This is one of the most beautiful trekking circuits on the Himalayas, and the most favored destination for many trekkers. Stretched along the course of the Markha river in "Little Tibet", the trek across Markha valley presents to its patrons a blend of beauty and adventure. Every trekker who has passed through this valley swears this to be one of the most gratifying moments of his or her life. Here one comes across serene Buddhist monasteries, rambling mountain villages and high altitude pastures that are a feast to one's eyes. It is reasonably an easy trek, and hence favored by both first timers trying their hand in trekking and experts, who come here for a pleasant experience after other harsher treks. Easy, because you find the route dotted with tent accommodation for sleepovers, and even an odd tea-tent, where you get hot freshly brewed tea. The entire trek takes 5 to 8 days depending on your fitness.
We started out on this trek from Leh, initially with a bus ride from Leh to Spituk. Our Itinery took us through Zingchan village, and many other villages on the way. We passed through the pastures of Nyimaling to proceed to Gongmaru La which is the most difficult part of the whole journey. The descent again was relatively easy, and we came back to Leh by boarding the bus at Hamis Village.
The cost of the entire trek was quite low, around Rs.1000 per day, for food, mules, tents etc. However, the rate varies with the type of customer so be sure to bargain hard to get a good price. All the logistics apart, Markha valley leaves you with that satiated feeling that you get after having experienced bliss. If not for my thirst to savor all of Himalayas, I would keep returning to Markha valley year after year. Who knows, I would still do it, despite that thirst. The beauty of this trail is such that you just cannot have enough of it.
Reach Spituk before night from Leh and take accommodation with one of the many families here, who charge around Rs. 200 for the night stay, dinner and breakfast. Alternatively, you could pitch your own tent if you like to and get food from these families or from the tea-tents.
You reach Yurutse at the end of first day and camp for the night. If you do not feel like pitching your own tent, there are a lot of tent accommodations who will take you in for the night, and cost really less. The trip to Yurutse passes through Zingchan village, which is the last motorable point on this route. After Zingchen you will not find jeeps overtaking you, leaving behind an irritating burst of dirt.
From Yurutse the trek proceeds towards Kanda La, and en route you witness the magnificence of the mighty mountains stretched before you. The route is also home to cute little creatures called marmots, and we enjoyed playing with them for some time before continuing on our way. We stayed at the Skiu village for the night before proceeding towards Markha River. The water was moderately high but not impossible to cross. We camped at the beautiful campsite at Markha.
From Markha we reached Ninmaling via Thochutse. The mountains offer some breathtaking views enroute, but there was also some snowing due to which our journey got delayed. We reached Nimaling expecting lush green pastures, only to find that the snow had completely covered it in white for us!
This is a steep climb and the most difficult part of this entire trek. The difficulty was upped a few notches from the snow of the previous day. Still, the vistas that you see on your way top are spell binding. And surprise surprise! There was Airtel network connectivity right there at the top!