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Padum to Lamayuru 11
of the Great Himalayan range, amongst a tangled knot of jagged mountains,
lies a rugged and fascinating land, the once independent kingdom of Zanskar.
between the Indus Valley and the main crest of the Indian Himalaya, this
remote and inaccessible setting, well guarded by snowy mountain passes, has
kept alive an archaic form of Tibetan Buddhism which flourishes in chain of
far-flung monasteries, most of which occupy spectacular fortified locations,
high on rocky ridges in isolated valleys.
high meadow camp sites and dry desert land, high passes and snow-capped
peaks stunning scenery, Buddhist monasteries and picturesque villages with
their irrigated fields of barley and potatoes, and fascinating encounters
with the Zanskari people turn a trek in this area into an unforgettable
Tour Code :
Leisurely two-hour walk
takes you to Karsha village at the foot of the largest and probably the grandest
monastey on an awe-inspiring setting of cliffs. Before climbing to the main
building, a visit to the main building, a visit to the nearby Avalokiteswara
temple is a must. Situated beneath the ruins of a fort, the Chukshik-jal
temple is now a part of a 500-Year-Old nunnery. Its main statue of the
eleven-headed deity is framed by monsters and a winged garuda (a mythological
Indian bird). Carved out on a chorten are the terracotta statues of Buddha and
Maitreya with typically greek curley hair and straight noses. Anothe chapel, at
the foot of the Karsha monastery is built around a fascinating fifteen-foot
standing figure of Maitreya carved in the rock face. A fearsome figure of
Dorje-Jigchet or Vajra-Bhairva, a demonical from of the Buddha, is the highlight
of the hall. Sporting hundreds of arms and adorned with terrifying faces, the
deity manifests the influence of Tantric practices on Tibetan Buddhism.
The trail moves on flat dusty plains and in three hours, you
reach Rinam village. On the way, the Doda meets the Tsarap Lingti to form the
Zanskar river. In winter, this river freezes up to provide an optional way to
Padum on frozen ice. It is known as the chadar or 'sheet route'.
From Pishu, a day-long detour can be taken to Zangla, the ancient
capital of Zanskar, across the main river. Zangla was a kingdom of four
villages enjoying autonomy within the buffer state of Zanskar. It became a
separate state in the fifteen century. Zangla is an oasis surrounded by
desolate mountains - a recreation of the fabled Shangri-La. The importing
fortress of Zangla is now derelict and a neglected chapel inside houses a statue
of Tsong Khapa, the Gelug-pa founder. The palace where the royal family still
lives has another chapel with a library full of scriptures. There is also an
old nunnery. Follow the Zanskar downstream. The walk goes past sand castles on
Within forty-five minutes, execute your first river crossing.
For another one and a half hours, the trail follows the Zanskar river, climbing
gradually, but punctuated by a few step sections. The first series of switch
banks leads to the top of a hump from where the pass is visible. The trail
moves on a long traverse followed by another series of switch banks to reach the
top of the Parfi La (12,960 ft / 3,950 m).
A fifteen-minute scramble up the ridge on which
the pass is located leads to the edge from where the Zanskar is visible as it
meanders through deep gorges - a terrific view, one of your last of the river on
the trek. The trail leaves the river two traverse the mountain and finally
enters a wooded valley teeming with willows and poplars. A short climb away is
the campsite of Snertse. A thirty-minute walk from the camp on a high pasture
takes you to a spot from where, looking almost 1,500 ft down, you can see the
Zinchan river snaking its way through the valley to be sucked in by the mighty
Zanskar. Right across is the Parfi La and all around are big bare mountains,
some capped with snow. As the shadows lengthen the mountains.
The trail undulates on a steep path for almost three hours in an
enclosed valley. The las hour to the Haluma La (16,400ft / 5,000m) is a
straight climb up the valley's right. A chorten and prayer flags mark the top.
In the distance, you can see Lingshet and its gompa, the destination that day.
The trail is clear as it climbs up and down two smaller ridges. Nun and Kun
peaks are also visible. After an hour's descent, the trail climbs up again to
the top of the first ridge. Lingshet is one of the most popular monasteries of
Zanskar and its main prayer hall houses statues of Buddha.
The trail climbs up and takes an
hour and a half to the top of a small pass, Nietukse La (13,800 ft / 4,206m.).
An easy descent followed by a traverse takes you past Yongma Village and down to
a stream below Gongma village in an hour. In another hour, on switch backs from
the stream, reach the Kupa La. In two hours more, you reach the baseof Singi La
that is to be crossed the next day. The campsite of Gazo is next to small
A two hour climb takes you atop Singi
La (16,200 ft / 4,940m) and the valley in between. A short descent takes you
down to the upper Yapola valley and then the trail gently follows the river
downstream. The trail goes across the Yapola and a short climb into a side
stream takes you to a chorten and a mane wall in two hours. Crossing this side
stream over rocks, followed by a traverse leaving the Yapola belowm the trail
reaches the crest of the Bhumtse La in two and a half hours.
A thirty-minute climb takes you to a
chorten where the trail turns to the right and the seemingly formidable ridge of
Sirsir La rises up. A short step descent takes you to the valley on the right.
Go down to the stream below and cross over a small Bridge on the spang Nala. It
takes an hour to reach the bridge from the pass. Following the Spang on its
left bank for two hours, you reach the valley campsite just above Hanupatta
In an hour you reach Hanupatta set against the backdrop of a sheer rock face.
The trail goes down to the stream and then undulates all along the river. Soon
it enters a gorge and after an hour you reach its confluence with the Yapola
flowing down from Photksar. The trail now follows the yapola downstream,
staying on its left bank. There are three bridges that finally bring the trail
on to the bank. The valley opens up and the trail reaches Fanji La. In two
hours, you reach Wanla village. This is the lowest point on the trek and the
heat comes searing up from the path. The prominent landmark of Wanla is its
ochre monastery. There is a dirt road leading out of the village and joining
Khltse on the main Kargil-Leh highway. But taking that route would mean
missingout on Lamayuru. For inspiration there is a large supply of beer in the
You can visit the Wanla monastery
before hitting the trail to Lamayuru. It is one thousand years old. The main
prayer hall houses an impressive two storeyed statue of the four-headed
Awalokiteswara flanked by two equally large ones of Maitreya. The wall paintings
are faded and in great need of restoration. The room is shaped like a
three-tiered mandala. Despite the proximity of the Lamayuru gompa, Wanla is
interesting in its own right. Leaving Wanla, a thirty-minute walk takes you to
the fertile valley below. Lamayuru (11,285 ft / 3,440m) surprise you with its
mammoth proportions. You have reached your destination as have many generations
of scholars, enunciates and ascetics, centuries before you..
Important Facts of This Trek
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