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Pangong Lake - Changla Pass - Leh

What goes up must come down...

sunny 27 °C
View Mountains, monasteries and much more - Lakakh and Kashmir 2013 on Grete Howard's travel map.

I had been rather worried about sleeping at this altitude (4,350m / 14,270ft) as this is another first, but I needn’t have worried – I had the best sleep I've had since we arrived in Ladakh! David, on the other hand, had the worst sleep. All the other mornings I have been awake by 04:00 at the latest, but this morning I slept in until 06:00 and missed an amazing sunrise apparently.

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I may not have seen the sunrise, but at least I can say I was up with the lark.
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Horned lark at the water's edge

The weather was totally different this morning: no wind and brilliant sunshine with particularly deep, clear blue skies - probably due to the thin, clean air.

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After a nice and spicy breakfast of aloo puri, we drove down to a little promontory further down the lake for photos.

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Today the lake was a beautiful iridescent blue with some stunning reflections in the clear, still water. The iridescent, hypnotic blue of the lake against the bleak brown, towering mountains was dazzling!

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We didn't see as many birds in this area as we had hoped for, but there were some black-headed gulls circling above the lake.

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Strangely enough, we could both feel the altitude more today than we did yesterday, with laboured breathing and taking little baby steps so that we didn't get totally out of breath.

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Reluctantly we left the gorgeous lake behind and head up through the hills again, although I suppose 'hills' is a bit of an understatement (and probably even an insult) for some of the world's highest mountains.

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You gotta love that road snaking its way up the mountainside!

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This is what happens if you don't heed the Border Road Organisation's warnings!

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Not many public toilets on this stretch of road.

The road took us though a dry, almost desert-like area.

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Many of the roads across the pass looked very temporary structures, although I guess they were not.

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Maybe one day when they have finished the improvements, all the roads will look as smooth as this.

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It seemed a different type of scenery awaited us behind every bend.

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Road works ahead

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For a while we followed this dried up river bed.

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The cascading torrents of water have obviously at some stage brought down some huge boulders.

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After a while the dry rocks gave way to marshland.

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We stopped for a while again where we saw the marmot yesterday, and today a couple of them they hung around long enough for me to take a few photos.

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Our driver may have been young and attractive (and very vain), but I felt very confident with him at all times.

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How many times does a man need to adjust his sunglasses?

In this more verdant and arable area, horses, yaks and sheep were seen grazing along the side of the road. It's a tough life here for people and animals.

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More road improvement works on the way.

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The scenery here was harsh, with austere and unforgiving looking mountains looming over a narrow strip of land for grazing, later huge boulders lined the valley and what I can only assume were lime deposits were visible on the green flats.

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As on the journey to Pangong Tso yesterday, the scenery was dramatic and varied.

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More road works, but I think the workers had a sense of humour here...

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Huge army camps.

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The driver takes both hands off the steering wheel again - at least it was a straight stretch of road this time.

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Men on their way to help out at the roadworks.

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And then the road deteriorated again.

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We followed the river again for a while.

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I wonder if the river water ever fills the entire width of this river bed?

Around each bend was a new surprise, including a landslide being cleared away by a large digger, and just as we were passing, a big boulder rolled down the hill just in front of the car.

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There was still snow on the ground in places. Fortunately we didn't encounter any snowfall on the way - these already treacherous roads would become lethal!

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It was getting colder and colder as we climbed higher and higher through avalanche-risk areas on roads that left a lot to be desired.

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At this altitude, streams and puddles sport a thin coating of ice.

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Up until now, the traffic has been scarce - one of the benefits of starting out early. However, now that it is nearing lunchtime, we are beginning to meet vehicles coming the opposite direction. Passing can be hazardous and time consuming.

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Chang La Pass
Before we knew it we were at the top of the Chang La pass again.

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"Loom mum, no hands!"

Yesterday we both felt fine here, today was a different story. While David noticed the thin air more than yesterday, I was feeling pretty bad, very dizzy and rather vacant. I panicked when I got back to the car and was sure I'd left my camera bag in the café but it was not there when I went back for it. Of course, I found that I'd left it in the car all along. Doh! I was really struggling to breathe and almost passed out at one stage. My SP02 was 78 while David's dropped as low as 74. With hindsight, I really should have gone to the First Aid centre, but one of the symptoms of Acute Altitude Sickness is the inability to think straight!

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Even the dogs are finding the atitude tiring!

Not good, and they don't recommend that you stay for any longer than 20 minutes at this altitude, so we headed straight to the cafeteria for some Maggi.

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As you can probably see from my photo, I don't look quite 'with it'.

Maggi
Having read about the “world's highest cafeteria” serving great Maggie, I was keen to try it. We've seen adverts for Maggie in various parts of the world but never really got to the bottom of what it is...

Apart from having an aunt by that name (and I don't think she has been anywhere near the Himalayas), to me the name Maggi is synonymous with a soy like sauce and stock cubes, and I felt pretty sure that the neither were worthy of culinary suggestions for visitors to the area. Having seen Maggi adverts all over Asia, West Africa and now India, we learned that the German company brought out some bouillon noodles some years ago which now have a large worldwide following, especially in India where Maggi instant noodles are a said to be “favourite for a quick meal at any time, from dorm rooms of colleges to late-night cooking in home kitchens”. It is so popular that many people in India simply call noodles 'Maggi'. So that explains it – in other words they are a local version of Pot Noodles. While no gourmet lunch, it filled a spot and I did feel some better afterwards.

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From here there is only one way: down!

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If you look carefully over on the right hand side, you can see a car that didn't quite make the bend.

Travelling down the narrow, winding roads, we were unlucky enough to met an army convoy of trucks coming the opposite direction. The driver managed to take a short-cut along an unpaved road to avoid further army vehicles.

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I didn't even see the smaller road that leads off down a steeper section on the left on this picture.

It was a narrow lane and quite steep in places.

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It worked and by the time we re-joined the main road later, all the army trucks had passed.

A traffic jam due to road works in Choglamsar (just outside Leh) gave me a chance to study local life.

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The hotel manager in Leh greeted us with the words: “the internet is working!”. So here we are! Also, the phone that Mr Din got us is now working so I was able to ring my dad from the room! Result! This blogging lark sure is time consuming – it took me three hours this evening to get the blog up to date until yesterday – and that's without including photos to one of the days (since added). I suppose it doesn't help that the internet is so slow and so unreliable here.

Thinking about it this evening, it now makes sense why I suffered so much more today at the pass than yesterday – lack of fluids! I deliberately didn't drink much on the way back as I really didn't want to have to use those toilets again. That would explain why I felt the altitude more today.

Tibetan Kitchen
This evening we tried out another of the recommended restaurants: The Tibetan Kitchen. It was round the back of the main drag, with a huge outside seating area as well as an indoor restaurant. It seemed to be very popular with tour groups, as two large groups of people arrived after we did.

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We ordered something called Sabagleb - the menu left us none the wiser as to what it was, so we asked the waiter. He called it 'stuffed bread', but I would personally describe it like a spring roll pie. David had cheese and vegetable, whereas I chose the chicken. They were very nice.

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Posted by Grete Howard 12:38 Archived in India

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Sir, You did it really very great job. Nice photos. Sir i wanna ask u which Camera and lense you used for this beautiful pictures. Sir pls let me know my fb id is vikaskandhu@gmail.com. Pls sir i'll wait for your reply.

by Vikas Kandhu

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