Lungnak Trek in Zanskar: Day 2 – Dorzong to Surley

Today’s trek should have been from Pipula to Purne/Khangsar but you already know the story of how we are adjusting, adapting the Lungnak Trek to our needs. We’ll make camp at Surley tonight unless we collapse before that. Which we did and ended up camping in a farmer’s bean field!

Two very long uphills, two small uphills. Along the fast-rushing grey river filled with glacial melt; at times so close, I was tempted to throw my overheated body into the freezing water. A trekker with a sense of humor took time to spell out “love” in stones. Above the river. Through a quite beautiful gorge that I was too tired to photograph. Across rivers, streams, a shaky bridge. Ready to drop even though we no longer carried packed lunches since we’re too exhausted to eat on the trail and they just added extra weight to backpacks. Finishing around 1:00-2:00p was perfectly fine to eat lunch then. And, forget the chocolate bars. They were nothing but a sticky, oozing mess thanks to abundant sunshine.During the heat of each day we’d ask Stanzin if we could leave rain gear behind and each day, he’d answer “No.”

love along the Tsarap River in Zanskar

a very scary bridge crossing on the Lungnak Trek in Zanskar


Locals were on the trail driving yaks to new pastures. Occasionally, a yak would break off from the herd, head for a steep uphill and one of the women would run up the slope after it as if it was nothing while we stood and gasped for air.

taking yaks to higher pastures in Zanskar

baby yaks look like shaggy dogs, Zanskar


Stanzin #1 asked if we knew what a round circular stone enclosure next to the river was. “To keep livestock in?” “No. A wolf pen.” Wolves are plentiful in the region and to keep livestock safe, locals build a high, circular stone wall wolf pen with bait inside. The wolves can get in but not out! You can guess what happens to the wolf…

a wolf pen in Zanskar


We were on the trail before 7:00a this morning but the 11 kilometers/7 miles still took us close to six hours. Stanzin #1 kept saying, “Just a little farther to camp, just a little farther.” We’d look and see nothing. Eventually we rounded a corner of the trail and there were our horsemen and crew lifting all the gear onto a plateau. They had to literally push and pull us up into a huge, cultivated field with a grassy area in front. I immediately created a faux pas by heading into the field with purple flowers to pee. Big “no-no.” Stay out of this farmer’s field of beans and spices. Like I would know those purple flowers waving in the breeze were beans? Do I look like a Zanskari?

bean plants, not wildflowers, in Zanskar


With no shade anywhere on the plateau and nary a rock to hide under, we had to lie in the tent that was a whopping 50C/120F inside. It’s a wonder we weren’t instantly mummified. We lay in a pool of sweat watching hawks circling, landing, taking off again, from a nearby mountain. Obviously, their home.

hawk circling against the vividly blue skies of Zanskar


We have never eaten so much fried food in our lives. Everything was fried. Fried this, fried that. Cook Baikaji would pour a ladle of grease into a frying pan just for the eggs! A typical dinner would have two kinds of potatoes, fried breads, and pasta. Even so, we lost a ton of weight that took no time to regain at home. I can always tell when I’ve lost weight on trek. I begin dreaming of food!

Will we make it to the famous Phuktal Monastery? Right now, I have my doubts….


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