It is Monday, August 3, 2015. We are in Skyu after a long day of trekking and river crossing yesterday. I am feeling relaxed and relieved that we have almost reached the end. The rains continue to downpour on this high altitude desert. And the end of this trek will continue to elude us.
We are thinking about the school girls from yesterday, and whether they will be able to make it out of the village they’re overnighting at. More rains means high waters. It’s still quite a hike for them to Skyu. There is a guide with two young men here with us, who has decided to turn them back around due to the deteriorating trekking conditions.
This is it – the home stretch. We take our time, walking on a flat wide road for 3 hours. No more river crossings. I couldn’t be more thrilled. I take my time collecting pretty stones. There is such an overabundance of eye-catching stones – pink and green, tiny to over-sized. We reach Chilling at around noon, but the adventure is not over yet. We take rest here at a tea tent and have a snack.
We will be crossing the river in this little cable car suspended on ropes and hand-operated pulleys. But we have to wait our turn. There is a large group of trekkers here who is also crossing – one to two people at a time. Soon enough we’ll find out that this group is also aborting their trekking plans early because of the deteriorating trekking conditions. This is where we part ways with our pony man, and we are on our own with our bags. Talk is that the road on the other side is completely blocked.
Usually, we would be able to catch a taxi from here, but not today. So we sit here contemplating what to do next. My vote is to leave the bags here and return. Ravi is against that. So what do you want to do. We start to argue.
It’s hot. I am wondering about the group that’s crossing. What about them. They have a ton of luggage with them. Not enough people to carry it. Their bags are still being crossed over the river. We decide that I will stay and watch our bags on this deserted road next to the river with a mountain of stones behind me.
Ravi goes off toward civilization to see if he can find a donkey or a porter. I’m not sure how long I will be sitting here. At least there is still daylight outside. There is a group of men approaching from where we came from. It’s the guide of the other group with his porters who loaded me up into the cable car. He says, don’t sit next to the rocks. They might slide down. I said, you’re right, I didn’t think of that, and I move across the road closer to the river.
I wait not too much longer when I see Ravi coming with 4 young men. Strange, where did they come from. They were actually headed our way, toward the rope bridge when Ravi ran into them. They are here to work on the road and make some money. Ravi convinces them to help us tow our luggage to the nearest restaurant and homestay. They track back a couple hours just to help us. We will pay them later.
Walking this road, we see how bad the blockages are. Massive boulders, rock slides, mud slides, and wide crevasses in the road. This is a pure obstacle course.
We make it to the restaurant and try to figure out what’s next. Turns out we won’t be getting out of here tonight. Road is blocked. No vehicles can access. We will stay here for the night, and tomorrow we will be trekking some more – to get past the blockages and to finally catch a taxi.
It is the next morning and day 9 of this trek. There is a shortage of porters. Many people are stuck here. We will be towing what we can, but we need someone to help carry our heavy duffel bag. Ravi convinces one of the local men to help us. It will be another long day. Six hours long of nonstop trekking. I step ankle deep in mud. It looked solid. Felt like quicksand. Took my breath away. Now I’m wearing boots plastered with wet and heavy mud. No taxis in sight. I feel like we will be trekking all the way to Leh. Our porter is tired. He wants to quit. It’s too heavy. It’s too far. We bribe him with a raise.
We trek until we reach an area where we finally see taxi-buses, but they won’t take us. They are going into the national park to pick up clients stuck at Chilling. It’s starting to rain. Well what’s there to do. We wait. It’s getting cold and miserable. We are waiting along with the group of trekkers that we met at Skyu at the rope bridge. Their bus shows up. It’s about 4:30 p.m. now. And there we are. The only two suckers about to be left. Maybe we’ll be spending the night here.
Ravi gets the group’s guide to squeeze us in at the last minute in this little bus. The porters sit on the floor. Ravi and I share a seat in the back. I am eternally grateful to be in a vehicle out of here. We are in Leh in about an hour. It’s sunny again as if to reflect our uplifted spirits. It turns out that the group we hitchhiked with is staying at a hotel across the street from our homestay. So, it is a small world. We are just a few steps away from our room. I leave my muddy boots outside. They are nearly dry now. Soooooo looking forward toward a shower. Hopefully there is warm water.
And so, we emerged from this trek in one piece. Sitting in the sun feels so much more satisfying after a long journey home.
I hope you enjoyed this story just a little bit. Until next time!