We reached Tangste late in the afternoon. Sammy was indeed their chief guest. They let her sniff around the house while we snacked on some sandwiches. She stayed back with them when Azal and I went to freshen up at the guesthouse. Later in the evening, an informal dinner was organized at their place to welcome us. We met other officers who were fighting the harshest of weather in that forlorn place. Yet they were all so jovial, cracking jokes and making merry in the company of fellow soldiers who had become more like family than co-workers. Conversations flowed as drinks and chicken kebabs did the rounds.
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To visit this lake which is the world’s highest brackish lake at 14,256 feet (above sea level), you’ll have to undertake a 160 kms journey from Leh. Starting from Thicksey village, you will start crossing large mountain ridges that just don’t seem to end. And by the way, once the mountains start, even crossing distance worth 10 minutes can take you hours. The topography is harsh but breathtaking. Once you finally arrive at the Pangong Lake, you will be lost in seeing the deep mesmerizing blue color. Don’t expect boating facilities here!
Changthang Cold Desert Wildlife Sanctuary
We trekked down to a lake which was half frozen and with the mist hanging over it,the place looked straight out of someone’s dream.The harsh winter in Changthang valley was gradually giving way to mildness of the spring.White ice giving way to pastures of green and yellow and hints of wildlife like the Marmots peeping from behind large rocks,the landscape is awe inspiring and magical in the early morning climate.Much of the Changthang plateau lies in Tibet and a very substantive area extends to eastern Ladakh.The Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary is demarcated by the two famous lakes in the area-the Tso Moriri and the Pangong Tso.Though stunningly beautiful to look at,the meadows and valleys of Changthang are very inhospitable due to the harsh climatic conditions.The highlands of the plateau are inhabited by a nomadic tribe called Changpa who are Tibetan in origin.Around small hamlets in the valley,the Changpa people can be seen taking their livestock topastures.The sanctuary is home to many indigenous Himalayan wildlife as the black necked crane,ruddy shelducks,many rare species of gulls and animals as the marmot,the Tibetan gazelle,the blue sheep and the kyang(Tibetan wild ass).A bright sunlight can give way to a sudden hailstorm of rain and snow within minutes here.Sudden change in climate forced us to abandon our romantic hallucinations in the valley and move on.Changthang is a harsh but soothing place,may be we are saying this from a traveler’s point of view without facing the fury of nature as the natives have done over theyears.In a manner of saying,we admire the strong and hardy nomadic tribes who live in these lands and have done so over generations.The valleys in places like Kashmir or Manali are easy on the eye to behold,but these parts of Ladakh have a very rugged beauty to them and it stays with you for a log time.May be because these places are rare and difficult to travel to,may be because the place just overwhelms you while you stand there.
The Frozen River - Chadar Lake
Ladakh is the highest plateau region of Kashmir in north India. Also known as the ‘land of high passes’, it includes the Karakoram and Himalayan ranges and the upper Indus valley. The Zanskar river is a north-flowing tributary of the Indus, that connects Chilling in Ladakh to Padum (a town in the Zanskar region in eastern Kashmir). In winters, the roads to Zanskar close down due to heavy snowfall. The river freezes and walking along it becomes the only overland route to Padum. The frozen river is known as Chadar (a white sheet) and has become a popular trekking route for adventurers. Always do extensive research before embarking for a trek. Make sure that you are aware of the weather conditions during that part of the year and are well-prepared for the same. Always try to be in groups There are many government and non-government trekking agencies, which offer their services. A lot of small companies have also come up and are delivering the service quite efficiently.
Situated in the cradle of mountain valley, this village is calm and serene. We (tried to) trekked from this village to Konskila pass. The trek was covered with knee length snow and it was very tiring to walk on snow. This was one of the great experiece we had. While returning from the pass to the village again, we took the stream as it was frozen. Since the stream was slippery, we had to sit on our bottom and skid on the stream. It was both hilarious and painful experience, as our bottom got so frozen that stopping for a minute used to get our bottom glued to the ice.
Pangong Tso is one of the largest brackish lakes in Asia which is situated at a height of 14250 ft. Pangong is one of the largest high altitude lakes in India and while only one third of 135km long lake is in India and rest in China. We have been there at the peak winter time (January to February). Its unbearable cold and wind over there which doesn't allow you to stand for more than a minute. Pangong Tso becomes completely frozen and hard enough for cars to drive on! It is a must visit for all travelers, no matter how many times you have visited Ladakh.Khardung La Pass:The Khardung La village (3975 metres / 13,042 feet) with the route involving a gentle but steady climb to the Khardung La top, one of the world's highest passes and goes till 5370 meters / 17,618 feet before the route descends to Leh, the capital of Ladakh.The Khardung La Pass is the high point along the route which is called the world's highest motor-able road. Driving in this road will gives you a spectacular mountain view of the Karakoram range and the Stok massif, running past mountain villages and summer pasture land of the yaks of the Nubra Valley and North Pullu. From Khardung La it's all downhill to Leh.Magnet Hills:It is a small stretch of road located about 30 kms from Leh towards Kargil and known as Magnetic Hill of Ladakh. On this particular part of the Srinagar-Leh highway, you would clearly see the road ahead going uphill and the wind will blow hard against you in this place.