Our camp below Kanda La, Day 2 of trek
Greetings from Leh, again,
We have just returned from our trek and as we did not have the opportunity to lay it out for you before hand, here was our itinerary.
We departed Leh the morning of the 12th and drove just 40 minutes to the southwest to Spituk. There is a monestery there on a small mount and a common starting point for the Markha Valley 8 day trek. We got down from the Toyota Quallis and gave our heavy gear to load on the horses. Then we set off on foot on a prayer flag decorated suspension bridge across the Indus River, yes the same one that eventually flows through Pakistan! On the south side of the river it was a fairly flat walk through desert before turning up into the mountains away from the Indus Valley. We ate our box lunches, delivered by horse, while hiding from the sun under the tall bushes alongside the stream.
Our first camp was at Zingchen, a broad spot on the streambed. There were many groups of trekkers there. Camping sites are a business of a local farming family, their irrigation ditches were above, through, and below our sites. We had the first of our wonderful meals prepared by Marco, our cook for the trek. The stars dazzled us for a few moments before we bedded down in our Marmot tents.
Day 2: Up at 6 AM. "Ju-ley, Good Morning, tea?" A basin of warm water to wash up and then to breakfast. Breakfasts varied from or included chipati or parata flat bread, oatmeal, dry cereal and milk, boiled eggs, or thick crepes. That day we said goodbye to Helena as she was not feeling well enough for what was ahead of us and went back to Leh. Then with our box lunches in our daypacks it was up and more up, past Rombuck "The Snow Leopard Capital of the World" or so it said on the parachute roofed tea house. On past Uriche, a large house overlooking some fields perched on the mountainsides, where we had a conversation with some young women who spoke much better English than our Ladakhi. They were intrigued with Travis's braces. They had no need for them. On up to a camp at the base of Kanda La, which is the pass we were to climb over on day 3.
Day 3: "Ju-ley, Good Morning, tea?" The hearty breakfast was indeed needed as we inched our way up the switchbacks towards Kanda La. It was quite humbling to see our support team and those of other trekkers singing and whistling and herding their loaded horses, mules, or donkeys past us while we searched for the ever farther apart oxygen molecules. Yet, by 1130 we reached Kanda La, 4890m/16,137ft. What an accomplishment! Piles of rocks, many with prayers carved into them, and prayer flags fluttering. We did not stay long as we had a long though gentle walk down the other side toward the Markha Valley. We walked through infinite shades of earth tones, through ages or rock. We stopped at one trekking camp for tea or what ever. These parachute cafes are well stocked with tea, ramen noodle soup, bottled water, Coca-Cola, gum, chocolate, and knitted hats, gloves, and socks. They are a venture or a women's group. But this was not our camp, so out of the plastic chairs and on downward through the canyon to what seemed the bottom of the earth to Skyu and the Markha valley and our camp up along the Markha river. There we met some different trekking groups that would be with us for a few days, Belgians, French, British, Americans.
Day 4: "Ju-ley, Good Morning, tea?" It was a long day along the Markha River. Most of it was pretty flat, especially compared to Kanda La. We went past the Markha monestery but it was closed for renovation. There are many, many chorten or stupas, buddhist shrines, often in threes. We passed small and larger mani walls, rectangular collections of stones carved with prayers. Farms of barley and peas, and their irrigation ditches carved into the mountainsides sometimes running kilometers from where they diverted from the river. The farmhouses of mud blocks sometimes with ornate windows, sometimes not. Corrals of seabuckthorn branches on stone walls, sometimes of barbed wire, sometimes all of the above. We stopped at Markha, the campsite overlooked by a large ornate house. Another stunning night of stars. The British/US group told us after the trek we were all doing they were continuing on to climb Stok Kangri, the tallest mountain one can see from Leh, 6130m/20,229ft. Not for us, this time. The bells on the horses sound like wind chimes.