Managing Zanskar and Ladakh in one go for 18 days with kid, possible? The question was looming large but then planning to Demchok and Chumur adds more uncertainty and seems to be an insane idea. Now while going to Demchok from Hanle, crossing Photila and trying Tsomoriri directly from Hanle, won’t it be crazy? Yes we started a well planned trip with lots of input from this forum but honestly it gone beyond sanity to try with just wife and kid. We enjoyed thoroughly and in God’s grace got excellent weather. This is the time to share our experience.
I have been to Ladakh earlier and knew the challenges, challenge of acclimatizing your body with that height of 11K+ almost through out the trip, desolate and remoteness of the Zanskar Valley and Changthang Plateau, choosing the right window for travel considering the early and late seasons are full of uncertainties and actual small 2 month’s window of July and August are terribly crowded. For me it was more challenging as I was going to take this trip with just my wife and kid of 6.5 yrs. Getting a car with reasonable price and knowledgeable drivers who have some ideas beyond Nubra/Pangong/Tsomoriri were a must to make this trip a success. Number of Taxi Unions and their self proclaimed rules in their own areas were another mess you need to handle if you want to take up this trip. Kargil Cars can take you to Zanskar but can’t take you back without paying a premium to Zanskar Union, for Zanskar sight seeing you have to take Zanskar Cabs, Kargil Cabs can take you to Leh but can’t do sightseeing in Lamayuru etc. enroute. I was again lucky to get introduced to ex.Taxi Union President of Kargil Mr. Rehman, a nice gentleman who helped me to get Kazim, a middle aged person with a Scorpio and Xylo and it’s because of him I was able to complete my Zanskar trip. Ladakh part was never be possible without Regzin, who was simply outstanding and being an ex. army of Ladakh Scouts and posted in all corners of Ladakh including Siachen, DBO, Chumur, Demchok for 18 years, he knew how to follow the tyre track and common sense for hundreds of km before coming across the first vehicle for opposite side without any direction or maps.
Another funny part was the plans and backups I kept, I had to cancel 5 sets of tickets for different sectors those were planned as my backup in different stages. My idea was to visit through Srinagar but had to keep Del-Leh flight open in case situation in Srinagar Valley turns volatile, similarly I kept my return plan open so that I can travel to Leh – Manali or can fly out from Leh directly which I did eventually. I even had to cancel a Del-Kolkata Rajdhani ticket while my Del-Kol flight was taxied to runway which I kept in case Leh-Del flight gets cancelled and subsequently my Kolkata connection would have missed.
Weather in this region was a big ask, you never know when that could change dramatically but with God’s grace and good wishes of many other friends, I got probably the best weather possible, first time I saw cloud in the sky on my last day of the trip, it was absolutely cloudless and blue sky with fall colors all around.
The Trip Schedule is like this:
Day 1 – Fly from Kolkata to Srinagar via Delhi and on same day proceed to Sonmarg and stay
Day 2 – Sonmarg – Jojila – Drass – Kargil – Purtikchey
Day 3 – Purtikchey – Panikhar – Parkachik – Rangdum – Pensi La – Padum
Day 4 – Padum Stay and visit Strongde Monastery, Zangla Palace, Bardan Monastery and Karsha Monastery
Day 5 – Padum – Sankhoo
Day 6 – Sankhoo – Kharse Khar Village for Maiterya Buddha – Kargil – Leh
Day 7- Leh Permits and Local Sight Seeing
Day 8 – Leh – Khardung La – Nubra Valley – Hunder
Day 9 – Hunder – Turtuk – Deskit
Day 10 – Deskit – Wari La – Chang La – Tangtse
Day 1 1 – Tangtse – Spangmik
Day 12 – Spangmik – Man – Merak – Chusul – Tsga La – Loma – Hanle
Day 13 – Hanle – Photi La – Photile – Koyul – Demchok Back to Hanle
Day 14 – Hanle – Kyun Tso – Salsal La – Chumur – Charchagan La – Tsomoriri
Day 15 – Tsomoriri – Tso Kar – Tanglang La – Leh
Day 16 – Spare Day at Leh
Day 17 – Spare Day at Leh
Day 18 – Flying from Leh to Kolkata via Delhi
The map Harsh and Aarti had prepared is simply invaluable and to my knowledge the best map that is available for anyone wants to visit this area. Please refer to the map below to understand the route plan properly. Thanks Harsh and Aarti again for this wonderful effort and you were the inspiration of our trip.
Few Highlights before we start the detail of the trip:
Dal Lake, Srinagar:
Entering the Suru Valley, Zanskar
First Ray of Sun on Mt. Nun
Zanskar River takes Horse Shoe Bend near Padum
Amazing Drang Drung Glacier:
Typical Zanskar Grassland :
Shanti Stupa, Leh
Shyok (The River of Death) near Nubra:
Hundar – Reflections
Beautiful Fall Colors near Shakti
Magic Lake, Pangong Tso, no introduction needed:
Hanle Observatory of Indian Institute of Astro Physics:
Unbelievable colors of Mountains near Demchok – The mountains you see are Line of Actual Control with China (Other side Ngari, Tibet)
Dramatic Sky at Sumdo:
Wild Horses running in the backdrop of Tso Kar:
Return Flight from Leh to Delhi was a Trans Himalayan Flight, the vista below is beyond any word: