8 on 8, a journey in Ladakh

Yogesh Sarkar

28th September 2016, Pangong Tso to Chushul and Leh

I had set the alarm for 3:30am, in hopes of photographing stars above Pangong Tso. However, when I woke up at 3:30am and went outside, everything was cloudy. So I decided to wait for a while and came back inside the room.

I was feeling a little out of breath, so I decided to take some oxygen. In any case, we had to return it after reaching Leh and there was no point spending 1.5k and not using it. Neha too was awake, we chatted for a while. Turned out, she hadn’t gotten much sleep. So I gave her oxygen for 15mins, after which she slept like a baby.

By the time I went outside again, clouds had parted and I could see stars above Pangong Tso. It was a beautiful sight and chill in the wind made it an experience like no other. The temperature was below freezing and I was in no mood to go down to the shore. So I decided to set up the camera right in front of the room.


Satisfied with the result, it was time to set up time-lapse. Problem was, timer wouldn’t work satisfactorily. So I got back inside, and brought my secondary shutter release and prayed to God.

My prayers were answered and the camera started taking photographs.

Around 6am, Neha too woke up again and we started packing and getting ready. Dorjey was kind enough to bring us warm water so early in the morning and later on, tea as well. KP too took oxygen for a little while, before getting dressed.

In the meantime, the sunrise occurred, under the cover of clouds. It was time to stop the 4th time-lapse of the morning. Here is the combined result. A starry night giving way to the morning light.

Around 7am we checked out of the Pangong Villa and hopped into Sonam’s Xylo. Today was going to be a long day. As we had planned to visit Chushul and Rezang La War Memorial, and then take the Nyoma – Chumathang route back to Leh.

However, we were still going to take it easy, at least till Chushul.

With the beautiful Pangong Tso accompanying us for the majority of the distance, we had to take multiple photography breaks.






Passing through Man Village, I could see a huge luxury tent cluster with a few vehicles. When I had passed through Man last year in June-end, fewer tents were pitched and not a single guest was there. However, this time around, quite a few of the tents were occupied.

I guess the mess that has become Lukung and Spangmik, has forced people to look ahead and Man too is going to get developed over the next couple of years.

In fact, with the sort of views Man Village offers, I have often wondered, why this hasn’t already occurred.



I had spotted Kiang (wild ass) for the first time in 2011, during my winter trip to Ladakh. Even then, when animals come down to a lower altitude and converge around remaining pastures, there were few of them around. However, now I see a lot more of them.

Sonam tells me this is due to Kiangs fleeing Chinese occupied Tibet, where they are hunted for meat. While India offers them safe sanctuary and they are rarely hunted by humans.

While it was great to see these Tibetan refugees in India and they do add a hint of life to Ladakh, I cannot help but think, of possible detrimental effect on the sensitive ecology of the area.

A Kiang and her foal.


We stop once again after Merak Village. Pangong Tso is oh so beautiful, no matter where you go. It is a pity and at the same time a blessing, that majority of the visitors stop at Lukung or at most, go till Spangmik. Ensuring there are hardly any tourists are around and the majority of vehicles we cross, belong to the security forces or locals. And these too aren’t many.


Neha and KP are super excited when Sonam points in the direction of Chinese post across Pangong Tso. It is hardly visible, the only thing we can see is the Indian army post in the distance.

We part ways from Pangong Tso and begin our second leg of the journey towards Chushul. En route we encounter horses. These aren’t wild horses, in fact, there are hardly any wild horses in Ladakh. All of the horses belong to people. However, they roam around freely. These short yet sturdy creatures are fairly beautiful and a particular stallion catches my attention. I manage to photograph it, just as it walks past our Xylo, and we move on.


Around 10:30am, we reach Chushul. We stop at Galdanpa Restaurant for tea and maggi. I am getting full BSNL network on my phone and 2G data as well. So I upload a couple of images, as we sip tea. Here is a hyper-lapse video of our journey from Spangmik to Chushul.

After resting for a while, we hope back into Xylo and drive on.

En route to Rezang La War Memorial, we spot numerous Kiangs and come to a screeching halt, after Neha spots a couple of black-necked cranes. I haven’t seen these before, and they help me produce a beautiful photograph.


Neha finally gets her wish to see the Chinese border, when we drive past the diversion for flag meeting huts. While the Indian one is easily visible, Chinese one is too far off to be spotted. Though we do see a vehicle on the Chinese side and that is exciting. Sonam quips that the black mountains we see on the left belong to Chinese.

I wish separation of territory between India and China was that easily apparent, then we wouldn’t have so many incursions each year. For now, it just seems like a witty remark from Sonam, who doesn’t talk as much as Rigzin, but pitches in with his humor, once in a while.

We arrive at Rezang La War Memorial.

I have nothing except highest respect for Rezang La War Memorial, dedicated to Major Shaitan Singh and 114 soldiers of 13th Kumaon. They paid the ultimate sacrifice defending Rezang La from PLA in 1962 Indo-China war. Chinese suffered 10 times more casualties in the battle of Rezang La. A testament to the brave resolve and fighting spirit of Major Shaitan Singh and his men. You can read more about it here.




During our drive from Rezang La War Memorial to Nyoma, Sonam tells us multiple stories of the legends in the army and the smuggling route via Demchok, from where illegal Chinese goods are brought into Ladakh. He even shows us the pony trail after Tsaga Village, which goes to Demchok and then Tibet.

Around 1:40pm we managed to reach Nyoma.

My stomach was creating trouble for me, and despite my best attempts, I had to use the smelly and filthy Ladakhi toilet there. Usually, Ladakhi toilets are clean and hygienic, even though they are just a hole in the floor of a raised platform/room and excrement falls into the pit below. And one has to shovel the sand down so that it doesn’t stink.

However, there is no sand and no shovel. So essentially it is a small toilet with no locks on the inside. With filth below and even inside of it. But you have to go when you have to go. So there is little I can do, except try and limit the number of breaths and get out of there, as fast as I could.

When I come out, Neha pointed at a Safari in the distance, parked by the side of the road and said, doesn’t that belongs to Rahul?

We went in for a closer inspection, she was right. This was Rahul’s Safari, but neither Rahul nor Mini or Prashant is in sight. These guys were running a couple of days ahead of us.

However, there is no sign of them, phone network has just gone down and all we have is a parked Safari by the side of the road, full of their gear.

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subhankar paul

And miles to go before I sleep
Jabardast YS
Wish to accompany your 9th ( my 3rd) endeavour in this lunar landscape just to learn how to capture the hypnotic scenario in man made recorders

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