Generally, Pangong Tso is pegged as the ultimate destination in Ladakh by most travellers. Don’t get me wrong…despite the ‘3 idiots’ and ‘Jab Tak Hain Jaan’ frenzy, I loved Pangong lake (at an altitude of 14,270 ft) – watched the sunset and sunrise, drove the whole 30/35km stretch along the lake till the point it turns into China. And, to say it is beautiful would be an understatement.
One can’t really compare Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri (at an altitude of 14,836 ft), as both lakes have their own character and experience. In my opinion, the differences between the two are more complementary rather than contrasting. But I have to admit that Tso Moriri is the one I have h o p e l e s s l y lost my heart to.
Thanks to a special 2-day permit (for Chushul and Changthang valley) I took from Leh DC office, we were able to drive to Tso Moriri directly from Pangong Tso. Our route included beautiful hamlets of Spangmik – Man – Merak – Chushul – Tsaga – Loma – Nyoma – Mahe – Sumdo – Kiagar Tso – Korzok (Tso Moriri). Most part of this remote but beautiful route runs on a dirt track due to the absence of roads. We had to stop at every ITBP (Indo Tibetan Border Police) check post in each of these villages for vehicle registration and traveller identity check. We were informed in Leh that only limited number of vehicles are allowed on this route in a day and one can be asked to return from any check post at the sole discretion of ITPB. But, thankfully, we only got welcome smiles and warm hellos from all our army men and women we met at check posts and on the way.
It was a long and bouncy ride (as you may observe in the video also) but the infinite highlands, breathtaking landscapes and hypnotic views along the way made up for all the jolts and jerks. To add to my excitement, Namgyal (my driver-friend) let me drive his Innova for the last 20 km leading up to the lake. Ah! What a fantastic experience it was!
On the way to Tso Moriri, Namgyal narrated the tragic story behind the name of the lake – ‘Tso Moriri’. Folklore has it that a young girl named Tsomo was herding yaks during winters when one of the yaks wandered onto the frozen lake. Tsomo dashed towards the lake, hollering “Ri Ri Ri…” to call for the yak. But as soon as Tsomo reached closer to the yak, ice collapsed and both – Tsomo and the yak – drowned in the lake. After this incident, villagers named the lake ‘Tso Moriri’ in memory of the young girl and the yak.
Just as Namgyal finished narrating the story, we got our first glance of the lake. I was dumbstruck. Namgyal advised us to first go to the village to find some accommodation and then go to the lake to spend as much time as we like. We followed his lead. Tso Moriri village gets electricity only from 6 – 10 pm every evening. Also, stay and food facilities are less than basic. Yet, there is nothing about the whole experience that I would have wished differently. It was perfect as it was. After staying for almost 2 days, I had to be dragged to get into the car so we could move forward on our journey. Just didn’t want to leave!
Travelling, for me, is not just about visiting new places but also visiting the same places time and again. I have found that each time it is a different story, a different experience, a different possibility, a different season, a different landscape and a different you. And, Tso Moriri is one such place which is ranked high on my list of places I’d like to visit again in this lifetime.