Since, this is my first t'log in BCM, i was little apprehensive about the response i would get ..but thank you all for liking my posts and your comments ..posting the next installment of the T'log. Day 5 : The quest of the Blue Lake
Our itinerary for the day: Hundar - Agam - Shyok - Durbuk - Tangste - Pangong Tso – Spagmik ( Stay tangse)
Another alternative route for Pangyong:
Hundar– Agham – Wari La – Shakti – Chang La – Durbuk – Tangste – Pangong Tso (Lukung)- which is considerably longer .
I was very excited from the morning . After spending years , appreciating the majestic Panyong lake in photographs ,I was wondering how it would be like to stand there and look at it with my own God given eyes. Though , we planned to stay at Tangste today and not push further ahead due to the extreme cold,still the thrill of staying so close to the lake made me excited.
We drove for 30-40 minutes , took a diversion from Khalsar village and drove towards Agham village. Till then , the Shyok river was visible , winding and bending in the valley below. Soon , we started to descend and was driving parallel to the river bed.
This is one of the route less travelled by . We hardly saw another vehicle while driving this road. The road was damaged during flood this year and a major part was washed away .Ironically , the route is in bad shape during peak season when river flows on the road. But in off-season , when the river is flowing so low, that problem is not there. A few stretches were washed out with big stones but the Xylo negotiated well . Nonetheless , the road was very scenic , with wide open river beds and isolation of the path. There were horses grazing the distant fields , few clouds across the clear azure sky & snowpeaked mountains at a distance gave us company as we made our way through the gravel covered road.
After a while , we started to ascend , the mountains came closer , there was another rivulet flowing below the gorges, Sonam claimed it to be originating from Pangyong . I have no means to verify his claim but the color of the water was same sky blue. We rode ahead, now along the curvaceous road . After some time, we met Shyok river once again now giggling across the rocky banks and barren mountains guarding it . I needed a break there ,we pulled our car by the side and descended towards the river . It was breathtaking , there was no other sound except the sound of gurgling of the magnificent river flowing in full force .
We had our tea and waited there as long as we could . We wanted to stay longer ,“ But I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep”
We moved ahead to Durbuk , there is a big army cantonment there. By now , we were feeling very hungry and stopped when we found a noodles shop. The noodles & soop was not as per my expectation . I was surprised when he gave me an atrocious bill, my fault, I needed to ask the cost before ordering. I told Sonam , the shopkeeper was robbing me . He went inside and had a word with the shopkeeper . By that time , we were inside the car, the shopkeeper came to me and sheepishly returned me some bucks . I thought this is great , don’t rob tourists.
We reached Tangste by 3:30 PM , it took us approx 4-5 hours from Nubra to Tangste , with ample photo breaks. If this route can be an all weather road , it will save considerable time for tourists. We were lucky , we found this route , else we would have dropped Turtuk from the itinerary.
Tangste was a small sleepy town . I had a booking at the Changla guest house which was located right on the road. He has offered me a double room with 2000/- ( all inclusive- Breakfast and Dinner, he didn’t charge for the Heater) . The owner of Guest house had a grocery shop downstairs , he met me with a smiling face and immediately shifted us to the room . The room was in the first floor of the building facing the road. The toilets were not attached but on the other side of the passage. The room was cosy with 3 beds in total with piles of quilt. It was very cold in Tangste , Mr. Changla told me approx -10 degree centrigrade at night. He switched on the LPG powered Heater and it had some warming effect. There was a lot of day light left, so I decided to explore the town on foot , while my wife took refuge in Amitabh Ghosh’s “ In an antique Land”
I roamed around aimlessly for about an hour and reached the Tangste monastery perched against the High rocky cliffs.
The townfolks were giving me strange looks , as it became insanely cold . I had no other option but to return . When I returned to the Guest House, Mr. Changla called me inside and gave me a seat beside him. He asked me “ Do you want to know how we keep ourselves warm ?” and then he showed me a stove burning close to his feet . By that time my hands and face were freezing cold, now I felt little comfortable. We started to chat on lot of things , he offered me a handful of dry fruits to munch. Also , as my phone network was not working , he gave me his landline to call and refused to take money.
I was touched by the simplicity and generosity of this man in particular and Ladakhis I met in my travel so far. I wondered how these people living in such harsh conditions , still afford to put on that contagious smile and go that extra mile to make the other person comfortable. Here I was sitting with him and chatting , like we knew each other for so long, but honestly I am not sure if I would meet this gentleman again in my life.
Now it was hilarious to note , how they reduced the minimum temperature for the night in their conversation. It started with -10 at afternoon but in subsequent conversation they slowly pulled the mercury down . Now, I had no means to check which its authentic, so finally by evening they settled for -20 degree celcius. My wife was petrified but I was sure it wont be that bad.
We had a heavy dinner with paneer, daal etc. The food was very tasty , better than what we had last night at Habib.
We slept quite early , now since it was a LPG powered heater , we had to switch it off at night for fear of suffocation. I was a cold night, I didn’t sleep well due to indigestion . I only had some sleep in the wee hours. I was waiting for the day break for some action packed day.