Quest Leh & Ladakh – Phase THREE (Lake Pangong – An Adventure on the Ice)

It was day three – the alarm from my mobile rang shrilly, reminding us it was five thirty AM. After hurriedly preparing ourselves for our start at six AM, we hurried downstairs to find Sonam, our driver, already waiting for us. We were off to a good start by six fifteen AM. He stopped by the government hospital, and we saw a familiar sign related to ophthalmology that seemed to follow us wherever we went for the past seven years!

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A few more kilometers outside town we came across the Dalai Lama’s teaching grounds

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We then crossed an area running parallel to the Indus, and though freezing in the wee hours of morning, I took the pain to endure the chill winds and rushed to take some pictures.

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We crossed a monastery and a few villages before we decided to have breakfast somewhere near where we started our steep ascent.

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Following breakfast, we entered the area of B.R.O (Border Roads Organisation) , and I really enjoyed posing for this one.

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We crossed a checkpost, then headed toward a rather steep ascent. An hour later, it started to rain, and a little while down the lane of time, there was an alteration in the sound of the rain hitting the windshield, I squinted, and sure enough noticed something that looked like thermocol (polystyrene) bouncing off it. I looked back at Sanju who had never seen snow before and she was smiling. The sides of the roads started to get progressively whiter, and I realized we were at the ice caps which we had seen from the bottom and from the aeroplane. We got out, acclimatizing to the sudden increase in altitude, and had some fun.

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Soon, a victim of a full bladder, I got down at the world’s third highest pass, into shin – deep – snow to use the loo, Temperatures were well below zero now, and it was a miracle I didn’t freeze in the toilet like the way they expressively freeze fluids in animations like “Tom & Jerry”. It was too snowy to take any pictures at the Changla Pass, and hence decided to do that on the way back. So onward we went, crossing wildlife like yaks and wild sheep. To our relief, we started descending, and snow was replaced by beautiful colored vegetation and rocks with streams.

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Funnily enough, we had an otter – crossing soon, and we saw the guy sitting there stylishly waiting for his picture to be taken.

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The landscape of mountains admixed with greenery and rocks took my breath away, and there was just so much to see in that world of stillness and beauty – lines that even the best poet cannot frame, nor even the best writer pen.

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The last picture above was the prelude to a sharp turn, which brought us into view of the crystal blue waters of the magical lake of Pangong, 40 % of which was in India, the remaining 60% being in China. The whole place, being just two villages away from the Indo – China border made it all the more exciting, and the army base there exuded altruistic patriotism, with the Indian colors on the flag waving mightily

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The lake itself was such an awesome sight for sore eyes, and a change from the continuous scenery of brown, green and white. It was so unfortunate that entry to the lake side was prohibited.

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Sonam was courteous enough to take a picture of me and Sanju

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before taking us to the place quite famous in that area nicknamed as the “Three Idiots Shooting Spot” wherein the climax of that film supposedly occurred. This involved visiting the lake at a certain point where it wasn’t prohibited. Sonam took a few sharp turns, ran over some potholes and bumps with ease through the sands leading to the lake, creating his own path, taking us there with skill and precision. There was already a car there, ahead of us (A ‘Nike’ symbol was emblazoned on it) and I realized they were trying to shoot a sports commercial. I whistled to myself – wow, what a location! And, there it was, a beautiful strip of sand running into the crystal – blue waters, surrounded by mountains and blue sky. I got out, completely forgetting the degree of chill caused by the massive body of water. A blast of wind hit my face, and I was reminded of the -30 C cold I had faced in Canada. Though not as worse, it wasn’t possible to roam out here, even in the warmest of clothes. I shoved my hands in my pockets and looked at Sanju, but she had frozen and was shaking. We took a few pictures, walked briskly in a desperate effort to keep us warm, then returned to the car.

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I was a little irritated that we couldn’t spend anymore time in probably the most beautiful place I had ever seen in this world, because of the cold that was haunting both of us. Grinding our teeth, we raised the car windows, and the temperature magically shot back to normal. Sonam took us to a restaurant (most of the small ones in that area were renamed after the ‘Three Idiots’ movie), where we enjoyed a hot bowl of soup and some roti.

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I couldn’t take my eyes off this beautiful location, and took a few more pictures before we were off, back home.

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On the way back, as expected due to horribly rough roads we suffered a puncture, but for an experienced driver like ours, it was ‘no problemo’.

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In just ten minutes, he had the tyre replaced, and we were on our way. We passed a few beautiful sights,

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and were also relieved to see workers from the Border Roads Organisation dedicatedly removing snow and boulders from the narrow roads. We were soon at Chang La Pass, (the world’s 3rd highest) where we didn’t take pictures previously due to heavy snow. This was an apt opportunity for me, and so, Sonam was ready with my camera, and I gave a few memorable poses.

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We raced back to the car, and were soon rushing home at top speed, Sonam driving with ease. We were soon back at Hotel Omasila, the return journey being half an hour earlier than the previous one. Thanking him, we headed back in, for tea, dinner, and some good old rest, before the day of the marathon (the next day). I had asked Sonam to take us to the Shanti Stupa again at six AM, for which I needed a good rest. I closed my eyes, taking in all the sights I had seen that day, and found there were just too many to count. I continued to sleep with a smile on my face. Day THREE complete. Day FOUR – Marathon time!

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