Day 11: 19 August 2013: Part 2: Spangmik to Merak

Having done with morning rituals and breakfast, we proceed from Spangmik towards Chusul at around 0715 hrs.

The drive is all along the Pangong shore and there are chortens all the way

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The Pangong is vast and we’re mesmerized. We stop frequently to click pictures.

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We meet this gentleman (we forgot to ask his name & address) basking in the morning Sun and he told us that there is a place just before Merak village where a piece of land goes inside the lake for long and is a nice picture spot.

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So we drive ahead…

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.. And meet the natives – the Yaks…

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We click at random.. and every frame is framable 🙂

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Mind it, there are no roads.. just tracks on sand and gravel, which keeps on detoriating as the place gets remote

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Shortly, we reach the Man village. We opt for the better track (my fault as I strongly suggested to take it) and learn that we’ll have to take the track that is in bad shape. There is not much space to turn the car and we advise to get back in reverse gear itself, however Cheena insists that he can turn the car in whatever space available. So he tried to turn the car, and the first result – the car goes into the small stream flowing by the road – the bumber touches the ground with a “thud” and the wheel start spinning on the rocks in the water. Now since XUV is front wheel drive, if the front wheels are spinning, we’ll all have to push it back. Some locals come to help and together we five persons push the car from front while Cheena tries to reverse it after placing some rocks under the wheels to give some traction. The spinning wheels splash water on everyone – half of the bath done! Somehow, we manage to lift it and push it back and then turn the car.

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See the tyre tracks?

See the tyre tracks?

We go back and are surprised to find a bus! It’s a JKSRTC bus and runs twice a week!

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Passing through a sandy beach setup, we start gaining height

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We use the height to our advantage, to capture some colours and peek deep into Pangong

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Finally, we cross the elevated tracks and come to a plateau…

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This is the place the guy was talking about. We walk down the extended piece of land going inside the Pangong as an arc and the first thing that I do is to click a pano shot from my phone

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We click at every possible step. Afterall, today we are leaving this majestic lake to go to yet another one – Tso Moriri! 🙂

We capture some stunning reflections as the wind is relatively calm in the morning…

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.. and some more reflections…

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We click Pangong too
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and peek deep inside
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Now technically, Pangong is a saline lake with no fish or marine life. So we’re caught by surprise when this mollusc comes to meet us.. 🙂

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we create some disturbance and make some splash…

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And get ourselves clicked (Oh yes! the “I was here too moments!”) 😀

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The wind has picked up speed which is evident from the disturbance in the water..

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And so we decide to proceed ahead. And Avi makes a dash to the car…

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To drive and bring it closer to us.

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And in the meantime, I become the source of Pangong Tso…

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As we drive ahead, I notice a carcass..
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There are no roads.. just tracks on sand and gravel with numerous tracks. You just have to follow one keeping in aim the direction you have to go.

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The barracks on top of peaks are visible now…

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And so are the snow and clouds..

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Far away, there appears to be some green patch with some housing structures.. must be Merak village!

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Indeed it is a village

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We see some kids playing…

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.. and their family members working. But what are they working on? There is no greenery there! In fact they’re digging.

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Oh, ok!! So they are creating bricks. Typical of Ladakh region, since there are no kilns. They can’t operate when the region is full of snow almost 6-8 months of a year and firewood is a luxury. Hence people make best use of what they have available – proximity to the Sun and make these bricks which bake in the sun.

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And yes, finally we get the name of the village – Merak.

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Amazing that people cultivate wheat here, at this altitude and such harsh weather conditions..

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Lost in this oasis, we again make the mistake and drive towards inside the village and loose way again! 🙂 Kids to the rescue..

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Curious onlookers..

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After getting the right directions from the kids, we approach the boundry of the Merak village where a tent and a signboard with just one person is all that is checkpost!

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I get to the person manning the check-post and enter the details in the register lying there, while Tony makes it a point to get himself clicked adjacent to the board prohibiting any further travel.

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The person manning the post looks at our inner line permit (ILP) and says “aap to jao jahan bhi jaana hai, aapke paas to permission hai” (translated: you can go wherever you want, you have the permission)

And so we proceed towards Chusul! The time reads 0945 hrs.

Next: Merak to Chusul

CONTD…

Total Distance covered: Approx 20 kms

Driving Directions from Spangmik to Merak: From Spangmik, take the road going opposite to Luking and keep on following it along the Pangong shore to pass by Man village. Shortly the road disappears and gives way to dirt track on sand and gravel. Keep on following the Pangong shore and tyre marks left by other vehicles. Depending on the season, there could be a couple of water crossings which could be tricky to navigate. Do not enter the village on what appears to be a better track and rather stick to the Pangong shore to reach Merak village. Do not take any turn and keep on the tracks heading straight to pass through the village and arrive at the checkpost.

Day 10: 18 August 2013: Part 5: The Pangong Tso in it’s full glory!

Little do I need to say about this majestic 134km long saline lake named Pangong Tso (Bangong in Chinese) which extends from India to Tibet and is about 5km wide at the broadest point. The Pangong Tso changes colour at different points of time during the day and the marshlands around the lake is home to many birds including some migratory species. (more…)

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