Trekking the meadows of Kashmir

Kashmir, always evocative of romance. The last time I drove through on my way to the Zanskar, I found the magic of the houseboats. This time was closer to the childhood Kashmir of cottages in Gulmarg – picnics in the meadows et al.

Dilshad said, ‘you have to come on this trek.’ There are no have to’s for me when you offer me a walk in the mountains – I would live my whole life out of a tent opening to incredible vistas every morning. That I manage to do it more often than not, is the greatest blessing.IMG_8250

The first time I ever flew into Kashmir, the airport was the beginning of the enchantment – there were fields of red poppies nodding in the jetstream of landing aircraft all along the runway. I don’t know if that still happens in summer, but there were certainly no poppies this October day. It was cold out and nice to anticipate the, brisk weather, walking. We had what was meant to be a quick car ride to our trek start point in Tangmarg – unfortunately – it was delayed by a traffic jam at road works blockaded by trucks. Just the usual fare. We started our trek from Tangmarg rather late, down to cross the river where the bridge has been swept away by the floods last year. The bridge still not fixed, but the large pipes that carry the water from the small power house were all in order. We scrambled over pipes and slippery boulders to the village of Drung. IMG_8138There IMG_8139was produce being dried in fields and on rooftops, corn and vegetables, getting set for the winter. We moved on through, being greeted by so very polite school children, all rosy cheeked and clean.
Our first stop was in a meadow surrounded by pine and fir, close to a now abandoned Gujjar hut. The family and buffaloes having moved down for the winter.

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IMG_8280IMG_8142We stopped to eat our lunch. The air was crisp and clean with the smells of pine and fir. There were remnants of daisies and buttercups reminiscent of the passing of summer. Our trek continued crossing burbling brooks and through forest and meadow – we passed an ancient Hindu temple, built by the Mughals apparently, now in ruin
s and shelter for cows it seemed. It was beautiful with fall colours on the few Chinar and wild Walnut trees. Carpet of green, gold and red. I was also imagining it in summer, the riot of wild flowers and colour that we could see remnants of would be in full bloom and make for an element completely different to the one we were experiencing. It never ceases to amaze – how well nature clads herself with impeccable style, colour and taste – perfectly suited to the seasons!!

IMG_8226IMG_8227We did a two day route in one and were rather hurriedly clambering up hills and down dale to get to camp before dark, which took away some of the enjoyment of stand and stare time, which is what I savour most when on a walk like this. However our guide Wali Mohammed would saunter off way ahead of us and then lie on a rock meditating, while we scrambled to catch up. He would look pityingly and ask if we were ‘ok’ or needing a rest? We did not dare need a rest so on we would trudge – him with his easy loping stride and us with our ‘Nepali shuffle’ slowly up the mountain. IMG_8146We did make it well in time, coming up below the high Gondola wires and through a large Gujjar and ‘Ghorha wala’ settlement to descend down into a charming meadow surrounded by firs and bordering a stream.IMG_8264IMG_8149Our camp was set and waiting and the fire was lit to warm our frozen selves. A new moon appeared in the twilight blue sky and all was oh so good with the world. IMG_8148It’s that moment that one breathes a sigh for the magic and gives thanks to whatever has led you to be here now.

To wake to the sun gilding the mountains and emerge into this brightening world out of a warm cocooned tent – it is one of those special joys of the trekker along with sweetly sore muscles. IMG_8224-1We were going up and over the ridge to the Frozen Lake. Crossing the tree line and up into the barrenness of browning meadow and giant scattered boulders, is not so exciting in biting cold. Then the clouds came and blocked out the light making for more ‘Drear’! Totally joyless walking when it’s meant for pleasure is no one’s idea of fun. We diverted through an enchanting forest of Bhojpatra, bone white tree trunks with flaking, paper thin bark.IMG_8239
Myriad coloured leaves that crunched underfoot, we stopped for our picnic lunch in this wonderland. Continued traversing the ridge and climbed down to the Cable car – which zoomed us up to the ridge we would have been walking across. Short cutting totally. IMG_8259By the time we reached the top it was hailing and raining and an absolute white out. The frozen lake would have to wait for another time, when perhaps the meadows would be a burst of interesting wild flowers to make that trudge more palatable.

That night as we lay snug in our marvellous tents it rained and rained and rained. I woke to the call of nature, which went unanswered because I kept waiting for the rain to abate. It didn’t at all and I finally put on my rain jacket and emerged into a breaking dawn – the toilet pit was flooded making for a natural water closet – no details here. The dining tent had stuff piled up on the table and water channels crisscrossing the floor. We had a makeshift breakfast and decided to abandon a further trek to Ningal nalla and just clamber down into Gulmarg. It turned into another enchanting walk through the rain with the mist enshrouded trees and the streams bursting their banks.
IMG_8282I must admit I could have walked some more – it was so beautiful. Unfortunately we very shortly reached the roadhead where a car and driver awaited us – he surreally appeared out of the mist holding a placard. IMG_8283We transfered to the posh Khyber hotel – where admittedly the bathrooms and the rain showers were a very acceptable luxury as was their spa. A steam and deep tissue massage were very welcome to cramping, cold muscles.

We then wandered into a lovely old village near Tangmarg to visit an old home where carpet weaving was taught. All handicrafts are essentially winter activities in most hill areas – the short summers being used to grow a crop or do outdoor work as required. The kashmiris along with having the most spectacular scenery to dwell amidst, also seem to have the most beautiful crafts and artisan work. From their fabulous carpets to the gossammer woven, intricately embroidered shawls. Beautifully carved and crafted wood work and furntiture. Papier mache art with it’s skilled painting – they truly are a talented people. Watching those spinnners and weavers sit in that old room with the misty daylight that barely penetrated the dusty windows was a fascination.IMG_8286 Their strips of pattern strung in the threads above, their nimble fingers didn’t seem to pause and obviously they made no mistake to the intricate pattern they wove. In turn we also seemed to fascinate the whole family who came to peek at the strangers peeking at them.IMG_8293IMG_8296

Our day ended with hot chocolate at the Highland Park bar, I needed to go check out an old haunt – it was much the same and it was nice to see that though Gulmarg is unrecognizable from when I knew, all the new structures have the same old architectural style – it is still the large meadow of memory and has not been high rised and built into oblivion.

This is what I would term the perfect short trek,  – it is utterly beautiful country, comfortable walking terrain, great campsites and ends with an option of opulent luxury.

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Men in plenty.

That describes the fact that there were plenty of them and all with plenty as I soon gathered.

IMG_5204I am leading an offroad driving trip into my favourite mountains, this time the group comprises of 19  gentlemen, and I do mean gentlemen. They are a group who travel to various parts of the world together and they are pleased to be pleased, unhassled, unhurried and really very charming and I have the privelege of driving the car in front and making sure they do not stray too far!

I met them for breakfast in Amritsar, they came with me to the Golden Temple in pouring rain – wading through mud and puddles, awe struck by the gleaming gold reflecting in the gunmetal grey water, even more awed by the ‘langar’ and the hordes, eating, cleaning, chopping, cooking. All of this in still pouring rain. The fact that they were the only people wearing water proofs, while all of the masses seemed to not only, not feel the rain, they did not even look particularly bed raggled, amazed them.

The rather horrendous, loud and unceremonious Wagah border ceremony they totally loved – with it’s noise, colour and cheering hordes. They had the enthusiasm to go back to the Har Mandir Sahib again after dinner and they had only arrived very early that morning. To pack in so much in that day was what amazed me about them.

The next day we started our drive on the highway to Dharamsala. I, being used to the ‘Queens’ (large groups of Israeli women who did a series of driving trips in India), was prepared to drive at a snails pace, talk them through every truck overtaking and such like, was so pleasantly surprised to find myself being followed at a merry clip. They very competently overtook trucks, quickly followed my lead of driving on whichever side was convenient – all in all it was a great ride and their tour leader Zev is a large, easy, unruffled man to work with.

I am receiving pendants, chains and rings, caps, keychains and myriad little gifts. I drop a key and don’t need to bend – they treat me like a precious thing and I am pretty much walking on air with so much positively delicious attention.

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We have driven many roads and seen much and are now in my favouritist holiday destination – Raju’s home in Goshaini. Zev, and even I, had a vague doubt as to how these rather posh gentlemen were going to adjust to Goshaini. They are so enchanted with it, that they don’t want to leave. I am so very happy – some have even expressed the desire to stay here for a month.

We have some characters in the group and the largest of them is Dr.B. He is a tall, lanky man who wears pink shorts with a red t- shirt and a blue shirt over it – his wispy white hair blows in different directions, he walks like a camel and gets lost every time we stop. He wants to talk to every person on the street. He joins the village children at their assembly and he tells long, disjointed and purely hilarious stories. He is also a brilliant cardiologist.

Boas at assembly in my bad photo.

Assembly in my bad photo.

Then there is the delightful,  tough man with such a gentle heart and a desire for peace and time to stare. He makes jewellery. How strange is it that in my life I have met two men who are hard core soldiers, tough and strong and they both make jewellery? One was in the French Foreign Legion and this one was a SEAL in the Israeli army.

A, is the man that puts his group of friends together and they travel, he has energy, zest, the charm of a hundred and the ability to win people – obviously that is why they travel with him.

There is A2, the brother of A, a magnetic person with a big aura – he does many things, enjoys diverse interests and wants all of life. A man of intense thought and passion. I have to say he draws me, there is so much I find akin to myself in him.

There are the  other Doctors,  lovely, lovely men – one left Argentina to live in Israel, the other, is a doctor and a lawyer – how long did the man study to achieve both? and what amazing minds does it take to not only want to do both, but to actually do so.

There are myriad others, who I am unable to list because of the exhausting day we had today. But each one of them is smart, erudite, successful and so very likeable. That they are a group that enjoys each other is evident, that they like to have fun combined with discovery is rather wonderful.IMG_5244

We stop for a pee at least twenty times a day and when we do, their bottles of booze come out, with these tiny shot glasses to cheer being together, seeing a double rainbow or just for the fact that they are on holiday. Then the singing starts – so every pee stop is a long halt and we spend double the time on the road, half of it moving and the other half standing still. Every interesting village needs a halt, every rainbow needs a photo – their travel is the way travel should be.

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Now, I get to our drive today – up to Jalori from Raju’s, through Banjaar quite easily – up on Jalori  with fog, tea and vodka – then starts a drizzle – obviously we are taking the Shuad road, since we haven’t given them any real off roading so far – so down we turn, and for an instant, it is in my mind to say – lets just take the basic route, it is bad enough. But I don’t and we go on. Then the rain comes in a deluge, the road starts to flow exposing rocks and creating little rivers, this adds up to stone stairways, mud and long, slippery stretches of following the ruts, maybe grazing your bottom, or going all over in slushy slides – thinking the edge is far to close.IMG_5270

All in all, I think the concentration of that road and then driving more small roads ahead exhausted everyone today. So we are rethinking the rest of this tour – lets see what develops to conclude this very interesting journey.

All we did today was that hair raising drive up Hatu Peak, which all the little Maruti’s do with complete aplomb! It was superb, the temple is complete and quite beautiful, the Pandit is a knowledgeable young man and actually said the prayers while I sat there – before all the men came in and took photographs. It is a beautiful drive to a spectacular spot and I was too busy to take a photograph.

Then we drove the highway to Kufri and took the road through the woods to the stately, decrepit, Palace of Chail. It is such a marvellously, beautiful old building, the manager is a delightful lady who tries to make it most comfortable and does, at least for me. But it is such a travesty of a palace. As A2, very rightly said, ‘this is meant to be a royal dining hall, and it feels like a staff mess!’ The highlight of the place is the monkeys, who try and get into the rooms, certainly get into your car if you leave the door open even for a bit. Are bold enough to jump onto your table, steal your food and run. The other highlight was the discovery of A3’s magic hands – he gives the most amazing massage and I was the happy benefactor of it. He is a gentle man with a lovely smile and though we are probably as akin as chalk and cheese, I like him very much.

Teaching the pulley guys how to do it best.

Teaching the pulley guys how to do it best.

Today was my last day with what I am now calling my gang of men. The drive from Chail to Chandigarh was uneventful, we forded the river at Sadhupul to add a little excitement, stopped to check out the small train at Kandaghat

Boys and trains.

Boys and trains.

Fording the river at Sadhupul

Fording the river at Sadhupul

– had lunch at Gyani’s dhaba and drove in a convoy of cars and trucks – slowly to Chandigarh. The hotel was a disaster – no twin rooms, mattresses on the floor – so much rubbish at the end of a great trip. But these are really people who know what the important things in life are, certainly not worth losing your equilibrium over a shared bed or some such, and so it was all sorted and I have had my last dinner surrounded by all my most favourite guys of the moment.

This morning I have received a heartwarming farewell – the catch to which was: though they enjoyed having me on the trip and I showed them all the lovely roads – these are meant to be all male trips and they do not want to have to explain what a woman was doing on it!! I think they should delete all evidence of me immediately, though I would be more than happy to join their gang of men. Also why they are alphabets and serial numbers.

It's another toast

It’s another toast

It has been for me a marvellous trip, with so much enjoyment in meeting people who are my age and older – fit, well, smart, learning all the time – so much to discuss and talk about. The travels that they put together, the explorations they plan and enjoy –  I could relate so very well. It was for me like a new discovery – so many people who like to do the things I do – the catch is – the man thing. The wonder is they are friends and do these amazing trips together. I love being a woman, but, I would like to join this gang.

Over the high passes – another Himalayan drive

 

Teddy and Hari

An age has passed since I drove with the man that taught me how to manage the brake and accelerator together while releasing the clutch. My Uncle Teddy or Teddy Sahib as he is rather universally called, is a bit of a legend on mountain roads and trekking routes in Lahaul & other parts of Himachal. Those, who rally, drive off road and live the good life salute him.

A man larger than life, who explored every new road through the mountains the moment it opened. He had many times trekked it before. He taught us how to camp and cook out, to fish, to hunt and to make pickle.

His son, my brother Hari, follows in his father’s footsteps and has been India’s rally champion – he now tests cars, organises rallies, leads off road trips, does driving stunts for movies too. Generally a chip off the old block with additives.

 

Add to the mix two old friends visiting from England, Dave and Myra – Dave has just retired from being a well loved teacher. He is planning a cycling trip through Europe as soon as he goes home from visiting with us. Dave & Myra came trekking with Teddy Sahib in the early 80’s – they have four children (now grown) all conceived in India. Also two young men a friend and a young accolite of Hari’s; Bantu and Samar.

We are on a recce of a much travelled route, just not recently, so needs must check what new it offers.

 

Cars & CyclesSo our day starts with fixing the radios in the cars, checking that we have all the gear that we need, tow chains, umbrellas, winches are working – those large red jacks that pull you out of ditches are serviceable. Two bicycles are loaded onto the bike carriers – who knows when we might need to cycle for help or just cycle out, and our journey begins.

We are going back to Spiti, via Narkanda, Sarahan, Sangla into Kaza and out over the Kunzom and Rohtang into Manali.

3 Aug 2014

Dave, Myra and I drove from Gurgaon to Chandigarh. 0900 from Gurgaon, 1300 in Chandigarh. Uneventful and fast.

4 Aug 2104

When you drive with Teddy Sahib and Hari, it’s all about the journey – so from Chandigarh to Thanedar we have come. 1000 hrs at Chandigarh – 1900 hrs at Thanedar (199 km). Coffee and stretch your legs, attend a ‘bhog’ in Simla, stop for lunch at a newly discovered dhaba, check out an orchard for sale enroute at Fagu, stop to see if an old hotel said to be renovated is actually so. It is, by the way, the Tethys hotel near Narkanda is much improved and stay able – with spectacular views.

Now we are sitting by a fire at the Banjara Orchard Resort in Thanedar, it is a place I recently discovered and very much like – so this is my introduction to the tour. We have met a couple cycling the route we are driving, and shall perhaps show them a new route tomorrow – a back orchard trail to Sarahan.

5 August 2014
Seetal van homestayWe discovered a lovely home stay this morning – 5 kms short of the Banjara Orchard retreat a little road goes steeply downhill and winds around, take a sharp left into a gate and like all worthwhile hill places to get to, drive steeply down through the orchard, take a few hairy hairpin bends and arrive at this charming little home stay – all local himachali architecture, beautiful interiors – wood and slate, 7 nicely appointed rooms and bathrooms and the views. A real find, they have a quaint cottage for families too, and a tiny little cottage all on it’s own in a corner for all on your ownsome chilling.

To Sarahan behind trucksWe drove that lovely route which takes off just after Rampur Via Gaura and Mashnoor to Sarahan. It is a village road, great in bits and nothing in bits, but the views are lovely and you drive through the forests and villages, get stuck behind trucks loading apples and generally take twice as long as normal. With Teddy Sahib’s commentary which ranges from pro or against depending on his state of well being – which deteriorates if he is still in the car when the whisky hour approaches.

Sarahan templeWe had lunch and visited the Bhimakali temple at Sarahan, it is huge and beautiful – the goddess is said to grant wishes – so I made them as usual, we need to figure what timeline they will appear in. That they do is quite a constant.

Then we drove the amazing Sutlej gorge, watching it get deeper and deeper, with the battlements of rock and the showering waterfalls, the road that cuts right into the sheer mountainside – a marvel of engineering. The dam works have ruined a beautiful river and it’s valley, but one just has to look a little higher and it is still a spectacle. The road is a ruin after a point and it is a challenging drive. The dam work has created a huge slide on the way to Sangla, so one

has to climb a 17 km detour up the mountain and down again to avoid a 3 km stretch.

Sutlej Gorge1

sutlej 1

It got us in after dark so we missed the splendour of this valley of the Bhaspa – but it is spreading out my window now – orchards, pink fields of something the locals call ‘Ogla’ and they make a roti called Chilta, with the flour. Flowering beans and potatoes, wild flowers spreading a rainbow on all sides and the river running by. There is really nothing in nature that dresses itself better than the high mountains, they change colours and acccoutrements, but are beautiful in all weathers.

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Sangla fields

6 August 2014

We decided we were not going to do another long haul today, with the condition of these roads it would take us forever, so instead of going all the way to Kaza we would stop at Nako. The well laid plans of mice and men – I shall get to that a little later.

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First we went up to Chitkul to see what the drive was like since we had last done it. It was beautiful, with these straight up mountains of sheer rock, stratiated in crazy patterns, in building block layers, and as you get closer to Chitkul, the Bhojpatra starts appearing and whole hillsides of thyme, scent the air. Chitkul itself was unrecognisable. It has developed hugely, there are only a few of the old wooden houses, still sprawling up the top of the village. The temple is completely new, the old Tibetan carved and painted gate that formed the entrance to Chitkul from the north is gone, in it’s place is a newly constructed cement gate, but they have put the guardians in on the sides in glass cases, even the overhead guardian is there, so the welcome and blessing is intact as is the beauty of the whole valley; flowers layered up and down every available space, the huge, steep, sheer rock mountains interspersed with trees clinging to unlikely crags.

Chitkul Temple

 

Dave, Teddy Sahib and Hari took turns cycling down to Sangla – the road conditions actually meant that they were most often faster than the cars.

Cycling from Chitkul

Cycling Sangla

 

 

 

 

 

Then started the hair raising drive up the second bit of the Sutlej gorge, there is a deal of dam work all along this beautiful river, they are of a certainty destroying it. The roads are absolutely non existent – 20 kms an hour, with sections that are still slipping and dropping rocks or have slid and you have to take massive detours like yesterday. In all this, as I said before – you look up or down and that raging river, and the sheer rock faces are the same – and so far, so is that poor river – a force to reckon with – till these dams turn him into a damn lake.

falling rocksSutlej 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

So we reach the check point at Aksa and discover or rather had forgotten, that foreigners need an inner line permit for that section upto Sumdo. How flummoxed were we and what a staunch guardian of the gate was the gentleman in the booth. We have had to retrace our steps through rock falls and mud slides all the way back to Recong Peo, where obviously the offices were already shut – so a drink to learning and the patience required on all great drives in the mountains!

The Inner line

7th August 2014

We spent the morning sitting under a tree in the carpark outside the office of the District Magistrate at Rekong Peo waiting for him to sign the permit. Then he went off for a meeting and the little man helping us followed him. There were a french group and three motor cyclists waiting – also two or three bicyclists. Teddy Sahib, who was convinced that under Hari’s organisation we will get no food and no drink anywhere, went off around the bazaar and found samosas. Complained all the time that with all these apples growing on the trees, there are no apples to be had for love or money. Just then the boys arrived with a bag full of apples and a charger for Dave’s camera which they have borrowed from a shopkeeper. He has given it them from a new camera, on condition that they return it in Chandigarh. This can only happen in a place like this. Dave, to complete the story has left his camera charger at home.

We finally got the permits at 1200 hrs, which is when we started off. First we had to find the petrol pump, to which the Teddy Sahib took umbrage again. ‘All you young people, no organisation, we have been sitting for so long, this is when we should have done all this. Now we will reach so late and no one will stop to eat. That is why I bought the samosas.’ He was fine once we got going – the road was a nightmare, but the scenery was so spectacular. Through the rest of the Sutlej gorge, watching it change from a raging river to a spreading high mountain river and then narrowing again into a narrow, narrow gorge as it came closer to it’s confluence with the Spiti. Confluence Spiti SutlejThe actual confluence is a spectacle of sheer rock, you cross the bridge over the Sutlej and suddenly the road becomes smooth and the gorge feels like you could touch the other side – and you are climbing up and up for a long time till you top out and the high mountains of Spiti spread before you in all their colour and majesty. Huge swirling rocks churned like cake mix by the forces of nature towering into a blue Spiti sky.textured mountains

precarious orchards

Green Spiti

 

We stopped at what used to be little Nako village around a pretty little lake, today it is an expanding Nako village with a thriving agricultural trade – currently in peas. I have forgotten to say that what used to be sere brown, now has large pockets of green – new apple orchards, fields of blossoming potato and peas suddenly appearing around bends, nestled under where a stream or snow run off provides irrigation. The Kinner Camps in Nako is prettily located and has comfortable tents, with very good food. Lunch, that we had at 1700 hrs.

Nako village

 

Then we decided we were heading to Kaza, it was beautiful watching the light on the mountains change, the moon came up and added a completely other magic. We drove up through dark villages meeting a few headlights en route. Hari shot ahead, not minding the bumpy road – his passengers only the boys. I on the other hand, with Teddy Sahib, Dave and Myra – went more paced. Myra was feeling the altitude – not enough water. But she held out bravely and we finally got to the Deyzor Hotel in Kaza at about 2100 hrs. Hari already had the bar open – it was a very welcome drink after a truly tremendous drive.

8th Aug 2014

spiti from my window

 

I woke this morning to a sight that lifts my very soul, the amazing mountains of Spiti skirted by green poplars framed in my window. The one thing I always do in my favourite places is sleep with open windows and curtains undrawn, so the dawn and the pictures outside my window come right in to start the day. And what a day it has been. We are staying in a charming little hotel called the Deyzor – who knows what it means, but the proprietor is a lovely young man, passionate about the life he is living and working very hard to provide a service. (Any and all who happen to go here, do not ask for discounts, it is value for money.)

So we were given a great breakfast – porridge, variety of eggs, pancakes and pressed coffee – which is such a bonus.Spiti river

 

Then started our wild adventure – we were to drive to Hikkim, the highest post office, Kaurik monastery and Langza village to check out home stays. However, half way up – Hari saw an opportunity to go off the road and climb straight up the mountain, so of course we did just that, got spectacular views, had Dave gripping his seat in an agony of uncertainty. That both Dave and Myra just took it in their stride is kudos to them. I of course had theTeddy Sahib to guide me, he is very conservative with his advice, whether it is trust in what he has already taught or a belief that he is no longer heard, I am not sure. However, if you ask, he will offer – and it is a stupid person who does not ask when you have the master beside you – so he offered, ‘miss the stones that will hurt your car, not too fast, the rubble will get kicked up – and 1st gear low, or second will do.’ Thus we reached the zenith, took amazing photographs and then dropped down like we would have a dune in the desert, except here there is no sand that acts as an automatic braking device – never the less, we made it.

Off roading Spiti

 

We then finally found Kaumik and visited the old, typically Spiti monastery. Entrance, long hall with rooms on either side for the monks and the main monastery directly ahead, up the stairs. It was lovely, lonely and serene. The old monastery does not allow women, so only Dave got to go see the preserved snow leopard in there.climbing offroad

Kauric monastry

 

 

 

Kauric 1

Next we descended to Hikkim and the post office – a beautiful village with traditional homes, the landmark fields of waving crops, homes with juniper edged roofs, washed white. The postmaster is delighted, but can’t find his stamps – so his wife offers tea, while he hunts up the stamps. Dave finally posts his cards and we move onto Langza village to a charming home stay run by an old lady and her grand daughters. She gives us a great lunch of dal, rice and homemade, delicious ‘dahi’, supported by Maggi noodles. A traditional home, the rooms have the low cots with the Tibetan carpets and nothing is changed from how their home would normally be. The same central room with its stove and low seating with tables in front for eating and relaxing. The outhouse of dry pit latrines traditional to these dry, high mountain areas still works.

Hikkim PO

Langza Homestay

 

 

 

 

 

There is a marvellous trek to be done on this route,staying in the traditional homes and it seems many foreigners have discovered this. We met a french group staying at Langza and others in Kaza planning to go up. It is nice to see the traditional being put to a good economically viable venture.

We came down to go play at some offroading in the river beside the bridge and so ended a day of much fun and enjoyment.river offroad

 

I have not mentioned that at every step what makes this purely magical is the amazing scenery around you. This valley is easily one that I rate the highest on my places to go back to and rejuvenate your soul.

Ki monastry

9th Aug 2014

Kaza to Manali, 199 kms on my gps – easy driving on rubbish roads. We got to the pass in record time, payed obeisance and Myra and I decided we were going to bicycle off the pass. We had no figured that these were big boy bikes. I tried riding it for a spell only to find that if I had to put my feet down in a hurry – I would probably split my body or seriously damage it. They were way to large, we could not get off the seat without hitting the bar, so caution prevailed and we let the men do the riding. It was a murderous road. I honestly don’t know when it was last fixed, we just bumped and ground our way over the boulders – through free flowing ‘nalas’ and on and on till we crossed the Rohtang and hit both the mist and a good road.

Kunzom passKunzom flags

 

 

 

 

 

 

The change in terrain from Spiti to Lahaul is instant, it is greener and you start to see the shepherds with their precariously perched herds – on incredible slopes. All seeming to be quite happy where they are.

Cycling off the pass

Before leaving Spiti we stopped at the Chomoling nunnery, where they recognised me as the person who came with the ‘Jehudi’ women. We had spent a day and night at the monastery, helping in whichever sphere absorbed them during the ‘Queen of the Desert’ tours.

For me entering and leaving Spiti is like a prayer – blessed to come back there and asking a blessing to come back again.

Chomoling little nunsat the top(offroad)

10 Aug 2014

MANALI: More family has arrived, Maya, my daughter, on a bus from Delhi. Girimere, my brother, and Karandeep, a family friend, arrived with their monster bikes that they are riding across to Leh. Lunch at Martin’s, a cafe in an apple orchard that only provides Sunday lunches and beautiful surroundings.

Manali

 

Teddy Sahib and I then went to inspect a camp site up the Raison road at Baira Gram, it was an hours walk up and down in this acute heat and humidity that the valley is facing. A lovely spot which would need some development.

After the hot walk, a much needed tea with Uncle Jimmy and Aunty Bala (the Johnsons) at their beautiful home. A building that I consider the most beautiful hill home of all.

We wound up with a dinner of delicious trout at Pia’s – Johnson’s Cafe.

This was to be the end of our tour, but; ‘ So, Pavane Bhen,’ says Hari, ‘ it’s a long weekend coming should we go to Dalhousie?’ ‘It’s a boring long drive,’ I say reluctant to stop at Dharamsala. ‘Over the Sach?’ Hari, with a very naughty twinkle. Obviously, how does one resist that.

 

11 & 12 Aug 2014

Over the Sach, has to be quite the most spectacular drive that I have ever done.

Road to Sach2

 

Obviously we had to climb over the Rohtang again – long delays because we were accompanying Girimere and Karandeep who are riding their monster bikes up to Leh. So their kit had to be packed properly, then some leak fixed and who knows what else – however – it was hugely worth it to see the big smile and pure joy that emanated from my brother Girimere once he got on his bike and was ready to go. This has been one of his dreams. So we saw another dream driving off and followed them over the Rohtang. The pass was totally empty for a change. No traffic jams, even the Rani Nala is not acting up. Smoothly over and we stopped at Koksar for meat curry and rice with Pandit ji. Then onto the petrol pump at Tandi where we all refuelled and parted ways. We went up into the Pangi valley and the boys continued to Ladakh.

Giri in glee

 

The Pangi valley – a place of greenery and huge agricultural development. Everywhere you look are fields cut out of the mountains growing potatoes, peas and currently being harvested cauliflower. There are streams and waterfalls everywhere, the road follows the river Chenab or Chandra Bhaga all the way and is really not as bad as the section from Kunzom to Rohtang – less murderous for sure. The mountains change in every valley – these are sheer rock with tree cover and not the erosion that we were seeing earlier – spectacular and beautiful – what was great to see almost all over is the prosperity of the people due to the agricultural push. There are water channels in all directions tapped off every bitty little stream.

Green Pangi

 

We drove and drove well into the dark to finally arrive at Cherry Bangla to find some hundred people had taken over our booking as well as all else including a forest of tents pitched on the lawn. It is a great comfort to be driving with Hari and Teddy Sahib on occasions such as these. Hari who was way ahead of us, obviously, drove on and found another little rest house in the village of Sach. We even got a dhaba opened up who cooked us great daal, rice and the inimitable pudina and chilli chutney. Our rest house required the spreading of all our clothes on the rather dodgy sheets, thankfully it was warm and we did not need the even more dodgy quilts. The breakfast was compensatory the next morning, great parathas and egg bhurji and we set off to climb this amazing pass.

Road to Sach 1Road to Sach 3

 

It was 15 km to Kilar and then a little beyond you get to see this narrow slit in the rock wall across the river – it is the way up to the Sach pass. You go down and down to cross the bridge across the Chandra Bhaga (Chenab) and then start climbing this steep road up the very narrow valley of the Sach nala. Sheer rock sides, with waterfalls washing down in sprays that acted as a car wash many times.

Road to Sach

Dhabas below SachGravity defying villages perched on pinnacles of rock, sheep on steep meadows and a death defying trail along the other side that would make for an amazing trek. As we got closer to the top, it starts to open and the meadows begin to spread below just before the glacier starts – then you can see the piles of bald moraine between the spreading snow fields. This is the only one of the passes we crossed that still has so much snow. We stopped for lunch at the usual dhabas, just short of the final climb to the pass. Walls of snow on either side, large water crossings, the most brilliant pass crossing in a long time. Sach PassA small temple at the top where we all went and offered a prayer for thanks and safe passage onward. And the climb down, once past the snow – it was a spread of meadows covered in all the hues of flowers that are found in the high Himalaya.Off SachFlowering meadows A smorgasbord of scent and colour that we just stopped and stared at. Then it was an uneventful and regular ride to Dalhousie, via Bairagarh where there is a nice rest house, past Tissa where we used to camp in the woods as kids and then past Chamba & Khajjiar back home on the hill of Bakrota above Dalhousie.

Blue poppyHome Dalhousie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LADAKH, a drive across the high mountains


LEH MANALI DRIVE.
GRADE :DEMANDING                                                      

SEASON: JULY THROUGH SEPTEMBER

This spectacular road through the highest mountains in the world is open for only 3 months in the year – from mid July through September – crossing the Pir Panjal, the Greater Himalaya and the Zanskar ranges, it reaches a maximum elevation of 5304m. Calling this a road, maybe conferring more than it’s due, that it is a drivable route: a grand testament of human endeavor is the truth. The 476 km journey over four high passes and some of the most awe inspiring terrain in the world starts from Manali, along the green valley of the Beas river, up the steep switchbacks of the Rohtang Pass at 3978m. The Rohtang forms the divide between the verdant Kullu valley and the stark expanse of rock and glacier, in the rain shadow of the Pir Panjal range.

From Rohtang, the road descends to the Chandra River and follows it to Tandi where the Chandra meets the Bhaga River, little villages with groves of poplar, willow, and potato fields irrigated by glacial streams dot the landscape. The road continues past Keylong (district headquarters of Lahaul) and the last town till Leh, 360 kms beyond. Following the Bhaga River through Darcha and past the pastures of Zingzingbar, starts the ascent to the Baralacha Pass (4892m). “The Pass with the crossroads on its summit” – this grand pass straddles the meeting point of gigantic ranges, offering passage down four different routes, along the valleys of the Chandra and Bhaga rivers and into Ladakh and Spiti.
A rough stretch of road descends to the pastures of Sarchu 107 kms from Keylong. Now begin the wide-open spaces, dotted with the amazing textures and colours of craggy mountain faces, the gash of the Tsarap river, with it’s mud sculpted sides. The awesome world of nature’s timelessness dwarfing Man.

Once across the Tsarap river starts the grueling ascent to LachulangLa Pass (5059m), 54 kms from Sarchu. The amazing shapes and colours as you reach the top compensate the hard drive, descend along a little stream to Pang. Beyond Pang, the road crosses the Sumskyal, a deep gash marking the edge of the great Kyangshuthang plains – a massive plateau at an altitude of 4500m. Across the vast expanses of this plain are chances to see the Kyang (Tibetan wild ass), the Nabu (Blue Sheep), lots of marmot, as well as the Pashmina sheep of the Shepherds of Rupshu.
We take an interesting diversion at this point, short of the Tanglangla Pass – at 5325m, the highest point on the highway. 136 kms short of Leh a dirt road east leads to the Tso Kar Lake. We camp at this lake and see the breeding Brahmini ducks, Grebes and Black necked cranes. From Tso Kar we take a little used dirt road past hot springs and meadows where yak herders and goat herds have their summer pastures and taking a circuit north meet the highway in the Indus valley, and onto Leh and the comforts of hotels and hot baths.

(Along the regular route, once across the plain, at Dibring, the road starts climbing across the snowy reaches of the Tanglangla and descends into more inhabited Ladakh, meeting the Indus river at Upshi. Passing the Monastries of Hemis, Thikse and Shey, The road reaches the Bazaar of Leh.)

Leh is located in the Indus river valley at a crossroads of the old trading routes from Kashgar, Tibet, and Kashmir. Its importance as a trading town slowed down with the partition of British India, and ended with the closure of the border in 1962 during the Sino-Indian war. Since the 1999 war with Pakistan, and the consequent development of the Manali-Leh highway, it has become a bustling tourist town, the sights to visit are the Palace and the monasteries, and a wander through the bazaar is essential.

We can do two trips out of Leh: to the Nubra Valley and the Pangong tso lake.

For Nubra we cross the highest motorable pass at Khardungla (elevation 5359 m or 17,582 feet). Khardong La is historically important as it lies on the major caravan route from Leh to Kashgar in Chinese Central Asia. About 10,000 horses and camels used to take the route annually, and a small population of Bactrian camels can still be seen at Hundar, in the area north of the pass. It is an area that has only recently opened to the world. Still only about 45 kms of the valley are accessible. It is a tiny bit of paradise, orchards and wild flowers, the bactrian camels, wide meandering river. A discovery, leading to the highest battleground of the world – the Siachin glacier.

Pangong tso lake: situated at a height of about 4,350 m (14,270 ft). It is 134 km (83 mi) long and extends from India to Tibet. Pangong Tso can be reached in a five-hour drive from Leh, most of it on a rough and dramatic mountain road. The road traverses the Changla pass, where army sentries and a small teahouse greet visitors. The lake is spectacular, we spend the night in a camp on the banks, you get to see breeding Bar-headed geese and Brahmini ducks. If you are lucky enough to be there on a moonlit night and brave enough to weather the cold, there is magic there too, as there is all over these mountains.

Get in touch if you would like to do one of these drives, there are some fixed departures and i can tailor a trip too if you like.

Kauri Pass Trek

Kuari Pass Trek


The pass is probably the best window to view the high Himalayan peaks. The views are simply breathtaking, facing north the vision sweeps from the gorges of Trishul in the east to the peaks of Kedarnath in the west – the Kedarnath, Chaukhamba, Nilkantha, Kamet, Gauri Parbat, Hathi Parbat, Nandadevi, Bethartoli, Dunagiri – (all high 6000ers or 7000 m peaks) lined one after the other in a magnificent arc … Southwards the foothills stretch wave upon wave on to the dim haze of the distant plains. Dotted by some remote villages one also gets good insights into the local life.

Grade : Moderate

Day 00 : Overnight train from Delhi to Dehradun
Board the overnight Nizamuddin Dehradun AC Special to be in Haridwar early in the morning.

Day 01 : Drive Rishikesh to Ghat (1330m) 7-8 hrs.
The drive takes one into the rugged country of the Garhwal along the Alaknanda river. Going past a few holy confluences and then finally into the narrow valley of Nandakini we reach Ghat, the road head for the trek in the evening.

Day 02 : Ghat – Ramni / Ghunni (2550m) 6-7 hrs.
For the first half the trail goes along the river and then finally starts climbing from the river bottom, some parts being quite steep. We camp just above the fairly large village of Ramni in a nice grassy patch and visit the village in the evening.

Day 03 : Ghunni – Sem Kharak (2400 m) 5-6 hrs
The trail starts climbing up to the pass, crosses a lot of small tributary rivers and waterfalls including one which offers a great opportunity for a shower. After a steady climb we arrive a small pass called Ramni pass (3060m) which offers views of Kuari Pass and then we descend gradually to the grazing meadows of Sem Kharak.

Day 04 : Sem Kharak – Pana (2450m) 5-6 hrs
From Sem kharak we descend down to the suspension bridge over the Birthi Ganga then climb up again to another prosperous village of Pana

Day 05 : Pana – Dhakwani (3341m) 6-7 hrs
Option of camping at Sartoli (2980m), an hour and a half short of Dhakwani.
A few ascends, descends and traverses bring us close to the foot of the Kuari Pass. The trail comes out of the tree line and goes through the grazing grounds in the meadow country to reach Dhakwani.

Day 06 : Dhakwani – Tali (3180m) 4-5 hrs
The trail is steep up to the Kuari Pass (3690m) and it takes about 2-3 hours to get there. Once we are up on the pass, the views are simply breathtaking, a wide panorama of high Himalayas – the Chaukhamba range, Nilkanth (6596m), and Abigamin (7355m) extend to the Tibetan border. In the middle foreground, the main Himalayain chain in the vicinity of the Bhyundar valley & Hemkund includes Nilgiri parbat (6474m), Rataban (6166m). We walk down the beautiful ridge heading towards Auli and camp at the small campsite of Tali in the woods.

Day 07 : Tali – Auli (3000m) 3-4 hrs and drive to Birahi (1330m)
The last day of the trek is very different from the rest of the days. We climb out of the woods into the meadowland with wide views of the high mountains right in front. The walk finishes as Auli before going through the wide rolling meadows of Gorson. It’s about 3 hours drive from here to the comforts of the hotel in Birahi.

Day 08 : Birahi – Delhi
After an early morning breakfast set out for the long 8 hr drive to reach Hardwar in the evening to board the evening Shatabdi Express leaving at 6:10 pm to be back in Delhi by 10:30 pm. Trip ends !

Cost per person: Rs 29,117/-
Rs 19586 (trek cost)+Rs 8800(travel Cost)=Rs 28386+2.575%(service tax)
Cost includes: all travel from Delhi and back to Delhi by road/ rail / air as applicable (by non ac car / 2 or 3 tier ac coach), all arrangements for staying and camping while on the trip, accommodation on twin share basis in tents / rest houses / hotels, all meals, professional guide fee, peak fee, sanctuary fee / royalty / permits where applicable, all trekking arrangements with india’s most experienced guiding team, camp staff, cook etc.

Cost excludes: Railway station / airport transfers in delhi, any stay and meals in delhi, sleeping bag, items of personal clothing, expenses of personal nature like laundry, phone calls, alcohol, cigarettes, insurance, camera fee and any costs arising out of unforeseen circumstances such as bad weather, landslides, road conditions and any other circumstances beyond our control.

Note: Please book your spot well in time as the overnight trains get filled up very quickly, sometimes couple of months ahead of the travel dates. TATKAL Quota of tickets opens for booking only two days ahead of the travel date and there is an extra cost of Rs 500 for each of such booking. These tickets are paper tickets, confirmation is never guaranteed and arrangements to have them picked up from our office in Delhi would have to be made by you.

Activity Level
Our expedition trips are designed for energetic and flexible people who have the spirit of adventure and a positive attitude.  Previous experience in the outdoors and camping helps, though is not a must. These trips are participatory in nature, and everyone is expected to pitch in, set up and break down their own tent, clean their own dishes. Look up our trip grading before you sign up.

The Next Step
Ready to go? Email me at pavanemann@gmail.com to book your place and we will guide you through the booking process.

Services provided
In remote regions, we often use local suppliers who provide services that may include vehicles for transportation, equipment, logistical support, hotels, guest houses etc. We do not own or operate these independent services or suppliers. We work with them as they share our commitment to service and quality.

CHECKLIST FOR ESSENTIAL PERSONAL ITEMS FOR TREK:

01. Warm Sleeping Bag till 0’C (you could hire one @ Rs 100/- per day)
02. Woolens/thermal underwear
03. Wind/rain proof jacket
04. Good hiking/trekking shoes ; spare sandals
05. Socks – cotton+woolen / gloves
06. Water Bottle – at least 1 Lit.
07. Flash Light and spare batteries – important
08. Sun Shade/Hat with Brim/woolen hat/gloves
09. Sunglasses
10. Sunscreen/Sun block SPF 50 and more
11. Vaseline/Lip Salve
12. Insect Repellent (if you are prone to bites)
13. Personal Toiletries – towels/soap etc.
14. Rucksack/duffel bag to carry your baggage
15. Kari mat / Thermarest (optional)
16. Small daypack to carry camera, packed lunch, water bottle and wind/rain jacket on a walk.
17. Long trousers / long shirts / T-shirts etc.
18. Thermal underwear for cold days
19. Shorts / swimsuits for those warm days and a possible swim
20. Personal medication, if any
21. Your favourite Poison packed in plastic bottles.

Note:  Please keep your personal items to a minimum (besides the essentials) so that your bag (No hard shells please) is light and easy to carry. An extra daypack is a must to carry your camera, packed lunch and water bottle.

This is very important – please read very carefully – it will help you immensely in readying for the trek.

What to expect :
Temperatures & climate : Temperatures on the trip will vary from 20-30 degrees or to minimum 0-5 degrees Celsius. Its best to be prepared for lower temperatures due to wind chill or the weather turning bad.   The days are hot and the nights refreshingly cool.   You should be ready for inclement weather in any case as storms build up rather quickly at altitude.
What to carry: Keep it light – although what you carry with you is a very personal decision. Some of our guests love to travel as light as possible while others are only happy when they have countless bits of equipment for every possible occurrence, most of which will never be used.    The list we sent out covers all essentials that you must carry.
What you are expected to carry during the day on the trail is a  day pack – to carry things that you will need throughout the day, such as your camera, extra film rolls, water bottle, packed lunch, sweets, rehydration powders, waterproofs, toilet paper, a fleece or a jumper. It may be also advisable to carry a small flashlight in your daypack, just in case.
Good footwear is very important – most trails in the Indian Himalayas are pretty rough and steep so a good pair of shoes is important.   Socks, both for walking and a pair of warm ones for keeping feet warm inside the tent at night, is a good bet. Its important to bring a broken in shoe than a brand new one which could cause severe blisters.
Clothes: A good base layer which could be a thermal top (polypropylene), with a T-shirt on top will keep you warm and dry. Mid layers provide insulation so anything that is warm will do e.g. a medium thickness woolen jumper or a mid-weight fleece top, along with another lightweight fleece top will suffice. If you really feel the cold, substitute the thinner layer with a down jacket. The outer layer is the final layer between you and the elements and must be capable of keeping out the wind, rain and snow. Any good waterproof, windproof jacket would do the job. Leg wear in the form of thermal long johns are invaluable. Cotton trousers or long skirts (long skirts for ladies also double as a `port-a-loo’) worn over this layer can keep you very comfortable. A good sun hat is very essential. Sunglasses which offer 100% UV protection are necessary to combat strong daylight.
A good quality sleeping bag ensures a good nights sleep after a long day outdoors. Do not compromise on your sleeping bag – err on the side of carrying a warmer bag,  than carrying a light one which may give you many sleepless nights.
Carry any and all personal medication that you may need, and its an absolute must to let us know  well in advance should you be suffering from any particular ailment.
How to carry: Its best to carry your belongings in a large, tough duffel bag or a big rucksack.   A bum / waist bag is handy to have your camera, film rolls, flashlights (handy when visiting monasteries / temples) and a guidebook, when you are sightseeing.   Pack similar things such as clothes, washing things, camping equipment etc. in separate stuff sacks or polythene bags so they are easier to pull out and add to the waterproofing in your bag.  Your main bag should be a tough one as it will be on mule back, not the best place to be for a fragile backpack.
Altitude considerations:
Travel to any part of  the Indian Himalayas deserves a little more respect than many other high altitude destinations because the most of the regions lie over 2600 meters (8500 ft). People in good health should not get alarmed by this but if you have a medical condition such as high blood pressure, heart or lung disease, you must take the advise of a doctor who has experience with the effects of altitude. We do not take heart or lung patients, or pregnant mothers on such trips.
Any kind of exercise which gets you fitter before this trip is advisable, as it will enable you to enjoy the region more.
A day on a trek begins with breakfast at 7 am by which time; you are expected to vacate your tent so packing can begin. Your   help with setting up and packing up of tents is always welcome. We aim to usually be on the trail by 8:30 am and reach our camp for the day by 2-3pm, if not earlier. Long days on the trail   may mean an earlier start and a 8-10 hour walking day. Lunch is usually had on the walk, and you’d get into camp for a welcome cup of tea. Remember to carry your favorite poison – there is no local produce to bank on.
You will sleep inside tents. Karri mats are provided for you to sleep on and are placed under your sleeping bag.   If you have your personal karrimat, please carry it along.
Our entire crew will consist of guide and cooking staff (alongwith mules and mule men), which would prepare the days meals for the days that we are camping out.  Menus vary from Indian fare to Chinese, pasta, cold cuts, sandwiches, eggs etc.. We will provide you safe drinking water throughout the trek – it will either be bottled or boiled with a  dash of iodine.
The entire crew moves together in a totally self-contained manner like a tight knit unit. All food, water and shelter, is carried on the trek which is why we need to use discretion while packing – see the update above on packing.
It will help for you all to carry some easy to access medicine on the trip, for headaches, diarrhea, constipation, and some re-hydration powders like Electral etc. It’s also a good idea to have a roll of toilet paper accessible should you need to go.

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek

ANNAPURNA SANCTUARY TEA-HOUSE TREK

ONE OF THE FINEST TREKS IN NEPAL

NOV 10-24, 2012

11 nights at local TEA-HOUSES 

Grade: Moderate

The Annapurnas rise in the heart of the Himalayas. They may not be the tallest, but they form the central core of the great Himalayan arc, towering in the very middle of the 2550km chain that is the planet’s highest range. Annapurna region is a microcosm of the Himalayas, and one that is easily accessible. Unlike many other Himalayan ranges, the 55km range is entirely within Nepal and with a relatively easy trail that goes all around it, called the Annapurna Circuit. The Annapurna Sanctuary trek we do takes us right in the midst of Annapurna mountains. Apart from Annapurna I (8091m/26,781ft), the world’s tenth highest mountain,  the Annapurna Himal, as the range is popularly called, houses five other major peaks – Annapurna II, III, IV, South and Gangapurna, all exceeding 7200m (23,260ft).
With the increase in the standards of lodges on the popular trails in Nepal, it is now possible to offer treks which are much more comfortable than camping, certainly if it snows or rains. For those people put off by the idea of camping and not having showers for considerable periods of time, this trip opens up a fantastic area of the Himalayas. The tea houses offer clean & comfortable accommodation mostly in twin bedded rooms or in 4 bedded dormitories. It should be noted that there are basic facilities of shared toilets and shower rooms which are sometimes located in separate buildings. Most tea houses however provide hot water for showering (at an additional charge).

Trip Itinerary

Day 1 / Nov 10 – Arrive at KATHMANDU (1375m)
Arrive and transfer to hotel. Later this evening we meet our Trek Leader and the other members of the tour. Group Package services begin with dinner.
Overnight Hotel.

Day 2 / Nov 11 – Drive KATHMANDU to POKHARA and trek to BIRETHANTI (1,000m) 8-9 hrs drive & 30mins trek.
Drive from Kathmandu to Pokhara and continue driving to Nayapul before hiking to the pleasant riverside village of Birethanti, at the edge of the Annapurna trekking region.
Overnight Tea-House

Day 3 / Nov 12 – Trek BIRETHANTI to BANTHANTI (2,300m) 6hrs
Our first day on the trail, we trek through oak and rhododendron forests and follow the Bhurungdi Khola (river) to Banthanti.
Overnight Tea-House

Day 4 / Nov 13 – Trek BANTHANTI to GHOREPANI (2,850m) 3-4 hrs
We continue along the Bhurungdi Khola and ascend Ulleri Hill, eventually arriving at Ghorepani from where we get perfect views of the Annapurna range.
Overnight Tea-House

Day 5 / Nov 14 – Trek to POON HILL (3220m) and continue to TADAPANI (2700m)
1hr to Poon Hill, 30-45 mins back to Ghorepani and walk 5 hrs to Tadapani.
Rise early to climb up Poon Hill to watch a magnificent sunrise over the Himalaya. From west to east you can see Dhaulagiri, Tukuche, Dhampus Peak, Nilgiri, Annapurnas and Machapuchare – breathtaking! We then continue to Tadapani, trekking through open grassland and deep forests. On the way there are excellent views of Annapurna South and the Manaslu range.
Overnight Tea-House

Day 6 / Nov 15 – Trek TADAPANI to CHOMRONG (2,000m) 5 hrs
Today, we have a steep descent through rhododendron forest to the valley bottom, with fabulous mountain views. Later the path climbs steeply again before we arrive at the lively trekking hub of Chomrong.
Overnight Tea-House

Day 7 / Nov 16 – Trek CHOMRONG to DOBAN (2,500m) 6-7 hrs
Our trail descends on a stone staircase and crosses the Chomrong Khola before climbing through deep rhododendron and bamboo forests to Doban.
Overnight Tea-House

Day 8 / Nov 17 – Trek DOBAN to MBC, MACHAPUCHARE BASE CAMP (3,600m) 6-7 hrs
Our aim today is to pass through the gates of the sanctuary. We trek up the muddy surface of the Modi Khola, then along a rocky trail to Hinku cave. From here we climb towards the base camp of Machapuchare. There are stupendous views of the Hiunchuli, Annapurna I & III, Gangapurna and Machapuchare, the ‘fish tail’ mountain peak.
Overnight Tea-House

Day 9 / Nov 18 – Trek MBC to ABC, ANNAPURNA BASE CAMP (4,100m) 2-3 hrs
We continue our exploration of the sanctuary and ascend to the Annapurna Base Camp.
Overnight Tea-House

Day 10 / Nov 19 – Trek ABC to BAMBOO (2,500m) 6-7 hrs
Retracing our steps we return along the only route to Bamboo.
Overnight Tea-House

Day 11 / Nov 20 – Trek BAMBOO to JHINU (1,750m) 6 hrs
Descend to Chomrong, continue to Jhinu hot spring where we can enjoy a hot spring bath and soothe our aching muscles!
Overnight Tea-House

Day 12 / Nov 21 – Trek JHINU to DHAMPUS (1,600m) 7-8 hrs
Our last full day trekking, we follow the route to the village of Pothana and continue till Dhampus.
Overnight Tea-House

Day 13 / Nov 22 – Trek DHAMPUS to PHEDI (1130m) and drive to POKHARA (900m) 2 hrs trek and 45mins drive
A short morning trek to pick up our vehicle for the journey to Pokhara. Rest of the day at leisure in this beautiful lakeside city.
Overnight Hotel

Day 14 / Nov 23 – Fly POKHARA to KATHMANDU; 45mins
Early morning flight back to Kathmandu, spend the rest of the day at leisure or walking around Kathmandu which has interesting shops, cafes and restaurants, as well as colourful temples & shrines.
Overnight Hotel

Day 15 / Nov 24 – DEPART KATHMANDU
Transfer to International Airport. Trek Tour ends after lunch.

Important: This day-to-day schedule should be taken only as a general guide. Although we do a lot of research on our itineraries on a regular basis, it is not possible to guarantee that any of our trips will run exactly according to the proposed itinerary. A variety of factors, including adverse weather conditions and difficulties with transportation, can lead to enforced changes. The trip leader will make any changes that are necessary.

Land Cost : INR 68,000/- per person

Cost Includes: –
•    Hotel 2-3 star Hotel in Kathmandu and Pokhara on twin sharing basis
•    All transportation
•    Aquaterra  Adventures Trip leader being assisted by a Nepalese Trek leader
•    Experienced Trekking “Chef”
•    1 porter between three trekkers
•    Good clothing for porters and crew
•    Food for porters & crew members
•    Insurance for crew and porters
•    All permits
•    Twin sharing room on trek
•    All meals on trek
•    Domestic airfare.

Cost Excludes: –
•    International Airfare
•    International airport taxes
•    Visas
•    All optional additional tours or activities during free time
•    Transportation outside of the tour program
•    Travel insurance
•    Tips
•    Items of a personal nature like phone calls, alcohol, cigarettes, bottled beverages, laundry, souvenir etc.
•    Costs arising out of unforeseen circumstances such as bad weather, landslides, road conditions and any other circumstances beyond our control.
What to expect
Accommodation:
The standard of Lodges along the Annapurna region is constantly improving. Some lodges may be rustic but have neat and clean rooms with shared bathroom while the newer lodges have been said to be even better than those in the Alps!
Whilst on trek there are 11 nights in lodges/tea houses. All accommodation is on a twin sharing basis (note that in some lodges only dormitory beds may be available). If you are travelling by yourself you will be paired up with another single client of the same sex. The ‘tea-houses’ are simple, friendly and atmospheric.  Mostly these lodges have heated dining areas which are often ‘interestingly’ decorated.
Accommodation is basic in unheated rooms with wooden beds and foam mattress. You will need a sleeping bag. The lodges have shared washing and toilet facilities. Some lodges have solar powered showers (charged at $2 – $3 per shower) and battery charging facilities (also charged at a rate per hour). Staying at the lodges is a great way to meet fellow hikers and the locals.

Temperatures & climate:
In the Himalayas the weather is most stable in the post monsoon months of October –December offering the clearest skies and the best views of the high mountains. On the lower reaches of the trek , the maximum daytime temperature will be around 25°C / 77°F, with night-time lows around 10°C / 50°F.  At our highest camps, the night-time temperature may fall as low as minus 10°C / plus 14°F. Although the weather is stable at this time one should remember that any mountain area generates its own weather system and some rain or light snowfall cannot be ruled out. Its best to be prepared for lower temperatures due to wind chill or the weather turning bad.
What to carry:
Keep it light – although what you carry with you is a very personal decision. Some of our guests love to travel as light as possible while others are only happy when they have countless bits of equipment for every possible eventuality, most of which will never be used. The list we send out at the time of booking covers all essentials that you must carry.
What you are expected to carry during the day on the trail is a  day pack – to carry the things that you will need throughout the day, such as your camera, extra batteries, water bottle, sweets, rehydration powders, waterproofs, toilet paper, a fleece or a jumper.

A good pair of boots is very important: Wear thin cotton / nylon socks during the day, thick woollen ones would give you blisters – need to be worn only at the campsites to keep your feet warm. Few things will make you more miserable during the trek than blisters which are almost certain to occur if your boots are not broken in. If you are buying new boots buy them as soon as you can and wear them as much as you can before the trek.

Clothes:
While walking the body heats up and all we need to wear is a T-shirt & cargos/ trousers. However all our warm clothes will come into play in the mornings / evenings when we aren’t doing much physically. A good base layer which could be a thermal top (polypropylene), with a T-shirt on top will keep you warm and dry. Mid layers provide insulation so anything that is warm will do e.g. a medium thickness woollen jumper or a mid-weight fleece top, along with another lightweight fleece top will suffice. If you really feel the cold, substitute the thinner layer with a down jacket. The outer layer is the final layer between you and the elements and must be capable of keeping out the wind, rain, sleet and snow. Any good waterproof, windproof jacket would do the job. Leg wear in the form of thermal long johns are invaluable. A good sun hat is very essential. Sunglasses which offer 100% UV protection are necessary to combat strong sunlight and snow reflection.

Sleeping Bag:
A good quality sleeping bag ensures a good nights sleep after a long day outdoors. A minus 5 degree or lower sleeping bag is recommended for this trip. Do not compromise on your sleeping bag – err on the side of carrying a warmer bag, than carrying a light one which may give you many sleepless nights. We provide rubber mattresses to sleep on, if you have your personal thermarests or inflatable mattresses, please carry them along.

Medication & First Aid:
Carry any and all personal medication that you may need, and it’s an absolute must to let us know well in advance should you be suffering from any particular ailment.
First Aid accompanies each trip. All trip leaders have appropriate wilderness first-aid training and are experienced in dealing with a range of medical problems associated with adventure travel. It is advisable  to have your own personal first aid kit consisting of a broad spectrum antibiotic, antiseptic cream, throat lozenges, diarrhoea treatment (Imodium), altitude (Diamox), painkillers, plasters and blister treatment, Insect repellent (DEET), and re-hydration salts (Electral, Dioralite etc). Glucose tablets and multi-vitamin tablets are also a good idea.
It’s also a good idea to have a roll of toilet paper accessible should you need to go.
How to carry baggage/ Baggage Allowance:
It’s best to carry your belongings in a large, tough duffle bag or a big rucksack. Pack similar things such as clothes, washing things, camping equipment etc. in separate sacks or polythene bags so they are easier to pull out when needed and add to the waterproofing in your bag.  Your main duffle bag should be a tough one as it will be with the porter, not the best place to be for a fragile backpack. The packed weight of your duffle bag whilst on the mountain should be no more than 12kg (26.5 pounds). It is possible to leave extra clothes and other items not required on the trek at the hotel. Bring a second bag for this purpose. While trekking you will need to carry a small daypack large enough for your camera, water bottle, packed lunch, a warm layer and wind/rain jacket.

A day on a trek normally begins with tea at first light after which you are expected to get ready and start packing your bag.  After a hot breakfast at the lodge dining room, we start the day’s walk. Normally after walking 3-4 hrs we arrive at our lunch spot where we have lunch in one of the tea-houses. Lunch break is normally about an hour or a little more. We continue walking after lunch and aim to reach our overnight stop by 3 or 4 p.m. This leaves plenty of time for exploring the place and for catching up on your diary or for reading. Dinner is served in the lodge dining room and is a three course meal. This is a great time of day for relaxing, meeting fellow trekkers and discussing the events of the trek etc.

Our Crew:
Our group would be led by a highly experienced ATA mountain guide with the help of first-rate local guide who would have considerable experience of leading treks to Annapurna Sanctuary.  The support crew will consist of cooking staff (along with porters), who would prepare the days meals for the days that we are on the trek.

Food:
On the trek, the food is a mixture of local and European, all purchased in Nepal and cooked for us by highly trained trek cooks. Menus vary from Indian fare to Chinese, pasta, cold cuts, sandwiches, eggs etc. The emphasis is on a high carbohydrate and largely vegetarian diet, which we have found to be easily digestible especially at high altitude. This is a fully inclusive package and all meals are included in the trip price. You might want to carry your favourite snack or some power bars with you for the long trekking days. We will provide you safe drinking water throughout the trek – it will be boiled with a dash of iodine.
The entire crew moves together in a totally self-contained manner like a tightly knit unit.

Altitude considerations:
Travel to any part of the Indian Himalayas deserves a little more respect than many other mountain ranges because most of the regions lie in high altitudes 2500 meters (8000 ft).
This is not something that you should worry about. The human body is quite capable of adapting to a very wide range of barometric pressures and there is plenty of oxygen even at the highest point of our trips. However, this process of adaptation or acclimatisation does take time and the most important rule is to gain height slowly.

We do not take heart or lung patients, or pregnant mothers on such trips.

General Information

Language:
The national language of Nepal is Nepali, which is quite similar in structure to Hindi. You will find that a lot of people speak basic English, so you will not have any problems buying souvenirs or ordering in restaurants etc.
Visa requirements:
A valid passport is required with 6 months remaining validity at the time of travelling. All nationalities except Indians need a visa for entry into Nepal for which you will need to contact the Nepalese Embassy in your home country. Visas are also available on arrival in Kathmandu
Joining arrangements and transfers:
You MUST provide our office full details of your flights, so that we can arrange your airport transfers in Kathmandu. Hotel contact details and an emergency number will be provided with your joining instructions prior to departure.
Spending money:
Additional amounts should be carried to cover miscellaneous expenses, including tips. There will be opportunities to buy snacks, soft drinks and beer on the trek. Souvenirs can be bought in a number of places, some of which will accept credit cards. If you are intending to buy expensive items, you should budget accordingly. Your travel money should be carried in the form of cash. Sterling, Euros, US dollars, Indian Rupees are accepted in Nepal. It is also possible to withdraw money from the ATMs in Kathmandu.
Responsible Travel:
We believe that along with the privilege of travelling in the wilderness comes a serious responsibility, the responsibility to protect and contribute to its ecology, cultures and its tremendous beauty. The “Leave No Trace” philosophy is followed to the letter and we work to minimize the environmental impact of our trips. We are scrupulous in our camping, cooking and sanitation practices; we limit the number of trekkers we allow to join us on our trips and the number of trips we lead in a given area.

Activity Level
Our expedition trips are designed for energetic and flexible people who have the spirit of adventure and a positive attitude.  Previous experience in the outdoors and camping helps, though is not a must. These trips are participatory in nature, and everyone is expected to pitch in, set up and break down their own tent, clean their own dishes. Look up our trip grading before you sign up: Moderate


The Next Step
Ready to go? Email me at pavanemann@gmail.com to book your place and I will guide you through the booking process.
Why book a trip with me?
Because I am one of the pioneers of adventure sports in India and have the experience to direct you to the best in the field. Any trips I promote are thoroughly researched and run by outfits that include people that have worked with me, been trained by me, or have been peers that I myself have travelled with. I have a lot to live up to and I ensure that you are indeed looked after by the best in whichever area you choose.

References: Should you wish to contact any of our past guests for a trip reference, write to us.

Services provided
In remote regions, we often use local suppliers who provide services that may include vehicles for transportation, equipment, logistical support, hotels, guest houses etc. We do not own or operate these independent services or suppliers. We work with them as they share our commitment to service and quality.

Ladakh and Zanskar – the last frontier

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With more than 25 years in the field of Adventure Travel.

I am now using my knowledge and expertise to periodically bring to you a pick of the best adventure trips being offered in our country. Some of which I do also join.

Please note that any trip I recommend is :

1.Most likely one I have personally done before or would definitely do.

2.Run by complete professionals who take care of not only the fun and enjoyment, but have a standard and safety record of the highest.

3.Is a trip that will give you the best the area chosen has to offer, with people who are some of the best to explore it with.

So here is a magical trip that I highly recommend. Read on and join us.

Zanskar Update

“There is nothing whatever to do. That is Leh’s charm…nothing to do but to slow down, relax, laze, to become one vast transparent eye” Andrew Harvey A Journey in Ladakh

A Zanskar – Ladakh expedition adventure. Its one of the best ways to visit Ladakh. It is certainly not a strenuous trip, and besides being the only way to visit the canyon of the Zanskar, it has great hiking options nearly every day on the trip.
We have two departures, so do decide soon on which departure you would like to be on, and revert soonest so we can block space for you.If you are a large group we would suggest take the second dates.

Aquaterra Adventures, a leading adventure operator, are pioneers in adventure travel throughout the Indian Himalaya, offering the widest range of adventure travel products, from soft adventure trips to challenging expedition travel. They lay tremendous emphasis on safety, meticulous planning and top-notch guides and equipment. Add to that efficient staff, guides current in First Aid and CPR certification, excellent camp cuisine and an eco-friendly approach to travel.

LADAKH – An Introduction

Ladakh lies in the eastern half of the state of Jammu & Kashmir in the far north of India. It shares its much disputed north western border with Pakistan, while to the north lies the Chinese province of Sinkiang, and to the east, Chinese occupied Tibet. It covers an area of approximately 60,000 sq. kms.And ranges from 2600 metres to 7670 metres in elevation, making it the largest and highest district in India. Ladakh is sandwiched between two mountain systems – the Karakorams to the north and the Himalayas in the south. Ladakh can basically be divided into five geographical regions – Central Ladakh(the heartland of the Indus valley), Nubra(lying to the north of the Ladakh range), Rupshu (a dry, high altitude plateau lying in the south-east of Ladakh, Zanskar(one of the highest inhabited regions in the world) and western Ladakh or Lower Ladakh (around Kargil).

Ladakh really is a “Little Tibet”. Although Tibet is politically part of China today, Ladakh, like parts of Nepal, is situated on the Tibetan plateau.Ladakh has many Tibetan refugees who fled Tibet with the invasion from China.The daunting height of the Himalaya adds to its isolation, even today the main road routes to Ladakh remain closed for more than six months of each year. Until 1979, there were no regular civilian flights into Ladakh so from October to June the region was completely cut off.

Today, it is full of amazing sights – strange gompas perched on soaring hilltops, dwarfed by snow capped mountains, the barren shattered looking landscapes splashed with small, brilliant patches of green and ancient palaces clinging to sheer rock walls. But most of all it is notable for its delightful people – friendly as only Tibetans can be and immensely colorful.

Our Journey to Zanskar

We will pass the airport and Spituk gompa on our way, travelling west of Leh towards Kargil. After the army camps, the road rises upto a plateau and passes the diversion to Phiyang gompa. After 36 kms of leaving Leh, we reach Nimu, the confluence of the Zanskar with the Lion river, the Indus.

The next 60 kms are a culture vulture’s dream. 06 kms after Nimu we pass the temples and derelict fort at Basgo.Another 10 kms, we reach the painted caves at Saspol. The historic gompa of Alchi is only a 4 km diversion from here.

26 kms further down the road we reach Khalsi where the road crosses the Indus river and slowly winds its way 27 kms upto the beautiful gompa at Lamayuru. On the left, just before reaching the village, there are great views of the ‘moonlands’. We continue climbing for 15 kms upto the highest pass on the route, the Fatu La (13,450ft). After 36 more kms we cross another pass, the Namika La (12,210ft) and then the road descends 15 kms to the village of Mulbekh. Just before the village, there is an ancient 9 metre sculpture of Maitreya, or future Buddha carved into the rock. From Mulbekh, the Wakha river leads upto the cliff face gompa of Gyal.

41 kms further is the town of Kargil which marks the transition to a predominantly Muslim area from where one can either continue west to Kashmir or take the rough road south up the Suru valley into Zanskar, which is our destination.

From Kargil, the road runs south upto the Suru valley for 67 kms upto Panikhar. The Balti settlements along this valley are surrounded by lush fields growing a wide variety of crops and fruits ; the villages may seem rather untidy and in a state of disrepair. As we gain height the mighty snow capped peaks of Nun (23,410ft) and Kun (23,220 ft) begin to dominate the view.

The road swings to the east for 63 kms, past the last Muslim settlement of Parkachik, to the Buddhist Gelukpa monastery of Rangdum, sitting astride a small hill in the middle of a wide plain.

The Pensi La (14,440 ft), which is the entrance to Zanskar is only 20 kms from here. The road descends to the Stod or Doda river which it now follows past the well cared for Zanskari villages to Padum (90 kms), the capital of Zanskar. A little more than a large village, it has a surprisingly large Muslim population, mainly Baltis from the Kargil area, who have settled here since the mid 17th century.


THE LADAKH – ZANSKAR EXPEDITION

Aug 7-18 and Aug 21-Sep 01, 2010

Trip Overview

Our trip begins in Leh with an early morning scenic flight. On a clear day, you could see as far as K2. We land in very barren landscape as the plane nearly skims the sides of Spituk gompa on one of the most difficult landings in the world.

Be prepared to be frisked a lot on this flight – this is a high security flight. Keep a pen and your passports handy – visitor’s registration needed when we land at the airport.

Leh, where the altitude of 11,500 feet makes you lightheaded and the simplest chore — climbing a few stairs or struggling with a tight sleeping bag could leave you short of breath. Many people may need up to 24 hours to acclimatize. Headaches and breathlessness usually can be controlled with rest and very light exercise, if any.

A three-day ride to the put-in point on the Stod River traverses mile after mile of empty valleys, past millennia-old glaciers and up dizzying mountain passes 14,000 feet high.

The Zanskar river trip is graded as being medium difficult, over its 110-mile, six-day white-water rafting expedition. Its scenic beauty and landscape is such that you’d be thrilled to have signed up for this yearly feature.

The Zanskar is one of India’s most remote, most isolated and little-traversed rivers.

More than half our journey will pass through an otherwise inaccessible gorge, where each bend in the river brings yet another astounding array of color and shape.

Water temperatures will vary between 9-11 degrees Celsius.You will be outfitted with wetsuits, booties, gloves, and splash jackets under your lifejackets.The sun is extremely fierce, and large amounts of protective layering, caps, sunshades and sun block are needed.

A day on the road will typically begin by 6 am for long 8-9 hour drives with lunch enroute and we will reach Kargil on the first day to have our last shower for nine days.The next two days are over a mainly un-tarred road to the plains of Rangdum and onwards to the put-in at Remala, on the Stod river which meets the Tsarap Chu river downriver of Padum, to form the Zanskar river.

At Remala, we say goodbye to our duffel bags and transfer all that we need for the next six nights into large dry bags, to be shared by 2 persons.Pack carefully.We will carry these on rafts till our take out at Nimu.

Our trip starts with a safety briefing by your guides – rafts used may be oar / paddle assist or only paddle rafts. The first two days on the river are easy and on the third day, we enter the gorge of the Zanskar, where sheer walls rise 2500-3000 feet above the river.

We are on the river for a total of six rafting days plus one day dedicated to a hike into a Zanskar village.A river day begins with breakfast at 7 am by which time; you are expected to vacate your tent so packing can begin. You may help with setting up and packing up of tents. We aim to usually be on river by 9am and reach our camp for the day by 2-3pm, if not earlier. Lunch is usually had on river, and cocktail hour is at sundown each evening. Please remember to carry ample quantities of your favorite poison – there will be no local produce to bank on !

You will sleep inside 4 season tents, which can withstand extreme weather conditions.Karri mats are provided for you to sleep on and are placed under your sleeping bag.If you own a thermorest, please bring it along. Toilets are the great outdoors for most – we also carry toilet tents to use for ladies and whoever may care to give up the joy of having a nicer view.

Our crew of guides will also be supplemented by a cooking crew, which would prepare the days meals for the 8 days that we are camping out.Menus vary from Indian fare to Chinese, pasta, cold cuts, sandwiches, eggs etc.. You will be surprised by the variety.We provide you safe drinking water throughout the expedition – we use only the best – KATADYN EXPEDITION water filtration system, which is used by most wilderness expeditions, including those going to Mt. Everest.

The entire crew moves together in a totally self-contained manner like a tight knit unit. All food, water and shelter, is carried on rafts and a cataraft.Which is why we need to use discretion while packing – see the packing list.

We carry a pretty comprehensive first aid kit on the trip but it will help for you all to carry some easy to access medicine on the trip, for headaches, diarrhea, constipation, and some re-hydration powders like Electral etc. It’s also a good idea to have a roll of toilet paper accessible should you need to go.

Activity Level

Our expedition trips are designed for energetic and flexible people who have the spirit of adventure and a positive attitude.Previous experience in the outdoors and camping helps, though is not a must. These trips are participatory in nature, and everyone is expected to pitch in,set up and break down their own tent, clean their own dishes and help with loading and unloading the rafts.

Altitude considerations :

Travel to any part ofLadakh deserves a little more respect than many other high altitude destinations because the whole region lies over 2600 meters (8500 ft). People in good health should not get alarmed by this but if you have a medical condition such as high blood pressure, heart or lung disease, you must take the advise of a doctor who has experience with the effects of altitude. We do not take heart or lung patients, or pregnant mothers on this expedition.

Any kind of exercise which gets you fitter before this trip is advisable, as it will enable you to enjoy the region more, even though all hikes are optional andthe rafting not of a very strenuous nature.

Headache, Nausea & Dizziness, Loss of appetite, Fatigue, Shortness of breath, Disturbed sleep, General feeling of malaise are fairly common symptoms on arrival by air into Leh. These can also be tackled by complete rest on Day 1, sleeping well and drinking lots of fluids (atleast 4-6 litres of the non-alcoholic kind!) and not smoking too much. On all our Ladakh trips till date, nearly all have acclimatised very well and we have had only one instance of a person being in hospital on the first night, on oxygen after which she seemed to have extra bundle of energy throughout the trip.

Services provided

In remote regions, we often use local suppliers who provide services that may include vehicles for transportation, equipment, logistical support, hotels, guest houses etc. We do not own or operate these independent services or suppliers. We work with them as they share our commitment to service and quality.

Note: Flights to Leh and back are extremely difficult to book during the season. We normally have an airline block which expires 45 days before the trip date. Should you wish to extend your stay in Leh, please put in a request at the time of booking.

Cost per person: Rs. 59,000 plus airfare Delhi-Leh-Delhi Rs. 21,500/person

Total cost per person including return airfare and 2.575% service tax:

Rs. 82,573/-

Whats Included: all travel from Delhi and back to Delhi by road/ rail / air as applicable (by air and non ac car / jeep / coach), all arrangements for staying and camping while on the trip, accommodation on twin share basis in tents / rest houses / hotels, all meals including those at Leh / Kargil hotels, professional guide fee,all rafting, kayaking and safety equipment with India’s most experienced guiding team, expert leadership, camp staff, cook etc.

Whats not :airport transfers in Delhi, any stay and meals in Delhi, bottled water / alcoholic beverages at Leh / Kargil hotels, restaurant meals outside Leh/Kargil hotels, sleeping bag, items of personal clothing,expenses of a personal nature like laundry, phone calls, alcohol, cigarettes, basic medical and evacuation insurance;any costs arisingoutof unforeseen circumstances suchasbadweather, landslides,roadconditions and any other circumstancesbeyondour control.

Rates quoted are on twin share. If you prefer single accommodation, the single supplement is Rs. 7500. If you are traveling alone and wish to share accommodation, we will try our best to find you a roommate. If that is not possible, you will need to pay a “forced” single supplement of Rs. 3750.

Booking conditions: All bookings are subject to availability of space . We book space on a 100% advance.

 

The Next Step

Ready to go? Email me at pavanemann@gmail.com and I will forward the booking form and payment details to you.

IMPORTANT NOTE: AQUATERRA ADVENTURES (I) PVT. LTD.‚ reserves the right to change, alter or cancel a trip due to any reason or extraordinary circumstance like dangerous water levels, landslides, bad weather etc..This right will be exercised in the best interest of your safety, and for the well being of an individual or group of individuals.

What to expect :

Temperatures : temperatures on the trip will vary from a maximum of 24 degrees to minimum 10 degrees Celsius. Its best to be prepared for lower temperatures due to wind chill or the weather turning bad.The days are hot and the nights refreshingly cool.

What to carry : Keep it light – although what you carry with you is a very personal decision. Some of our guests love to travel as light as possible while others are only happy when they have countless bits of equipment for every possible occurrence, most of which will never be used.The list below covers all essentials that you must carry.

A day pack is great to carry things that you will need throughout the day, such as your camera, water bottle, packed lunch, waterproofs, a fleece or a jumper.

Good footwear is very important – most trails in Ladakh are pretty rough and steep so a good pair of shoes is important. Sandals work well on the raft (even though you have wetsuit booties as an option) and also for visiting monasteries (where footwear needs to be taken on and off, frequently). Socks, both for walking and a pair of warm ones for keeping feet warm inside the tent at night, is a good bet.

Clothes: A good base layer which could be a thermal top (polypropylene), with a T-shirt on top will keep you warm and dry. Mid layers provide insulation so anything that is warm will do e.g. a medium thickness woolen jumper or a mid-weight fleece top, along with another lightweight fleece top will suffice. If you really feel the cold, substitute the thinner layer with a down jacket. The outer layer is the final layer between you and the elements and must be capable of keeping out the wind, rain and snow. Any good waterproof, windproof jacket would do the job. Leg wear in the form of thermal long johns are invaluable. Cotton trousers or long skirts (long skirts for ladies also double as a `port-a-loo’) worn over this layer can keep you very comfortable. A good sun hat is very essential. Sunglasses which offer 100% UV protection are necessary to combat strong daylight.

A good quality sleeping bag ensures a good nights sleep after a long day outdoors. Do not compromise on your sleeping bag – err on the side of carrying a warmer bag, than carrying a light one which may give you many sleepless nights.

Carry any personal medication that you may need, or let us know should you be suffering from any particular ailment.

How to carry: Its best to carry your belongings in a large, tough duffel bag or a big rucksack.A bum / waist bag is handy to have your camera, film rolls, flashlights (handy when visiting monasteries) and a guidebook, when you are sightseeing.Pack similar things such as clothes, washing things, camping equipment etc. in separate stuff sacks or polythene bags so they are easier to pull out and add to the waterproofing in your bag.

CHECKLIST FOR ESSENTIAL PERSONAL ITEMS:

01. Warm Sleeping Bag (till 0’C or below at least)

02. Woollens/thermal underwear

03. Wind/rain proof jacket

04. Hiking/trekking shoes ; spare sandals

05. Woollen socks

06. Water Bottle

07. Flash Light and spare batteries – important

08. Sun Shade/Hat with Brim/woolen hat/gloves

09. Sunglasses and eyeglass retainers

10. Sunscreen/Sun block

11. Vaseline/Lip Salve

12. Insect Repellent

13. Personal Toiletries – towels/soap etc.

14. Rucsac/duffel bag to carry your baggage

15. Karimat / Thermarest (optional)

16. Small daypack to carry camera, packed lunch, water bottle and wind/rain jacket on a walk.

17. Long trousers / long shirts / Tshirts etc.

18. Good pair of shorts, one quick dry to be worn over wetsuit

19. Swim suit for ladies – a bikini top and bottom is great for wearing under the wetsuit

20. Alcohol / cigarettes – not available on trip

We provide wetsuits, wet boots, wet gloves and all rafting gear. You live in 4 season tents to withstand weather extremes, if any on the trip.Other items of personal nature need to be added by you especially personal medication, if any. Temperatures are going to vary between 25-30 degrees Celsius to 5-10 degrees at night. Long pants and long shirts are handy because of the strong sun and lots of sun tan lotion.

GEAR LINKS

1. NRS – Kayaking Gear, Rafting Supplies and Boating Equipment

 

2. www.keenfootwear.com/

 

3.www.chacosan.com/

Thermal wear : www.patagonia.com ; www.hellyhansen.com ; www.rei.com ; www.mec.ca

 

Thermarest : www.thermarest.com

 

Retainers : www.chums.com

ALTITUDE MEDICATION:

Ginko biloba: Limited studies have been performed, but the results look very promising for prophylaxis of AMS ( 120 mg po BID starting 5 days before ascent, and continuing at altitude.

Diamox (acetazolamide) is of some value in the prevention of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS).

Diamox, a drug often used in the treatment of the eye condition glaucoma, is also useful in the prevention of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). AMS occurs commonly during visits to 3000-4500m and may cause a severe headache, exhaustion and general feelings of illness.

Diamox reduces the headache of AMS and helps the body acclimatise to the lack of oxygen – it also probably reduces the incidence of the complications of AMS. Whether or not one takes Diamox is obviously a matter of personal choice – travel to high altitudes is quite possible without it. Though the drug is not recommended as a routine treatment, though there is variation of opinion about this many people choose to use it if travelling quickly to altitude (eg. if flying into Lhasa, or Leh in our case).

How to take Diamox: If you decide to use the drug, suggested dose is Diamox 125mg (half of one tablet) to be taken twice daily – take the drug for three days before staying at 3500m and thereafter for two or three days until you feel acclimatised, for about five days in all. NOT FOR THOSE ALLERGIC TO SULPHA DRUGS

Side Effects: Like all drugs, Diamox may have unwanted side effects. Tingling of the fingers, face and feet is the commonest, but this is not a reason for stopping the drug unless the symptoms are intolerable. Dizziness, vomiting, drowsiness, confusion, rashes and more serious allergic reactions have all been reported but are unusual. In exceptional cases, the drug has caused more serious problems with blood formation and/or the kidneys. Those who are allergic to the sulphonamide antibiotics may also be allergic to Diamox. More commonly, the drug makes many people (including me!) feel a little “off colour”; carbonated drinks and beer also taste strange when you are taking Diamox.

*COPYRIGHT UIAA MOUNTAIN MEDICINE CENTRE*

Reading List :

a)Ladakh : Crossroads of High Asia by Janet Rizvi

b)Zanskar : The Hidden kingdon by Michel Peissel

c)Leh & Trekking in Ladakh by Charlie Loram

d)The Cultural heritage of Ladakh by David Snellgrove & Tadeusz Skorupski


I.LEH – PLACES THAT YOU COULD VISIT

1.THE BAZAR

The town has a wide main bazar street (c1840’s) wide enough to accommodate caravans, with 2 old gates at each end. Leh developed as a trading post and market, attracting a wide variety of merchants – from Yarkhand, Kashgar, Kashmir, Tibet and north India. Tea, salt, household articles, wool and semi-precious stones were all transacted in the market. Buddhism travelled along the Silk Road and the Kashmir and Ladakh feeder. It is an interesting town to walk around. The bazar is colourful and gives an insight in to Ladakhi life. The Old Village, with its maze of narrow lane sits on the hillside below the Palace. A flashlight is recommended especially if you are visiting the gompas.

2.LEH PALACE (20-30min)

The Palace stands majestically overlooking the town which allowed the king to survey his subjects at all times. (Follow signs for the palace from next to the mosque; it is clearly visible from every house in Leh.) Today it stands empty, as it has since the mid-nineteenth century when the royal family moved to Stok Palace after they were besieged by Kashmiri forces. It was built by King Sengge Namgyal in the seventeenth century in the same style as the Potala Palace of Lhasa. Although not on quite the same scale, it still stands nine storeys high. The upper floors were used by royalty, while the store rooms and stables took up the lower floors, hence the larger windows on the top.

There is very little to see in the Palace today as the whole building is in a poor state of repair (be careful of the holes in the floor). Inside, it is like the Potala with numerous rooms, steps and narrow passages lined with old thangkas, paintings, arms and constitutes a museum. The central prayer room, usually locked but opened on request, is unused but has numerous religious texts lining the walls. Currently it is being restored by the Archaeological Survey of India – possible to watch work in progress. (Check up with the Hotel before you leave as to what time it is open for visitors).

From the top there are good views across Leh and it’s a fascinating walk through the alleys of the old town to get there. The old town is full of traditional architecture and many households have retained some of their rural values, keeping livestock in their backyards and drying fodder on the roofs. The alternative way up is take the gentle track that begins above the polo ground. From the roof of the palace are magnificent views of the Zanskar Range.

High above the Palace is the older and even more ruined Palace/Fort and the remains of the Temple of the Guardian of the Deities. The temple houses a large golden Buddha, many painted scrolls, murals and old manuscripts. The Soma Gompa (1957) (new monastery) in the Old Village was erected to commemorate the 2500th anniversary of the birth of Buddha.

3.SHANTI STUPA

Visible from most of the town, this new stupa was officially opened in 1985. The peace pagoda is part of the legacy of the Japanese Fuji Guruji who, as part of his mission to promote world peace through Buddhism, built pagodas and temples all over the world. It stands above Chanspa overlooking Leh and and the Indus Valley. It’s possible to take a taxi all the way to the top but a good test of your acclimatisation is to walk up the 542 steps. The stupa may be a bit garish but the views are spectacular.

4.CENTRE FOR ECOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT & WOMENS ALLIANCE

When you first arrive in Leh and the altitude is making you feel lethargic, go up to the Ecolology Centre one afternoon to watch the excellent one-hour video, Ancient Futures. It’s shown every afternoon at 3:00pm and is free, but be there by 2:30pm to get a good seat. The film provides a valuable insight into the culture of Ladakh and the problems that the region faces today as it struggles to come to terms with recent changes. The centre also has an excellent library, a shop selling locally produced handicrafts and demonstrations of various appropriate technologies such as solar ovens.

II.MONASTERIES AND OTHER PLACES OF INTEREST AROUND LEH

Please carry a flashlight if you are visiting the monasteries – its best to go in sandals or footwear, which is easily removable as you will need to take your footwear off frequently)

1.SHEY (25min; 15km)

Located on the east bank of the river Indus, Shey until the 16th centurty was the royal residence, located at an important vantage point in the Indus Valley. Kings of Leh were supposed to be born in the monastery. Shey, along with Thikse, is also regarded as an auspicious place for cremation. The palace sits on a strategic position on a spur jutting out into the Indus Valley. Much of the palace and the fort high above it, has fallen into disrepair though the soot covered wall paintings in the palace have now been restored. The palace gompa has a 12m-high blue haired Maitreya Buddha which is attended by Drukpa monks from Hemis. It is made of copper and brass but splendidly gilded and studded with precious gem stones. The Buddha statue is believed to be sculpted by Nepalese craftsmen. It is said that after its completion they settled in the area of Chilling and started the now famous metal working industry there. There are extensive grounds to the east with a large number of chortens in which cremated ashes of the devout was buried. A newer temple houses another giant Buddha statue. There are several rock carvings; particularly noteworthy is that of five dhyani Buddhas at the bottom of the hill.

2.TIKSE/THIKSE(30min;17km)

Situated south of Leh on a crag overlooking the flood plain on the east bank of the Indus, it is one of the most imposing monasteries in Ladakh and was part of the original Gelugpa order in the 15th century. The 12-storey red monastery with typical tapering walls has 10 temples, a nunnery and 60 Lamas in residence whose houses cling to the hillside below. The complex contains numerous stupas, statues, thangkas, wall paintings, swords and a large pillar engraved with the Master’s teachings. The temple on the right of the courtyard houses a 15 metre statue of the Maitreya, or future Buddha which was finished in 1981, while at the back of the Dukhang there is a more than a 500 year old Buddha.

3.HEMIS (1hr 20min ; 45km)

South of Leh on the west bank of Indus, the Monastery built on a green hillside surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery, is hidden in a gorge south-west of Karu. As you drive up to it you pass two enormous mani walls. It is the biggest and wealthiest in Ladakh and is a ‘must’ for visitors. However it is not the most beautiful and much of the gompa looks run down and in need of restoration.The gompa was

founded in the 17th century and is sometimes called Chang Chub Sang Ling, ‘the solitary place of the compassionate ones’. It belongs to the Kagyupa sect. Try to see

the impressive image of Guru Padmasambhava which is in a temple behind the Dukhang (the temple on the right). This huge statue is 12 metres high and was completed in 1984. On the north side are 2 assembly halls approached by a flight of steep steps.The lakhang (chapel) has a 12th century Kashmiri bronze Buddha and silver chortens, an important library of Tibetan style books and an impressive collection of thangkas, the largest of which is displayed every 12 years (last displayed 1992). There are various places where you can eat in the village and also a campground.

4.LAMAYURU (4hrs; 124km.)

The gompa at Lamayuru is one of the most immediately striking in Ladakh. Its position on top of a beautifully eroded crag, complete with rock pinnacles and caves, gives it an almost fairy tale quality as it stands over the small village below. There is a local legend that the whole valley was under a deep lake until the holy man, Nimagou, prayed for a monastery to be founded here. With that, the lake drained away. The site of the monastery is probably the oldest in Ladakh with the first temple, like so many others, being built at the time of Rinchen Zangpo. The monastery is officially called Yung-dung Tharpa Ling, or ‘place of freedom’, after it was declared a holy site in the 16th century. It now belongs to the Kagyupa sect.

5.KARSHA (9 kms from Padum)

The monastery is situated on a steep mountain overlooking the Padum valley. It was foundedby a translator from Zanskar, Fagspa Sherab and later by Dorjay Sherab and Sherab Zangpo of Stod.It is the largest Gelugpa monastery in Zanskar, with around 90 monks in residence.

6.ALCHI (3hr;70km.)

The Choskar, or religious enclave, is regarded as one of the most important Buddhist centres in Ladakh and a jewel of monastic skill. Built in the 11th century, it is a treasure trove of early Buddhist art in the Kashmiri tradition, a style quite different from the Tibetan art found in Ladakh’s other monasteries. Also unlike other gompas, it is hidden down by the river rather than in the more usual elevated position. It was constructed under the supervision of Kaldan Shesrab, a follower of Rinchen Zangpo, the man responsible for reviving an interest in Buddhism at that time. Alchi is one of the few remaining examples of that era. The monks (Gelukpa order) of the Likir monastery look after this monastery. There are 5 shrines in the Choskor complex which has some splendid wall paintings and wooden figures; note the painted wooden ceiling of the gate. The village and gompa are reached by

crossing the Indus just beyond Saspol and doubling back on yourself for about 2km.