Thursday, October 16, 2008

On the Markha Valley Trail: Sun burns and a Snow Storm

Day 6: Thachungtse to Kongmaru La Base camp

Being prepared (aaah – I refer to the mental make-up here) can make all the difference to a difficult day and it did to yesterday. The stretch from Thachungtse to Kongmaru La base camp (the base camp comes after crossing the pass at 5200 meters) could have easily contended with day 2 for the ‘most toughest day’ spot. Not that it didn’t. But the going was made easier simply because we knew what lay ahead. And we prodded along slowly but steadily to that end.

The actual stop on this stretch is usually at Nimaling – a meadowland half way before the pass. But instead our guide thought we should take the pass the same day to make out last day easier. I was frustrated. Out in the middle of nowhere I had nothing but my guide’s word to make an informed decision. I know I make it sound like a life and death decision – but it was an important decision. Anyway, we had a horse with us again – so we decided to cross the pass.

Nimaling was pretty – a green clearing cradled in the valley, but not spectacular. But it is also one of the coldest spots on the entire trail. An Indian trekker we met on the route mentioned that if it rained in Leh for two days together, Nimaling would see snow. And our luck (or lack of it), we got to see some as well.

What was spectacular was the view of Kang Yatse which crept in behind us as we hiked the pass. We were huffing and puffing our way up from Nimaling, took a break at the flat land that breaks the climb, to turn around and see the KangYatse towering over us, as if it had sneaked behind to shout boo-hoo! It was a breathtaking moment. Once on the pass, we were greeted with a welcoming snowfall. Though it hurt and felt a bit like ice rather than snow. None of us were dressed appropriately (talk about lack of etiquettes :)) – but it was a downhill climb and we somehow made it to the base.

The smokin mokin Kang Yatse

We were the only ones in the camp and I loved it for that. It rained endlessly through the night and today when we woke up, we could see the mountain tops that we had passed by yesterday covered with snow – not capped but like the sprinkling of icing sugar on a cake. We were happy that that part was behind us.

The team at Kongmaru La as we set off for our last day trek to Shamsumdo

Day 7: Kongmaru La base to Shamsumgdo

We just finished dinner and admired the clear night sky for the last time. For the last time, M and I laid out our tent, aired our sleeping bags. It is hard to believe that five days ago I was doubting our chances at finishing the trail. And here we are, in the end. I am happy we did it, sad it is over.

Our last day of setting the tent ritual

Today’s landscape was one of the prettiest – an interplay of pinkish rust and green throughout. A change from the barren browns of the initial days and the greens of the small villages we crossed. These mountains are fascinting. And walking through the heart of this ranges for the last 7 days, an experience. And each day has been different. In some places, they have the gnarled appearance of an old man's hands - all wrinkled and veins popping out. Sometimes, they are sharply cut with a metallic sheen, as if shaped by a diamond-cutter. Sometimes, they are smooth slopes of small infinite pieces of gravel creating varying hues as if from a painter's brush. Some have the look of clay, all ready to curmble to the lightest of touch.

Me on the pink and green trail

I worry that I may not remember every single sight of the last few days. Already, the scenes are overlapping from their compartmentalized days they are supposed to neatly fall into. But as long as I can bring back some, if not all of the images, call upon some breathtaking moments and of course, incredible maggis......

And of course, there will always be the photos! :)


Anonymous said...

Kang Yatse looks pretty close.

Were the river crossings hard?

Ms.N said...

it was taken on a bit of zoom, but yes, even on the trail, it was pretty darn close.

I wouldnt call the crossings hard - just painful. we had to do them barefoot. the cobination of fast cold water and sharp stones can sting a bit!

Ravi Kumar said...

I m green green. It looks heavenly.