My last 24 hours in the UK was hectic. Large parts of it were spent packing and making sure I had the right kit, trying to cull anything that I really didn’t need. Laying all my kit out onto the floor I packed it into my bag, found not all of it fitted and so the process started again. At the same time there was a last-minute panic to locate some new trousers on having realised mine really were too short to be comfortable. After scouring a few shops for some, Craghoppers were able to get two longer pairs sent next day delivery to arrive three hours before leaving for the airport. With eight pairs in front of me I could select the ones that fitted the best (word of warning: some Craghopper models come out quite short despite what they are labelled). I can’t quite believe I left so much to the last minute, but it’s always the way.
My family and I set off for the airport hoping I had everything I needed. After quite an emotional goodbye to my family and girlfriend who have all been amazingly supportive over the past month I went made my way to the plane. Without an upgrade (I did ask), I was lucky to find a relatively empty flight giving me three seats to spread out on for the overnight flight.
Landing in hot Delhi I overpaid for a taxi to my hotel, falling for the ‘parking fees are expensive’ trick. After checking in I thought I’d walk to a friend’s house where I was to leave a small bag of hotter weather kit that I’ll collect on my way through. Google told me it was 6km away so I set off, but within 10 minutes I realised quite how hot it was. The dusty footpath kept me separated from the traffic racing along the dual carriageway but every turn I tried to make took me to a military base that I couldn’t walk through. I guess I’ll have to get used to meeting dead ends and having to find another route around! After an hour and a half, I still had 1km to go, but I’d run out of water and was a little worried about my lack of acclimatisation. I called an Uber!
My evening was spent catching up with Jamyang, my fixer for the Himalayas. It felt good to talk face to face about my expedition over a beer, and he provided some very insightful views on Independence and the Ladakh region I’d be starting in. Leaving his house at 11pm, I had less than four hours to catch some sleep before taking a (cheaper) taxi to the airport for my flight north.
I landed in the small town airport at 7am and was picked up by Namgyal, my guide for the first leg of the journey. I spent two days catching up on some sleep, acclimatising to the altitude and having a look about the area. Our first task was to secure a permit for the Nubra Valley where I’d be starting my journey. After numerous conversations with the permit office and the Indian Army we were not going to get permission to reach military controlled Saichen Glacier, the most northerly point on my journey. Instead, I would either be able to travel to Sasoma, some distance short or Turtuk, a village at the other end of the Nubra Valley close to the Pakistan border. Whichever I selected, I’d need a second tourist on the permit for which I’d have to wait.
While waiting, I took the opportunity to visit Thiksay Monastery, a gorgeously preserved building overlooking the Leh valley, a place my parents visited in 1976. It was great to have the opportunity to compare their photos with how the monastery looks now. Namgyal and I purchased some food for the trek and packed our bags in order to leave as soon as the permit was granted. A day later and we had everything we needed. Tomorrow morning we will set off over the Khardung La pass, one of the world’s highest motorable roads.
I’m eager to get underway. It’s been a long journey to get to the starting point complete with highs and lows, but I feel prepared. Some parts will be tough, some will be easier, but whatever happens, I am looking forward to the adventure. Onwards and upwards as they say!