It was 6.00 am in the morning but unlike normal routine in suburbs I was awake in the comforts of the double layered mink blanket. I had slept for more than nine hours at stretch and was just enjoying the the morning sunshine piercing through the windows. I woke up to pull the curtains and was surprised to see the gardens, inroads and fields all covered in snow. That wa the first surprise among many that I had during stay in Ladakh. Ladakh had been a traveller’s paradise for too long and chance to go to Ladakh for expedition wasn’t a bad idea and I love those decisions I had made.
The morning, neighbourhood of my guest house everything was covered in snow
Standing in my balcony of the guest house I was really surprised to see heavy snowfall outside and that too in such a sunny and beautiful morning, reminding me about few lines of Robert Frost
Whose woods these are I think I know,
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
So a cup of hot tea and my warm clothes just did what I was waiting for, giving me the energy to get going. Within moments I was outside my room in the garden doing two things kids would have done, and they are playing with snow and playing with snow..hahaha.. What else you can do, it’s so tempting. As a kid I remember watching Winnie the Pooh and never forgetting these lines.
“What day is it?"
It's today," squeaked Piglet.
My favorite day," said Pooh
I made my first snowman and that was very special
The day before had been very hectic as flights bound to Leh from Delhi are early in the morning as airport in Leh is under army control and no flights are allowed after noon for reasons best known to them. One thing I had done was asked for the window seat and hell yes it was a favour worth asking for. The flight over the mountains were mesmerising with snow clad peaks puncturing the clouds on their own whims, the beauty that yearns you to be proud of crown of India, The Himalayas.
The Himalyan ranges as seen from sky
The Itinerary involved going to the Changthang, Eastern Ladakh the land of beautiful lakes and Changpas , the tribals of Ladakh. I had planned a night stay at Tsomoriri Lake and back to Leh via Tsokar and Tanglang La. I was told it was very cold in the Changthang region during this part of the year and I had already seen the trailer of what weather has to offer. Though this was a research expedition I had to travel alone and make my team just before the expeditions as per my convenience. So, the three of us the driver Tsewang , his friend cum guide Dorje and me were the part of the team for the rendezvous with Ladakh.
Firelit sky , an evening enjoyed in Leh
Hitting the roads of Ladakh gives you such immense pleasure as if you have been let free. Smooth and vacant roads, mountains, streams, flags and monasteries greet you now and then. Clear blue skies, cool breeze hitting your face and your curiosity to know what lies ahead. It’s a cocktail of emotions that hits you and you tend to enjoy it more and more with each passing minutes.
Unlike other tourists I prefer to chalk out my own plans and I am not a great believer of being part of the crowd. So, our early morning ride had a break at Upshi, a small market where we had our breakfast and our Inner line Permit checked before moving towards Mahe.
Changthang is a part of Tibetan plateau with dry barren lands, no vegetation except meadows in between but has a scenic beauty unlike anypart of India. You meet Changpas , the tribal people living in camps with hundreds of animals consisting of yaks, sheep, pashmina goats and horses.
Changpas camp, got the chance to meet them and even had churpi as a gesture of good will
The first lake we came across was kyagar Tso, a beautiful small lake holding on it’s own in the foothills of mountains and snowmelt being it’s sole source of upkeep.
Kyagar Tso lake, just few miles before Tsomoriri different shades of landscapes
We moved on among the vicinity of Tsomoriri lake where roads tend to get a liitle tough to drive on, but the beauty of Tsomoriri Lake is worth having every pain you took for your journey.
Here lies the blue lake set among the white and golden top Himalayan ranges and appears as if lake has puffed up smoke hanging in the form of clouds
The beautiful sunset, the famous drink Chang and some authentic recipe was all I needed for a memorable evening. Though it was winter and we were fed up of having bread and noodles on our way, we readily agreed for the dish Amma le (aunt in ladakhi lingo) had made for all of us in Snowcock guest house (All the guest houses are named after birds). In winter there are no vegetables or fruits so people depend mainly on meat and potato for their survival. The supper prepared consisted of smoked meat of yak, dried and kept for consumption during winter. I wasn’t too excited having yak meat at first but did not to wanted to be fussy and hurt my hosts feeling, so I had it and frankly speaking it was worth having a taste.
Having butter tea , good drink to keep you warm and energetic
We had a very sound sleep , tucked under our sleeping bags and two blankets , I have been to many places in Himalayas but never had so many warm clothing and blankets, and believe me -5 to -10 degrees in night in April months is nothing new in these parts.
We had a good breakfast and tea in the morning and were ready to hit the roads again for Tsokar. We had to cover around 80 odd kms to reach Tsokar. The route to Tsokar is deserted and in bad shape. Tourists are not frequent in these roads and neither are there any shops, petrol pumps and villages except one or two. So we had a good distance to cover so we decked up our supplies. We had a stopover at Puga hot springs for Photography but smell of sulfur is very prominent and unbearable.
Tsokar Lake, perfect reflections and heavenly feel
Tsokar is a basin and there are two lakes located in this basin adjacent to each other. One is freshwater and other saline. It is believed that Changpas used to trade the salt from these lakes till early seventies. We had to trek few miles from the road to reach these lakes and enjoy the locale. Set up amidst snow-clad mountains with ducks and black neck cranes to accompany you, these lakes are truly different from others but least seen among lakes of Ladakh due to their difficult approaches and no lodging facilities.
Herd of Kiang, common in Changthang region. The animals were as curious with our activities as we were with them.
We had to walk on frozen marshes to reach the lake, which was slippery and dangerous ,but that was a high doing something out of box.
The young one of the Bharal, Himalayan Blue sheep camouflaged among the mountains, their preferred habitat.
Having a walk in the salt pan of Tsokar Lake, all packed up to go back
So our journey to Changthang was an exciting one and a big change from mundane lifestyle in Delhi. Making snowman, driving full throttle at 15000 ft , having chang as welcome drinkand dried yak meat for supper, walking on thin sheets of ice and in salt pans and seeing some wildlife for first time in my life, the travelling and photography were among the best moments of my life . I cherish those moments and sharing with you some of the experiences with this travelogue.
“Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow”- William Shakepeare