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Faith & Life in Ladakh

Frozen in Time - by Pangong!

INDIA | Monday, 12 May 2014 | Views [219] | Scholarship Entry

I froze in time, literally, by the sheer beauty of what lay in front of me. My hand reached out to my sling camera & switched it off, not confidant if my frames will do justice to this stunning creation of Mother Nature. What enchanted me was coincidentally an enchanted lake- the Pangong Tso, in Ladakh.

‘How exciting can a lake be?’- I underestimated Pangong, having seen Ladakh’s astonishing landscapes. Crumpled mountain ranges, crisp snow-capped peaks, rocks in startling colors, windswept plains- offset by river valleys, glittering lakes & lush pastures.

It was sunrise & we hopped onto a 4WD. We had to cross a dreaded stream, ‘Pagal Naala’(mad stream) before 12 Noon, with 190kms to cover. The stream flowed thru a stretch of road to Pangong which floods due to melted snow from nearby peaks as mercury rises, making it dangerous to cross. With butterflies in my stomach, we descended down a valley covered in boulders & scree. Pagal Naala emerged; we crossed it like brave hearts & felt triumphant.

Driving up to Chang La, the 3rd highest motorable pass at 17,590 feet, was a true test for the lungs. Prayer flags fluttered & beautiful soaring Karakoram Ranges marched from left to right. Seemed like Pangong was playing a game of hide & seek as the first glimpse it granted me was thru’ a narrow gap in a ridge with rocks, appearing like a blue sapphire diamond at a distance.

‘Great things come in small packages?’ – well, not exactly. Pangong, was a captivating vast lake, flowing between India & China -144 kms in length & 6 kms in width with only 1/3rd of it in India & the rest in Tibet.
I was drawn like a magnet to this magical endorheic lake. I gazed at the China border as the wind roared as the water rippled down to touch my feet. It was chilling cold & it was only summer. In winter, it transforms to a bed of frozen ice, despite being saline water. Pangong was so alive & perhaps it chased the weather. Even its waters had no color of its own. It reflected the incredible startling blues & greens of the Ladakh skies, which clouds race to cross.

Tip-toeing for hours beside the gorgeous lake nestled in the upper reaches of Himalayas, I saw a never-before seen natural phenomenon -any pattern in the sky got mimicked on the Pangong! Standing at 14,270 feet, my breath was taken away not by the want for oxygen, but by the spellbinding raw beauty of Pangong Tso. Was this real or an illusion? This was the moment I froze in time – a day I will never forget.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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