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Old 20th April 2017, 19:13   #16
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Default Re: Ladakh - The Second Reckoning

Superb photography!! Perfect thread that describes pictures speaking thousand words. Do give details on the gears used & off course tips for such stunning photography.
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Old 20th April 2017, 22:56   #17
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A very well written travelogue. It was a delight to read it. Photographs along with the crisp narration lend justice to the scenic beauty of the place. Rated 5 stars.
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Old 20th April 2017, 23:10   #18
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Awesome photography and some pretty good post processing (Lightroom? or something else?) What lenses do you use by the way?
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Old 21st April 2017, 10:45   #19
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Absolutely stunning pictures Sumit and a fantastic travelogue !
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Old 21st April 2017, 12:51   #20
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The morning saw the IíLE covered with fresh frost indicative of winter coming as the month of October approached. I was entering into the wild lands now and hence wanted to be on the road as early as possible . The trail was metaled for the next ten kms or so and then finally it just disintegrated into a dusty trail as we approached PoloKang La . The pass was not in the league of the high ones but at 17000 feet it did command respect. The sun was shining brightly as we crossed the Kiangs grazing peacefully in the shadow of the towering ranges that rose in the vicinity.From PoloKang La we moved ahead towards Puga Hot springs and out there before the village I saw the Pugh Residential School and I felt pride at my country and those in the administration who made this possible . Schooling for everyone irrespective of where they are born , I liked this thought and after spending some time out here I moved ahead towards the village of Sumdo which was fast approaching .

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The path towards Changthang Wild Lands

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Polokang La approaches , with the Indomitable Logan

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Sun Star @Polokang La

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Belief and Prayer Flags in the wild

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Monochrome wilderness

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Puga Residential School

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Reflections speak for themselves in the wild

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@Puga , strolling in the wild meadows

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Yaks on the move @Sumdo

The true Ladakhi village, Sumdo is a throwback to the yester years and offers a glimpse into the village infrastructure in Ladakh. The mud houses dotted on the hill slopes present the viewer with an insight into the realm of existence prevalent in these regions before the advent of tourism and modernization. I stopped for a cup of tea at the local tea house and on the porch sat a young lad. As I stood there and we both looked at each other, I found something reassuring, his look neither took nor gave. It made me wonder about my own look.

Sumdo lies at the junction of the path to the villages of Loma, Mahe and even towards the city of Leh and then there is another path that moves the traveler to the famed village of Korzok nestled in the foothills of the Zanskar ranges. This path further moves towards the ancient village of Chumur, tucked away in seclusion amongst the yellow grazing grass of the horses. It was this path that I was drawn to and moved ahead.

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The path narrowed down as I moved ahead. The broken down road spoke tales of this place. I was in the Changthang wild lands,vast and imposing. These lands have a deep history of their own. After leaving the village of Sumdo and travelling around kms , I stood at Namshamg La , this gentler of the passes in this terrain , playing the role of the seasoned anchor in an army of wild generals .

As I descended down the pass, the vistas opened up ahead for me. A world that seemed more real than real. All I saw was the earth spread out, all directions that I gazed, all I saw was nature and my presence. It is a different feeling itself, an alternate way to relate to the earth.

The words of Lama Govinda sprang up in my mind seeing what lay ahead, ďJust as a white cloud, in harmony with heaven and earth freely floats in the blue sky from horizon to horizon following the breath of the atmosphere; in the same way a pilgrim abandons himself to the breath of the greater life ď, I was the pilgrim here and the creation was to what I had given myself up at that point of time.

The sound of the wind and the swaying of the brown grass in its passage, the steady sound of the IíLE as it stood watching along with me, there was this vastness but then I felt it complete from within. Kiagar Tso shimmered in front of me in the distance. It waited for me or rather I had been waiting for this meeting since five years now.

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Sublime beauty @Kiagar Tso

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The mountains watch eternally

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Approach to Kiagar Tso , its a long walk to the lake

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Monochrome reflections

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The other visitors

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Kiagar Tso, a beauty in itself, not much is spoken and it loses when tourists go ga ga over talk about Pan gong and Tso moriri in the same breath. But ask the discerning traveler and he will go quiet for a moment and his eyes will attain that glassy look as he transports his soul back to his moment spent by Kiagr Tso. Such is the beauty of this lake, it is a hidden beauty and only reveals when you pay attention to it The taxis carrying the tourists hurl pass it intent on reaching Tso Moriri in time for lunch or maybe dinner depending upon the time but my suggestion have a packed lunch by this lake and you will relish it whenever you think about it for all the years to come by . Trip advisor reviews can never convey what this lake is all about for they cater to the tourists and not to the traveler. Come out here to understand what the words I have written mean.

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Kiagar Tso shimmers

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As I moved ahead, the road deteriorated soon enough and was replaced with the constant mind numbing shake that each vehicle is subjected to when one travels on paths cut into the mountains , yes the path is clear but then it is a path and not a road and every bolt , every rivet , joint in the car and man within is shaken and banged about constantly .

After crossing a rickety bridge and then travelling for about 10 kms , one reached a signboard , on the left is a magical full metaled road leading in to the horizon while on the right , the nightmarish road deteriorates even further. Korzok lies to the right and that is where one has to move , the pace decreased even more as I drove real slow without hurrying up , The IíLE needed to be cared about when on such long trips. Tso Moriri, in Tibetan language it translated into mountain lake, is nestled amongst the Zanskar ranges at an altitude of 14800 ft above sea level.

The lake is held sacred by the Buddhists and the inhabitants of Ladakh. It holds the distinction of being the largest fresh water lake in India but then it wears this achievement and many more lightly on its sleeve. Its history pales the glories that men heap on it. The ďChangspas ď nomadic migratory shepherds of yak ,sheep and goats and horses of Tibetan origin are the main inhabitants of this lake and they have for decades ranged far and wide along its shores striking deep into the Changthang plateau .

The village of Korzok is the only permanent settlement in close vicinity and offers a place to those who are willing to stay out here. For those travelling at any point of the year the cold and wind is definitely significant however for those visiting this place in extreme winter or post October has to be prepared for the brutal harshness that is evident out here. The incredible beauty matched the ruthless harshness of the region and Korzok is a beacon of hope for those select few who come in off season to this place. Korzok by itself has only the Ladakhi way of life to offer to the outsider and to experience that one has to stay out here in an unhurried manner. Most of all who come here have only Tso Moriri on mind but there is a world beyond Tso Moriri too in Korzok. I found myself here in the early onset of winter and the sun was still bright enough to make me feel its heat in the middle of the day, things were still very much in control, winter looked from the mountain peaks and waited , confident that soon circumstances will shift in its favor.

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Towards Tso Moriri

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Tso Moriri shimmers

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Road Signs - Iconic in nature

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Mystical Tso Moriri

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The village of Korzok in foreground and Tso Moriri spread out

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Belief in solitude

Reaching the entry of the village, I went and announced myself to the ITBP post out there. I submitted the self-declaration forms and entered the personnel details in the register. Soon moved ahead and scouted for a place to stay in this ancient village. There were two luxury camps but the steep rate quoted in off season made me retrace my path and move ahead to stay in the rustic homestays that the villagers offered. Mentok GH was what I finally selected and Stanzing , the aged caretaker was more than happy to have some company.

The evening was spent in exploring the trails above the Korzok Gompa . As the sun moved towards the other part of the globe, the temperature dropped steadily and while the travelers shivered , the local children were having gala time playing a game of street football , all noisy and boisterous. I stayed for the entire evening high above the village watching the spectacle of the sun setting and thereafter made my way back slowly.

There was an option to stay the next day out here but then I decided to move head to attempt something audacious and hence I needed the spare day. Tso Moriri will be again said Hello in the years to come, I felt that in my bones as I bid my silent good bye to the quiet lake under the million stars.
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Old 21st April 2017, 13:02   #21
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Tso Moriri requires few more visuals , that's what my heart says

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The world that is spread out

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Panaromic view

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Under the billion stars

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Old 21st April 2017, 13:40   #22
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Stunning pictures of one of the most mesmerizing place in India.

Its a paradise for wide angle lens. Great perspective and well captured.

Keep it coming.
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Old 23rd April 2017, 22:06   #23
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Lovely reading....many thanks.
Last there there were multiple reports (including team-bhp) regarding misbehavior with people in Leh (self driven cars and private cars) to the extent of damaging the cars, stone pelting, physical abuse and assault.
How is the situation now?
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Old 24th April 2017, 07:44   #24
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Originally Posted by i74js View Post
Lovely reading....many thanks.
Last there there were multiple reports (including team-bhp) regarding misbehavior with people in Leh (self driven cars and private cars) to the extent of damaging the cars, stone pelting, physical abuse and assault.
How is the situation now?


thanks , will be answering the query at the end of the Travelogue

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Old 24th April 2017, 15:41   #25
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The sun shimmered as I moved ahead retracing the path of the previous day, my mind was in a whirlwind of thoughts egging for me to try something audacious but at the same time caution whispering me down and like a master mariner who rides his vessel in the midst of a tropical monsoon I was trying to find that fine line between audaciousness and fool hardiness.

The battle was whether to take that elusive path from Mahe towards Chushul which would take me to dizzying heights of close to 18000 feet in a region that still was stuck in the time wrap of the early 2000s. While the majority of Ladakh had moved on towards 2016, this place took one back to the sights of the early years that used to greet the few hardy ones who braved the quest to reach the magical kingdom of Ladakh.

This path would make me cross three passes and allow me to gaze upon two magical lakes and the remnants of a lost glacier and I was hungering to give in to the desire as the struggle was happening internally within while slowly the point where the decision had to be made approached. Eventually reached the check post of Mahe and the time for the decision was upon. After crossing the check post, I reached the Y junction wherein a right would take me to Mahe and the town of Nyoma while left ,well that was the source of the desire and I turned left. Surprisingly the decision was so smooth and yet I had tempered the desire and told myself that the first sign of trouble would turn back.

This path that I had taken was definitely not a 2WD drive territory and the IíLE was definitely trespassing into firmly held territories of the big boys of the 4WD club. We moved on, the wind had picked up and the loneliness of the path was knocking hard into my subconscious. The road was surprisingly good however immediately it climbed up steeply using a series of hair pin turns. I drove sedately conserving the IíLE, not allowing any parameter to cross the cruising limits. Soon was way up as the road started getting narrower by the passing meter. Eventually after some time, at a height of 16900 feet was at the first pass, the wind was ugly out here, a living being as it sensed and swirled all around me. Hor La, thatís where I stood with the IíLE, marveling at the raw scenic landscape spread out ahead of me. It was desolate Ladakh at its best and it gave an indication to what was coming ahead.

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Sun Star towards Mahe

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The nunnery on the way to Hor La

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Only the two of us and the mountains

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@Hor La

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we are climbing

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Unexplored destinations

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The climb to Kakasang La

After a few customary shots I moved ahead and soon came upon the first of the Lakes, the sedate Yaye Tso, it beckoned me from distance nestled at the base of a huge mountain. I could feel the aura of peace that it radiated. I wished somehow one could walk till that the lake however it that would take more than anhour which I did not have. It was close to 1130 hrs as I moved ahead.

The path now was cluttered with loose smaller rock pieces that had rolled down the adjoining mountain slope as I continued ahead and soon the path degenerated in to a rocky affair and thought to myself, the ordeal begins but kept moving ahead, things are still in control. After a few kms I stopped and looked around and realized that I had come way ahead, had driven deeper into the chasm from which the path of no return was somehow not visible that easily. Sure I could turn back but even that was possible at very few locations for such narrow was the path cut into the mountains.

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Hor La

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Yaye Tso

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The road to Kakasang La

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Kakaksang La

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Mirpal Tso

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Mirpal Tso

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The route is just a rough cut made on the mountain, zing zag moving ahead at an incline all the while, the cut has been levelled at many places by laying down big size quarry stones that are supposed to form the base layer for a metaled road but then after this, no work has been done hence the path is of a kind what I have seen anywhere and definitely suitable for only the army stallion class of vehicles.
The thought of taking picture somehow did not register and by now was totally immersed in moving ahead in a controlled manner. I must say that this path made the best come out of the IíLE as it crossed rocks, rough cut stones, gravel, mud which not even a 4WD would attempt willingly without some kind of a backup in a normal scenario. The second pass beckoned to me after some hours which were filled with doubts and misgivings for there were no road signs or a path or GPS to tell where I was. The incline was my only indicator that I was on the correct path for I had to climb up to reach the mighty elusive of all; Kakasnag La. Finally, I was there(17994 ft), one of the least visited places in the entire Ladakh, the weather was a rugged as the landscape and the roughness of the entire scenario made me feel goosebumps. After some evidence shots (yea that how I call the pics that I clicked) moved ahead on the same tortuous path that was ripping into the IíLE but then there was no way other than going ahead. By this time, I could not even think of the thought of turning back.

I was the only individual as far as the eye could see and for the last six hours had not encountered any living soul whether man or anything else. The absolute remoteness of the location matched the temperature that I was feeling, there was no escape from mother natureís close hand. But the absolute discomfort was made up by the absolute breathtaking landscape of the location.

As I descended I glimpsed something blue and it made me realize I was looking at Mirpal Tso, an elusive lake seen in pictures of those very few who had come here. Slow meter by meter I moved ahead and yes meant it when I say metre by mete Every few meters I used to stop and lie down to inspect the underneath of the IíLE as well as the condition of the tires, so brutal was the punishment. But thankfully the Michelins held strong, a testimony to the quality of them.

Mirpal Tso was bewitching as she shimmered beneath snow covered peaks. I cannot relate the feeling, one has to be here to experience it and words can never do justice. The rawness, the beauty, the absolute solitude, .it was mesmerizing as well as frightening.

The day seemed shorter out here, with each passing hour as a different shade of bleakness sets in. Any warmth that I hoped quickly retreated. By now I was openly fighting for the chance to leave this place with the IíLE intact.After leaving Mirpal Tso behind I finally reached SATHTO La( 16600 feet ), my third pass on this trail and now I was growing confident that I had made it. There is so much to explore out here , I knew that I had only scrapped the surface of endless possibilities and the possibility of a return was both enthralling as well as filled with foreboding.

After some time as I stopped high in the mountains, I saw a blue within the brown mountains and then I realized that was I seeing was the Pangong, a first sight of the mighty lake seen from a totally new angle and location. the lake seen from the highest possible driven path possible. Mesmerizing it was, and still continued ahead maneuvering a series of sharp hair pin bends as I quickly descended in altitude and raced on the narrow path towards Chushul , there was this sense of accomplishment that I wanted to jump in the air and share it what I had achieved , something totally monumental. Eventually I reached the outskirts of Chushul and took first significant break. The path to Tsaga La was on my right as the soldiers at the check post wondered from where had I conjured up, but I kept my silence.

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When u see a pangong which is not visible on any online web image .. the settlement of chushul in the foreground with the lake in the middle and the towering mountains in the background

Crossing over the mountains took energy and time but yielded a comfort, not the feeling that u have when u are in the middle of nowhere but the feeling that u have when u are in the center of something. Crossing the landscape reminded me that I had formed something intimate out here, I had been with something that will always have a link now with me no matter how far I drive way from here.

It was pretty late in the afternoon as I stood at Chushul , The path from here was pretty straightforward as I went towards the Kondu La and thereafter the Harong Wetlands which would eventually take me to Tang Tse . The distance was definitely a long drive; I knew it was not easy but then somehow assured that the IíLE had the grit to cover it. Soon moved ahead, there were 90 kms to cover in these early days of October when the sun said goodbye quite quickly.

The single track kept moving ahead as I made steady progress crossing Parma TCP in the bargain. I have not heard about this TCP in any of the TL but on both occasions that I have taken this route, the TCP does stop you, enquires and notes down particulars. The path is a broken down version manageable definitely but then speed is one thing that cannot be achieved. The other option to reach Panging is to take the bumpy route via Merak , Maan and spangmik villages along the shores of the Pangong . That is a definitely shorter part, almost by 30 kms however I still put my faith on the route through which I was travelling which though broken in places guaranteed that progress still could be made even if the darkness fell. By 1900 hours I reached Tangtse and stopped for the night. The homestay was Chang La GH, the same in which I had stayed two years back. The owners have constructed a hotel itself and now are not very enthusiastic of filling up the Homestay however seeing my tired condition, the lady offered me a room which amply met my needs.

Last edited by swsumit : 24th April 2017 at 15:46.
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Old 25th April 2017, 18:20   #26
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The agenda for the day was a visit to the famed ancient Tang Tse monastery followed by a day spent on the banks of the Pangong. Accordingly had an early start for in this region an early morning ride when the sun has just cleared the mountain peaks showcases the traveler the beauty of the landscape. Immediately after one has left the village of Tang Tse, there are streams running next to the road with a green carpet of lush grass creating undulating small patterns in the ground.

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Monochrome glory in Harong

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The sun n shadows

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Towards Harong

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TangTse Monastery

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Tang Tse Monastery

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Towards Pangong Tso

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So returning to Tang Tse Monastery, firstly Tang Tse village is nestled in a valley floor though which flows the Harong stream. The mountains tower on all sides and this area is slowly opening up to visitors but does have a large army presence. Tang Tse Monastery has been reconstructed by the villagers and the statue of Jigshten Gonbo stands beautifully inside the main prayer hall. Once definitely cannot clicks pictures out here else they would provide a fascinating insight. I would recommend everyone to visit this fortress monastery for its in-depth visuals on the thangkas as well as architecture.
From here, I proceeded towards the Pangong Tso “the long and narrow goose lake “located at an average altitude of 14200 feet, having a physical dimension of 134km length and 5 km width. The uniqueness of this lake is that it flows across the international border into Tibet, thereby straddling two countries. Out there is goes by the name “Bangong Co”.

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Mani stones on the shores of Pangong

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Harong Lands

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The lake is noted for its crystal clear blue brackish water which keeps playing tricks and changes colors in seven distinct shades of blue, green, purple, turquoise, violet depending on the angle of view. The shores of the lake are white with salt deposits while in extreme winter, the entire lake just freezes and presents a mesmerizing sight. The panorama of the golden mountains is reflected on the lake surface and presents an exquisite sight indeed. It is said that in the Chinese controlled part there exists a small lake which is a popular birding area for hundreds of migratory birds.
So we reached the lake soon enough and as I had been here previously we drove towards the village of Spangmik, for the homestays/camps are all located out there. Spangmik has been totally taken over by tourism was my impression. There are numerous homestays and luxury camps out here. For the non-tourist traveler, I would recommend that he keeps continuing till he reaches the village of Maan / merak and there in the absolute solitude he can feel the presence of the lake.

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Long exposure @Pangong , a different perspective

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Reflective overdoes

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Different views

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I just spent my afternoon and evening hours in the stretch beyond spangmik village and between the Lukung and spangmik sector watching the lake mesmerize me with its bewitching beauty. Someday I nurture a desire to travel to the opposite shore of the lake and travel into the bends in order to see the alternate visual of pangong tso. Let me see if this desire gets culminated some day or not.

Last edited by swsumit : 25th April 2017 at 18:22.
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Old 25th April 2017, 19:14   #27
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Some more visuals of Pangong before i come to an end of this update

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Shades at Pangong

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In peace with belief n nature

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Evening glory

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Sun star

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Shades n hues

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Sun star

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My Ride - The Indomitable , indeed !!!

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Last edited by swsumit : 25th April 2017 at 19:41.
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Old 26th April 2017, 10:22   #28
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Yet another brilliant travelogue! Your photographs are mesmerizing and bring out the breathtaking beauty of Ladakh.

I have been shunning away from planning a Ladakh trip because the whole place has become yet another tourist heaven but from your Tlog, I realize that there are many many places which are unexplored and beckon the traveler.

Once again, that a lot for taking time and sharing this beautiful journey into one of the most picturesque regions in India.
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Old 26th April 2017, 16:31   #29
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Today I had to move , Chang La had called and when the call comes , itís time to go . Hence the IíLE turned towards the heights as we ascended towards the icy domains of Chang La Baba, situated at a height of 17550 feet. The whims of this pass dictates whether the eastern part of Ladakh can be accessed or not by the defence forces mandated to protect the area towards Depsang Plains, Chushsul sector and Demchock sector. To overcome the eccentric Chang La, Kakasang La was bought into existence. But today was a warm day as we moved ahead, the out of turn snow indicating the change in season and the coming of winter was scattered at the very height of the pass however today was a day of sun and blue sky. By later afternoon I had crossed over and reached back to Leh city.

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Tomorrow I would be exiting the magical region of Ladakh and take the Leh- Manali highway which would deposit me back to Manali and thereafter would cruise onwards to Delhi, Ahmedabad, Mumbai before finally arriving back to the shores of the Arabian Ocean, a world far away and apart from where I stood on this afternoon next to my INDOMITABLE looking back at the last few days of supreme glory and fulfilment.
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Old 26th April 2017, 16:41   #30
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Originally Posted by snaseer View Post
Just one word, AWESOME !!!! Stunning, sharp pictures. Hats off to your photography skills. You need to start a separate thread on photography tips.

Any travelogue to Leh/Ladakh ignites the feelings to just get into the car and drive away to this wonderful place.

Would you mind sharing the expenses & the stay etc. And how did the Logan fare on the route.
Hii ,
thanks a lot . The expense generally is divided into fuel and stay/food. The fuel for entire duration came to around 45000 , while the expenses at places like Leh is around 1100 for stayper day while food is as per individual while the stay at places like Pangong , korzok , tso kar was 1000 all inclusive each day .


Originally Posted by Sportztourer View Post
Superb photography!! Perfect thread that describes pictures speaking thousand words. Do give details on the gears used & off course tips for such stunning photography.
hii ,

thx for the warm words . I used two camera bodies and multiple lenses including both zoom as well as wide angle ( 11-24 , 70-200 , 24-70 ) , tripod and assorted filters .


Originally Posted by gurupalani View Post
Awesome photography and some pretty good post processing (Lightroom? or something else?) What lenses do you use by the way?
Hii ,
glad for the appreciation . The lenses used were wide angle and mid zoom ( 11-24 , 70-200 , 24-70 )

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