Experiential

Warwan Valley – A Personal Story!

Ashwin Muralidharan

Last updated: 14-07-2022

The Conversation

Hostel vibes are always cheerful and loud. But, surprisingly, on a Monday evening, a couple of trek leaders and I were immersed in silence and our phone screens. We were waiting for a message. Some wanted to get an update on their next trek, some were waiting for customer feedback, and many were waiting for their salary. It was my phone that pinged first to break the silence. All eyes were on me immediately and I was bombarded with a series of questions.

 

Trek leader 1 – Ashwin Bhai, kahan? (Ashwin bro, where to next?)

Trek leader 2 – Kya message aaya? (What does the message say?)

Trek leader 3 – Next trek assign hogaya? (Were you assigned the next trek?)

 

I opened the chat window and read out a single name that made everyone go silent again; Warwan Valley Trek. Looking at their reaction, I got curious and asked -“What happened?”

 

Trek leader 1, with his eyes still wide open like an owl in shock, asked, “Ashwin Bhai, do you know where you are going?” 

 

No, enlighten me!

 

Trek leader 1 – Until now, hardly a hand full of people have gone to this place. It’s unexplored, and I have heard that it is the most beautiful trek in the Himalayas. 

 

After listening to him, an unknown excitement took over my heart. I suddenly felt like the poet Robert Frost, trying to comprehend this road less taken. 

 

Trek leader 1 – Bro, it is on my dream list of treks. I am so jealous of you. 

 

Again, the level of excitement grew rapidly. I quickly opened my laptop and started to search for some information. There were basic details about the altitude and difficulty level but not enough pictures and videos to get a comprehensive idea of Warwan Valley. The excitement was gradually overshadowed by less desirable feelings like concern and worry. Before going on any Himalayan trek, I prepare well, and my research always gives me confidence. But I was not that sure about this new place. When I mentioned this to my trek leaders, they laughed and said, “Ashwin Bhai, leave it to the mountains. They will take care of you. Focus on enjoying the trek. Other things will come to you.” 

 

Their cheerful words brought out the diminishing excitement in me. I closed the laptop and dozed off for the night in relief.

 

The Drive via Kargil

The Warwan Valley trek starts from Panikhar village, Kargil district. So, to reach Panikhar, we have to reach Leh first and then drive via Kargil. Vijay (the trek leader), Digant and Ranga sir (participants)- all of us met in Leh in a local restaurant. Vijay briefed us about the trek, the challenges we will face, and the type of terrain we will go through. Like small school students, we all nodded to Vijay's words. Honestly, I was physically present and mentally absent during the briefing session. All I could think of was driving through Kargil. In the past, I have seen some patriotic stories on television and heard some inspirational tales of army men. But, going through the actual place was like a dream come true. I requested Vijay for one more briefing, followed by technical questions like water sources, distances, etc. Vijay smiled and answered all my questions with patience. 

 

Warwan Valley – A Personal Story!

 

The next day, we got ready early in the morning and met our partner from Leh, Rigzin. As soon as he saw us, he uttered the magic words Juley – Hello in Ladakhi. Without hesitation, all of us smiled and responded with Juley in chorus. Together, we loaded our bags inside the car and started to drive. Trekking is an engaging activity. But it demands a lot of traveling before and after the actual trek. To reach Panikhar, which is around 280 kms away, takes close to 12 hours. Initially, we felt that it was really going to be a drag. But, Leh never gave us the choice of boredom. Wherever we looked, we were amazed by its sheer beauty. For the first 5-6 hours of the journey, we went through iconic pit-stops like the magnetic hills, Sangam point, Spituk Gompa, and Lamayuru Monastery. Imagine a small car moving on a vast roadway between valleys, massive mountains, and frozen rivers. Drives like these happen only in movies. I felt as if I was a part of a travel show. I wished I had a drone with me. 

 

Warwan Valley – A Personal Story!

 

After driving for around 200 km, we entered Kargil. All of my growing anticipation finally found an escape here. The staggering contrast that appeared in front of me amazed me with its uniqueness. Kargil was different from Leh’s landscape with a much greener topography. There were army camps everywhere, and men in uniform were in some serious practice. From childhood, I have always admired the vigour and mettle of the valiant soldiers. After seeing them working hard inside the camps, all of my admiration for them was rekindled. If we had extra time, I would have stepped down, observed them from a distance, and paid my respects with a salute. I glued my face to the window and soaked in all the culture, sights, and colours that whizzed past me. 

 

Warwan Valley – A Personal Story!

 

I believe that even the sun couldn’t take the intense emotions I was experiencing throughout the drive. It simmered down and introduced two new giants, Mount Nun and Mount Kun, near Suru Valley. We were pleased looking at the massive peaks in the sunset. Other than the stunning sceneries, the old stories narrated by Rigzin, Ladakhi playlists from his stereo, and the rhythmic snaps from the participants accompanied us until we reached our homestay in Panikhar.

 

Warwan Valley – A Personal Story!

 

Ranga Sir VS Me – The Clash of Cameras!

Warwan Valley trek was a versatile haven with soul-surprising sceneries like the river delta basin, live glacier, glacial lakes, pass crossing, rolling meadows, and confluence points. The overall experience levelled up for me because of a healthy competition with Ranga Sir. Let me introduce Ranga Sir to you guys. He is a middle-aged outdoor enthusiast with a childlike admiration for nature and wildlife. As soon as we landed on the trails of Warwan Valley, we both pulled out our cameras and got ready to click some pictures. If I had a standard zoom lens, he had a huge tele lens. If I had a standard wide lens, he had an extra-wide superlens. Whenever we saw something beautiful, we would run around to take the same picture from different angles. Chasing the white wagtails, trying to get a close-up of the golden marmots, and testing out new colour schemes were some of the fun things we experienced together. 

 

Warwan Valley – A Personal Story!

 

At the end of every day, we would sit in the dining tent, compare our pics and evaluate the quality of imagery. He would share his experiences from the past and show me some exotic photographs from other locations. He has the heart of a true nature lover. I learned a lot of techniques from him, and I can only hope that I have the same level of enthusiasm when I get to be older. The funny thing is, usually, when a trek ends, I have not more than 600 to 700 pics. But, at the end of the Warwan Valley trek, my memory card was not one pic short of 1500 pics in all. When I came back and sat down to copy the images, I saw some new styles of frames in my documents. Thanks to Ranga Sir, I am excited to try this new learning in my upcoming treks. 

 

To know more about the wonders of this trek – Read the highlights of Warwan Valley.

 

Walking Through Sukhnai

Being a 90’s kid, Amar Chitra Katha, Champak, and the stories of Malgudi Days sowed a fascination for old villages deep within my heart. Before coming to the Warwan Valley trek, I have gone to many villages in India to live out my childhood vibe from these stories. But it was not satisfying. During the last day of the Warwan Valley trek, when I walked into the serene Sukhnai village, I was astonished by its splendour. This was the place from my stories, and this was the place I was searching for until now. 

A vast area of farms filled with golden crops was on my left-hand side, and an array of old heritage huts was to my right. Every 5 seconds, I had to toggle my gaze from left to right and right to left. The icing of this place was the elegant river flowing right next to the village and an old bridge above it. Small children were innocently running on huge plains without any worry or fear. A group of furry dogs played in their own space near the farms. Older women with grey hair, in traditional attire, carried firewood to their houses. Overall, everything I read when I was a kid came alive in front of me. 

Someday, I will come back to Sukhnai, spend some time here and try to learn their local language. Who knows, I might even write a novel based on their life. (Stay tuned).

 

Warwan Valley – A Personal Story!

 

Getting Familiar with the Unknown

Anything new or unknown can make us worry in the beginning. It can be scary, dangerous, and even challenging. But greater rewards, revelations, and reality waits across the shores of the unknown. I was sceptical to go on uncharted lands and to explore something new. But, thanks to the opportunity, I have some experiences that will stay with me forever. The best part that made this trek remarkable is the seclusion we experienced here. It was just us with no one to disturb our solitude. We enjoyed the trek to the fullest. 

 

To know more about the trails of Warwan Valley – Read who this trek is meant for!

 

I hope my experience with Warwan Valley was fun to read. This is just a fraction of the trip and a small glimpse of our fascinating journey. I hope that you will come here and enjoy the most beautiful trek of the Himalayas – The Warwan Valley Trek. 

 

Ashwin Muralidharan

Dreamer, listener, and a curious soul. I indulge influence and leave my impressions behind. If y Read more

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