North India, Markha Valley

Markha Valley in Ladakh, North India, was challenging at times, but the most rewarding trek i’ve done.  It took us six days total to complete, but it can be several days longer depending on which point of the trail you choose to begin. There’s so much to take in during the trek, and a lot of the times you’re just gobsmacked with the insane beauty surrounding you!  You see a mixed bag of towering cliffs, snow capped mountains, purple, green and red rock formations. You’ll pass (and at times cross) streams, rivers and lakes – which are freezing! There’s amazing wildlife, green lush wheat fields; donkeys, horses and shepherds sharing your path along the way, as well as monasteries, bright flowers, butterflies and plants enlightening your path.  It’s crazy beautiful.

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DSC07520We experienced dry hot sunny days, hail, rain and cloud. So it was really important to be prepared for all seasons! We carried our day packs for the trek with bare necessities, as there are guesthouses/home stays along the way you could stay at (you just have to be aware when you might be expecting the next one as they’re spread out over different parts of the trail).  The home stays are fantastic as you get a deeper insight on how the locals live day-to-day. For 800 rupees (16NZD) per person, you get one nights’ accommodation, dinner, breakfast, a packed lunch for your next day’s hike, unlimited tea and water bottle refill – it’s a steal.

Here’s a break down of  our journey:

Day 1:  From Leh city, we were driven 2 hours to our starting point ‘Chilling.  The first day is a pretty “chilled”  three hour walk to the next point – Skiu. The path is mostly flat, nothing too intense (that will change pretty soon though!).

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Our home stay mother preparing vegetables for dinner

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Our first home stay along the trek

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Day 2: From Skiu, we headed to Markha and ascended 500m (3392m to 3815m.)  This was the longest day; taking us ten hours to get to Markha with three to four rest stops during the day.

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A werewolf trap

A werewolf trap

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Day 3:  From Markha, it was a four hour hike to the next point – Hankar.  A nice cruisy day except you will need to do some ice cold river fording!

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Time for a rest and some maggi noodles

At a resting tent enjoying some maggi noodles.

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Loved these two kids - they were full of character!

Loved these two kids – they were cheeky, friendly and full of character!

Our home stay in Hankar

Our home stay in Hankar

Day 4:  Hankar to Nimaling: A hard day spent hiking uphill for 6.5 hours ascending to 4730m, so oxygen was getting a little scarce! Definitely a challenging day with the high altitude and the steep climb.  At Nimaling, you can stay in tent home stays which is really nice, but a tad cold so make sure you rug up in some thermals!

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Spot our little furry friend

Spot our little furry friend..

Poor cow/yak trying to cross the broken bridge

Poor cow/yak trying to cross the broken bridge!

Tent home stays in Nimaling

Tent home stays in Nimaling

An eagle swooping above

An eagle swooping above

Day 5:  Nimaling to Chongdho: It was yet another tough day, but we were on the home stretch yeehaaa! We did two hours of intense uphill walking over the Kongmaru La pass at 5130m, so we struggled with breathing. It was then four hours of steep downhill and a lot of narrow paths (had to be very careful not to slip!) A challenging day but accompanied with the most stunning and rewarding views.

At Kongmaru La pass (5130m!)

At Kongmaru La pass (5130m!)

Named blue sheep (but these don't quite match the name)

Named blue sheep (but these don’t quite match the name)

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Day 6:
After a night spent in Chongdho, it’s only a 1.5 hour walk the following day to Shang Sumdo.  There’s a bus in the morning, or taxi/vans in the afternoon from Shang Sumdo that will take you back to Leh city at this point. (Alternatively you could walk from Nimaling to Shang Sumdo direct and miss spending a night in Chongdho if preferred).

I would totally recommend doing the Markha Valley trek, and hopefully this post was somewhat informative or inspiring!

As the locals would say… Julley! 🙂

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