Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Ladakh-Zanskar Trek: Day 1

Both Pooja and I had wanted to do a long trek in the Himalayas for a while. Pooja was more partial to the Uttarakhand area -- Valley of Flowers, Nanda Devi -- and I was more partial to Ladakh. It’s pretty rare that I can sway her but something about the Zanskar trek clicked and we picked that as our chosen path.

Having made all arrangements with someone we trusted (I had used his services in the past), we were pretty relaxed about the trip when we flew in to Delhi from San Francisco, and to Leh the next day.

Arrival in Leh

The first day was relaxing and yet a bit tiring. Neither of us suffered from any symptoms of altitude sickness, though both of us got tired from a short walk into the city from our hotel. We met Wanghuk Shali -- the agent who was arranging our entire trip -- and decided on the high level arrangements for the trip. We had done almost no research on the trek, so we trusted him completely. It was only on the fourth day that we realized our folly.

Since we were both feeling fine, we were to leave on the trek the next day itself. This way we could have another day on the trek -- so it was to be 9 days of hiking instead of 8. We were going to finish the trek in Padum, and a taxi was going to meet us there and take us to Kargil on the tenth day. After an overnight stay in Kargil, the taxi will take us to a houseboat in Srinagar. It all sounded perfect. We decided the menu -- vegetarian, eggs for breakfast, tea, normal stuff -- and we returned back to the hotel to sleep off the first day.

* Hotel: Noble House, close to the market in Leh. Recommended (good staff, safe, decent food, nice clean rooms).

From Zanskar Trek

Day 1: Leh, Lamayuru, Wan La, Tarchit

The first day started early -- as did every day from now onwards. We were to leave Leh in a taxi to Lamayuru by 8:30 and start trekking that day. We were packed and ready to leave by 8:15. Not surprisingly, our taxi and guides arrived at 9:30. Wangchuk Shali introduced us to the two people accompanying us on the trek -- Jitender and Utsal. We didn’t ask but based on my past experiences, I assumed that one was a cook and the other a guide who knew the route. Wangchuk Shali didn’t bother to go into this tiny little detail either. As it turned out, this was something we regretted not verifying.

The drive to Lamayuru was uneventful. I didn’t have a route map, and I had asked the people accompanying us to look for one. Somehow they didn’t look for it in Leh, claiming they will find it in Khaltse on the way. We didn’t. This became a common trend on the trip -- people will affirm the existence of facilities in villages that we could never find: guest houses, homestays, phone lines, bathrooms.

We stopped at Alchi gompa and made a short visit to the Lamayuru Gompa before heading out. The first day’s hike was pretty straightforward -- climb up to the pass (Wan La) and hike down to the village and camp. The only hitch was that we had started pretty late -- 3 P.M. -- and by the time we reached our campsite, it was pitch dark. Nevertheless, it was our first day on the hike, and both of us were pretty chill about it. We were (especially Pooja) also glad that the campsite had a functioning flush toilet and a bathroom.

A feeling of dread was beginning to dawn upon me though. As it turned out, neither of the two guys “guiding” us had ever been on this trek before. They did not know the way. The guy tended to the ponies knew the way -- but that didn’t seem reassuring

*Campsite: Tarchit. Recommended: nice location, next to a guest house, has bathroom, toilet that are kept clean by the owners. Carry your own toilet paper.

*Recommendation: You can skip the first day’s trek (which, IMHO, isn’t particularly interesting) and start directly from Fanjila. You save a day and a half’s hike, most of which is on a paved road. We met several people the next day who either were starting from Fanjila, or finishing in Fanjila.

*No cell reception (we carried a BSNL/Dolphin phone) once we left Lamayuru.


Anonymous said...

Hey V&P,

Nice travelogue...still reading thru them all...altho got around in a random order.

I just met a friend back at BLR who returned from a trek at Ladakh. We laughed over his rather funny incidents with scented TPs that seemed to have attracted the yaks :)


Vikas said...

:) That's a new one. I'll have to keep it in mind.

Chandresh said...

This is very nice place, there always would people want to visit for enjoy the movement because Ladakh Trekking Holiday is a movement with this you can focus on the pleasure with different person, they could be your family members, friends, colleagues and so on.