Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ladakh - Zanskar Trek: Day 4

Day 4: Photoksar to Shinge La base camp close to Gajo (aka the Longest Day)

From Zanskar Trek

The next morning started early. Pooja woke up with a headache around 4 or 5 in the morning. We had taken medicine for altitude sickness the night before, and had been downing the garlic-ginger soup we had been recommended so heavily. Pooja bit off a power bar and took an Ibuprofen. The decision seemed obvious: we’ll head back to Leh, take a taxi to get to Srinagar and catch our flight back as we had originally planned. Both of us felt a bit disappointed but also a bit more assured.

Around 6:30, our guides came to check on us and confirm what we wanted to do: go forward or return. We told him we were going to head back. Once he left, we got talking. Pooja, miraculously, was feeling better: no headache, no nausea. I felt alright too. We decided to carry on forward. We weren’t too comfortable with the decision, but we both did want to do the trek. We also knew that moving forward meant we had to finish the trek: we were going to cross Shinge La -- the highest pass on the trek -- and it will be harder to come back than go forward.

It was also decided that one of the horses will be freed up for Pooja to ride.

We informed our entourage of our decision, packed, had a quick bite to eat and took off on ahead. The initial hike to a smaller pass even before Shinge La was hard -- Pooja got tired quickly. The horses were yet to catch up with us. In the meanwhile, Pooja started needing to go take a dump every hour or so. Now that she felt cured of the altitude sickness, she had diarrhea.

Eventually we had Pooja on a horse and we kept going towards Shinge La. That day’s hike was probably the prettiest hike of all the nine days The pass was nestled between two huge impressive peaks. It was a day that reminded me of Tintin in Tibet a lot. Except that it was supremely tiring.

I still didn’t have much of an appetite and couldn’t eat the lunch we had packed. After about 6 hours of hiking we realized that we were going forward beyond where other groups were stopping. While other groups stopped at the base camp and planned to cross Shinge La the following day, we were pressing forward. As our final climb neared, I too found myself breathing a little too hard too frequently.

Pooja and I switched for a little bit -- and I rode the horse for some part of the way while Pooja hiked. Eventually we made it to the top -- out of breath and exhausted. However the day was not yet over. It took another 3 hours of hiking to get to our camp site eventually. By the end of the ten hour hike, were were tired, pissed and hungry all at the same time. The first thing we told our guides when we reached the camp was that no way in hell were we hiking more than 5-6 hours the next day.

From Zanskar Trek

That night we had a stroke of luck. There were a couple of Polish hikers who we had met earlier in the day, who happened to show up at our camp that night. They were looking for some cooked food and our cook obliged. As we sat talking we learnt they had a guidebook. That night we borrowed their book and pored through it in detail. It turned out to be a great book: it had maps and had estimates for how long it will take us to hike between different points on the route. By the next morning we had a plan.


Divesh said...

this is getting quite interesting now :)

how about spicing it up the narrative a wee bit :D

Ranjeeta said...

I think it was pretty brave of both of you (specially Pooja) to continue with the hike. I am sure I would have gone back that day! (Well, I am sure I wouldn't have started a trek like this at all, is a different story :))

Pooja said...

Ranjeeta: one thing that scared me was the climb to turn back. we had no idea what lay ahead. i assumed that the passes ahead would be easier. :)

Foodie@Heart said...

"By next morning we had a plan."

now you are outright reeling us in. And we're loving it!