The weather Gods were not happy even the day. The morning began with the same gloomy sky as we left from Hanle to our next destination – Tso Moriri. Tso Moriri or Lake Moriri is yet another high-altitude (14835 ft) lake that lies entirely within Ladakh. This is another example of the endorheic lake fed mainly by spring and snow-melt water. There is a small settlement by the lake and the village is named Karzok. It is also the highest settlement in India. Basic accommodation facilities are available within this village.
From Hanle taking the same route, we reached the Loma check post and then took the other route that takes us to Tso Moriri. The road conditions were good in some places while in other places they were severely damaged. In this way, we passed through many mountains covered in dense clouds to find a pair of Himalayan Marmots playing in the grassland. They were indifferent to our presence and continued grazing on the green grass. (Read my post on Marmots.)
The weather condition remained the same as we drove towards Tso Moriri accompanied by spells of light rain in between. As we approached Karzok through the no roads we saw a blue lake that we thought to be our destination but our motorist Dorje, informed us that it was the Kyagar Tso, not Tso Moriri. It was a small and pristine lake with its turquoise water looking immensely sad due to the veiled sun.
After a few kilometres, the long blue Tso Moriri was visible from North View Point. A lot of avian activity was detected. On close observation, we found a large colony of water birds nesting on the marshy patch of the lake. There were Ruddy Shelduck and their chicks, Great-crested Grebes on their nests, Bar-headed Geese, Common Coot and other birds that were not recognisable.
I regret the low light conditions that hampered the photography of the birds that were at a considerably large distance. We moved along the lake to the military check post where an entry was made and then we drove to the village of Karzok. The small village looked a little clumsy with houses, restaurants, guesthouses and tented accommodations gracelessly located on either side of the dirt road by the lake. As we reached a decent hotel for a night, the snowfall started. It was a very light snowfall, the tiny light flakes melted even before touching the ground.
It was one of the two hotels in the Karzok village while the rests were guest houses and tents. It was a new property and relatively decent among the other unkempt places here, with breakfast and dinner included in the tariff. But they were not prepared to serve lunch so we had to look outside for lunch.
We did the check-in formalities and dropped our luggage in our room. The room had an excellent view of the lake with farmland in between. The room was very basic with the same electricity arrangements as any other place outside Leh. The bad weather affected the solar heating system so there was no running hot water.
On request, they would supply hot water in buckets and they did provide one bucket with muddy sediment at the bottom. Sighting the remoteness and not-so-popular destination we ignored it and quickly freshened up with the cold water from the tap to look for lunch outside. Our motorist did find one place and it looked equally shabby, not making any fuss about it we quietly settled down on some soiled blankets piled up on the chairs for the comfort of the guests. The food was served in similar shoddy conditions, again we forcefully ignored it and finished our food. (Though all this ignoring later resulted in a bad stomach infection.)
Meanwhile, an immensely cute little local kid entered the shop cum restaurant accompanied by a military person. The soldier purchased the chocolate of her choice and gave it to her and she ran out of the store with the prize in her hand. We all laughed at her mischievous act. She was the younger daughter of the owner of the shop. Another kid a couple of years elder than the previous one entered the store, she was the other daughter of the owner.
By that time, I finished my meal and I spoke to her, she could communicate well in broken Hindi. Her name was a little difficult and I couldn’t remember it. I asked her to pose for me then I would give her a chocolate of her choice from her father’s store and she obliged. I asked her to bring her younger sister for the photo then I will get her a bar of chocolate too.
She went running outside and brought her sister along. The mischievous little one quietly came near, snatched the chocolate from me and ran away fast. Her elder sister could not manage to bring her back. Although I could not capture the little one in my frames, we all had great fun interacting with the kids.
We returned back to our hotel while the very light snowfall continued. Dorje said that this is a sign that the weather condition may improve after this. I sat by the large window of the room and noticed that a large number of tiny birds were very active in the farms near. There were a few Tibetan Snowfinch, Horned Lark, Desert Wheater and others, at a little distance there was a flock of rock Pigeons accompanied by a couple of Snow Pigeons. While at a distance near the lake there were activities of large birds and my wishful thought said that they were Black-necked cranes.
To turn my wishful thought into reality we went out to venture into the farmland but there was no way to cross the wired fence. There were farmers tilling their land so there must be some way to enter the fields. We walked by the fence away from our hotel and finally after a long way through the village found a cut in the fence to enter the fields. Walking through the walkway within the tilled farm we went towards the direction in which I saw the bird’s activity. The not-so-long walk even on a plane surface made us pant like anything and the cold wind from the lake was making the condition even more difficult.
On reaching close to the desired spot we found that it was a large colony of Bar-headed Geese. They were happily roosting on the farm floor ignoring our presence, they might be familiar with human activity here. The Bar-headed Geese are the world’s highest flyers crossing the mighty Himalayas during migration. These were the birds that we presumed to be Black-necked cranes from the distance of our hotel. After the snowfall, the weather was improving but the wind velocity increased along with it. Having some amazing moments with the birds, we returned back through the same route.
Later Dorje drove us to the South viewpoint located on high ground at the end of the village. A good amount of tourists were found there watching the lake in full glory. A group of young ladies were seen shooting some Reels by the lake. The improved weather gave us some better colours of the lake than what we saw when we reached the village. There were numerous rock piles scattered throughout the area. We also added our one to the existing stack of stones. The ominous clouds were still there floating around, so there was no surety of a clear sky at night.
Hoping for the clouds to clear we kept peeping out of our window every now and then. Finally with the electricity gone and the eternal darkness falling by we decided to retire for the day as the cloud cover seemed to have intensified. The next day, to our surprise we woke up to a golden bright morning. The ripples on the blue lake were shimmering in the lovely warm hues of the sunlight. The sky was blue and there were no signs of clouds anywhere. Far across the lake the mountains were shining white with their fresh coat of snow. We realised that the last night there was a heavy snowfall in the mountains ahead which lead to the clear weather this morning.
What a happy day it was! After our breakfast, we left Tso Moriri behind to return back to Leh visiting our final couple of destinations en route. We definitely did not miss the mandatory photo opportunity by the lake in the bright sunlight. With the mixed feeling of sadness (as our trip was coming to an end) and happiness (because of the warm bright sun), we left this not-so-popular Tso Moriri to venture for the next.