Day 2, Thungri to Chang La
Trek duration: ~6 hours
Trek route: Thungri – Khudumbara – Thinchum – Chang La
Gradient: Gentle ups and downs for the first 3 hours till Khudumbara. Moderate to steep climb for 45 minutes to Thinchum. Another hour to reach Chang La from Thinchum through level terrain except for a short 15 minute climb.
Altitude: Steady gain in elevation from Thungri (3200m) to Chang La (3760m)
Turned out to be a late start to the day. We met 3 more locals headed towards Mago along with their horses, and decided to trek onwards together. Loading up the provisions to be delivered to Mago, and convincing the horses to get going took some effort. Some more time spent clicking pictures of the scenic valleys on either side and we were finally off for the day at 8:30 am.
The broad road ended at Thungri, and the trail was now a narrow, rugged trekking trail. The next 3 hours were made up of a series of ups and downs through a dense rhododendron forest. Slushy at times, wooden logs laid on the trail assisted in passing through the tricky, slippery sections– very similar to the wooden log trail sections on the Goecha La Trek (near Phedang).
The 3 hour trek through the dense forest provided plenty of visual delights though. Rhododendrons in sheer abundance – white and red and yellow and pink...flowers of this native Himalayan woody plant in their radiant colours were draped over vast slopes on either side of the trail.
The cloudy weather and dark shades of the sky notwithstanding, May suddenly seemed to be THE month for the Bailey trail trek – for the simple pleasure of sighting the rhodos in their entire glory. Tree trunks and roots shot out sideways forming natural arches over the path, but this one in particular seemed like a still straight out of the Lord of the Rings movies!
About 2 hours into the trek, mobile networks found us again, and stayed until we reached the meadows of Khudumbara. Chang La was only about 2 hours away from these meadows. Water is available near the meadow, I was told, but only in the form of a small seasonal stream, a 15-20 minute trek down the valley on your left (when facing the path leading up to Chang La). As we had enough water with us to make it to Chang La, and a drizzle forced us to don our ponchos, we headed for the climb straight ahead, giving the refilling point a miss.
The climb to Chang La starts right after the meadow. The trail is now steeper, and climbs steadily for an hour. Prayer flags flutter atop Thinchum, marking the end of this steep section. A short rest over here and the trail moves up gently for 20 minutes to a clearing. A small pond and army bunkers built on the slopes ahead are now visible in the distance. The path to Chang La passes through a short climb up these slopes riddled with abandoned bunkers.
After the climb for about 30 minutes, the trail veers to the right, and another small pond alongside 2 abandoned tin sheds appear in the distance. This is the camping site of Chang La, a large level grassy area, offering great views of the valley on either side. The water source here is a short walk down, a small underground stream that trickles out from the slopes behind the small pond.
There was more company and much entertainment over dinner – tuna curry and rice, with some yak milk and beans curry as well. The food tasted wonderful, as is always the case with a hot meal served on a trek J Sonam had mastered the art of cooking rice over an open flame, and it turned out just perfect every single time!