What is A Typical Camping Day in Ladakh?
Perhaps you’ve never camped before. Don’t laugh. My first camping experience didn’t take place until I was in my 40’s and talk about green. What did I know about outdoor pooping etiquette or anything else for that matter!
Daily Camp Routine: Hot water for washing and morning tea/coffee was brought to your tent at an agreed time by the always smiling Baikaji. Drink, wash, dress. Easy, since one pair of shorts, one t-shirt, underwear, hiking socks and boots could have sufficed for the entire trip with a little washing along the way. Pack up sleeping bags, and gear. Eat breakfast. Stanzin #1 took down our tent. Camping in Ladakh is non-participatory, just the way I like it. Your crew cooks, cleans, makes camp, breaks camp while you sit on a little camp stool watching. They have their routine down to a science and any attempt to help just disrupts their momentum; believe me, we continually offered to help. Then, stuff all gear on top of, and inside the 4×4.
Hit the road, eat packed lunch made by cook. Or begin trekking, eat packed lunch made by cook.
Arrive at new camp site by car or feet. Everything must be unloaded from the 4×4. Cook tent (crew sleeps inside at night), our tent erected. Coffee/tea, biscuits (cookies) served by Baikaji who then began chopping up a storm, fired up the propane burners, and preparing dinner. You, Ms/Mr pampered trekker, arrange duffels, etc., inside tent, make comfy and cozy. Stanzin #2 assists Baikaji, sets table for dinner.
Dinner, go to sleep. Repeat each day with slight variations.
Toilets: It appeared that there is no proper toilet etiquette in Ladakh. The high altitude camps were usually barren with nary a boulder or tree to be found and tour operators usually don’t bring toilet tents with. Ladakh is one big high altitude desert. Hard to believe, but it is. Make an announcement that you are going to pee or poop. Group, camp crew looks away. Walk a proper distance, face butt to the least exposed view and do your business. Try to cover “business” with small rocks (if there are any). Try to bury toilet paper. Seemed like a losing battle when there was yak shit on all sides of your feet! Pit stops were easier along the road with boulders to squat behind.
Camping Equipment: Lobsang, SkyWalker Travels, supplied all the camping equipment including toilet paper (we went through rolls of it) and heavy foam mats to place under sleeping bags. We brought sleeping bags rather than renting in Ladakh but that is certainly an option if you choose not to schlep a sleeping bag. True story about our first Nepal trek. No one ever told us that mats/air mattresses are necessary. Duh… One week of attempting to sleep in a sleeping bag placed directly on cold ground was a fast learning experience. Now, Therm-a-Rest self-inflating air mattresses come with us if the tour organizer doesn’t supply good quality mats/mattresses.
Trekking/Hiking Clothes: This is the most important bit of advice I can offer on the clothes situation. Stanzin #1 insisted we carry rain gear and warm jackets in backpacks with us daily. Even though daytime temperatures were hotter than blazes. Always remember, mountains make their own weather and do as he advises.
Food and Water: We bought bottled water until that was no longer feasible then switched to boiled water, and always carry a bottle of iodine tablets for emergency purification if necessary.
Baikaji wasn’t the world’s best cook. He did his best which, considering cooking at an altitude that ranged from 11,000-13,000 feet above sea level, was pretty darn good. I should write a cookbook called, “The Ladakhi Diet: Eat Greasy Foods, Carbohydrates and Lose Weight.” Really!! Everything was fried. Fried breads for breakfast. Eggs fried in a full ladle of cooking oil. Fried vegetables. Fried mo-mo’s. Fried, fried, fried. Bread, pasta, potatoes then repeat. Bread, pasta, potatoes. A typical dinner would have potatoes and pasta.
I have genetically high cholesterol, take meds for it and had a Doctor’s appointment to test cholesterol levels when we returned from Ladakh. I sat, holding my breath, awaiting the test results. Ta-da… my levels dropped. The Doctor’s jaw dropped when I told her how I lived on fried foods and carbohydrates for three solid weeks. Whatever works, right? You’ll never starve on trek. You’ll never gain weight on trek.
Sanitation: Cleanliness is next to Godliness when trekking with a reputable tour operator. Steve and I have never gotten sick on trek. Our crew of three was constantly washing, sanitizing, rewashing and cleaning again; both the food, dishes, utensils and themselves. We were two skanks. They were immaculate.
Now you know…ready, set, go…