Today was the second day of our trek, so we again started with a nice breakfast. Our host mother provided us with peanut butter, jam, and honey for chipote bread, plus she even cooked us omelettes. We were up bright and early to meet everyone outside to leave at 8:30, but we ended up having to wait an hour.
At the school SECMOL, they have their own timing called “SECMOL time”. This time is one hour ahead of “India time”, which is the time zone for the rest of India. Ever since we arrived in Ladakh, we had been planning all of our activities around SECMOL time, so we assumed that our meeting this morning would be 8:30 SECMOL time. It turned out, however, that it was 8:30 India time. This gave us some more time to take pictures of our homestay and hang out with our host mother, and I even bought a small snow leopard that she handmade as a gift for my family.
Once the rest of the group arrived, we set out on our “four hour trek”, which turned out to be more of a six hour trek. It was extremely beautiful, we got to see even more than the day before. The trek started off easy and downhill, but soon turned to going all uphill- because we would be climbing over one of the mountain’s peaks. This was made especially difficult because of the extreme heat from the hot summer sun coupled with the very high altitude that made it challenging to even breathe while standing still, let alone while hiking up a steep mountainside. While getting close to the summit, we would only be able to take a few steps before having to rest and catch our breath before moving on again.
When we finally summited the mountain, it was instantly freezing because of the wind coming over the peak. Despite the temperature, however, it was the most amazing feeling ever. The last hour or so of the trek were so difficult, I thought we would never reach the top. Once we got up there, however, our leaders Robbie and Liz surprised us all with Snickers bars to celebrate. Since we had been eating mostly lentils and chipote bread for the past week, that Snickers bar tasted like a five star gourmet dessert.
After we all took time resting and taking pictures of the Buddhist prayer flags on top of the peak, we began to trek again. It was all downhill, which made it easier, but we still had a long way to go until we’d arrive at our village for the night. Along the way, we stopped to eat fresh rhubarb from the ground and listen as Sandesh inspected the different scat found along the trail to tell us what kind of animal it came from.
Once we got to the village of Hemis, where we would be staying that night, we stopped to eat our lunch on a field filled with cows and tiny streams. After eating, we found out our roommates for the night and went to our new homestays. My group was staying in an amazing new homestay with electricity. We then had tea time and talked to each other about our day, then went up to the large Buddha statue on top of the village’s monastery. We stayed there for hours talking and bonding as a group, and it was an amazing end to very long and difficult, yet rewarding day.