7th July 2011
The night at Hanley was peaceful. We tried doing some night photography as the sky was very clear. The room was cozy and hence sleep was not an issue.
Bathing was out of question in Hanley. After breakfast of “Maggie noodles” we departed from Hanley. Our destination was Tso Moriri Lake. There are two ways to reach the lake from Hanley. One is the road via Loma, Nyoma and Mahe Bridge. The other route is via Chimur. The second route is more desolate and almost takes double the time. And a 4X4 is required. So, we opted for the first route.
We will be going on the same road till Loma. This time we stop at several places for photographs. We spotted a herd of wild ass crossing the road. Birds of many types were seen all along. But a good spot was a hare. Fortunately, we could get some good close-up shots.
Back at ITBP check post at Loma, we exchanged pleasantries with our Army friend from Chikkodi. The beauty of Changtang plain is that the journey will never be monotonous. The scenery changes every 15-20 minutes. And one can spot come animals or birds at regular intervals (if one is observant). Army establishments are seen everywhere. An airfield is also location next to the road. At many places, army jawans are trained for shooting.
We cross a small hamlet of Nyoma and reach Mahe. The road straight goes to Leh while a left turn leads to Tso Moriri Lake. Our permits were checked here. After crossing the bridge at Mahe, we were on the way to Tso Moriri Lake. Shortly we were ascending Namshang La, a relatively easily pass. I call it a flower pass considering the flowers that bloom here.
As we were climbing down Namshang La, a blue lake was visible. It was Kiagar Tso Lake. The asphalted road disappeared as we neared this beautiful and pristine lake.
Half an hour later, we were at Tso Moriri Lake. Situated at an altitude of about 15,00ft, it is the second biggest lake in Ladakh after Pangong Tso. It is about 22km long and 5-6km in wide. The lake is entirely in India, this is also a breeding ground for several species of birds like Bar headed Goose. The lake was fenced at many places. Our driver told that people coming on Jeeps drive along the lake just for fun damaging the breeding ground of the birds. To stop this menace, the lake was fenced at few places.
We drove along the lake for another 10-15 minutes to reach the village of Karzok. An ITBP camp is located here. Permits were checked here before letting us into the village. At the entrance of the village, we found a nice looking hotel called Nomadic Life. Unlike other tented places, this was a proper hotel. We immediately liked the rooms. Having found that there were fewer tourists, we bargained hard. We congratulated ourselves for this deal. But we were outsmarted by the hotel people. They charged heavily for the lunch we had (which we came to know only during checkout). There are cheaper alternatives on the other side of Karzok.
We visited ITBP camp to make a phone call. Again here we were told to pay Rs 10 per minute which we felt was quite steep. (At all other places, it was three rupees per minute).
After some rest, we headed to the lake. We roamed around the Lake for a long time. I just sat on the banks of the lake silently enjoying the beauty. I was ready to sit in that mode for any amount of time. My companions thought this as an act of laziness and asked me to walk back!! The wind was blowing fast and the temperature was dropping.
We then climbed a small hillock in Karzok village that provided nice view of the Lake. Unlike Pangong Tso, the snow capped mountains appeared nearer.
I needed to make a call to my Home. This time I went to a public booth situated near the Monastery. They also charged Rs 10 per minute!! To check whether they were looting tourists, I silently watched the money paid by locals. To my surprise, they were also paying the same amount!!
I did not like Karzok village, dominated by nomads. The smell in the village was something odd which I did not like. Anyway, I was glad that we stayed in the outskirts of the village.
There is nothing much to do in Karzok after sunset. We talked about various topics, looked at the pictures that we had taken and then went for dinner. We were the only guests in the hotel!! Quite surprising July being a peak season.