It is our last day in Leh and we have reserved it for Pangong Tso. Pangong Tso ( Tso: Ladakhi for lake) is a salt water lake in the Himalayas at a height of about 4,250 m (13,900 ft). It is about 140 km long and extends from India to China. Two thirds of the length of this lake lies in China. It is 5 km wide at its broadest point. In winter, the lake surface freezes completely overnight. The drive is 5 hours one way and we leave the hotel by about 7.
The drive: It is some time before we enter unchartered territory. Like all our journeys in Leh, this one also has merismerzing views. I know this is our last day here and I am busy looking out of the window trying to soak in as much as possible. We cross Chang-La pass (18,000 feet / 5,475 m) on our way after a couple of hours. It is extremely cold and windy here; much more than Khardung-La. We quickly click some pictures and pack right back into the car. The road winds its way across snow-capped mountains, bare brown valleys and green plains. The road is very good, and again, maintained by the army. They have put some amusing road-signs on the way. We rattle them off as they approach. “If married, divorce speed”; “It is better to be Mr. Late than Late Mr”; “Peep Peep, do not sleep”.
Wildlife: The route from Chang-La to Pangong is almost uninhabited except army presence. We see yak, wild untamed horses, blue sheep (they are brown but for some reason called blue sheep) and various birds. We also site this very cute rodent like creature known as “walmuthu” locally. We name it “muthuswamy”. It stands about a feet tall and is furry. Sanjay and Rahul get out and feed it biscuits. And then some choco-pies, kit-kats and cookies! And muthuswamy eats it all and wants more! It is certainly not calorie conscious.
Lake: We begin to approach Pangong at about noon. I can see this patch of sapphire enclosed between bronze-gold mountains. We get closer and realize that the trip is worth the distance. Vast like the sea, the lake stretches right into the horizon. Mist clouds the horizon. It is very cold and windy as the area is open. We walk around the edges, taking in the place.
After an hour it is time to head off. We all doze off at various points on our drive back. The landscape passess by...