Ladakh Vacation - Day 5 - Pangong Lake
We started for Pangong Lake at the crack of dawn and for a good reason. There is a stream just before Pangong that you must cross early, or risk being stranded on its banks. During the summers, a distant glacier is known to melt and turn this stream into an uncrossable torrent. The unpredictable nature of the stream has earned it a sobriquet of ‘Pagal Nala’; roughly translated, ‘Mad Brook’.
We began to see Pangong Lake much before we saw this notorious stream - a sliver of surreal copper-sulphate-blue peeking from behind the mountains. And when we finally crossed the stream by driving through the river bed of big, rounded pebbles and saw the lake for the first time, it all felt very dream-like.
The moment we got out, ice-cold winds howled in our ears and lashed at our faces. You barely notice it though, because you’ve been numbed by the beauty of the landscape. The lake has many hues - a sea-green that turns to turquoise which finally takes an azure tint.
Somewhere in the distance, a bunch of colorful player flags that had been tied to a wooden pole embedded into a pile of stones fluttered hysterically.
This is a salt-water lake that freezes during the winter. Our driver claimed to have driven over it! While at a distance it might seem like an opaque blue mass, the water is actually quite clear.
We had not had breakfast, so a bowl of hot Maggi and a cup of tea in a small tent-restaurant near the lake was like manna from heaven.
We said good-bye to the lake with a twinge of sorrow - we would have to leave before noon because the stream, once it is flooded, is equally uncrossable from either side.
We had seen little by way of Himalayan wildlife till now -an Ibex crossing a road on our first day out and then nothing else. On our way back, things improved a little on that front. We were still swooning over a pair of black-necked cranes when a Himalayan Marmot came close to me, stood up on its rear legs - very Meerkat-like - and enjoyed being petted on its head.
This one day is the ‘keyframe’ by which the memory of our entire Ladakh trip is filed in our minds.