We plan to follow the itinerary however roads wash out, or are extended, occasionally people get sick, logistical challenges arise,
or we hear of a better campsite, and so we will adapt it as needed.
Sophie admires the mural at Basgo - Jamie
Day 1 - meet in Leh 3480m
Phew, after a long series of flights, you are here! Look for a Project Himalaya sign or a simple sign with your
name on it at the airport, and Lobsang or our wonderful drivers Ang Chuk or his brother Pasang will pick you up.
Jamie meets you at the hotel on your arrival and we discuss altitude health over
tea/coffee or breakfast and introduce Leh and show you the better places
to eat. Most people crash out for a few hours and spend the day relaxing; do drink
plenty of fluids which helps the acclimatization process, perhaps pop some vitamins and let your body adjust to the new time zone.
We normally go out to dinner together, let's meet in the peaceful hotel garden at 6:30pm. We eat at some of our favourite clean (very important!) restaurants: Chopsticks, Bon Appetit, Tibet Kitchen and Summer Harvest.
Demet pets a gompa snow lion - Jamie
Day 2 and 3 - Leh 3480m
Over two days we visit some of the world's most revered gompas and
monasteries a short distance from Leh. Usually we arrange as a morning trip with lunch at Leh (or Thikse) then
you can relax in the afternoon although we can easily arrange a full day trip.
Choosing where to go is the biggest
challenge, there are so many special places to visit. To the east is Shey, Thikse, Hemis, Chemde, Thagthok, Stakna, Matho and Stok, although don't plan on visiting all of them in one day. Thikse also has a good restaurant for lunch.
Heading west out of Leh are Spituk, Phyang, Nyemo where the Indus meets the Zanskar River, and further afield are Basgo, Likir and Alchi.
By chance on a sightseeing trip to Matho we watched this - Jamie
Day 4 - drive Skyu 3300m, trek Harmochen 3480m 13.5km
Time to stretch the legs, we pack for some hot weather trekking today with a hat, sunscreen, snacks and plenty of water.
After breakfast, we drive an hour or so to delightful, historic Alchi, the oldest intact gompa in the region. After an early lunch, we drive to Chiling and across the new road bridge to Skyu, where our crew are waiting for us. We trek for a couple of hours to our camp where there is shade and a wonderful afternoon tea awaits. We introduce our crew and the camp, and your tent; your home for the following week or so. In the warmth, we usually eat dinner and breakfast outside for tonight and the next couple of days.
Afternoon tea is ready! - Jamie
Dinner is served under our sun shade since it was a warm evening - Jamie
Day 5 - trek Markha 3700m 14km
The walking is straightforward, mostly just above the valley floor but it can be quite a hot walk, do drink plenty today. There are several crystal clear water springs along the way where we can top up, not needing to filter the water.
We pass the remains of old hermitage caves high on the opposite cliffs. Inside are the remains of tiny caves where lamas once sat in meditation,
platforms carved in rock. Look also at the chortens - inside are piles of tiny 'tsatsas', the remains of ashes of the departed formed into tiny clay figurines.
As the valley widens we spot the old fort on
the hill above Markha village. Long ago invaders from what is now Pakistan coveted the high grazing and livestock of Nyimaling, thus the need for the fortifications all along the Markha valley.
Sometimes we camp by the school, sometimes 10 minutes before the actual village, in a spot that also suitable for the horses.
After afternoon tea do wander up to the local gompa, the view is satisfying while inside is dark and chang-smelling. Look, and look
again, the more you look, the more you will see.
Markha village - Jamie
Day 6 - trek Hankar 4000m 14km
Although a shorter walk, it is scenic and there are plenty of places to explore around the village that is split into two. The fort between them is well worth a wander.
(Day 7 - optional rest day)
Day 8 - trek Tachungtse (Tachutse) 4160m 6.6km
This is another day of ambling along the trails used by countless shepherds
and traders over the centuries, with a hit of snow capped peaks near the end of the day.
After leaving the village behind, there could be the only river crossing of the calf deep Markha river although in recent years there has often been a rickety temporary bridge. An imposing rock spire to the right marks the entrance to the valley leading to the Rabrang La, which we explored on our wildlife trek in 2017, and is also the Jumlam route to Zanskar. Legend says that the Dogra army that conquered
Ladakh in the early 19th century was led this way to their prize, the Indus valley and Leh, by a renegade Zanskari.
Around the next bend is the spectacularly set hilltop monastery of Tetsa/Tacha, well worth the climbing detour. We have often marvelled at blue sheep dancing on the cliffs beyond. After crossing bridge to the right side (ie true
left), the popular campsite of Tachutse (pronounced Ta-jung-tse) soon appears.
Esther crossing the steam above Markha - Jamie
Day 9 - trek Nyimaling 4840m ~10km
It is mostly uphill walking, with widening views as recompense. Cresting a ridge, the views really open out to include some impressive hoodoos at a good spot for a break. Passing some ponds, we puff a little harder with the altitude.
The snow mountain ahead is Kang Yatse II, which is actually only the shoulder of the real peak, rather than being a separate peak. We will see much more of the real peak tomorrow.
More ascent leads us to the long Nyimaling plain where villagers from the
Markha Valley graze their sheep in summer and make curd and cheese from the milk of their livestock. We camp in a convenient spot and drink in the views.
What a backdrop, heading up to Nyimaling - Jamie
Day 10 & 11 - rest-explore Nyimaling ~4840m
We have ascended relatively quickly and here take a break to acclimatize,
wash clothes and explore this wonderful, panoramic valley.
There is a choice of day trips with the most ambitous to Kang Yatse Base Camp.
If the team is feeling good, alternatively we can camp two nights at Nyimaling and then pop over the 5320m Lhalung La to a scenic and isolated campsite there.
Collecting fuel; the traditional lifestyle is still alive at Nyimaling - Jamie
Day 12 - trek Chokdo ~18km, drive Leh
This is another particularly satisfying trek day. From our Nyimaling, we ascend the red Konmaru La to the fluttering prayer flags on top. The descend starts on a good trail with open views then descends into that red rock gorge, sometimes amid the boulders on the rough floor, sometimes a traverse out to skip an impassable section. We meet the jeeps at 2-4pm at the village of Chokdo which is several hours before the old end point of Shang Sumdo and it is only a couple of hours drive to Leh where we deserve a cold beer and a celebratory
meal. Chopsticks, Tibet Kitchen or Bon Appetit?
Esther (with a bigger than usual backpack) descending the formidable gorge to Chokdo - Jamie
Stakna Gompa, with this view we know we are getting close to Leh - Jamie
Day 13 - trip ends
You are free to take the morning flight to Delhi.
Jullay - we hope to see you again soon!