Dry yet inviting, arid yet rich, cold yet very warm, Ladakh is the land of contradictions! Even the average photographer can gain serious Pic Credits here because the grand brown mountains look literally unreal and are extremely picturesque. The best way to explore Ladakh is by entering in the remoteness and feeling it on your own. Markha valley trek is one such trail that offers you the real Ladakh, be it in term of Flora, Fauna, Culture, Traditions, or Serenity (may also be read as remoteness).Bikat Adventures has now crafted an all new, extremely exciting itinerary to explore Ladakh. This one not just take you through the amazingly serene and picturesque landscapes of Ladakh through the Markha Valley but also indulges you in the thrills of White water rafting on Zanskar. Rafting on Zanskar is a completely unique experience. The river is mostly muddy and has a strong flow. One of the few rivers in India to have its roots in Karakoram Range and the gorge through which it flows, is almost dramatic. Huge walls on either side would escort you, as you raft over the rapids one by one on the river till it merges existence with Indus in Nimmu.
|3||Max. Altitude||4950 M (Ganda La)|
|4||Best Season||June to Oct|
|5||What is included in the fee||6 Days Stay
Meals while on trek(Breakfast,Lunch,Evening Snacks & Dinner)
First aid medical kits and oxygen cylinder
Qualified & experienced trek Leader, Guide and Support staff
Transport from Leh to Road head and return
28 kms Rafting
|6||What is not included in the fee||Meals in Leh
Meals during road Journeys
Any kind of personal expenses
Any kind of Insurance
Mules or porter to carry personal luggage
Anything not specifically mentioned under the head Inclusions
Day 1 – Arrive and rest in Leh
Day 2 – Acclimatization in and around Leh
Day 3 – Leh (3500 Mts) to Zingchen (3734 Mts ) to Ganda La Lower Base Camp (4363 Mts)
Day 4 – Ganda La lower base to Shingo Campsite (4376 Mts) via Ganda La (4971 Mts)
Day 5 – Shingo Campsite to Chilling (3189 Mts) using Ropeway/Ziplilne
Day 6 – Chilling to Leh. Rafting & Driving.
Ladakh – The land of passes has almost become centre of Earth Tourism these days J It is a landscape second to none and unique to the core.
One may choose amongst the various ways to reach Leh:
This day is typically critical for people arriving in Leh by flight. The altitude of the city (3500 mts) is definitely ‘High Altitude’ and sickness does happen. Headache, loss of appetite are common symptoms that may get worse into vomits, and nausea. The best way is to rest for the day and wait for your body to acclimatize but don’t sleep too much. Staying awake helps. If you are not feeling too bad, go for small walks to the market, etc. and drink as much fluid as possible. Enjoy local soups, special Ladakhi salt tea, and water as much as you can. A tablet of Dimox may also help but if the situation worsens, see a doctor.
This day is usually required by most modes of transport (except bikes). Stay active and visit one or two monasteries. This should be the second day in Leh for those reaching by flight. The greatest thing about monasteries is that they are always high! You can practice the High Altitude climb and the climb also helps immensely in acclimatizing. Climbing higher and staying lower is the best way to acclimatize. A tablet of Dimox may be taken if not feeling well but don’t depend upon Dimox too much. Test your body for the trek that starts tomorrow.
Road Journey – Start the drive early morning (especially if you are travelling in summers) because it is good to avoid the scorching sun of Ladakh. Take the airport road from Leh to drive towards Spituk village where you cross Indus River using a bridge. The road from here moves parallel to Indus (right of Indus) and Kashmir highway. After reaching Pharka village, the road moves away from the Indus towards Zingchen. One can see a big board declaring the beginning of “Hemis High Altitude National Park”.
Trek – The trek starts from a barrier made by forest department to mark the end of road for vehicles. However, the half-baked road would be used by us to walk upon. One can see the confluence of Stok and Rumbek Nallas (small water streams) here. We would start the walk besides the Rumbek Nalla. The start would not be easy because the altitude is seriously high and the breath can be a usual issue to start with. However, after walking slowly for some time, one starts gathering the breath faster than expected. The trail has very gradual incline giving enough opportunity to pick up the breath. One starts on the left of Nalla and continues to walk on the dirt road for around 1 hour. Through this route, one can only see towering brown mountains on either side that have no vegetation whatsoever! However, alongside the Nalla, some pretty Himalayan roses among many other plants can be spotted. After around 1 hour, we cross the Nalla to move to the other side using a bridge. The trail earlier used to continue on the right of Nalla but due to frequent landslides on that side, the trail has now been shifted to the other side for a short distance. After walking for another 10 – 15 mins, one can see Bon Budhist shrine along the trail. The place does not have a special name (or at least we could not find out the name) but one can spot the brilliant make-shift deity statues here that can mesmerize those who are believers. Walk for another 15 mins cross another bridge and come back to the original side of the Nalla (right of Nalla). From here, one should take the upper trail (away from the water stream). The incline degree increases a bit from here but is still quite gradual. Another 30 – 40 mins walk would take you to the Rumbek camping site, marked by temporary tents (set up by locals) and a board with map (by forest deptt.).
From Rumbek camp site, the view opens up significantly. Start moving upwards (south west) from the site, crossing small water streams flowing from Stok La & Stok Kangri. One needs to move eastward, through the Rumbek village for going to Stok La but we need to take the trail on the western side, towards Yurutse. After walking for around 50 - 60 mins, we reach at a confluence of two streams coming from Stok. From this point, take the incline on the west towards Yurutse. After around 50 – 60 mins of hike from here, one can start seeing the Gompas that mark the beginning of the village, Yurutse. One can rest here for some time and enjoy the appalling serenity of this remote high altitude village. The place has a nice Home Stay option available.
As one starts from Yurutse, a short 15 mins walk takes us to a big field that has been cordoned off by the villagers. Presenting an astonishing view, the field is uncharacteristic with so many flowers and herbs that make a rainbow of colours in the ever brown/white background – Blue, Green, Yellow, Red, Orange, and mixtures J Keep walking on the trail for another hour to reach the Ganda La lower Base camp. The camp site is in the middle of a large valley with mountains on 3 sides marking its boundaries. There is a small water source which may dry up in late summers or early summers (when it is covered with snow). The site has been developed with proper marking of sleeping area, pits, water point, and a permanent toilet. However, the development does not come free, camping charges (150 per sleeping tent & kitchen tent, one time transit charges per person) have to be paid. Night in the camps.
We start early morning today to cross the pass soon in the morning. Start walking westwards on the clearly demarcated trail towards the Upper Ganda La base. Continuous and steady incline (avg. slope of around 17%) for around 50 – 60 mins takes us to the Ganda La Upper base. This is also a similar camping site that can be used either before the climb of Ganda La from Zingchen side or after the climb from Chilling side. Same rates of camping are applicable here as well, even when there might be no-one present. A permanent toilet has been made here as well.
Continue moving upward from here into the narrow valley in the south west direction. One walks here alongside a seasonal gorge that dries up once all snow melts down. One is continuously greeted by Marmots and Himalayan Hare on the way with small shrubs trying to compensate for the lack of oxygen in the valley. After walking for around 1.5 hours, one needs to turn northward to climb to a local top. This turn can be easily spotted because this is the first time since morning when a trail diverges. One can see Stok Kangri through most of the climb today but the view from here is quite magnificent. The climb from this point becomes a bit steeper (avg. slope of around 21%) till the pass. One can see the base camps from this local top, offering the last clear line of sight. The climb should take around 20 – 25 mins from the diversion. Walk towards the spur on the south west for around 10 mins to get the first glimpse of Ganda La. One should be able to see a flag up on the pass. The tempting pass keeps inviting you through the steady climb of around 50 – 60 mins from here.
The view from Ganda La is amazing, almost 360* view with Zanskar range in the South (front) and Stok Kangri at the back. Zanskar range of mountains is visible only from select trails in the Himalayas, Markha Valley being one of them. If the weather is very clear, one can also see the peaks Nun & Kun (only the small portion though). The pass joins Rumbak & Markha Valley. Standing here, one can also see some other passes like Singe La, etc and realize why the ancient mankind would name this land as “Ladakh” literally meaning ‘The land of passes’
While coming down from the pass, the trail is smooth and one can stroll down fast (if required). Start walking straight down the gorge into the Markha valley. Walk to Shingo campsite is all downhill and easy. It should take around 1.5 hours to reach Shingo camping site that is also used as the Base camp for the ascent to Ganda La from Chilling side. Night stay in camps.
The day is mostly downhill and easy. As we start in the morning, we walk along the same gorge as yesterday that takes us to Shingo village after around 35 – 40 mins. A famous village in this valley that was recently been touched by a solar lighting initiative. Home stay options are also available here.
From the village, start walking alongside the Shingo Nalla. The trail is mostly closed on either side with large brown mountains. The stream would ask you to cross itself multiple times, jumping over the small or big boulders. The trail hardly moves away from the river. If Ladakh was not an arid region with dim hopes or rains, this trail could have been very risky but it is what it is! Only occasionally the well laid out trail moves upwards to give a bit more open view. Blue sheep can be sighted along this stream easily. The trail is longish with continues decline and may become a bit boring, so enjoy the hike and keep talking or singing or even better enjoy the rare flora & fauna visible alongside the trail, point is to not think about the destination (Skiu).
As the village Skiu approaches, you can feel the presence of civilization marked by some fields with properly laid boundaries. The beginning of the village is marked by a holy tree – Juniper and usual Gompas. Home stay and camping options are available her. The walk from Shingo to Skiu should take around 2.5 to 3 hrs. Shingo Nalla meets its big brother – Markha Nalla here that flows from east to west. Follow on the right of Markha Nalla, downstream to move towards Kaya village. Kaya is an ally village of Skiu, only 20 mins away from Skiu. In case, one wants to go to Markha, you need to move upstream & on the right of Markha Nallay, through upper Skiu.
From Kaya, walk for another 6 Kms to reach the ropeway, on the half paved road. The road was used by vehicles till some time ago but after the bridge over Zanskar was destroyed near Chilling, the village has again been cut off. After walking on this half-baked road for around 2 hours, one can see the confluence of Markha Nalla & Zanskar River. A short hike from here, would take you to the Ropeway point. Crossing the ropeway would sure be a thrilling experience that can’t really be described here J
Cross the Zanskar and move on the other side of the river to Chilling that is around 5 – 6 Kms from Chilling village. Stay here in Homestay.
Remote Ladakhi villages are a lifetime experience and one must take them at least once! People, trees, crop, and even dirt is untouched here. Enjoy the local cuisine along with the special Ladakhi tea (salty) tonight. Despite the remoteness, the villages would always seem sufficiently fed and developed, most importantly, the people won’t look restless or disturbed. Although the common logic of modern day development would make you feel pity for them but they surely don’t need it!
It is 28km of rafting for around 3 hours that includes a range of rapids including a Class III + rapid, at a point where the river converges to a large extent. Your guide will provide you a rafting helmet, wetsuit and booties before giving you a brief set of instructions on how to oar and safety procedures if you are thrown overboard. The water is cold and silty coming from the glaciers upstream.
If you are considering taking a camera its best to bring something waterproof or bring a small dry sack you can stick in your life preserver and make sure its well attached in case you are thrown overboard. The most exciting stretch of rapids is close to the end of the trip just before the bridge that crosses the river.
From here we drive to Leh (around 45 – 50 mins) and stay in hotel.