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India: Jammu and Kashmir: Hunder, Leh, Pangong Lake, Thiksey
Pangong Lake, Ladakh, India: The enchanted one
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
Pangong Tso, Tibetan for "long, narrow, enchanted lake", also referred to as Pangong Lake, is a lake in the Himalayas situated at a height of about 4,350 metres, it is the highest salt water-lake in the world. It is 134 km long and extends from India to Tibet (China). 60% of the length of the lake lies in Tibet. The lake is 5 km wide at its broadest point. All together it covers 604 square kms. Despite of the lake's salinity, it freezes completely in winters.
We departed from our hotel in Leh at 8AM. Apart from brief halts at the Rancho School and Shey Palace, we made a halt at Thiksey Monastery. I have featured this separately.
From Thiksey Monastery we negotiated Chang La Pass which stands at 5486 metres and is ranked the third highest motorable road in the world. The name Chang La literally means the ‘Pass towards the South’. At Chang La I would suggest you take a brief halt at one of the many small eating stalls. A cup of noodles will do you good. It’s quite likely that you will have the opportunity to interact with other travelers, especially the ones negotiating on their motor-cycles. Since we are on the subject, motor-cycle tours are very popular in the region. People from across the country ride all the way up. And down! Motor-cycles, of all makes and kind (Bullet from Royal Enfield are very popular though) can easily be hired in Leh.
After passing through small villages of Tangtse and Changthang we finally reached Pangong Lake at around 4PM. The distance from Leh to Pangong is about 145 kms., but the travel time will at least take 5 hours plus your wait enroute. It’s a bumpy ride for part of the journey, but it is well worth it.
For the night we were booked at a camp site named Whispering Waves. There are about 15 tents, each with attached toilets and basic amenities. I could see many such camps, but I can surely recommend Whispering Waves. The camp was about 200 metres from the lake shore.
Lunch, albeit delayed for the day, was waiting for us when we reached the camp. Post lunch and after a much needed rest we left for the lake at about 6PM. Since it was summer time, the sun was still up. We walked alongside the lake for about an hour before heading back to our camp.
That evening, post dinner, we had a camp-fire. A game of dumb charades kept us all occupied for an hour or so.
At dawn next morning, few of us from the group headed for the lake about 5 kms from our camp. The morning light and the golden sands presented us with a totally new perspective. The location is quite popular with Bollywood for shooting romantic sequences. The pictures will tell you more.
We reached the camp for breakfast. Thereafter it was departure time. We would be in Leh for the night.
Enroute we made a little detour to visit Hemis Monastery. This monastery is the largest monastic institution in Ladakh founded in 1630 by the first Taktsang Repa, a great yogi of the Drukpa Lineage, under the patronage of King Sengge Namgyal. Hemis has more than 200 branches in the Himalayas and more than 1000 monks under its care. Hemis Monastery houses a great number of invaluable, historical, cultural and religious artifacts including images, scriptures and artwork. The Hemis Festival, one of the most popular ones in Ladakh happens in June every year.
Pangong Lake Image Gallery Photo viewer
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