One would imagine Ladakh to be full of high mountain passes; arduous and tortuous paths abound. This journey has none of that. The drive is certainly one of the most picturesque in all of Ladakh; the myriad of 'Pangong' hues that keep you company are pure bliss. Cold deserts and green plains follow with snowy peaks as the backdrop. One needs to get a permit for this route from the DC office in Leh which is roughly 300 rupees per day per person. The dearth of travelers on this route means that you get a feeling of exclusivity, which doubles your urge to share the experience: the reason I write this piece.
Hanle being 160km from Spangmik, seems a short drive but numerous 'Photo Breaks', no roads and navigation errors ensured that the drive took the better part of the day. The first half of the journey upto Chushul involves driving along the Pangong in sand, tracing the tracks left by others.The beautiful villages of Man and Merak lie along the lake and have comfortable homestays (Better stay here than the relatively crowded Spangmik). This is undoubtedly the best part of the journey. This is also where we did our second rescue which I talked about in my last piece on Shyok. Permits are checked at Merak, after which the tracks move away from Pangong (goes into Tibet) to the right towards Chushul.
It is easy to get stuck in sand especially if you are not in a SUV. Our fellow travelers wandered off the beaten track and got stuck in the sand. Though they were well prepared and had brought planks that could pull them out, we had to chip in. Their SX4 only had a rear tow hook which meant that we pulled them to the path with their car in reverse. The 4L mode had once again proved its worth! Check out the video below!
Traveling the road alongside the Pangong is an experience unparalleled. Lake to the left, snowy peaks to the right and a desert ahead! This is the place which keeps urging me to do the drive again; one which has something even if you are doing it the hundredth time.