Once the trek is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the trek is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the trek, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what the trek is all about.
Just a few days ago, I returned from an unforgettable journey. It was a trek on a frozen river near Ladakh, at a time when the temperature dips to -25 (or maybe, -30) degree C! My Picasa album of more than a hundred photos fairly tell my story of the Chadar trek; I’ll be more general in this blog post.
Last year, few folks I know from college went on a breathtakingly beautiful Kashmir Great Lakes trek. It was their second, after one to Chandratal, and the photos they brought back were such I had seen only in movies before. Moreover, a close friend of mine from that group talked passionately about how different an experience it was to trek in the mighty Himalayas, not only because they are beautiful, but also because you feel so small and helpless in front of the mountains that have been there for thousands of years- just standing and doing nothing!
I too longed to experience all this for myself (look at an old tweet, for example!) and an opportunity presented itself one day while randomly surfing the Indiahikes website. I read that the Chadar trek was difficult, but it was also one that was happening most recently- I wasn’t really in a mood to plan a trip for as late as May or June. I decided, more so on an impulse, to at least pay one visit to the Himalayas- I could always decide on whether to go on more later.
It being my first trek, I didn’t know what all to expect, the most important points to keep in mind while making the preparations and the do’s and don’ts. I didn’t even know that Chadar was one of the most extreme treks in the Himalayas, something that I later found out from a woman who was there on her fourteenth (yes, fourteenth!) Himalayan trek! My carry bag was wrong, so were a few other things which eventually made me shorten my stay on Chadar for four days instead of six.
Still, it was a trek that I won’t easily forget! I met a 43 year old woman, who was on her 8th Himalayan trek and also completed it! She had a hard time negotiating her way through bedside rocks (when needed), usually stooped over her trekking pole and was almost always the last one to finish the trek- but she still completed it, which was an inspiring sight for me! Moreover, I had never seen snow before in my life and the trek showed me so much ice and snow that at one point, I feared that the views would soon become monotonous!
Apart from the trek, I was happy that I finally visited Leh city- I instantly fell in love with it. The residents are warm and inviting: they like to talk to tourists about their city, religion & culture, are soft-spoken and have a helping nature. I was also told that Leh becomes more beautiful in summers (with greenery, a better weather etc.), and I promised myself that I would try to visit Ladakh at least once every year. I missed out some great spots such as Nubra Valley and Pangong Lake, but I’ll go back to visit them pretty soon! While talking to the people of Leh and seeing a glimpse of their religion, I have also developed a curiosity about Zen Buddhism- will learn more about that sometime in leisure.