Tso Moriri to Leh, Friday August 12

I slept much better last night, though it is the first time I’ve slept in a scarf as well as leggings, trousers, T-shirt and fleece!  I got up around 6 am to see if I could see the sunrise but the sun came up in the clouds.  There is significantly more snow on the mountains than there was yesterday, though we didn’t get the threatened rain in the night here.

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Today’s route takes us back past Kiagar Tso and over the Kiagar pass again to Sumdo, where we turn off to Puga. We see more bar headed geese on the lake and lots of marmots on the river flood plains this morning.

The hot springs at Puga are much more widespread and impressive than those we saw ar Chumatang and there are obvious sulphur deposits in many places, as well as the remains of a small match factory. Unfortunately, the spring closest to the road is not showing off today, but you can just see a geyser towards the back of this photo – we didn’t fancy walking across a soggy plain where you might get water shot up your trouser leg at around 80 Celsius to get closer!

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We saw a wild ass as we crossed the high plain before climbing over Polokongka La pass to Tso Kar and then more on the plain around the lake.

Tso Kar is a fascinating place and maybe a good place for an overnight stop on the trip we are planning from Shimla to Leh next year.  There are huge banks of salt deposited around the now small water body, which is sporadically topped up by freshwater from the even smaller glacier fed Startsapuk Kar.  It’s about to rain as we approach the lake and it produces odd optical effects – it’s hard to work out what is water and what is land.

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It proves impossible to get a diatom sample as there are no rocks we can access – the edge of the water is soft, smelly mud.  John finds a rock on dry land and puts it in the water for us to use next year, though I have doubts about finding it again!

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The birdwatchers are intrigued by the lake – very quickly we see some bright coloured ducks and rare Black-necked cranes. It turns out that the nearby village of Thuje hosts a WWF field station.

Birdwatching is curtailed by the rain that sweeps in and we hop in the cars and drive to the intersection where we join the Manali-Leh road.  We climb up towards Taglang La – the second highest motorable road in world at 5328 m, passing a good number of hardy cyclists on our way.  There are interesting looking cushion plants and what look like the blue delphiniums we saw near Chang La two years ago (see Pangong Tso) beside the road, so we’ll get our driver to stop here on our way down the pass on Monday.  The pass isn’t as bad as I expect, partly because the road surface is mostly good and there is not too much other traffic – passing vehicles on the narrow road to Pangong Tso was one of the worst things.

We manage to keep our stop at the top brief, just in case the altitude affects people.  The fact that it’s rather cold and wet helps us do this, but means the views are not quite as spectacular as we might have expected.

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Bikes atop Taglang La, at 5328 m!

We drop down the other side in a series of hairpin loops and find a picnic site alongside the river which joins the Indus at Upshi.

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From here there is fantastic scenery as the road passes through the upended, multi-coloured sediments of the Indus formation, as at Hemis.  Nicole, sharing our car, particularly enjoys this.

We are back in Leh by around 3pm and it’s very good to see the lady who left Tso Moriri early looking much better and happier – sending her down yesterday was a good call.  John and I just relax, whilst some of the others rush off for a final visit to the shops in Leh.

I go through diversity indices before dinner with those who are interested and Shahid answers questions about arrangements for Delhi. We have a sociable dinner – everyone seems to have enjoyed the trip and we’d be glad to have them with us again on another adventure.

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