by Michael Rudd

A while back, I had the rare opportunity to drive to Ladakh with an expedition called the Isuzu Challenge Indian Himalayas. My journey started in Manali, Himachal Pradesh and ended some 560 km to the north in the Nubra Valley, reached only by driving over Khardong La (17,380 ft) in the Ladakh Range. This is one of the most amazingly beautiful places on the planet and is known as the “Land of High Passes.”

Ladakh is a region in the Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir that currently extends from the Kun Lun Mountain Range to the main Great Himalayas in the south and is inhabited by people of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan decent. It is one of the least inhabited regions in northern India and its  culture and history are closely related to that of Tibet. Historically, the region included the Baltistan valleys (now mostly in Pakistan), the entire upper Indus Valley, the remote Zanskar, Lahaul and Spiti to the south, much of Ngari including the Rudok region and Guge in the east, Aksai Chin in the northeast and the Nubra Valley to the north. Ladakh is renowned for its remote mountains,  unparalleled  beauty and  unique culture.

Rudd3_22_16_06Rudd3_22_16_08

Spectacularly jagged, arid mountains enfold this mystical, Buddhist ex-kingdom. We drove a hundred miles on a dirt track to visit and ancient gompa (Tibetan Buddhist monastery) where the organizers of the Israeli-based Isuzu Challenge had planned to install solar panels in a humanitarian effort to provide electricity to the impoverished area.

Rudd3_22_16_09

However, Ladakh’s remarkably well-balanced indigenous society has much to teach the West in terms of ecological awareness. While most Ladakhis are cash poor, traditional mud-brick homesteads are large, comfortable and self-sufficient in fuel and dairy products, organic vegetables, and barley. Such sustainability  is an incredible achievement given the short growing season and very limited crop producing land in this high-altitude desert where water supplies must be laboriously channeled from glacier melt mountain streams.

Rudd3_22_16_04

Rudd3_22_16_10Rudd3_22_16_12

Like the land itself, the people of Ladakh are generally quite different from those of the rest of India. The faces and physique of the Ladakhis and the clothes they wear are more akin to those of Tibet and Central Asia than India. They are said to be the most simple and cheerful in nature. As we drove over the Tibetan Plateau, through the villages and over the high mountain passes, the undeniable friendly spirit became the focus of my lens.

Rudd3_22_16_05

If you are looking for an overland adventure that encompasses breathtaking high altitude scenery and an unsurpassed cultural experience then pack your bags, gear up your four wheel drive vehicle or motorbike and head to the Indian Himalayas.

 

Loto005d

Loto005cLoto005a

Loto004d

Loto002dLoto003a

Loto003c Loto004a

Loto004bLoto002cLoto002b

Loto001b Rudd3_22_16_20 Loto001c Rudd3_22_16_18 Rudd3_22_16_19 Rudd3_22_16_17 Rudd3_22_16_16 Rudd3_22_16_15 Rudd3_22_16_13 Rudd3_22_16_14 Rudd3_22_16_03 Rudd3_22_16_02 Rudd3_22_16_01

 

Ladakh_locator_map.svg

 

 

Longitudes: Adventure Photographer Michael Rudd

Tagged:

About the Author: Michael Rudd

Michael Rudd is a photographer, writer, adventurer and explorer. His career as a photojournalist began in 1999 as the Features editor for Four-Wheeler Magazine. He quickly established a niche in the industry by covering off-road races, expeditions and adventures in some of the most remote places on earth. His exploits have taken him from the heights of Khardung La, a mountain pass in northern India at 17,582 feet to Ushuaia Tierra Del Fuego, the southernmost city in the world. Michael’s work has been published in Four-Wheeler, Truck Trends, 4x4 Asia, Hawaii and Nevada Magazines.