Zanskar Diaries

Text and Images : Ritabrata Ghosh……….Zanskar

Text : Ritabrata Ghosh

Ritabrata is a 41 year old marketing professional, born and residing in Kolkata. He is passionate about exploring the unexplored places of the country.

This was our dream destination and thanks to Wandervogel team specially Mr. Soven Singh. It turned out to be the best trip of our lives so far. I am penning down here a brief travelogue of our journey.

DAY : 1  We reached Srinagar early in the morning taking the first flight available from delhi. Our cabdriver was already waiting for us to take us to Kargil. Soven had communicated the mobile number of the driver previous night. On the way we crossed Zojila pass(11,575 feet) and Drass(the gateway to ladakh).We stopped at Kargil war memorial. It is a beautifully erected place by the Indian army in the memory of all our officers and soldiers who laid their life during kargil war, an emotional and patriotic place to cherish. We spent an hour there and then proceeded towards Kargil. We reached Kargil in the afternoon and checked in our hotel The Zojila Residency.

DAY : 2  After taking breakfast we began our much anticipated journey towards Zanskar valley. The road from Kargil to Zanskar remains open for vehicular movement for only 5 months in the year and the remaining part it remains closed under a thick blanket of ice and the Chadar trek is the only way to enter into Zanskar. This time our vehicle was different as Srinagar vehicles are not permitted into Zanskar. The distance between Kargil and Rangdum is 130kms but due to non-existent roads the travel time is around 9-10hrs.The journey starts through Suru Valley which is lush green and breathtakingly beautifull. At Panikhar which is around 45kms we saw the twin peaks of Nun-Kun around 23,000 feet high one clad in snow and the other in contrast barren. These are the highest peaks of Zanskar range. After driving another 15 kms we reached the hill slopes of Parkachik la. Parkachik Glacier is a majestic mass of ice moving slowly down the Nun-Kun slopes and finally falling into Suru River. As we moved on we came across some pristine clear lakes and the landscapes were stunning to say the least. There were very few villages on the way with a handful of houses.We saw some local people catching fish from the river.Our only companion on the way were marmots basking in the sun.Due to very less vehicular movement they were almost at handshaking distance. Our accommodation at rangdum was at NunKun Camps which was below the Rangdum Monastery and surrounded by the barren mountains on all the sides. The place is far away from Rangdum Village and we being the only boarders that day we had only mother-nature as our company. We trekked to Rangdum Monastery and the view of the valley from the monastery was beautiful. The camps were cosy and the dinner was delicious much to our surprise as we never expected that in such a remote place.

DAY : 3  After having a sumptuous breakfast at the camps we started the last leg of our journey towards Padum the district headquarters of Zanskar Valley. The road from Rangdum to Padum was as poor as kargil to rangdum, extremely rough and barely existent. We soon reached Penzila pass the highest motorable point of this area at an altitude of around 14000 feet. Right beside the pass were Statso and Langsto lakes. The reflections of the snow capped rocky mountains in the lake, the horses grazing in the valley and the landscape of dark green valley and dark blue water was surreal. Driving further our eyes caught the vast Drang-Drung Glacier the 2nd largest glacier in the region after Siachen glacier. The 23 km long glacier looks like a smooth highway of ice curving along the snow clad mountains. The size and the shapes in front of us left us spellbound. Suru river which had been accompanying us since Kargil took a detour before Penzill pass and the Stod River which is born from DrangDrung Glacier joined us. As we had our accommodation at Karsha Village we made a detour from the Padum road and after driving for around another 20kms we finally reached our accommodation at Zanskar Eco Lodge. The lodge is located right below the Karsha Monastery and is managed by Mr.Tashi Tundup, his wife and little daughter. They were absolutely delightful hosts and made our trip and stay even more memorable.

DAY : 4  This day we had our sightseeing plans in and around Karsha and Padum. First in our itenary we visited Zangla Palace about 35 kms from Padum. The palace is now in ruins but the view of the valley from here is superb. It has got historical significance too as earlier it was the capital of Zanskar Kingdom. Then we went to Stongdey Monastery which is the second largest monastery in the Zanskar region its beauty with sprawling whitewashed complex soaring above the rocky mountains is a captivating view. Next on our list was Bardhan Gompha which is a fortress like monastery with a spectacular setting atop a rocky outcrop in the Lugnak Valley. On the way back from the monastery we had our picnic lunch beside a stream which was again very enjoyable. In the afternoon we spent some leisure time in Padum town with a handfull of shops, lodges and residential houses. There is also a small Airstrip in the town which is used in winter for helicopter services from kargil. Finally in the evening while returning to our homestay we gave a visit to Karsha Monastery the biggest monastery in Zanskar. It was a delight to attend the evening prayers with the lamas, the sound reverberate in the entire valley.

DAY : 5  This was our final day in our zanskar trip and after bidding farewell to our wonderful hosts, mr.tashi and his family we started our return journey to kargil with memories forever lasted in our mind.