Ladakh

Markha valley and ascent of Stok Kangri - August 2006

 

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Day 5 - Rafting down the Indus river to Nimmu - Drive to Chilling

 

It rained again for the best part of the night and the weather is grey as we leave Leh for the short drive to Phey on the Indus river. From there we will raft down for about 3 hours to Nimmu, a village located at the junction of the Zanskar and Indus rivers. This is not a necessary part of the itinerary (our trek luggage is not going on the raft but will be driven down to Nimmu), just a different way to start a trek and experience rafting.

Even though the Indus is not considered a very demanding rafting river we have to don life jackets, helmetS, neoprene jackets and need to keep other things safely stashed away in a waterproof bag (therefore very few photos). Riding some of these easy grade rapids is pretty impressive and at times very wet. I feel a little ambivalent about it at the beginning but after a while it gets quite enjoyable.

After lunch in Nimmu we drive for an hour along the Zanskar river to Chilling, a tiny village in the Zanskar valley. This is where the road ends and will be the start of our trek tomorrow morning.

We meet our team at camp in Chilling and later go for a walk to the small village above our camp.

In the later part of the afternoon it starts raining again and continues for most of the night. It is not heavy rain but still very unusual for a place like Ladakh where normal yearly rainfall averages only 60mm (and that's mainly in the form of snow in winter).

 

At the junction of the Indus and the Zanskar rivers

 

At the junction of the Indus and the Zanskar rivers

 

 
 

Prayer flags, apricot trees and the Zanskar river in Chilling

 

 

Mani wall

 

 

Fields in Chilling

 

 

A house in Chilling

 

 

The inside of a house

 

 
A lady washing apricots

 

 

 

Day 6 - Chilling to Skyu

Clear weather in the morning. At least it seems to rain only during the night. We take the short walk to the interesting cable box that crosses the Zanskar river. There are no bridges so it is the only way to cross and our pack horses (they can't cross in the box!) wait on the other side.

It takes a long time to cross all the luggage and all of us because that box cannot take more than two squeezed persons or a few bags at a time. The box is then pulled across by rope. Once you are in it the procedure is actually far less daunting than it looks.

We are a couple of horses short so it takes a while to sort the loads and we leave before this procedure is over and slowly ascend the first small pass (called Kukhi La). It is more or less at the junction of the Zanskar and Markha rivers (and valleys). The mountains, colours and rock formations are truly amazing. The sun is really strong and the weather is rather hot.

After a short tea stop at a parachute tea-house (they are made of old parachutes from the Indian army, great for shade) we continue for the short walk to Skyu. There are quite a lot of trekkers, most of them have come over the Ganda La and will walk up the Markha valley. We set camp right over the Markha river.
Our guide Bhim is a little concerned at how high the river already is and hopes that there won't be any more rain as we will have to cross it several times further up the valley.
Unfortunately and to his dismay, it starts raining again shortly after sunset and continues on and off throughout the night.

 

 

 

Waiting at the crossing on the Zanskar river

 

 

Our pack horses waiting on the other side of the river

 

 

The cable box

 

 
Crossing in the cable box

 

 
 

Crossing in the cable box

 

 

The Zanskar crossing and Chilling from the start of the path to Skyu

 

 

Zanskar valley

 

At the Kukhi La, above the Zanskar and Markha valleys meeting point

 

 

At the Kukhi La, above the Zanskar and Markha valleys meeting point

 

Looking up the Markha valley

 

 

Parachute tea-house

 

In Skyu, looking north towards the valley leading to the Ganda La

 

 

The Markha river, swollen by rain and muddy

 

Our camp

 

 

Sunset light from our camp

 

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