Guest post : Originally written in gujarati by Jay, translated by me..
Photographs : By Nigam and Jay.
Let me start part two with this photo we took on our trek, I would request all fellow promoters to share this planet as a worthy partner and not as a propreitor. Remember always to not litter when you are travelling and explore responsibly.
After that piece of information let us get back to our story. The Chadar diaries – I can be accessed here.
After a satisfying lunch we began our journey with gentle steps on the Chadar. Our experienced guide Mr Tashi suggested that we will have to change our location for the first night halt as we started our trek from Tilad Sumdo instead of Chilling. Hence we had to walk a little further and camp at a new place and not at Zaribao (bao in Ladakhi means ‘cave’) that was earlier decided.
The Team ready with luggage on the sleighs, they would start up ahead and find a location where they would make lunch and have it ready by the time we reach them. 🙂 These small luxuries kept our spirits high!
No matter what I write about and describe about my experience on Chadar, let me tell you that in all likelihood every person will perhaps have a completely different experience. The uniqueness of the trek is that the weather decides what sort of experience you have on the Chadar. Infact our guide told us this one saying about the Chadar, ” Chadar ke baare mein no kuch kaho aur na kisise kuch pucho”
meaning do not tell anyone anything about the Chadar nor ask anyone anything about the Chadar. When we pursued him further he explained that the Chadar keeps changing by the minute. Wind, Sun, pressure anything could change the structure of the Chadar. So never give your experience of the Chadar or ask anyone and rely on it rather keep your eyes on the Chadar and walk carefully. He told us another very important thing to keep in mind,
Meaning, the moment you take your eyes off, disaster strikes!
The initial walk on the Chadar was a humbling experience in many ways. I don’t think I have ever walked this carefully, perhaps when I was learning to walk as a kid would have been the only instance. I have trekked in Himachal and Uttranchal on mountains and in snow, however, this was a completely unique experience and all that past experience was of no use here. AT places the Chadar would be hard as concrete, at places it would be sticky and wet and so slippery that you would actually have to take baby steps. This style of walking is very similar to Penguin walk. If you have ever seen penguin’s walk in polar regions you now know exactly why they do that! 😀
This video will perhaps explain to you the slippery part :
We perhaps had walked for an hour on the Chadar when we came to an area where it seemed that the Chadar was weak(not formed properly) meaning the ice would break if we walked on it and you really do not want to fall in the water in this weather, take that from me! 😛 So we left the Chadar and climbed the rocky slpes to walk to an area where we could see a more firmer Chadar after about 15 minutes or so and we descended safely onto the Chadar.
That gives you an idea of how thick the chadar is at some places…
Many of us perhaps have even forgotten how to walk carefully and Chadar is perhaps the best place to come and revise that. Man you had to watch your steps at time or what!
Our friend Glenn from New Zealand though had missed that experience of walking carefully as he had brought crampons to walk on the ice & hence he just had to walk instead of being as careful as us. If you want to keep looking at the scenery whilst walking crampons would be a must have in your things to carry to Chadar. The drawback of the crampons is that whenever the Chadar is weak you have to climb the cliff’s and for that you need to remove the Crampons and walk in shoes and when you descend on the Chadar again you have to put on your crampons again! 😛
Imagine a river flowing… and imagine yourself on a boat on it… thats what you feel walking on a river! Also can you see the slight raised part of ice… that is what the pressure of the water that flows underneath does. Several layers of ice form quite fast and it raises the level.
We walked for about 3.5 hours on the first day and the whole experience was about gushing all the while how beautiful the surroundings were, how pristine they seemed thanks to all fresh snow and very few little human presence.
The chadar has ice cubes almost formed at some places like this!
We reached one sandy beach type of spot that our guide told us was called Singra and we set up 2 tents for us and one kitchen cum dining tent.
Thats me with our guide Mr Tashi the chadar was quite under developed at this place
Apparently quite a few people these days come to Chadar, infact so many that if you want to camp at a secluded spot you have to reach it early enough. Normally we used to walk from 8.30 to 4 pm and camped, so if you did not start early and take your spot, either you would have to walk further till you find solitude or else make do by living in some naturally formed cave. All Zanskari people travel to Leh to drop their kids and they use these caves for shelter from the wind and also to cook and spend the night and move on further on the next day.
Amazingly around 4 the direct sun goes away since we are in the pit of the gorge & whist its pretty bright the temperature all of a sudden dips. We stopped at 4pm and it started becoming darker around 6pm and darkness brought more cold and stiffer wind. We had black tea at 4.30 with biscuits and spent time chit chatting in hi-fi english with Glenn which amused us more than him I am sure! 😀 I felt we were being a Virender Sehwag and poor Glenn was reduced to a medium pacer fending off our slurry of boundaries! 😛
At 6.30 soup and popcorn were served and we wasted no time in allowing it to cool down and polished it off and were actually done with dinner by 7.30pm! Normally I would not even think about dinner at this time back home and here I was having finished dinner at 7.30.
One more important piece of advise to all Chadar enthusiasts from me is please try to keep a gap of one hour between the time you sleep and dinner. The reason behind this is nothing else but the fact that before going to sleep you can piss off whatever liquid you have in the body, for if you happen to have to get up in the middle of the night and go out of the tent and brave the unbelievable chilly strong winds boy you will have a job at hands!
Thankfully our sleeping bags were quite adequate & warm and the first night on Chadar was comfortably spent. We slept at 8.30am and woke up at 7.30 am with black tea served the moment I sat up! Some five star service I say!!! 😀 😀
The first day was sans any accidents or any large discomfort and this spurred us and filled us with super high spirits for the next day…
I will stop this chapter here today and will continue further in my next post. Next episode… how we crossed water for the first time! 😀 😀