Pangong Lake

The previous days long trek did’nt have any effect on me when i wake up this morning. Today is going to be a long drive to Pangong Lake via Chang-La pass. Pangong Lake is five-hour drive from Leh, most of it on a rough and dramatic mountain road. The road crosses the villages of Shey and Gya and traverses the Changla pass, where army sentries and a small teahouse greet visitors. Road down from Chang-la pass leads through Tangste and other smaller villages, crossing river called Pagal Naala or “The Crazy Stream”.

Pangong lake is an endorheic lake situated at a height of about 4,350 m. It is 134 km long and extends from India to Tibet. 60% of the length of the lake lies in China. During winter the lake freezes completely, despite being saline water. Pangong lake is in disputed territory. The Line of Actual Control between India and China passes through the lake. A section of the lake approximately 20 km east from the Line of Actual Control is controlled by India but claimed by China. The eastern end of the lake is in Tibet and is not claimed by India. The western end of the lake is not in dispute.

My day starts with a breakfast and end up meeting Singapore Indians in the restaurants. After few rants about football, their life & about London, i wish them farewell and safe journey back home. Since i will be staying by the lake that night,I vacate the room and hand over key to Mr Beeky.

The driver is young Ladahki and can’t speak English. Since it’s not going to be trekking, I manage to communicate with him through broken English and sign language. One good thing about him is that he took good photos & quickly learned to use my Nikon D90. Bad thing is that he had stomach ache and frequently stopped. I gave him Ranatin, a pain killer, after I reached the lake. Also like the previous Ladakhi driver, the young driver drove fast, overtook vehicles in narrow roads and used one hand to change songs while driving with another hand even when the roads are treacherous and narrow.

As soon as we left Leh, we met a convoy of army trucks. It took 30 minutes to overtake all of them. Then came the tough ride to Chan-la pass. It is situated 5600 m above sea level and holds Guinness book of records for highest check post in the world. On the way towards Chang-La pass, we came across an abandoned SUV with all it’s wheel removed and covered in hard ice. We crossed many red flags on the route which is kept to indicate they are avalanche prone zone. Its scary and also heard several stories of ice covering vehicles in avalanche in less than a second.

Fortunately the ice is compressed due to morning cold and nothing sinister happened. Chang-la is a small army post with few refreshment stalls and toliets. We stopped over to get a picture. Luckily an Army office accepted to pose with me. The terrain look stunning with hard ice covering it. I walked on top of a frozen pond and can see few cracks here and there but didn’t deter me at all.

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The drive to Pangong lake is fantastic. We had lunch in small village and the driver is able to establish conversation with local people. It seems he knows a lot about them and must be frequently passing through. He is still in pain but just holding on. The drive is a long one we went through several mountain passes and captured wild life in camera. The driver is gracious to stop over at places. Then we reach a sign post saying that its the first point of view of the lake from that road. The view give a glimpse of the tail end of the lake but not the entire lake. As we pass through a narrow pass, the view of the lake unfolded. Its so calm, pristine and surrounded by snow clad mountains.

We reach a small camp area and a room is already blocked for me. The room is at end of the corridor and the window faces the lake. The view from the window is spectacular. I took my SLR and went for a long walk. It took several photos for 2-3 hours. During dinner time, I heard that there is going to be a camp fire by the tent. I love camp fire but its not for everyone. A family has already booked in and not to include any private members. Its a disappointment but possibly i will do it when i visit this place again.

My sleep pattern that night is okay. But i kept alarm to wake up early and walk by the side of the lake during Sun rise. In the morning, i am alone by the lake side. I just sat their and watched the sun rise from east and its a view i cant forget in my life. The view is well captured in my photos. Later realise, i am not alone but there are group of Americans trying to do the same i am doing. They have their own tent instead of rooms. Everyone left except for a Chinese American with whom i had a brief chat. They are from California and exploring India along with friends who have ancestral homes in India. She seems tired but enjoying the view.

After having my breakfast, i am on way back to Leh but before that its time to visit some monasteries on the way.

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