The route to Pangong is through the ‘mighty’ Chang La, proudly referred to as the third highest motorable pass in the world. In mid May, when we headed to Pangong, Chang La was completely covered in snow, making the journey as exciting and interesting as the destination. The trip took close to seven hours, what with all the stops for food and photography, snow clearing and for letting the more impatient vehicles pass and lagging behind the slower, larger ones.
At Chang La, the tent serving the customary cup of tea to weary travelers stayed shut in this off-season month and so we made our way to the other side after a few minutes out in the biting cold. We stopped at the tiny village of Tangtse for a quick lunch and headed on to Pangong. And just the first glimpse of Pangong, from a distance, just a small circle of brilliant blue is worth the long road journey.
At Tangtse, we stayed in a tent at Camp Watermark, close to the shores of the lake, spending the evening in frozen delight, watching the water change colours as the sun slowly disappeared among the snow-capped mountains. The temperature was close to zero degrees when we stepped out for dinner at eight p.m. and later in the night, dropped to -5 degrees!Inside the tent though, all was warm and cozy; we were tightly zipped up against the cold and under two heavy blankets.
Pangong is a salt water lake situated at an elevation of over 4250 meters (13900 feet). It stretches on for 134 km, at its widest no more than 5 km, and over 2/3rds of it lies in China. A day spent by the shores of Pangong Tso (‘tso’ for lake in Ladakhi) is one of the highlights of a trip to Ladakh. The lake changes colours by the minute, hundreds of shades of blue, dictated purely by the whims of the sun at that time.