It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman in possession of a good fortune must be in want of an adventurous vacation. Yes, you guessed it right, I altered literature’s most famous first line from Pride and Prejudice because if you have the money, who wouldn’t want to spend it on travel and explore exotic places of this wild and beautiful planet.
I am bitten by the proverbial bug called wanderlust and I dream of travelling to far-flung places. Travelling is a definite stress buster for me and a major endorphin releaser. I try to go to a new destination every year and during the summer of 2012, I went to the land of deserts and snow- capped mountains- Leh and Ladakh. While its raw beauty never failed to amaze me, the one thing I’ll always remember is the day I visited Pangong Lake.
The biting cold of Leh made me want to sleep in my warm bed for the rest of the day, but a glimpse of the beautiful sky at dawn, which was just beginning to lighten into breathtaking shades of pink and purple made me change my mind. Burgeoning with excitement at the prospect of seeing the famous ‘3 idiots wala’ Pangong Lake made me hasten to meet my parents at the reception at 5.30 am.
The driver, a short, bald, smiling native told us that we had to travel five hours to cover 160 km of rough mountainous roads. He joked saying, “The weather is a temperamental mistress, pray to God that she is sunny and pleasant today!”
I laughed at that comparison but sincerely hoped it would be a sunny day, after all we were travelling five hours to reach the lake and a dull grey sky would just not suffice.
We whizzed past picturesque hamlets called Shey and Gya. Quaint little houses with reddish- brown roofs and neatly trimmed garden patches flew by in a blur. A cluster of young children in navy blue uniforms cycled to school and their cherubic faces were flushed pink with the cold and exertion of pedaling. They reminded me of the cute little monks I had seen at the Monastery in Thicksey village the day before. They smiled and waved sheepishly at me when I waved to them.
Suddenly at a distance, among ochre mountains, the azure Pangong Lake came into view. Due to the serpentine roads, the lake was visible at one end and would suddenly disappear around another bend just like a breathtaking mirage.
When we reached closer, the view of the lake, serenaded by mountains in an oval shape, made me forget all the weariness of the long route. The water shone like a sparkling blue diamond in the sunlight with 7 shades of blue visible like distinct stripes on the surface. Never had I seen so many vivid shades of blue merging to form such a mesmerizing view. Puffy white clouds drifting lazily in a clear cerulean sky and white seagulls flapping noisily at the shore completed the stunning frame.
After overcoming the initial daze of seeing this slice of paradise, my sister and I went into a frenzied photo clicking marathon. With every passing second, the lake looked a different shade of blue. Despite the pleasant climate, the lake water was ice cold and lapped gently at the shore. For several minutes I just stood there, transfixed and enjoyed the tranquility.
In that moment, I couldn’t agree more with Ibn Battuta, the Moroccan Muslim scholar and traveler, who said-‘travelling leaves you speechless and then turns you into a storyteller.’ I felt compelled to channel the tale teller in me and write my first post of KK travel diaries about Pangong. It’s been five years to this trip, but its memories are still fresh in my mind. The surreal Pangong Lake, a constantly shifting and shimmering mirage with its shades of ultramarine makes me want to go back to Ladakh all over again! Without a doubt, of all my travels, Pangong has left an indelible mark on my soul.
P.S.- All the pictures have been taken by me on my Blackberry 🙂