MY CHADAR TREK JOURNEY
Ms Sai Lalitha Aiyer
I am at a loss for words to describe what I saw and experienced because words will not be enough to represent my journey.
But words have the power to inspire and assist imagination. So, do treat these words as your gateway to the most life-changing trip you are going to have, I do hope that I can inspire you to make your way to Ladakh.
I landed at Leh, Ladakh on the 1st of February around 10 am in the morning. Already in a state of awe, as the plane landed, I was greeted by the amazing mountain range. They were beautifully brown and decked in silvery snow as the sun’s rays glimmered on them. And they stood tall and proud as the guardians of the journey that lay ahead of me.
There was a sense of comfort from the beginning. Despite the cold, I felt like I was always in a warm embrace with Mother Earth. Ladakh was turning out to be a land of irony. The trees were withered and the surroundings were molded by different shades of grey. Yet, there was a sense of authenticity. Like I was in a land that was truly Mother Earth’s baby.
To acclimatize is one of the most important things to do as a tourist. It is essential that no one gets high altitude sickness, therefore it is recommended to be constantly moving. So, we did our fair share of sightseeing. We went to Thik Se Monastry, Leh Palace and Leh Market. I also had the opportunity to see religious dances along with the entire local community. This gave me the opportunity to see a glimpse of local culture in an authentic and real manner. Nothing was staged.
Final day of acclimatization was the most nerve wrecking. All of us had itchy fingers and were dealing with our own nervousness and excitement. To beat the nerves, we danced to Bollywood songs together compiling our energy into one, supporting each other and assuring each other for the next day’s trek.
We were given many warnings and had to uphold several protocols. However, nothing prepared us for the surprises that followed. When we first reached our starting point, the frozen river and the giant rock formations that guided it looked inviting. And so, we began. After many war cry calls of course! (URI had just released…) We waddled along like penguins, slipping and making sure the ice was solid. We had amazing guides, Tolden and Sanghe! They were literal godsend guardians. One of the trek days, I infamously kept falling, stepping on the wrong part of the ice. But Tolden stood with me, laughing at and along with me, supporting me, encouraging me to move forward.
Despite the bitter cold, the beautiful view of the sun rise above the mountains made everything worth it. Despite the frozen toes, the pain, the need to stop, I fought my weak-willed mind and persevered. This made me stronger. We walked almost 10 km every day, with our lovely guides and porters, with lovely home-like food cooked for us at every pit stop. But we all had an end goal in mind. To reach Nerak, the final destination we had prepared for.
Many groups whom went before us warned us that the water was too high, that it would be dangerous to proceed toward Nerak. But our team decided to take on the dangerous unknown, after careful consideration. Surprisingly, as we kept walking, we noticed the ice was extremely solid, no sign of water at all. It was truly a blessing. We saw the beautiful frozen waterfall, a sight we had only seen online. But I think our struggle to get to the place is what made our emotions soar when we reached our end destination. We were ecstatic!
Nerak is a tiny village that is scarce on supplies and electricity. They have no roads or access to the city during the winter, which is why they must stock up on food and water for the winter. Seeing their dire situation really hit my heart. Locals must complete this Chadar trek regularly to get to their native village. To their loved ones and family. It is extremely eye-opening when we realize that our leisure is their daily bread and butter, their daily routine. This applies to the Indian soldiers who are there to protect the country, surviving in the cold for long periods of time.
To make it out of this trip, one must have extreme mental resilience. One must be determined. One must be and feel confident with their own capabilities.
But above all, you need a beautiful team who become family. So, I dedicate this article to my beautiful Ladakh family. Mona, Sheetal and Darshan, thank you for being there for me like my parents would have.
Of course, thank you to my parents, for giving me the opportunity to travel on my own and for believing in my love for trekking and mountains.
Massive shoutout to Triyana travels for bringing this family together. Do check out their facebook ( @exploretriyana ) for their travel packages.