The Oh Tso Beautiful Pangong!

After embracing the might of the world’s highest motorable road, Khardungla, it was time for us to experience the serenity and beauty of Pangong! Pangong – the world’s highest salt water lake, Asia’s second largest lake and a water body that extends so far and wide that a quarter of it lies in our country land, and rest of the three quarters lie in China; the white sand on the shores of the lake, the changing colours of the water right from shades of deep blue to turquoise and green, and the extremely strong blows of wind throughout the day and night make Pangong a perfect destination for some relaxing and rejuvenation, which us, as riders, needed the most.

First view of the Pangong Lake
First view of the Pangong Lake

The ride from Leh to Pangong makes up a distance of 130 km and was a beautiful one, where we successfully accomplished, or should I say ‘conquered’, (we were soldiers, remember?) the second highest motorable road of the world, Changla! Along with the challenges involved in riding through snow, we now had another challenges to look forward to and that was riding through sand. Sand for the tyres is as bad as the snow, and we also don’t have the advantage of it dissolving in higher temperatures. However there wasn’t much of it so we managed to make it through and reached our camp site well before time.

World's second highest pass - Changla
World’s second highest pass – Changla

I can safely say that the night we spent at Pangong was one of my most favourite nights of the whole trip; not just because the view of the Pangong Lake from our camping resort was absolutely stunning or because those tents were the best tents I have ever had a chance to sleep in, but also because the Ladakhi owner of the resort, along with a bunch of other locals were amazingly sweet, and I had a great time talking to them, learning bits of their language and joining them in their Ladakhi dance steps. After spending hours under the sun, being mesmerized by the beautiful view of the lake we had from our tent site, the sun was ready to bid us adieu; we put on another layer of warm clothes and got comfortable around the bonfire, which was set up right in the middle of all the tents.

The splendid view
The splendid view

Situated around the circular bonfire setup were three groups of people, belonging to three different parts of India! Yes, and that’s what made it even more interesting! There was a bunch of 16 of us from Maharashtra; sitting right opposite us was a group of riders from Haryana, and accompanying us for the bonfire was the Ladakhi owner of the resort, along with a few of his other Ladakhi co-workers. Getting into the mood of the bonfire, one of the Ladakhi guys added essence to the night by singing a Ladakhi song. His notes resonated with the flames of the fire as he sang a beautiful melody about a boyfriend singing to nature to keep his girlfriend happy in all seasons. Well, has the ‘marathi manus’ ever taken a lower stand at anything?  Our ‘Marathas’ from Maharashtra, the friends of mine who were a part of Tyremark, proceeded to sing a song in Marathi – Jai Jai Maharashtra Mazha. The Haryanvis wereobviously not going to be spared and after some nudging they contributed to the night with a Hindi song from their end. And yes, in case you’re wondering, it was a Honey Singh song!

I was absolutely enjoying the collision of different Indian cultures that the campfire brought about. It was the perfect example of unity in diversity that our country constantly boasts about, right through our school text books to The Constitution of India. Funnily enough, there was also a tinge of cold vibe, which went around the bonfire, that tried to say that our culture is better than yours. I can bet that it was only my personal observation and there was nothing more than that to it.

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No sooner than we knew it, everyone, including us, were jumping and dancing all around the bonfire! I was very pleasantly surprised when the Ladakhis got into their element and started doing their traditional dance steps in a circle, Ladakhi dance is extremely slow, nothing like garba, and easy to learn. I decided to join them and also managed to learn a few of their steps. What I felt more accomplished about was that I managed to learn some of the popular phrases in their language too, which I happened to overhear them exclaiming, in the midst of all the dancing. When you are dancing you say chishyabashyap, which basically is an exclamation encouraging everyone and telling them to have fun. I’d say it’s like ‘Cheers’! In return, you say shabasle, which means I am having fun, you have fun too! To build up the spirit of the crowd, you can also shout ‘yashaya’, which I think is again pretty much equivalent to ‘cheers’.

Another gesture that I learnt was that as a female, when you are greeting another person, you bang both your wrists together, thak-thak (as taught to me by one of the local guys), and say ‘Juley’ as you raise your right hand gesturing a salaam. Such simple phrases and gestures they were, but learning them and doing all of it along with the locals at a height of 14,270 feet at the Pangong Lake, really felt amazing. It made me fall in love with the place all the more.

Doing a happy dance in my head and with a feeling of being satisfied and happy, I hit the bed chasing the strong and loud winds all around the tent. The cold wasn’t lesser than any of the the other nights we had faced on the trip, but the warmth in our hearts provided enough comfort to sleep through the night and wake up in the wee hours next morning to prepare for the next ride.

Seagulls at the Pangong Lake
Seagulls at the Pangong Lake

Getting there: We went on bikes. There are lot of rental services where you can rent bikes or cars from in Leh. I’d say, if you have a choice, always go for the bike!

Where to stay: We stayed at the MarTseMik Camp Resort. The tents are absolutely beautiful, they provide ample blankets and you can ask for extras if you need; they provide an emergency torchlight, there is a suspended light inside the tent, and toilets with health faucets and tissue papers. They also provide hot water in the morning. To get more details for booking, click here.

What to eat: The tent site provides a full course meal, including soups, salads and dessert and it is quite nice.

For riding and other adventure tours: Get in touch with Tyremark, the group that I went with; it’s a bunch of fun guys. Here’s the contact – Dhaval Apte – 9923063562, Nitin Joshi – 9823179191

About the author

The founder of The First Fork, Karishma likes to live in the moment and take life as it comes. Originally from aamchi Pune, she is swalp Bangalorean at heart and loves the Mumbaiya energy! Biking adventures, good food and inappropriate humour are things that get her going and she fantasises about going hitchhiking around the galaxy one day.

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