From Nubra to Pangong is some 158kms, a 4 hour drive. The night at Nubra was biting cold and the first rays of Sun was so soothing. The apple trees and the homegrown vegetable, fruits and flower gardens in our resort seemed to smile under the bright sunrays that was now spreading everywhere.
It was time to say good bye to the sand dunes that were just adjacent to our resort, just before leaving NUbra we walked around sinking our feet in the soft sands.
The drive from Nubra to Pangong is very memorable for me for all its scenic surprises. There were sudden flowing streams cutting across the pebbled paths that doubled up as roads. Such clear waters I had never seen. I could see the stone beds in those streams.
From Hunder we passed through several little towns. The route was Hunder- Diskit—Khalsar- Agyam- Shyok- Durbuk-Tangse-Lumong.
There were only the sounds of cutting air amidst the vast expanses of lemon green meadows surrounded by naked brown mountains that lay untouched in isolation as if in a deep penance, we drove in admiration of this unique nature’s beauty where herds of sheep grazed blissfully unmindful of what lay ahead. On the way we were lucky to spot a stud of wild horses.
We had early lunch at Durbuk village and proceeded to Lumong. Actually Lumong is the actual name of the little village where the Pangong lake gleams in her royal blue. Thanks to the movie 3Idiots, now the village itself is called Pangong! But we must agree that the movie has definitely promoted tourism here.
Yet again we were the only ones driving on this route now around noon as most people leave early in the morning and head back around late in the afternoon. Also this is the advantage if you travel in October where tourists are considerably less. But the only disadvantage is that the tents at the Pangong Lake pack off by 10th of October. So if you are keen to sleep by the tents and watch the night sky at Pangong then you better make it before October.
The drive was a pristine one where the Chakor Pakshis sat beside the clear waters, it was as if we were the only intruders in their serene lives.
As we drove close to the Pangong Lake, our driver asked us to watch out for the first look of the jewel in the hill that we were about to witness.
The first sighting of the Pangong Lake was indeed breathtaking as she lay their like a Kohinoor amidst the glistening auburn hills. The more we saw the more we were hypnotized by her sight.
As we neared the lake, stark bare mountains in vivid shades of brown and indigo stared at us. We reached the lake at 2 o clock in the afternoon and the weather was just right and we wanted to make the best out of it, so we did not even check in to our hotel as weathers are so uncertain in hilly regions.
The Pangong is a salt water lake at 14500feet bordering with China, stretching over 135kms where only some 40% is with India while the rest of the lake is in China as the Line of Actual Control passes through the lake. The lake is a basin lake where its waters do not flow out into any oceans or sea but is evaporated or absorbed deep into the grounds or at the most flows to other lakes or swamps. The width of the lake is some 5 kms at its broadest point and has no marine life except for some crustaceans. No boating or fishing is done here as it is a border area. Afternoons are the best time to visit this lake as the Sun is steadily moving west allowing that celestial blue to dominantly hypnotize you. Such blue that makes one wonder if the waters are reflecting her colors on the sky! It was perhaps here that the lines’ ye jeel si neeli ankhen’ were coined.
She is green- she is blue- she is green? Okay she is blue again! She is fickle minded and freezes into a white in the winters.
Our driver quickly drove to us to the spot where the 3 Idiots film shooting took place. It is a serene location 5kms away from the general tourist hullabaloo. The first 3kms are smooth but the last stretch is an absolute mule route layered with pebbles and rocks. But the drive is worth every bit once you have reached here. It is just you and serenity unlimited! This is the place I had been dying to visit!
As the blue lagoon was drawing me like a magnet I was suddenly jerked by some Bollywood absurdity. A ghastly promotional residue or commercial paraphernalia of 3Idiots movie was sitting pretty here to make some quick bucks! Yes along the serene lake lies a framed poster of Kareena Kapoor in her bejeweled bride’s costume! What is even more amusing is that even that bride costume is available here for rent to be posing on that yellow scooty! I mean, really? Yes a yellow scooty is parked here at the Pangong Lake! I cannot understand but then even the 3 colorful buttock seats, the tin barrels were also present here. and then after an hour of solitude there were few travelers sitting here and taking pictures.
Traditional Ladhaki costumes are also available here on rentals, we did dress up like the Namgyal king and queen and posed ridiculously. We spent some 2hours here talking a leisurely stroll on the sandy paths. The icy winds were piercing cold and we had to wind up to our hotel.
We stayed at the Pangong Inn, our travel agent had screwed up the booking and we had to fight it out for a deluxe room for which we had already paid. It is always better to be on your own than rely on travel agents. But the inn was good, out of the entire Ladakh trip this was the only place with delicious food. It was a wooden cottage with 3 layers of blankets to stay alive till the next day. The tap water was freezing cold and there was no way we could think about a bath here. This is one place where we literally prayed to the SunGods for good weathers and warmth! We completely missed watching the night sky here as the cold was unbearable to get out of the cottage.
The next day morning we took an early morning stroll yet again and walked some 3kms by the lake. The morning sun was gleaming on the waters making her look a greenish black this time. There were Army helicopters patrolling across the lake for their morning rounds. We took a lot of pics and then were driving back to Leh via Chang La pass at 17688feet.
This was the most difficult drive in our entire trip apart from KhardongLa route.
We reached Leh by 2pm, after lunch we headed to the Hall of Fame, spent some 3hours
That was the end of our trip in Ladakh, the next day morning we were descending back to Kargil and then back to Srinagar to visit Gulmarg and Pahalgam.
The next day morning we visited Alchi monastery, Mulbek yet again as we did not take the Batalik route, it was time to say JuLeh!
If you want to hire a Taxi driver at Leh, you can call Dorjee 9469706051, he was an amazing chap who knew every corner of Ladakh.