The name Pangong Tso (Tso means “lake”), conjures up an image of Kareena from “3 Idiots”, dressed in bridal attire, wearing a helmet and riding a scooter. But that was before I visited it myself. The lake is a lot more than that. The claim to fame of such a tranquil place cannot be its use as a backdrop in some movie.
Pangong Tso is unique in more than one way:
· Located at an altitude of 13,862 ft (4225 m) above sea level, it is the highest saline water lake in the world.
· In spite of being saline, it freezes completely in winter.
· The lake changes colours as per the season.
· It is 134 Km long, out of which 50% lies in Tibet, 40% in India and the rest lies in the disputed land but controlled by China.
· Because of its proximity to LAC, Inner Line Permits are required to visit it.
The lake itself is an epitome of beauty and once again, the surrounding landscape mesmerizes you. Pangong Tso is a huge expanse of emerald blue, surrounded by the mountains. The sunrays dance on its water, which is so crystal clear that we could easily see its bed. The serenity around the lake is mystical. The cinematography in 3 Idiots didn’t do justice to the beauty of Pangong Tso and frankly, neither do my words. A feeling of serenity washes over you as you stand on its banks and once more, mind is fascinated by the picture, nature has painted so tastefullly.
Besides, the Leh – Pangong – Leh journey was quite interesting.
Travelling through Ladakh, a traveller scales new height every day, quite literally. While going to Pangong, we had to cross Chang La (17,590 ft / 5360 m). Something called “Pagla Nala” was also to be tackled. It is actually a small brook passing through the road. This brook, fed by the glaciers above, looked like a small, harmless rivulet when the temperature was low during mornings. But as the warmth increased in the course of the day, the snow melted at a faster rate and the small rivulet transformed into a huge waterfall, thus making the road impassable. We were also told that numerous attempts to put up a bridge on the road had failed, as the bridge kept getting washed away due to the force of the water. So, the only thing that tourists could do, was to cross the stream early and also return before the situation goes out of hand.
On our way to the lake, we had seen a group of bikers playing with some animals in an open tract of land. We had wondered about what animal it could have been, but the fear of Pagla Nala got better of us and we kept going. On the way back, after safely crossing the stream (now bigger than what we had seen earlier), we decided to stop and find out more about those animals.
The Himalayan Marmots look like very fat squirrels and are yellowish brown in colour. They dig burrows in the ground and tend to disappear in them. Extremely shy and fairly swift, they dodged us for quite some time, till we found their weakness. Holding an eatable at the mouth of their burrow did the trick, as out came the Marmots sniffing the food. Once cordiality was established, convinced of our harmlessness, they even obliged us with a few pictures.
After playing with them to our heart’s content, we set out on our journey back to Leh. What a fitting end to our Ladakh Sojourn! We were to leave Leh the next day. The region had given us so much and yet; we were left wanting for more. But every good thing comes to an end…making way for something better.