What it means to walk the mountains of Ladakh? 

Tripoto
8th Aug 2017

Total Distance Walked: 670 km Time: August-Septermber, 2017. ​ A WALK FROM TURTUK (NUBRA VALLEY) to LEH to MANALI. 6 Weeks. 670 Kilometers. 6 HIGH MOUNTAINS PASSES. GATA LOOPS. MOREY PLAINS AND SO MANY OTHER HURDLES. We WALKED IT ALL

Photo of What it means to walk the mountains of Ladakh? by Sachin Chhachhia
Photo of Keylong, Himachal Pradesh, India by Sachin Chhachhia

Total Distance Walked: 670 km

Time: August-Septermber, 2017.

A WALK FROM TURTUK (NUBRA VALLEY) to LEH to MANALI.

4 WEEKS. 670 Kilometers. 6 HIGH MOUNTAINS PASSES. GATA LOOPS. MOREY PLAINS AND SO MANY OTHER HURDLES. We WALKED IT ALL.

Mountains are the most powerful and all the time it made me like feel negligible tiny particle.

Suraj Tal Lake also called Surya taal, is a sacred body of water, literally means the Lake of the Sun God, and lies just below the Bara-lacha-la pass in Himachal Predesh

Photo of Suraj Tal, Himachal Pradesh by Sachin Chhachhia

The walk comprises of uphills, and downhills, concrete roads, sand stony roads, rainy, cold, starry nights, colorful sunsets. Sometimes foggy and sunny sunrises. All these experiences I will be able to describe only in some time as for now my body hurts almost everywhere and my mind blocked from all the beautiful experiences I had lived for the past few weeks.

For many years of my life, I was dreaming about traveling to Ladakh not by walking through but I never wanted to go on a noisy Royal Enfield as well (no offense to bikers; they were super helpful all the time but I feel they are a big threat to mountains)

I hear people doing all kind of preparations for the Leh Manali journey whether it was a bike journey or bicycle ride. What I and Monja did for the preparation? We wanted to do something else like walking in the Tibetan Himalayas which is not possible for a hundred different reasons.

We chose an alternative easier route, or at least we assumed it was an easier route but it was not an easy walk; especially with heavy backpack worth 28 kilos. How did we plan? We decided to reach Leh by plane, we will buy the map and find one of the ends and start walking from there. At the right moment, one FB friend, Izhar told us to start from Turtuk which is at the Indo Pak border. Turned out to be a beautiful recommendation. 9:10 AM of August the 8th was the time when we started our walk from Turtuk. We had walked only 2 km and have already lost our way. We walked back and then on the road along the Shyok river. The tent we had bought turned out to be the worst tent ever. We walked on the road until Hunder which is a beautiful village with sand dunes around, small water streams in every street and delicious organic food from people’s own personal gardens.

Taking breaks

Photo of Sarchu, Himachal Pradesh by Sachin Chhachhia

From Hunder to Phyang we chose to take the trekking route where on the very first night we had the luxury of attending a Ladakhi wedding ceremony, a very simple ceremony where zero food is wasted and people take no dowry. Men and women both are allowed to drink under the same tent and later on people dance on Ladakhi and Bollywood songs.

​From the second day, we saw no villages except a few shepherds and wild hairy yaks and we were walking above 4,000 meters all the time. On the evening of the second-day trek, we met Michael and Birgit who were doing the same trek and they have a team of super-friendly people with them. Rigzen, their guide and a 28-year-old local guy of Nubra Valley now a dear friend is such an amazing guy who has done some amazing work for his village was one of many happy souls we met on this walk.

Trail to Hunder Dog

​Michael and Birgit are from Germany and they keep coming to India again and again for their own reasons; and were such a help and conversation with them was a blessing. Thank you, Michael and Birgit.

We reached Leh and then started our walk towards MANALI which is a very crazy route going through highest of passes. Hemis Monastery and our house lady (another Rigzen) parents make me wonder and inspire to know about Buddhism.

Even though all these mountains seem to be the same barren but every day we found ourselves in very different scenery. Most of the nights we couldn't sleep nicely because of the lack of oxygen and cold. Crossing the second highest pass Tanglang la (5328 m/17480feet) was the craziest of all. I think both of us will never forget that day. And there were other high passes including Lachung La pass (5059 m/16600 ft), Nakila pass (4740 m), Baralacha pass (4892 m)and Rohtang la (3978 m) in the end and we had Gata loops which makes you wonder and be amused and inspired about the achievement of BRO in constructing this road. Yes, walking in Morey Plains was the most difficult especially when you have no water and are little far away from the road. Army people were super helpful. And we met many crazy people on the way and I think craziest of them all was one guy going in a rickshaw all the way from Kolkata to Siachin. We know how hard it is to push the rickshaw on the altitude of this scale.

In Ladakh, everything is difficult. It is you who has to do everything and to take care of yourself. I think it is no game for people who like to brag about adventure yet I believe everyone with a healthy and positive attitude can do it with some difficulties.

Night scenes

Photo of What it means to walk the mountains of Ladakh? by Sachin Chhachhia

I think such journeys are a great way to face all the irrelevant & non-existing insecurities we have accumulated in our past. Most of the insecurities I had or still have are turning out to be my own construct and when I see myself standing under the cold starry night, I feel cold and happy and the snow particles feel good to the eyes and I am a free man.

This walk took away all the words from me and made me inquire into my passions, doubts, insecurities, temptations, worries, ideas of beauty, sadness, happiness, bad, etc, etc. Outside I was a tired walking man but inside I was able to inquire a little deeper than usual and yet was kind of content with whatever revelations I had.

Almost for two months, we ate a similar kind of food but it didn't matter as long as we were getting a cup of milk tea and sometimes momos to change the taste. It was a privilege to walk this road as I saw people getting only a week of vacation from their metropolitan job to finish this crazy route in 2-3 days to tick off Ladakh from their bucket list. A month of walk-in Ladakh for me at least was nothing more than a basic introduction to Ladakh. I think I will keep going to Ladakh for its people, food, kindness, landscapes, and everything else. Maybe there is no more peaceful and clean place than Ladakh in India or the rest of the world ( I have not seen the world). Sabine and Thomas gave us healthy food and a really accurate & helpful map before leaving back home.

The walk was about nothing but the real experiences, we followed no GPS but sought instructions from the hard copied map and local people giving us instructions who already have walked these paths. We did not look for recommended places on the internet as we kept getting nice recommendations from the people on the way and every day brought us to a new surprising location. Not planning gave us freedom and flexibility to stay wherever we wanted to stay but approaching winter gave wings to our feet and we walked faster than we expected.

Photo of Lachalung La by Sachin Chhachhia

​When we were walking I thought the journey was not so difficult and didn't have much meaning as we were doing nothing but walking. But as I am sitting neat and clean after a long time in a nice cozy room, the walk means a lot and I think I have learned and unlearned a lot. We took many photos and some videos but the walk itself was more than all these memories we have collected.

The journey I am walking has no agenda in general. There are no assumptions and motives when I walk. Every story I hear or make for myself is the essence of this walk and every issue people tell me or I see with my own naked eyes are the things I want to about. This walk is not a travel tale but a tale of a human who is trying to dig into the questions of self and meaning of life. In Ladakh we saw not many trees and when we could finally see the trees when we reached Darcha and we realized how much we love trees and green.

Now I am resting in Rishikesh for a few weeks where I have my beloved Ganga to take care of my tired body and reflect upon the walk.

Excitement of reaching Manali was all visible on our tired faces

Photo of What it means to walk the mountains of Ladakh? by Sachin Chhachhia

Manali 200 km

Photo of What it means to walk the mountains of Ladakh? by Sachin Chhachhia

Deserts

Photo of What it means to walk the mountains of Ladakh? by Sachin Chhachhia

Post offices

Photo of What it means to walk the mountains of Ladakh? by Sachin Chhachhia
Photo of What it means to walk the mountains of Ladakh? by Sachin Chhachhia
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