Travelling to Pangong Tso( Lake) and back was the last leg of our Ladakh trip. After riding for six days continuously in tough terrains and post the Tso Moriri experience we all wanted to relax and enjoy our last part of the trip. We were not ready for any more adventures in our trip. If you are wondering what adventures I am talking about then do read the following links which describe in detail about my Leh-Ladakh travelogue.
In reverse order :
I was planning to write about this trip in 2015 but kept postponing it for some reason or the other. Well.... there cannot be a better beginning to the New Year 2016!!!!
Travelling to Pangong Tso and back was the most relaxed part of our trip. Day 7 was the journey from Leh to Pangong Tso via Chang La. After returning from Khardung La on Day 6 we spent an entire evening discussing about the options to go to Pangong Tso. Finally, at midnight it was confirmed by Dawa that the six of us would be going in an Innova to Pangong Tso. There was no tension of taking the bikes on a camper or worrying about any untoward bike breakdowns. Yd was looking forward to this trip because he wasn’t able to visit Pangong Tso during his last visit to Ladakh in 2012. Our accommodation was booked by Dawa in Camp RedStart, Spangmik, Pangong Tso area. You can find my Review in TripAdvisor about CampRedStart.
|Leh to Pangong Tso via Chang La pass|
We left from Leh in the morning, at around 7:00 AM as we wanted to have breakfast in the same Punjabi dhaba before leaving for Pangong Tso. For a change, there was someone else driving us around and we could have a power nap during the journey. We were sleepy and drowsy till we were getting close to Chang La. The car was also comfortable and so was our driver. We had to cross Shey and Thiksey monastery to reach Pangong and a deviation from Karu to reach there after submitting the permit form to reach Chang La. It is at a height of 17,590 ft and one of the highest motorable roads. Chang La pass is the gateway to the Changthang plateau of the Himalayas.
The route was similar to Khardung La but did not seem so difficulty because we were in a car and our driver was an expert. Slowly, as we ascended we started feeling a little nauseated. Our head felt heavy but we managed to overcome the symptoms by taking short naps. It also started getting colder and colder as we ascended. We couldn’t stop there for more than 10-15 minutes. There were snow clad mountains around and the breeze was cool. We warmed ourselves with a cup of tea and immediately moved ahead. Bouts of headache had already started making us feel uneasy. It was bound to happen at that height. As we slowly descended down we started feeling normal. I slept through the journey for some more time until the picturesque scenery around started. The route was good and the vivid colours of nature which we saw made us stay awake till we reached Pangong Tso. The azure blue sky, the reddish-golden-brown soil and the mountains, patches of green meadows with wild and domestic horses grazing around, pristine blue-white flowing water, gushing and making its way past the stones and rocks was a sight to behold. The sun was shining bright yet there was a whiff of cold air that hit our face. We couldn't just pass this location without clicking pictures.
Yd was too eager to go and put his feet in the ice cold water. I was obviously pulled along :-P The water was too cold and our feet froze for seconds but slowly it felt wonderful.It was such a romantic location that we felt like spending hours together sitting hand in hand there, holding hands with our feet dipped in ice cold water. But. we had to move ahead as we had to reach Pangong Tso by afternoon. The surroundings were similar throughout the next part of our journey, till we reached Pangong Tso. We had to pay an entry fee for the Drikung Kagyut Shargon Phuntsok Chosling ( Shachukul Monastery) which is located in the Changthang plateau near Pangong Tso and has taken an initiative to preserve the lake and maintain cleanliness of the Pangong Lake.
As we moved further and were nearing Pangong lake, the terrain started changing. The mountains started opening up and from a narrow hilly region it became more like a wide plateau. The roads were narrow and the path a little uneven. The soil around was now whitish grey in colour and had more pebbles. It looked as if the river bed/snow water bed had dried and left only cement colour silt around and it was dry everywhere with sparse vegetation. We could see a bluish coloured water body between two huge mountains. At one point we got confused whether it was the sky or the Pnagong lake whose colour merged with each other. We entered the Spangmik village area with the Pangong lake spread along the left. Before we went to our camp we stopped over to just absorb the colours around and looked at the majestic Pangong lake. It was guarded by colourful mountains on the opposite side.Our eyes scanned the vastness of the lake, although only 25% of which is in India. The rest 75% extends into China. It is around 130 km in length and at a height of 13,940 ft. It is a salt water endoheric lake and just like Tso Moriri, it freezes during winters. Despite the salty water, we could see vegetation around. There were wild rose plants growing in tall thick bushes. They were single layered 5 petal roses. The light-dark pink roses added to the beauty of the otherwise barren land.
It was a little more commercial and attracted more tourists when compared to Tso Moriri. Mainly because of the movies and the Bollywood songs that have been filmed here. You can find the list here : Pangong Tso.
We had lunch at one of the camp restaurants there and to our surprise, we found that many of the restaurants there, were named as the 3 Idiots restaurant or Punsukh Wangdu restaurant. We manged to have noodles, Thugpa, bread omelette, fried rice for lunch but nothing tasted good. Although lunch was putting off, we weren't put off by the view of Pangong Tso. As we sat in the restaurant having lunch, we could see that the lake was changing colour every minute. When we were outside it looked brown, at times it looked blue, from the tent it looked greenish blue or brownish at times. We were confused with the kind of colours that the lake was reflecting into our eyes. It seemed so magical, just to look at those amazing colours. It reflected the colours of the mountain, at times the blue colour of the sky, at times it showed a greenish blue tinge because of the flora-fauna in it. We spent close to two hours walking along the lake. The surprise element was the soft sand around the lake. Yd forced me again to get into the water barefoot and try walking in the cold water. I was initially hesitant looking at his expressions but later joined him. My feet froze and the lake bed was not smooth. It was full of pebbles. They were pricking my feet but the water was so cold that it masked the pricking sensation because of the pebbles. It took us ten minutes to feel normal and once we adapted to the temperature of the water we felt so comfortable that we walked to another corner wading through the water, hand in hand. It was the best walk I had taken with Yd.
We made Deepa and Spiti also remove their slippers and get into the water to experience the same. The rest of the time we just spent in clicking pictures like any tourist would do. The trip was turning out to be the perfect and relaxing part of our holiday. We walked at leisure to the our car and went to Camp RedStart, where our accommodation had been booked. The best part of this camp was that it was very close to the lake. We could just walk across to the lake and sit by in the evening. It was around 4:00 PM when we settled in our respective tents, The tents were extremely well kept and had also provided thick quilts to keep us warm. It was one of the best tents I had been to. The breeze was getting colder and colder. Warm tea and snacks like sandwich and pakoras for the evening were very welcoming for us. We rested for a while and went to the lake again to enjoy its beauty in the evening. The weather had changed completely by then, from a bright sunny morning to a chilly evening. We returned to our tents when it became dark. After taking out some time to relax and clear our head from all the adventures of the previous days we headed for dinner. Food which was served by them was warm, tasty, freshly cooked and helped in keeping us warm. They had also arranged bonfire for us after dinner. It was a wonderful time we had, discussing about our travel so far and slowly the realization had also sunk in that we had to leave for Bangalore, the day after. We had a cosy and relaxed sleep, thanks to the bonfire and the thick quilts. What more could have one asked for? You wake up in the morning to the view of the surreal Pangong lake.