Whenever they’ll talk about Pangong Tso, they’ll tell you about its mountains and its pristine blue waters. Lofty peaks against the cloudless sky and the thousand shades of magnificent blue waves that strike against the neatly pebbled shore. For this particular reason, Pangong was definitely on the top of our to-do list on our Leh Ladakh trip, a place that we could just not afford to miss.
This was our sole motivation to head to Pangong, after a long, weary bike trip from Nubra which happens to pass through Khardung-La, the worlds highest motorable road. We were a group of 9 friends, who’d long ago planned a quick escape to the mountains, and in the 9 day leave that we had managed to steal away from our desk jobs, we wanted to see it all. And so despite most of us being as functional as lobotomized rocks after the Nubra Valley bike trip, we dragged ourselves to our Traveler, in the hopes of spending a sunset by the lake. By the end of the journey, almost everyone ended up puking given the Himalayan Terrain, but the driver braved us through it all.
By the time we all reached, it was time to retire to the deluxe camps that we had booked for ourselves. The sun was long set, and it was pitch dark except for the dimly lit tents. At the tent which served as the community hall, dinner was served. We had a sumptuous buffet, something that we didn’t expect this far away from the civilization. It was almost 10 in the night, and most of the crew retired hurt, into warm cozy beds of the tent, unable to deal with the wrath of the tricky mountain terrain.
But a few of us decided to stick around. We asked the camp people to light a bonfire and sat by it, our only respite from the tattering cold. We were just happy to have made it this far. I, in particular, was the happiest. For all that I know, I have always been a dreamy kid. When my dad used to tell me the story of the three Magi’s travelling all the way to see baby Jesus; or when he would be teaching me History and tell me about Fa-Hein – the Chinese explorer’s visit to India, I would drool over the mere thought of the distant passes, the journey, the starry skies and of people who actually braved it all to find that what lied beyond their immediate horizons.
Even while at my desk job, I’d often drift away to these distant lands – Googling away their existence, dreaming of the day when I’d finally make it to such a place. And then that day, sitting outside the campsite, by the bonfire, mellow music lingering in the background through our JBL speakers, surrounded by some of my favourite people, I was just happy to be alive. The air was chilly, the temperatures dropped to negatives, the bonfire our only respite to the frigid night.
But what made it all worth it was the night sky at Pangong. Lit with thousands of stars, the entire milky way lay bare in front of us. It was like taking a walk with Neil DeGrasse Tyson on his cosmos expedition. We sat back in our chairs, ogling the celestial wonder. I didn’t miss even a single shooting star to make a wish. I was there unblinking, taking it all in for the days that were to follow, where the city lights would once again dominate my skyline, and I’d miss this place, so familiar, so spiritually stimulating, so close to home. Maybe they were true about humans being made of stardust.
I envied my friends who were there with their partners, damn this was a perfect place to be with the one you loved! The next shooting star was a long-tailed one, and I had just the right wish to make on it!
The morning scenes:
We were told that the sun would rise pretty early in this part of the world. I went back into the tent at around 1 in the night, but still wound my clock to 4:30 in the morning. Now that we were here, I couldn’t miss the sunrise. It was like living the mayfly’s life – a day was all I had got, and I was going to make the most of it.
I woke up to realize that we were right next to the lake the whole time. It was pitch dark when we had reached Pangong, and so none of us had even in our wildest dreams thought that the lake was this near. We were in a way camping by the lake. The sun came up from behind the mountains that lay at the other end of the lake. The rays played with the lake’s waves, lighting it up in several shades of blue-grey. It was a sight to behold.
After the morning breakfast at the campsite, we went down to the lake. Dipping our feet in the icy cold waters, across a coast lined beautifully with pebbles, being overlooked by mountains at all sides, all of us were lost. The beauty was too much to take in. Pangong – our last stop of the Leh-Ladakh expedition, was so mesmerizing that we all were in a way too sad to be leaving this beautiful a place to head back to the mundane, the known.
Since we were the first to reach the shore, we were the only ones there for a long time. While my friends amused themselves with mule rides, dart games and photoshoots, I walked across the coast aimlessly, collecting pebbles. The Magi’s had a goal, so might have Fa-Hien. I, however, was just happy being lost in the grand scheme of things. Pangong was beautiful not only for its blues, but also for its black, for its stars, and for its lofty peaks. They had been there for a thousand years, might remain for thousands more – I rather was content being the mayfly, trying to make the most of the minutiae of my existence!