Shyok and Siachen are river and glacier respectively. The Shyok River, meaning “the river of death”, flows through northern Ladakh, all the way to Pakistan, spanning some 550 km in all. A tributary of the Indus River, it originates from the Rimo Glacier, one of the tongues of Siachen Glacier. The alignment of the Shyok River is particularly unusual since after originating from the Rimo glacier, it flows in a south-eastern direction, but after joining the Pangong range, it takes a north-western turn, flowing parallel to its previous path. The river then flows in a wide valley, referred to as the Shyok valley. A part of it branches into what is called the Nubra River, which forms the Nubra Valley. The Shyok continues through Turtuk and Tyakshi before crossing into Pakistan.
The Shyok valley, formed by this river, is home to Diskit and Hunder, two popular villages in the area. While Diskit is largely an administrative center known for its brilliant Diskit Gompa, Hunder is more tourist-friendly, with its wide expanse of sand dunes and goofy-looking Bacterian camels, offering a stunning, ethereal landscape to the weary travelers. It is also home to the lesser known Zumskhang Gompa and Chamba Gompa.
Up ahead lies Panamik, the last pit-stop on the road to Siachen. From here, the road continues up the entire length of the Nubra, ending where the river emerges from the Karakoram glaciers that feed it, including the Siachen glacier. Even further north-east is the disputed Askai Chin and the famously difficult Karakoram pass. However, it is impossible to traverse as an entry to tourists is prohibited.
Both Shyok and Siachen are exhilarating. However, for those daredevils who seek danger, the Siachen base camp is an ideal destination. It is the resting point before leading to the highest battleground in the world, the Siachen Glacier, where the Indian and Pakistani troops have often locked horns since 1984.
Located in the eastern Karakoram Range, it is a strategic point of crucial significance as it lies so close to the border. Moreover, since it lies to the immediate south of the great drainage divide that separates the Eurasian Plate from the Indian subcontinent, it is sometimes called the “Third Pole”. Aside from the Indian and Pakistani military presence, the glacier is underpopulated due its inhospitable climate and geography. While the nearest civilian settlement is the village of Warshi, 10 miles downstream from the Indian base camp, it is also extremely remote, with limited road connectivity.
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