“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.
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)
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….