Posts Tagged ‘camping’

Snow in August…Who Would’ve Thunk

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

If I’d been told that I was going to see snow in August, in humid tropical India, or arid desert India, I would have thought I was being lied to.  But here I am, in the city of Leh, in the state of Ladakh, looking at snow topped peaks of the Himalayas.  Those of you who are mountain people, who know altitude, you would have known.   Yet, this is something that I don’t have much experience with, this is all new to me.

So, I have just returned from one of the best times of my life, a 6 day trek in the Himalayan range.  I had never seen mountains like this in my life.  My experience is with the small mountains of the East Coast, the Smokies and the Blue Ridge.  I’ve never even been out to the Rockies.  Once, I’d hiked to the peak of Jabal Katarina in the Sinai, peaking around 3500 meters.   This time here in the Himalayas was a very special experience.

We trekked from Tso Kar to Tso Moriri (Tso meaning “lake” in Ladakhi), 4 days of serious walking, we figure somewhere around 45 miles.   The hiking was strenuous and arduous, the air thin and difficult to breathe.  I can say one of the most challenging feats I’ve ever undertaken, yet also one of the most rewarding, both physically and mentally.  It feels like an amazing triumph.  At one point when I could hardly catch my breath, Dore said to me, “Gail, it’s not supposed to be fun.  It is hard; everyone is breathing heavy, even our guide.  The reward is once we get to the top.”  And, this was so true.

We started at about 4500 meters above sea level, in mountains of red, gold and green.  Even though it is very arid here, the snow melt allows for lots of growth along the mountain sides and in the valleys.  When you come over a pass, it’s like seeing an oasis; a valley of green pasture studded with grazing Nomad herds of yak, sheep, and goat.   As we got higher, the mountains transformed in color and contour.  The smooth sandy hills of red and gold converted to more rocky mountains of purples and blues.  Our first pass, Horlan Kongka La, was 4950 meters and gave me lots of confidence for the following day, when we would climb our two highest passes.  The achievement of each pass is acknowledged by a shrine of Tibetan prayer flags, usually adorned with the horns of an animal, Tibetan carvings, or the words of another trekker written in sharpie pen on rock.  Our second, and most difficult pass, was Kyamayur La, 5450 meters, at a very steep angle.   When we crested our third and highest pass, Gama La, 5850 meters, we were greeted with snow flurries and blustery northeast winds.   This felt like a remarkable accomplishment.  In our final pass, Yalang Nyau La, 5440 meters, we followed a babbling brook for miles, lined with walls of slate, and the river itself, laden with huge chunks of quartz and other mineral and gem stones.  It is stunning.  Gama and Yalang Nyau were more gradual climbs, not as steep as Kyamayur, allowing us to enjoy a little more, and work slightly less.  Each pass was so beautiful, offering different views of the glacier peaked mountains, different vantage of the valleys, and depending on where the sun laid, very different shadows and colors.

Our team was led by a wonderful 19 year old man, Tsultim.  He was a fantastic guide.  He’s from Leh and has been spending his summer’s guiding since he was 14.  He is currently an art student in Jammu, a city further west, and spends almost every day of his summer leading treks.  He is knowledgeable, fun, and sweet.  We really enjoyed him, and him us.  Our cook was a Nepali man named Pudna.  He has been cooking on treks for 7 years.  He works the earlier season in Nepal, and then finishes the trekking season in India.  And our pony man, Paldin, who is from Karzok, the town we ended at at Tso Moriri.  Six ponies for the two of us and the crew.  They carry all the camping gear, food, and fuel (20 liters).  We camped near a water source every night, so water is boiled daily.  The food was really good, a combination of Indian and Nepali, and all vegetarian.  After a couple of days, we finally convinced Tsultim and Pudna to start eating with us, none of this client-staff stuff.  I can imagine that they have clients who expect this, but not us.  We wanted them to be a complete part of our experience, which included eating together.  It wasn’t until the second to last morning that I discovered they were eating a totally different breakfast than us.  We were being given a “Western” version, eggs, toast, and cereal.  They were having curried rice and potatoes, something both Dore & I preferred, so the final morning we all ate the same thing.  Now we know for future treks.

So, future treks…I would come back and do the Indian Himalayas again.  We covered a very small area of a very vast range.  I am grateful that this was my first trek, and not the Annapurna circuit in Nepal, which we had originally considered.  That trek is much higher in altitude, and much longer in days.  I felt that for my experience and physical ability, this was perfect.  I have been very interested in a trek in the state of Uttarakhand, also in the Himalayan Range, to the Valley of the Flowers.  It sounds stunning and amazing, and is a part of the country I did not venture to.  All in the return trip I am planning back to India.

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Posted in nature, Spiritual, travel | 5 Comments »

Thank you, Cedar Point

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

I recently spent a night camping in Cedar Point, East Hampton, NY.  What a beautiful spot of the earth.  Camping in the woods, and a few minute walk to the beach.  Watched a gorgeous sunset and moon rise from opposite ends of Gardiner’s Bay.  Had a campfire and roasted marshmallows while listening to some great tunes.  My friend, Mary Beth, and I woke to do yoga on the beach the one morning we were there.  In her defense, she did make it into a perfectly straight headstand.  Way to go, MB.  I prematurely shot the photo and was not tech savvy enough to get the cell phone camera to the right place to take another shot.  I am working on both, learning to use a cell phone camera and my headstand.  If you are ever looking to camp on the east end of Long Island, this is the spot.

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