October 10, 2007


Backtracking along the river from Diskit to the divide in the road, we then traveled north to Panamik, which is the farthest village that can be visited on that side of the valley. It's the last destination travellers are permitted to travel to in the Nubra Valley. As mentioned in my last posting on Hundar, Panamik was the last village on this circuit in the days when the caravans used to take the Silk Route. Here they halted for a few days to make final preparations for the journeys across the mountains of the Karakoram.

The village on the way to Panamik

Panamik is famous for its hot water sulphur springs. We had to climb for a while to check out the source of the sulphur springs. I was quite taken aback to note that the water that flows from small springs in the mountains was steaming hot (probably almost at boiling point) and it was not possible to touch it at that spot. I had to walk down a few metres along the direction of the water flow and try the temperature along until I felt I could touch it without getting scalded.

The place of origin of the hot springs

Usually spring sources of water is not considered safe for drinking, however, it is is believed that the hot water from the springs in Panamik is non-toxic and safe, and hence potable. My personal opinion is that contamination of water at that height in the Himalayas is a remote possibility, so it should be safe for drinking. During my treks in other high altitude regions of Sikkim, I've quenched my thirst from running brooks of the Himalayas and have had no complaint whatsoever anytime in that regard. But for some reason I can't quite describe, I stopped myself from drinking water flowing out of these springs.

Steaming sulphur hot spring flows

I am not really sure what exactly I expected at that the Panamik springs, but the unimpressive moss growing wet areas did look messy to me with flowing water haphazardly everywhere. Probably I should not under-estimate the efficacy of the healing powers of the natural hot sulphur springs. It is supposed to cure skin diseases, stomach problems, and a number of other ailments. There was also an option to bathe from the water that collected in a container in a small shed where one could have a little privacy, if needed.

I felt healthy enough NOT to want to go for any therapeutic dip. I pulled off my sneakers and socks and soaked my feet. I also washed my hands and face in the warm flowing waters to cure myself of skin diseases I did NOT have. To me, the hot springs of Panamik was a bit of a disappointment.

The road leading to northern areas beyond Panamik

After the visit to the hot sulphur springs, we stopped by for some tea at a road side restaurant. I was told that this is the only one in miles of desert around us. I had some delicious black tea steeped with cinnamon (and have since tried it a few times upon returning home). I discreetly watched a couple of military personnel having maggi noodles in the same restaurant - discreet, in wanting to give them due respect to enjoy their meal/snack in privacy and peace. I felt unhappy for a while at the thought of the sacrifice these gentlemen have to make in carrying out their duty at that great height of the Himalayas. I was there out of choice, but they were there to fulfill their duties at that outpost.

It made me ponder on the pointlessness of conflicts and futility of war again.

Sumur Village

It was now time to head back to Leh. We passed by the Sumur village on the return journey. The village was delightful and we encountered traditionally clad villagers with their colourful clothing. The roads on certain areas were surrounded by tall hollyhock, willow and poplar. The flowering plants and trees, and vegetation in general in that area was a beautiful sight to behold and I was so absorbed in it that I forgot to shoot pictures on that part of the journey.

The lake on the way back from Panamik

After an hour's drive or so, our driver stopped by a vast expanse of desert with beautiful mountains around it. He asked us to trek up and check out what was beyond the mountains he pointed to us. We climbed up the mountain to discover a mountain lake nestled in the middle of the wilderness.

We met a few tourists from other parts of the world and started chatting with them. At one point, I chuckled to realize that our charming discussion group at that Himalayan lake consisted of a Hindu, a Christian, two Muslim gentlemen and a Jewish tourist couple, not to mention our Buddhist driver who was close by. I recall quite well that I was not feeling guilty of dispersing the group by stating that we had a long journey back to Leh to look forward to (which was a fact, of course). I had to cut short the discussions after a certain time as the topics changed to sensitive issues of Kashmir and Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I've had enough of such discussions in this part of the world already and was not willing to waste more time participating in such pointless discussions in the beautiful Himalayas.

View of mountains near Panamik

The rest of the journey back to Leh via Khalsar and Khardung-La was uneventful and spent mostly in singing songs and happily clicking pictures at every available opportunity.


Priyank said...

You did the right thing, one must be careful of sulfur springs. Never know when the sulfur content soars to risk levels. Drinking is strictly not advisable anyway (that was the chemical engineer in me talking)

Man, I need to make that cinamon laden black tea :) btw, did you try tea with Yak milk??

Lovely pics, as usual.

indicaspecies said...

priyank: Thank you for your advice, and am glad you liked the pictures.

Yes, I've had normal tea with Yak milk many times. Moreover, I've had Tibetian Tea with butter and salt, and also salty pink colour Himalayan Tea with Yak milk.

Hope you enjoy your cinnamon tea. :)

Keshi said...

wow wut alot of info abt places i hv never been to. ty Indica and lovely pics too!


Trée said...

Celine, I feel transported to another place and time on your blog. Your pics make me long for the cool fresh air of the mountains.

AJEYA RAO said...

While reading your post I recalled my hike up the Pikes Peak mountin in Colorado-USA. We ran out of water at one point and had to collect the water (Melting ice) flowing down. We were asked not to do so but something is better than nothing. Thankfully we had some iodine tablets which where used to console ourselves that the water would be purified. But frankly at that moment anything is better than dying of thurst. :-)

Excellent write up, while reading it it i felt like as though i am on the tour myself.

Also I liked your thought on not wanting to waste time discussing politics in midst the wonderful view. I am sure such great magnificent structures of nature makes every other worry take back stage.

indicaspecies said...

keshi: Thank you. :)

indicaspecies said...

trée: I am glad you felt that way.

How about making a trip to the mountains and actually feeling the 'cool fresh air of the mountains?'

I could give you a choice of joining my group during my next trip to the Himalayas..what say? :)

indicaspecies said...

ajeya rao: While reading you here, I recalled my chat with an acquaintance online who recounted to me how their group (travellers from Mumbai) on a long bus journey were stuck for hours because of a mountain road blocked in the wilderness in Kargil (or some Ladakh - can't recall all details now) and they did just the same, i.e., drank from melted ice/snow to quench their thirst.

Your experience at Pikes Peak is as fascinating and of course you did just what is called for in such circumstances. Survival is top priority in dire straits.

Thank you for your encouraging words. I am glad I was able to take you on that virtual tour. :)

Pijush said...

Waoww, Again some nice shots, amazing landscape and I think you are right to taste the water there :-)

indicaspecies said...

pijush: Thank you Pijush. I drank from the brooks in Sikkim but not from the springs of Panamik. :)

GMG said...

Celine, I'm speechless...
Actually, I always thought Himalayas would be something fantastic, but usually you only see the nose of people with sunglasses taking pictures amidst the mist on the top of a mountain. Your coverage is absolutely stunning and shows the whole beauty of the place (your picture with the yellow parka fits also delightfully in...).
My only discomfort is that you’re now posting at such a speed that I’ll need the whole weekend to enjoy your last posts. ;)) Anyhow, I love them!
Much closer to sea level, I’m still posting on Rhineland at Blogtrotter. Enjoy, and have a great weekend.

indicaspecies said...

gmg: Gil, thank you very much for the good wishes and your compliments. Your encouraging words are much appreciated.

I enjoyed your post on Vallendar Rhineland and found a lovely set of pictures there. Thanks. :)

Anonymous said...

hehehe maggie noodle & soldier,
what a great shot lol
i also feel sorry for them!

indicaspecies said...

niki yokota: Thanks Niki-chan. :)

Merisi said...

Fascinationg travel experience, thank you for taking the time to share it with us.

The story of the soldiers eating Maggi soup touched me. Did you know that about 150 years ago there was a Swiss entrepreneur named Maggi (son of an Italian immigrant and a Swiss mother) who, following the counsel of a nutritionist, developed a way to produce soup powder with a legume base, to enhance the protein intake of the working poor, who suffered poor health because of malnutrition. The soup mix had the advantage of being cheap and could also be prepared in a few minutes, which was important, since the workers had only short breaks for lunch. There's much more to the story of Maggi-Soup and its inventor, not least also the liquid seasoning that followed it and is produced to this day. I could not resist mentioning it, seeing how far that brand has travelled, in time and in place.

indicaspecies said...

The pleasure is mine and I am glad that you enjoyed it. :)

Thank you for sharing that interesting story of Maggi. I salute Maggi, the enterpreneur for his great invention, and especially so having learned now that he did this for the welfare of the poor.

And yes, the 150 year old brand has travelled far and wide, right up to the remote areas of the Himalayas. :)