The beauty that lies within the culture, landscapes and the people of Leh is well-known throughout the trekker’s community. After conquering several treks, I had the chance to test my limits against the 10-day trek of the Markha Valley trails. This is my tale of how I found a new perspective to look at nature and how the trails within the Markha Valleys unveiled its beauty and adventure to anyone who was worthy enough to match its might.
Day 1: The Arrival: Arriving in Leh, one can notice the difference in the air. The fresh breeze gives you a respite from the mundane world. Coupled with an open and soothing environment, the mountains that enclosed the area were overwhelming and calming at the same time. The sheer feeling of being in a trekker’s paradise is something that is rather difficult to put in words. After being introduced to our itinerary, we proceeded to check in our rooms. Even as dusk fell onto the land, it didn’t lose a single ounce of the beauty of its exquisite nature. As I gazed outside I saw mankind coexisting perfectly with nature; it is sure to paint the idealistic mental picture of how the world should be – in balance and in harmony.
Day 2: A glimpse of the local area before the actual journey begins
Our day started off with a warm cup of coffee to refresh our being before we each went on our own way to explore the culture and to interact with the people that lived in the place. I worked my way through several local myths of Leh and stories about how strikingly beautiful the Markha Valley trails can be. Visiting a few monasteries in the local area, I realized that what they say is true. Leh, a land that is so culturally rich and is brimming with people who take pride and care in maintaining Leh as its reputation holds it to be, has to be layered with innumerable beautiful spots that other trekkers speak off in their tales.
Day 3: Journey to Zingchen and Through
As dawn broke, we began our drive to Zingchen. I initially thought that it would be comparable to normal day uphill drive,but I’m glad to acknowledge that I was completely wrong. As we drove through an old jeep road, the broken and exposed land around told a story of its own. Leh never ceased to appeal to my inner poet as every inch of the shattered land around the drive symbolized beauty within a flawed nature. As I was admiring the road around, we arrived in the Zingchen Valley. The scene instantly transitioned to a lush, green field from an empty and splintered road. Far in our sight, we could catch a vivid glimpse of the Rumbak River as it flew fiercely through its path. Soon, we arrived in the Hemis National Park which is said to be home to snow leopards, LadakhiUrial goat and the red fox, to name a few. We did catch sight of a majestic snow leopard going about its day. Its graceful and elegant living is certain to catch the eye of anyone who visits the national park. This is the spot where our climb officially begins.
Just merely a few minutes into the adventure, we were tasked to climb a stunning gorge that was unique in its own rights. Through the difficult yet memorable climb, we were soon staring at the entrance to the Rumbak Village. As we were catching our breaths and embracing the much-needed warmth of a perfectly brewed tea, we indulged ourselves within engaging conversation with the locals before continuing our journey ahead. A hazed sun broke the evening doors as we progressed through our journey. We pitched in our tents at the Ganda La base camp that lies within the sweet embrace of an array of the brilliant mountainscape. As night blanketed our campsite, the night sky was littered with a vibrant river of skies playing on the dark canvas.
Day 4: Onwards and Upwards
I was excited for the climb that awaited ahead. While going through a few miles finally the climb begun, I almost failed to notice the efforts I was putting into the climb as I was admiring the prayer flags and the view of beautiful monasteries in sight. The scenic views were brightened by a herd of blue sheep that just added to the natural beauty on top of the man-made attractions that adorned the place. Eventually, we came to witness a sight of the Zanskar Range that would rival that of the most imaginative paintings. As a steady stream of water pierced its way through the frosted peaks of the Zanskar Mountains, it made for one of the few ethereal sights that the place had to offer. The display alone made it worth the efforts that we put in the ascent. For me, it was as if the time stood still as I sat there resting and admiring the views that nature bestowed upon me. Before I knew it, it was time for the descent to Shingo where we would be pitching our tents. The descent was just as gorgeous as the ascent. Added to the relatively easier descent, the fact that we were being guarded by the mighty range of the Zanskar just made the experience better.
Day 5: History Within the Walk
Despite being told beforehand about the views we were going to be witnessing today, I certainly wasn’t prepared for what was to come, despite the fact that I had already set my expectations significantly high. We began our descent through the stunning gorge as we head to Skiu. The soothing sounds of nature that accompanied our descent through the gorge made for an experience that would be an ideal escape from all things mundane. Eventually, we arrived in Skiu to acquaint us with the historical edge that the place has to offer to the oncoming travellers. We experienced several historical attractions namely an old monastery that represented the rich and vivid beliefs of the culture that surrounded the place. Along with the same, we laid our eyes on the ruins of an old castle which was said to be the resting spot for the royal families on their way Srinagar. The fact that the trail that we were walking upon was historically significant gave this phase of our adventure a memorable twist which was appreciated. As a change of pace, we arrived on a comparable level path within a trail formed as the two hills graciously kissed the other’s edge. As we continued on our path towards our next campsite, we witnessed the famed spiritual side of the place within Mani walls inscribed with ancient Buddhist prayers. The historical vibes we witnessed today made the day as educational as it was thrilling. We made it to our campsite by afternoon to end our day and catch our breaths.
Day 6: Towards Markha
We were supposed to make the journey from Sara to Markha on our 6th Day. Markha is touted as the largest village in the valley with over 20 houses coupled with an ancient monastery along with a ruined fort,and we were about to experience it for ourselves. Through a 4-hour walk through yet another exquisitely natural trail, we arrived at the reputed village of Markha. The village could be best described as a sliver of civilization among the nourishing womb of nature. Among interacting with the locals in the village and exploring the ancient ruins of the past, we failed to notice the time as it fleeted us by. Before we knew it, it was almost time for us to leave for our campsite to prepare for the next day.
Day 7: The Journey Continues
As we passed old stone mills and yet another ruin of an old castle, we arrived to catch a glimpse of the monastery of Techa as it perched on a cliff above the Markha village. As our journey progressed, we were graced by the sight of Mt. Kang Yatse as it stood tall in the distance. We treated ourselves to the local delicacies for lunch in Hangkar before we continued to the lush and beautiful pastures of Thachungste which was supposed to be our next campsite.
Day 8: To the Peak
Today’s trail was supposed to lead us to the stunning plateau of Nimaling. The plateau was brimming with sights of the locals grazing their expansive herds of sheep making for a truly soothing experience. Despite how beautiful the whole scenic views of the plateau was, we didn’t fail to notice the lack of air at this elevation. At a significant 4700m elevation, Nimaling was home to some of the most ethereal sights that one can lay their eyes on in the Markha Valley trek. With the mighty peak of Mt. Kang Yatse beside us, the feeling didn’t fail to make us feel as if we had conquered a goliath of some kind.
Day 9: A Beautiful End
We proceeded to reach Kongmaru Lu, the highest peak on our trail with astounding views of the days before us. This was where I lingered on for a moment to let all that I had witnessed sink in. Through the historical ruins, culturally rich people and stunning views offered by nature, I had the adventure of my lifetime through the Markha Valley Trek. After the initial moment of gratefulness, we continued to descend through Kongmaru Lu towards Shang Gorge which was sprinkled with awe-inspiring rock formations. We eventually arrived at Shang Sumdo to pitch in the last tent of our adventure. I made sure to take in every sight I could lay my eyes on that night. As dawn broke the night sky, we started on our drive back to Leh from Sumdo to officially mark the end of this adventure.
Conclusion: The historical lands and astoundingly beautiful mountains ranges that enhance every scenic view that the place offers, the Markha Valley trek is much more of a spiritual journey than just another mere trekking spot on a trekkers’ list. To go and conquer this trek is to gift yourself with the gift of healing and to explore oneself within its beautiful landscapes.