This was a trip that didn’t go according to plan. We arrived on the 3th August with the intention of trekking from the Nubra valley to Phyang, taking a short break then continuing maybe down the Markha valley.

In the first few days we wandered around Leh and Leh valley and drove to Tak Tok and Chimre monasteries.

On 6th august a massive cloudburst in the mountains north of Leh caused mudslides that washed away the lower part of Leh town near the bus station and many houses near Choglomsar, the Tibetan village. Leh was completely cut off, roads and all telecommunications were down for several days and there was flooding and loss of life in many areas including the Markha valley. Had we been on trek as planned we’d have been at the centre of the cloudburst.

After a couple of days we and other foreign trekkers made our way out to the villages damaged by the floods, we spent most of our first week digging out nunneries, hospitals, schools and houses that had been filled with mud, often to a height of four feet. We worked as a chain gang, digging out the mud and carrying it away on flour sacks. It was a race against time, as the water drained away the mud dried out and became as solid as the mountainside it had once been. Bodies were trapped under the mud, people lost entire houses and many were damaged beyond repair. Once the mud could no longer be dug out of houses the army started to take over the heavy lifting.

For several days our tour operator, Wangchuk Kalon of Snow Leopard Trails, was waiting anxiously for news of his trekkers who were out in the mountains. It took over a week for trekkers to make their way back to Leh and for some time it was unclear what damage had been done on the trails. While we waited for more news we drove north over the Kardung La and spent a few days around Nubra which had been unaffected by the storms. Returning to Leh it seemed that only safe trekking option was from Zinchen to Shang, a short route parallel to but east of the Markha valley.

After the trek we put some bikes on a truck and drove to the Chang La and cycled down towards Pangong Tso, the lake that, since the India/China war in the 1960’s, is now two thirds in Tibet and close to the disputed border. At least that was the plan. But I came off my bike while attempting to take a video and spent the afternoon in the field hospital near the lake getting bandages on knees, elbows, stomach, back and face. The bandages on my arms were so tight I couldn’t feed myself. Highly amusing. Nonetheless we managed to get to Pangong Tso, beautiful in the late afternoon. Then back to Leh.

We learned later that the floods downstream were far worse, the Indus flowed into Pakistan where 20 million people were affected and 2000 killed.