High altitude lakes in Ladakh
TSO MORARI SAFARISeason: July to mid September
The Rupsu Valley lies to the south east of Ladakh on the road from Manali to Leh, at an altitude ranging from 13,200 to 16,500 feet (4,000 to 5,000 m). The valley is inhabited by a small scattered population of Changpas - nomadic shepherds who also engage in trade and work the caravans between Ladakh, Lahoul and Spiti. The area is rich in wildlife including the kyang (wild ass), red fox and the rare, highly endangered snow leopard. Black-necked cranes and geese flock to the lakeside for breeding during the summer months.
LEH TO TSO MORARI – 240 km (7 to 8 hours) The road goes past the ancient gompas of Shey and Thiksey, via Karu and Upshi, upstream along the true right bank of the Indus river. The drive to Chumathang is via the villages of Likche, Himya, Gaik, Kiara and Skidmang. This takes about six hours. Another 22 kms from Chumathang leads to Mahe bridge. From here drive along a rough dusty track through remote countryside. There are no villages en route except for an occasional nomad (Changpa) settlement of two or three tents. After about 2 hours reach a small beautiful lake called Thazang. Tso Morari lies another half hour's drive further ahead.
TSO MORARI: or "mountain" lake is situated in the middle of the elevated district of Rupsu. Its name is characteristic of its situation - nestled in the midst of 20,000 foot plus peaks which completely shut the lake in. Legend has it that a woman riding a yak was carried into the lake. At first the yak swam boldly out and the woman (chomo) was delighted. But after a while the animal grew tired and sank deeper in the water. The chomo became frightened and screamed "Ri Ri, Ri Ri" until the yak sank and she drowned. Since then, the lake has been called Chomo-riri.
A kilometer ahead is the picturesque village of Korzok consisting of about a hundred families. Visit the gompa set on top of the village. Belonging to the Gelugpa sect, it is about 360 years old and has around 35 resident monks. The exterior has been renovated but the main Dukhang or prayer room is intact.
Tso Kar Lake
Driving west from Tso Moriri Lake at western side of Polokongka La (16,000 ft/4,878 m). The trail up to the pass is long but gradual and not too strenuous and gives you the chance to admire the spectacular rock formations and stark beauty of the region. The pass itself consists of a flat plain, with the glacial run-off which has created grazing lands for the yaks of Sumdo and Karzok villages.
Descend 1,000 feet and make camp beside one of the fresh- water streams running off the mountains. Here we are likely to encounter the wandering Changpa tribes with their distinctive black tents made of yak wool.
Continue descending down from Polokonga La into the remote Tso Kar valley, crossing the brackish lake of Startsapuk Tso and Tso Kar (salt) where we have a very good chance of spotting the fabled kyang (wild ass). Numerous birds such as the black-necked crane, Brahminy duck, Nangpas (wild geese) all visit this area for breeding and nesting. Many other varieties of wildlife are present in this area and although not that easy to see, they are of great interest to the ornithologist and naturalist. Make camp near a fresh-water stream.
The area is rich in wildlife including the kyang (wild ass), red fox and the rare, highly endangered snow leopard. Black-necked cranes and bar-headed geese flock to the lakeside for breeding during the summer months. Tso Kar is another brackish lake and this whole region has supported a vital salt industry that allowed the Changpas to trade with merchants from the other regions of Ladakh.
From Tsokar you may drive to join Maali Leh highway at Morai Plains to ascend at Tanglangla pass which is the third highest pass in the world. Continue drive will take you to the Leh Town.
Pangong Tso is an endorheic lake in Ladakh situated at a height of about 4,350 m (14,270 ft). It is 134 km long and extends from India to Tibet. 60% of the length of the lake lies in China. The lake is 2- 5 km wide. During winter the lake freezes completely and natives cross the lake by walk.
The brackish water of the lake has very low micro-vegetation. There are no fish or other aquatic life in the lake, except for some small crustaceans. Numerous ducks and gulls over and on the lake surface can be seen.
Around the lake supports a number of species of wildlife including the kiang and the Marmot. Around the lake you can see the breeding ground for a variety of birds including a number of migratory birds. During summer, the Bar-headed goose and Brahmini ducks are commonly seen here. Formerly,
You can see the variation in water color which is the most beautiful aspect of this lake.
How to reach
Pangong Tso is around 145 kms form Leh town and may take around four hour drive, most of road is in good condition but around Changla pass you may have rough terrain.
At Changla pass, you may have army sentries and a small teahouse. Descend from Changla Pass leads through Tangste and other smaller villages, crossing river called Pagal Naala or "The Crazy Stream". The spectacular lakeside is open during the tourist season, from May to September.
An Inner Line Permit is required to visit the lake. Tented accommodations are available at Pangong Lake. Better to reserve in advance. Communication is restricted in this section