Let’s not fool ourselves. Of course, you can go to Ladakh and visit the Buddhist gompas and stupas. Of course, you can go to Ladakh and spend 3 to 10 days on a yoga and meditation course. And of course, you can go to Ladakh to be massaged and rubbed as much as you want - and even attend courses to learn massage, chakra manipulation and acupuncture. But in truth, if you decide to go to Ladakh, it’s to trek.
Ladakh is the paradise of trekking: it offers almost endless possibilities of trekking, from one/two days, to twenty days and even more - at any level of difficulty and in every season. All in a terrific landscape.
Now, for those that know us a bit better, you may remember that in order to convince Mathilde to come to Alaska in Summer 2008 (particularly after having spent our Summer 2007 in Iceland) I had to promise her that we would have spent our next three vacations in warm and sunny places, and that we would have slept in proper beds.
Now, Summer 2009 was at the Aeolian Islands*, so the criteria set by Mathilde for our vacations were fully met. Our vacations during Christmas 2009 were in Kerala**, so Mathilde’s criteria were met in this case as well. But we haven’t had yet the ‘3-vacations-in-a-row-in-a-warm-and-sunny-place-sleeping-in-proper-beds’ as our pre-Alaska agreement required. When we moved to India Mathilde was already dreaming the Maldives, or Thailand, or Bali as destination for our Summer 2010 vacations.
How thus I managed to convince Mathilde to come trekking to Ladakh instead of going to the Maldives (and actually having her enjoying it)?
Convincing argument number one: Ladakh is actually a warm place. The argument which I used to convince Mathilde that Ladakh is actually a warm place is that the feeling of cold does not depend on the absolute temperature, but on the relative humidity. In other words, 10-15 degrees under the rain (all references to Iceland and Alaska are purely accidental) are much worse than 4-5 degrees in a dry place. And Ladakh, it’s true, is on the Himalayas at 3,500 m asl and above - but it is also possibly the driest region in India. It’s true, temperatures can drop close to zero overnight (depending on the altitude), but Ladakh in summer is ‘monsoon-free’.
Convincing argument number two: you won’t have the burden of carrying your backpack. Those that know me well know that I belong to the ‘bring-only-what-you-can-carry and carry-only-what-you-need’ school of thought. Which basically means two t-shirts, two pairs of socks, and two underpants (independently from the length of the trek), a sleeping bag, a tent, dry food and nothing more - as I well know that every additional gram in the bag will eventually end up on my shoulders.
Now, even those who know little about women psychology (well, is there anyone who know much about women psychology?) can easily understand that the principles of this school of thought do not fulfil women’s needs - who basically could not care less about playing Indiana Jones during their vacations.
So, during my negotiations with Mathilde about Ladakh I agreed to rent donkeys to carry our backpacks. And this has drastically changed the comfort of our trip. Because one thing is to sweat under your 10-12 kilos backpack at 4,000 m asl for 6-8 hours/day. And another thing is to comfortably walk with your day-backpack only.
Convincing argument number three: I promise you we’ll have a minimum of comfort. Nothing against the dry food (actually the one we bought for Iceland and Alaska was pretty good) and sleeping in a tent (you know how much I am attached to my little high-altitude super-technical yellow tent) - but I agree: if you walk 6-8 hours/day for three, four, five days, and at the end of each day, when you are tired and hungry, you have to pitch your tent (perhaps when it is cold or under the rain - all references to Iceland and Alaska are purely accidental), cook your own dry food, etc. ... well, I understand that starting from the third day, if not earlier, your tolerance drastically decreases, and the risks of accusing your boyfriend/husband of all the troubles in the world exponentially increases.
Well then, together with the donkeys we also hired a cook!***.
Under these conditions, not only it can be argued that trekking in the Himalayas and sleeping in a tent can meet Mathilde’s criteria, but it can actually be a very pleasant experience!
(**) http://www.matteoandmathilde.org/2010/01/back-from-kerala.html and following posts.
(***) More on the cook and the rest of our team in one of the next posts.