Friday, 23 November 2012

The Chronicles of Ladakh - Part 12 - Tso Kar , a Slice of Heaven

Previous: The Magical Tso Moriri

Day 12, 19th September, 2012
Tso Moriri > Namashang La > Sumdo > Polakongka La > Tso Kar (96 Km)
Adieu to Tso Moriri

The plan was actually to head up towards Sarchu and stay overnight there but we eneded up in Tso Kar eventually.

We bade farewell to Tso Moriri as planned at around 8 in the morning after breakfast. Similarly like Pangong, the resort is at western bank of the Tso, so we could not click the snap of the morning light being reflected on the lake. Never mind, we still managed some good ones I guess. Here they are. The peaks looked whiter because of the snowfall previous night.

Shades Again
On Our Way

The Sting of the Scorpio – the adventure begins
As we were driving through the remote lands and approaching Tso Kiagar, Rigzin announced that the clutch was not working. The news seemed like a bomb had fallen on our car. The car stopped, it wouldn’t go. Rigzin said not to worry as he had his own clutch kit which he can install. We got down, I was the helping hand while Rigzin did all he could. The area was so remote we could not see any cars passing us from any direction – we were praying that some car should come and check it out and the car would get fixed. Suddenly one car came, it stopped as well. The car was heading towards Tso Moriri. Without offering any assistance it went away. I was irritated to see people clicking photos of our hapless situation!! That must be a heck of a snap of one car stranded in the middle of nowhere.

A couple of hours passed and we started pondering over the fact whether we should start working towards Tso Moriri when Rigzin said we could start now as he had installed the new clutch kit. We were ecstatic, but our ecstasy did not last long as the clutch was still not working. We had to push it from behind so that Rigzin could start it on neutral gear. Changing the gear was all but an imagination now.
However the car started on neutral and downhill was no problem – we passed Tso Kiagar and then the ascent started for Namashang La – the car stopped. Rigzin, I don’t know how, kept on pressing the clutch and managed to change the gear to second. The car started again, it feels like we were going in a slow-motion like in movies. However, it was around 2.30 pm when we reached Sumdo – we crossed the journey in around 6 hours which should take not more than a couple of hours!

We had some lunch – Maggi again – at Sumdo. It was pretty evident that we could not make it to Sarchu today. So we were thinking whether we should stay at Sumdo itself or head towards Tso Kar. Rigzin, still trying to fix the car for the second time, suggested Tso Kar. I was doubtful whether we can even make it to Tso Kar, but he said he would do his best. Hat’s off to his driving skill, patience and the smile – he must have acquired these skills during his days with the Army! Slowly but surely we started once again. To add insult to injury, the road beyond Sumdo was like hell as we were climing another pass Polakongka La. It was all ‘follow tyre marks on the pebbled road’. The car did all sort of tricks – it skidded, went backwards, it stopped multiple times at places, but we made it finally when we saw tarred road after the mountain pass. From then on it was a straight forward drive – for us at around 30 kmph only on 2nd gear – to Tso Kar. For this whole stretch, naturally, neither we had the morale to click photos nor the courage to stop the car for any reason.
Tso Kar, a glimpse of happiness

When we managed to descend from Polakongka La, we got a glimpse of a blue lake lying at least 5 kms ahead – Tso Kar as Rigzin announced. Finally! It was around 4.30 pm. As we drove ahead, the lake seemed bigger and bigger and eventually we could identify that there were a couple of adjacent lakes instead of one – they must have been a single lake at ancient times.
Tso Kar, the first view
Can you spot the Kiangs?

Like Tso Kiagar, Tso Kar was also surrounded by snowcapped mountains – Rigzin here mentioned that those mountains are shelter of Ibex and Snow Leopards and in winter they come to lowlands. Under the setting sun, Tso Kar was glimmering. The heavenly beauty indeed lifted our spirits. We could even see the Tso Kar village at a distance.
Tso Kar Wetland Reserve
Wetland Reserve of Tso Kar
Approaching Tso Kar Village
At around 5.15pm we reached Tso Kar village and managed to get a great room at a great deal at the Tso Kar Resort, courtesy Rigzin. The resort was amazingly located – a bit far from both the lake and the village which enhanced the calmness surrounding the resort. The staffs were too cordial and instantaneously we felt at home and our dampened morale got somewhat rejuvenated. Rigzin mentioned, since there was no mechanic until he reaches Leh, he would manage a separate car from Leh which would drop us at Manali. He went away to make phone calls from the resort and we started roaming around.
The place looked like a huge open ground surrounded by yellow mountains from all directions. The setting sunrays made the whole place look like molten gold. And it was too cold because of the emptiness and close proximity to the snow ranges. In our opinion it was the coldest place so far during this journey (little did we know what we still had to face), The staff mentioned that the owner of the resort was actually a guide, working part-time with the National Geographic and CNN photographers, as many of them frequently come here to shoot the snow leopard and the ibexes. In addition to that the Tso Kar Wetland Reserve houses thousands of migratory birds every year.
First Hut of the Tso Kar Village
Tents of Tso Kar Camp and Resort
Tso Kar Resort Building
Vast emptiness all over
Tso Kar Village - under the setting sun
Tso Kar Resort and Camp - a fantastically located heavenly haven
The cold was become unbearable slowly as the dark prevailed soon. We watched the TV at the dining hall and chatted with the friendly staffs. India was playing Afghanistan in the T20 World Cup, and all of us watched the TV together and were cheering for India. I realized, though we all were from different social and cultural background and belonged to different ethnicity we were bonded by one common thread – we were Indians. I realized the meaning of unity in diversity once more. I salute Ladakh to make me truly feel the essence of these phrases.
We had a great food and India won the match – a perfectly satisfactory combination to sleep in peace. Moreover, Rigzin now was the bearer of some good news as he intimated us that he managed to get hold of a car returning to Manali, which we pick us up from Debring (at Manali-Leh highway) and drop us at Manali with a night halt at Jispa in between. The day finally ended thus on a good note.
To be Continued...


  1. Hi loved your post. Planning a trip very soon. I was wondering if it is a better idea to stay the day in tso kar (we have just one night and a day and a half) and then just visit tso moriri on the way back to Leh for a few hours? I prefer the remoteness I can see here than Tso Moriri...

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