Shila Kong trek and Lamayuru
Sep 14, 2007
so heres another email about the shila-kong trek that we just got back from.
so we left leh by bus at 6am and the ride actually wasnt too bad. about half tourists and half locals. the ride was about 4 hours with two stops in various towns - one for masala tea and another for some lunch. about an hour before our stop the bus pulled over and took everyones passports - turns out that we needed to check in as we were headed into the kashmir area. (i swear we had no idea). when we got there, the bus dropped just brett and i on the side of the road in the town of lamayuru, so we picked up our bags and made our way to a guest house called shangri-la. it was basically a lady's home with a few extra rooms consisting of straw beds and a table covered in foil. our view was fantastic though - right into the town, but the bathroom situation was a whole other story. in fact, the lady had about 5 kids running around with these aweful noisey machine guns that some tourist must have given them, and brett walked in on one of the kids pooping. no he wasnt pooping in the 'bathroom' (aka: hole in the ground), but OUTSIDE the bathroom. now thats probably all the description you need if a local child wont even go in the bathroom... *shiver*.
anyways, we spent the rest of the afternoon in the town and went to see the lamayuru gompa / monestary which is supposed to be the oldest one in ladakh - about 1000 years old. the landscape around the area was pretty cool too. in the distance you could see the zanskar range and in the closer hills were these crazy land formations that looked like moonland...thats what they call it anywyas.
so the next day we started the trek - we took off on the trail whcih was about a kilometer away from the main town and ascended for a couple of hours to a pass called prinkiti la at 3650m. it was a quick down hill from there into the cute town called shila. this was supposed to be the end of day 1 but it was still early so we decided to follow the road into the shila kong gorge where we would esentially end up following the river for 2 days (longer then stated in the book). but anyways, so we put on our sandles and made our way over ten hundered thousand cobble stones and pebbles back and forth across the icy river. it was a pretty narrow gorge with walls as high as 3000ft on either side - and a beautiful orange color! we stopped at around 3 ish and took advanatge of the last hour of sun that would reach us by doing some laundry and even daring to take a bath and wash our hair in the icy river - talk about a brain freeze! our camp was really cool and was slightly elevated where someone had taken the time to build a rock wall around the campsite. cool huh?
so the next day we expected we would have a long day but be out of the gorge by the end of day. no such thing. it was slow going as we had to cross the river many times, and our packs were weighing down on us. in addition, walking on bolders is no easy task. so we spent a second frustrating (but still pretty) night at the end of the gorge. this put us a little behind schedule as we were supposed to have already been at shila kong camp - the base for the yogma la pass for the next day. anyways, next morning we woke up and were out of the gorge within a couple of hours. as we continued our trek, we crossed another river adn soon realized that we were headed the wrong way and had to do some backtracking and loose some of the serious elevation that was so hard to gain. to make a long story short, this whole day was spent figuring out where the heck we were. we knew the area we were in, but trails were going this way and that, and our map wasnt matching up to what we were seeing. but to let you know, we always knew how to get out - it was just extreamly frustrating not to have gone that far. i guess it was better to make sure we were headed the right way rather then the wrong...right? :) so that night we spent high above the shila kong camp (which we coulndnt see) under some prayer flags (any help we could get we were taking) with view of some snow capped peaks and the walls of the gorge we camp out of.
next day, (with an early start) we decided that if we didnt find the shila kong camp within an hour, we were headed out the way we came. let it be noted that this was labeled a popular trek and we hadnt seen a soul. as luck would have it, we found the stupid camp (which i now kindly refer to as shitty kong) and made our way down to it. yep, more loss in elevation. the plan from here was to cross another river and make our way up to the pass...and thats what we did...for a good 6-7 hours...with no trail...no people...fierce wind but clear skies...views of the un-named highest peak in the area at 6500m. on most high points of a trail,. they are marked with prayer flags and a pile of rocks (called kairns?) to show that you are going the right way. no such thing. thank god. when brett pulled out the binoculars, he could see the town of kangi far in the distance. if he hadnt, we would have had to go back down the way we came. so we made our way down for a gruling hour and finally made camp on the bed of the river - just off in the distance from the small scattered town of Dumbar.
as it turns out, we think we acended the wrong pass - just one valley too far over. as it should be, this pass also happened to be a bunch talled. we think it was 5000m vs 4500m. a big difference of 1500feet when you consider! at this point we were far behind schedule. we were supposed to have reached the last remaining remote town (in ladakh) of kanji by the end of day 3. we were already going onto day 5. so we took the alternative route out through the awesome town of kanji to the town of Heniskot just by the main road. it was another long day of about 10 miles, but we make it out. kanji (population about 400 people) was actually really cool - lots of wheat fields that were being cleared before the snows came, cute and cheeky little kids running around, and yaks being kicked out of peoples herb gardens. sadly, as we wakled on, it looks like they were in the process of building a road out to the town...
by the time we hit the main road it was about 3:30pm on day 5. we were pooped. lamayuru is about an hour drive away so within half an hour we had hitch hiked our way onto an oil semi. the guy didnt speak a lick of english so it wasnt much of a conversational drive. in fact, he looked exhaused. the cabs in those things are actually huge! i bet you could fit like 10 squished people in there. it was just the three of us. and we only had to pay 100 rupees - about 3 bucks. heres the real kicker though, about half way through the drive he reaches back and grabs a bottle (which had a nice pretty alcohol lable on it). he opens it and takes two big swigs from it. im in shock - did he really do that. then i think, no its gotta be water because the bottles old, it looks kinda murkey...but then he proceeds to lay his head down on the wheel!!!! are you kidding? i was freaking out and ready to jump out the door. you gotta remember that the roads were driving on are thousands of feet up and narrow enough for a car and a half with winding blind corners. it must have only been a second later that he lifts his head back up and continues on his way like nothing happened. we're pretty convinced it was water because things continued on fine. i even offered him a bag of fresh dried apricots to keep him awake. dont worry parents, i know you're freaking out, but if we were even .5% more concerened, we would have gotten out. at least im being honest by sharing ALL the stories!
anywasy, we get to lamayuru and i convince brett that were going to stay in the nicest hotel they have which is built as part of the gompa. theres no power that night, so after a cold shower and a quick look at the star lit sky, we hit the sack in clean beds (that smelt fresh) and had real-ish pillows. good night of sleep!
next morning, we woke up at 5.50am to the chanting (more like unsynchronized yelling) of children (monks in training) their prayers. this continued on for an hour before i think they were allowed to go to breakfast - so that was cool. we could watch them right outside our window. we then headed down to the main road to catch the bus that would be coming through from kargil. we got down there at 8ish and finally saw the bus coming down at about 10am. there was a good 15 people taht were trying to get onto this already packed bus and i could see that there was no way that brett and i were going to get on it. so...the bus driver told us to get onto the roof for about 1.5 hours where more people woudl get off at a town down the way. and thats what we did! that was exciting. there were 5 of us on top- brett and i and 3 germans. all the locals smartly inside the actual bus. so the good thing is that it was a warm day and the bus didnt go very fast. but let me try adn explain how they build these roads. im pretty sure that they blast it with dynamite. then they drill a semi circle just big enough for a large truck to pass around and under. so as were sitting on the top of the bus, im constantly having to duck and wince away from the sharp jagged cliff edges. there was one point where ze german was lying flat on his back and the wall passed literally one foot away from his nose...man that made for one exciting ride. and here we are back in leh! were taking it easy for the next couple of days but due to time constraints are going to have to miss out on himachal pradesh adn uttaranchal. so were flying back to delhi on the morning of the 21st, will stay a few days (as few as possible) then catch a train to lucknow and varanasi.
hope you're all enjoying the tales! we miss and love you so much!!!
love soraya & brett