Today we travelled to Pangong Lake – over a mountain pass with an elevation of 17,000 + ft., a “delightful” snowstorm, freezing cold weather and the most hospitable army outpost at the pass where they provided everyone with piping hot masala tea and momos all free. Momos are a dumpling filled with either veggies or mutton and served with a spicy hot sauce – think Dim Sum but with a Tibetan twist.
I met and chatted briefly with a photographer who works for one of the Delhi newspapers who has ridden his motorcycle over the three highest passes in India – all in Ladakh – every year for the past 22 years! When I asked him why – he replied “Why Not”? Which answer strikes me as eminently appropriate don’t you think?
The one lane-ish mostly gravel road winds back and forth up the sides of the mountains with hair raising hairpin turns and nary a guard-rail or shoulder in sight. Our driver Namgayal is superb at negotiating these “roads” especially when a huge army truck passes putting us on the outside of a 2000 ft drop – and the trucks look like they are being driven by 12 year olds. Tho’ to be fair, the army has a “hill driving school’ which is presumably mandatory for all of them!
Pangong Lake appeared at the end of a very long drive through the most magnificent mountain ranges – it is hard to describe really but here goes – they are austere and ever changing, unforgiving and possessed of the most delicate flowers, you are completely aware that they could kill you in a heartbeat but at the same time completely captivating. I could and have spent hours watching the play of light paint the slopes and the clouds chase each other over one after another mountain.
Pangong Lake has only opened up in the last 20 years or so and apart from a small village of 9 homes, is entirely composed of summer tent communities for visitors. The lake is split between India and China and so we were required to get special permits to go there and submit to several checkpoints. The lake itself is a rich greeney-blue but without life – it is very saline. Some say this is because it was a part of the ocean before the Himalayas were created or quite possibly because there is no egress for water – sort of like the Dead Sea. In any case it is beautiful, quiet and possessed of the most amazing energy. As you can see below I felt the need to add a little “Canadian” touch to the landscape!
I have to say that I have been feeling incredibly energetic myself – everyday by 5 am I am wide awake, no fuzziness or travel fatigue at all, nor has the altitude bothered me particularly.
It was pretty chilly in our tents but the staff brought us hot water bottles and fortunately the wind which had been blowing at a pretty steady near gale force level settled down for the night – rattling tents are not conducive to restful sleep really.
Tsering and I were the last ones up, wrapped in blankets and star gazing, the night sky crystal clear and sufficient to make you believe in a higher power. He says that what we call the Milky Way, the Ladakhans call The Spine of the World.
Off to bed now with ALL my clothes on…..