Although we try to follow the itinerary below but it is only a guideline. At times local trail, river or weather conditions may make a deviation necessary; rivers may be impassible, snow blocks passes, and landslides wipe out trails. The trekking itinerary and campsites may also vary slightly depending on the group's acclimatization rate or sickness.
The Himalaya are our passion, and we take trekking seriously. Although everyone is here on vacation, please come with a dollop of patience and compassion added to your sense of adventure ...
Day 1 - Meet in Leh 3500m
Welcome to Leh, the capital of predominantly Buddhist Ladakh, in Jammu and Kashmir, tucked away amidst the Ladakh mountains, part of the great Trans Himalayan range. If you arrive by air you'll feel the big jump in altitude and it will take your body a few days to adjust. If you arrive by road from Manali or Srinagar you'll have had some extra acclimatization en route, but will still need time to adjust to the 3500 meter altitude. Hydrate with plenty of water, stay away from beer for a few days, rest and don't over-exert yourself. Even walking up the stairs of the guest house, let alone the Leh Fort, will make you breathless for the first day or two. Diamox is a good way to help your body acclimatize naturally; Kim will discuss.
We stay at the family-run Shaynam Hotel, more of a family-run guest house with a lovely garden in the center courtyard, located just a few minutes south of the Main Bazaar in old Leh town. Your rooms will be booked for you, you'll just need to advise Kim of your arrival time, whether by air or by road. Once everyone has arrived and checked into rooms, Kim will show you around town: the bakeries, cafes, tandoori restaurants, email cafes, banks and wonderful markets. We'll meet for dinner in the evening at the Ibex or Summer Harvest, a few of our favorite restaurants.
Days 2, 3 - Leh
We've scheduled two free days in Leh to acclimatize and to enjoy the peaceful, willow-lined streets and bustling bazaar life of Singge Namgyal's 17th century capital of Ladakh, once an integral part of Western Tibet and a major trading post along the southern Silk Route. There is lots to explore in this wonderful Central Asian town; the newly-restored ruins of the 17th century Leh Palace, the ancient 16th century Leh Fort and the attached Namgyal Tsemo Gompa, other historic Tibetan Buddhist gompas, the Sunni Muslim mosques, narrow back alleys with steaming Muslim bread, tiny antique shops tucked away amidst the many ancient stupas and architectural remnants, the exotic Main Bazaar (c. 1840s) which once accommodated trade caravans, and even a polo field. Caravans of merchants from far-flung destinations such as Yarkand, Tibet, Kashgar and North India passed through Leh during ancient trade missions, trading salt, wool, Pashmina, tea and semi-precious stones, lending to the city its exotic allure. Pilgrims flocked to the monasteries of Leh and the Indus valley, explorers of old stopped in Leh to re-stock and weather out the harsh Himalayan winter and soldiers en route to plunder and conquer desirous destinations passed through Leh, all leaving their mark on this unique capital.
Kim will take you for a walk up the bustling Fort Road, lined with shops owned by Kashmiri, Tibetan and Kashmiri shop-keepers, to 15th century Leh Fort and the red, MaitreiyaTsemo Gompa, perched high on a craggy and crumbling hilltop overlooking the bazaars of old Leh. You can stop at 16th century nine-story Leh Palace, of a similar architectural design to the Tibetan Potala Palace, on the way down if you have the energy. Visit the museum, a worthwhile endeavor, as well as the nearby gompas (Tibetan Buddhist monasteries) - Soma Gompa, Chamba Lakhang and Chensrig Lakhang. There is a great cultural show around sunset at Soma Gompa.
We might wander the willow-lines streets of Changspa to reach the many steps leading to the Japanese-built Shanti Stupa for a view over the green fields and white-washed Ladakhi houses of the villages surrounding Leh. The precariously perched Leh Fort guards the eastern edges of the fertile valley. Sankar Gompa (17th - 18th century), reached through shady lanes to the east of Changspa, lies in the midst of Chubi's groves of poplar and willow and is another wonderful morning or afternoon walk. The back route to Leh Fort starts in Chubi and passes through a desert-like Buddhist cremation ground before climbing to the fortress.
OPTIONAL GOMPA-TRIP: Arrange (through Kim, our Tibetan jeep-driver Wang Chuk or the Shaynam Hotel) a 'jeep safari' through the fertile Indus Valley to visit a few of the living Tibetan Buddhist gompas, the crumbling ruins of ancient fortresses and palaces and the traditional villages that dot the banks of the region, the 'cradle of civilization' of much of the ancient world. Kim can help arrange jeeps and/or a guide for a day's excursion.
To the East: Shey, Thikse, Hemis, Chemde, Thagthok, Stakna, Matho & Stok.
To the West: Spiyok, Phyang, Basgo, Likir, Alchi, Rizdong & Lamayuru.
OPTIONAL RAFTING-TRIP: You can arrange a day rafting trip on the Indus (easier) or the Zanskar River, approximately $25-$30.
Day 4 - Drive Mahe Gompa 4000m
-morning we’ll jump into our jeeps and head for the start of the trek at our acclimatization destination, the green fields below Mahe Gompa. We following the Leh Srinagar highway east, past the ancient, 14th century Spitok Gompa, spectacularly perched on a craggy hillock above the cultivated fields of Spitok village. We continue past the old palace and gompa at Shey, surrounded by hundreds of whitewashed chortens, and continue past more chortens built by the kings of Ladakh towards colorful Thikse Gompa, with a large monastic community, on the left. The renown Hemis Gompa is built high up on a hillside to our right, across the Indus.
Soon after the turnoff to Manali, we continue along the Indus highway and camp near Mahe Gompa for the night. We'll have chai waiting, introduce you to our Kamzang dining tent and your personal Marmot Thor tents, visit the monastery and go for a wander through the village ...
Day 5 - Drive Tsomoriri Lake. Trek Tsomoriri East Lake Camp 4550m
Another few hours of scenic driving as we head south at Mahe bridge, cross an 4800 meter pass with views down to our first salt-lake, Thadsang Karu Kyagar Tso, and continue along the small road towards lake Tsomoriri. Once at the protected wetlands section at the top of the lake we take the eastern route heading south along the bank of the lake, passing through the nomadic settlement of Peldo. Views are sublime, especially in the morning when the lake is mirror-like, an incredible shade of dark turquoise. The valleys to the east lead towards the snow peaks of Chamser Kangri (6600m) and Lungser Kangri (6650m). When we reach the the turn-off heading further east to Chumur along the Umlung River (restricted for foreigners, sadly) we'll leave our jeeps and hike south for a few hours. The trail is often right on the banks of the lake, and at other times undulates up and down promontories. We'll camp somewhere along the shores of the lake ...
Day 6 - Trek Dungri 4530m
Another lake day, a short hike to our idyllic camp at Dungri, a nomadic settlement of the Korzok-pa (people) which is situated on the lake, just above and to the east of the flood-plains to the south. Kiang run wild, and will be by to check out our horses and campsite. After lunch we'll have time to hike up the hills that back our campsite, towards the Norbu La (4970m), towards Chumur. Views down on camp and the lake from even a little bit up these hills are wonderful ...
Day 7 - Trek Kyangdom Lake Camp 4530m
We have a short trek along the southern shores of the lake, or more precisely through the stony flood-planes, to one of Ladakh's most perfect settings at the end of Tsomoriri Lake, with the Himalayas in the background and the lake just in front of us. A little piece of paradise, home to groups of Ladakhi (Korzok-pa) nomads for a few months of the summer. Kyangdom, which translates as 'realm of the Kyang' (Kyang means roam in Ladakhi), actually does harbor many Kyang in the southern delta. They often stand still and shimmering in the morning sun, seeming an illusion from a far away desert land ...
There is time to explore in the afternoon; watch the migratory bar-necked geese and ruddy shellducks, spot the cormorants and black-headed gulls, photograph the still lake glimmering in the late afternoon sun, set up your camp chair in the sun and watch the world of the nomads go by. The Korzok-pa nomads often camp just across the streams from camp, and an excursion to one of their tents to buy some 'tsampa' (barley flour), 'yos' (half-popped barley) or 'chang' (barley beer) is a step back into time. At the end of the afternoon, the sheep, Pashmina goats and yaks return to the nomad camps, herded by wild-looking nomads on horseback, and later the sunset turns the lake and northern hills shades of pink and orange. The Himalayan peaks in back of camp are breathtaking.
Climb up the hill to the west of camp to look down from the lake from this angle, or splash up the flood plains and take a right into the magical valley to the west of the lake (our usual route to the lake) with sandals ...
Day 8 - Trek Korzok Phu 4640m
We'll leave camp early as we have a very long, hot trek along the eastern edge of Lake Tsomoriri to our camp at Korzok Phu in front of us, a hike which will take us a good eight (+) hours. Water is scarce, so bring plenty with you. It's a wonderful day of walking through a unique Himalayan landscape, the high salt lakes of the Changthang, so enjoy the walk.
We pass the remnants of nomadic settlements just to the west of us as we leave camp, jumping the rivulets as we head to the western bank of the lake (you'll need your sandals or to go barefoot leaving camp). As we walk, contouring around the many circular bays that line the lake, notice the smooth, flat rocks reflecting in the river, watch the geese as they float on the lake with their young and gaze up and over the hills to the east. After nearly three hours of hiking we pass a small mani wall and climb quite steeply through a granite bounder-strewn hillside for dramatic views up and down the lake. The clouds and snow-peaks to the west are mirrored in the lake, and sandy beaches line much of the lake on both sides. From here, more lake walking past rounded, granite rocks on the bank of the lake, jumping two glacial run-off streams which emerge from green valleys (this may be our new camp). If we haven't had lunch yet we'll stop by one of these small streams. Have a jump into the clear lake to cool down!
Continuing past a section of many long mani walls, we pass an incredibly reflective section of the lakeside, bordered with flat multi-hued slate and mica. Don't miss a photo of the snow-peaks to the east reflected in the calm lake with the rocks in front ....
We'll pass more mani walls and a section of small cliffs with offerings of white rocks and make one last climb up 'Korzok Hill' (4590m) to the small pass which affords us magnificent views of Korzok Gompa, recently renovated, the lake, the mountains and the surrounding village and green barley fields. A further half an hour on the dusty road brings us to Korzok (4550m) , a popular camping spot as the road along the Indus River from Leh reaches here. We'll have a cup of tea at a parachute tent, stock-up on beer and supplies for later and then continue on to our campsite forty-five minutes to the west. This last bit of the day is lovely, following a well-used trail and a meandering stream on the right of the valley, jumping from one dry green tussock to another, to reach our camp in the midst of the nomadic tents.
Day 9 - Korzok Phu
We love this spot so much that we'll stay a day to enjoy the bustling, colorful nomadic settlement. Nomadic boys cruise by on their donkeys if they're not in school, children and local Ladakhi nomads stop by camp to watch the happenings, donkeys roam the green campsite, and the hundreds of sheep and goats are herded back to their paddocks in the evening. Kim will lead the shopping expedition to several nomad tents in search of yak-hair blankets, yogurt and a cup of salt butter tea ...
OPTIONS: We can walk into Korzok, one of the highest villages in the world, in the morning to visit the 300-year-old Korzok Gompa. There are often 'mani' pujas happening when we're in Korzok, so if we're lucky we'll have a chance to sit in on all the villagers and nomads counting their prayer beads in this ancient gompa. In the afternoon, take a walk up the eastern hilltop for another great view of the lake, do some washing in the clear river or relax at the grassy campsite with a book and your camp chair.
Day 10 - Trek Sherma 5160m (over Yalung Nyau La 5450 m)
We leave early for the steep climb up to the 5450 meter Yalung Nyau La. It will take us about an hour of walking along the plateau to reach the approach to the pass to the left, and then three more hours of strenuous climbing to crest the prayer-flag festooned Yalung Nyau La. The weather can be changeable, so be ready for anything. The views back down to Tsomoriri are wonderful, and to the south of the pass are the Mentok (flower in Ladakhi) Peaks and a valley leading to Zozogong.
The descent is beautiful, past grazing areas and through grassy, narrow valleys and a slate-slab river which we'll need to jump a few times. We stop for lunch on a grassy knoll next to the river, kick off our shoes, and enjoy a deserved rest! We continue past hillsides where the nomads graze their giant flocks of sheep and goats through the small nomadic settlement of Gyama and then another nomadic camp called Sherma, crossing a river in between (you can wade without shoes if you don't feel like carrying your sandals over the pass). We'll set up camp near Sherma and enjoy the rest of the afternoon either visiting the Tibetan nomads in their cozy tents, taking photos with the wide, blue skies ...
Day 11 - Trek Rajung Karu 4870m (over Kartse La 5410m & Kyamayuri La 5430m)
A truly beautiful 'Changthang' day, starting with one more river crossing, usually jump-able, just past the nomad tents at Sherma. We head up and over the (relatively, as we're already so high) small pass ahead of us, the Kartse La (5410 meters) and then contour down the hillside to the clear river and green valley below and to another nomadic settlement called Changma, the highest yet at 5210 meters. This valley is pure Tibet; open, grassy plateaus, wild, amazing views, big sky and nomads on horseback herding their sheep.
We have another two hours of trekking up the wide open 'Tibetan' plateau, with marmots and pikas popping their heads out of their holes to see who is passing, walking through herd of wild-looking yaks and dri (female yaks) with their young frolicking by their sides. The high route back to the valley we took to Tsomoriri via the Gyama La is visible at the upper left side of the valley. We follow a winding, crystal clear stream for most of the way up to the pass, and eventually veer to the right to ascend the Kyamayuri La (5430 meters), an easy ascent.From the prayer flags at the top of the pass we finally get a view of the turquoise Tso Kar Lake below us, a breathtaking site backed by Himalayan peaks.
The descent to camp will take us about 2 hours of riverside walking along the Spanglung Chu, and en route we'll pass by many nomadic encampments with their Tibetan mastiffs chained to a stick in the ground, hopefully tightly. More Kyang in this green valley. Again, we follow the river to our camp at Rajung Karu although the easiest way is to stay a bit higher on the left side. The grassy riversides are home to marmot, pikas, Himalayan mice and numerous varieties of birds which build their nests in the uneven tussocks. Camp is on the right side of the river, another beautiful and green spot with good washing in the river next to us. We'll watch the daily migration of the flocks of sheep and goats heading back to camp at upper Rajung Karu in the evening ...
Day 12 - Trek Thugje 4550m (Tso Kar Lake) (over Horlam Kongka La 4950m)
Just behind camp we start a gradual ascent (where we saw a wolf or wild dog darting across the plateau in 2013) and after some minor undulations reach a crest at around 4950 meters. From the rounded top we look down onto Tso Kar Lake, its smaller sister lake Startsabuk Tso,and several semi-permanent nomadic dwellings. We descend quite steeply, looking down at Chushok, a stone doksa to the left of Startsabuk Tso, set up on a small mesa guarded by a massive, ancient chorten. Below us are Phuk doksa on the left, and Lanakmo doksa on the right.
We'll head between the two trekking right in the middle of this wonderful, grassy (and often boggy) plateau, with curious kiang taking a circular route around us, often spooking the horses, and the lake glimmering like an oasis in the distance. After several hours we reach the bridge crossing the river which cuts the isthmus between the two lakes, and continue to trek along the right side of the Tso Kar Lake along a salty, crusted and baked plateau next to more boggy lands. Bird life abounds in this wetlands, especially long-legged wading birds and rare migratory cranes. We can walk right along the shores of the lake, where bubbles and slabs of salt have been pushed up onto the white shores.
After stopping for lunch on the grass we'll continue to round the western side of the lake, either on the dirt track or right next to the lake, a bit longer. After a long day, we finally reach our beautiful camp at the semi-permanent village of Thugje along the green, wet northern reaches of the lake. There is a new gompa being built next to the old one above our camp, a wonderful vantage point to look down on this magical world of lakes and salt. And there are several tented tea-shops where you can pick up a beer or coke.
Tso Kar Lake is the 'salt lake' of Rupshu, previously the site of large salt excavations by the Rupshu-pa nomads, a section of the lake given to each group each year when the salt trade between Tibet and the lower hills was thriving (after the border with China was closed in 1959). Today, Tso Kar Lake is not as salty as it previously was, and the salt trade has diminished in importance because if the introduction of iodized and subsidized Indian salt. Most of the people of Tso Kar lake are Tibet semi-nomadic people who spend the winters in their villages at the lake.
Day 13 - Trek Thratsang Kyang Camp 4730m
The next 10 days are wild days of trekking thorough of some of the most stunningly beautiful nomadic and valley regions in Ladakh, with one of Ladakh's most beautiful and least visited villages en route. Have sandals with you every day in general ...
Our first day is a short one. Leaving camp at Thugje past the old chortens, we walk along a flat dirt road for an hour or so, crossing the road leading to the Manali-Leh highway as we trek north along a wide-open plateau. Kiang populate this region, scaring our horses with their loads in all directions in 2013. It's a straight (and straight forward) walk to the opening of the valley to the west of the plateau, past several now-deserted doksas, where we set up camp in a pretty green spot with a small stream and wild, purple and white geraniums. After lunch, wander up the valley in search of kiang and their young, and continue up the western valley if you want a longer walk (we go the eastern route tomorrow).
Day 14 - Trek Gyungaro Sumdo Camp 4730m (over Thratsang La 5170m)
A beautiful day today as we head out of camp to the north, soon passing a seasonal doksa from where we take the eastern valley, staying on the left of the small stream as we ascend quite easily to the flat-topped Thratsang La. There are often blue sheep and argali in this valley, as well as herds of grazing yaks which belong to the nomads of the south and villagers of the north. From the pass, almost not noticeable and dotted with clumps of 'seat-moss' we have a broad view or the high peaks surrounding us. We descend a bit more steeply, and the valley narrows as we trek closer to the small river and head into the Tisaling-Teri valley. We'll have lunch right by the stream, and then have only a short walk to reach our idyllic camp right at the intersection (sumdo) of this stream and the Teri Chu. Tisaling is a doksa just up the intersecting valley to the east, and we might see villagers from Teri, who also stay at Tisaling, passing by with their donkeys or grazing sheep.
We may head another hour down the valley and camp at an equally perfect and green campsite, let's see ...
Day 15 - Trek Teri Phu 4235m
One of Ladakh's most beautiful and interesting trekking days today as we head towards Teri village, one of the most idyllic that we've discovered in Ladakh, and equally unvisited by westerners. We take a sharp right out of camp, following the Teri Phu for the entire day, mostly right on the banks of this beautiful river. We start the day, however, by hiking up to a small pass with a stone cairn just 50 meters above camp, and then descend steeply back to the river. Continuing downriver, we pass several green plateaus with lichen-covered river rocks, perfect for camping (which in fact we may have done). There are 1 or 2 river jumps en route, probably do-able without sandals (but have them in case), after which we pass stunning fluted canyons and a large cave (inhabited once?) on our left. Teri doksa is often bustling with villagers tending to their crops or animals, and soon afterwards we're treated to the majestic site of Teri Gompa (4340m), an important pilgrimage site for Ladakhis. The Drukpa gompa is said to be 700-years old, and the ancient interior is worth a visit, as is noticing the 'rangjung', or self-eminating, chorten.
Twenty minutes later we reach one of Ladakh's most scenic villages, Teri, surrounded by vivid green barley and pea fields, with several irrigation ditches, large, white-washed and tri-colored chortens, willows and an active school in the upper reaches of the village. Camp is at Teri Phu (grazing area), just 20 minutes past the far end of the village, heading past the large chortens and mani wall.
Take the afternoon to relax with a book, watch the grazing cows and meet the villagers who will drop by the campsite.
Day 16 - Teri Phu
We loved this village so much on our exploratory trip here in 2013 that we've added an extra day here this year to explore the village, take photos, go for long wanders ...
Day 17 - Trek Kyungyam Phu (Roang) 4280m
Welcome to the Changthang, although it doesn't seem like it yet. It's an interesting and diverse day, starting with 1 1/2 hours down through the remainder of Teri Phu on a good trail, through beautiful, weathered red canyons, valleys of Zanskari wild rose bushes, languid willows and other trees. We pass through the small nomadic settlement of Kiamchumikchan (chumik means 'spring' in Ladakhi). The valley is green as we follow good grazing land through the narrow valley, reaching the Indus (and the road across it) at Tirido. We'll have to cross the river to reach Tirido village (3730m) and the road, but we imagine there is a bridge this year. It may still be a scramble down to the road where we cross the Indus at Tirido on a footbridge.
One on the Indus highway, connecting Tsomoriri and Chumur with Leh and further on, Manali, we have to hike 3 1/2 kilometers along the nearly traffic free road until we reach Kyungyam do (3730m). We'll stop at the small shop and pick up cold drinks as it's probably a hot walk, and then start on the uphill trail just behind the shop. The landscape changes, a valley peppered with rounded granite boulders; soon we cross the river to a partially built road and have a hot but beautiful walk heading uphill. There are some willow-shaded and grassy spots where we'll stop for a swim and/or lunch en route, and a few small settlements which the villagers say are all called Kyungyam (although the map calls them Thanka (on the right) followed by Kiamlun and Kardang on the left).
About 2 hours into the hot walk we reach the real settlement of Kyungyam, marked by a Kyungyam Gompa (4140m) and a large village which extends for another 150 meters uphill. We have to go cross-country from here as the road ends, and walk on a grassy path past a new chorten to our green campsite at the farthest reaches of town which is also called Roang, part of the India Changthang. (5 hrs)
Day 18 - Trek Gun La Doksa Base Camp 4975m
Leaving camp, we trek past a few scattered houses, accessed by rickety wooden bridges, and continue up the rocky valley, becoming more glacial as we ascend. The uphill is gradual and pretty, and we can either follow a road which was started before (and abandoned because of a landslide) or the winding trail. Rock-hopping across the river to the west mid-morning, we continue to follow the Kyungyam Chu northeast. The valley widens as we ascend gradually for another hour or more, again crossing the Kyungyam Chu at about 5000 meters, just after it intersects a stream from the right of the valley. We pass a small doksa marked with a prayer flag and cairn which we've called Roang Doksa Sumdo (4570m) and then another which we named Roang Doksa Lhatoo (4770m) with a large lhatoo (shrine to mountain deities) festooned with prayer flags, worth a stop. Soon after this stop we have several contours, a few hills, a small stream crossing on a bridge and one last small climb to reach our idyllic, green high camp at a large doksa. Wild(ish) horses abound, a truly remote site. Go for a short walk following the stream and explore, it's wonderful.
Day 19 - Trek Gun La River Camp 5190m (over Gun La 5675m)
A beautiful pass day, starting the morning with a climb up the lateral moraine to the west and across the slightly boggy, green plateau, valleys intersecting the Kyungyam River valley from all directions. We reach the prayer flags 120 meters above camp and stop for a look and a few photos, continuing to ascend for the rest of the morning, passing curious marmots sticking their heads out of their holes. The pitch steepens just as we veer slightly left just past a large sumdo on the left. We'll jump the river on stones, and continue through a landscape of boggy, lichen-covered granite rocks, passing a small, opaque blue lake. After another few small ridges, we spot a small tarm just below a snowpeak, and the pass is to the left of this (there are actually a few routes, we think). We think the peak to the right of the pass is Largab (6190m).
It's a relatively easy ascent on flat shale to the pass, marked again with a large cairn; and what a view from the top of the Gun La, at 5680 meters. As well it should be as we've crossed the Ladakh Range!
The descent is VERY steep, a switchback on weatherworn shale for 200 meters which leads to a wide, flat and green plateau where we'll stop for a much-needed lunch by a meandering stream. Another 1 1/2 hours of easy downhill on tussocky grass following the lovely river leads us to yet another breathtakingly beautiful campsite just around one last bend. (7-7 1/2 hrs)
Day 20 - Trek Kherampulu 4435m
Another beautiful day of remote trekking, starting with the descent of the Tamar valley, passing Tamar Doksa Lhatoo and Tamar Sumdo Cairn, which affords us wonderful views up the Harong valley. We've finally reached the Pangong Range (or close to it) which blocks our view of Pangong Lake behind it.
We camp just beyond this interesting village in a small campsite near the river (and road) in the Harong valley.
Day 21 - Trek Chidbra (Harong) 4380m
Starting along the opposite side of the river, we trek northwest along the green and fertile valley, following the Harong Chu and parallel to the snow-capped Pangong Range. The first settlement we meet is Salsal Doksa, where locals stay in brown yak-hair tents herding their goats and sheep. Half an hour later, trekking past a sublimely beautiful river bend (which seems to be a lake on the map), we arrive at Chidbra, a larger permanent settlement where we camp for the night. The village is so interesting and the campsite so lovely that we though it worth an afternoon here.
As our horsemen are heading in a different direction tomorrow, we'll have the tips ceremony tonight and share a few bottles of rum with the crew. Ang Chuk and our drivers will meet us here today and drive us to Pangong Lake tomorrow.
Day 22 - Drive Pangong Lake. Camp Man 4260m
Trekking finished, we jump into our jeeps for our 'jeep safari' to Pangong Lake, driving along a blacktopped road which was once an ancient trade route that went from Leh to Rudok and the on to Lhasa in Tibet. The sky is wide and blue above us as we pass Chilam (4070m), where we camped in 2012, and 7 more kilometers to the larger town of Tangse, from where we head east along the Pangong Highway and have to drive another 30+ kilometers, over the small Yakmil La (4300m), to Man. The first village at the western end of the village is the touristy Lukung. From here, we drive along the southern shores of the lake (the northern shores are restricted) followed by Spangmik, full of tented camps and parachute tents. Man is blissfully separated from the tourism at Pangong, and we set up at a perfect campsite at much more remote Man village, right on the lake. Enjoy an afternoon by the lake, walking, swimming, skipping stones, exploring the village and just relaxing and gazing out at Tibet across the lake.
Pangong is 6-7 kilometers wide at its broadest point. In 1634 at the Treaty of Tingmosgum the boundary between Ladakh under Singge Namgyal and Guge under Nyima-gon was fixed where it stands today. North of the lake across the Changchmno Range is Tibet: the Lingzithang and Askai Chin. Locals told us that in the winter they cross the frozen lake to reach their winter settlement on the opposite side!
Day 23 - Man (Pangong Lake). Daytrip Merak
We have a wonderful day scheduled, a drive along the western banks of Pangong Lake to visit the remote, beautifully-situated village of Merak. There is a gompa to visit in town, and time to walk back (about 2 hours) for anyone who wants. Take time to also explore Man village, and walk along the idyllic shores of the lake right from our campsite, and even go for a swim! Enjoy the day ...
Day 24 - Drive Leh
Back in the jeeps, we drive back along the southern shores of Pangong Lake and after a few hours, following a branch of the large Shyog River, turn south and drive over the Chang La (5300m) to Karu, where the road intersects the Indus and the Leh-Manali highway.En route we pass the western Indus valley gompas, amongst them the 1000-year old Alchi, Hemis, Rizdong, Likir, Thikse and Shey. Back at the Shaynam Guest House in Leh, hot showers and a clean change of clothes await, and tandoori food and cold beers are not far away at the Ibex.
Day 25 - Leh
We've scheduled one last day in Leh, our favorite Central Asian capital, in case of delays during the trek. We'll also have time to do some more shopping and exploring, and to wind down after our journey through the high, nomadic regions of 'old Tibet'.
Day 26 - Trip Ends
Our wonderful Himalayan journey ends today, sadly.