Reminiscing the Experience of Undertaking the Ultimate Road Trip in India: Leh - Pangong Tso 

Tripoto
Photo of Reminiscing the Experience of Undertaking the Ultimate Road Trip in India: Leh - Pangong Tso by Vaswati

As I sit locked-down within the four walls of my room, my memory takes over and liberates me. It transports me under the sapphire blue skies of Leh where I was enveloped in the warm embrace of rugged, majestic mountains. This 13-hour challenging journey that I took about 9 years back, comes back to me, reminding me of the beauty that lies in the far corners of the country.

The Pangong Tso

Photo of Pangong Tso by Vaswati

And our journey begins!

On our second-last day of our trip to Leh, we decided to visit Pangong Lake. Situated at a whopping altitude of 14,270 ft., Pangong Tso or Pangong Lake is the world’s highest salt water lake! About 200 km from Leh, about 60% of this mesmerising lake lies in Tibet. The morning was rainy, but by the time we were scheduled to leave, it became bright and sunlit. After breakfast, we started the journey through the tarmac road of Leh. Little did I know the beauty that awaited me.

Our first stop was Karu, a small village on the way to Changla Pass,35 km from Leh. We stop here to collect the permit. There was a long que here and it took almost an hour to cross this point.

The view from Karu

Photo of Karu, Leh by Vaswati

We continued our journey after finishing the necessary formalities. Initially, the road was good but as we started gaining altitude the road became narrow, curvy and bumpy. One can find many chorten here.

The road towards Pangong Lake

Photo of Reminiscing the Experience of Undertaking the Ultimate Road Trip in India: Leh - Pangong Tso by Vaswati

A couple of hours into the journey, and we found ourselves just  in heaven. The entire landscape was covered  with a white blanket of snow from previous night's snowfall! It was only September and we were surprised to find that the region was already receiving heavy snowfall. The view was bewitchingly beautiful but the journey was scary on the slippery roads. After a couple of minutes, we got stuck at the end of an endless queue of traffic. The temperature outside was freezing cold, although bright sunlight was giving us a comfortable feeling. We stepped in the snow laden road to admire the beauty of mother nature while our driver tried putting the chain into the tyres for making the journey easier.

Photo of Reminiscing the Experience of Undertaking the Ultimate Road Trip in India: Leh - Pangong Tso by Vaswati
Photo of Reminiscing the Experience of Undertaking the Ultimate Road Trip in India: Leh - Pangong Tso by Vaswati
Photo of Reminiscing the Experience of Undertaking the Ultimate Road Trip in India: Leh - Pangong Tso by Vaswati

While enjoying the scenery in this snowy wonderland, we found some stalactite formation hanging form the rock.

Stalactite formation

Photo of Reminiscing the Experience of Undertaking the Ultimate Road Trip in India: Leh - Pangong Tso by Vaswati

Within a couple of minutes, we resumed our journey. As we started moving ahead, the views were just gorgeous. The glistening snow all around the road and snowy peaks took my breath away. It seemed mother nature rolled out the white carpet for us. We were proceedings, crushing snow underneath and leaving the impression of two tyres behind. The experience was like never before.

Photo of Reminiscing the Experience of Undertaking the Ultimate Road Trip in India: Leh - Pangong Tso by Vaswati
Photo of Reminiscing the Experience of Undertaking the Ultimate Road Trip in India: Leh - Pangong Tso by Vaswati

We finally reached the Changla top, the world’s third highest pass at an elevation of 17,586 feet. There was a small cafe run by Indian Army that offers free tea and coffee to all tourists! I was baffled to learn that free refreshments were being offered at a high-altitude place like this where getting basic supplies is no less than a challenge. Truly, one can find such hospitality only in the mountains. We went inside the cafeteria to sip a delicious hot cup of coffee that offered warmth to our very souls. Equipped to face the biting cold, we stepped outside to behold the beauty of the snow laden Himalayan peaks and of course, clicked lots of pictures. A Himalayan dog wagging its beautiful tail was roaming around. I was surprised having seen this furry puppy such a great height.

Photo of Chang La Pass by Vaswati
Photo of Chang La Pass by Vaswati
Photo of Chang La Pass by Vaswati
Photo of Chang La Pass by Vaswati

There is a small temple called Changla Baba Shrine made by Indian Army under the belief that Baba will protect and save the people from any mishap here. A flight of steps take you to the entrance of the temple.

Photo of Reminiscing the Experience of Undertaking the Ultimate Road Trip in India: Leh - Pangong Tso by Vaswati

And finally, we reached our destination!

From snow-laden path, the landscape soon transformed. Rugged mountains, as if painted in a hundred shades of brown with an occasional splatter of green stood tall on either sides of the road. We spotted a sparkling turquoise blue lake that beckoned us closer.

The beauty was breathtaking.

The horses with their foal were grazing in the meadows

Photo of Reminiscing the Experience of Undertaking the Ultimate Road Trip in India: Leh - Pangong Tso by Vaswati

The herd of yaks feeding in the mountain slopes.

Photo of Reminiscing the Experience of Undertaking the Ultimate Road Trip in India: Leh - Pangong Tso by Vaswati

A flock of Pashmina Goats grazing on the road side while a small herd of Himalayan Marmot busking in the sun and looking for the prey.

The flock of Pashmina goat

Photo of Reminiscing the Experience of Undertaking the Ultimate Road Trip in India: Leh - Pangong Tso by Vaswati

These are the giant furry Himalayan squirrel. As the car went nearer, they hurriedly hide into their burrows.

Photo of Reminiscing the Experience of Undertaking the Ultimate Road Trip in India: Leh - Pangong Tso by Vaswati

While we were exciting spotting all these fauna, suddenly a stretch of deep blue appeared in the middle of grey hills and we were told that this was it. We all screamed with excitement.

The first glimpse of the Pangong Tso

Photo of Reminiscing the Experience of Undertaking the Ultimate Road Trip in India: Leh - Pangong Tso by Vaswati

A couple of minutes later, we found ourselves just in front of the picturesque Pangong Tso. The lake lived up to its reputation, the glistening emerald coloured lake was encircled by the mighty Himalayas of different shades.

The picturesque Pangong Tso

Photo of Reminiscing the Experience of Undertaking the Ultimate Road Trip in India: Leh - Pangong Tso by Vaswati
Photo of Reminiscing the Experience of Undertaking the Ultimate Road Trip in India: Leh - Pangong Tso by Vaswati

The blueness of the lake on the backdrop of brown mountain was mesmerising.

Photo of Reminiscing the Experience of Undertaking the Ultimate Road Trip in India: Leh - Pangong Tso by Vaswati

The water is so clear that one can see the underneath pebbles far away. The strong wind creating small ripples near the edges. A flock of milky white seagulls, gliding and flying over the deep blue water was the added beauty.

Photo of Reminiscing the Experience of Undertaking the Ultimate Road Trip in India: Leh - Pangong Tso by Vaswati
Photo of Reminiscing the Experience of Undertaking the Ultimate Road Trip in India: Leh - Pangong Tso by Vaswati

I took a handful of water to test but it was so salty that I threw it back immediately but it was so cold that it made my fingers and mouth numb. I dare not to dip my feet into the cold water.

3 Idiot's point

Photo of Reminiscing the Experience of Undertaking the Ultimate Road Trip in India: Leh - Pangong Tso by Vaswati

A narrow stretch of land protruded out into the lake which is known as 3 Idiot’s Point, after the shooting of the Aamir Khan starrer Bollywood blockblusters '3 Idiots'. While taking a stroll on this trail, I could visualise the final scene of the movie.

Photo of Reminiscing the Experience of Undertaking the Ultimate Road Trip in India: Leh - Pangong Tso by Vaswati

A few luxurious tents are sprung up for accommodation and a few small dhabas that are selling tea and Maggie. We were feeling hungry as were running late .

Photo of Reminiscing the Experience of Undertaking the Ultimate Road Trip in India: Leh - Pangong Tso by Vaswati

After satiating our test buds with hot Maggie, we resume our return journey following the same way.

We had to take another stop at Changla top. One of the cab out of our three cabs, had a flat tyre and left behind a couple of kilometres away from the Pass. The cab didn’t have any spare tyre. Tour Manager, dropping us near cafeteria, went to rescue the cab.

Photo of Reminiscing the Experience of Undertaking the Ultimate Road Trip in India: Leh - Pangong Tso by Vaswati

The sun already started setting down. The snow covered Changla top surrounded by the mighty peaks of Himalayas was looking spectacular in the fading evening light.

Photo of Reminiscing the Experience of Undertaking the Ultimate Road Trip in India: Leh - Pangong Tso by Vaswati

The bone chilling wind was unbearable. We all got into the cafe for some warmth and have some hot tea. Even inside the cafeteria, the cold was insufferable. My hands and feet were getting numb.

Photo of Reminiscing the Experience of Undertaking the Ultimate Road Trip in India: Leh - Pangong Tso by Vaswati

It took almost half an hour. As soon as the cab came back, we all went inside and continued journey. On the way, we watch a beautiful sunset over the mountain.

Sunset near Changla Top

Photo of Reminiscing the Experience of Undertaking the Ultimate Road Trip in India: Leh - Pangong Tso by Vaswati

As we climbed down, our driver slowed down and helped us spot a wolf with a prey, hanging from its mouth, in the slope not very far from us . It was amazing.

Photo of Reminiscing the Experience of Undertaking the Ultimate Road Trip in India: Leh - Pangong Tso by Vaswati

We reached the hotel by 7.30 pm.

This single day trip was a lifetime experience for us. We saw the world's highest salt water lake, the Himalayan Marmot, yaks, Pashmina Goat, seal gulls and on top of that, a Himalayan wolf in its natural habitat! Even though the journey was a challenge like no other – with the bad roads and biting cold weather, I am glad that I decided to step out of my comfort zone. As I sit at home, with nowhere to go and no place to explore, it is the memories of my experience that keep me going. My memories, they remind me to be grateful of each day that I get to be alive on this beautiful planet, they motivate me to make the most of everyday I get. The next time I travel, I will be sure to challenge myself to do something I've never done before, every single day. What about you?

Getting there :

By Air : Leh is the nearest airport and well connected with other important places in India.

By Train : Kalka is the nearest railway station to Leh. Buses or taxis can be hired to reach Manali via Shimla.

By Road : Pangong Tso can be reached after a a five-hour drive from Leh.