Saturday, September 23, 2017

Tso Moriri Lake - from my Ladakh Motorcycle diary

Tso Moriri Lake - from my Ladakh Motorcycle diary
Could you squeeze out some time to go through my blog on the mighty transboundary Himalayan lake- Pangong Tso? Undoubtedly Pangong Lake tops the popularity chart among tourists visiting Ladakh. Pangong sits at a height of about 4,250 meters, which is sufficient enough to give you dizzy spells unless you are decently acclimatized. In case you are okay with the thin Ladakhi air and willing to explore another very high altitude lake then head onto Tso Moriri. Whether you're starting from Leh or Pangong Tso, you have to drive around 250 grueling kilometers to reach the turquoise-emerald Moriri Lake nestled in serene Changthang Plateau region, at a challenging altitude of 4,500 meters from mean sea level! Tso Moriri is much smaller than Pangong Tso. Still, it is the largest of all high altitude lakes in India which we do not share geographically with any other country. It was late in the morning when we left Pangong for Tso Moriri. Then we knew absolutely zilch about what was waiting ahead for 17 of us.

Tso Moriri Lake - from my Ladakh Motorcycle diary
After every brief shower mountain ranges over Changthang appeared in a newer color!
We took the picturesque route through the remote Changthang region which passes by prominent villages such as Merak, Chusul, Mahe etc. It was the most scenic motorcycle journey I ever had, combo-packed with maximum off-roading, scariest water crossings and innumerable moments of uncertainty. For the initial quarter of our ride Pangong Tso kept accompanying us, enticing all shutterbugs with her luscious shades of green with contrasting backdrop of camel colored barren mountain ranges. After pushing for a couple of hours, the continuous struggle to keep the bull (Isn't that what most Royal Enfield owners proudly refer to their motorbikes as?) stable on loose gravel consumed a good percentage of my mediocre stamina. Consequently frequency of my photography breaks started diminishing. When your body vibrates for long hours and blood glucose level sinks low it gets really difficult to steady your camera. After losing the sight of Pangong Tso I spotted a herd of yaks. Unfortunately, I couldn't capture them in a presentable frame.

Tso Moriri Lake - from my Ladakh Motorcycle diary
The little Ladakhi princess from Karzok village.
There were few episodes of drizzle on our way to Tso Moriri. As a thumb rule, weather always gets unpredictable over Tibetan Plateau post 13th hour of the day. If you are a rider you should take this advice more seriously. Unless you've been in such odds you can't imagine how panicky it gets to ride through high velocity winds or incessant rain. Just in case you're missing the doughnut- you are riding over 4,000 meters dude, where the oxygen level is already 40-45% lower than what you enjoy at plains. After every brief shower mountain ranges over Changthang appeared in a newer color, which varied from juniper green to mahogany red! I do not know the exact phenomenon behind that visual enigma. I do not intend to fathom it out too. Sometimes nature's unfolding shouldn't be spoiled by our intrusive science. As we kept passing by pristine Ladakhi villages local kids waved at us with unadulterated smiles.

Tso Moriri Lake - from my Ladakh Motorcycle diary
Unlike Pangong, there's no direct motorable path leading to the Tso Moriri Lake.
Despite being the photographers' dream route, the rough terrain kept us at our ever apprehensive limits. It was dark when we reached our destination Karzok. Our cottage was no more than fifty meters from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police camp at Karzok. Well, Karzok is the only settlement (Or, call it a village) by the shore of Tso Moriri. Although it has a small population, accommodation options for tourists in the form of tents, cottages and hotels are in abundance. Unlike Pangong, there's no direct motorable path leading to Moriri Lake. I'm glad for that matter. Otherwise overenthusiastic cum insensible tourists would happily pose washing their vehicles with the lake water just for few dumb social media 'Likes'. If you're a genuine nature lover you can always walk up to the bank and experience the calmness of this "Mountain Lake". Tso Moriri nestles among Ladakh to the north, Tibet to the east, and Zanskar on the west.

Tso Moriri Lake - from my Ladakh Motorcycle diary
Our cottage was no more than fifty meters from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police camp at Karzok.
There is a steep uphill path originating somewhere from the small market road at Karzok. If the altitude doesn't make you breathless you can hike up to a vantage point and get an aerial panorama of Moriri Lake along with its perfectly sketched surrounding. This area is protected as the Tso Moriri Wetland Conservation Reserve and few rules are expected to be obeyed by all visitors. You need to procure a permit before entering this wildlife protected area (same applies to Pangong Tso as well). Unless you've a domicile of Jammu & Kashmir you need to apply for the Inner Line Permit by paying a fee. Presently you can apply online to obtain your permit in few clicks and bypass the hassle of queuing up before the DC Office at Leh. I've already cautioned you with the altitude issue of Tso Moriri. I would suggest you to acclimatise properly at Leh and cover other regions before considering a nigh halt at Karzok. 

Tso Moriri Lake - from my Ladakh Motorcycle diary
You need to procure a permit before entering the Tso Moriri Wetland Conservation Reserve.
Tso Moriri is ideal for those travelers who pet the spirit of bumpy wandering, and yet find excitement in the raw indifference of nature. I don't know how to put it in better words. If you are looking for casual excitement then Moriri Lake should probably be edited out of your Ladakh itinerary. Oh, did you meet the little Ladakhi princess whom I had met in the dining hall of my hotel at Karzok? Of late I have been strolling over a rough patch. I too realize that my blog deserves a lot more sincerity from my end. As of now I have no idea when my blog can be proud of its blogger's dedication. Anyway, when time permits I'll come back with another photo story from my Ladakh motorcycle diary. Till then stay away from judging people, hating mankind and spreading negativity. Spread nothing but love, kindness and positive ideas. Catch you soon.