A few years ago, I went on the Chadar trek in Ladakh. The trek required us to walk on frozen sheets of ice formed over the River Zanskar. There were 18 of us accompanied by two local guides – all young and zealous, enthusiastic about meeting challenges that came our way. For seven full days of this trek we did nothing but walk on sheets of ice in sub-zero temperatures, and camp by the river bank at nights. Ablutions had to be done in the open , there was just enough water to cook.
On the last day, a steep climb led us off the river and onto the road, which marked the end of this trek. We completed our trek at around 3pm and a very rough road journey would then lead us to the nearest main city, Leh. Each member of the group was exhausted and all that we wanted was a hot shower, comfortable bed and a decent hot meal.
The journey from the end point of the trek to Leh would take 2 hours by road. Within 20 minutes, the bus halted and the driver informed us that the road repair work for a landslide would set us back by 2 hours. Now that we had time to kill, we decided to get out of the bus and look around.
Getting back on our feet was a tough task because walking in gum boots every single day had left our feet sore, and our arms ached from carrying the bags on our trek. One of our guides who seemed to know every rock on the way managed to locate a tiny stream of water, came back to his luggage, grabbed a bar of soap and started washing his hair. Two of our group members dared to follow him, sharing the same soap, washing their head in the icy cold water of the mountains. The rest of us watched them awestruck.
Two of our group members informed us that they intended to cover the road on foot, and when the bus resumed they could be picked from wherever they had reached along the road. It was a single path, so there was no chance of losing one’s way.
Someone had a pack of cards in his bag, and we decided to play it right there by the road. We slowly had more people join the group, and before you know it, we were exchanging stories from previous treks, folklore and other details about village life in the mountains.
During all this time, what did l do? Well, under normal circumstances l would have read a book, listened to a podcast, written in my diary or enjoyed a good coffee. But these were not normal circumstances, carrying a book was extra weight, and with no electricity/network connectivity or any food at disposal we were left with ourselves with our thoughts. I found a comfortable rock to set myself up and observed everything around me.
How people who had not bathed for days celebrated camaraderie, how devouring thukpas for every meal was the ultimate comfort in the cold, how we enjoyed so much with so little in the mountains…
It’s been 7 years to this trek, and the nostalgia remains. Yet again, a lot has been taken away from us, in totally different circumstances this time. Once again, our deepest sentiments, thoughts, fears have started to surface, but we’ve got to deal with it because complaining won’t help. Trekkers would know how this works, won’t they?
This post has been written by Ketki. Ketki is currently based in London, and is a part time translator and content writer, and a happy homemaker. She loves to sew, bake and travel, and shares her thoughts on her Facebook Page- Way of Life.