After ten days in Leh and surrounding areas, we were ready to get back on the trail. We would now spend a full month doing several of the most celebrated treks in the Indian Himalaya.
Although I have structured the entries as if they were a single long trek, it was really three routes back-to-back. In between, we hit roads, electricity, and in one case a monastic festival.
The first route from days 1 to 11 went through the Markha Valley, the most popular trekking region in Ladakh. Crossing a high pass on either end from the Indus river, this route took us up a long, secluded valley just to the south of Leh. This segment ended at the monastery of Hemis, and we timed our trip to attend its annual two-day monk dancing festival. We then returned to Leh for one night of hot showers and repacking.
On days 12 through 29, we covered the second and third segments, which are together known as the Zanskar trek. This was a long route that crosses many high passes and ends on the south side of the Great Himalaya Range. We were unable to complete the second segment as planned because our donkey men were unwilling to take their animals over the highest pass, but fortunately we were able rejoin te third part of our route on schedule by driving to the Zanskar valley, an isolated mountain region of monasteries and towns that time forgot.
Time will not be forgetting these regions much longer. In an attempt to gain more control and access to this sensitive border area, the Indian army is building new roads along many of these stretches. This will arguably help the locals by improving access to the Zanskar and Indus valleys – at present Zanskar is only reachable from Leh by a two-day road trip for a few months each summer and by one of the world's coldest treks up a frozen river in the middle of winter. But it means that within a few years, these pictures of splendid isolation will become history.
I have structured the daily blog entries so they appear in order. To see the whole sequence, you will need to pick the “Older Posts” links at the bottom or the navigation links to the right.
———— beginning of detailed Ladakh trek entries ————-