I wouldn’t lie, I have been pretty enamored with the picturesque setting and shiny emerald waters surrounded by high mountains and looking sexier than Kareena Kapoor in her bridal attire. Well yeah, I am talking about the climax scene of 3 Idiots shot besides the world’s highest salt water lake. A lake that presents itself as a shimmery blanket of waves and holds much enigma, I promised myself I will “one day” visit THE Pangong lake. I got reminded of my promise to myself when I saw the love of my life SRK (yeah snigger as much, I am not changing my mind. He is my first love) diving into the lake to save the panting, screaming Anushka Sharma in Jab Tak Hain Jaan. It is another thing that some people say she did not dive into Pangong lake, but who cares. By the way I had already got the warning by my son, “mom don’t even try to dive in…SRK wont come to save you!!”
Hows and Whens hadn't been thought or planned but it was an idea whose time had come. Especially so when I saw and eventually took the plunge (no, Not in the icy waters) and booked for an all women tour to Leh with Women on Wanderlust. In our 5 day itinerary, besides the other amazingly breathtaking landscape visits this one was the jewel in the proverbial crown. We set off early in the morning since the travel time from Leh to Pangong and back was estimated to be about 5 hours (150kms) each way. Enroute we ascended the gorgeous snow laden peaks on one of the best and highest motorable roads. Considering the icy weather in Leh with much snowfall it is an admirable feat to be driving on roads so nicely maintained by the army just as the season began.
We had to cross Changa La Pass which is almost at 18k feet above the sea level, on our way to Pangong. No wonder the landscape was all heavily covered with stacks of snow many feet deep. It was a sight to behold, I don’t think words can aptly capture the essence of either how we felt or what we saw. The winding road wove through piles of snow and looking out of the bus window the snowy sculptural shapes seemed like works of art, drops that were frozen in time as icicles, the small peaks that lay delicately balancing on thick snow almost like a ballerina. It was a wonder to behold, the spirit and grit of humans that have made even these treacherous terrains as their own, one could not stop marvelling at the roads and the electric poles, and the super efforts of the army to keep it all going. I pause here for a BIG SALUTE to them and all the agencies who keep the country well oiled and borders well guarded.
The whites were broken only by the colorful prayer flags swaying in the wind singing the glory of the Lord God who made it all. When we reached Chang La Pass a small but functional café served us hot tea and the quintessential garama garam Maggi. Even though we were covered with layers and layers of warm woolens and wanted to spend more time, we could not prance about for more than 15 to 20 minutes in which we scurried around to click some pics and hopped right back into the
bus to head towards Pangong Lake.
From here the descent began and the first look of the Pangong was as awesome as was imagined. We parked at the site and was greeted with a well spread piping hot buffet lunch at guess where, the 3 Idiots Café. It was such a moment of gratitude, not only was the food amazingly yum and fresh, the Café was equally hospitable. Giving into the demands of 20 women for hot black coffee, tea with little milk no sugar and maybe 20 ways to make it too. Post lunch we ambled across to the lake site, ambled yes not only cause we were stuffed but also we realised that running at such an altitude and getting out of breath was not a great idea. The 150 km salt lake with around 2/3rds of it being in China is a beautifully picturesque stretch of water, surrounded by majestic mountains and ever changing color of the water. The waters almost magically change the colours with the changing hues of the sky and is at its greenest green when the sun is out. Per chance on our visit the sky was overcast, obviously disappointing us though just a little. You can not be in the area and not marvel or be meditative with such tranquil surroundings. It is true that nature connects self with self. The waters were freezing cold and we were in thick woolens it was a tough deal but we did put out fingers in and wriggled our socks-less feet in the water. It was an equally amusing sight to watch the newly wed honeymoon couples in short dresses and bare sleeved tees posing a la Titanic…but well the young …stop don’t label me old …I am above all this you see…we are mature women.
Post our date with the emerald shores we retreated to the Café for coffees before the goodbyes. As luck would have it there were strong gusts of winds just as we were sipping the last dregs of the coffee and the clouds made way to the Sun. And guess what the Sun did, it gave us the most awesome view of the colours of the lake and we ran back to click some and take it all in with loads and loads of gratitude and came back with indelible memories.