The Journey so far…
Before going into the story, as mentioned in the Travel Guide blog post, a little background of Pangong Tso:
Pangong Tso Lake – Ladakh
Pangong Tso lake in Changthang region of Ladakh has emerged as one of the most wanted places to visit among domestic tourists in recent times especially after the Bollywood blockbuster "3 idiots". Now, in India one can see a lot more movies and advertisements being shot around this mesmerizing lake. This slat water, beautiful ocean like lake is about 5 KM wide at its broadest point and about 134 KM long with about 60% of the length extending into Tibet. During winters the lake freezes completely, which itself is a great experience to witness if you have seen the other colours of the lake. Being very near to the Line of Actual Control, one need to get Inner Line Permit to visit Pangong Tso. You can get more details on Inner Line Permits here: Inner Line Permits for Leh – Ladakh
The beautiful multi shades of blue colour offered by this lake along with a picturesque landscape around gives this place an extremely romantic feel as shown in Bollywood film songs. However, sitting behind the TV/LCD it looks so but in actual reality the place is extremely harsh and difficult to survive especially in winters. There is only one cemented accommodation available around the lake and the facilities like electricity, medical aid, hot running water, western toilets etc. are rare to find. The lack of oxygen makes survival difficult if your body is not properly acclimatized to its high altitude and hence, one need to plan his/her journey extremely carefully to make it acute mountain sickness free vacation.
Blue Hues of Pangong Tso…
Day 5 | Merak – Man – Spangmik – Lukung – Tangste
Now, coming back to story, after some 15-20 minutes enjoying around the spine chilling cold water of Pangong Tso, we decided to move ahead along it towards Merak – Man – Spangmik – Lukung. Pangong Tso runs all the way upto Lukung along the road, giving you a felling out of the world. Every few yards, your heart will say to stop and click some pictures or stand by but time is an elusive killer of your wonder feelings here 🙂 … We kept moving, then stopping, then moving all along the way and there were some beautiful sceneries, so remote, so pristine, so colourful and in my mind "I was thinking that “I am not sure what I am missing without sunlight but whatever I seeing I cannot imagine to be more beautiful unless another trip in sunlight”… Looking back and I can see another trip in the making soon 😉 … Well, we ran through Merak village where the site for world’s largest Telescope has been approved and apart from Hanle there will be another observatory very soon in this clear sky region of Ladakh. At some of the sections snow was still present on the road and we did have to inspect the conditions to pass-by as we were running alone on that route for the entire length od the day. Each time, Rigzin gets out of the car to inspect the conditions I jumped out for another opportunity to click some lovely shots. We passed by Spangmik village, where all the tented accommodations were setting up their tents and pipelines for western style toilets. Another, lovely sight to pass by and finally we could see Lukung where the whole of Pangong Tso was frozen and I asked Rigzin to stop aside in hopes of getting some sunlight and some deep bluish beautiful colours out of Pangong Tso. We stopped for about 45 minutes or so, on a small hill top offering panoramic views of entire Pangong Tso, waited but weather was not on our side that day.
We decided to move on towards Lukung where the Pangong Tso was completely frozen and yes, the famous “3 Idiots” scene was shot. There were so many Seagulls present near the shore of the lake and we had nice time feeding them and capturing some wonderful shots with them. They were so sharp and quick to catch the throw biscuit in the air, it was fun filled 30 minutes or so. Not to forget, generally, people coming through Travel agents were totally disappointed by seeing the frozen Pangong Tso and as the drivers were reluctant to take them ahead about 15-16 KMs to show them its really beauty. I think this is one of the major disadvantage of opting for Travel agents because the drivers have strict directions to follow and that makes your plans more rigid and disappointing as well because to most of the tourist the direction was to show them the 3 Idiots film shooting point, nothing else and being frozen, it was a disappointment for the tourists for sure.
Our plan was not fix enough and we still had time to cross Chang La but we had different plans in my mind. I asked Rigzin to stopover at Tangste and ask locales about the route conditions of Shyok Village route to Nubra Valley. If the locals say no, then we will cross Chang La today itself and go to Leh for overnight stay. Otherwise, we will head to Nubra Valley from Tangste via Shyok Village next morning and if we see any concerns we will come back to Chang La route. We even decided to take a backup vehicle with us from Shyok Village but all these were plans and with hopes in our heart we moved on towards Tangste. I so desperately wanted to do the Shyok Village route to Pangong Tso. Road ahead of Lukung is all tarred up to Leh barring few patches in between, so it was a very welcome relief for our body which got full body massage since morning ;)… On the way, we met the Marmots, had lovely time feeding them as with Seagulls and mind you it makes you so close to nature seeing and interacting these wild animals and migratory birds of Himalayas. Finally, we reached Tangste and stopped at Yakmik Changla Guest House and ordered lunch. Meanwhile, Rigzin inquired about the conditions of Shyok village route and they told us that with careful driving a Scorpio can make it. This boosted our morale to quite an extent and we knew that we will be dashing into another unknown territory day which was even not known to our experienced Ladakhi driver. This raised the adrenaline to high levels and despite too much of cold conditions outside, me and Himanshu decided to have a walk around the village after the tasty lunch cooked by the lady at the guest house.
Rigzin was still in doubts but he also wanted to take on the challenge and drive into the unknown with 3 idiots like us and we kept boosting his morale with all sought of mitigation plans 😉 … The only issue with the guest house is that bathroom is shared but since, we were the only one staying at Tangste at that time of the year, so it was almost like personal to us. We rested for couple of hours and then went for the dinner in a room where bukhari was running and maintained the cold freezing temperatures at warmer levels. With dinner, we watched TV for a while and after saying goodnight to Rigzin, we went for sleep again dreaming of the unexpected adventure to happen on the Pangong Tso to Nubra Valley route via Shyok Village.
The Journey ahead…