This is the First Chapter of a series of posts about ‘how I got Leh’d’. In this series I have covered everything related to my Stok Kangri
Trek Expedition. Just to let you know that Stok Kangri is the highest trek-able peak in India. In a series of articles I have covered EVERY SINGLE ASPECT from planning, to mapping, to packing your rucksack and obviously the entire trekking experience. This Chapter 1 covers ‘How I had planned to get LEH’d‘.
Why Leh will always have a special spot in my memories? – solely because of the magically adventurous journey it had been. On that trip, the destinations never mattered because they meant the amazing journey was over. I am sure Leh-Ladakh has a special place in everyone’s heart who have been there, because the pictures do not do justice to the feeling of first-hand experience. However, the pictures do inspire and urge you to travel and that is how it turned out in my case. From the pictures of The Himalayas i saw in my father’s album when I was a child, to the time I could not stop googling about every peak and mountain in the Himalayas, I definitely heard them calling. And I will always be glad I answered it. But for the sake of context, you would need some backstory about AIESEC and Swiner Russi. One is the world’s largest student-run organization and the other is the Colombian who decided to mess with them all. Soon you will know why I said it. So, let’s start the story about how I had actually planned to get Leh’d and what followed…
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Little about AIESEC
AIESEC is a not-for-profit organization run by students from all over the world and aimed at providing social and cultural exchange opportunities simultaneously developing youth leadership by facilitating social development and professional internships. Interns can choose from a variety of projects all around the globe according to their preferences. I had taken such a ‘social internship’ to Russia in 2014 and I had so much to take away from it. Myriad of experiences, learnings, perspectives, cultures, friends, and memories…but above all, an innate exploration of the Self.
It was on this ‘social internship’ where I met Swiner. We were in the same project and team and spent the entire duration of 6 weeks together. Hence we became friends almost immediately and what bonded us the most was Football. We played the most beautiful game with Russians, watched the world cup matches, talked about all kinds of stuff, ate all kinds of food and had crazy fun times with the AIESEC group (which had 41 interns from 23 different countries). By the end of the ‘social internship’ we had practically become brothers. What I call an “Antipodal Brother” – brother from almost the exact opposite side of the world.
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Getting LEH’d – The Surprise!
Hence began the tale of our brotherhood and boy did he keep his word. He came to India the very next year for another “social internship” (volunteer work), only this time, in Delhi. When he told me about his plans prior to arriving, I made some of my own surprise plans for him. Firstly I had to go see him which I did and ended up staying at his intern apartment for a week (also self drove to Agra and Fatehpur Sikri for a road trip with the interns as they HAD to see the Taj Mahal) and once I broke my first surprise plan to him, he did not attend a single day of his internship henceforth (which obviously offended a lot of people; basically messed with them just for me :D). Just as I thought he abandoned it instantly when I told him I had booked us The Stok Kangri Expedition (9 Days | 8 Nights) in Ladakh of the Greater Himalayas! He was just intrigued and excited to hear “Himalayas”. Then the conversation went like:
Swiner – “How far from here?”
Me – “About a thousand kilometers. So two days”
Swiner – “How many days of trekking?”
Me – “Trekking, seven. And the first two days for acclimatization in Leh.”
Swiner – “How many kilometers on foot?”
Me – “About forty. Total.”
Swiner – “How many hours of walking per day?”
Me – “About six to seven. Might be double on summit day.”
Swiner – “Cool. What altitude?”
Me – Leh?
Swiner – “Yeah?”
Me – “3524 meters.”
Swiner – “In feet?”
Me – “Around 11,500.”
Swiner – “And what about the Stok Kangri peak?”
Me – “Perched in the Stok Ranges and standing tall at 6153 meters…a little over 20000 feet, it is the highest trekkable summit in India, the highest peak in Ladakh and we have to be there in 3 days!” I exclaimed dramatically.
Swiner – “Okayyy… Have you been on a trek before?”
Me – “No. But I have talked to Thrillophilia…the point of contact for our booking and they say experience is not mandatory for this trek.” [which I later found out was not entirely true since Trek the Himalayas ask for mandatory two prior treks above the altitude of 4500m or immense levels of fitness. (obviously Swiner won’t come to know this until he reads this post. 😛 Though even Thrillophilia mentions this on their website now.)]
Swiner – “So let me get this straight. You have booked a trek at 20000 feet and this is going to be our first trek? You sure it is not going to be our last?”
Me – “Come on. How bad can it get. Imagine the view from up there. It’ll be an experience of a lifetime. Think about the story you ge….”
Swiner – “It will be the last experience of our lives. But I am definitely still in so don’t have to be so dramatic. Just accept that you are trying to kill me %$#@&.”
Me – “Well at least we die together, @$%#&!” and we laughed it off.
Swiner – “I need the proper gear! We’ll go tomorrow. It is late now.”
Me – “Yeah! Let’s go to the mall!” I yelled in the Robin
Scherbatsky Sparkles style.
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Charting the route
Then he asked to see the route map and how I had planned to get us Leh’d (which I had researched). I drew it out on Google maps for him and he slept off counting the hairpin bends. The next day we got his backpack, trekking shoes, etc. (“proper gear”) in place and we finished with our packing by evening. We were immensely excited and set to leave very early the next day. But Swiner got a bit too excited by nightfall and convinced me to leave the apartment at 1 am. Yes, he definitely misunderstood “very early”.
Hence began a journey of a lifetime. So eventful that neither of us can forget it even if we tried (which would be a stupid thing to try anyway). Just reaching Leh in itself became an “expedition”. This is the route we actually ended up taking:
EXPECTATION ‘vs’ REALITY !!
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What Actually Happened
So a journey planned over a maximum of four stops became one with eight. Let me explain why such a difference. Why a journey that was supposed to be made in buses only, got distributed over buses, trucks, bikes, a little bit walking and a car. Well, I purposefully did not plan anything in detail to have an “adventure”. Should have been careful what I wished for. The surprise for Swiner could have ended as a shock. And of course, I was not the only one with surprises up my sleeve. The mountains are known for surprises and the altitude had a lot in store exclusively for me. That’s all in – How I actually got Leh’d (chapter 2 of this series).