Trip and Trek in Ladakh in North India
We cannot wait to touch the ladakh and start our dreamed and planned journey. Finally the long awaited day has arrived. We leave for Ladakh, a dream that begins to come true. After the missed departure of last year due to the flood, the wait and excitement for this trip is really huge. In all these months we have fantasized about what awaits us.
The expectations are truly remarkable and we are sure that Ladakh and its people will not let us down. Surfing the internet and especially after seeing a movie we realized that Ladakh was our destination. Through the internet we found the local agency to which we leaned for the organization of not only trekking but all the excursions.
After the long journey, we finally land in New Delhi and we head to the boarding for the flight to Leh. The wait will be long. There are no seats. So we decide to spend time sitting on the floor, snobbing for what we can do, under the amused look of the numerous policemen stationed in the check-in room. At 6.00 we are ready to embark.
The flight leaves punctually and despite the tiredness we remain with the nose glued to the window waiting to see the mountains. And here we are satisfied. The show that appears is simply great with snowy peaks of the Himalayan range interspersed with large and arid valleys. Equally exciting is the landing. The plane goes down inside the valley, proceeds surrounded by high peaks and then slip into the valley where the city of Leh is located.
The track consists of a long tongue of asphalt, while the airport is a simple and small construction without any kind of service. At the exit we find, as planned, a correspondent of the agency. After leaving the suitcases at the hotel, we decide to begin our exploration of the city. How nice it is to immerse ourselves in the people and the traffic of this chaotic Leh!
We see the smiles of the locals and their proud look at seeing how many people from all over the world come to visit Ladakh. We thought that, given the great tourist influx of the summer months, Leh was a city a bit in step with the times. It seems to be still a few years ago. Obviously nothing is missing but, wandering the streets, we meet the women who wash clothes in the water channel along the way.
We see animals (donkeys and cows) that wander undisturbed through the city. It is however exciting to deal with a reality so different from ours. In the afternoon we visit the Leh Palace built by the Buddhist monarchs very similar to the Potala of Lhasa. We then head to the Tsemo Gompa, from which we can enjoy a spectacular view of the city, and then we head to Shanti Stupa.
And it is precisely in this last place that we witness the prayer of the Buddhist monks. We remain fascinated by their song interspersed with the sound of the drum that creates a particularly evocative atmosphere. Now we are in the evening, tired of the long day but happy to have begun to live our ladakh dream.
We leave for a tour entirely dedicated to the visit of the monasteries located in the area around Leh. After about two hours we deviate from the main road to reach the village of Likir and visit its monastery. The road climbs along a valley characterized by large barley crops. The landscape is truly amazing and when we arrive at the village we head immediately to the monastery.
The first prayer hall is really interesting. It houses the seating for the Dalai Lama and is very rich in decorations. We continue our visit up to the entrance of the museum where we meet a monk who greets us with a broad smile. But the best is yet to come. After visiting the museum full of objects, manuscripts and decorations, we enter another room.
Here we find a group of monks intent on creating a mandala, an image that for the Buddhist religion is an aid for meditation and for the achievement of self-awareness. We remain to observe the precision and the technique with which they are tracing the various elements. They use real compasses of various sizes.
I must say that the spirituality that reigns in these places is truly palpable even without completely understanding the meaning of everything we see. We are about to end the visit when we meet another monk intent on filling small metal vases with liquid. The meticulousness, patience and attention that this monk demonstrates is truly surprising.
These monasteries transmit a tranquility and serenity that make us stop and regain the ability to appreciate the little things with the beauty of simplicity! We resume our journey towards Lamayuru. The road in some places is really difficult. The landscape that accompanies us is extremely dry and on the way we cross villages where the world seems to have stopped a long time ago.
Finally we arrive at Lamayuru and immediately go to visit the monastery. Visiting the prayer hall we are pervaded by a sense of mystery or something similar. It is perhaps because we witness the prayer of a monk whose ritual is accompanied by the sound of bells and plates all executed with rigorous precision helping to create an extremely spiritual atmosphere.
After the visit we sit on some steps to relax for a moment when we notice the gluttonous look of a child to our cookies. The little monk tries to approach and when we offer our sweet here emerge from some alleys surrounding other children. After thanking us with a wonderful smile, the little monks start playing with each other.
The simplicity, smile and liveliness of these children is disarming. We remain to observe them for a while, exchanging smiles and a few words with them in a very simple and spontaneous way. The monks trace with a pencil the signs that will then be marked with a white line obtained with the use of a thread covered with a white powder.
The thread is placed in the desired position, well taut and with a simple pinch the sign of the mandala is left. We remain enchanted to observe the work of these monks, always available to give us a smile when they meet our eyes. This journey make us notice the great fortune that we have but this also generates sadness thinking of how we are increasingly losing the pleasure and taste of small things.
We witness the morning prayer. While not understanding the meaning of rituals, the spirituality of recited prayer permeates our soul. We promise ourselves, once at home, to try to know the principles at least a little that underlie Buddhism. It was surprising for us to see the religiosity of the people who, continuing to pray, travel the route around the monastery several times continuing to turn the prayer wheels.
We return to Leh stopping to visit the monks of Alchi and Bangse. After arriving in the city we take advantage of the time available for an exploratory tour that gives us an indescribable feeling when we are assailed by the joyful Juleh, Julay, a greeting coming from school buses full of children.
We leave for the Markha trek. After having met our guide, his helper and the pony man responsible for the transport of luggage, we depart for Chilling from where we will begin our journey. Along the way the landscape is fantastic, with a narrow valley where the river Zanskar tributary of the Indus flows.
Once in Chilling we notice that all ponies, essential carriers, are all on the opposite bank of the river. And here is the mystery revealed. The connection with the opposite bank is guaranteed by a metal basket in which people are loaded, which runs on a cable anchored on both sides. The basket is pulled manually by some men.
We begin our journey together with our guide but we console ourselves in thinking that we walk slowly because of the altitude. We pass through a village crossed by a channel of water used by the inhabitants as irrigation and as a source of running water.
The calm and serenity that emanates from this place is truly incredible. Even more strange is finding an active elementary school that guarantees basic education to the children of these villages. The trail continues gently uphill until we reach Skiu where our camp is located. We already find our things and the nephew of the guide, who is already assembling our tent.
After visiting the small monastery that overlooks this village, the moment of relaxation has arrived. It does not seem true to be able to sit in this beautiful valley to read our book in complete tranquility. We are convinced that we will spend wonderful days walking free from stress, free from confusion, together with people of great humanity and simplicity!
We cannot help but stop and observe the beauty that surrounds us surrounded by a wonderful feeling of freedom. It is as if our wings, kept closed for too long, suddenly opened up in all their majesty. Today we understand what the eagles try to fly where the wind takes them. Here we are like that, free to move in this valley where peace and brotherhood reign. We decide to move away from the field to explore the surrounding areas!
After a fairly quiet night we start the second stage of our trek. The path winds along the river inside a valley surrounded by spectacular mountains. The sky is crystal clear. Along the way we meet the tea tent organized by the locals where we can find something to drink and rest for a moment. It is obviously also a way to guarantee a small income for the local people, since their only source of income is the little they can earn during the summer months.
We buy water that is kept cool in a cellar consisting of a buried tunnel that is accessed with a trap door. We cannot waste too much time, so after a quarter of an hour we are on our way again. The heat is really suffocating but we are surrounded by a wonderful landscape. Therefore every moment is good to stop and recover a little breath.
Finally for lunch break we stop in a tent run by a family with a small baby. It is moving to see the serenity with which this girl washes clothes in the canal that runs close to the tent and takes care of her baby. After about 7 hours we arrive at the Marka village, surrounded by green fields of barley that give a sense of relaxation and tranquility.
Always driven by the curiosity to discover new places, we decide to go to visit the monastery, but halfway through the tiredness is felt. So we decide to return to the field and enjoy a little deserved relaxation. Tomorrow we have another 5 hours of walking to get to 4200m and so it is essential to recover the energies.
We leave Markha camp at 8.00 am and find two fords of the river with the usual difficulty of maintaining the balance due to the very impetuous current. We continue and after a short journey we see the small monastery of Tacha, built on the top of a rock, with a steep zig-zag path that leads from the base to the entrance of the monastery.
We look upwards to admire this wonder, when there comes a monk who quickly begins to descend along the path. It's just what it took to complete and make this postcard image even more real. Now the path goes up decidedly to reach a plateau where lies a village. We are seated to admire these expanses of barley, the only source of livelihood for the few inhabitants of the village who live there permanently throughout the year.
We realize that next to us there are some people talking in turn with a man sitting on a bench. Our guide explains that it is a doctor who goes through all the villages in the area to visit the inhabitants. And in fact we realize that he is giving some natural type of medicine to a man and then going to visit a child listening to his wrist.
We must say that seeing these difficult realities in person has really struck us. Yet people are always smiling not only with us tourists but especially when they talk with their neighbors and acquaintances. We perceive the link between them and that sense of community that we have surely lost. We stop to rest but also to pass the horses carrying our things that have reached us in the meantime and launch a glimpse of the series. The view of the field gives us the last push to get to our destination at 4200m.
The silence of the night is broken only by the sound of the torrent, that water that flows without ever stopping. In the morning we are ready again. Caressed and encouraged by a beautiful sun we start towards the last field along a path. The landscape illuminated by the first lights is absolutely unique.
Going up we have the surprise to see the edelweiss that are a rarity here but here are in groups. Continuing we have the pleasure to admire the majesty of the Kang Yatze (6400 m) with its impressive seracs, surrounded by an intense blue sky. We have never seen mountains of a thousand colors, with reddish streaks, with green and brown spots.
They are so fantastic that being here to admire them in all their majesty causes us a great emotion! After a short break we start again. The path becomes softer but the path is still tiring. In the distance we glimpse the path that tomorrow will take us to the Kongmaru La pass the highest point of the trek.
For now it is better not to think about it and continue until we get to spot our field located on a large plateau where flows in the middle of the river Markha. Approaching the field we meet a huge flock of goats and sheep. They belong to the people of the last village in the valley where we passed yesterday, which brings cattle to pasture. They stop here for the whole summer living in small brick and mud buildings.
During the afternoon a very cold wind rises. We hope it will end and that above all the temperature does not fall too much during the night. Even now it starts to get a little cold. At 6.00 am we have dinner with the usual noodles soup and momo but with a final surprise. Our guide made us a chocolate cake with our names written on it.
It was a really unexpected surprise that really excited us. It is not easy to describe in words the emotions that these people can transmit. With little gestures and above all with their wonderful smile they really open our hearts and make us understand that the important things of life are those linked to the simplicity and sincerity of the relationships between people. We must treasure these teachings and try to direct our lives towards these principles.
After a quite difficult night due to the intense cold and the bad weather, around 5.00 we open the tent and find that during the night it has snowed and has not stopped yet. At breakfast we inform ourselves on what our day will be like since we have to reach the pass at 5200m.
Our guide calms us by telling us that surely the path that leads to the pass and the subsequent descent are passable. At 9.00 we start! The path is immediately severe! The path paves slightly to then the last 200 meters that are missing under a heavy snowfall! The only sounds we hear are our breaths, our increasingly heavy steps and the tinkling of the horse bells.
Finally we are at 5200 meters! After a few minutes of rest we then go down for a long descent that will take us after 6 hours at the end of our trek through small canyons, fording streams, crossing small villages.
Once in Leh we go directly to the agency for the due thanks and to check the departure time for the Nubra Valley. As expected we leave for the visit to the monasteries. Our first stop is Hemis. From the main road there is a secondary one that goes up a narrow valley up to the monastery.
It is a really big building full of charm. There are numerous prayer rooms that we visit and explore even the most hidden corners meeting many monks in their daily lives. Part of the monastery is undergoing renovation. We note that it is the inhabitants of the village, including the women, who work for the restructuring.
This shows how strong is the sense of community and the spirituality that fills the lives of these people. After about 2 hours we head to Thiskey. After arriving at the village, the visit to the monastery is truly magnificent. It is one of the largest complex in all of Ladakh and we find that inside there are small shops, a school and even rooms where you can stay.
In the first prayer hall a statue of the Buddha was there. It is not only impressive for its dimensions but above all for its beauty and richness of details. But it is the second room we visit that gives us the greatest emotions. We meet a monk with two small monks, curious about our tripod and camera.
We approach them and after exchanging a few words, they agree to be photographed. They are so much entertained by the situation that with extreme spontaneity they lend themselves to being photographed like models. After the visit we head towards Shey. The visit to the monastery was not particularly interesting, perhaps because most of the structure is being renovated. We allow ourselves a great dinner in one of the many restaurants in the center and then we go in bed to recover all the energy.
We leave for the Nubra valley, crossing the Khardung La the highest motorable pass in the world at 5606 mt! For the first 20 km the road is in excellent condition but the day is unfortunately bad. It rains and the rain turns into snow transforming the surrounding landscape and making the climb more difficult. The last 10 km to get to the pass are absolutely terrible.
We seem to be in a boat in a stormy sea! When we meet cars in the opposite direction, we pray not to fall into the chasm. At the top we stop for a few photos and then continue on the long descent that will take us to the Nubra valley. On the way we see the tents of people involved in the repair of the road, and around a thick fog that puts sadness and desolation.
Once in the valley floor, along a good road, we head towards the Sumur monastery focusing only on the interior as the rain prevents us from carefully admiring the exterior of this great monastery. After the visit we continue to our campsite to deposit our things in the hope that time will allow us to take some exploratory walk.
In the morning we wake up and realize that the blue sky is making its way through the clouds with difficulty. We are happy and confident that the day will be great! We head towards the Diskit monastery, a complex perched on a rock as always, where in the lower part there are the small houses of the monks and in the higher part the prayer halls. It is a truly ancient and interesting monastery with a spectacular view of the Nubra valley.
We leave for our last excursion between Tso Moriri lake and Tso Kar lake. The road is very good, apart from a few tracts, and the truly unique landscape! After about 6 hours we arrive at the pass from where we can see the slightly salty Tso Moriri lake surrounded by wide grassy valleys at the foot of rounded but really high mountains.
After arriving at the camp, we decide to go to the village of Korzok located nearby. We visit the monastery and witness the prayer in the very crowded hall by the monks intent on constantly repeating their mantras, by the locals and by some rare tourists.
We decide not to disturb further and decide to go exploring the village even if it is very cold because of the strong wind! We climb a hill overlooking the village from which we can enjoy a wonderful view of the lake. There is a mirror of incredible blue water surrounded by beautiful mountains. The night was very difficult because of the strong wind and the bitter cold!
In the morning we head towards the Tsokar lake crossing the Tanglang pass. We arrive at the camp completely isolated in an uninhabited pasture from where we can admire the lake majestically surrounded by slightly whitened mountains.
In the evening we understand that this is the last marvel we see, being very close the day of departure for the long return home. We are struck by a bit of nostalgia, aware that we will be forced to abandon this country, these people, these landscapes, these emotions to get back to the hectic life of every day full of rules, constraints that make everything more complicated.
Of all the trips we have done this is certainly the most beautiful not only for the magnificent and impressive landscapes but especially for what people have transmitted to us. While for the first time in days our mind is immersed in these sad thoughts above us three beautiful birds of prey silently whirl by the wind and then move away from us with a quick wing strike emitting a verse that breaks this wonderful silence.
It looks like a greeting and a wish to come back! The idea of returning is already in our mind and in our heart. We want to relive these moments of absolute incredible serenity.