Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ladakh - Zanskar Trek: Day 7

Day 7: Parfi La to Hanumil: Entering Zanskar valley

We were very excited about the seventh day: we were going to cross the Parfi La -- the last pass on the trek -- and we were going to enter the Zanskar valley.

As was usual now, we started early, ahead of our entourage. The climb started almost immediately to the Parfi La. Though not as a steep or long as the climb for Hanamu La the previous day, Parfi La felt more tiring. For one, Pooja’s diarrhea was back. We concluded that any time she eats something made of flour that is not fried or boiled, her stomach can’t handle it. Earlier it was the mo-mos and this time the pizza.

From Zanskar Trek

This day we met quite a few other hikers -- all headed in the direction opposite to us. One of the guys we met was doing the trek entirely by himself, and had done the trek a few times before too. He expressed surprise to see Indians on the trek -- he said he didn’t see enough Indians walking in the mountains. He of course wasn’t counting the staff that accompanies every hiker. And he was right -- invariably the people we met on the trek were not from India.

Crossing the Parfi La we entered the Zanskar valley. We were surprised to see a large river -- Zanskar is actually a much bigger river than we had thought. It was hard to imagine that this river freezes up in the winter and people trek on it.

Initially, the Zanskar valley was underwhelming -- probably because we had been walking through some amazing scenery the past 6 days, or because the long trek had tired our senses. We were expecting lush green valleys, but all we saw was more barren land. One difference, though, was that the valley was much wider and much more open. And we didn’t have any more passes to climb!

It took several hours of walking on a rocky path along the river to get to Hanumil: a relatively green village with 2 houses, 5 people and 3 “hotels.” One of the houses carried a big “Guest House” sign -- and that raised our hopes quite a bit. I could sense Pooja’s excitement as we walked towards the guest house.

From Zanskar Trek

“Look, it says ‘Guest House’ doesn’t it? Yes it does!”

“Hmm.. yeah, but is it open? It looks closed... Look there’s a drum blocking the entrance.” said I.

“Why won’t it be open? It says Guest House!”

“Look, it’s locked.”

“Let’s ask that guy. At least we can find out about a shower.”

As it turns out, the guy in question owned the guest house. He showed us the room, which looked pretty inviting. There was a slight problem though. When we asked him about the bathroom, he pointed to the river.

“I want to build a bathroom, and toilet and more things. But you can’t get plumbers and skilled people to come here.”

We spent yet another night in the tent.

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