Spituk - Stok
For our first trek at high altitude we decided to test ourselves with a brief 3 day hike in the Hemis National Park. This was a good way to see how difficult the route would be to navigate without a guide and to trial what would be necessary to carry in our backpacks.
Day 1 - We stated walking from Spituk village along the dirt road until we reached a large bridge decorated in prayer flags to cross the Indus river. Soon after the plains open up and you notice the commanding view of the Spituk mountain range surrounded by desolate terrain. The road runs alongside the Indus river and ends just passed Zinchan. It took us roughly 4 hours to cover 10 miles (16km) to reach a place to stay in Zinchan.
The homestay we found was peacefully tucked away on the side of a hill near a stream. It cost ₹1,000 per person per night including an evening meal, breakfast and a packed lunch. On arriving we were presented with copious amounts of a local mountain tea which must have had cinnamon in it as it tasted incredible! We were really well looked after as the family refilled our water bottles with filtered water and provided us with simple bedding to keep warm at night. Everything was very basic with an outdoor traditional Ladakhi toilet. This is simply a dirt hole that beneath it collects the waste which is combined with straw and soil thrown over the top of it; eventually to be used as fertiliser. A very eco-friendly composting toilet that adds to the charm of trekking!
Day 2 - We walked to the small village of Rumbak which was a very short walk as we arrived before midday. We found a great homestay for ₹1,000 each and had time to explore the village and spend time with some locals.
Day 3 - From Rumak to Stok you need to go over the Stok La pass (4,900m). It was a gradual accent up to the pass with a very steep incline for the last 2hrs. The trail snakes along the mountain edge until it flattens out at the top of the pass. Coming down the pass quite quickly was slightly troublesome as we experienced headaches and Damian suffered a nose bleed which isn’t common for him. We slowed down and took a break for our bodies to adjust to the change in altitude. This part of the trek was great to see bharal (blue sheep) as they occupy the steep sides of the gorge, but are very well camouflaged to the jagged rock face. The overall decent was roughly 1,300m to Stok where we then took a shared taxi back to Leh.
The trek was a great way to test our abilities in high altitude and navigation of the area. It left us feeling confident to tackle the Markah valley trail alone without a guide.
After returning back to Leh we decided to try some rafting on the Zanskar river which cost only ₹1,500 per person. The experience was excellent value for money as it included 3 hours of rafting over 35km, wetsuits, transport and lunch. The rafts held around seven to ten people and were much larger than I'd expected. We were quickly briefed on safety and simple paddle techniques then off we went. For the majority of the journey the river was steady flowing but when we came up against the intermittent rapids, that’s when the fun really began! Attempting to cut through the swirling pools of water around us, resulted in us all frantically paddling until signaled to stop and dive into the middle of the raft to take cover. It was an exhilarating feeling as water came flooding over and we could have easily capsized at any moment!