Trans Himalaya 2019 – Padum to Nerak, July 14-15

After an intense 3 day crossing of the Kang La (5400m) from Lahaul to Zanskar I had indulged in some good food, recharged my powerbank, restocked my ration and slept nicely in an empty shop overnight. All set to explore many new passes in Ladakh while the monsoon was active in the lower Himalayas.Padum is a small town surrounded by vast open farmlands sprinkled with colourful flowers on the banks of the Zanskar river. I had breakfast in the first open shop and packed up 5 aloo parottas for the day ahead. I started off towards Zangla 30km away hoping to hitch a ride.The BRO is consructing a beautiful two lane highway and big bridges hoping to connect Leh and Zanskar shortening the current long route through Kargnil significantly. Similarly a wide highway is build between Zanskar and Darcha across the Shingo La providing a short cut from the Manali side.I was lucky and got three rides till Zangla: a mechanical defect JCB, the back of a BRO truck with workers from Jarkand and finally a swift ride in a family scorpio till Zangla. From there I hiked another 5K to the abandoned hamlet of Honia from where I hiked up in a right side valley towards the Namste La at 4490m.A clear trail ran through the side stream which had cut a deep gorge inside the orange coloured rock formations. Bushes of wild roses were giving a nice pink shade to the canvas. Further upstream the side valley became lush green with bushes, grasses and colourful display of alpine flowers.After a solid 1000m ascent out of the Zanskar valley I crossed the Namste La and dipped down into a smaller side valley on the left. Initially barren, soon a small stream formed and gave life to initially small bushes and further down bigger trees. A green oasis in the surrounding barren high altitude desert.Along the frequent used trail I spotted lots of cattle poop. Further downstream odd looking rock formations appeared at the top of the valley created by water flowing through highly erosive soil and rocks. I finally hopped across a small saddle where the valley joined a bigger stream and turned left.The stream was not very big but the water current was strong and fast flowing. Lots of melt water from the snow peaks early July. Eventually I would have to cross the stream to get into a right side valley towards the Takti La pass leading to Nerak village.The trail continued on the left side of the stream and in many places was damaged by land slides. I was able to continue my way until I found a nice campsite at a flat open area away from falling rocks. I gobbled up my yummy Padum parottas with home made chutney and slept off peacefully. The next morning I resumed my way downstream. The valley suddenly became a narrow gorge and the trail climbed up along the steep slopes. One had to climb across a few tricky sections to proceed further.The stream got squeezed into a narrow passage between the rocks and an increasing gradient resulted in fast flowing water current. At one point cairns marked a place where the stream had to be crossed. The speed and depth of the water seemed too dangerous to attempt a safe crossing.A tough call but I decided to take a U turn and return in August when the melt water would be less and I would be returning to Padum again via other passes. I hiked back upstream along the same trail and got back into the side valley towards the Namste La.Higher up while walking through the open grass lands above the stream I spotted a large herd of wild yaks grazing these furtile places in this desolate landscape. Now I understood why I had encountered so much of animal poop along the way. I crossed the Namste La a second time and hiked back down towards the Zanskar valley. Along the way I came across a wolf trap. A circular pit of rocks in which a prey is kept to attract wolves who jump into the enclosure unable to get back out.