15. Tso Moriri Loop
After another rest day in Leh we set out on our final road trip in Ladakh. There are two high altitude lakes within reach of Leh and we chose to visit Tso Moriri as it is less visited and reputedly more beautiful. Our visit to Tso Moriri Lake at 4,540 metres above sea level provided us with our best sunset, coldest night, and most remote experience of our trip along with heaps of great scenery.
We opted to travel in an anti-clockwise direction and started our journey travelling on the Manali Road which is the main road to the south and the rest of India. The road through to Manali was due to open soon but was still closed with snow covering some of the passes further south than we were travelling but the one we had to cross was cleared so we had the double advantage of virtually no traffic and clear roads. At times the snow banked up beside the road was more than two metres high. The top of the pass, Tanglangla Top, is not quite as high as the Khar-dung La Pass but still a very respectable 17,582 feet (5,359 metres). The guard hut, unattended at present, was festooned with prayer flags which are common on many peaks and rises.
Not long after the pass we ventured off the bitumen road on to a well formed gravel road.
With the melting of the snow the nomadic shepherds are returning with their flocks of long haired sheep, yaks and mohair goats. We passed several small nomadic villages, some occupied by the returning families, others still empty.
We passed close to Tso Kar, a large briny lake whose main attraction is for birdwatchers spotting elusive black-necked cranes. We are in luck and spot several of the birds although none are very close to us. Later we also see a mountain sheep which looks more like a cross between a goat and a buck and a very cute marmot poked his head out of a hole to check us out while we were stopped for another view.
The road becomes rougher with lots of corrugations and our driver decides to follow wheel tracks off the road to make the ride smoother. Its not a 4WD vehicle and before long Paul and I feel the car sticking and having difficulties. If we were driving we would have pulled back on the track and slowed for the corrugations but our driver decides to continue off road and soon the car lurches to a stop and we are stuck. With too little experience in these conditions our driver can’t get out but luckily vehicles coming in the other direction stop and with a lot of pushing and some digging and almost an hour’s delay we finally make it back onto the firm track.
During the afternoon the clouds were building and by the time we begin skirting the lake the sky is fully overcast and rain is falling on the other side of the lake. We stop in the village of Korzok for the night and we find a place for the night in a home-stay which includes dinner and breakfast. By then the temperature had plummeted and light snow was falling and we hurried out of the freezing wind. Later we watched a stunning sunset, but it was way too cold to venture outside and we were too busy enjoying the view to go to our room to collect a camera.
In the morning the sky was blue and the lake was bluer and we ventured a little further past the village to enjoy the views from a rise. Stunning.
The return journey was pretty but not as dramatic and by mid afternoon we were back in Leh for our final night.