We continue our journey to the mesmerising high altitude lakes of Ladakh. This post is about the calm, blue Tso Moriri which is at the very edge of the region where normal tourists are allowed. To visit the area you require a inner line permit which your driver cum guide can obtain for you. The procedure is easier for Indian citizens than for tourists from other countries.
The drive from Pangong to Tsomoriri was a long but beautiful one. Seemingly all routes in this region have snow white monasteries with red roofs popping out of the barren landscape. The whole thing just looks surreal. The naturally dramatic deep blue skies with white cotton candy clouds make it look even more beautiful.
We proceeded along the Indus and stopped along the way for a lunch comprising of the staple dish of the region – Maggi noodles with vegetables. I wonder what the small eateries of the region must have done when Maggi was banned for a short period in India!!
After the hot meal we stopped for a hot spring in the region which was a hole in the ground with bubbling hot water spouting from it. The water was also piped to nearby bath cubicles for those interested. But that is not my idea of fun. After watching the water bubble and spout for some time we continued on through arid landscape till we saw a water body.
I immediately started taking pictures assuming it was Moriri. As we got closer I realised it was just an unnamed small lake and not the huge lake Moriri, but it was beautiful nonetheless with green grass all around and mountains in the background. If it was anywhere else in India there would be people clamouring all over the place.We stopped for a view of the unnamed lake and after a few photos continued on our way to Moriri.
As we reached Tso Moriri we had to pass through a army checkpoint which checked our identity and permits, registered our cameras and let us pass through to the lake side and on to Korzok village by the lake where our tented camp was located.
The Tsomoriri resort ( Fancy name for a basic camp) is made up of two rows of tents facing the lake at a higher altitude than the lake itself. There is a permanent structure which hosts the kitchen and store and a huge tent adjacent to it which is the dining area. The tents are pretty basic, have no locks but have running water, and a portable toilet connected to the tent itself. It is basically there to protect you from the elements so don’t expect any luxuries!! Hot water is to be ordered from the kitchen area, but at least it is available. Food is decent and considering how remote this location is and how few people there were in the resort ( 6 guests including us!!) it was no less than gourmet spread.
As in Pangong, tourists can visit only the tip of the vast lake, rest of it is for the armed forces only. In the photo you can see a barbed wire fence beyond which you are not allowed. As is our habit we just dumped the luggage in our tent and walked down to the lake without wasting any time
The lake is a vast mass of still blue water surrounded by stony brown mountains and the edge where tourists are allowed has a grassy bank, where I got to take out my trusted 300mm and photograph some small high altitude birds like horned larks, plovers, finches, wheat ears in addition to the brown headed gulls and terns. There was a colony of bar headed geese but they were too far into the no go zone. So I couldn’t get a good picture of them. Sigh!!
After I had some half decent bird photos I turned my attention to the beautiful lake ( As you must have noticed by now, I have a soft corner for birds.) It is impossible to take a bad photo of this lake. It is so beautiful!! Again a photo is better than a thousand words describing the lake.
What makes the experience even more special is the sense of isolation and peace, the lack of a crowd to spoil and litter this most beautiful of lakes. We must have taken literally a hundred photos of the lake that evening. We watched the shadows of the clouds dance over the mountains and soon it was dusk and time to return to our tent.
We had a cup of hot coffee and sat outside till it got completely dark. After a warm dinner we retired for a less than satisfactory night’s sleep on account of the local strays and donkeys deciding to have a midnight medley just outside our tent. Nevertheless we woke up at dawn and went back to the lake. When you have limited time at such a beautiful locale you don’t let lack of sleep get the better of you.
Just walking on the shore of that lake is a experience every traveller to Ladakh should experience. We took more photos and even found a mountain vole ( mouse) to give us company.
Soon it was time for us to have breakfast and proceed to our next destination of our trip, Tso Kar. Unlike the other two lakes Tso Kar is smaller and more known for its bird life and herds of the endangered Kiang ( Wild ass) but that is the topic for my next post.
We left Tso Moriri still in awe of the location and it is in my opinion the most beautiful of all the places we visited in Ladakh. With one final photo from our tent we started on our journey to Tso Kar.
As we started from Tso Moriri the Bar headed geese took mercy on me, came to the near shore and gave me some good pictures which was the perfect send off after a splendid day at Tso Moriri.
Till I get time to share my experiences about the last of the lakes, Tso Kar.