One thing that I had felt when I first went toIdaho… is vastness. Long stretches of vallies with mountains at the distance visible sometimes. The brown yellow desert would be felt stretched from one end of the earth to the other. The road would then sometimes cross the snake river and the desert would be replaced by the green fields during the summer and in fall that would be set on blaze in the late afternoon light.
I have traveled in the Garhwhal region, that is more recognized by the endless layers ofHimalayasand Sadhus than anything else. To get a glimpse of the high and snowcapped mountains you would travel, miles and miles on road and then using your own feet for days at a time. The never-ending canyons would widen when the mountains give you a way or sometimes coming too close. When you reach high above 10000 feet and if the nearby mountains mercy on you and give a little space and if the weather cooperates then you see that greater Himalayan mountain range towering above anything else. And there is no guarantee, you might take a turn on the trail and the peaks would quickly disappear behind the mountain nearby.
Ladakh is vastly different. You start at whopping 12000 feet!! Earlier my climbs would start at around 6 to 7000 feet and aim for 12000. So this place would be this strange and wonderful feeling of being so up high 🙂 and the next moment it is realized more by the heavy breathing I needed to do for even a little activity, or the slight giddiness that is felt after doing something as simple as turning your head swiftly as you do regularly. First few days had been discomforting and fun at times 🙂
ThevalleyofLehis beautifully surrounded by the mountains all around. On one side is the range where lies the tallpeakofStok-Kangriat 20600 feet and other nearby peaks seem to be competing with others. On the north lies the mountain pass of the Khardugnla that climbs from 12000 to above 18000 feet. And most tourists visit this wonder, the road the man has carved out. Many feel great about reaching at this height and take pleasure in taking their photos here.
After the regular trip ended we extended to travel south. This to not so visted area of Ladakh. We were driving to thelakeofTsomoririthat nears the border of Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh. TsoMoriri, the second largest lake in the region of Ladakh, smaller than Pangong Tso. In Ladakhi language Tso means lake, Pangong Tso is one of the largest satlwater lake in Himalayas that is about 130 kilometers long, and about 40 kilometers lie inIndiaand the rest is in theTibetregion. Tso Moriri rather lies completely inIndiaand is less in mineral content than the larger Pangong. Tsomoriri is still 40 kiloemters long and about 5 kilometers wide. It also looks as blue as Pangong Tso and has as beautiful range surrounding it. It also lives at 15000 feet that means 2000 feet higher than the Pangong Tso.
The road to TsoMoriri had been constantly accompanied by theIndusRiverfor long. At one turn we left the gorge ofIndusand then entered a very rugged canyon. After passing through a small village we started climbing steadily. The canyon widened and was left behind. We were now running on the plateau above it. Our vision was widened suddenly. Our already enjoying minds were refreshed with the new sight. The paved road now had disappeared. Although it was a dirt road, it was still pretty smooth and dry. We then saw the first glimpse of the lake. This isn’t Tsomoriri though. This is called StarstapukTso. It is a small lake. Small is a relative term inHimalayas. The sizes are so confounding here. One can only compare with another one that’s only fromHimalayas. This is a circular lake with the beautiful backdrop of the snowcapped mountains. We were also surprised to see a very strange sight of dozens of sheep together and then on the far side and bit higher, were 3 to 4 tents. Nomads!! This sight really left us dumbfounded that why on earth they come and stay in such remotest and one of the most inhospitable places? Nothing seemed to grow here except the grass for the sheep to feed on and then obviously the sheep. The sheep were guarded by a lone dog and they were gradually marching towards the pens made with rocks. We learnt that this is an ancient tradition that these nomads come here in the spring season and later move to the low grounds. These days some of them are rich enough to keep a second hand four wheeler. It still leaved us very much dumbfounded about there choice of the place to live.
We completed about two third of the circle around the lake and climbed even further. The basin in which the Starstapuk Tso resided was now slowly disappearing behind us. The sandy shore and the lake were now replaced by the high and gentle rolling hills or large flat lands carpeted with the green and yellow tundra grass. The triangular mountains stood behind them. This is where we seemed like a very small something traveling through the vast mass of the land. In front of the wide open space around us we were probably nothing. The grey skies now were clearing a bit and the soft and diffused late afternoon light now have enriched the colors of this tundra and the mountains in the background. It was a special sight to witness. It was an experience that I can never forget. Driving on the high plateau almost 15500 feet with large plain around us!!
Everything after that with the large water body of Tsomoriri, thebasinofTso Karwere on the same lines. Wide spaces, large masses, Tall cliffs and heavy storms!! We were returning to Leh from Tsomoriri. TheToyotawas finding its way through the large plain created by this lake basin. A lone twister was giving an airlift to the sand far away!