Khardung La is one of the highest passes in the world
By Garrett Palm
Oxygen deprived, I mistake the older, leather-clad German couple’s “Sprechen sie Deutsch?” as asking if I speak Dutch. I sing a happy birthday song in the wrong language, learned from my mother, which they greet with polite, confused laughter.
I take a photo of them in front of their motorcycles at the summit of Khardung La, one of the highest motor-road passes in the world, at 17,582 feet. Himank, the Ladakhi agency that maintains the roads in the Himalaya, claims it is the highest in the world at 18,380. Either way, I’m light-headed. I’m going over the pass to camp in the Nubra Valley with the students and teachers of SECMOL, an NGO I volunteer with. (A photo essay about my SECMOS stint in the Nubra Valley is online here.)
It is not far, but the drive takes all day since the pass is only open to one-way traffic, up thousands of feet of winding road. In the morning it’s open to those leaving the Nubra Valley. In the afternoon travelers leaving Leh can drive over. The view is amazing, especially if you hang out a window or the door, Indian style.
Garrett Palm is a photographer, writer, producer and improv actor currently living in Brooklyn, NY. You can follow his travels and photos at www.lifeisaslowharold.com and find out more about him at www.garrettpalm.com.