Thursday, October 09, 2008

On the Markha Valley Trail: A Pass and Some Plains

Day 3: Over the Ganda La Pass to Skiu via Shingo

I want to say we woke up after a log like sleep after a long day, but sadly was not the case. I kept tossing around and waking up breathless to find my heart racing like mad. Deep breathing brought no results. I was sure I had AMS. My other friend had breathlessness and headache and the other friend didn’t sleep at all.

The campsite at Ganda La base

So we were the Bright Brady Bunch next day morning! However, we had learnt something the previous day and slowed our pace to match our breathing. And tackling the pass first thing in the day was a plus. M was on a horse and we were all ok. After the pass was a whole day of descent – I don’t think we relished any other stretch as we did this one.

Nestling a cup of tea and a bowl of maggi at Shingo, we relished the cross over of the pass. And also had one of the most interesting conversations in the trail with a frenchman. He was solo trekking with no guide or horses and living of t-stalls and the homestays, all through the trail. I was very impressed. He talked about he saw the Taj from afar to avoid the “tourists” (:), his trip to Pangong by bus and how Leh was too hippy. The last bit came as a surprise, as we may have mistaken him off as one (interesting to realize that so far, my definition of hippy was a foriegner dressed in hare rama kind of clothes!). He also chatted about the nuke deal and surrounding drama and the Jammu problem. I was surprised by how much he was tuned into the going-ons in India. Philosophy prof, we ended our chat by wondering if 2 months vacations were good for kids or not.

Evening was interesting – the entrance to Skiu was like a scene out of Indiana Jones (and the Last Crusader – the only one I have seen), a shower in a solar shower which was of course not working and a night under the most star-dusty skies I have ever seen...

Ibex heads welcoming us as into Shingo

Day 4: Skiu to Markha

Finally! A night of solid sleep and none of the breathlessness. We have been hitting the sleeping bags by 9 and waking up by 6.30. A schedule I haven’t seen in ages. I am lovin' it.

Today’s route was to be on flat plains. We were looking forward to that. Barely 20 minutes after beginning – we ran into an old woman – a really old wrinkled woman. Our guide who dedicatedly greets every passing by guide, fellow Ladakhi or tea-stall owner chatted up with her. We learned that she was going to Markha from Skiu – our “trek” for the day. She had this frayed, old, teeny weeny backpack – the one which teenagers carry around for carrying absolutely nothing. She was on her way to either get her knees checked or get her spects fixed (that was lost in translation). But she was going to wobbly walk her way to it.

I was amazed, amazed at the way of life in this unconnected region. I wonder what life would have been to grow up in a place like this, to have grown up with weekends spend rambling in mountains and wilderness. Like Heidi. Like Gerald Durrell. Like our guide here.

Canyon like rock faces on the way to Markha

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