Adventure Destinations - India

Markha Valley Trek Day One | Spectacular Start!

Written by Poorna & Brinda

“Markha Valley Trek?” asks Nowang, our driver even as he negotiates another bend in the road driving down from Khardungla. We are returning from the spectacular drive to Siachen base camp and it has been a long day.

“Yes, from tomorrow”

“It is a nice trek but tough. I had taken few guests before i started driving this Taxi”

He goes along and shares his experience which builds more excitement. When we return from Siachen base camp to our abode in Officers Mess in Nimmoo cantonment, it is 6 PM. The long drive is albeit tiring but spectacular. The boys at the mess are waiting for us and welcome us with a lovely cup of tea.

As we sip the tea, the phone rings. It is Stanzin, our guide for the trek.

“Sir, Be ready at 9.30 after Breakfast. We shall be driving to Chilling and then we start our Markha Valley trek”.

“Yes, We will be ready”.

A good dinner and we go to bed thinking about walking in the wilderness for next five days. Trekking in Ladakh. Going from 10,000 feet to 18,000 feet. Exciting indeed.

Next day, Stanzin arrives with his team dot at 9.30 AM. The TATA Sumo is packed with tents and other material. We have two more boys – Tashi, the Cook and his helper. Stanzin loads our duffle bags into the Sumo and we start our drive to Chilling.

Getting off from the Leh – Srinagar highway at sangam, we enter the road which runs parallel to Zanskar river. This is a short drive of 35 KMs. The road runs parallel to Zanksar which flows fast. It is narrow and at many places is not more than a jeep track. The Zanskar valley is a fascinating sight. The river has sculpted the stone, creating small gorges. We see many rafters on the river.

Markha Valley Trek

The Spectacular landscape along Zanskar river

Markha Velley Trek

The road runs along the fast flowing Zanskar….

Markha Valley trek

The bend in the river and the fantastic mud walls….

Markha Valley trek

As we drive along, we are greeted by this magnificent view of Zanskar valley

Markha Valley Trek

Rafters getting ready to tame the river!

Tshering, our driver manoeuvres the narrow road and bring us to the bridge short of Chilling. The bridge is the start point of our trek.

It is 11.30. The sun is up in the clear blue sky. We hardly see any clouds. Afternoons in Ladakh gets scorching and we happen to experience it. We get down and all the stuff from the car is brought down. Stanzin and his team have already fixed few mules to haul our luggage to the first stop of the trek – The Village Skiu on the banks of Markha river.

“Ladakh Trekking is tough but not difficult sir” says Stanzin briefing us in detail about our plan for next five days in Markha valley. A nice bloke who has Masters in Buddhist studies, Stanzin uses his spare time as a trek guide during season. A quick brief from Stazin, we start off. Hiking sticks in hand, rimmed hats covering the face, sunglasses protecting the eyes, we start our trek. The first kilometre is a moderate climb. Though we have been well acclimatised, we still feel the difficulty in walking at high altitudes. “Keep sipping water sir” was Stanzin’s golden rule and we religiously follow it. The barren mountains of myriad hues open up in front of us. On the one side we have Markha river flowing gently over the pebbles and on the other side are the spectacular mountains! We walk in between….

Join us as we trek along the Markha river….. (Please click the pictures to see them in Larger size)

Markha Valley Trek

Our duffel bags being sorted and being loaded on the mules

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Stanzin, our guide for the trek briefing us on the details of the trek

Markha Valley Trek

We are all set to go……

Markha Valley Trek

We shall be walking in the colourful mountains for the next five days…….

Markha Valley Trek

We start climbing gradually along the Markha river. The colours of the mountains are captivating.

Markha Valley Trek

This feature looked like a hood of a serpent!

Markha Valley Trek

We climb slowly in the afternoon sun leaving the river flowing deeper down in the valley. Notice the colours of mountains!

Markha Valley Trek

Mules following us …..

Markha Valley Trek

The river becomes visible as we descend

Markha Valley Trek

After three hours of walk, the first glimpse of some civilisation in the horizon. We are happy to see some houses

Markha Valley Trek

A bend in the river….

Markha Valley Trek

A lovely valley!

Markha Valley Trek

As move towards the place for lunch break….

Markha Valley Trek

Well earned lunch!

Markha Valley Trek

……the mountains look colourful….

Markha Valley Trek

……some unusual shapes too…..

Markha Valley Trek

We also savour the sweet and sour taste of Leh Berries or berries of Seabuck Thorn. These are small berries on a thorny bush.

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Markha Valley Trek

The route we would be taking the next day…..

Markha Valley trek

….and quiet flows Markha……..

Markha Valley trek

These white washed chortems in the village add a nice contrast toe colours of mountains…..

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Markha Valley trek

The evening sun lights up the mountains with shadows falling on the Gompa.

Markha Valley trek

Shadow play! The white tent is our dining hall.

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We finish day one. Albeit tired after walking in the sun close to five hours in Markha valley. A good lunch break, munching energy bars and drinking lots of water keep us in good spirits. We walk around the banks of the river and spend lovely time dipping our legs in the cold water of Markha. Our tents are pitched in an open area next to a house where Tashi and his team are cooking dinner for us.

Night is turning cooler. Stanzin comes to our tent and ask us to come over for dinner.We sit in the dining hall which is an open tent. Fortunately, it is not too windy. Tashi, our cook has cooked lovely Indian dinner. We start with hot soup and end with a dessert!

We retire into the tent and snuggle into the sleeping bag. Stanzin has asked us to be ready by 6.30 AM and start the next day after Breakfast at 7 AM.

It would be a long day tomorrow….

This is the first part of a series of five posts on our experience of trekking in Markha Valley in August 2014. Please stay tuned for the remaining posts.

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About the author

Poorna & Brinda

We are Brinda and Poorna from Bengaluru, the “Silicon city” or “Garden city” of India.

We travel together. We caught the travel bug 20 years back. On our honey moon, we traveled over the sea, in the train, by bus and in an aircraft! Our adventures probably started in that year. It continues, ever since.

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