India - Ladakh - Little Tibet - SNP - July/August 2004

Below you will find a long list of pictures (approximately 150), taken on the Ladakh - Little Tibet trekking organised by SNP from July 23 2004 to August 12 2004.
The most interesting images have a red bullet in front of them. In a hurry? Just want to see the pictures? Check out the slide show.
The days we were walking we kept track of how much time we spent walking. This is excluding the time for breaks.

July 23: Flight to Delhi

Around 8.30 we met the rest of the group at Schiphol Airport. On the way to Leh we went from Amsterdam to Vienna to Delhi with Austrian Airlines and the next day ...

July 24: (Flight to) Leh

... we went to Leh with Jet Airways. Around 7am we landed in Leh. After we collected all the baggage (including the tents that travelled with us from the Netherlands and a lot of equipment that we had picked up in Delhi) we went to the hotel - Hotel Padma. From the rooftop terrace where we had tea, we had a great view of the mountains. After the tea we went to our room to unpack and sleep a few hours since we didn't get the chance this night.
Around noon we went up to the rooftop terrace again and had lunch. In the afternoon we slept some more. Around five we met up with the group again for a walk around the centre of Leh. We refilled our water bottles at a refill point (a small shop where the women of Leh make a little extra money by selling drinkable water at one third of the cost of a new bottle - good for them, good for the environment (less plastic bottles are wasted) and good for your wallet).
Around seven we went back to the hotel for dinner and around 9 we went to bed.

July 25: Leh

2 people felt sick and some had a headache (probably because of the altitude) this morning, but nothing too bad. After breakfast we went to visit the Sankar Gompa. Fortunately we were allowed to go inside the gompa and see the statues and paintings. After that we went back to the centre for lunch at "La Terrasse" - a rooftop terrace that serves very good tandoori food and curries (as well as more western food like pizza). After lunch we went back to the hotel to read a bit. Our motto was to relax and get used to the altitude. Around five we went to visit the Shanti stupa - built with help of the Japanese government. From the road 585 steps lead up to the stupa. From the stupa you have a very nice view of the valley. We went to Summer Harvest (next to Leh's main power generator) for dinner and then to bed.

July 26: Leh

After a night with headaches we got up. Arjen also has diarrhoea so he decides not to join Patricia and the rest for the trip to Likir. On the way to Likir there's a photo stop at the point where the Indus and Zanskar river meet. In Likir there's a gigantic Buddha statue (18 meter / 60 Ft. high!).
In the cloister some monks were making a mandela. This is a practice in patience and because they are not allowed to get attached to earthly things, the mandela would be destroyed a few days after they had finished it. From Likir we went to Alchi where we lunched. Alchi has many Buddha statues in Indian style. Around 4.15 we went back to Leh where we arrived around 6. Arjen wasn't feeling any better and even had fever, but decided to join the group for dinner at Mentokling restaurant anyway (in stead of normal dinner he just had some plain rice).
Back at the hotel, the key of our room was missing. We hung it up on the key-board, but the staff insisted that we had misplaced it since they didn't loose it. With the spare key we could get in and they went looking for it in the restaurant.

July 27: Leh

With his fever gone this morning, Arjen decided to take another pill against diarrhoea but join the group for a visit to the religious festival at Tak-Thog. We arrived there around 10.30, just in time for the start of the main ceremony. First a gigantic thanka was revealed and then a group of dancers with very nice clothes and masks performed a ceremony. Around one o'clock we gathered for the journey back to Leh. We arrived at the hotel around 3 and ... surprise: the key was back. The hotel staff didn't seem to find this a surprise and didn't care to tell us where it had come from (certainly not the restaurant)...
Around 7 we had a very good dinner at Tibetan Kitchen, but so far all food had been great.

July 28: Leh

A day of preparing for the trekking - finally, we're getting tired of doing nothing much... We separated the stuff we want to leave behind from the things we want to take with us. After that we went to the rooftop terrace to hear what the next 11 days would have in store for us. After that we went to La Terasse again for lunch. Around 4.30 we gathered for a climb to the Namgyal Tsemo Gompa and the old palace. Near the Gompa there were a LOT of prayer flags - a very nice sight. The palace, which was deserted in 1830, is not much to see anymore. It was a lovely walk (we took the route around the back to the gompa) and some nice practice. We both felt surprisingly good and didn't very much notice the height (in our breathing or heart rate).
We had dinner at Summer Harvest again. Afterwards we went to e-Café High Asia to send a message home that we were still ok and would start the trekking next day. e-Café High Asia has a very good connection, best of Leh it seems and every time we've been there they either had a computer available right away or we had to wait a maximum of 5 minutes.

July 29: Leh to Spituk to Zhingchen

After a short night we got up around 6. Breakfast was at 6.45 and the group had to be ready to leave at 8. We left a bag with clean clothes at the hotel. We headed for Spituk where the trekking would start with 4 jeeps. The start was at a bridge. Our luggage was loaded onto horses and then we left (around 9). Arjen felt this was finally the start of his holiday.
We were happy that the sky wasn't completely clear since this day started with a long walk across a desert like plain and even with the clouds it was quite hot (around 30 Celsius, much warmer than we had anticipated in the Netherlands). We saw a lot of lizards. The Indus was in the valley to our right. At its banks were a few trees, but more than 50 meters away from the river, nothing much could grow anymore. Around 12.45 we stopped for lunch next to a small creek. It was the first lunch prepared by the cooking staff that joined us for the trekking and they obviously wanted to impress us (and they did!) - 2 different types of cake, a roll with cheese, tomato and onion, a boiled egg, baked potatoes and a banana. We saw a hamster-mouse like creature, but unfortunately could not get close enough to shoot a good picture of it.
Close to the Zhingchen campsite we had to cross a small river. Arjen couldn't keep his balance and had to step into it in order not to completely fall in. Fortunately his shoe dried quickly at the campsite. The Zhingchen campsite is at approximately 3470 meter (11,570 Ft.). After dinner (Dhal) we discussed the next day and then quickly went to bed.
This day we walked approximately 3h35m.

July 30: Zhingchen to Ganda La Basecamp

We both slept very well this night. After we got tea in bed we rearranged our bags so the important stuff was at the top and easier to grab. Vera (with 17 the youngest in the group) had a nosebleed for a while which had to be stopped before we started walking. We had to cross a few rivers. While crossing the first, Vera slipped and landed in the water. Fortunately she wore clothes that dried quickly, but is was bad luck that it had to be her...
Near Rumbak we thought we saw a satellite dish, but it turned out it was a solar collector used for boiling water. Here we also met a group of Americans. A girl in their group had to be brought to lower altitude as fast as possible. She was obviously suffering from altitude disease and was wearing an oxygen mask while being helped down between to persons that were still ok (a third was even carrying a full-blown oxygen bottle while running by her side). We were told this was her second attempt and the first time (just 2 days before) she had become ill as well - some people just don't get it... A few days later we heard that she made it down alive. To be honest this surprised me. Hopefully this time she learned something from this experience.
We lunched about an hour after we had left Rumbak. It started to drizzle, so we left early, but fortunately it didn't last long. On the way to the campsite we saw all kinds of colour rock in the hills around us - from purple to green to yellow to brown. We also saw some marmots. Looking back we see the hills we just walked through. The sunlight on the hills and the shadows of the clouds make it a beautiful sight. Around 5 we finally reached the campsite which is located at about 4500m (15,000 Ft.). After dinner (pasta) we played some Black Jack (Michiel brought a few decks of cards) and then we went to bed.
This day we walked approximately 5h15m.

July 31: Ganda La Basecamp to Skyu

During the night we took a paracetamol pill because we both had a headache. It was a cool night. In the tent it was 9 Celsius. After breakfast we headed for our first pass: Ganda La (La means pass). On the way up we saw two mice, as well as a few marmots and hares. The view back was beautiful.
Around 9.20 we reached the pass (4900m. - 16,330 Ft.). Patricia decided she didn't want to spend all the time just waiting for the rest of the group and went up a small peak together with Michiel and Linda. The horses arrived at the pass. One got stuck in the prayer flags and panicked. She started to run the way down, taking half of the prayer flags with her. She was too far down already to get the flags back, so the pass now looks different from the pictures you see here.
More than an hour after we reached the pass, the last of the group finally arrived. Soon afterwards we started the descent (1500m. - 5,000 Ft.). By the time we lunched (around 12.30) we'd already come down to 4165m (13,880 Ft.). From the lunch it was a long walk slowly downhill. Around 4 we reached a tent where they sold tea. Some of the group wanted to have tea. We asked our Dutch guide if he would allow us to go ahead to walk the final half-hour to the camp. He sent a local guide along to show us the way so we could continue. After 20 minutes we reached the campsite which is located right next to the river Markha. Arjen and Peter quickly changed into their swimming clothes and headed for a dive. The water felt cold at first, but after a few seconds wonderfully cool. From the river we could see a group of 17 blue sheep on the hillside. After dinner we played some Black Jack again and then went to bed. The full moon lit up the hills as if it were day.
This day we walked approximately 5h29m.

August 1: Skyu to Sara

Around 7 we got tea in bed. Breakfast was at 8. Because today would only be a short walk, we could start late. It was almost 9 when we left the campsite. First we went to the Skyu Gompa. Since both of us did not want to take off our shoes again we decided to stay outside and enjoy the views of the Markha valley. To the left was the valley we would walk into, to the right the valley downstream.
Around 9.30 we started walking towards Sara. It was very hot already and the sun was burning. A few times we would pass through some higher bushes and catch a bit of shadow, but most of the time there was only sun. Around 1 we reached the campsite where we had lunch. We spent the afternoon reading in our tent. After dinner both of us decided to wait for the rise of the full moon from behind the mountains. It was a beautiful sight.
This day we walked approximately 2h40m.

August 2: Sara to Markha

Not much sleep this night. The horses were walking around our tents. That would be ok if they hadn't been wearing bells around their neck... Arjen went out a couple of times to try and move the horses a bit away from the tents. Through the night we could hear that others were trying the same, also without much success...
During the night there had been some rain, but when we got up it was dry again. It would be a short day again. After a while we passed a very nice Mani wall (some 50 meters in length!). Around 11.30 we had to wade through the river (knee high). We saw the horses in the distance and decided to wait to see them cross the river. A few hundred meters later we stopped for lunch. We could have walked to the camp, but then the staff would not have had a chance yet to put up the tents. Then we walked on to our campsite just outside Markha (3900m. - 13,000 Ft.).
After tea most of the group went up to Markha. We hoped to be able to visit the health post (just to have a look), but there was nobody there. The rest of the town was quite busy. A few people were working at the Gompa (rebuilding it) and school was just out so most kids were heading home. Back at the camp Patricia did some reading and Arjen joined a group chatting at the dinner table.
After dinner we could see quite a few shooting stars.
This day we walked approximately 3h15m.

August 3: Markha to Thachungtse

When we woke up it was raining. We started walking just after 8. Luckily it was dry again. We had to wade across a river twice in a short period so in between we walked on slippers. We came through some tiny towns. Near Hangkar we had lunch. When we sat down it was raining again, but just for a minute or so. Originally we camp here too, but since the next day would be long and it was still quite early we went on to Thachungtse. Immediately after Hangkar there was a steep climb before we reached a valley that lead to Thachungtse. The last climb to Thachungtse was also quite steep. When we arrived at the campsite it started raining a bit, but it was dry within 5 minutes. We could see snow falling just a few hundred meters away up in the mountains. Arjen no longer had any appetite (the same problem he always has at higher altitude), but because of the very good food he managed to eat anyway. The campsite was quite dirty (a lot of garbage laying around). Some in the group decided to clean up a bit and had collected a lot in the afternoon. After dinner all of it was burned.
This day we walked approximately 4h30m.

August 4: Thachungtse to Nimaling

We slept well. Around 7 we got bed tea, but we'd already started packing around 6.30. Around 8.30 we started walking. The track went up quite fast, but never really steep. We came across quite a few Mani walls again. Also we could see some Bryce-like structures across the valley and quite a few Edelweiss flowers (some of our group had never seen them before - it was quite a disappointment when they saw how ugly these flowers really are). Around 10.30 we arrived at a small lake where we held a break. We could see the top of the Kang Yatse (both of them actually) coming out of the clouds.
After quite a long rest we walked on. After half an hour, around noon we stopped for lunch. We had to wait over half an hour for the last of the group to arrive there (and we didn't even walk our usual fast tempo). Around 1.30 we headed for our campsite at the Nimaling plain where we arrived just after 2 o'clock.
We spent the afternoon reading in our tent. In Leh Arjen had bought a whodunit at the water refill point ("A murder is announced" by Agatha Christie) and he wanted to find out who the killer was... Patricia decided it was time for clean clothes. During dinner she spilled some food so her pants were dirty again... As soon as it was dark it became cold (no surprise at 4730m / 15,765 Ft.). The advantage was that it was a clear sky with no moon yet so we had a beautiful sight at the Milky Way and the shooting stars (the advantage of travelling in August).
This day we walked approximately 2h55m.

August 5: Nimaling

Quite a cold night outside - we had ice on our tent - but inside the tent it was ok (around 6 Celsius). At 7 we had bed tea. This day we would stay at this campsite for some rest and to recover if necessary (fortunately no one in our group had any real physical problems). Our Dutch guide proposed we would walk towards the Kang Yatse to see its glaciers. Half the group decided to come along, but some thought it would be better to take some rest, wash up a bit and just relax.
We left around 9. Just after 10 we arrived at 5000 meters / 16,665 Ft.. Some parts of the climb were quite steep, but the hardest part was yet to come. But we managed that as well and around 10.50 we arrived at our highest point for the day: 5130m. / 17,100 ft.. We had great views of the Kang Yatse and its glaciers, the Nimaling plain and also the valley we had come from. There wasn't any cloud in sight.
Jeroen (our Dutch guide) and Michiel decided to continue uphill (eventually they reached 5500m / 18,330 Ft.), but the rest of us went back to the campsite where we arrived within 45 minutes. Arjen decided it was time for a shave (it had been 8 days). After that we did some reading in our tent. Arjen finished his book (don't worry this diary won't mention the name of the killer).
Just before dinner 5 herds of sheep and goats were brought to their stables (across the river from our campsite). They had to cross a bridge, which was a funny sight. This time Arjen spilled his entire plate over his pants, so after dinner he had to put on a clean pair too.
This day we walked approximately 2h24m.

August 6: Nimaling to Shang Sumdo

This night was not as cold as the night before (no ice on the tents), but most of our group had experienced otherwise (not us, we thought it had been quite a warm night). We had to say goodbye to the horsemen since they would continue after having dropped off our luggage at the next campsite (the last day the luggage would be transported by truck). Our guide didn't get any guidelines for tips from the organisation, so we had to guess what was appropriate. To the best of our knowledge we gave a decent tip.
Around 7.30 we headed for the Kongmaru La (like the day before 5130m / 18,330Ft. would be our highest point). Patricia got the feeling she was about to start hyperventilating a few times, but fortunately she didn't actually hyperventilate. We stopped a few times so she could relax and then we could continue up again. We reached the pass around 10. At the water refill point in Leh we had bought a string of prayer flags which we put up. After a photo of the entire group we headed down around 10.30. Around 12.15 we had lunch.
After lunch there first was a steep climb, but then the path slowly headed down again. Today we would have to walk 20km and descent nearly 1500m 5,000 Ft. again. The rocks on both sides were very beautiful and had many different colours. We saw two herds of blue sheep.
After we paused at a campsite, the group broke in two. We were in the front group. Near a small school we decided to wait for the second group again. When after 45minutes we saw them again we decided to go ahead and walk to the campsite. When we arrived there we had a coke (our first in 10 days) and Patricia even had some potato chips. The campsite was at 3660m / 12,200 Ft..
After dinner Patricia went to our tent to get the water bottles to have them refilled. She discovered that the nice spot in which our tent had been put up was now in the middle of an irrigation canal and about to get very wet. 3 other tents were either higher up the canal and already starting to get wet or further down. All 4 tents were moved in time...
This day we walked approximately 6h10m.

August 7: Shang Sumdo to Hemis

The last day of our trekking we only had to walk about 8km / 5 mile slowly downhill before we reached Hemis. Hemis is known for its huge cloister, the largest in the region (500+ monks!). After lunch most of the group headed up there. The cloister has also a very large Buddha statue.
Back at the campsite we relaxed a bit in our tent. After a great farewell dinner from the cooking staff they had a surprise for us - they even had baked a pie! In the evening they and the guides built us a campfire and sang a few songs. Eventually we had to sing some Dutch songs too before we headed for our tents again.
This day we walked approximately 2h10m.
This makes for a total of 38h25m for this holiday!

August 8: Hemis to Leh

It was a warm night. We gave the tips to the cooking staff and the guides (again we didn't have any guidelines, but to the best of our knowledge gave a generous tip, which they very much deserved!). Around 8.30 we headed back in jeeps and a car (our luggage would be brought to Leh by truck). We stopped near Thiksey and walked up to the gompa. Patricia and most of our group went inside a room where a service was held, Arjen decided to wait outside. In the room there was also a very nice mandela. In a room nearby there was a 15m / 50 Ft. high Buddha statue.
After about an hour we drove off to Leh. Back at the hotel we unpacked and then headed for lunch - pie at the Pumpernickel German Bakery. We had lemon pie, moccanut and choconut (we split each part between both of us) - delicious!
We bought some souvenirs (can't tell yet what they were since not all people have received theirs yet!). Back at the hotel Arjen went to sleep and Patricia did some reading. After a shower we went up to the rooftop terrace for mint tea. We learned that it had been bad weather in Leh while we had been away. Also in most other parts of the Indian Himalaya - the road to Manali was even blocked. We thought we could see there was more snow in the mountains nearby. Arjen decided that soon he would have a look at the photos he had shot of the mountains before the trekking.
We went to La Terrasse for dinner. This time we decided to try the vegetarian Tandoori platter ourselves; it really was very good. After dinner we went to e-Café High Asia to send a message home that we had come back from the trekking ok. Back at the hotel we went up to the rooftop terrace again for some tea before we headed for bed. Patricia wanted to write something in her diary, but after a few minutes all lights went out...

August 9: Leh

This day we had a full day in Leh. In the morning Arjen noticed that actually there was less snow in the mountains than before the trekking. At the water refill point Patricia dropped of some of the medical supplies we had brought along and no longer needed. We then walked through the old part of Leh where the locals do their shopping. We bought a card for Jeroen. Back at the hotel Patricia collected the tip for Jeroen.
We had lunch at the Pumpernickel German Bakery again. This time we shared apple crumble pie and moccanut pie and Patricia had a piece of mixed fruit pie too. Back at the hotel we rearranged our bags for the trip to Delhi. We decided that we could put all dirty stuff in one and at the bottom of the second and have the clean stuff for the way back at the top of the second. Also because of tighter security measures at the airport we could hardly take any hand luggage with us so most of it had to go in the main luggage.
Patricia decided she wanted a "Yak Yak Yak Yak Yak - Ladakh" T-shirt so we went shopping again. In Nepal she wanted one with "Yak Yak Yak Yak Yak - Nepal" but eventually didn't buy one and had regrets ever since. This time she did buy one.
We went to dinner at the Tibetan Kitchen. Back at the hotel we went up to the rooftop terrace again for mint tea before we went to bed.

August 10: (Flight from Leh to) Delhi

We had to get up really early since we had to be at the airport two hours before our flight would leave (which was at 7.45). At 4.15 we got up. Patricia woke up some in our group that had forgotten to bring an alarm clock. The full group was ready at 4.45. At that time we were supposed to get breakfast, but it turned out the cook had overslept. Eventually we did get tea and toast and were just in time to meet our taxi nearby the hotel at 5.30. But by 6 there still was no taxi in sight. A few minutes later however they arrived and took us to the airport.
Security checks were tight indeed (because of the upcoming Independence Day). All our bags were checked 3 times before we got onto the plane. We took off at 8.45 and landed (quite roughly) in Delhi an hour later.
In Delhi it was 36 Celsius and very humid - quite different from Leh! We were brought to our hotel (Broadway Hotel). Fortunately the rooms are air-conditioned. After we unpacked a bit we went for lunch at Chor Bizarre (which is located inside the hotel). Around 2.30 we went to see what Delhi looks like. We walked from the hotel through small alleys to the Jama Masjid mosque. Cor decided he had seen enough of these busy small alleys with its overhanging electrical wiring and went back to the hotel. From the mosque the rest of us walked to the Red Fort. Because of the preparations for Independence Day we were not allowed inside.
We decided to take a riksja to the Main Bazaar. It was sort of a match who got the cheapest price and who would arrive first. When half of the group had arrived we went to see what the bazaar had to offer, which was mostly clothe and clothes. In a German Bakery the group eventually got together again. We didn't take any pie because dinner wasn't too far away. From the German Bakery we went straight to the restaurant (United Coffee House at Connaught Place) by motor riksja together with Klaas (sitting in front, next to the driver) and Marjan. We were the first so we decided to walk around a bit and find the bookshop we had heard about and wanted to visit the next day.
After dinner we took a motor riksja back to the hotel. It's a sport to get a decent price and the drivers never seem to run out of excuses to ask a high price...

August 11: Delhi

When we got up the rain was pouring down, but after breakfast it was dry again (and extremely humid). Most of the group decided to head for Humayun's Tomb. After that all of us decided to go to Connaught Place to do some shopping. Together with Marjan we took a riksja. When we arrived at Connaught Place we ran into Klaas and a few minutes later Jeroen as well. Together we decided to have lunch. It turned out United Coffee House has a decent lunch card too. When we were eating Cor and a bit later Michiel and Linda arrived there as well. After lunch we got a 3 for 2 offer for chocolate mousse. We decided to try it and were not disappointed - it was very good.
Next we went to some bookstores. Arjen eventually bought a book with Ghost Stories by M.R. James and 2 books by Dan Brown. We took a motor riksja back to the hotel together with Klaas and Marjan (all 4 of us "sitting" in the backseat!). When we got there it just started to rain again... After a drink in the hotel bar we went to our room to pack our things again.
Around 6 we gathered at the hotel reception to go out for dinner. It would be the United Coffee House again. After dinner we had to rush back since Arjen wanted to take a shower before we would leave.
When we arrived at the airport and checked in one luggage tag was left this meant that one bag had been checked in without being tagged... The money exchange was quite slow, but eventually we got Euros and Dollars for the Rupees (Patricia took the money for the group's rupees and decided to give everyone his or her fair share back in the Netherlands).

August 12: Flight via Vienna to Amsterdam

Just before we boarded they found the untagged bag (it belonged to Jeroen). Around 2.15 the plane took off and landed in Vienna just before 6. We could board for the plane to Amsterdam about an hour later and around 7.30 it took off. Around 9 we landed in Amsterdam. After we collected the luggage we said goodbye to the rest of the group and took the train home.
At home, Arjen decided to see if he'd lost any weight. He went from 83 to 77.5 kilogram.