Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Leh Road Trip Saga - leh to pangong lake and back

We checked in our hotel and the slept the whole day.

Hotel Manager: Sir, there is hot water. Come down and have some tea, once you are ready. You were supposed to be here last night.
J : We got stuck at tanglangla. Please take the luggage to our room. We would like you to arrange for permits to pangong and nubra valley.
(We had done some research and knew that permits were required to visit these restricted areas. Also 4-5 photocopies / region is required, cause you need to submit the photocopy when you cross a military checkpost.)
Hotel manager : Ok sir. Please give me your names and it will cost you 150/- rs per head.

We knew that the permits were made available for free, but we did not have the energy to go to the permit office that day. Neither did we have the energy for arguing with him. We handed him over the money and the names and proceeded with fulfilling our sleep.

J woke up around 3-4 hours later and took bath. Others were sleeping. J was very hungry, so, J woke up N and L and around 2-3 pm we went for lunch. We were aching to have lots of good food preferably non-veg. But the scene was sad. There are some days in laddakh when non-veg is not available in the entire market. Our luck was bad - and today was one such day. We moved from one resturant to another looking for non-veg. Finally we found a place "Bon Appetit" where we could have non-veg. We ordered soups. J ordered french-onion soup and L ordered chicken soup. We ate whatever was available. The food was not that good - but the soups were great. J fell in love with french-onion soup and for the rest of his stay had only french-onion soup with all his meals.

We went back and slept for the rest of the day. R & B had lunch later in the evening. Around 7-8 we went out for diner. Our hotel manager suggested a resturant - tibetian kitchen for tibetian food, but we found it dingy and smelly. We instead went to another place known as golden dragon and had a lot of veg food. When we came out of the resturant at 10:30, we could not find anyone on the street. We were the only people - and we walked back to our place fast.

Our impression of leh was that it was a very small city and the market was equally small. If you spend 2-3 hours walking, you might cover the whole city. The people were not-very-friendly. In fact they seemed frustrated. The season in leh is only for 3-4 months during which they make money. Most of the stuff in leh comes from big cities like Delhi so they sell it very expensive in leh.

There is also a taxi association in leh, so if you get a taxi from outside you wont be allowed to run that in leh. You have to hire taxi from leh only. Since we had a private number - we made the impression that it was our own car - which saved us the trouble. The taxis in leh are very
expensive but at the same time they could be bargained to bring down the cost by 10-15%.

We slept like a log that night. Next morning around 7 we were up and ready and we left for pangong lake.

Guddu : Sir, do you know the way to pangong.
L : Guddu, you have been here before, you should know the way.
Guddu : Sir, last time we did not go to pangong.
L : Lets ask people on the road.
J : It is 170 kms from here.
[We ask people and figure out the way]
R : I hope the road is good.
Guddu : There is a checkpost - let me go and submit the permit there.

We move ahead and after some time the road starts deteriorating. By the time we reach The Might Chang la - the third highest pass in the world at 17,800 ft. It is called The Mighty Chang la because of the steep and bad roads - which make the climb challenging. We stopped at Chang la and took some photos. There is an army base there which serves herbal tea. We all had fresh headaches due to the height and loss of oxygen. It was terribly cold there.

We started our descent soon. And we were in a valley with amazing landscape on both sides. The road turned smooth and we could see snow on the base of the mountains. We stopped on the way to do some photography. Saw lots of yaks on the way. And after driving for around 4 hours we had the first view of pangong lake. It is actually difficult to believe that within these mountains and at such height there is such a huge lake with so clear water.

The approach to the pangong lake was bad. It seems that fresh roads were being built. We heard rock scrape at the bottom of our car 3-4 times.
We stopped at pangong and started shooting photos.

N : Wow such a beautiful lake.
B : People are getting crazy due to the beauty.
J : Look - ducks.
R : Is that chinese crazy. He is taking of his clothes and getting into the water.
L : The water is too cold.
J : What else do you expect - we are at such height. I am not going to touch the water - though it looks very inviting from here.
N : Look there are dhabas here too.
J : And tents. It seems we could spend the night here.
L : The lake would look very good in the night under the moonlight.
R : I wish we were on the bike, or we had more time, so we could spend one night here.

We had our lunch there and started our journey back. We came across a strange animal - which looked like a rat but was as big as a rabbit. Offered it some biscuits and took some photos.

We reached back by 5-6 pm - exhausted and rested. Later that night we again went to Golden Dragon for diner and had our fill of non-veg - even though the food was not that good. J had his spring onion soup earlier so he was satisfied.

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