“Life for one week on the mountaintops would show up many things about life during the other fifty-one weeks down below.” – Benton Mackaye
So today is our final day in Leh having returned yesterday from our 7 days in the Himalayan region surrounding Leh. The trek that we did was one called the Markha Valley trek (see image) and we chose to stay with Indian families rather than camping, which was definitely a good choice as the temperature plummeted at night and we were glad to be inside wrapped in our warm blankets normally ready for bed at around 8pm!
The trek itself wan’t too strenuous with the middle days only being a few hours walking. The second and penultimate day were long 7 hour days though with plenty of climbing. Apparently the trek is supposed to take a bit longer each day, but me and Joe are used to the London walking speed so don’t hang around! The toughest day for us was definitely the third day where we didn’t set off until 1pm having spent the previous 12 hours rotating turns in the delightful ‘toilet’ due to some dodgy local wheat in momos the night before. Pushing through for 5 hours in the afternoon sun (the only day where I don’t think there was a single cloud) required plenty of re-hydration drinks and paracetamol, but we managed it!
Highlights of the trek definitely included staying with the locals. Definitely a recommendation over camping if you get the choice. The food was normally delicious and the rooms albeit very basic were nicer than being in a tent. A few occasions of washing in the streams in the afternoons ensured we stayed smelling fresh and the water was definitely refreshing. Our local guide Raj (an ‘eco-guide’) was good company throughout the week and made sure we admired the mountains whilst still allowing a decent pace!
What has become very apparent whilst trekking is how different the northern province of Ladakh is, compared to the test of India. Not only in the appearance and manner of the people (who have closer links with Tibet) but their customs and religion. They use a knife and fork for example! They tend not to barter a price, simply putting forward a genuine offer. The Buddhist aspect of people’s lives here is evident too. Today Buddhism survives in strength only in the Himalayan regions and Ladakh, though these days many young Indians are attracted to its teachings, and many ‘Dalits’ (untouchables) are converting to Buddhism in an attempt to escape the chains of the caste system. Beginning in Leh and Ladakh has been a great ‘entry-level’ approach to India.
Tonight we leave at 5pm for a 16 hour journey to a place called Srinagar which I assumed was a small town built around these lakes. Turns out the population is over 1 million… but I think the places to visit are all fairly contained. Having been in the Leh region for nearly two weeks now it feels like time to move on and explore more of India.