Monday, January 9, 2017

Pangong Lake - A Gorgeous Wonder!

The journey was no less than the destination...
It is an amazingly beautiful drive of around 6hrs from Leh on a dramatic mountain terrain via Karu and Sekti village.

We started early morning with Tenzing, an experienced and cheerful driver from Leh. We drove through the vast barren landscapes with small villages and some greenery appearing every now and then. This was followed by the barren mountains of interesting shades of blue, grey and purple. They soon started to get white with snow and was fully snow covered as we approached The Chang La (17,590 ft.), world's third highest pass. We took a break to have hot meal of maggi and bread omelette at then-highest cafe of the world. Now the highest cafe is at Khardung La.
As the day progressed water on the roads started increasing. Glad we were to have listened to our driver and started early morning.

Travel Tip - One need to hire cab from Leh as taxis from outside Leh are not allowed to ply on this road. Start from Leh as early as possible. Water on roads will keep increasing as day advances.

The view of the road that we came driving on from Chang La

It is always good to start as early as possible from Leh 

The drive was more or less smooth except for a few places near the pass. There are many interesting road signs from BRO that make the journey even more enjoyable. Below are a few of them that fascinated me:
"Be gentle on my curves."
"Don't be a gamma in the land of Lama"
"Darling I want you but not so fast"
"Feel the curves, do not test them"
"Mountains are pleasure only if you drive with leisure"
"Love the neighbor but not while driving" 

A little farther on the road we met these cute little creatures called Marmots. They came out of their burrows as we were passing by. They did not seem to be shy at all. Rather they seemed curious and playful. It was fun playing with them and clicking them.

A curious Marmot spotted on the way to Pangong approaching the camera 

The Gorgeous Pangong Tso...
While we were still in the awe of meeting marmots, we saw a hint of brilliant blue in the barren brown terrains. I could not believe my eyes. The whole tiredness and the cold disappeared and we were filled with a joy, excitement and anticipation of what is in store. The moment is still engraved on my mind. It was surreal to see almost every shade of blue in sparkling water in these barren lands.

Brilliant hues of blue in the barren brown terrain - the first view of Pangong lake
This was undoubtedly one of the most beautiful creations of nature that I had ever seen. The sight of unending expanse of deep blue water and the spectacular Changchenmo range in the backdrop. 

This beautiful Himalayan lake Pangong Tso (Tibetan for "high grassland lake") is situated at a height of about 14,270 ft and is 134 km long. It extends from India to China and around one-third of the lake lies in China. The lake is 5 km wide at its broadest point.

Pangong is one of the largest brackish water lakes of Asia

The fascinating fact about Pangong Lake is that it has saline water and even then the water freezes. There is no aquatic life but some migratory birds can be spotted. It was a visual delight to watch the gulls and ducks play over the beautiful lake

Brown headed Gulls at Pangong

The first place we crossed was the army camp at Lukung. From here till Spangmik, the road was merely stone filled dirt track. Spangmik is the last village till where foreigners can go with an inner line permit.

Spending night with the locals at the height of 14,270 ft. ...
The village has merely 5-6 houses of which 2 provide the facility of home-stay. We chose to stay in one of them rather than at the camps nearby; One, because in a remote place like this I want to contribute to the economy of the place and second, I love to experience the local life and interact with locals.

Me with my hosts in the neatly organised kitchen of our home-stay at Spagmik

The evening was spent in the kitchen-cum-common room chatting and having endless cups of tea. There was a biker who had come from Bangalore and was exploring Himalayas from past one month on his bike. I still remember his adventure tales that inspired me to do Leh-Khardung La on bike.
The hot dal-chawal and ladakhi rotis with vegetables tasted heavenly delicious in the chilling cold of Ladakh. We were provided with a cozy room with wooden flooring covered with carpets and wooden roof. The bedding was warm and comfortable. And the hospitality of the hosts made it even better.

The home-stay at village Spagmik
One can also stay in the camps on the shores of the lake. The camps are made of canvas and the floors are covered with jute carpet to provide warmth. Each camp has an attached bathroom with cold running water. Thick blankets and a hot water bag is provided for warmth.
On the way back we visited Shay and Thiksey monasteries.

This was undoubtedly one of my best journeys so far. Have already visited Pangong thrice and every time it seems more beautiful.

P.S.- Pictures are clicked while on a road trip Himalayan Voyage with INDIAN TERRAINS in June 2012 and July 2014

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