride was 120Rs, or about $3.00 USD. (The cost for a return jeep to and from Nubra Valley is about 5000Rs, or $120 USD. I think I got a good deal. ) The ticket itself looks like a coat-check stub from a disreputable nightclub. The seat number 2 is scrawled on the back, so that no one can deny me my prime position.

There are two nondescript gray cinder-block buildings in the Old Bus Stand; one for LBOC (Ladakh Bus Operators' something) and one for the State-run buses, the Jammu & Kashmir State Transport Corporation. Both buildings are nearly empty, have schedules painted on the walls, and are manned by a lone guy sitting behind a formica desk. He wouldn't talk to me, though...I had to go to an office to confirm that I had the right place, that the bus actually did run Thursday morning, and that I really could buy a ticket right now (Tuesday afternoon). The only buses to Nubra run three times a week - Tuesdays to Diskit, Thursdays to Hunder, and Saturdays to Panamik (home of the hot springs). They all leave at 6am.

Big Valley
The Nubra Valley is a more temperate high desert than Leh Valley - home of apricot trees, hot springs and about 1000 shaggy Bactrian (two humped) camels which are actually left over from the days of the Silk Road. A two-humper can cary 4 times the load of a yak. The camels have been causing trouble lately raiding people's crops but the government is trying to encourage locals to start "camel safari" as a tourist attraction.

Nubra Valley requires a special permit, which only costs 120Rs but took most of the day today to achieve. The first two people were so busy telling me why they couldn't do it (too late in the day, not enough people to make the four-person quota, blah blah, etc) that they could have done it already in the time they spent complaining.

Finally I stumbled into a tiny office called Glacial Treks. Every town has someone like Mohammed from Glacial Treks. In Kathmandu, the guy is Bishnu at Youth Travel. This young man, who is very worth knowing, is not in a big, well-fursnished "professional" looking office. He is a young guy in a cubbyhole with nothing but a phone, and can-do spirit.

This guy will not waste my time telling me why he can't do it. He will figure out how to get it done as fast as possible before the Police office closes, and do it with a smile. Thank gods and gurus for the Mohammeds and Bishnus. I truly believe they are the future of India.

1 comment:

JAL said...


There is a website named
where people can book bus tickets online. You may want to mention it on your blog for the benefit of your readers.