Northern India – Himalayas to Delhi

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While the trek through Markha Valley was more about experiencing rural life in the Himalayas, relying on homestays, the 5-day trek from Tso Kar to Tso Moriri was closer to the other end of the spectrum. Not entirely at the far end, our self-reliance limited to setting up our own tent while horses carried the majority of the weight and our “guide” doubled as our cook, whipping up tasty meals (a welcome upgrade).

Being higher up and more remote, there were no permanent settlements; even the shepherds’ rough stone shelters were abandoned for the season, just a strange scattering of hoof remains and old shoes strewn across the spongey, waterlogged soil. Without trees or structures to anchor our frame of reference, the expansive valleys and towering mountains played with our depth perception. What seemed so close, just over there, turned out to be a four hour walk, necessitating breaks at the top of the 17,000’+ passes to enjoy the breathtaking views and our homemade “NutterButters.”

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One of the tame sections of the Leh-Manali road

From there, we continued south to Manali, enduring the grueling yet spectacularly scenic 18hr drive over two days, averaging a whopping 15mph. Finally arriving, we were more exhausted from staring at the perpetual abyss to our left and willing our tires to stay right, than the actual trek.

Manali and Rishikesh (which required another 14hr drive) were more about resting and recuperating than trekking. The lower the altitude, the hotter and muggier it got and the more lethargic we became. Hence, very few photos. In fact we spent very little time outside our rooms, deciding to do P90X yoga in the comfort of our A/C instead of an organized class in the ‘yoga capital of the world.’

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Sweating our way through the Red Fort in Delhi

By the time we reached Delhi, we were ready to take out the camera again, the iconic Taj Mahal being as good a reason as any. No matter how many pictures you’ve seen, it really is impressive in person. It was a great way to wrap up our whirlwind month in India, from the physical exertion in the striking yet unforgiving Himalayan landscape to relishing the simple comforts (pillow, mattress, hot shower) and monuments in the languid monsoon heat and humidity, all the while enjoying the hearty Mughali food.