It is an early morning for me. I am headed to the Pangong Tso in the North Eastern part of Ladakh. ‘Tso’ literally means a lake. The lake is at a height of about 13900ft or 4250m above sea level. I wanted to stay over a night at the Pangong Tso, but it seems that my travel guy has been unable to find other passengers who’d like to do the same. So, I will have to return to the city by night. I am a little disappointed as I wanted to stay there for a couple of days and soak in the pleasure of sunrise which I have heard is awesome. Further, the sky is a little overcast. Though it rarely rains in this part of the world, a cloudy sky means no color aberrations in the mountains to watch out for. It seems rather dull and boring.
We leave Leh at about 7 AM and by 8AM, we are having a great breakfast at Upshi. There is a punjabi dhaba that serves aloo parathas with chhole (chick peas) and yogurt. It is as Punjabi as it can get! I am delighted.
It is a well laid out road from Upshi. Though the distance is only about 130kms, it takes a good 5 hours to get there. Mountain roads are notorious for their climbs. With me today are 2 Aussies (mom and daughter), an Italian, and two fellow Indians. It seems like a good company and we should have a good time together.
Road signs in Ladakh are amusing. They offer profound wisdom with a tongue in cheek sense of humor. Sample some of these:
1. On my curves, check your nerves
2. Be gentle on my curves
3. If married, divorce speed
4. Drive carefully, Live cheerfully
5. Love your neighbor, but not while driving.
6. If you sleep, your family will weep.
7. Drive on muscle power, not rum power.
8. After whiskey, driving is risky.
9. No race, no rally, enjoy he beauty of the valley; and my favorite of them all
10. Drive like hell, and you will be there!
Most of the drive from Leh is through a dramatic landscape. The road traverses the third-highest pass in the world, the ChangLa. There is a small teahouse and a temple dedicated to the ChangLa Baba. Army guards can be spotted playing cricket as and when they get some time. The lake is open only during the summers from May to September. A special permit is required to visit the lake. While an Indian can get his individual
permit at Leh, foreign nationals need to be in a group of at least four. One third of the lake falls within the territorial boundaries of India, while the rest is in China (Tibet). As we approach the lake, a speck of blue can be seen amidst the brown barren mountains. That’s the lovely sight of the Pangong. Even though it is clouded, the hues are remarkable, putting an end to my fears of the morning.
It is one of the most pristine landscapes I have ever seen.There is a small campsite in the village of Spangmik towards Tibet where one can stay for a night. Although only the basic facilities are provided. At the villagehead of Spangmik it starts drizzling and we rush indoors for lunch. It is good ol’ Maggi instant noodles served with duck eggs and chai. Delicious! It starts getting cold and we head out towards the city. Remember it is a 5 hour drive back. The slight drizzle has already caused cascades of waterfalls along the way, and we are in knee deep water before we know it. Its good to have a 4×4 which can wade through it all, yet we have some exciting moments.