Adventure

Ladakh

'I believe any trip in search of wildlife can be coupled with physical activity and elements of cultural diversity to form a thrilling opportunity '
John H.Eickert

Of the places I have traveled, India is my favorite country. There is such an amazing diversity of landscape, people, culture, and climate. Indeed, there is somewhere interesting to visit, every month of the year. My favorite place in this favorite country is Ladakh. Here is a high elevation area as dry as the Sahara, yet containing the largest glaciers outside of the world’s polar regions. Ladakh is a land where arid plains ascend to the world’s highest plateau in a jumble of glacial clad mountains and deep river canyons. A land in crossroad of a continent and meeting place of the world’s three largest religions, Islam, Hindu, and Buddhist. Ladakh is a land of mountain majesty and inner spirituality.


The trek from Lamayuru to Hemis begins at the oldest monastery and ends at the most famous monastery. The first part crosses three easy passes before descending to Chiling. At Chiling, you can swim the Zanskar or use the cable car. I recommend the cable car. From the Zanskar it is a gradual ascent up the Markha Valley. There are Mani walls and smiling faces all along the way. The scenery is spectacular. The mountains Stok Kangri and Kan Yatse seemingly guard the high pastures while shepherds tend to their yaks and goats. From Markha to Hemis the track grinds up Kongmaru La, the highest point of the trip. Phew! Near Hemis is Hemis National Park, created to protect a small portion of this rare area and hopefully shelter the few remaining snow leopards. The Park is home to the ibex and bharal sheep. There is also an interest species of quail. Of all the wildlife here, in my two days at Hemis, I only saw the quail. Oh, well. The trek from Lamayuru to Hemis is relatively easy, there is not an overly amount of up and down. However, keep in mind this trek will take ten to twelve days with and average five to six hours of walking each day. That is a lot of walking! The best time of year is June through September. It can get very cold any time of the year. Be prepared. Near here is the village of Dras, which is reported to be the coldest village in India. The beaches of Goa are a long way to the south!


Lamayuru is reached by rough road from Leh. Depending on conditions, this may take the better portion of a day. Of course, time should be spent at the monastery in Lamayuru, so trekking would begin on your second day. Leh is reached from Delhi by plane and road. I strongly recommend hiring a car in Delhi for the drive to Leh. Buses do not stop as often and in the places, you might wish. Planes reach Leh too quickly for proper acclimatization. In flying you will also miss some amazing scenery, as well as a number of Islamic and Hindu religious sites. As I say, take the time and take your time. Enjoy!

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