THE JOURNEY OF THE THOUSAND MILES BEGINS WITH ONE STEP! — LAO TZU
As soon as we Landed, we Knew this will be adventures!
Since most of us were not new to Ladakh, we knew the importance of getting well acclimatized. We came 4 days before the actual trekking begins.
On Day 1, we were introduced to our other fellow trekkers and apprised about our next 3 days’ schedule.
On Day 2, We stroll to the Local Leh Market to buy the local Gumboots and Woolens. In the evening, we went to the local Cafe Skywok, where we binged on the scrumptious local nutritious food. This place was so cozy and electrifying at the same time that we ended up coming here every evening for the next 3 days of our stay in LEH.
On Day 3, Our Local Tour operators had planned a mini trek to Shanti Stupa and Leh Palace. Also, to get acquainted with the weather and Ice walking, each evening they used to make us walk over the nearby Ice Hockey ground. This was surely a brilliant idea to get cognizant of the upcoming challenges during the Frozen trek.
On Day 4, we went through the Mandatory Medical Test. Only those who have normal blood pressure and the oxygen level 90 plus can join the expedition as per the rule.
One night before the Chadar Trek, we gathered for the briefing session where we were instructed with the few tips of Dos and Don’ts.
If you play by the rules, you will never forget this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
You have already won half the battle if you are well equipped with information. It makes you aware of how to react in the adverse condition, which is likely to happen.
- Wear at least 5 layers of clothing. It includes water-resistant inner thermals, quick-dry trek pants, fleece jacket, down jacket, Windcheater, 2 pairs of socks, gumboots, hand gloves, Muffler/scarf and Beanie Cap.
- Always follow your leader. As the Chadar breaks and forms each day, the leader will check for safe ice patch to walk on.
- If your leg docks in water immediately change your socks to avoid frostbites.
- Wear reflective sunglasses to avoid snow blindness.
- Ensure to wrap all the things inside warm jackets. Especially mobile phones and camera batteries. Also, keep wet wipes wrapped under your warm jackets or else it will get freeze.
- Be combat-ready to Pee-Poo in the open throughout the trek. Keep toilet papers handy as there are no toilet facilities available.
- In case of walking into the river, wrap brown cello-tapes under your gumboots to avoid getting your woolen socks wet.
- Respect for Nature and Self-discipline are the two must approach to be practised throughout the trek.
FIND OUT HOW FAR THEY CAN GO. — T. S. ELIOT
Get Set Go, Chadar calling!
Day 5, and we were set to embark one of the most thrilling and enticing treks. While heading towards the Chilling village, a prompt visual of everything that I learned about Chadar Trek, flitted through my mind.
Suddenly, our car halts by the edge, from where one can witness the confluence of the Zanskar and Indus River. The wild and furious Zanskar and the Calm and clear Indus, which I had witnessed all these years during my Summer visits, was frozen and silent, surrounded by the resolute Snow-capped mountains. Instead of the sound of the flowing water, the cold breeze was reverberating through the valley. A blanket of ice – Locally called – “Chadar” has played an integral part in the lives of Zanskaris for more than 1,000 years, serving them the only route to commute with the external world during winters.
With the heart pumping with full of excitement, I was just a step away from fulfilling my quest of walking on the Frozen River Trail! Upon reaching Shingrak, the starting point of our trek, we decked up in our trekking paraphernalia and set on the tryst with the frozen trail. As informed, walking on the ice was definitely not a cakewalk. But thanks to those walking sessions on the Ice hockey ground, we at least didn’t collapse like other groups accompanying us. We were literally practicing the “penguin walk” trick as instructed. Amongst all the groups trekking along with us at the same schedule, only our group consisted of 2 well-experienced trek leaders and 18 porters who took away all the responsibilities of fixing the tents, carrying our luggage and preparing our food prior we reach upon the camping site.
Having adequate porters proportionate to the group members during the trekking is the most important thing one cannot afford missing out, as, in times of unavoidable casualties, these local porters can literally save your life.
“THE FARTHER I TRAVEL THE CLOSER I AM TO MYSELF.” — ANDREW McCarthy
Days and Nights in between the Snowy-Shit and the Naked Starry-Sky!
Tsomo, our first camping site, and we were amused to see the tents flattering in the chilled winds, freshly fixed for our group. We soon changed our wet socks to the fresh pairs and as instructed gathered for the evening tea. To our surprise, we were served with Pakodas along with Chai. The ticking off things from the secret wish list we all had already begun, as none of us ever thought of relishing Pakodas in the middle of the frozen trail. Post tea, we did a little bit of photography and bonfire, celebrating our journey. At dinner, we were served with the hot Broccoli Soup and Yummicilous Pasta made by a porter cum cook. It was indeed a hunger-satisfying meal to beat the -30′ C temperature and get repaired for the next day of trekking. Post dinner we all bided a goodnight and hit our tents. Our Tents and Sleeping bags were similar to the ones used by the Indian army at the Siachin glacier (the perks of choosing the right tour operators). Though it was a big deal to get fitted into those sleeping bags every single night to save yourself from getting frozen, it certainly helped us to stay warm and sleep well in the extreme sub-zero temperatures at night.
Witnessing the sun rays falling down on the snow-capped Canyons every morning was truly a bliss! The sparkling water peeping out from the thin layer of ice, the beautifully engraved gorges on both sides and the meandering route never failed to surprise us, as we proceed to the Tibbs, our next campsite. The porters accompanying us bestowed us with several stories about how Zanskaris have been taking the shelter under those caves along the river while traversing during winters. I still have the goosebumps, mere thinking upon the struggle they do to survive amidst the odds.
Upon, reaching Tibbs, once again we were treated with the scrumptious yet nutritious supple. For non-veg lovers, the chicken was cooked that night. Not a single day we were asked to have just Maggi in the dinner. Huddling around the bonfire and celebrating every evening on this mighty Chadar trek had become our ritual. At night, once we get into our respective tent, I and my tent partner used to sing aloud the Bollywood songs. Also, I ticked-off one more wish of reading a book in a cozy tent in between snowy mountains on this trek!
Those soul-feeding captures of the milky way during nights and sunrise pictures during the dawn are something I am going to treasure all my life.
During our night stay in Tibbs, we slept unaware of what was waiting for us the next morning. We woke up to the whitewashed campsite. I witnessed the first snowfall of my life, and it was mesmerizing. The sight of the thick layers of snow spread all over was the perfect cinematographic view of nature. We were informed that it was risky to proceed further. Many of the groups accompanying us, decided either to go back or stay back at Tibbs and not continue towards the ultimate trek point- Nerak Waterfall.
None from our group wanted to leave this trek midway or return without accomplishing the trek. Our trek leaders too supported us and with the strong willpower we all endured towards Nerak village. Due to the fresh snowfall, it was easier to walk and less risky. As we proceeded, at one point, because of the small glacier had meltdown nearby, the river was flowing until our waist. We had almost thought of giving up seeing the chilled water flowing. That’s when, one of our trek leaders spontaneously made us wrapped brown cello tape, beneath our gumboots and we embark the toughest journey of all the days. With every single step taken more carefully, we were getting closer to the unbelievable sight we were going to witness in a while. Alas, after a few hours of the deadliest walk of our life, we were in front of the quintessential Nerak Waterfall! All that huffing and puffing and skipping of heartbeats were well-paid back. Out of all the 17 other groups, only 2 groups had dared to trek on this day along with us.
“Tears of Joy upon accomplishing the Mighty Chadar Trek!”
A mighty trek was yet not finished. That night, a homestay was arranged in the Nerak village for all of us. To reach there, we had to climb a mountain covered with snow. Seeing the weather condition, everyone assumed it is not going to change for another 2-3 days. The other groups who accompanied us till the Nerak Waterfall decided to go back as their trek leaders didn’t allow them to proceed further. Hearing this, for a moment even we were in a doubt but our trek leader was headstrong enough and convinced us to not to worry.
We rested that night at the homestay in the Nerak Village. We relished a hot khichdi in the dinner and chit-chatted with the Sarpanch of the village and other locals. We were jolted upon knowing how people of Nerak survive. Their humbleness and hospitality touched my heart to the level that I pledge to help them to live a better life.
Upon returning I actually started a Fundraising Program to help them with what they deserve! Click on this link to uplift their Future! Every single penny will help them build a brighter future for their upcoming generation!
Next day we started early to trek back to the Tibbs. We were so energized to see clear weather, that we literally rolled down like a panda from the mountain which we had climbed a day before to reach the Nerak village. We were supposed to go back all that 40 km we had come in the past 4 days. Even though it is the same route, due to the ever-changing weather no two days are the same at Chadar. The formation of ice keeps changing and thus, there was a point on our return where the Chadar was not formed well and we had to cross a steep mountain face. Thanks to our skilled trek leader, we passed this hurdle too. Not only this, we all were so much into sync that upon reaching Tibbs, we decided to continue our trek and manage to finish off the 2-day trek in a Single Day. We took a lunch break and continued walking towards Tsomo, where the other groups were staying back. Yes, we did it! We reached Tsomo, a day before, and joined the other groups to finish off the trek a day before!
An unbelievable thing for all of us. We all were glowing with that contentment and sense of achievement. Unlike, other groups who were certainly regretting about not able to complete the trek as planned not just because of the bad weather conditions but also, for choosing the wrong tour operators, we were rejoicing that evening.
We celebrated the spirit of never giving up. That day, our trek leader showered some mercy upon us and awarded OLD MONK! Yes, as it was the last day of the trek and we were already well acclimatized with the weather, he allowed us to drink. In dinner, the famous local TUNA Sandwiches were prepared.
[Avoid Alcohol during the trek, as it dehydrates your body]
THE PERKS OF CHOOSING THE RIGHT TOUR OPERATOR!
The decision of selecting a set of a local tour operator though overpriced proved to be the best ever!
Every day, we used to start walking early between 7 to 7:30 AM. I personally feel it was one of the best decision our trek leader had taken as it worked well for us. We used to trek 13- 15 km each day and yet were able to manage to reach the campsite without any uneventful because of the guidance of the experienced trek leaders and porters- the unsung heroes of the trek. Our trek guide took the responsibility of tucking us in the sleeping bag every night so that nothing could go wrong and stop us from achieving our goal.
They provided us with the best possible trekking guidance, resources which includes – sufficient porters, Weather resistant’s tents, Yak Tracks mandatory to be worn over the gumboots to avoid falling every now & then on the slippery ice, oxygen cylinders carried along with us every single day, a variety of well-nutritious food served throughout the trek, and most importantly an encouragement and a positive spirit of not giving up at any moment!
We got a surreal experience for what we had Paid a handsome amount!
“GO WHERE YOU FEEL MOST ALIVE.”
“The Harmony of Mind, Body and the Soul!”
This place surely has got Magic! The mind was calm, heart tranquil; it was the perfect harmony of mind, body and the soul.
[Just for a note, I was informed about my Father’s poor health condition on the day we were about to begin the trek. Being close to him, normally, I get anxious and act panicked when something happens to him. But, as I was told nothing to be worried about, I decided to continue the Trek!]
To my surprise, nothing bothered me throughout the trek. I was completely zoned out from the thought process, outer world and living in the moment! Everything was seized by! I experienced an absolutely another level of calmness. With every single day passing by, I was feeling stronger and rooted with my inner self. For some reasons, I wasn’t worried about the things that weren’t under my control. I am not a person who believes in Spirituality, but this one was definitely something like- “A force conspiring by the Universe itself!”
[Once I finish the trek, I called up my Dad first and came to know about him going for bypass surgery after 2 days. I handled the whole situation back home upon returning so unabatingly, knowing Chadar had truly transformed me into a better and stronger version of me ever!]
Chadar Trek is more about the Meditative Process and, not just about physical endurance. It is about Re-invigorating of the Soul! Just like the trek you have to augment life-growth, one trail at a time. A memory that will be engraved with me till my last Breath!