Key facts about Pangong Tso
- ~ 14,000 Feet above sea level
- 134 km long
- Around 5km at the widest point
- Roughly 6o% of it is in China and the rest in India
- An Endorheic Lake – meaning it is a closed drainage basin that retains water without any outflows to rivers or oceans
- The lake freezes completely in the winter in spite of being salt water!
A Dramatic Drive
The 150km distance takes around 5-1/2 hours. Getting out of Leh (11,500 feet), the scenery unfolds. Within a short drive, one passes through the summer residence of the Dalai Lama, thebeautiful Sindhu Ghat next to the Indus River, the centuries old monasteries of Shey Palace and the Thiksey Gompa. These monasteries are perched on hilltops offering a place for monks to embark on a life of learning in the most serene environments. Then comes the climb into Zingral, ChangLa; the descent into Dubruk, TangTse, Lukung & finally Pangong Tso.
Permits & Checkpoints
As travelers begin the climb up the mountains, the first of the few checkposts await the traveler (both ways) to ensure the BRO know who travel in this remote terrain in the event of breakdowns or other unforeseen events. The permits are issued by the Leh Tourism department for a nominal fee.
The Terrain gets interesting
Climbing further towards the Chang La pass, the terrain starts unravelling itself. Before one realizes, travelers quickly gain altitude. The views offered parallel those looking out of a plane window. Mountainous terrain – rough, smooth, carved – all worn with time, offer innumerable visual combinations along with ever changing skies. Extremely beautiful moments, too fleeting in time to remember all.
Chang La – 3rd highest motorable road in the planet! An army outpost, requiring one to climb 17,500 feet before descending to 14,000 feet to reach Pangong. (According to a prior Kunzum post, Chang La is technically the 2nd highest motorable road.)
Valleys – Winding down below Chang La, travelers drive through valleys – surrounded by mountains everywhere. The scenery changes every kilometer of the journey!
Streams – 108 kms from Leh, one reaches the town of TangTse. A checkpost awaits along a stream and army barracks. Noodles and tea warm travelers – the last stop before eternity.
Vastness – In this vastness and beyond, one feels like the speck that they are in this Universe. Sceneries to behold forever.
Poetic License to the BRO – Saftey signs line up the entire route into Pangong Tso. Some are downright cheeky (Darling I love you, but not so fast), others have bad grammar, even spelling mistakes. The Border Roads Organization (BRO) must be commended not only for maintaining motorable roads, but, for also sharing their wisdom through safety signs with a quirky sense of humor. On descending Chang La, the latter part comprises incredible valley drives with Yaks, wild Horses, Marmots, Birdlife, Pashmina Sheep dotting the scenery. One almost wishes that this would never end. As these thoughts emerge, the below signboard heightens the anticipation for travelers.
Pangong Tso – Surreal!
The pictures speak for themselves. This is what one will see on arriving..
Epilogue: Can this be for Real?
I cannot get over the lingering memories of Pangong Tso – even though it has been 2 months since we returned from Ladakh. The lucky ones who have made the long and arduous trek to this “Heaven on Earth” will truly understand what I mean. One had to have been there to relate to what I am saying, as a life changing moment transcends one into another world. Words simply cannot do justice to this incredible creation that we were privileged enough to have seen. And thankful to have the good fortune to tell everyone about the splendidness that is Pangong Tso. An expanse of water spanning 134 km long and 5 km wide at it’s widest point, surrounded by the most rugged terrain. Imagine this – a visual extravagance as far as the eye can see, pin drop silence, the clouds sifting continuously – one can see the same view differently based on the skies and cloud formations every few minutes! A sense of calm seeps in all the way to the soul. For someone not believing in religion as it is preached in it’s current form, but having the modesty to realize that there is some force behind all this, I ask of this creator – if there was one, “What were you thinking when you made this?” Am I glad of the outcome!Pangong Tso is real after all! Having left Pangong Tso reluctantly (however contented) after a brief stay, I wish the same as my spouse – to return one day and relive those glorious memories! In the meanwhile, I have brought back with me, eternal memories that provide solace, and take me to this unique place whenever I seek solitude and peace.
Here is a short video entitled “Eternal Memories from Pangong Tso” that provides a glimpse of what we experienced. Enjoy!
[This article was contributed by Vijay Ramanathan – a Technology/Gadget enthusiast and Blogger. You can follow his tweets at http://twitter.com/tekdude & his blog at http://tekdude.wordpress.com/ ]