The Zanskar River Rafting Expedition

Trips

Our “special” yearly feature drives through most of western Ladakh, monasteries, palaces, villages, hikes and travel to one of the most surreal places on the planet. The trip begins with a flight over the Himalayas into the Trans-Himalayan region of Ladakh in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. We spend a couple of days in Leh town acclimatizing at 11,000 feet above sea level and visiting the ancient monasteries, palaces and villages around Leh. We then drive west of Leh past the town of Kargil and travel south into the valley of Zanskar, one of the coldest inhabited places on earth.

Starting the trip on the Stod river, we begin our self contained multi-day river adventure down the spectacular and scenic Zanskar river gorge. The trip takes you down the extremely desolate, remote and sheer Zanskar gorge with walls rising a few thousand feet out of the river bed, culminating on the mighty Indus river, (which incidentally lends India its name). Undoubtedly a classic, this journey to the last truly lost horizon of our shrinking planet – Zanskar, the “land of white copper” is a trip of a lifetime.

Day 01:
Fly Delhi – Srinagar (1500m ; 4920 ft). Transfer to our houseboat. Rest, hydrate and acclimatise. Overnight Houseboat. On a clear day, you could see as far as the Nun Kun massif. We land in Srinagar by noon and head off to catch a ferry shikara to our houseboat. Savour traditional Kashmiri cuisine and the flavour of staying on the lake. Trip briefing in the evening. Be prepared to be frisked a lot on this flight – this is a high security flight. Keep a pen and your passports handy – visitor’s registration is sometimes needed when we land at the airport. Overnight Srinagar.

Day 02:
Drive Srinagar – Kargil (205 km ; 3201m ; 10500 ft ; 7 hrs). Today, we set out after an early breakfast, the initial part of the journey from Srinagar to Sonamarg (85 kms) takes you through some of the magnificent vistas Kashmir is renowned for. We reach Sonamarg in couple of hours, take a breather here and marvel at the beauty of Sonamarg i.e. meadows of gold. The second section to Drass (62km)is where the landscape starts changing dramatically all the way till the famous Zoji La pass (11,640ft ; visitors have to get themselves registered to proceed further). With in an hour of crossing Zoji La, you would be at Drass. A few kms beyond Drass is the Drass war memorial, built in the memory of fallen soldiers in the 1999 Kargil war and a must visit for every traveler passing through this route. Our last section is from Drass – Kargil (58 kms), we reach by afternoon Settle into the hotel D’Zojila in a quieter part of town, have our last showers, and charge camera batteries. We are moving into a week of the great outdoors!

Day 03:
Drive Kargil – Rangdum (3964m ; 13,000ft ; 8-9 hrs). A spectacular drive past Panikar and Parkachik, with magnificent views of the 7000 metre plus Nun and Kun massif, hanging glaciers and large meadows. We drive till Rangdum Gompa (12,000 ft). From Kargil, the road runs south upto the Suru valley for 67 kms upto Panikhar. The Balti settlements along this valley are surrounded by lush fields growing a wide variety of crops and fruits ; the villages may seem rather untidy and in a state of disrepair. As we gain height the mighty snow capped peaks of Nun (23,410ft) and Kun (23,220 ft) begin to dominate the view.
The road swings to the east for 63 kms, past the last Muslim settlement of Parkachik, to the Buddhist Gelukpa monastery of Rangdum, sitting astride a small hill in the middle of a wide plain. An optional hike around the huge meadow. Overnight Camp.

Day 04:
Drive Rangdum – Remala (3635m ; 11,925ft ; 6 hrs). We drive to Remala, which is the starting point for the rafting trip on the Stod river, a tributary of the Zanskar river. Overnight tented camp.
The Pensi La (14,440 ft), which is the entrance to Zanskar is only 20 kms from here. We drive over the Pensi La (14,500 ft), which enables grand views of the Zanskar peaks at the bottom of which is the Drung Durung glacier that feeds the Zanskar river, 40 km below, into which we flow trip the next day.The road descends to the Stod or Doda river which it now follows past the well cared for Zanskari villages to Padum (90 kms), the capital of Zanskar. A little more than a large village, it has a surprisingly large Muslim population, mainly Baltis from the Kargil area, who have settled here since the mid 17th century.

Day 05:
Rafting expedition begins at Remala. Raft till near Karsha Gompa, near Padum. (3496m ; 11,466ft ; 4 hrs) We raft 30 km in 4-5 hrs which includes a break for lunch and hot beverages. We are surrounded by 6000 metre high peaks. River section today includes a Class II section, a good introduction for first timers as well as to the river in general. Settle into camp by afternoon, we can take an optional hike around Camp. For the energetic, a long walk to Karsha Gompa, is possible.

Day 06:
After a late morning start, we raft from Karsha up to Honyo / Pidmo (3361m ; 11,025 ft ; 3 hrs). This stretch is approximately 25 km with Class II and III rapids. Another easy day to get used to the river, the altitude and hone our paddling skills.

Day 07:
After packing camp, we raft 25 km to Nyerak (3286m ; 10,780ft ; 3 hrs) a Class III section. The gorge narrows in on the river – there is now a new rapid formed at the entrance to the canyon, by the making of the road, the dynamiting and also due to a fallen JCB ! This indeed is a Grand Canyon in its own right. We stop for the day to pitch camp in a gorge below Nyerak village.
Dislocator, Spanish Fly, many names for this new biggie!

Day 08:
Rest day at Nyerak. Take a hike to Nyerak village or relax under the cool shade of the willows at our Campsite. Wash up at the campsite stream and enjoy the day off.

Day 09:
Todays 35 km rafting section takes us from Nyerak to Lamaguru (3190m ; 10,465ft ; 6 hrs) through the core of the Zanskar A classic white water day with continuous Class III rapids, and a few Class IV rapid where the river squeezes between a gap of about 18ft. We stop for lunch near a huge waterfall and continue to camp at the confluence of Markha river with the Zanskar. Rock formations, spires and an amazing palette of colours add to the trip today. Camp.

Day 10:
We raft 40 kms of Class III/IV white water from Lamaguru to Nimu (3154m;10,345 ft ; 3-4 hrs) today. We raft past the village of Chilling and exciting rapids as the Zanskar plunges out of the canyon to meet with the Indus at Nimu. We end our trip at the confluence of the Zanskar with the Indus. Drive an hour back to Leh. Last minute retail therapy and a hot shower! Overnight hotel.

Day 11:
Leh Sightseeing. A visit to a few monasteries such as Shey, Thikse and Hemis will be arranged. Or choose to relax and walk into Leh town, to its exciting market and outdoor restaurants. Overnight Leh hotel.

Day 12:
Transfer to Leh airport. Fly Leh – Delhi. Trip ends.

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Trip Details

Location: Leh
Duration: 12 Days
Grading: Demanding
Departure 1: Aug 07 – 18, 2017
Departure 2: Aug 20 – 31, 2017

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