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Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Exquisite Pangong Lake

As you watch the climax of the Hindi movie 3 idiots, you may be forgiven for not listening to the dialogues. The Pan Gong Tso or the Pangong Lake where the scene has been shot steals the thunder from the drama unfolding before you. The crystal clear waters of the lake mesmerize you; they take your breath away. If you have ever visited the lakes in popular tourist spots in India you know what I am talking about. They are sure to turn you off boating or a walk around them. This is precisely why Pangong Lake is such a tourist delight. The water is absolutely clear and reflects the sky and its myriad hues.
The Pangong  Lake is situated near Leh in Ladakh. It is a drive along picturesque mountains, sometimes snow clad too. There is an ascent till you reach the Changla Pass, the third highest motor able road in the world. Hot green tea is served with a lot of warmth by the Indian army here. There is a small souvenir shop worth a visit. From Changla the descent starts via the village Tangste. Along the way, lot of unusual animals can be seen. Among them is the rare Ladakh Marmot – a rodent like creature almost as big as a small pup. Probably, because of the sound of jeeps, it stands alert on its two hind legs and is a sight to behold. There are also wild horses and yaks for company.  In the sky you can see seagulls and the Brahmini ducks. All along the drive the view continues to enthrall you.

The first glimpse of the Pangong Lake is from between two high hills. As you descend towards the Pangong Lake, you lose sight of it for some time only to be greeted by the spectacularly large lake. Its vastness takes you by surprise and it is only 40% of the majestic lake. The rest of the lake lies in China and is hence forbidden territory. The “blueness” of the lake is a visual that cannot be described in words; it has to be seen to be believed. The water in the lake is surprisingly chilly even on a hot Ladakhi summer afternoon. No wonder it is not a favorite pastime of the tourists and helps preserve its pristine waters. The lake is actually a salt water lake and thus supports very little vegetation and aquatic life although sometimes one does find small fishes and plants near the shores.

As you walk around the lake the beauty and the serenity of the place envelops you. The tranquility despite the tourists is a rejuvenating feeling. The stop here is usually around an hour or an hour and a half as most of the tourists have to travel five hours back to Leh. A few daring ones choose to stay overnight to watch the sunset and the sunrise. It can get bitingly cold after sunset and breathing too gets difficult as AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) grips you. The stay lasts an hour, but the memories remain forever in the mind of the visitor.

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