Ladakh : No Country for Women?!

I know, I am being harsh with the headline. After all, I had the most memorable roadtrip across Ladakh last week but the one aspect that left me sore about the trip was the lack of facilities for women.
Considering the huge flow of tourists visiting Ladakh between May to September each year, including families and solo female travelers, this is one let down area for female travelers transversing this terrain.
Things are okay if you are at your hotel or guest house in Leh city but you go beyond the city and you are in a spot. I traveled from Manali to Jispa to Nubra and beyond and the plight remains the same. Wether you want to go to a proper loo or if you have chums coming up, you are on your own.
So how does one survive or how did I manage through the journey?
Basically by depending on the not so great toilet facilities managed by shopkeepers in each small town you cross. Once you are in the outer regions of Ladakh, you will come to these small towns with handful of shops for tea, food etc. Next to each shop or behind it, you will see a small, square tin structure – that is the toilet. It’s managed by the respective shop owner and you can ask them for keys (they’ve built these toilets for their customers, so its okay to ask). They don’t keep the toilets open, so you will have to ask for the key.
Eg toilet picture below:
Makeshift toilet in one of the small towns

Makeshift toilet in one of the small towns

The toilets prepared by the administration are in such poor shape, that you might faint from a distance. Take the Khardungla Pass toilet facilities for example – best not to use it. Disappointing.
The second best option is to go behind the rocks but highly avoidable unless you gotto go. You will rarely find hotels in outer regions of Ladakh, so the toilets in small towns are your worst and best options. Or you can wait to get back to your hotel. If you are crossing Deepak Taal (lake), there is a nice makeshift toilet there, so do make a note of it :-)
There are some areas which are managed by the Indian Army eg Nubra. You can request them to let you use their services and they wont decline.
Finally, should you need to buy personal women hygiene stuff, sanitary napkins, tissue rolls and medicines, do it at Leh (there are quite a few good chemists at Fort road and Leh main market). You can also buy from Manali and keep them handy in your purse or rucksack. If you suffer from any medical condition, buy your medicines from Leh but keep all these handy because shuffling through your luggage last minute can be an issue.
Overall, this is a definite issue and I am not sure why the Tourism Ministry or Ladakh Development Authority done anything about it. Meanwhile, my advice is to be prepared and hope something will be done about it soon!

Fabulous Tented Accomodation : Chunka’s Camp, Hunder, Nubra Valley

Chunka's Camp, Nubra

Chunka’s Camp, #Nubra

Tucked in the Nubra Valley in Ladakh, Chunka’s Camp is a great budget accommodation. Clean, comfortable and warm, friendly staff, Chunka’s is a must stay.

Last week, me and my friends, did a 8 night/9 days trip in Ladakh. Now, if you’ve travelled Ladakh, you would know that its one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. The scenery changes with every turn and leaves you speechless with its splendour. Along the journey in this region, you will come across, many small towns that are a story unto themselves. One such town is Nubra. About 5 hours away from the main city of #Leh, Nubra is an oasis paradise. With sand dunes, double hump camels and lots of greenery, Nubra is a sight for the sore eyes.
We left our hotel in Jispa (transit town enroute from Manali to Leh) early morning and reached Nubra around late noon with couple of stops in between for tea breaks etc. It was a long journey and we were quite tired. All we were hoping for, was good accommodation and hot food! We had gone through series of experiences (some not so good), so we werent sure.
My first impression of Nubra valley, as we entered, was that of awe – a tiny, pretty oasis in the middle of the cold desert, Ladakh. Wow. Soon enough, we are down from the mountains and into the valley, where we stopped at our camp. The camp was well known in the vicinity, so locating it wasn’t an issue. Mobile networks dont work in most of Ladakh, so you have to rely on local guides and tips.
The stunning Nubra valley
Double hump back Camel rides at Nubra

Double hump back Camel rides at Nubra

As soon as we entered the Camp, the staff was ready and waiting for us. They quickly allocated our tents to us, which I have to say, were very nice (not the rickety type tents). These were built on cemented platforms, had proper wooden beds, thick beddings and an attached bathroom! I was quite impressed at the detailing including the extra blankets provided because Nubra can get really cold in the night.
We ordered for tea and it came quite fast and helped us stick to our schedule of checking out the sand dunes and camel safari. We spent a good amount of time at the Dunes and returned to the camp. The Camp staff had dinner ready (mostly Indian cuisine as we had requested) and the desset, a local Indian delicacy made of rice and milk called “Kheer” was awesome.  With a happy stomach, we carried on with our chatter and finally dozed off in the warm, comfortable beds. Most tented accomodations in such areas, dont provide wooden beds and thats really uncomfortable, so the wooden beds were definite contributors in us sleeping well.
Tented accomodation with wooden beds

Tented accomodation with wooden beds

Central dining room

Central dining room

Camp grounds, sit out for tea, coffee

Camp grounds, sit out for tea, coffee

At our request (we had to head onwards), we got breakfast and tea at 7.00 am sharp – all ready and tabled. A mix of cornflakes for health concious and aloo parathas for ones like me, who have to have a palate satisfying meal 😀 (aloo parathas are an Indian food item with potato and lots of frying)
Everything was perfect, except the fact, that you get hot water in a bucket  (so you have to wait a bit) and there is no network because of the region. You will have to get a BSNL number if you want calls/ data (BSNL is a government owned, telecom operator and the only operator in the region due to security reasons – Ladakh shares boundary with China)
Overall, its a great place to stay and its pocket-friendly too. You can get a tent with meals at about Rs 1000 to 1500 or even lesser, if you book in advance or negotiate. We stayed just one night but I would recommend staying in Nubra at least two nights. There’s a lot to see, its definitely a photographer’s delight and with camel riding and adventure sports, you can spend 2 to 3 days easily in this little paradise. Camp does not provide liquor, so you may need to carry your own (there are small shops in Nubra town but they may or may not have liquor)
My rating:
1. Location & scenery : 4.5/5
2. Camp aesthetics : 3.5 to 4/5
3. Service & staff quality : 4.5 /5
4. Food: 4/5
5. Accessibility (wifi, networks etc) : 2/5
Overall : 3.5 to 4/5
FYI : Chunka’s is on tripadvisor too and is easily reachable for bookings (via telephone).
I am definitely going back (with my book and songs playlist on the phone). Such bliss 😀
Keep traveling!
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