Trans Himalaya 2019 – Markha valley, July 21

I woke up early morning from a good night’s rest on the portico of Kaya gompa, first village in the Markha valley after a two day cross over from Lamayuru. The village had a small solar farm so I could charge my powerbank and phone for the journey ahead.A dirt track runs through the initial part of the Markha valley and new power lines are being put up to electrify the valley. Lush green farm lands surround the many villages which are irrigated from the Markha stream. Some homes have a nice little veggie garden, some even put up a green house to grow veggies in the cold climate.After a while the jeep track fades out and a frequently used trail (by hikers and villagers) continues upstream sometimes crossing the river. Mid July the water flow of the Markha stream is moderate and can easily be forded. Goods are transported using horses and mules to the villages. Being a popular touristic destination one can see many home stays in the valley. Standard rate appears to be 1200Rs for dinner, night stay, breakfast and packed lunch. Power is available in most homes through solar panels. Some homes put up solar water heaters for the guests.Cafes and restaurants can be identified using a white tent sheet where the hiker can take a break in the shade and enjoy cool drinks and food along his journey. Many of the local people who are farming have a home stay or cafe as additional income during the summer season.Horses are used to carry camping gears and food for the many hikers trekking through this scenic valley organised by agencies from Leh. Usual trek itinary starts from Chilling and ends at Chogdo.High rising steep, barren orange shaded rock formations border the valley on both sides. Inside the valley one finds bushes and small trees and green farm lands nearby the villages. One passes the small hamlets of Kaya, Skiu, Tsarik, Nakding, Sara, Chaluk, Lhato Marpo, Thinles-Pa, Thongyek, Markha, Homalung and Hankar.Markha spots a nice Gompa on a hill which overlooks the village below which is like a green oasis in the high altitude rock desert. In the next village of Homalung a large hiking party has pitched up tents and are chilling out beneath the shady white tents of the cafes.I reach the last village of Hankar by evening and enquiry for dinner and packed rottis for the journey ahead crossing over the Zalung Karpo La to Dad village. A kind gentleman agrees and invites me into his home stay. I meet up with a German and three Israelis who are staying over at the same place.All guests are gathered around the cooking stove sitting on the floor on carpets behind small tables in the living room. One wall has a beautiful display of kitchen utensils. The host serves tea and rice and chaval for dinner. We have a long and interesting conversation on the history and functioning of the army of Israel.The Israelis are traveling for 9-10 months in India and South East Asia. A usual habit after their mandatory army service started by previous generation. I bid goodnight after dinner and settle down in my bivy outside the home stay behind a star dubbed night sky