Finally, after covering an unbelievable journey of 2770 KMs from Mumbai in 6 days we had arrived in Leh. Julley to Ladakh!!! The gradual ascend to Leh via Srinagar – Leh highway ensured in getting acclimatize to high altitude. The team also became complete with addition of our family members early in the morning on fifth day of the tour, thereby making our long pending plan of exploring Ladakh together a reality. Previous day was spent in leisure with no further stretch to us and also, giving sufficient time to new members to get used to high altitude. In Ladakh there is no scope for complacency as subsequently there were tougher challenges to achieve. It’s a place where beauty, adventure, and thrill always move together. Although, we had done all the research work about various route plans to be followed but wanted to be doubly sure. In that context we tried to gather information from local people but believe us we received different versions with incomplete information. Had we not done our research before arriving here then it would have become very difficult to plan our tour efficiently. Finally, we decided to cover Pangong Tso first afterwards directly move towards Nubra Valley and then come back to Leh. There is no alternate route apart from following below:
Leh – Karu – Sakti – Chang La – Durbuk – Tangste – Lukung – Pangong Tso
A decent start!
Even though the target for the next day was to leave early around 6 a.m. in the morning but looking at the group size it seemed ambitious. We left from our guest house at 8:25 am with trip meter at 2882 KM and after a drive of half an hour took a halt for breakfast. We need energy to keep moving on this tour. We ate stuffed Indian bread (parathas) and bread omelette on a road side restaurant. Again the landscape near the highway was amazing and nearby Shey Palace was an icing on the cake. This break converted into an hour’s break but we enjoyed it. It was a bright sunny day with clear blue sky that was giving an extra oomph to the background of this dreamland. We crossed Karu @ 10:40 am thereby covering a distance of 38 KMs and continued our onward journey. Just after 9 KMs we reached Sakti @ 10:55 a.m., a beautiful hamlet in the lap of Himalayas. There came the stoppage on our way as road ahead was blocked but nevertheless we were enjoying every moment of the journey. Luckily the blockage was cleared within half an hour and we started our onward journey.
As we moved ahead from Sakti, we could see the zigzag curves with ascent taking precedence over plain road and tarmac gradually getting completely disappeared. Now we were going through a roller coaster ride through gravel-cum-road with lots of turn and steep gradient. With no barrier on the side, view of the drop till bottom, Z gradients, torrents, slush, & snow was a spine chilling experience. This is why we were here to test our nerves and get our adrenaline rush through our body. Slowly and steadily we passed through these treacherous terrains and reached Changa La @ 1:15 p.m. thereby covering a distance of 78 KMs. It took us more than 2 hours to cover the distance of 31 KMs till Chang La.
Chang La (alt 5360 mts i.e. 17586 ft)
Finally, we were at the summit - third highest motorable pass in the world as displayed on the milestone over there. It did take some time to absorb the fact that we have scaled this pass and felt delighted. The climate was quite cold at the pass and we could feel the scarcity of oxygen as well. This was our first real test of endurance with an altitude of above 5000 meters. The snow-capped peak that was alluring us from a distance has been scaled by grit and determination. A small temple is also there at the pass known as Chang La Temple. To avoid any health issues we took a small break of fifteen minutes and started descend towards Durbuk. The road conditions were tougher than what we had encountered while scaling the summit and descent was steeper as well.
Frozen Tsoltar Lake
While descending down we saw snow at the base of the mountain and decided to go for it. Few kilometres after the descent we reached the spot and were amazed by the iceberg which actually was frozen “Tsoltar Lake”. This was breathtakingly beautiful and a delight for us. We took a halt of half an hour at this place and went over thr frozen lake as well. We must confess a heavenly experience!
Once again we passed through beautiful and varied terrains of Ladakh. Now the road conditions were better and we reached Durbuk @ 3:40 p.m. thereby covering a distance of 110 KMs where we took a halt for lunch. From Durbuk onwards roads were plain and we were cruising at a better speed. Driving on a plain road with mountains on both sides was a dream that every adventurer think off. The road till Tangste was pretty straight and we reached there @ 4:30 p.m. thereby covering a distance of 118 KMs. We did an entry at the checkpost and were informed to report back once going back. The road from this region passes through Hemis National Park and the topography again became multifaceted with a mix of river, fresh water streams, sand dunes, green covers, snow, and rocks. We saw wild horses grazing on those green patches and were lucky enough to sight Himalayan Marmot on the way as well. We also spotted lots of Magpie birds in this region.
Pangong Tso – A paradise!
After few rough patches came the moment that we were waiting for, the first glimpse of Pangong Tso (Pangong Lake) from a distance and this was the reward for which we were here. An astonishing view of a blue abode amidst barren mountains – a paradise! Phew! Our eyes were wide opened with awe. The last leg of the journey became longest as we were eagerly waiting to be near the lake. That anxious moment also passed and yes we had finally arrived at Pangong Tso (alt 4350 mtrs). The moment we reached near the lake everyone went towards the lake as if they just woke up on a fresh morning. Such was the energy of that heaven. We reached Pangong Tso well on time and our wish of witnessing sunset and sunrise seemed realistic now.
This travelogue was first published by cloud9miles.