Colors of Pangong Tso Ladakh, India : A Photo Essay

3/15/2014 11:59:00 PM

I was planning to publish a book review this weekend, but its taking a while. A huge book it is, Yes. Its already been a week, since I posted anything, and the fact, Its Holi tomorrow, and there is no way I'd escape the colors of the most vibrant festival on earth, Here I am dedicating this post to a magical place in the Higher Himalayas, popular world-over as the Lake of 1001 Colors.

How is it possible to feel nostalgia for a world I never knew?
 How is it possible to feel nostalgia for a world I never knew? - Ernesto Guevara de la Serna - Motorcycle Diaries.

You guessed it right. I am talking about Pangong Tso, or The Lake Pangong, situated at a height of about 4,350 m (14,270 ft), and running 134 km (83 mi) long extending from Ladakh India to Tibet China. Famous for its ever-changing exquisite colors, and also known as the " Lake of Great Hollow",  Pangong is a high altitude salt-water lake about 160Kms from Leh city of Ladakh, in the state of Jammu & kashmir of North India, and is reachable via road that passes through Chang La, a mountain pass and the third highest motorable road in the world. The varying colors of the crystal clear waters in the shades of green and blue, are due to the play of light, wind and the clouds.

I visited Pangong Lake on 3rd July 2010, Almost 4 years back now. It was part of my 1 month expedition to ladakh. I remember I cam back from Nubra, and waiting till Saturday since there was no bus available except over the weekend. There are only two buses a week to Pangong Tso. The One on Saturday starts at about 6-7AM from Leh Bus stand, traverses slowly towards Changla taking good break at Karu ( from where road goes to Manali, and Changthang Tsomiriri via Upshi ) and then at Tangste, One of the twin villages. The other one is Durbuk.

Yes Zorro was here too...| Chang La | Ladakh | In Explore 2012-12-23

  A-View of Indus Valley from Chang La Hike.

This bus then stops over at Lukung, West-most point of the lake, before riding up north to the village of Lukung for a night-over. there is no village, but only couple of guest houses and tent accommodations and military establishment at the shore. This same bus comes back to the shore next morning at about 9AM and reaches back to leh 2-3PM in the afternoon.

The Sunday bus, however takes the route towards the east from the shore, and goes all the way to Chusul, via two small villages spangmik and Merak, and take a ride back to Leh via the same route Next day i.e. Monday.

“But I have my life, I’m living it. It’s twisted, exhausting, uncertain, and full of guilt, but nonetheless, there’s something there.”

Most of the visitors traveling to ladakh, use private vehicles or shared taxis. Its rare to find any tourists or travelers in local bus except few foreigners in for long term travel, or trekking, and the locals who carry back home, home gas cylinders and other items of need of the house-hold. the guest houses at Pangong tso also stock up food and other items for people arriving at pangong, in these buses.

Though slow I had a fantastic time riding in the bus, in fact one of the most memorable journey in my long travel in Ladakh. A girl traveling solo, and in a local bus, Both Bus driver and conductor were extra nice to me, if I needed any help of any sort. The long ride was full of enchanting views and so was the sufi- influenced kashmiri music, One CD / cassette that he played both in ride to and back from Pangong and though I don't remember the lyrics, the melody along with mist of the valley, is still afresh in my memory and in the long night of silence, still haunts me.

A morning glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books.
A morning glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books.- Walt Whitman 

I remember I was forever waiting to get a glimpse of the lake, and almost jumped out of the window when I saw the deep blue line from a bit far off on the road. I believe I had posted that image on facebook after my travel, and Now I have to find where in the archives it is because its certainly not there in flickr collection.

I initially planned to stay over the entire weekend, take the sunday bus to Chusul and then back to Leh on Monday. But I think I was little less prepared for the night of cold at 15000ft. Ladakh also was my first ever solo expedition, ( I traveled for work but thats totally different ) so I was still understanding and dealing with the nuisances that comes with being alone and in a new strange environment. I think it was more about cold and then that local people telling me that the view from Chusul is quite similar as here, and there is no facility to stay there either.

Lady Pangong ;)

Apart from spending that night in the kitchen tent, staying up most of the night trying to push my head out and looking at the sky showering stars, from so close if I could reach out and pluck a few to take 'em back home with me, I mostly spent time sitting at the shore alone with my feet in freezing water, watching and feeding the birds, sipping tea sitting next to the tent in the evening, talking to fellow travelers who came in small / big, friends / family group, and chatting to locals kids about what they study and playing with them. In the morning Walked few kilometers north towards spangmik and took few early morning shots. Presented in this Photo essay are a very small collection that I have processed so far.


The day shall not be up so soon as I, To try the fair adventure of tomorrow. ~William Shakespeare
The day shall not be up so soon as I, To try the fair adventure of tomorrow. 
~William Shakespeare 

HASTA LA VICTORIA SIEMPRE” - Che Guevara “HASTA LA VICTORIA SIEMPRE” - Che Guevara [Front Page Explore!]

At the water's edge :Ansel Adams
At the water's edge :Ansel Adams 

The Stuff  that I am made of.

I hope you enjoyed this essay. I don't remember seeing many images of Ladakh and Pangong before I traveled. so most of these compositions are all my experiments, I wish I could have hiked on the mountain on this side of the shore, and took a good Higher view, But it was so windy even in the morning, that even walking was impossible, also Sunday the weather got totally unpredictable,  I remember pitying the people who were driving towards Pangong while on the way back, because they dint see any colors and also most of them got stuck at Chang La as it started snowing. 

Look for more, and the rest of the stories in the posts to come in future, as this is just the glimpse, also one of the image that I posted on flickr is not embedded here, I have a heavy black border on it which I have to edit as I hate it now. I have linked it but so check it out.

A selected few of these images are available for print in the gallery here - 
A Very Happy Holi to you all.

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  1. ladakh is one beautiful places to visit in India and it contains the scenic beauty of mother India the blog shows the beauty of ladakh in a superb way and the travelling is great when we travel by roads by online bus booking.

  2. @Bruce - True indeed and thank you. Glad you liked em. have a good one.

  3. Such a nice description about Ladakh Trip
    preparation. thanks for the nice post


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