If you read the previous post by guest blogger Ms. Ritu Chawla, you would already know that she reached base camp after trying to summit Stok Kangri in Ladakh (read the post here). She continues the journey in this post.
Phunsuk and uncle welcomed us warmly and gave us hot soup. They immediately knew that Chaman needed medical attention. I had to then literally force Chaman out the door so that he would visit a doctor – he was very reluctant to leave as he was supposed to accompany me till the end of the trek. Somehow I managed to convince him that I would be fine.
With Chaman also gone it was just three of us left in Stok. After resting for a while, we also left for Mankarmo.
Once there, we celebrated the trek with canned tuna fish and rasgullas (a dessert) too. Having survived on little else but potatoes and rice so far, this was a feast.
As the rigours of the previous day got to me, I began feeling drowsy. But I didn’t want to waste precious time on sleep. Sitting on a boulder far removed from our tent, I just soaked the sights and sound of nature at its best in this mountainous abode.
When you see the blue sky and the lines of those mountains against the sky…. for a short while the scene drives away all our pettiness, all our worries and all the travails of life. It quietens your mind and puts you in a meditative state.
Time ticked by in this trance and before I knew it, it was time for dinner. I went back to my tent thanking Phunsuk for the delicious Thukpa (Ladakhi food), wanting to stay awake for some more time. Sleep overcame me before I could stop it.
The next morning as usual, was fascinating but we had to get back. So, with the horses carrying essentials and I carrying memories in a large bundle, we began the return trip.
What took us six hours to cover on the first day, we managed to cover in half the time as we were descending and the supply of oxygen was improving. On my way back, I did not meet anyone heading towards Stok. I thought to myself – the mountains will be without company for some time.
I bid goodbye to Phunsuk and uncle at Stok village. They had been the most helpful and reassuring companions. They say if you can sleep well at night, you are comfortable in the surroundings. Well, the fact that I had slept soundly every day showed how comforting I found their company.
Though I was very happy with the trip, Chimba was apologetic as he realised that instead of one, he should have sent two Sherpas with me. He promised to make up for the mistake.
So, the next day he took me on his bike (the sturdy Bullet) to Khardungla Pass (the highest motorable road in the world). As the bike was climbing up the tar, it struck me how difficult it must have been for the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) to build these roads.
When we reached Khardungla pass, we were welcomed by an army man, who told us that ours was the first motorcycle of this season to reach the top.
I stopped at many places – this time not to catch my breath but to capture the beauty in my eyes. The monotony of the mountains was broken by splashes of color made by an anonymous artist.
We then visited one of the oldest and best known monasteries of Leh, the Alchi monastery/Gompa. Built by craftsmen from Srinagar, it is now in a state of disrepair as the monks do not want to change the original character of the structure.
On the way back from Alchi, I realised that Leh is not as barren as thought to be – it has fair patches of green too.
After paying my respects at a gurudwara and the Kali Mata temple, we headed back home. On the whole, we covered 250 kms on motorcycle that day.
Chimba and Nurbur shared the expense for the bike excursion. They felt guilty that I wasn’t able to reach the Stok summit and were trying to compensate this way. I knew they have no source of income in the winter so I kept insisting they take the money, but they just refused to accept a single rupee. I had to give in.
When I reached the Leh guest house having spent a wonderful day roaming around, my lovely hostess was waiting at the gate – just the way my mother would wait for me.
It touched my heart and showed the amount of personal attention Ladakhis shower on their guests.
The next morning, it was time to leave. The entire family hugged me and wished me luck for my return journey. I thanked them and all my other new friends – Chimba, Phunsuk, Chaman…they had all ensured that this trip to Ladakh had been the most memorable one.
Their humbleness, hospitality, generosity and genuineness had completely won over my heart.
The return flight journey was beautiful as I was once again lucky to get a window seat. And yes, my camera was ready to capture all the beauty.
For readers of the blog, I am ending with a few tips picked up during my years of trekking.
TREKKING TIPS –
- Ladakh offers several options for trekking – the duration can range from 2 to 20 days. If you’re planning to trek, you should set aside at least 8-9 days as you definitely need to acclimatize.
- Before you get off the aircraft at Leh, you should cover your ears with a woollen cap and wear a warm jacket. Believe me, it really helps.
- The first day in Leh should be spent indoors. Relax as much as you can as it helps you acclimatize well. Read a book, play some games with your family or watch television.
The second day you should step out, but don’t get too adventurous. Do the local sightseeing in Leh, go to the market…If you are there to trek, walk to Shanti Stupa, Leh Palace etc. I did that.
The third day onward you can go anywhere if you have sufficiently adapted to the cold and lack of oxygen.
- When you go for the trek, pack your backpack well with thermals, woolen cap, fleece jacket, wind jacket and down jacket. Good quality hand gloves and warm socks will help prevent frostbite. Carry 2-3 pairs of good quality, anti-glare sun shades/ goggles to prevent snow blindness.
- During the trek, consume more carbohydrates as they give you energy. Keep yourself well hydrated by drinking water. Talk less to conserve energy.
- If you are planning to summit any peaks in May, find out beforehand if there are any other groups going. If yes, great! Otherwise, take two sherpas with you. There is no pathway in this month and there’s too much snow.
- Spend time enjoying the wonders of nature and despite all the cold you will stand like a rock.
For those of you who don’t plan to trek, there are enough sightseeing attractions. Apart from Leh Palace and Shanti Stupa, there are several monasteries, Khardungla Pass, Pangong Lake, Chandratal Lake, Zanskar valley, Nubra Valley etc.
You can also buy Tibetan and Ladakhi artefacts.
Even if you don’t, you will still have the warmth and generosity of the Ladakhis to carry back home.
If, after reading this post, you feel like taking up the Stok trek or any other trek in the Leh Ladakh region, contact Chimba of Exotic holidays (09419447474, 09906319835) and Nurbu of Mitra group (09596929195).
Should you wish to contact the guest blogger, please send an email to – firstname.lastname@example.org
ABOUT THE GUEST AUTHOR
Ritu Chawla is a commercial artist by profession. She is an avid trekker (Kailash Mansarovar in Tibet being her all-time favourite) and budding photographer. With this post, she has stepped into the world of blogging too.
Edited by Vibha Ravi
PixelVoyages blog owner Vibha Ravi thanks Ritu for taking us along on this adventure and hopes she has many more such life enriching journeys going ahead.