Coming to Leh’s final episode, I feel a little heavy-hearted. I have been procrastinating on the sequel for so long and now, finally, coming to an end to the Ladakh series. This procrastination actually gave me the opportunity to relive the moments of my visit while drafting the posts and selecting the pictures. When today I am standing at the final episode I am suddenly feeling the same way as I was feeling while returning back from Leh. So, keeping aside all the sadness now I am getting back to the post. From Tso Moriri in my previous post, we are returning back to Leh via Puga and Tso Kar.
The bright sunny morning gave us a warm enthusiasm to travel more but our return tickets were booked for the next day and we have no other option but to return back to Leh. We started early through the same uneven to even patches of road to reach a place where the soil on either side had large patches of white on it. I was glad to see so much snow from the previous night’s snowfall all around the road.
Dorje our motorist rectified me saying that it was the colour of the soil rich in salt. I was surprised to know that it was the soil, not the snow. We reached the Puga hot spring located within mud pools and long stretches of Sulphur and Borax deposits. It looked like a painting of green surrounded by white layers and in between the white mineral-rich water gushes out of an opening, along with dense steam.
The steam dissolves in the thin air within moments of its eruption. I wanted to go near the outlet but opening the shoes and getting the feet and pants wet and soiled was another major factor that was holding me back. A reasonably broad stream was a visible barrier between the hot spring within the grass and the main road. These healthy patches of green covered up the marshy soil beneath. We loitered around the stream to first find a narrow area to jump across and later to think about crossing the mud pools. Sadly we did not manage to overcome the first hurdle, forget about the rest.
We left the Puga hot spring and headed towards our next destination the Tso Kar. The road turned from road to no road and at a certain area, it was just a rocky barren path within the mountains. All of a sudden a Golden Eagle crossed our path. It gave me a very short window to capture it properly. It vanished into the hill and was never to be found again. We returned back to our rocky terrain where driving seemed very difficult. At every turn, Dorje went out, watched the road properly for the placement of tyres, then came back and then moved ahead. At one such turn, he had to remove a large boulder with his hands to make the path clear.
In this way, we reached Tso Kar. Tso Kar is a recognised Ramsar Site, the salty lake along with its tributaries is known as the Tso Kar wetland complex. The depth and size of the lake vary from time to time. In ancient time salt mining was done from this lake by the Changpa nomads. They use to trade the salt to Tibet. This is a long-lost trade and in the present day what we found was long stretches of white sediments with very little water in patches here and there.
I was disheartened to see a salt bed instead of the beautiful blue lake on such a bright sunny day. Dorje said that the lake is shrinking day by day probably because the inlet to the lake is affected in various ways. Being a Ramsar site this area is known for a lot of avian activity. We did not find any movements though, so we did not spend much time here and went on our way towards Leh through the Manali-Leh highway. After Tso Kar, the road conditions were good and the drive was smooth. We were lucky to spot some Kiangs on the way.
We were supposed to pass through another high mountain pass on our way. We were waiting to cross the pass, meanwhile, there was a colourful collection of prayer flags arranged in a circular manner and three stupas that looked immensely pretty in this mountainous backdrop. We stopped for the photo opportunity. Then we were on the Tanglangla Top situated at an altitude of 17582 ft as marked on the BRO signboard.
There was a thick cover of snow on either side of the road, while the surrounding too was covered in a light sheet of fresh snow. It was an enthralling site to watch. This was our final stop on our way to Leh. Then it was a long drive through the highway when suddenly Dorje received a call. This triggered us to check our cell phones and we also got back our lost network after a few consecutive days.
We returned back to Leh, to the same hotel where we stayed for our initial days. It was one of a kind tour, with no connectivity with the outside world, seeing a new place every day and understanding the importance of the luxuries that are available to us on a daily basis but are a valuable commodity to the people in such remote areas. It was a life of few days in remoteness, a life like a nomad, a life free from modern gadgets, a life with nature, a life away from complexities. We left Leh the next day, to return back home with our minds full of memories and souls full of accomplishment and hope to return back soon.