It's a short hike, and mostly shaded - and it goes from Uletopko campground to Rizong gompa. It takes about an hour and a half to go up, and one hour on your way back. The first part of the hike is along the paved road, then half way to the monastery, on your left, you see a canyon with really speep walls - that's the route you should follow: it's breathtaking
Equipment: nothing special as the trail is well kept - comfortable walking shoes are enough. bring plenty of water as there's nowhere to buy some along the route
We hiked to Mangyu to see a famous and ancient monastery, but the hike was so breathtaking that by the time we got there we had lost all interest in it. From the moment we walked over the Tibetan bridge and started going uphill, we were surrounded by perfect beauty: narrow canyons and towering mountains, pristine streams and then colourful wheat and lavender-like fields. Occasionally we would meet friendly villagers, all wearing their traditional costumes... A "julley" would start a conversation, which was conducted in Ladakhi from one side, and Italian from the other. These conversations often went on for several minutes, with no party really understanding the others... but the smiles... the smiles... they made up for all the missing words
Equipment: Plenty of water, some food and hiking boots, especially if you decide to take the very steep shortcut to reach the village (it's a scramble, you're on your hands and knees, and if you fall, there's a lovely abyss waiting for you). It takes 2 to 3 hours to reach the village
I thought it was best to book a trek before coming to Leh. I was not sure how easy it would be to walk around in Leh on arrival to find a trek leaving, and coming back, within the time I was planning to be there. While searching on Internet I came across Ladakhi Women’s Travel Company. It is an agency owned by a women and they only have women guides. I liked the fact that they have small groups and stay in homestays along the Markha Valley trek (and other treks where those are available). Many tour companies in Leh do camping treks and use ponies to carry the luggage. To stay in a homestay is more ecofriendly, it gives the villagers an income and you see more of the Ladakhi culture.
I sent an email to Ladakhi Women’s Travel Company and they told me there was one person doing the Markha Valley trek at the same time I wanted to do it. They emailed her and asked her if it was okay that I also joined the trek and it was. The trek was going to be a nine-day trek. The Markha Valley trek can be done faster, but I was happy with nine days as you then get time to relax and do some walking around the homestays (and one day the camp in Nimaling). The price when we were two persons was Rs 11 100 each (July 2010). In the end the other woman couldn’t arrive to Leh in time because of landslides along the Manali - Leh road (I’m glad I had changed my plans and taken the airplane instead). So now I was suddenly alone with a guide and the price changed to Rs16 400. It was more money that I had counted with, but as I was very satisfied with the trek and arrangements it was absolutely okay.
Included in the price is: a guide, accommodation and bedding, three meals per day, wildlife and innerline permits and transportation to start and from end of trek.
I got a very nice and knowledgeable guide called Padma. She’s from Stok and had worked as a guide many years, and she spoke very good English. As she had done the Markha Valley trek many times and stayed in the homestays she knew the women in the houses very well. And as she was from Ladakh she cold tell me much about the Ladakhi culture. Along the trek we met a couple with a guide from Nepal, who didn’t speak much English. With Padma they could discuss where it was best to spend their last night and then Padma could tell the guide. I was lucky too have such a good guide as Padma!
Along the trek we also met some people doing the trek without guide. This is of course a much cheaper option as the homestays only cost Rs 350 - 400 per person (July 2010) including dinner, breakfast and packed lunch. But I’m glad I didn’t have to worry about finding the right way myself. One day when we were crossing the Markha River at the first crossing , we met some people who were wet almost up to their waist as they had already crossed the river twice (they had taken the wrong path).
Ladakhi Women’s Travel Company is not only for women, but men are just as welcome to do treks and tours with them.
Leh's polo ground is said to be the highest in the world. Well, maybe. I still do not hold this sport in very high regard, but that's another matter.
If you are intersted or simply have time to kill, watch a match at Leh's polo ground below the Leh Palace cliff. Sitting in the sun, having a drink of some sort, and watching the spectators can be fun, even if you don't fancy the game.
There is a great possibility of doing relatively simple climbs, scrambles and fantastic traverses in the Zanskar and Ladakh mountain ranges. You can be self-supplied and just take off, but there are rules and regulations preventing you from climbing above a certain altitude, obilgations with liason officers etc that come in the way. However, check the rules in force and find out what's feasible withing the limits of the regulations. Zanskar Range ridge traverses can be absolutuely fantastic.
Equipment: Ice gear, snow clothing.
Crampons, ice ax, rope absolutely necessary.
Bivouac gear, tent, cooking equipment.
White water rafting on the river Indus is an amazing experience! The river enters Ladakh in India from the Chinese side and eventually flows through to Pakistan.
The steep gorges and stark terrain makes for an awesome sight!
There are various tour operators around in Leh that offer packages for rafting trips... the bit of the river we covered lasted a little under 4 hours, and was not all that rough... some rapids were grade 3, others easier.
The package normally includes hotel pick-up and drop, and a nice meal by the river at the end.
Equipment: all equipment is provided
Rafting the Indus River is a fun way to get wet. Expect to pay about 800 rupees for a trip that includes transportation to and from the river, a most-of-the-day-trip, and lunch on the beach at the end of the trip before the return. Most trips go from Phey (near Leh) to Nimu, but others go on a wilder section of river further down. And, there is a remote trip lasting about 3 days going through the Zanskar gorge.
One word of caution: The rafting companies don't know how to steer a boat. You end up going through most rapids sideways. They only back or forward the raft to avoid hitting rocks on the banks. I had a group of students with me and tried giving them directions to help steer the boat, but the guide just got mad.
Equipment: Everything is provided.