Trekking in Ladakh (Part II)

DAY THREE: – Yurutse to Gandala Pass to Skiu

View of and from the camp.
View of and from the camp.
View from our campsite in Yurutse.
View from our campsite in Yurutse.

Brushing our teeth and washing our faces using the ice cold stream water running near our camps was enough to wake us all up. Toast, eggs and tea helped us with the cold though. Thus nicely fed and warmed up we set off for the steep climb. As we climbed further it started getting colder and tiring. SK who was having knee problems yesterday made the right choice by taking the help of one of the horses. Considering the walk was a bit tough on the knees, it was the best.  Following R’s ’50 step’ formula we continued on our way.

 

A Marmot 'hole'.
A Marmot ‘hole’.

 

The view to reaching Gandala Pass.
The view to reaching Gandala Pass.

For company, apart from us humans that is, we had rabbits and marmots scampering about and even yaks, although they preferred paying attention to the little of food they could find than us. Soon even our horses caught up with us along with the cooks. Just to show how cheeky they can get, one of them even ran up a hill, yes, RAN up a hill like a mountain goat or something. To top it off nicely, he sat on a stone, covered his face with his cap and promptly dozed off waiting for us to reach him.

We were now reaching Gandala Passfrom where the descent started.  The last few steps were really tough. It was difficult to breathe normally what with icy winds blowing across your face making you sniffle. Our guide was waiting for us and kept encouraging as we got there. Finally we made it and the beautiful surrounding was our prize.

Reaching the top.
Reaching the top.

We took a 10 minute break and began our journey downhill. The change in view was drastic. It went from mountains and greenery to as if walking through a desert. My sister’s knee was now giving her even more trouble. Finding it a little easier walking downhill than uphill, our guide and I walked off ahead knowing the others will soon catch up with us. As I walked on further, I noticed SK walking instead of on a horse. Catching up to him I asked him, “why did you get off the horse?” knowing very well that walking downhill can worsen his knee pain! The brilliant man says, I felt good enough to walk so got off the horse and let him go.”The result is that now if either my sister or he required the help of a horse, he/she has probably reached Skiu, our campsite.

View from Gandala Pass.
View from Gandala Pass.
Scores of Yaks grazing lazily.
Scores of Yaks grazing lazily.

20 view from the pass

R, taking a break.
R, taking a break.

Well I continued on my way all the while looking back to ensure I haven’t lost sight of anyone nor have they. Passing through a rocky pathway I twisted my ankles and thus joined the ‘injured party’. Unfortunately I didn’t have a bottle of water with me resulting in me feeling parched. Luckily I had some candy on me. Sucking on that I now limped on. I noticed SK was now having a really hard time walking. He started feeling a bit light headed and fuzzy. I couldn’t help him if he fell or something so I forced him to take a break and sit down on a nearby rock. Walking a few steps ahead I tried to see if I could spot our lunch campsite. I did. But it was still quite a distance away.

I heard voices and turned my head to see my sister and the others catching up to us. Heaving a sigh of relief, I told them about SK and we took a few minutes break. The others had water with them too so we all quenched our thirst and after about five minutes went on our way. Finally we reached the camp and sat down feeling exhausted and thrilled at the same time. RR, Sb and the cook with a horse were there too which surprised me for I thought they would have moved on far earlier. Anyway, today’s lunch consisted of chapattis with jam spread, a mango, chocolates and a cube of cheese. Most of managed to have something from that lot but just like yesterday, SK barely ate anything. We took a longish break of fifteen to twenty minutes and finally left to reach our night camp.

The way from there was tricky and long. Our guide said it would take us at least four hours to get there. Hence just the twenty minutes break at our lunch camp. Five minutes into the walk my sister’s knees were hurting her bad and so we made her get onto a horse for the rest of the way. She was very reluctant at first and quite terrified too. But she managed and I am glad she did. The walk was tough for the rest of us too. SB and RR went off ahead while R and I gave SK moral support as he limped his way on. Our guide gave us just one tip – follow the stream. And so we did. But just as we crossed the stream there were stones all over the place making it very difficult to find the route. So we started looking for horse shoe tracks and footsteps.

We were sure those would lead us somewhere. And it did. We caught up with SB who for some reason was waiting for us. The continued walk was a really long one and we began to wonder if we were on the right track. We didn’t come across another soul for ages and we kept hunting for footprints to guide us through. With my legs beginning the process of giving up, I started muttering nonsensical stuff in my head as an encouragement. We were now desperate to reach the campsite before darkness hits.

Finally we spotted our guide and a helper walking towards us, each holding onto the reins of a horse.

SK got onto one of the horses and I got onto the other. The campsite was still quite far although according to horse trotting standards we reached in half an hour. I dread to think how long it would have taken if we had walked. Once at the camp, we all sat down feeling exhausted whereas the cooks came around handing us mugs of hot tea. We happily lapped them up.

After a while I tried to get up and that was when I realized the extent of how bad my legs were hurting. It also meant cutting the trek short and returning back. With some help in the form a massage from L and some muscle spray, my legs did get marginally better. Enough to make the return trip. Continuing further would mean that we had no choice but to complete the entire trek. This was the last spot from where we could, if we had to, return.

I’ll always be thankful to L’s massage for that helped me at least walk a bit the next day. However the difficulty at that moment was walking from our tent to the dinner tent; which was a mere ten steps away. All in all most of us had decided to head back to the guest house the next day except L and M who looked like they skipped all the way to the camp!

Discussing about next day’s journey over dinner, we finalized on L and MN going ahead with the remainder of the trek and the others returning back to the guesthouse. Post dinner, I hopped back our tent with the help of my sister. On the way I just happened to look up at the sky and marvel at all the stars when I saw a white light streak by. For a minute I didn’t understand nor did I register it. It disappeared within a second, from the sky and from my mind. Back inside the tent, I popped a painkiller and we girls chattered a bit. Finally we all lay down in our respective sleeping bags and that’s when I recapped the ‘streaking’ light and wondered – “could that have been a shooting star that I just saw? It might have been! If it was – well, that is one of the best medication to take my mind off the pain.” With that thought, I slept.

©NJ

Link to Part III.

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