11 September 2008

Ladakh / Zanskar August 2008

More Photos in slide-show, In the left margin

I'd never done something like this before and I must admit I was more than a little skeptical about doing it! Upping and going for a holiday by myself with a group of people of whom i knew none............................. but its the best thing i ever did and ended up on the holiday of my life!

I had seen some photos of he rafting trip (not too many, wanted to keep it a mystery for myself) and some of Pangong Tso... and Zanskar and Ladakh beckoned..

the start of the trip wasn't the best, our flight took off from Delhi, hovered over Leh but we DIDN'T land... poor visibility and the pilot couldn't sight the airstrip and so couldn't come in to land.... so we went back home with bags packed!!

Back to the airport the next day and the flight was delayed a couple of hours, finally took off and were over Leh again.... this time we DID land and what a landing it was... a complete U turn before the plane came in to land and loud applause from all us.... WE were in Ladakh!!
The first day in Leh was total rest - acclimatisation to high altitude - Leh is at 11500 feet. I'm glad I did feel breathless even simply walking around and while sleeping at night, almost felt I was choking a few times. We had to repack our stuff to minimise bags an load... took out 'unnecessary' stuff... if the aquaterra guys had their way i would travel with clothes on my back and a toothbrush.

The next morning we started the long 12 hour drive on the Leh-Srinagar highway to Kargil. Kargil is just about 4 kms from the Line of Control with Pakistan. It was quite an arduous journey and we couldn't wait for it to end... the scenery all along the way was largely brown, moonscape... very beautiful but a bit monotonous and dreary. We stayed in a hotel that night.. it was the last night in a bed for some time!
The next day's journey was to Rangdum which was an incredible camp-site, in a huge valley with a humongous mountains all around and snow peaks almost in touching distance. This was the coldest night of the trip added to by incessant rain... not the perfect start to sleeping in tents!

The next morning we drove to the next campsite we drove from Rangdum to Remala which was a campsite right by the River Stod - starting point of the rafting ! finally ! This drive took us through Pensi La (La is ladakhi for Pass) which is at a height of 14500 feet and past the Drung Durung Glacier which feeds the Stod and the Zanskar river.

The next morning - 14th August - we started our over-150 KM rafting expedition down the Zanskar.... it was a heady feeling, we had all travelled for 5 days to get to this spot to start this! There were 6 other people on my raft, Left to Right below.... Rama (she was so scared of the18-down rapid that she didn't know when we were through it), Vaibhav (O Captain, my captain - the boss of the boat), Me, Sanjay (1-2, 1-2, 1-2), Gayatri (who insisted on calling all the sights "gorgeous" in an oh-so-girly manner), Sejal (the airline pilot who wanted to be pilot of this boat too) and Richard (the maddest person on the trip... kept us laughing right through).

Before I go into telling you about the rafting and how amazing it was and what it FELT like.... a bit about the other people on the trip..... apart from my raft above..... Below, Ajay and KK - enjoying a game of domino's like their life depends on it!

Antje, the super-fit-woman from Germany and the 'snobs' - well not really - Priya (the editor) and Antara ! The super-efficient German sisters - Antje and Claudia....
Sachin (the problem solver, couldn't take care of the boxers though), Sanjay, Rama, Me and Richard....
THE BOYS - Sanjay, Richard, Ajay and Me
Now.. to the rafting.... The first day's rafting was quite mild (don't tell KK i said that, he fell out in the first 10 minutes - apparently "cooling up").... getting used to our teams and the river. Th water was freezing cold and best avoided. to add to it, it was an overcast day so even colder!

It was a relief to be on the river after days of travelling, just an amazing feeling... paddling on the Zanskar in the middle of nowhere.... The campsite at Karsha was a small one but right by the river. I was a bit ill at this campsite... fever and the shivers, so pretty much rested all evening to try and bounce back for the following few days of rafting.

The next we headed out from Karsha down the river to Honyo which was by far the best campsite of the trip - picturesque and truely breathtaking.

It was a relatively short run to Honyo which gave us a fair bit of time at Honyo to enjoy the surrounding area the campsite itself. The night at Honyo was a particularly enjoyable experience, an almost clear night with a full moon and the temperature was just right to enjoy the evening. and enjoy the evening we did !

The next morning we left Honyo for a very exciting day of rafting, a fair bit of Class III rapids through beautiful gorges and canyons.

At the end of a toughish day of rafting we reached Nyerak which was going to be our "home" for 2 nights, we were going to have a rest day there. Nyerak was a good campsite though a very very dusty and steep site. The campsite was good for the rest day as it had loads of trees to sleep under and a fresh water (though very cold) stream flowing by.... the first chance to wash up and shampoo our hair for days !

It was a very relaxing day with no distractions close to nothing to do all day long. Truely vegetative....

We began the 5th day of rafting from Nyerak down to Lamaguru with a bang, serious Class IV rapids just around the corner. IT was a really good day of rafting about 35 kms. The highlight of the day was the lunch site - next to a waterfall gushing out of a rockface. A walk under the fall was a really chilling experience, it felt like ice cubes falling on your head - pounding and cold at the same time.
The last day of rafting was a really good 40 km run from Lamaguru to Nimu. The campsite at Lamagur had a been a tough one to camp at...very rocky and shoaly. The tent had been a pain to set up. The morning started with a longish photo session, this being the last day of rafting.

The take-out of the rafting expedition was at Nimu, just past the confluence of the Indus and the Zanskar, a spot we had passed on the first day on our drive.

The trip had been very tiring but exhilerating... finally got a chance to have a shower and shave, valued the basics again!

10 September 2008

Ladakh extended

Following the rafting expedition down the Zanskar, I decided to stay on a few days in Ladakh to see a few sights.... I am so happy I did because I was able to see one of the most beautiful place in the world - Pangong Tso. The salt water lake with the clearest and bluest water I have ever seen in my life......

and the sand dunes in the Nubra Valley... a surreal sight in the mountains at that altitude...