Stuck in a snow storm!

SLT_6964

β€œAll Heaven and Earth
Flowered white obliterate…
Snow…unceasing snow”
― Hashin, Japanese Haiku

For people like us from the plains, who are used to hot weather and pleasant winters snow is but exotic, its like something we yearn for, we look forward to seeing, touching, feeling atleast once in our lives. We look forward to going to the Himalaya’s once, above all the thing that is most on our minds is to see snow, atleast for the first time, we have never seen it, we are not sure how we will react, how it will feel and what all naughty things we will do. On my first trip to the Himalaya’s the first sign of snow from miles away on the road to Manali, we stopped and started taking pictures although it was so far and yet, we gushed excitedly, look snow!

When finally we did touch snow it was like carved ice, cold, very cold, making the hand numb-er than it already was whilst we were on our way to Rohtang Pass. As we slowly soaked the feeling of being there and actually having millions of tons of snow all around us began the fun of playing with it, making a ball and throwing it at someone, my son, my wife, my mom we all were having our first experience of snow! It was fun, like a young 10 year old I was rolling on the ground, my 60 year old mom was carving snow filling her hands and flinging it at us! We would marvel at the snow, blow air from the mouth that we could see and actually for a while we didn’t feel cold.

I am sure you can imagine how excitement overpowers your feelings and you don’t even feel cold! We had all seen snow, on another trip my wife and son experienced a snow fall, I sadly was not a part of that trip. Then came this trip to Leh, in December, on our journey back from Nubra to Leh during our ascent to the Khardungla Pass the weather as they said it was bad and we were going to get snow.

Snowfall!? Hang on, there was one person in the jeep who was not at all dreading it, he was looking forward to it! Then it slowly came, we could see flakes on the glass of the windshield, it was 4.30 pm, we were late, we had to cross Khardungla soon and get to Leh before it got really dark. So they wouldn’t stop to enjoy the snow, the Kashmiri driver, our guide from Nubra all said lets not waste time and lets do what is safe. I obliged, sitting on the window, I would roll down the glass from time to time, try to catch some flakes, marvel and sigh! Phew!

Eventually, at one bend, the Innova wouldn’t climb, it would slide, that was scary I must admit, it didn’t look like the car was under control. The temperature must have been I am quite sure less than -30 degree celsius and it was decided the car tyre needs to be applied with chains. Everyone eventually got out, no points for guessing who was the first one out! I had to feel the snow, falling on my face! Whilst most of the people were busy getting the chains on the tyre, a herculean task I tell you, I was busy absorbing my first snow fall, soaking it all in, clicking pictures and just dwelling in the moment. A cigarette came out and I smoked to glory!

Brrrr…. eventually the cold bit through bringing me back to reality, the toes inside the shoes and two pairs of soaks seemed to have gone numb, I couldn’t feel them. The other hard working parties had successfully applied chain to one tyre but it seemed the chain on the other tyre was just not long enough, the fingers so numb and trying to pull iron in such weather was no mean a job! It just wasn’t happening and everyone was freezing, it was almost 5pm now. Our guide fired the driver for not having proper chains and not putting them on earlier when he asked him to do so eventually said we must return.

Khardungla was just about 10 kms away, we had to go back 125 kms and yet, that was the smart thing to do, go back and come back again the next day. In high altitudes, sensibility and not bravado is what makes you survive. We all returned, I must admit not at sadly, but actually pretty thrilled about the fact that we got stuck in a snow storm, braved it and actually came back to tell the tale! πŸ™‚ For us it was an experience that will stay with us for the rest of our lives!

Here are a few more pictures from that day in the Snow at an altitude of approx 15000 feet in -30 degrees celsius πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ and folks those smiles are warm I can assure you that! πŸ˜€

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This is where the car gave up and refused to go any further and we had to get the chains on!

 

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and that is how you apply chains!

 

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Men at work in snow!

 

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There was nothing or no-one around!

 

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In a matter of minutes! The car was covered with snow!

 

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Fresh snow that was like powder, Ladakh is pretty dry and hence the snow doesn’t melt at all! That is all fresh snow I am standing in!

 

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a selfie with snow! πŸ˜€ Thats a first for me!

 

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Zor Laga ke Haisha!

 

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Finally we reached North Pullu a check post and from there on the snow was less, you can see the snow on the car glass yet! Phew

On the trail of the Ghost Cat

It seemed like a completely crazy idea

“Lets do it man” Jay’s voice cracked the silence that had enveloped the nervous me.

“They come down only in the peak winter months, when there is too much snow at the high peaks, they come lower in search of food! December is the best time to go!!!” He affirmed.

To be honest, the idea was fantastic, thrilling exciting but like most such idea’s seem many times to me, it seemed unreal or undo-able for the common me.

Chasing a Ghost Cat (snow leopard) in the peak of winters, in Hemis National Park in the Ladakh region of J&K seemed exotic but unreal, it appealed and at the same time, December, Winter, Harshness kind of weighed on my mind. I wanted to do it, yes, for sure, but, could I? Seriously?

The problem with common sense and common knowledge is they bind you into your limitations, I have done a few treks, but this wasn’t just about walking, this was about braving the conditions. Amidst all my quandaries Jay had already roped in Nigam and another friend Shital for the trek. Eventually I decided to join the bandwagon fully prepared to return in a day if I felt it too difficult!

This plan was being made in August, come December we were equipped with all the gear thanks to Decathlon. We had waterproof shoes, waterresistant socks, waterproof trousers and jackets, water proof camera bags and all set with many inners and warm clothes. Whilst trying all my gear once to see how it fits, my wife couldn’t help but remark,

“It feels like you are going to man a post in Siachen!”

By the time it was to leave, I was too excited to worry about the conditions, everyone I told was gushing with amazement and looking at me bewildered. Most of the guys were like,

“You lucky Dog!”
“Man are you freaking serious?! Ladakh in December?!”
“Snow Leopard dikhega?”
“Won’t it be freezing??”
“Dude, that is one hell of an adventure you are upto!!!”

The guy is not relaxing, do not be mistaken, he is leaning back and absorbing the view!

The guy is not relaxing, do not be mistaken, he is leaning back and absorbing the view!

All these remarks I must confess fuelled the excitement that much more. I was flying much before we actually flew to a fog filled Delhi that had absolute chaos, Flights all delayed and being cancelled left, right and centre. However, after a few hiccups we finally boarded our flight to Leh! Finally I was going to the place I have always wanted to go to. This would be my first visit, albeit by air, but surely not the last, a road trip would surely happen and soon!

The flight to Leh was relatively empty and the way the four of us clamoured for different window’s in the flight somehow reminded me of my childhood days where we three brothers would rush for a view from one window to the other, only this time the view was absolutely warranting that sort of reaction from us! Its like you are flying above heaven! πŸ˜€

Yup thats heaven down there!

Yup thats heaven down there!

The views out of the window are reason enough to take that flight to Leh and back!

The views out of the window are reason enough to take that flight to Leh and back!

As we landed in Leh, excitement gripped us, we took out our bags and started putting on our jackets, head caps, mufflers, glasses, warmers and stepped out of the flight, the first step into Ladakh! The weather was amazingly bright and sunny, a BLUE sky welcomed us, as we spoke smoke appeared form our mouth, I actually didn’t feel that cold, I was comfortable, I asked what the temperature was like and I was told it was -3 degrees. Phew! It was not that cold eh, it was bearable, however, by the time I reached to the hotel, I was trembling. As you stay more, the cold starts getting to you, first up we are all hunky dory and brave. We stayed at the Siala Guest House, which amazingly at this time of the year had running hot water and that shower, I tell you was so amazing, after the shower we had largely settled and though it was terribly cold we were beginning to get used to the teeth chattering. DSC_0193-2

The first day was to rest and get used to the high altitude air and the cold, we stayed in our hotel largely drinking loads and loads of butter tea, tea, black tea and coffee that was served with biscuits at all times. By evening one of us was wanting to actually buy some booze, but my friend Jay who has been to Ladakh for Chadar trek too advised against it on the first day. We did venture out to the town for a short walk in the evening to test our lungs and get a feel of the pinch of cold in the late evening.

The reward for the walk in the freezing evening at Leh was this amazing Thupka

The reward for the walk in the freezing evening at Leh was this amazing Thupka

The weather was cold, but bearable, especially whilst you walked. We decided to sleep without heaters as we were going to be sleeping in sleeping bags without heaters during our trek and I packed myself in 5 layers like crazy in the night below three layers of blankets, as it turned out the night was uncomfortable till we removed some layers that we could manage some sleep.

The next morning when we opened our curtains this is what the window looked like.

The next morning when we opened our curtains this is what the window looked like.

Unreal ain’t the window looking?! The snow flake design was what we discovered this day, the second day was more relaxed and we moved about to Shanti Stupa and had lunch in the market at Neha Snacks that served yummy Kadhi Chawal. Slowly but surely we were getting over the cold and getting used to the conditions. We were to leave for Zinchen the next day morning.

The Namgyal Tsemo Monastery makes for a wonderful picture from Leh.

The Namgyal Tsemo Monastery makes for a wonderful picture from Leh.

Early next day morning our guide Rigzin Wangdus came to pick us up and we left for Zinchen, the drive was for about 90 mins where we alighted the vehicles and our luggage was piled onto ponies and we were to begin our trek on foot to Rumbak, a settlement inside the Hemis National Park that was to be our base. It was a stiff 4 hour walk for us, the locals do it in about 90 mins. The area actually is a little difficult to describe in words, for a minute you would feel you are somewhere in the grand canyon, suddenly you would find frozen rivers, dry bushes, loads of dry poplar trees, huge tall cliff’s surround you, I guess its better if I let some of my pictures do the talking about the way to Rumbak.

actually entering the area around the Rumbak Nullah was breathtakingly beautiful, we had numerous stops on the way as we couldn't help but exercise our camera's and give our lungs a breather.

actually entering the area around the Rumbak Nullah was breathtakingly beautiful, we had numerous stops on the way as we couldn’t help but exercise our camera’s and give our lungs a breather.

Some spaces looked like the grand canyon, not that I have seen the place.

Some spaces looked like the grand canyon, not that I have seen the place.

Crossing Frozen Rivers! :D That bridge called for a picture!

Crossing Frozen Rivers! πŸ˜€ That bridge called for a picture!

The vastness of the place is just amazing, you feel like a tiny ant in this grand canvas that nature has created!

The vastness of the place is just amazing, you feel like a tiny ant in this grand canvas that nature has created!

At Rumbak Sumdo (Sumdo meaning meeting point of three major routes) a symbol that somehow seems pretty eerie! :P The Yurutse Valley, Stok La and Rumbak paths get together over here. We took our way to Rumbak from here!

At Rumbak Sumdo (Sumdo meaning meeting point of three major routes) a symbol that somehow seems pretty eerie! πŸ˜› The Yurutse Valley, Stok La and Rumbak paths get together over here. We took our way to Rumbak from here!

Finally after 4 hours of a tiring walk we reached Rumbak, a settlement of about 130 people.

Finally after 4 hours of a tiring walk we reached Rumbak, a settlement of about 130 people.

Sometimes you wonder, what could these people living here be actually thinking?? I mean, why would someone actually live here in these harsh conditions, we did ask one lady who was kind enough to serve us warm water as we entered her house, “Its our home” she said. That summed it up for us. We did learn that they can wear shorts here in summers and that it does become pretty green also at a lot of places which sort of explained how they managed to fill up their food stocks.

This was our abode for 5 days

This was our abode for 5 days

Apparently the people in Rumbak village have worked out a homestay system, where each house has a huge sitting area, where in food is served and they let out bedrooms with ‘Bukhari’ (a firewood heating system pretty common in these parts.) They have a rotation system so they all get an equal number of guests and they people there were quite warm and friendly and evenings actually became a super feast time for all of us. We chalked out a schedule of starting at 8 in the morning everyday in the hunt of the Snow Leopard (Ghost Cat) also called ‘Shaan’ by the locals and return by around 4-5pm. Lunch would be Maggi on most days that Rigzin would cook for us as he would carry a mini stove with him.

Yes, thats our lunch being made at around 13500 feet in the midst of a trek! Can you see the delight on Shital's face at watching the maggi!? :D :D :D

Yes, thats our lunch being made at around 13500 feet in the midst of a trek! Can you see the delight on Shital’s face at watching the maggi!? πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

For 5 days we roamed the area venturing to different directions. The walks were crazy, we would pant like mad, we saw frozen rivers, frozen waterfalls, pugmarks, a Tibetean wolf that we couldn’t photograph, loads of Bharal (blue sheep) but the Ghost cat evaded us, we couldn’t spot it but hell the experience of walking about there, feeling like the owners of that vast landscape, gazing, gaping, panting, gazing again, soaking all that up was an experience we will not forget for the rest of our lives.

Here are a few more pictures of the landscape and the animals we spotted whilst walking about in the Hemis National Park :

Some shades of the Hemis National Park

Some shades of the Hemis National Park

Every part of dirt in the snow also seemed like it was the Snow Leopard!

Every part of dirt in the snow also seemed like it was the Snow Leopard!

This lady cooked for us during our 5 days in Rumbak. She was pretty happy to see her pictures! :)

This lady cooked for us during our 5 days in Rumbak. She was pretty happy to see her pictures! πŸ™‚

Some more shades!

Some more shades!

A Lammergeier hovers over us!

A Lammergeier hovers over us!

A chukar patridge bosses the area!

A chukar patridge bosses the area!

This Bharal came to this pedestal ala Simba in The Lion King! I hope you can spot the Bharal! :D

This Bharal came to this pedestal ala Simba in The Lion King!
I hope you can spot the Bharal! πŸ˜€

Times when you didn't spot any animals or birds, which was most of the times you could still shoot the surroundings as they were surreal!

Times when you didn’t spot any animals or birds, which was most of the times you could still shoot the surroundings as they were surreal!

A Bharat stands tall!

A Bharat stands tall!

The Bharal would jump and run on these cliffs like we would play soccer on flat fields. The noise of their hoofs in this amphitheatre will reverberate in our ears all our life.

The Bharal would jump and run on these cliffs like we would play soccer on flat fields. The noise of their hoofs in this amphitheatre will reverberate in our ears all our life.

A unique way of drinking water that Rigzin showed us. No! We didn't give that a try! :D

A unique way of drinking water that Rigzin showed us.
No! We didn’t give that a try! πŸ˜€

One Bharal would catch a top position and it seemed like he would keep a watch whilst the others would graze peacefully!

One Bharal would catch a top position and it seemed like he would keep a watch whilst the others would graze peacefully!

Its traces were everywhere but it wasn't visible to us, I am sure though he did see us!

Its traces were everywhere but it wasn’t visible to us, I am sure though he did see us!

The nights there were terribly cold, before sleeping we would take two bottles per person, one would be a thermos of hot water the other a plastic mineral water bottle as you had to mix the two and drink, by the time we would wake up in the morning the plastic bottle would be frozen. πŸ™‚ Yes, I think the lowest we noted the temperature was -17 degrees celcius. Frankly after the first day I had wanted to return, but gladly I stayed and I managed. After 5 days of crazy walking and no showering, we eventually decided to give up the walk and opted for the comforts of a car. We then drove off to Nubra for a few days via the Khardungla and back.

The fact that I completed each day’s trek was an accomplishment for me, that I did not give it up and did not return, even when 4 of our co-trekkers gave up after one day in Rumbak makes me feel good about myself, the experience of being out there at such a high altitude was enriching. We did garba on a high cliff, yea gujju’s you know! I even posed topless at 13500 feet in bone chilling cold, yes we did do all the wild stuff as well. πŸ™‚

The tale of Khardungla and Nubra will stories will feature in the next post, till then,

Xplore more! πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

Window?

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A house in Turtuk puts an old destroyed jeep’s body to good use!

This little village that is the last settlement before the Line of Control and PAK, is a wonderful place to visit, curious kids run about everywhere, gazes keep following you from every window, the lanes are small, narrow, the architecture is ancient and peculiar, a part of Baltistan till 1971, this village has some pretty somber tales of being caught in the cross fire of two nations not exactly at peace with each other.

We also met a guy there who has a small museum of sorts with a complete date line chart of his ancestors, he claims he is a heir of the king of Baltistan and tells us the story of his ancestors quite fondly and proudly. Yagbo dynasty is what they call it, perhaps in my next post I will write more about that.

He helped the West meet the East!

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On a huge stretch of this vast sand dune this lone ranger searches for something to nibble in the peak of the harsh winter in December at Hunder Sand dunes in Nubra Valley, Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir, India!

The two humped camel or Bactrian Camel (the right name) is one of the two species of camel, this one is far more rare and found in Central Asia, mostly domesticated. This species is one of the most integral part of the whole Silk Route travel, without him probably the west would have never met the east… well atleast not by land!!! πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

Highway highs!

Well after we left Rumbak and Hemis we decided to make some time by travelling in a car for a change and not walking. This meant two things, one we cover more places and second we stop losing weight. Yes the 5 days in Rumbak saw a 2 kg weight drop πŸ˜€ and don’t you think I am complaining. Anyways, one Gulzarbhai came with his Innova to pick us up from Zinchen where we waited for him for a while. Gulzarbhai was a Kashmiri who was living in Leh. Conversations with him were of the most interesting kind, we had a buddhist Ladakhi as a guide, a Kashmiri muslim as a driver and you just know you are in the state of Jammu & Kashmir and so you know where the conversation is headed! Some really wonderful things came through but that is for some other day. Today I will just share a few pictures from Zinchen to Khardungla via Leh, all pics taken whilst we reached the so called Worlds Highest Motorable Road Khardungla!

As we left Rumbak and started approaching Leh. Do notice how the landscape keeps varying!

As we left Rumbak and started approaching Leh, the landscape was something like this. The Poplar trees indicate human habitation. Its only where humans live that there are trees, or else major part of the region is totally barren.

Some roads look a tad like you are in Kashmir!

Some roads look a tad like you are in Kashmir!

That is the highway that connects Srinagar to Leh, we are about to enter Leh and I love the contrasts in this picture!

That is the highway that connects Srinagar to Leh, we are about to enter Leh and I love the contrasts in this picture!

Leh is a dusty town, fast becoming touristy and a hub like Manali as more and more tourists alight here and make it a base for the activities to explore the Ladakh region. But amidst the chaos and wires and markets are also some views you don't want to miss out on! :)

Leh is a dusty town, fast becoming touristy and a hub like Manali as more and more tourists alight here and make it a base for the activities to explore the Ladakh region. But amidst the chaos and wires and markets are also some views you don’t want to miss out on! πŸ™‚

Then as we leave Leh and start climbing Khardungla here is an aerial shot of the town with Shanti Stupa high up ensuring peace in the little town!

Then as we leave Leh and start climbing Khardungla here is an aerial shot of the town with Shanti Stupa high up ensuring peace in the little town!

and then as we leave civilsation behind and head for higher, colder stiffer, difficult curves of Khardungla!

and then as we leave civilsation behind and head for higher, colder stiffer, difficult curves of Khardungla!

The tallest peak in this picture is Stok Kangri, we lived 5 days near its base in Rumbak. Looks a fair distance away doesn't it?? We covered this distance in 5 hours of driving!!

The tallest peak in this picture is Stok Kangri, we lived 5 days near its base in Rumbak. Looks a fair distance away doesn’t it?? We covered this distance in 5 hours of driving!!

One more of the same!

One more of the same!

Then the winding road takes us higher and higher!

Then the winding road takes us higher and higher!

When the clouds make way for the stark blue sky it looks that much more pretty!

When the clouds make way for the stark blue sky it looks that much more pretty!

The first check point on the way to Nubra Valley via Khardungla is at South Pullu! where huge ice cubes had formed thanks to the extremely chilly winds that came from this direction! It was unbearably cold to stand out here!

The first check point on the way to Nubra Valley via Khardungla is at South Pullu! where huge ice cubes had formed thanks to the extremely chilly winds that came from this direction! It was unbearably cold to stand out here!

I did say huge ice cubes right!? This huge as big as a brick!!!

I did say huge ice cubes right!? This huge as big as a brick!!!

As the road turns white read of snow its only the military convoys that cross us. During the peak tourist seasons they have traffic jams here. Thankfully we came in the peak of winter and there were no tourists! :D

As the road turns white read of snow its only the military convoys that cross us. During the peak tourist seasons they have traffic jams here. Thankfully we came in the peak of winter and there were no tourists! πŸ˜€

Just another turn, just another picture!

Just another turn, just another picture!

When the distance boards are not on the floor but have to be hung up higher as snow might just cover up the floor signs.

When the distance boards are not on the floor but have to be hung up higher as snow might just cover up the floor signs.

and then... finally...

and then… finally…

the summit or pass... all passes in Ladakh are called La and hence this is a pass on Khardung mountain so Khardung la...

the summit or pass… all passes in Ladakh are called La and hence this is a pass on Khardung mountain so Khardung la…

Khardungla is a gateway to enter the Nubra Valley and also the life line to Siachen posts, the worlds highest battle ground. Khardungla is kept working all year through so that the military has continuous access to resources.  More picture and stories from Nubra in further posts! For now its Julley! :)

Khardungla is a gateway to enter the Nubra Valley and also the life line to Siachen posts, the worlds highest battle ground. Khardungla is kept working all year through so that the military has continuous access to resources.
More picture and stories from Nubra in further posts! For now its Julley! πŸ™‚

A walk in The Hemis National Park

*Unfortunately due to some communal disturbances in our city we did not have any internet for 2 days and hence the delay in the posts.*

 

However, I am back with renewed vigour!

 

After spending about 2 days in Leh and allowing ourselves to acclimatize as much as possible we left on day 3 for Rumbak, a smallΒ village inside the Hemis National Park. The main purpose of the trip in any case was to try and locate the Ghost Cat and so we set ourselves for it. Starting early at 8am we left from Leh to a small town named Zinchen where the road ended.This is where we alighted our vehicles and were supposed to be on foot for about 4-5 hours depending on our speed of walking. The luggage was loaded on mules and we armed ourselves with our small day packs full of food, energy bars, hot water and camera’s along with a few extra woolens in case the weather got rough.

As soon as the trek began the mules fast overtook us and went ahead, we marveled at the Rumbak Valley, the landscape there is breathtakingly vast and huge, the cliffs around you are so high and intimidating that it cannot be described. In many ways it somehow gave me a feeling like I was walking in the Grand Canyon, the colours somehow seemed similar to me. Let me confess I have never been to the US let alone the Grand Canyon!

Here are some pictures as we walked up to Rumbak village into the Hemis National Park!!

The thing about Ladakh is that where ever you click a picture its a post card. This is shot from a moving car from behind a glass and yet it appeals, doesn't it?

The thing about Ladakh is that where ever you click a picture its a post card. This is shot from a moving car from behind a glass and yet it appeals, doesn’t it?

The rumbak valley has a natural gate to welcome us!

The rumbak valley has a natural gate to welcome us, can you see the tiny us in the picture, that gives you an idea of how huge the cliff’s were!!!!

The Rumbak Nullah that was completely frozen!

The Rumbak Nullah that was completely frozen!

The road from Zinchen to Rumbak is slowly but surely going to be made... perhaps in another 4-5 years time you can drive to Rumbak and not walk a crazy 5 hours like us!

The road from Zinchen to Rumbak is slowly but surely going to be made… perhaps in another 4-5 years time you can drive to Rumbak and not walk a crazy 5 hours like us!

So begins the trek into a rocky terrain...

So begins the trek into a rocky terrain…

We weren't the only ones there, some other people were already there camping near Husing Nullah!

We weren’t the only ones there, some other people were already there camping near Husing Nullah!

The sky in Ladakh sigh... and the contrasts!

The sky in Ladakh sigh… and the contrasts!

Phew!

Phew!

Standing on bridges is common, standing on bridges that are made on a river in thick ice is not that common... inn'it? :P

Standing on bridges is common, standing on bridges that are made on a river in thick ice is not that common… inn’it? πŸ˜›

The valley and its crevices were a delight for a photographer! It engaged, enchanted and captivated us totally! :)

The valley and its crevices were a delight for a photographer! It engaged, enchanted and captivated us totally! πŸ™‚

and when you climbed some heights you just felt like a King!

and when you climbed some heights you just felt like a King!

At Rumbak Sumdo (Sumdo meaning meeting point of three major routes) a symbol that somehow seems pretty eerie! :P The Yurutse Valley, Stok La and Rumbak paths get together over here. We took our way to Rumbak from here!

At Rumbak Sumdo (Sumdo meaning meeting point of three major routes) a symbol that somehow seems pretty eerie! πŸ˜› The Yurutse Valley, Stok La and Rumbak paths get together over here. We took our way to Rumbak from here!

The Acclimatization

Thanks to having Jay guide us for the trip who has been to Leh several times we knew one thing, acclimatization was important to conditions of this high altitude and air that has a little less oxygen than the plains. However, its quite easy to be a little over confident and think and say nothing affects me. Well, for the first day we had planned to do nothing but to sleep and soak the cold in, sip in as much hot liquids and take it easy and just be happy that we reached Leh. So on day 1 whilst I caught up with a bit of the 3rd Test largely we stayed put in Siala Guesthouse the place where we were booked. In the evening we took a small stroll to Leh Market and fed ourselves some momo’s and thukpa to end the day on a content note! πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

The second day we had a group of another 4 people joining us, unlike us, they came a day late not giving enough importance to acclimatization, as fate would have it, one of the 4 fell sick, eventually they departed in another 2 days and could not enjoy their trip. I myself on the third night had an urge to leave the trip midway and actually head back. So my advice to all those who read this is, do not take the acclimatization bit lightly. People ask you to acclimatize in summers as well, this was peak winter. Oxygen is low in summers as well and in winters I assume it must be even lower because in the 11 days that I was there I did not see one green leaf!!!!! Yes, all trees are bone dry and no leaves are there in such a vast area at such an altitude no wonder the oxygen levels are low. You pant and pant and pant more. So take my advice, give your body a little time to acclimatize to the conditions and you will be able to enjoy the place like you should be doing.

Let me also tell you that we usually walked from 8.30 in the morning to 4.30 in the evening whilst in The Hemis National Park and climbed altitudes of about 2000-3000 feet every day with our base being almost 12000 feet and I did it without any Diamox or any other medicine. I am not a regular trekker or supremely fit and I could do it all just because I allowed my body to acclimatize. Just heed to the advice that Ladakhi’s or more experienced people of this terrain give you and you will not suffer or else the conditions could take you down. This is not to scare anyone but to inform about the care one needs to take.

I guess I have been enough of smart alec for the day, the next day we saw India save the 3rd Test Match whilst sipping lots of green tea and butter tea and that perked up to move about. We set out for Shanti Stupa and also managed to find a punjabi restaurantΒ Neha Snacks that served really warm delicious Punjabi fare in a tiny place that seemed to attract a lot of visitors! With full bellies and slowly but surely getting used to the pace of life in Leh we were setting ourselves up for Rumbak in The Hemis National Park. We were to start early next morning and so we called off the day 2 early.

Here are a few pictures of around Leh and from Shanti Stupa! πŸ™‚

A balcony to die for!!! I cannot imagine what wonderful views this balcony could give the year round! :) :)

A balcony to die for!!! I cannot imagine what wonderful views this balcony could give the year round! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

At Shanti Stupa with Stok Kangri behind and a friendly dog who didn't leave us alone!

At Shanti Stupa with Stok Kangri behind and a friendly dog who didn’t leave us alone!

Shanti Stupa

Shanti Stupa

The architecture around Leh had us photo mongers hooked!

The architecture around Leh had us photo mongers hooked!

The dry Poplar tree's around Leh actually were also proving to be quite photographable! :)

The dry Poplar tree’s around Leh actually were also proving to be quite photographable! πŸ™‚

Leh panaromic picture from Shanti Stupa

Leh panaromic picture from Shanti Stupa

Me enjoying the third India Vs Australia Test Match early morning! :D

Me enjoying the third India Vs Australia Test Match early morning! πŸ˜€

The things that helped us survive on the first two days!

The things that helped us survive on the first two days!

All 8 of us all set to leave for Rumbak in Hemis National Park on day 3!

All 8 of us all set to leave for Rumbak in Hemis National Park on day 3!

Mornings in Leh!

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The first night in Leh with the extra blanket was not the most comfortable of them all. It was not too cold but thanks to all the layers it was not a very comfortable sleep, however, early in the morning I fell in a deep trance. Having kept the first two days relatively activity free and allowing ourselves to acclimatize to the cold and the thin air of Leh we had no rush in waking up. Eventually at 8 I could not sleep any longer and I got up to open the curtains and check the view outside, as is the case with me whenver I go to a new place.

Amazingly this is the view that greeted me. We could not see outside the window, the window itself was a scene to behold! Ice flakes had started happening on the glass pane itself! Thanks to the pack room with two people breathing I guess the moisture might have appeared on the window and its so bloody cold there that it formed into ice! We have always sent watsapp smiley’s of snow flakes and lo behold this is how its microscopic form would look like! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

The above picture is a close up, where the window in totality looked like this :

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The ice stayed and melted by around 10 in the mornings! By then we had ventured outside had our share of butter (namkeen) tea that Ladakhi’s keep having almost all day when at home. It is made of Yak Butter, Black Tea and salt in a traditional mixer first and then boiled and stored in a flask to keep you warm all day! We drank generous quantities of butter tea, black tea, green tea and hot water to keep ourselves warm on the first day. Incidentally everyone in Leh in winters serves you hot water, yes water that has vapour rising from it. I think in some way or the other so much hot liquid also helped in shedding two kgs in this trip inspite of sipping so much butter tea! πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

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