Delicious trekking
:Leh (India) to Leh (India), Sep-09-07 / Sep-22-07
At six o’clock on the 9th of September, somebody is knocking on our door. Two large buckets of hot water are in front of the door of our hotel room. Hot water to wash ourselves for the last time in a warm and comfortable way, before we are going to trek through the mountains for 12 days.

Clean and excited we get into the jeep that will bring us to Shang, the starting point of our trek. (For details on the trekking and the route, see also the article "Trekking in Ladakh" and the corresponding photo impression). Sarfraas and Tansin also drive with us from Leh to Shang, while Sewong and his horses are already there. Sarfraas will be our guide and cook for the coming days and Tansin is his helper. Sewong is the owner of the four horses that will carry all things through the mountains.

Shang (+/- 3600 metre height) is the start and ending point of several trekking routes in Ladakh. Therefore, it is also in the last days of the trekking season busy with trekkers, horsemen and guides. Sewong is looking carefully at the gear that has to be transported, to balance the weight on the different horses. We agreed on forehand that all our gear would be packed in waterproof material and they assure us that the raffia bags are waterproof. As the clouds are already gathering above our heads, we will probably know if this is true later this day. While we and Sarfraas already start walking, Tansin and Sewong pack the horses. They will easily catch up later to prepare the camp.

A great breakfast to start the day with.
On the first day we walk in approximately 4.5 hours to Larsa (+/- 4700 metres of height). A great hike through a narrow, colourful valley. However, our legs let us feel that we haven’t been so active in the last couple of weeks. So, we are glad to see two tents on a beautiful camping spot at the end of our first day of hiking. When Tansin sees us coming, two folding stools are put next to a chest that is covered with a tablecloth. Tea and cookies are served, while it’s nice and warm in the afternoon sun. When we check our luggage on water damage it appears that the mild snow and rainfall has affected our backpacks. Hence, the raffia bags are more waterproof than we thought.

On 19.30 it is dinnertime. The sun has set behind the mountains, which makes it very cold in this time of the year. Therefore, we eat in the tent where Sarfraas, Sewong and Tansin eat, sleep and cook. Sarfraas appears to be a gifted cook. After all the bad food in Leh, this is a good way to get our apatite back. Because of the cold, there is only one very good option to spend the night. A good, long night sleep in our double sleeping bags. The trek has started very well.

The days that follow, all have a same pattern. On 6.45 we get up to warm up with a cup of tea. Before the sun rises behind the mountains, it is freezing cold. Washing our face with a small bucket of hot water is very nice but it is important to wipe dry quickly as the wind feels very cold on the wet face. Moreover, the drinking bottles are filled with boiled water to ensure that we have enough drinking water during the hike. Afterwards, its time to pack our bags and for a delicious breakfast. I already emphasised that Sarfraas is a good cook and it goes to far to name all the dishes that we got, but it is amazing to see what he can make on only two gas burners. For breakfast he makes different types of porridge, fresh parantha (kind of bread) but also complete cakes. Having a good breakfast to start the day isn’t difficult here.

A beautiful view from Charchan La (5355 metres).

Between 8.00 and 9.00 we start the walk. The landscape is beautiful and once in a while we see wild sheep, marmots, golden eagles and wild donkeys. The hikes take normally between 3.5 and 6 hours a day. Because we like to camp on places where not many other tourist stay, we sometimes change the duration of hike to end at a quit sleeping place. Also because we are here in the late season, we only have to share two out of eleven camping places. During the walk or when arriving at the camp we lunch out of well filled lunchboxes.

The first days of the trekking, we have a lot of snow. This gives a beautiful atmosphere but it is also very cold. However, usually we are lucky to arrive at the camp before the heavy snow begins. Only the third day we are unlucky. Unfortunately, not only we are wet but also our luggage. The raffia bags are getting holes because of the heavy force that must be used to lash the bags on the horses. Wet sleeping bags in these temperatures are not nice. Fortunately, new raffia bags can be arranged but once again we learn that trekking gear is best arranged by ourselves or we should check it thoroughly.

When we arrive at the camp after the hike, normally tea and cookies are awaiting for us. Then it is time to take a look in the surroundings of the campsite and to take care of the necessary hygiene. Not washing ourselves for one or two days is not so bad, but not washing ourselves for twelve days is quit long. Don’t get me wrong, the washing of us during this trek was not very thoroughly. Our hair is only washed once, because the cold water out of the mountain creeks and icy wind on our wet hair was no fun. However, some private parts have to be kept clean. So, when we finished our tea and cookies we tried to find a sheltered place to wash the necessary parts. Finding a sheltered place in one of the open valleys isn’t always easy, especially in the valleys inhabited by nomads. However, after some searching it usually is possible although we had to put aside some prudery.

Washing is most easy (and coldest) in a running mountain creek, but sometimes there is only the availability of still water in the middle of sight. Then we used our remaining drinking water behind a rock. Then you are standing there naked, while the other one offers friendly to poor some water over you. The other one is laughing silently when a breath of the icy wind is making the already cold water feel even colder. That laughing ends soon, namely when it is his turn to get a splash of water on his bum.

Therefore, it is understandable that we try to plan the washing on a sunny, windless moment. However, the weather was very unpredictable in the first days. On one moment we said to each other: “Let’s wash some underwear and socks, maybe it dries today”. Within 45 minutes the snow fell on our tent, so we could get our laundry inside snow-white and frozen.

Between 17.30 and 18.30 is usually time for dinner. Again I have to restrain myself not to mention every dish we had, but the pizza, the momo’s (Tibetan dumplings) and the chocolate cake as dessert will always be remembered by us. Between 19.00 and 20.00 the days comes to an end and its time to go into our warm sleeping bags. Love it!

It was simply great to trek through Ladakh for eleven days. On the twelfth day it is time to take the jeep back to Leh. Because we found walks of the last two days a little monotonous we think that the duration of this trek was long enough for us. However, we certainly would like to do a longer trekking in another part of the world. That’s a dream for the future, first we have another dream to fulfil. When arrived in Leh, we are first going to look for some buckets of hot water to wash ourselves again very thoroughly!


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