Ladakh – Pangong Lake and Rafting at Zanskar
In my last blog, I wrote about how my friend was got unwell in Nubra Valley and he decided to go back to Delhi. Read Ladakh – Trip to Nubra Valley to know about our experience in Nubra Valley.
Day 5. At 5:00 AM in the morning my friend woke me up and said that he is not going back to Delhi and he is thinking of calling the tour manager to cancel the cab for the airport. I was sleepy at that time, so I just said OK. When I got up, I came to know that he had canceled the cab for the airport which was booked last night. He was feeling better than before. But I still had an apprehension that he is still not well. At 8:30 am, we left for Pangong Lake according to the itinerary. Today, the weather was a bit hot compared to the previous day, but as we were leaving the city behind, the weather was getting colder and even the gusts of cold breeze were relaxing our face.
Our driver took the necessary permits on the way. We were taking a couple of short breaks. Somebody had to be stretched and someone had to do a photo op. The road was good at some places and bad at some places, but it was fine compared to the road of Nubra Valley. Despite that, the scenic beauty of nature spread all around, making the way comfortable.
On the way, we saw an army convoy coming. There were more than 50 trucks one after the other. This is a daily routine in Ladakh and you can found Army deployment very frequently. Ladakh is a strategic location for India’s sovereignty. A living example of how one feels proud and safe feeling together.
We took the first stop at Chang La which is the second-highest motorable road in the world. As we were driving for a long time, we thought of drinking tea and remove our fatigue. The view of nature from that place was absolutely magnificent and enchanting. After stopping there for a while, we went on the journey ahead.
The car was moving forward on zigzag paths. Along the road, there was a stream flowing which was made of water melted from the glacier. Lush green grass was grown on its banks and lavender flowers were blooming. It was a very captivating and spectacular sight that mesmerized the eyes.
We took another stop there and spent a lot of time there. Think for yourself what a peaceful time it will be when you sit in the middle of green grass and relax amidst the blooming flowers of lavender on the banks of the river. After spending some time, we moved forward. We stopped at Tangshek village to have lunch. There was a small river flowing on whose banks the horses were roaming. There was a monastery on the hill in front. The food was simple but very tasty. The behavior of the elderly lady who was running that small restaurant was making the food even more delicious. The intimacy that she showed is seen in very few people in this world, but it seems that there is a lot in Ladakh.
These people are pure and honest to heart. They welcome people wholeheartedly. After lunch, we left for Pangong. Along the road was a field covered with green grass and a small river was flowing through it. There were hills on both sides. Horses, cows, and yaks were roaming at the banks of the river. It was a pleasant pleasure like a paradise. The heart was trying to settle there for the rest of its life. But there are some circumstances which prevent us from doing according to our heart. We were moving forward enjoying the views along the river. The road was now smooth and there was no problem anywhere. There was still an hour’s journey to go. But we didn’t know how did that hour pass in that heaven-like place. And then we saw that for which we were driving from last 7 hours, First Look of World Famous Pangong Lake was seen from between two mountains. Pangong Tso or Pangong Lake is an endorheic lake spanning eastern Ladakh and West Tibet situated at an elevation of 4,225 m (13,862 ft). It is 134 km (83 mi) long and divided into five sub lakes, called Pangong Tso, Tso Nyak, Rum Tso (twin lakes), and Nyak Tso. The lake is 5 km (3.1 mi) wide at its broadest point. All together it covers 604 km2. During winter the lake freezes completely, despite being saline water. It has a land-locked basin separated from the Indus River basin by a small elevated ridge but is believed to have been part of the latter in prehistoric times.
But then our car had to apply brakes because it was jammed ahead. The engine of a vehicle standing ahead was not starting. It took us 30 minutes there. We had reached the bank of Pangong Lake in 15 minutes once the traffic was cleared. But it was such a big lake that we required another 20-25 minutes to reach our camp, Pangong Heritage. The location where “3 Idiots” movie was shot was near to our camp. But that was not the real attraction, the real attraction was the blue Pangong lake surrounded by mountains, Great and Relaxing. There was a cool breeze. After spending some time there, we reached our camp. Our camp was only 200 meters away from Pangong Lake, so we thought to take some rest and then go to the lake. We checked into Camp number 303. As we entered our camp, we were shocked. It was no less than a 5-star property. The camp is quite big with proper decoration and maintenance. Carpets were spread along the bed, which is not usual in the camp. The bathroom was also quite big if you compare it to other camps in India. There was a separate section in which Almira was available to keep the stuff. There was a separate small section at the entrance of the camp where the sofa was kept and it was covered with mesh net so that you could safe from the cold wind and also enjoy Pangong Lake.
After putting luggage in the camp, I set out towards the shore of Pangong Lake. At that time there were not many people on the lake, so I got a chance to capture the beauty of the lake with my camera. There was grass lying along the lake, on which you could sit comfortably and spend hours without worrying about getting clothes dirty. I spent 3 hours at the lake and then came back to the camp to rest. Within a short time, a call came in for dinner. Options were less at dinner, but whatever they gave was good. Till now if we leave food at Chamba restaurant aside, then we have not had any problem with eating anywhere.
It was night and the cold air was at its full speed. Inside the camp, it seemed that the wind velocity should not blow the camp itself. Now it was time to rest, and tomorrow morning, I had to see Sunrise from Pangong Lake, so it was time to sleep.
Day 6. At 5:00 AM in the morning, I woke up from sleep and reached the shore of the lake. There was a cool cold wind. The sun had not risen yet. There were dark clouds in the sky. No one was seen on the bank of the lake yet. It was a peaceful atmosphere. Slowly, the redness of the sun was enveloping the cloud and the effect of that redness was also seen on the lake. The scene was soothing to the eyes. Shortly afterward, as the day passed, people also started coming to the shore of the lake.
At 8:30 AM, after breakfast, we left for Leh. The weather was excellent, and we were driving nonstop through the spectacular views of the mountains and valleys. While going to Pangong lake and coming back, do not forget to read the quotes written on the side of the road, it is very spectacular and sometimes funny. After 2 hours drive, we reached Changla. We ate Thupka in Changla, it was very tasty, along with tea which is perfect for relieving fatigue. The weather was pleasant and did not feel cold. After 30 minutes we were on our way back, but soon the car had to be stopped because there was a long line of the car from the front near a waterfall. It took us 30 minutes to cross that patch. After that, we kept driving without any stop. We reached our hotel at 3.15 pm without any further problem.
We went out to roam the market at 5:00 pm. Did some shopping. The market was very clean. We did not feel that even the local market could be so clean and tidy. Local shopkeepers of Delhi NCR should come and see how cleanliness should be maintained in local markets so that people do not go to the mall. Tourists from different countries were roaming around. The market was very full of hustle and bustle. The market was full of local jewelry and Pashmina clothes. Vegetable vendors were also seated well on the side of the road in the market. Then we reached a German bakery, Gesmo Restaurant. There we took momos and Himalayan Chamomile tea, which is made from Chamomile flower. Both were fantastic. After that, we saw the workmanship of the local art in the market and returned to the hotel at the end of a wonderful day.
Day 7. Last day of the trip. The next day we have to go back, so this day we have to use it fully and explore as much as possible. By the way, at night itself we had decided that we would leave at 8:30 in the morning and confirmed with the driver too. But in the morning we came to know that our driver had to go to Kargil and both our driver and car have changed. At 9:15 am, a new driver arrived in Scorpio. We were already ready. Within 5 minutes, we were en route to our first stop of the day which was ‘Hall of Fame’.
Tales of the bravery of the army were written on the walls. Every Paramveer and Mahavir Chakra winner was adorned there. Every soldier who was martyred for the country was there. The story of every war from 1948 to Kargil was there. There you not only feel proud of your army, but it also increases many folds. Also, there was a War Memorial in memory of the martyrs of 1948 in which the name of each martyr was written. There was a beautiful tricolor waving proudly there. Also, there was a memorial stone in memory of every martyr. That was altogether a different feeling which cannot be expressed in words. The stories of the bravery of the Indian Army printed on the walls was enough to give you goosebumps. There you will also find a souvenir shop, do not forget to take anything for yourself. It will be a symbol of pride for you.
Two hours later we left for our second stop Zanskar where we were about to go rafting. On the way, we stopped at Magnetic Hill where even gravity does not work. The car automatically moves upwards without starting and without any help. We reached Sangam after 30 minutes. Sangam is the place where the Zanskar River unites with the Indus River. Their union is clearly visible due to the different colors of the two. After that, we went rafting. Rafting is available for three distances i.e. 6 km (Rs. 700), 14 km (Rs. 1300), and 28 km (Rs. 1500). All three take place in the Zanskar River, and as the distance increases, difficulty also increasing. Apart from these, a 28 km rafting also takes place in the Indus River. We chose 14 kilometers of rafting as we arrived quite late. If you want to go for 28 kilometers then you need to reach early in the morning. We were 4 people and out of that, two were doing it for the first time. We had to wait 30 minutes at the rafting shop. After that, we got ready and left for the rafting location. The suit is provided by the rafting shop to you for rafting. The suit was too hot, but it is necessary to avoid freezing cold water. After driving for 17 km we reached the location of rafting. It was a fantastic location. The river along with the road in the middle of the mountains. The briefing took place before rafting.
As soon as we sat in the raft, my friend became hopeless after seeing the first rapid, which was just a short distance from the starting point. However, he had done the rafting earlier. It took me 10 minutes to handle him. I had to scold him a little too. Now my worry was the two new rafters who were witnessing the whole scene. After 10 minutes we started rafting. I and my friend were sitting in front because we had done rafting before. My friend fell in the middle of the raft as soon as our raft went in the first rapid because he was already scared. But after that he got confidence. One by one we crossed 4 rapids, which were even harder than the first rapid. We finished 14 km of rafting while going through the magnificent rapids. It was the third most dangerous track in India, but it was fantastic and full of beautiful views. In the middle of rafting, I once landed in Zanskar River, but the water was so cold that if you stayed in it even for 10 minutes, you would freeze. Even after wearing the suit, you will feel the coolness of the water. We finished rafting in 1 hour. We came back to the rafting shop and changed clothes. The shop owner had arranged the tea which was very much needed in that situation. You can also get your rafting video made. While coming back, we stopped at the Gurudwara Pathar Sahib. I felt a lot of peace. After praying we went ahead. The weather had turned fantastic. There were dark clouds in the sky. Scorpio was being run on the road. We captured the moments by stopping one or two places on the way back. On the way, a very large and magnificent tricolor was seen waving. We stopped at ‘The Tibetan Kitchen’ and ordered sableji, momos, and noodles. Nothing was good except Sableji. We had left the restaurant after eating that the rain started. We came to our hotel while walking. The day was quite busy, but there was no fatigue at all.
The flight was at 10:30 am the next morning, so it was time to pack the luggage with only one thing in mind
“You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So…get on your way!”
– Dr. Seuss