Hunder is popular as the 'Land of Sand dunes' and these sand dunes are spread between Diskit and Hunder, around 2-3 km from the village. I was tired and dehydrated by then, so I made a stop at the only restaurant, just at the starting point of these famous sand dunes.
The verandah of the restaurant overlooks the sand dunes and brown mountains. Sitting there, sipping a glass of chilled coke after getting my feet sore from walking, was relieving.
A local guy owns the restaurant while a Nepali guy runs the place and even cooks. He was the sort of guy who could do anything just well. He cooked well and even weaves woolen mufflers during break time. He could talk non-stop about Goa, Delhi and other places. In such a desolate place where sometimes a day could be tough to pass without a visitor, it was a wise thing to keep some hobby.
The sand dunes of Nubra Valley seemed to have accumulated since years due to natural phenomenon. The Shyok River and many smaller streams drain the soil from the mountains down to the valley. The continuous erosion and silt carried down by the river might have been the most accurate explanation. Some choose to believe that a dried river bed could be the reason for it too. Today sand dunes of Hunder are the most popular destination in Nubra Valley. The famed but small surviving Bactrian camels are a legacy of the ancient trade road that dates back centuries. Ladakh was a stop over place for caravans from India to central Asia.
Fare for camel ride starts from Rs. 150 for a 15 minutes ride and goes up to Rs. 400 for an hour ride. It was pretty hot at daytime and not conducive for a ride. Most tourists flocked here for a camel ride at late noon and evening.
The sand dunes were beautiful and so were the sea buckthorn plants. The landscape was completely different from desert in Rajasthan. It was not dry and sparse as one would imagine but rather dotted with thick pine-like, thorny plant outgrowths.
I took a long walk on the sand dunes and at times it looked completely artificial as if someone had put sand only for amusement. The demarcation between the sand dunes and the grass covered mud was so contrasting and one could barely differentiate.
The sand dunes were a lot livelier than I initially thought. I saw a rabbit darting off from a bush. I was completely taken aback but then I had seen wild rabbits on the road while traversing from Leh to Nubra. The crystal clear stream that took a bend around the sand dunes had fishes swimming in it. At this altitude and such dry landscape, it was a pleasant surprise.
Towards late evening, the valley was windy and cold crept in. On the western horizon, the mountains were sparkling red. Wind carried the dust and the sky looked red from the dust, as if an explosion had taken place. Wind and water shapes the land more than we want to admit. But they do seem to control everything here.