Duration : 3 to 6 days
Trek grading : Easy to moderate
Altitude : Between 3474 to 4110m
Highlights : Rugged landscape that keeps changing colour and form. Excellent habitat for viewing wildlife, especially ibex and urial. Important cultural landmarks are Likhir and Ri-dzong monasteries.
Support Services : Homestays provide you with a comfortable room with clean blankets, and good Ladakhi food. You may wish to carry a sleeping liner. During the trek you may carry a bottle to refill water, seabuckthorn juice and snacks like dried apricots, nuts etc.
Clothing : A gore-tex jacket, good hiking boots, a wide brimmed hat, sun glasses and plenty of sun cream.
Emergency : Only basic facilities ale available on this route. Telephone facilities are available at Tarutse, Hemis-Shukpachan and Ang.
The village of Basgo lies at a distance of 43 kms from Leh. There are 36 households in the Tunglung area which lies above the larger village of Basgo. Five households here offer you the experience of Himalayan Homestays. The name Basgo (bull head) originates from the presence of a large boulder, shaped like a bull’s head.
The Basgo Castle served as a great fortress against many intruders during the 14th-15th century and is popular amongst the folk lores of ancient Ladakh. The fortress houses a 48 clay statue of Maitreya Buddha in the Chamba Lakang temple and a 28ft copper guild statue of Maitreya Buddha in the Serzang Lakang temple. Below this temple lies the Chamchung temple which is built in the shape of a mosque by the muslim queen, Gyal Khatun during the 16th century.
The fortress is an exemplary effort of community based heritage conservation.
Basgo has a high school and a health centrere. The village also has telephone connectivity to Leh. There is a regular bus service from Basgo to Leh.
Tarutse lies at an attitude of 3,527mts and Is within walkIng distance from the Likhir monastery.
There are about 25 houses in this village of which four houses offer Homestays.
The Likhir monastery is believed to date back to the 11th century. The Gyalukpa order was later established in the 15th century by Lama Lawang Lhotos. Likhir is one of the most active monasteries with 100 monks in residence. The Gonpa has a museum which houses a fine collection of old thankas.
As you walk up over the Chagatse pass (3,610mts) you see a lunar landscape which is good habitat for the Ladakh urial (wild sheep) and the mountains which are home to the endangered snow leopard.
There is a primary school and a dispensary in the main village of Likhir.
Yangtharg is a picturesque village located at an altitude of 3560 mts. Three houses located in the lower half of the village down by the Ulley stream where chosen for the Homestay Programme. These houses reaped no benefit from tourism, being cut off from the main road. The Homestay Programme started here in 2004. The village consists of 19 households of which three are involved in the Homestay programme.
The village surrounds are rich in Urial (wild sheep) and snow leopards and are occasionally visited by Dhole (wild dogs).
The famous Ri-dzong monastry belonging to the Gyalukpa order of Mahayana sect is located at a distance of 2 hours walk from the village. Built by Lama Tsultim Nema in 19th century, the Mandala and the Dukhang (assembly hall) are adorned by beautiful wall paintings of scenes from the life of Sakyamuni Buddha. Most of the village land is owned by the monastery and proceeds of the agricultural produce go to support the monks. The village has a primary school and a dispensary.
Ulley is a unique village with spectacular landscapes and friendly people. Situated at an altitude of 4,050mts, this is the highest village on the Sham route with seven houses.
Four of these offer Homestays and are surrounded by barley fields.
This village suffers high livestock losses due to both snow leopards and wolves. The village livestock holdings constitute yaks, dzos, horses, cows, donkeys, sheep, and goats. Despite heavy livestock losses to predators, the villagers have made a commitment not to take retaliatory action against these endangered animals in return for being a part of the Homestay
This village offers the unique opportunity of wildlife viewing. The mountains are home to marmots, ibex, snow leopards, and a variety of migratory birds during summer months. Those interested in spending an extra day can visit a small holy lake in the high pasture above the village. This lake is surrounded by a marmot colony.
Hemis-shukpachan is known all over Ladakh as the village blessed with sacred Juniper trees. Juniper leaves were used widely as incense in monasteries and the number of Juniper trees in Ladakh declined over the years. The village community has made a detailed plan to protect the last standing trees around the village.
Hernis-shukpachan is a big village with 140 households, of which four homes offer Homestays. The village has a high school and a medical centre. Apricots and apples are grown in the village.
Above the village lies the Dakmar hill (meaning “red rocks”) where there is a hermit’s abode. The Rinpoche and the monks from the Ri-dzong monastery are known to retreat here for meditation.
The hills to the south east and south west are a good urial habitat.
10% of the Homestay proceeds go to a village conservation fund that supports activities like garbage management, tree plantation, better animal husbandry practices, restoration of cultural features like mani (prayer) walls. Parachute Cafés are cafes under tents run cooperatively by village women. They rotate duties; two or three serve visitors each day while back in the village their household work is performed by their team mates.
Emphasis is placed on environmentally friendly practices, including good garbage management, the use of natural gas and kerosene for cooking instead of scarce firewood or yak dung, and the sale of pressure-boiled, filtered water to minimize use of plastic mineral water bottles, which end up littering the landscape.
Garbage management : There are many initiatives to clear garbage from the villages and send cans, bottles etc. to Leh for recycling. You can help local conservation efforts greatly by reducing the garbage that you generate on the trek and by also carrying back the garbage that is unavoidable.
Insurance : Families now get their livestock insured against predator-related loss. Half of this insurance is paid for by the family and the other half comes from the village conservation fund.
Predator proof Pens : SLC assists herders to predator proof their livetsock pens. For every pen that is reinforced in this way, five or more snow leopards can be saved.
Solar boiled water : This is spring water collected fresh from the mountains and boiled in a solar cooker. It is pure, hygienically prepared, 100% safe to drink and does not waste precious fuel resources. It also helps reduce litter in the surroundings — no excess plastic bottles!
Solar shower : For a steaming eco-friendly shower along the trek, 4 be sure to stop at the solar showers along the way. This is an alternative to bathing in the river, which pollutes the water for those using it downstream. Look out for the showers at Sku Kaya
Tree plantation : Villagers have planted willows in cordyred off areas to help the greening process in the region and create a healthier environment.
Grazing regulations : Villages have laid down regulations to prevent over-grazing by livestock and save some pasture area for wild mountain herbivores.
-Educate yourself about the ecology, customs and culture of Ladakh.
-Respect the sanctity of holy and historical from smoking and loud talk.
-Do not make a public display of affection.
-Do not wear revealing clothes like short skirts and sleeveless tops.
-Respect the privacy of your hosts.
-Do not sit on the choktse (Ladakhi table).
-Keep all pollutants away from streams.
-Ask permission to photograph people and cultural features.
-Do not stick your finger or spoon in any vessel.
-Do not use the serving spoon to taste food.
-Drink spring water or solar boiled water when available. Avoid buying plastic –water bottles as far as possible.
-Use solar showers for bathing.
-Generate minimum garbage and carry back garbage that is unavoidable.
-Take back happy memories, leave only foot prints behind!
The village of Ang lies at an altitude of 3,500mts and is the Iast village on the trek route. There are 27 households in this village and it lies above the larger village of Timosgang which is known for its fort from the 14th century.
Timosgang castle served as one of the capitals of Ladakh in the 15th century under the rule of Graspa-Bum. Though most of the castle is in ruins, three temples remain and continue to be used. The Red Temple is a two storied structure housing a fine 8m high, image of the Maitreya Buddha. In another temple is the famous statue of Avalokiteshvara (Bodhisattava of Compassion) and is believed to have divine origins. it was brought here from the state, of Assam. This fort is one of the significant pilgrim sites in Ladakh.
The main crops of the village are wheat and barley with a few pea. and vegetable crops. The villagers also practice animal’ husbandry for milk and wool. Donkeys, dzos and mules are used as beasts of burden. The turd from the sheep and goats are used as valuable manure for the fields. Most of the agricultural produce is organic.
Ang has a primary school and shares the health centre with Timosgang. The village also has telephone connectivity. This village is connected by road and has a regular bus service to Leh.
Snow Leopard Conservancy, India is a Iocal NGO working in trans-Himalayan regions of Ladakh, Zanskar and Spiti for the conservation of the highly endangered snow leopard in India. The programme is dedicated to the conservation of mountain ecosystems through a community based approach. It focuses on building local stewardship through community based eco-tourism, education, research and improved animal husbandry practices that are specifically linked with snow leopard conservation.Although a new organization, SLC India has achieved distinction with its innovative highly participatory approach. A few of the programs that SLC India has initiated are:
-Established the Himalayan homestays program in Ladakh and Spiti
-Trained over 90 homestay providers at 15 sites in Ladakh and Zanskar and 31 providers at five sites in Spiti. Of the average of 500 visitors annually, 91% have rated the host service as excellent.
-First ever fully sustained livestock insurance scheme initiated in Ulley village. The majority of the village’s large able-bodied livestock have been insured against predatory animals and other accidents.
-Community led conservation drives in villages that include restoration of village cultural features, garbage management, ban on the sale of plastic bottles, fencing of tree plantation areas and setting aside pasture areas.
-Predator-proofed corrals that directly benefited 300 odd families. This prevents incidents of multiple predations where 20-50 or more sheep are killed at a single time.
By opting for a Himalayan Homestay, you help local people generate income from tourism activities in their areas. This additional income helps in many ways:
*offsets livestock losses caused by snow leopard and other predators
*increases local communities stake in conserving wildlife
*supports local conservation actions that protect cultural and natural heritage