Friday, August 30, 2013

Sham Trek - Likir Monastery to Temisgang, Ladakh 4 - 6 Aug 2013

Nubra and Zanskar River
We left at 7:30am with Stanzin our guide on a mini van to Likir Monastery. It was a 2 hours ride with amazing scenery. We pass many army camps, desert land, rocky mountain, villages and the Nubra and Zanskar river. Along the way, we noticed all their road signs are written in English. There were some specific one that spell like this, "Life is short don't make it shorter", "Better late than never", "Drive slowly, Reach safely", " Always Alert Accident Avert", "Drink Whisky Drive Risky"  :-) That was quite an educational read.

Likir Monastery
4th Aug 2013
Trek start : Likir Monastery (3530m)
Trek end : Yangtang (3590m)
High passes : Charatse La Pass (3580m) and Pobe La Pass (3730m)
Duration : 4 hrs
Difficulties : Easy

Gold statue of Maitreya
Likir Monastery
After 2 hours, we got to this huge monastery with a huge golden buddha statue. From here on we will be on our foot for 8 days. Pray hard not to get any blisters on the feet! Before we start our trek, we pay a visit to the 11th century monastery. Prayers was going on, we visited the museum that kept hundred years old coins, costume, weapons, art effects, pots, cooking utensils, etc. The were old prayer books stack up in the cabinet and some statues cover up with cloths. According to Stanzin, these statues are very powerful, they are only expose once a year during the September festival. After we visited the 25m tall golden buddha statue, we are all set to start our trek.

The trek started along the hillside towards our first pass of the day - Charatse La Pass (3580m) it was generally flat on a rocky path. Barley fields are the only green area that stands out from the brown rocky mountain and terrain. We reached our first pass in no time. It was just a warm up! After the pass we descend to the tar road and crossed path with a group of horses and ponies on the way to a camping trip with a few shepherds. Not far after, we left the tar road to descent to a valley. The group of horses and ponies were long gone. We couldn't keep up.

It was almost noon, the scorching sun was killing us, not a single tree in the vicinity  Lucky we were wearing long sleeve and big hat, we reach our lunch spot at Sumdo, a little tent in the middle of nowhere but it helps to gives us shade. Lunch was pre-packed today, we have 2 chapati wrapped with vegetables, 1 egg and 1 expired banana. We have to eat to regain some energy. We carried along 2 litre of purified water each but Stanzin just drink from the river. We knew our stomach is not as strong as the local.

From Sumdo (3470m) we had our first uphill challenge to the 2nd pass of the day - Pobe La Pass (3730m). Even tho it's only 260m but with the altitude and scorching hot sun, it was exhausting. We took small steps and many stops to catch our breath and enjoy the view. We finally scrambled up the pass marked with prayer flags and a stupa. From the pass we could see Yangtang village, our destination of the day. The small village has only about 15 families. Green barley fields surround the village. Another 30 minutes later we arrived at the village but our homestay is located deep down in the valley by the river. We went down the steep slope to a hidden paradise. A beautiful house surrounded by trees and barley fields. They invited us in with a big smile. Jullay! this word is magic, anyone that comes to Ladakh must learn it, it means Hello, thank you and good bye. Magic word isn't it?

Our host family has 5 children, 4 are away in the city and only one daughter live with them. The couple are about 70 years old from my guess. They have winkles like lines on the mountain but they are strong and tough. They work in their field every day wherelse their daughter manage the house and cook.

Here is our first homestay experience, we have to enter the house with our shoes off. In Singapore we have warm floor but here it's cold! We were welcomed with tea and cookies, they have a dining room decorated with small tables and shelf of golden and silver pots. We sleep in a room with 4 mattress on the floor and a table each. They provide us blanket for the night. There is no heater in the house but we don't need it at this time of the year. The toilet is outdoor, it is a hole on the ground where everything drops about 2m down. Some sands and a shovel inside the toilet for us to throw sand in the hole to cover up after our business. Very organic! There is no running water for shower. You will be given bucket of water if you want to clean yourself. We try to avoid this. The kitchen is the warmest place in the house as they cook with wood fire and dried cow dung. The field is planted with barley once a year. A small garden planted with spinach, spring onion, potato, beans, cabbage, etc.

That night, Stanzin and the family cook us momo. We had dinner together with the family in the warm kitchen. The 2 old couples were chatting away in local languages. The momo was delicious but I lost my appetite coping with the headache, stomach indigestion and insufficient sleep. I wish so hard for the headache to go away! Since there is not much entertainment besides star watching, we slept early to try to recover. 
Samanchan La Pass

5th Aug 2013
Trek start : Yangtang (3590m)
Trek end : Hemis Shukpachu (3690m)
High passes : Sarmanchan La Pass (3750m)
Duration : 3 hrs
Difficulties : Easy

Woke up at 7:30am, I was glad that they made me porridge for breakfast instead of chapati bread. It was much better for my stomach. No the headache has not gone away. :-( We said our goodbye after breakfast. Today is suppose to be an easy day, we just need to get over one pass to arrive at our next destination. The path started along the river, due to the dry season the river has turn into stream. Greens only stays where the water is, that made it looks like a oasis in the desert. We took our time heading up to the pass as we were still adjusting to the altitude. We got to Hemis Shukpachu in 3 hours, a bigger village with around 30 families.

I was exhausted and weak, I crash out for half an hour after we check in to our home stay  When I woke up I was feeling all light and shine with the headache gone. I felt more alive! We rest the whole afternoon, this family is younger and more modern. The kids are back from school holiday, they all speak English  just a little timid. We went to the field to pick green beans and potato for dinner. That's the fun part about home stay, you get to connect with the local and participate in their daily activities, learn more about their culture and life. Most of them keep a farm house with cows, goats, sheep and chickens. In the morning they will let the cow out to roam around in the field. The goat, sheep and chickens stay in the farm as there might be predator out in the wild. It was nice to be in such peaceful environment with only the noise of farm animals.
Lago La Pass on top

6th Aug 2013
Trek start : Hemis Shukpachu (3690m)
Trek end : Temisgang (3200m)
High passes : Mebtak La Pass (3820m) and Lago La Pass (3820m)
Duration : 4.5 hrs
Difficulties : Easy

From Hemis Shukpachu to Mebtak La Pass was easy. we met a group of french at the pass. After the pass it was a steep descent down to the valley. A group of ponies race us down the hill. We then follow the bank of the mountain till we reach the bottom of the 2nd pass. It was a steep 90 degree uphill on a zig zag path. The ponies climb up with full loads with no effort. :-( We took a pit stop to recharge before we head up. Stanzin told us we can make it up 20 minutes but we took extra 5 minutes to reach the top. The reward was a breathtaking view.

After the 2nd pass, it was all the way down hill. We had our lunch break in Ang, another small village. One more hour descent via the road, passing line of apricots trees with orange and yellow apricots fully bloomed. We can't stop eating :-p  finally we arrived at Temisgang, the end of our Sham trek. Here we catch our transport together with our new guide and porter to the next starting point of our 5 days trek. This trek was a good way to help us acclimatize and get use to the environment. We think we are ready for the big haul now. 

Sham Trek Profile
From here we drove to Lamayuru, we drove along the Indus river and gorges between the rocky mountain. The road is constantly being repair due to the fallen rocks and land slide. We arrived Lamayuru at 2pm. We thank Stanzin for the great time and for sharing her knowledge about the culture of Ladakhi with us. She left us with our new guide - Dolkar and porter - Diskir. We checked in to a guesthouse, opposite the stunning mountain view, we were too happy to find a modern toilet with hot shower and sitting toilet. Wee! First shower after 3 days.

Lamayuru is famous for it's monastery. The monastery was built in the 11th century, with a population of around 150 resident monks now. Lamayuru is host to two annual masked dance festivals, in the second and fifth months of the Tibetan lunar calendar, when all the monks from these surrounding gompas gather together to pray. People from all over the world came to visit. I was surprised to find a group of Malaysian snapping away photos in the prayers room when it is clearly written NO PHOTOS ALLOW. I felt angry when people doesn't respect others and more ashamed of these people from my home country. 


  1. Hi, Your blog walks read through your journey. The information provided on expenses is very crucial and important details which some blogs miss out. Could I know which trekking agency you hired? I read your earlier post and saw the link on tour Organised by Ladakhi women.

    1. Hello Kamala,
      This is the Ladakh Women organisation website and their contact. They are very good! Have a great trip to you.