We reached the village and alighted the bus. A tiny board clearly indicated the start of the Stok Kangri trek. We followed our trek guide Tashi. In the first few steps, I knew that walking with such a heavy bag, will not be easy but now I had no option. The trail starts along a stream. Behind us was the Leh city, while in front of us, all we saw were huge mountains. Stok Kangri was nowhere visible from where we stood. Initially, I thought the tiny stream would be the Indus, but I was soon corrected. It was just one of the many streams that flow from the glaciers. We were to cross many of them during the course of the trek. This was good, as it meant that we would not require too much water to be carried along with us. We could always fill up our empty bottles from the adjoining streams. However, drinking water from these glacial streams was a challenge as the water was ice cold. Pro-Tip: One should not drink the water from the glacial streams directly, as it would cause a cough and throat aches. Instead, keep the water in your mouth for sufficient time, until it is warm enough to gulp it down the throat. This is difficult at first, but once you get a hang of it, its fun.On the trail, we saw an ominous looking board, "If you can cross the river, you don't need to climb the pass". I had no clue what that meant. The stream was still quite small, and one could cross it quite easily. Yet, our guide - Tashi, did not seem interested in crossing it. Soon, we saw a might hill and a steep ascend to pass through it. While I struggled to make my way to the top of the hill, I could see people crossing the river and walking along the river bed. Why we crossed the pass instead of the stream I am not quite sure. However, from the top, we got some amazing photos and that was my takeaway. Good photos is a result of great effort. On the trek, it was the promise of some awesome photos, that helped me carry through many steep climbs.
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The last one on our list was Stok palace. To get to the service center in time, we would have had to skip Stok. Since it was on the way back, I suggested that we do a flying visit. But I changed my mind seeing the long flight of stairs leading up to the palace. It would take more than thirty minutes to go and come back and we didn't have the time. Since we had come all the way, Azal felt it didn't make sense to not enter the palace. We got into a bitter argument at the end of which, he went ahead and I waited near the jeep, cooling my nerves with a stroll down the village. From Stok, we went straight to the service center which was closed, just as we feared. The fight continued. So when I visited the Shanti Stupa, Azal refused to come with me.