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Archive for the ‘Pangong Tso’ Category

I have been away from blogging for about 10 months now. I got into birding and wildlife photography & for some reason I never came back to blogging.  I went back to a job for 7 months. It is time to blog again.

Am reproducing my first travel post – on Pangong Tso (in Kunzum, a Travel Blog) as I have recently been reliving those memories. We were privileged to have been to heaven and to earth. This place changed everything for me. The below post feels like I wrote this yesterday. Hope you can experience some of what we felt on that day.

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Key facts about Pangong Tso

  • ~ 14,000 Feet above sea level
  • 134 km long
  • Around 5km at the widest point
  • Roughly 6o% of it is in China and the rest in India
  • An Endorheic Lake – meaning it is a closed drainage basin that retains water without any outflows to rivers or oceans
  • The lake freezes completely in the winter in spite of being salt water!

A Dramatic Drive

The Journey

The 150km distance takes around 5-1/2 hours. Getting out of Leh (11,500 feet), the scenery unfolds. Within a short drive, one passes through the summer residence of the Dalai Lama, the beautiful Sindhu Ghat next to the Indus River, the centuries old monasteries of Shey Palace and the  Thiksey Gompa. These monasteries are perched on hilltops offering a place for monks to embark on a life of learning in the most serene environments. Then comes the climb into Zingral, ChangLa; the descent into Dubruk, TangTse, Lukung & finally Pangong Tso.

Permits & Checkpoints

As travelers begin the climb up the mountains, the first of the few checkposts await the traveler (both ways) to ensure the BRO know who travel in this remote terrain in the event of breakdowns or other unforeseen events. The permits are issued by the Leh Tourism department for a nominal fee.

The Terrain gets interesting

Climbing further towards the Chang La pass, the terrain starts unravelling itself. Before one realizes, travelers quickly gain altitude. The views offered parallel those looking out of a plane window. Mountainous terrain – rough, smooth, carved – all worn with time, offer innumerable visual combinations along with ever-changing skies. Extremely beautiful moments, too fleeting in time to remember all.

Remoteness Personified

Chang La3rd highest motorable road in the planet! An army outpost, requiring one to climb 17,500 feet before  descending to 14,000 feet to reach Pangong. (According to a prior Kunzum post, Chang La is technically the 2nd highest motorable road.)

Valleys – Winding down below Chang La, travelers drive through valleys – surrounded by mountains everywhere. The scenery changes every kilometer of the journey!

Streams – 108 kms from Leh, one reaches the town of TangTse. A checkpost awaits along a stream and army barracks. Noodles and tea warm travelers – the  last stop before eternity.

Vastness – In this vastness and beyond, one feels like the speck that they are in this Universe. Sceneries to behold forever.

Almost There

Poetic License to the BROSaftey signs line up the entire route into Pangong Tso. Some are downright cheeky (Darling I love you, but not so fast), others have bad grammar, even spelling mistakes. The Border Roads Organization (BRO) must be commended not only for maintaining motorable roads, but, for also sharing their wisdom through safety signs with a quirky sense of humor. On descending Chang La, the latter part comprises incredible valley drives with Yaks, wild Horses, Marmots, Birdlife, Pashmina Sheep dotting the scenery. One almost wishes that this would never end. As these thoughts emerge, the below signboard heightens the anticipation for travelers.

Pangong Tso – Surreal!

The pictures speak for themselves. This is what one will see on arriving..

Eternal Memories

Epilogue: Can this be for Real?

I cannot get over the lingering memories of Pangong Tsoeven though it has been 2 months since we returned from Ladakh. The lucky ones who have made the long and arduous trek to this “Heaven on Earth” will truly understand what I mean. One had to have been there to relate to what I am saying, as a life changing moment transcends one into another world. Words simply cannot do justice to this incredible creation that we were privileged enough to have seen. And thankful to have the good fortune to tell everyone about the splendidness that is Pangong Tso. An expanse of water spanning 134 km long and 5 km wide at it’s widest point, surrounded by the most rugged terrain. Imagine this – a visual extravagance as far as the eye can see, pin drop silence, the clouds sifting continuously – one can see the same view differently based on the skies and cloud formations every few minutes! A sense of calm seeps in all the way to the soul. For someone not believing in religion as it is preached in it’s current form, but having the modesty to realize that there is some force behind all this, I ask of this creator – if there was one, “What were you thinking when you made this?” Am I glad of the outcome!

Pangong Tso is real after all!  Having left Pangong Tso reluctantly (however contented) after a brief stay, I wish the same as my spouse – to return one day and relive those glorious memories! In the meanwhile, I have brought back with me, eternal memories that provide solace, and take me to this unique place whenever I seek solitude and peace.

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The above post was originally published in Kunzum on Oct 30, 2009. Even though it has been a year and a half since our Ladakh trip, it still triggers fond memories on many occasions as it is unlike any other place we have encountered. It was painstaking to see Ladakh ravaged in 2010 by floods. Restoration status and facts about the cloudburst can be read on this link. Hope we would have the privilege of visiting Ladakh once again in the near future.

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Pangong from Google Earth

Pangong from Google Earth

Here are some key facts about Pangong Tso:

– ~ 14,000 Feet above sea level
– 134 km long
– Around 5km at the widest point
– roughly 6o% of it is in China and the rest in India
– An Endorheic Lake – meaning it is a closed drainage basin that retains water without any outflows to rivers or oceans
– The lake freezes completely in the winter in spite of being salt water!

We left at 7AM for Pangong Tso (Tso means ‘Lake’ in Ladakhi) from the hotel and there was this slight drizzle. Our Breakfast and lunches were packed and we decided to all load into one jeep and share the fun as opposed to two separate vehicles. We had a little breakfast on the way and each of us popped in a Diamox to get through the day. While the space was a little tight for a whole day journey, I think we did not mind the company of each other as the scenery started unraveling itself.

Sunitha & Vijay at ChangLa

Sunitha & Vijay at ChangLa

Pangong Lake is a “Must See” experience if you ever visit Ladakh. It is sort of not describable and one has to experience it on his/her own.   A 5 – 6 hour ride on the most dramatic terrain – the ride takes one up the third highest motor-able road in Changla Pass at 17,586 ft. above sea level and descends back to 13,900 ft. where the lake is situated. There is almost too much to take along the way visually – one is mentally assaulted all the way during the drive as it covers ever changing landscapes of Rocky Mountains, Snow Capped Peaks, Lush Valleys and the most amazing skies.

Ascending to ChangLa

Ascending to ChangLa

Little Stream in a Valley

Little Stream in a Valley

Greenery amidst all the dry areas

Greenery amidst all the dry areas

In the middle of Nowhere

In the middle of Nowhere

Sunitha dipping her legs in the icy cold water

Sunitha dipping her feet in the icy cold water

Our hearts start pounding on seeing the first views of Pangong Lake

Our hearts start pounding on seeing the first views of Pangong Lake

On reaching Pangong Tso, there was this huge sigh of relief and the excitement level surged at the visual extravagance in front of our eyes. The question running through everyone’s mind – “this cannot be true”, but it is!!  The unreal colors of the sky, the innumerable hues of blues and greens contrasting with the browns of the surrounding mountains, the utter quiet in the area all make for an occasion for one to get lost in their own world.  Pangong Tso is supposedly deep blue – but the reflections of the mountains mirroring the deepest blue skies and cotton clouds makes for these innumerable reflections that keep changing based on the time of the day, the position of the sun and the season of the year. Believe me, it is not unnatural for one to get completely blown away with the visual aura of Pangong Tso. If you don’t believe me, here is proof:

Pangong

Pangong

Pangong

Pangong - Reflections and shades of Blues with Brilliant Skies

Pangong

Pangong

Pangong - light Green Hues

Pangong - light Green Hues

Pangong - Blues and Greens

Pangong - Blues and Greens

Pangong - Awesome Blue Hues

Pangong - Awesome Blue Hues

Pangong - Amazing backgrounds

Pangong - Amazing backgrounds

Pangong

Pangong

Pangong

Pangong

The privileged ones in Pangong - Vivek, Shubra, Shahana, Sunitha, Shrinath, Jayanth & Vijay

The privileged ones in Pangong - Vivek, Shubra, Shahana, Sunitha, Shrinath, Jayanth & Vijay

We left Pangong reluctantly after spending an hour and a half. Too bad we could not spend a night camping there! On our way back we stopped at this unreal place for lunch – we could not have even wished for a place like this that you see only on calendars!

Our picinic spot on our way back from Pangong

Our picinic spot on our way back from Pangong

While returning, Sunitha had a major headache with the altitude changes. She gradually felt better as we got home to Leh at a much lower 11,500 feet! Jayanth still had the energy to get down at the Ladakh Confluence on Day 3 (featured Soulmate from Shillong and Gateways). The rest of us were dead and wanted nothing more than head back to the hotel. There was much relief and joy on getting back to our temporary home – Hotel Lasermo! Each one of us headed back into our rooms with that glint in their eye that said  “I have seen and experienced Pangong Tso”. Join the club people! You will not regret it.

Here is a video titled “Eternal Memories of Pangong Tso” that captures the various scenes from our trip. Enjoy!

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