In October 2006, Gavin and I flew from Edinburgh to Ladakh for a high altitude trek in the Himalayas. We had about two weeks in total that we wanted to split between visiting local villages and monasteries, doing a trek of some description and finally hooking up with my parents and spending some much needed quality time relaxing.
We initially wanted to work on the logistics and pre-book everything from the UK but it turned out to be more challenging than we thought. Also we felt that the operators in the west who were offering trekking holidays in India were taking a fat cut in commission. So, in the end, we decided to hire a local guide and arrange everything when we arrived Leh. This, in retrospect, turned out to be a good decision as it allowed us some degree of flexibility in our itinerary. We did initial research using these books that I highly recommend: Trailblazer’s “Trekking in Ladakh” and Lonely Planet’s “Trekking in Indian Himalayas“. I also read Andrew Harvey’s excellent writing called “A Journey in Ladakh” for inspiration.
Our Jet Airways flight from Delhi to Leh is one of the most scenic flights I have ever been on. It was a perfectly clear morning and we could see the snow covered peaks of the Himalayas from the tiny windows of the cabin. We were received at the airport by the representative from “Oriental Hotel and Guesthouse” and taxied away to this lovely hotel with extremely friendly staff who helped us arrange monastery visits for the next two days. In this time, we managed to find an agent who booked us a guide and a cook to take us over the Stok Kangri pass. On the day we were meant to start trekking, Gavin came down with flu so we ended up cutting the trek short by two days and instead relaxed in the guesthouse’s garden under the lovely autumn sun.
The first day of our trek followed the Indus river through a rocky gorge past a few villages and teahouses. Our camping site for the first night was beside a stream on soft moss perfect for sleeping at an altitude of over 4000m. Our cook that night prepared a lavish five course meal that we still remember as the best meals we have had while camping.
The next morning, we started early after a quick breakfast of porridge. I suffered that day from altitude sickness but soon recuperated. The climb from our campsite to the Stok La pass was unrelenting. The terrain was extremely rocky and every step felt like an effort. But, at the same time, the views we got of the valley below were absolutely breathtaking. I regretted not bringing my walking poles as there were some bits where I needed support. After climbing over 1000m we reached the Stok La pass and got jaw droppingly gorgeous views all around. The rest of the day was spent climbing down to the next campsite. The terrain was very rocky and I was thankful for the thermarest I had recently purchased and can’t recommend enough. The next two days the walk was fairly undulating and we crossed many small settlements and farms. On the last night, the cook baked us a cake and a pizza (don’t ask me how) and we had a celebratory cheer.
That was our first and last visit to Ladakh and we have so many vivid memories of it. The local people are so warm and helpful and the Tibetan food is just delicious. I would recommend going to Ladakh to anyone who like quiet countryside or mountains or even has interest in Buddhism.
Here are some pictures: