Yikes it was cold last night! Must have been near 32 degrees F and my sleeping bag was just not up to it. I ended up putting on a couple more layers on top and some socks and made it through the night. Next time I need a new sleeping bag!
The wakeup is again at about 5:45 am. Kamal has cooked us a big breakfast because we have a long day on the trail and being in the kitchen tent feels great because of the smells and the heat generated by the cooking. Today we have a fairly abrupt climb of about 1000 ft (from 16,ooo to 17,000 ft) and then a very long decent back down to 13,500. All told we be on the trail about 9 hours today, starting at 7:00 and finishing up around 4:00.
The climb up takes about 2 hours and the views from the pass are amazing. On one side I am looking down at the high plains where we camped last night and on the other side is a beautiful view down into the valley we will be descending. We rest for a while at the top. Wong starts her descent as she likes to go slower on the downhill portions and I hang back with Sonam as he tries to make a few phone calls and this is the only place he will get any cell signal until the end of the day.
We start down the narrow path that zigzags down the steeper part of our decent and I am amazed that the horses can manage along the trail! The steep part of our descent is behind us by the time we meet up with Wong for lunch. We start off again about 1:30 and follow a river down to a village where are campsite will be tonight. Walking into the village we see large fields of a brilliant yellow. Sonam tells us that it is mustard and that people grow it for the oil in the seeds. Sonam has a farm as well as being a guide and told us that he grows enough to make cooking oil for his family for the entire year.
Tonight is the last night of the trip. I am sad that the trip is over but so thankful that I was able to finish. Tomorrow we are trying to figure out how to avoid a 2 1/2 hour walk down a dirt road used by cars. Sonam had asked his boss about sending a car but that would have been expensive. We decide that we will take the local bus instead and get ready for dinner. Today is Wong’s birthday and Kamal has made a cake in the pressure cooker. This guy is very creative on a camp stove! We all sit down together and have a great meal.
We sleep-in a bit on the last day of the trek. We wake up about 7:00, go through our usual breakfast routine and catch the bus about 8:30. The bus is crowded and the driver looks like he is about 15 but he handles the bus well as we bump our way the 8km to our drop off point. Today we are visiting the Hemis Monastery and what looks like just a small walk up the hill turns into a 1.5 hour walk with a fairly steep incline!
This monastery is big and with over 200 smaller satellite monasteries they have over 1,000 monks in their care. We see a small museum in the monastery, look at two of the main meeting halls, and their large statue of the Buddha.
Kamal and Gimmoy hop out of the van when we arrive. I hadn’t expect to see them after this morning so it was good to share one last meal together in the restaurant at the monastery and then we got in the van and returned to Leh. We all say our goodbyes and I head to my room for a long shower and to check my email. The shower is not really working so I take a “bucket bath” and then go to check the internet. Alas, it is down for most of the day but Susan calls and we have a couple scratchy phone conversations so she knows that I am OK and headed to Hyderabad tomorrow. It is good to hear her voice and I look forward to seeing her soon!