Pangong Tso (lake) was always on my bucket list. After waking up early in the morning I headed to the lake side. The crystal clear water of the lake extended as far as I could gaze. I could differentiate shades of blue and green on the water of the lake. Some of the workers of our hotel were practicing archery in the ground. After a quick breakfast we geared up for the ride towards Hanle. This would be the most exciting ride till date since we were not aware of the road conditions and driving in very remote locations. Locals said most part of the roads were dusty trails which we needed to follow diligently. Being in close proximity to international border, any wrong turn may lead us to Chinese controlled territory.
Pangong Tso- Man- Merak-Chushul
We packed our gear on the bike and headed towards the village of Spangmik. The 4 Km ride was right across the edge of the lake. It was around 8 am in the morning and the village was still asleep. I found a few resorts and home stays along the lake. We continued our ride along the lake for another hour and reached the quaint village of Man. It was mostly under construction. After Man village we gradually gained attitude and took a steep trail overlooking the lake. The panoramic view of the lake from the height was amazing. In another hour we reached Merak village. We were lucky enough to spot several ruddy shelduck and brown headed seagull on the way. A local resident who ran a home stay invited us for a brunch. On enquiry I came to know he was a technician in the Hanle observatory and briefed us about the road ahead. His old mother who could not communicate in Hindi had a joyful smile on her face. We had maggie, omelette and tea.
After crossing Merak village we entered a desert section of the road where we had to ride on sandy patches. The Pangong lake gradually deviated towards the north and we followed the trail on the sand towards the south east direction. We stopped at one of the bend of the road and bid good bye to beautiful lake. The road trail on the desert seemed to be never ending, after a three hour ride into wilderness we finally arrived at the Chushul village. The village had a army base on one end, several cafes who served basic meals. The village was in very close proximity to the international border. Our fellow rider Dinesh got a few copies of his inner line permit at Rs 10 per page in one of the shops in the market. We had egg fried rice and relaxed for half an hour. We came across two bikers coming from the other direction. They warned us about the remote roads and some dangerous water crossings which they had crossed on the way to Chushul.
In the next hour we crossed Rezang La which had memorial of 110 army men who sacrificed their lives for the land. We came across three stretches of water crossings in the desert. One of them made us wet till the knee. I had to open the shoe, dry up the socks and knee caps. After an hour into ride we crossed Tsaga La. The route through the pass was heading to the army camp where we were stopped and guided to our correct path which was heading into the valley ahead. We reached Loma check post at around 3 pm. While checking the permits, I came across a ITBP personnel from Barasat, West Bengal. He was overjoyed as I was the first Bengali rider he came across during his tenure. We crossed the Indus river and took right towards Rongo. The roads to the left went towards Demchok after crossing Umling La. We were super excited to get tarred roads for the first time on that day. The next 50 km drive from Rongo to Hanle was the best stretch of road on the entire Ladakh ride. The road through the valley during the sunset made the landscape surreal. Unfortunately I had drained the Gopro battery and had to stop frequently for taking photos with the big camera. It was almost dark and I was well behind my fellow riders. I saw a biker coming in opposite direction. It was Ram, he came all the way to check whether everything was all right. We reached Hanle at around 8 pm and checked into Goa Home Stay. The friendly owner informed us that ‘Goa’ was a wild deer found Changthang Valley.
After a awesome hide, it was time to have dinner and sleep for the night in cozy bed.
More on Hanle coming in the next blog!!
The route we followed:
SPANGMIK (PANGONG TSO) – MAN (8 KM) – MERAK (12 KM)– CHUSHUL (28 KM) – TSAGA LA (33 KM) – TSAGA VILLAGE (20 KM) – LOMA (22 KM) –HANLE (52 KM) = 176 KM
Turtuk-Exploring the Northernmost village of India: http://www.wandererdoc.in/2017/12/northern-village-india-turtuk/