All you will think what the relevancy of the title with the blog is? Because this blog is about a lake which exceeds international borders and expanded from one nation to another. But the migratory birds and fishes doesn’t bother about the political relations, international borders or defense treaties between two nations. They don’t need any passport, visa or inner line permits. They are free to go anywhere. But we unfortunate humans are bounded by boundaries. I know that some of you have already guessed the name, yes its ‘Pangong Tso’. If you have ever dreamt of a vast deep royal blue lake with crystal clear water then this is your destination to go.
‘Pangong Tso’ is a Tibetan name means ‘ High Grassland Lake’. It is located at the height of approximately 14000 feet from the sea level in the lap of Trans Himalaya. The lake expanded from India to China. Nearly two third part of the lake is in China and the rest is in India. It is world’s highest salt water lake which has a closed basin, means the lake water doesn’t drain to any ocean or river. The unconventional beauty of the lake grabs attention of the tourists from years. Due to its high altitude location it completely freezes in the winter and the roads are also blocked by heavy snow fall. But harsh winter also couldn’t stop the travelers to visit the lake. Ladakh is considered as a cold desert, so hardly you can find any lash of green on the mountain ranges. Super hot at day and the chilly nights will remind you that you are in the middle of a desert.
The journey to Pangong generally starts from Leh which is nearly 200 kms from Pangong. As the Pangong is quite remotely located it’s better to hire a four-wheeler from Leh, which will stay with you overnight. And one can also try a bike ride to Pangong. Here I am willing to share my experience for those who are willing to ride.
Inspiring from a scooty advertisement in 2016, we had decided to take a ride from Leh to Pangong by a scooter. So we had hired a Honda Activa 125CC scooter from Leh and started our road trip. On the way we stopped at Karu for having our breakfast and to take inner line permit form. Just after riding 10 km from Karu the road stared to be rugged. And the scooter started to bounce.
Though we ignored the whole matter and continued our journey. But after 2-3 kms the road (If it is call a road) became very steep. So I got off from the scooter and started climbing whereas my husband was trying to pull the scooter by accelerating it. But believe me after every three four steps I was panting like an exhausted dog. And when I looked back I found my husband unable to move the scooter an inch as the wheels were slipping on loose sandy ground. Then we had decided to get back Karu again to garage the scooter, meanwhile we found a woman working in her kitchen garden beside the road. So we ask her to park the scooter at her home. And we witnessed the generosity of a Ladakhi woman who agreed to keep safe the scooter without asking anything to us. Then without any option we were waiting for a lift. After 15 minutes a Sedan hired privately by a couple agreed to give us a lift up to Spangmik where we had a booking in Camp Redstart just beside of the lake. Later I will tell you the climax of this story.
So the adventure lovers, there is a very little difference between adventure and foolishness. We had chosen second, you don’t. Take a higher CC bike like Bullets or Enfield if you are willing to ride. Car will cost nearly 15000 to 20000 depending on their carrying capacity. The car will stay with you for the whole trip even at night. This amount includes the fare of both up and down. And the bike will cost on the basis of hours and one has to deposit some safety amount nearly 5000 to 10000 for hiring a bike which is fully refundable.
Try to reach Spangmik within 3 pm as the roads (Where is the road?) are extremely rugged and the temperature starts drop after 2 pm. After three hours of your journey when you are bored with monotonous grayish mountains and the most unwelcoming terrain that makes you feel sick and sleepy, a sudden peep of dark turquoise patch will take out your fatigue within the blink of an eye. And while you are trying to find it out it will hide again and again.
These hide and seek will over in next half an hour when the divine serenity of the lake stretches its arms to hug you. The reflection of the golden crests of mountain ranges on the crystal clear lake water and the riot of colours in the sky makes you believe that you have arrived in a paradise.
After this exhausted journey, leave your bags in the camp, take a warm bath (Most camps are accommodating with modern washroom and shower facilities.), go for a warm simple lunch and then plunge to the lake side with your jackets and camera.
Don’t think to swim in the lake as the temperature is around minus three degrees. This lake doesn’t provide any boat ride as there is a risk of violating international border security and to keep the lake pollution free. You will put your feet in the lake water but can’t stay for more than a minute.
Just enjoy the kisses of chilly wind on your face and revise your passion for photography. Set your cameras with timer for some awesome time snaps. At night take out the chairs from your camp and set those to your camp premises and enjoy the show of millions of stars with a cup of hot coffee and some veg pakoras (veg fritters ) or if you are in a group ask your camp manager to arrange a fire camp. Dinner will be served at 9p.m at the dining camp located near to your camp (most of the camps serves vegetarian foods).
Next day early morning take the rare photos of sun rise if you can wake up in such frizzing cold. After having breakfast it’s time to say ‘Good Bye Pangong’, lets proceed to the car with a pleasantly satisfying heart.
Here I want to conclude my journey story as I have mentioned earlier, at the time of returning Karu again we had managed another privately hired car on sharing basis. So the car left us in front of that house where we left our scooter. The woman saw us and welcome us with a broad smile on her face and told “ Dekhiye aapka scooter salamat hai ki nahi?” (Check it, is your scooter alright)? And we surprisingly noticed that she kept our scooter at the inner premises of her house away from the notice of outsiders. When we offer some money as parking charge she scolded us by saying “why are you offering money for this silly thing?”At last we were able to put some least money to her son’s hand to buy some chocolates and then another surprise was waiting for us. We were carrying six liters petrol with us as there was no petrol pump on the way, she was asking for that petrol to use it as fuel in her household. So we gladly gave it to her by thinking that we had paid something to her as a parking charge. But she made us to shut our mouth by saying that “I’ll not take it free, I’ll buy it from you. If you agree for that I’ll take, otherwise I don’t need of that”. What we could say after that? So she bought it for 350 rupees which was more than what we had given to her. So don’t be surprised and respect them if you find such honest, pure – hearted ‘Farishtaey’ (angels) on your way.
HOW TO REACH:
- By Air: Leh is the nearest airport to Pangong Tso. Regular flights are available from Delhi, Jammu and Srinagar. Privately hired cars and two wheelers are available from Leh to Pangong.
- By Train: Kalka is the nearest railway station to Leh, from there hired taxis and buses are available to Manali. And there are regular bus and taxis services from Manali to Leh. (Waiting for the newly proposed railway line from Bilaspur to Leh).
- By Road: From Leh hired Taxis and cars are available to Pangong. If you are planning to hire Motorbikes take ample fuels from Leh as there is no petrol pump on the way and even in Pangong. And a bus plies regularly from Leh to Pangong by Jammu and Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation (J&KSRTC) once in a day.
WHERE TO STAY: There are numerous camps beside of the lake most of which are offers boarding facilities. You can book your camps through Booking.com or any other travel sites.
KEEP IN MIND WHILE YOU ARE TRAVELLING PANGONG:
- Carry Sun blocks, scarf and sunglasses, heavy jackets, inner warmers, some dry foods and packed water.
- Try to reach within 3 pm as the temperature drops after 2 pm.
- Carry adequate amount of petrol if you hired Motorbikes or cars as there is no petrol pump on the way and even in Pangog Tso.
- Must carry some Diamox and Avomine medicines to deals with altitude sickness and vomit.
- If you have breathing troubles or respiratory diseases consult with doctor before to go.
- Skip this trip if you are pregnant or having kids below 5 years. It is an extremely strenuous journey.
- Best time to visit Pangong Tso is May to September. It is inaccessible during winter due to heavy snowfall.
- Don’t try to swim in lake water. Water is too cold to swim.
- Must carry a good camera to capture some priceless natural moments in a frame.