We have zeroed in on the Zinchen (Jingchan) to Stok trek. We are going to do this in 2 days, though, this is usually done in 3 days (I realize later why!).
The plan: We will drive from Leh to Zinchin via Phey village. Zinchen is a base camp for a number of treks and about 2 hours away from Leh by car. From Zinchen we will trek for 5-6 hours to Rumbak village where will stay overnight. The next day we will trek for about 10-12 hours to Stok La (4950m) and then head towards Stok village base camp.
To Zinchen: We leave the guesthouse at 9.00 am after breakfast, all we need packed into 3 knapsacks (for 5 people). We meet our guide Tashi who is from Sikkim. We leave behind the town, driving along the Indus river and cross Phey village after about an hour. We cross vast stretches of desert with dust and the burning sun glowering on those who have chosen to hike through this. I am glad we are driving instead.
We head off: There are several tents and horses here at Zinchen, with a number of treks making this the start point. It is about 11.00 am and we head off between the gorge like mountains. The terrain is mostly a rocky climb with narrow loose gravel paths when crossing mountains. It is sunny and we tire in half an hour because of the heat and altitude. A rest stop is in order where we drink some water and pop in some candy for a sugar boost before we are off again. Progress though slow is steady; we stop every now and then to admire the mountains and cross small streams.
Camp Lunch: After about three hours we arrive at a small tent in the middle of nowhere. This is a stop-point for trekkers to refill their tummies and water bottles. Of course they serve hot maggi-and we order 5 servings without any delay. I wash my face in the nearby stream and we refill our now empty bottles. The mix of fellow travelers is interesting- people from Australia, Germany, Israel, Czech and Hungary. But no other Indians! We exchange stories. The German lady tells us she has visited Leh several times. The Czech and Hungary group are out for 10 days all on their own, each carrying 35 kilos on their back. The Israelis are out on a break from school. It is soon time to be on our feet.
Recharged from our break we walk faster. The terrain slowly becomes flatter and more scenic. The air is cooler too. We reach Rumbak at about 4.00 pm. It is a small village of about 10-15 homes made of stone and wood. We talk to the villagers about the “home-stay” option. They allocate us two different homes and we go with the respective families.
Rumbak, home-stay: The family myself and Sanjay are staying with are relatively well to do. They have a separate room for guests on the terrace. It is clean and comfortable. The lady serves us tea and we settle in for the evening. The rest of the gang comes over too; we chat while stretching our legs and flexing toes to relieve aches and pains. Looking out of the window we see sheep and yaks. Sanjay and Rahul head off to explore. They come back and tell us that the villagers grow wheat and also use wind power. In turn, we also use the typical Ladakhi toilet- basically a hole in the ground where you do your business and throw in some mud! Dinner here is served early at 7.00 pm. The lady of the house brings us rice, dal and cabbage. We eat and prepare to sleep. I load on a couple of quilts on me but don’t feel very comfortable. Every now and then I look out of the window to the prayer flags fluttering furiously in the cold. It is quite some time before I manage to sleep to the sound of the wind raging outside.