On Our Markha Valley Trek, The Ladakhi Women Led the Way
by Manjula Raghavendra
The Markha valley trek in Ladakh was a soul-warming experience for a few different reasons. While there were many reasons that contributed to a wonderful Himalayan experience for us, the most compelling of them all was the fact that we had an all women team leading and assisting us. The Joie de vivre they shared with us over the eight days was very infectious.
We were very excited to be enjoying a small part of the Himalayan Mountains with these young girls who were the epitome of resilience and strength. It didn’t matter what challenges the weather or the trail had in store for us each day, they rose up to the challenge and were very well equipped to handle it with a smile. Raging river water, fallen bridge, a broken shoe, fallen tree, didn’t seem to deter them even for a moment.
Each evening after a daylong hike, we would sit around the dinner table or sometimes on the floor and listen to their stories. Stories that were filled with laughter, joy, pain, sorrow, family loyalty, dreams to be realized, love for the mountains, etc. The common thread that was evident through most of their stories was that they let compassion be the epicenter and compass of their journey.
One such porter was a young girl named, Dechen, who represents India in women’s ice hockey. She was using the income from carrying bags for hikers towards her and her teammate’s gym membership. She aspires to train and coach young girls in her village to play ice-hockey.
After having a wonderful experience with a Ladakhi women-led trekking, I am convinced that women are an integral part of the tourism industry and are here to stay.