How often do you see a photograph of a place and think you’re looking at a painting so life-like, it just doesn’t feel real. That’s the effect that Pangong Tso had on me when I would see photographs in magazines.
And then, years later, as I laughed through a Hindi movie set in this stunning locale, with a landscape that is so rich and still so different, I was still trying to convince myself that is isn’t real, but just an elaborate film set. Idiot that I was, I should have known better.
As the 4×4 descended from Chang La, the condition of the roads started to improve, and so did the landscape – from barren terrain to green fields with streams flowing. Then, after driving between mountains for a while, I suddenly spot a stretch of blue. That’s when I knew it wasn’t a painting after all. It was not reel. It was all real.
At about 14,270 feet, and roughly around 150 odd km from Leh, Pangong Tso is one of the most picturesque natural creations I’ve seen so far. Tso means lake in Tibetan. With the rugged mountains as a backdrop, it makes for a spectacular sight. Depending on the sunlight and depth where the sun shines on the water, expect to see various shades of blue and green, and even a tinge of red.
Two-thirds of the lake falls in Tibet, which in effect means that it is the international border, while the remaining one-third is in Indian territory. In fact, some of the mountains that you see in the distance are within Tibetan territory. So much for a unified world.
The best time to see this lake in all its splendour and glory should be in the summer months, after the snow has melted. That would be from something in April or May till about September. However, a word of caution. Even during these months, temperatures can dip to low levels, especially at night. So, when planning a trip to this region, pack accordingly.
Strange fact. Even though it’s among the highest brackish water lakes in the world, it completely freezes in winter.