Savouring the indescribable beauty of Chang Pas and Tso Moriri in one of the most extream road trips of my life.
Welcome back to Extreme Road Trips in Changthang, Ladakh travelogue series 🙂
In my early extreme road trips travelogue series I threw light on how my unflinching love for the Himalayas took me to the remotest part of the world and how I traversed through the vistas of staggering snow-capped mountains and arid high-altitude plains to reach the disputed land of Changthang – Chumur.
The appeal of staying in Rebo tents of pastoral nomads and immersing in the Tibetan Chang Pa culture was the reason why I chose that semi-paved, high-altitude trail of Puga from Chumur instead of returning to Chumathang. Three hours later, I reached the Chang Pas’s (Pastoral nomads) Rebo Tent and was sipping butter tea. I accepted the offer of an old lady to be her guest and then headed out to explore the Puga Nomadic School. The child in me was awakened by the kids at school. I am not sure if Narendra Modi knows it but he was the favourite icon in that school. I took a small quiz and they all came out with flying colours. As a reward I gifted them all the chocolates I was carrying.
I let them play with my mobile and camera. Our excitement pulled all the teachers from the resident school. The headmaster, who seeded the idea of visiting this school in my head a day before at Chumathang, was very happy to see me. Visiting the Puga Nomadic Residential School was sheer joy. I was greeted with the most beautiful and innocent smiles, offered tea and invited to dinner. I could only accept the tea invitation since I had promised to have dinner at my host’s place.
Sonam’s Rebo Tent was my home for the night. The multiple barriers didn’t stop the 66 years old host from treating me with utmost love and care. In a harsh barren land where nothing grows, I was offered Ladakhi Roti, Satthu, yak soup and raw yak meat, embodying the true spirit of “athitihi devo bhava”. Having spent a day at her place I realized how Chang Pas life revolves around their livestock. Their food, clothes, tent, livelihood; everything comes from their animals. They would usually kill one yak and use its meat for 15 days or more. Its skin is used as an overcoat and as a blanket.
Being a chatterbox I had a long conversation with Sonam, thanks to Sarpanch, who was now my interpreter too. Sonam had migrated from Tibet when she was just a few months old. Although Changthang is her home now, she dreams of returning to Tibet someday before she dies. Despite living in the harshest of conditions, she was content and the glow of contentment was radiating like the sun.
GETTING WOWED BY THE WONDERS OF NATURE
I woke up to the rising sun kissing the tall, stark peaks of the Himalayas. Some of them looked like they were on fire, the orange hues so startlingly bright. After a hearty simple breakfast and heartfelt goodbye, I was on my way to explore the Puga Hotsprings and Tso Moriri.
The Puga hot springs, located at the junction of the Indian and Tibetan plates along the Indus Suture Zone, offers a huge energy potential that can change the developmental scenario of whole Ladakh if harnessed. An amazing frozen structure created by hot springs caught my eye. The water is said to be extremely hot under the ground. At some places, it heats up to 260° Celsius. As soon as it oozes out it freezes into 6-10 feet structures due to an extremely cold temperature in the valley.
On the other side of the road, the multicolored mountains of various minerals were making the barren valley a riot of colours. Some of the mountains had so much Sulphur that a matchstick could burn the entire mountain.
Spellbound by nature’s wonder, I drove ahead, only to be wowed further by the incogitable Tso Moriri. The lake is at an altitude of 4,595 m and is the largest of the high altitude lakes in India located in secluded, breathtakingly picturesque Rupshu Valley. In summers, the road from Sumdo to the Tso Morori turns into one of the most beautiful stretches of road you’ll see in Ladakh. At Korzok Bridge, I first saw the sight of the mighty Tso Moriri. In summers, you can see an incredulous variety of flora and fauna. However, what I was witnessing now was something indescribable.
The vast, pure and frozen white sheet of the unending lake was flanked by vistas of staggering snow-capped mountains of green, red, purple, grey, brown and beige colours. The whole landscape looked dreamlike surreal. It was so beautiful that even the most beautiful wallpapers would fail in front of it. Tso Moriri is like Sita and Gita. It is unimaginable how this snow blanket transforms itself into a mystical kaleidoscopic lake in summers. It changes up to seven colours in a day. Mother Nature’s magic knows no end! It was my moment to bow my head to Chamatkar ko Namashkar
We crossed the no-man-in-sight Korzok village. Korzok has a mostly nomadic population that is non-existent during winters, grazing cattle elsewhere. We wanted to drive to the top viewpoint of Tso Moriri but it was like a vertical skating ring. So we dumped the daring act. And enjoyed our little picnic on the 29 km long and 8 km wide frozen Tso Moriri picnic ground.
The weather gods were in a happy mood. The sun was shining bright, the cold wind wasn’t blowing and I could see miles and miles away. Like a kid, I started jumping on the hardened snow. But not before ensuring it was tough enough to hold my jumping jack act.
Suddenly the weather god had a mood swing to probably demonstrate his authority. The spine-chilling cold wave started slapping us. Sun started playing peek-a-boo. Clouds started coming from all directions. Within a moment the beautiful sight looked scary. It became extremely difficult to stand in the open. We had no option but to return.
Traveling through the snowbound route snaking across sparsely located scenic villages and high attitude plateau in the Changthang prefecture is indelibly etched in my mind. Life in Changthang is unhurried, and I took this relaxed atmosphere back with me to Chumathang as night fell.
Chumangthang whispered in my ears, “Why do you humans rush when all you have to do is stand and stare at the marvel of Mother Nature. Enjoy everything you have and do not rue about things that you don’t. Nature will give you what you need and what is rightfully yours.”
TRAVEL TIPS FOR YOUR EXTREME ROAD TRIPS
- Best time: June to September is the best time to explore the scenic beauty, high altitude lakes and abundant wildlife of Changthang region
- Journey: Tso Moriri can be reached within 3 hours from Chumathang. Start early to reach by 10 am. Either return same day or stay at Korzok or TsoMoriri.
- Tank up: Ensure your fuel tank is full and the vehicle is in good shape for the entire Leh-Changthang-Leh journey. There are no petrol pumps and help on the way.
- Carry food and water: In summers you can find a dhaba at Korzok but in winters there is nothing. So carry your refills
- Tso Moriri: Acclimatise well before visiting it as it is at a greater height than Pangong Tso or Leh. It is always below zero degrees temperature so layer up. Do not miss the golden hour at the lake. It is a sight to behold.
- Stay: You cannot perch a tent on the banks of the lake. Stay in the government approved tents or hotels only. Korzok has nomadic Tents which are run by the nomadic people and the money earned goes to their welfare
- Korzok: Don’t forget to visit the 400 years old monastery. If possible, visit during Korzok gustor festival Aug 5-6
- Chumur: You need an inner line permit to go there and you are not allowed to visit the area near actual LAC. Don’t forget to visit the alive mummy of the lama
- Puga: The kids at Puga Nomadic schools are angels. Your one visit can bring so much smiles on their face. Do visit and interact with them. And don’t forget to see the Puga Hotsprings
- Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary: It has been listed as one of India’s five ‘bio-diverse regions’. Do keep an eye on many rare species of flora and fauna
Related: If you are looking for tour packages, check out Leh Ladakh Tour Packages