Pangong Tso – The gems in the crown

Take some deep sapphire, the kind that costs a fortune. Take some emerald. Add a dash of coral. Crush it. Toss it all in the air & what you see shimmer & glint in the sun, is what you should expect at Pangong Tso. The colours & hues shifting, altering – lightening or deepening depending  on where the sun catches them. The water so clear & yet, the colour so intense that, the stones in the water are barely discernible.

The narrow winding valley from Tangsey which opens into the expanse of Pangong Tso is like a collection of short stories itself. The first one starts with a grassy vale & a winding stream. To complete the picture there is a family of fat Chukars. There seem to be no other kind! On the far side we spy an orangish-silver fur ball hopping. Its a fox! With a magnificent tail (The kind I can imagine draped around my shoulder with the PETA kind baying for my head for just having such a sinful thought! Oh well! You keep your tail fox & I, my head.) trying to coax it’s evening snack out of the ground. We can’t make out in the end whether it trots off in disgust or triumph.

Then after a short drive there are some ponies with gorgeous manes & swishing tails.( No sinful thoughts now.) We’d been told that there are some  herds of wild ponies still left. But sadly these are not those. A few huts nearby confirms their tame status.

Then we hit upon a patch which seems lumpy & there are these tiny mounds  in the boggy looking  ground. We see one toothy marmot sunning itself. It has to be a crazy animal! It lives underground, in damp looking places in that cold! Our driver does’t let us share our parathas with it. (We sound like “Those Terrible Tourist Type’.) ‘Don’t spoil his habits’, we are told by the environmentally enlightened driver. There are these goats grazing nearby & suddenly one comes running with great interest. So it is the lucky one to get the paratha. It is convinced there are more on offer & after nosing around (Not butting thankfully) our pockets it decides to get into the vehicle & help itself since we are clearly not obliging it anymore. A quick slamming shut of doors doesn’t deter it & it is ready to hop in through the open window! Never doubt the tenacity of a hungry goat.

Finally we get our first glimpse of Pangong Tso after crossing this big dried pond. Are those colours possible?! There we are at one end of the lake. The famous ‘Garnet hill” on one side. I don’t know if it has anything left to justify it’s name. A few Brahminy ducks & gulls in the shallows of the lake. The gulls are riding the icy wind every now & then, squawking. Some enterprising fellow has hauled a red scooter near the water for the people to get photographed on. A hangover of ‘3 Idiots’ I presume..

Ahead we find a path going down to the lake. The colours turn translucent up close. There is an orangish tinged shallow on one side, separated from the main lake by a sand bar. On the eastern side it is all blue. Its a colour so intense & I can’t recall having seen it anywhere before. Not just a ‘blue’ but all the shades in the palette. Is there a hint of green too? The  shading made more intense because of the bland, bare hills around….sigh! I wish I was an an artist. We just sit by the lake & soak in the colours as the breeze blows madly at times. Just a little longer…There  going to be a full moon that night & I can only imagine how magical it will look…

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