In a previous article I spoke about getting more for your moola in Bang For your Bucks. These are a few of the ‘Big Wowz’ that I managed to experience inside of a very low wanderers ‘budget’ starting with Pengong Lake in the far north of India.
There are so many incredible spots around Ladak and Himashal Pradesh, which you can reach and not need to pay any extras.
- In Kashmir -where I was before arriving in Leh, Srinigar– things are much more complicated in the way of reaching the beautiful, undeveloped Himalayas (army). It’s about overly priced permits and transportation, but also finding the maps.
- In Ladak, a very buddhist territory, where most of the fleeing Tibetans ended up, toutes are much less repulsive and insolent -almost non-existant, in fact. You feel the peace instantly, but as well a big difference in the altitude, and breathing. Buses are much easier to get a hold of, cheaper, and the permits are very easy for us to get, comparatively. It gets even easier in the Menali region -if you don’t get sucked in by the ‘Cream’.
Leh, Ladak, India
Such a fantastic little city! Many Buddhist temples, in the tradition of Tibetan history, built high as the sky; this place is ridiculously secluded, isolated and high altitude; everything you would expect from a far off Himalayan village.
It’s a very easy approach to getting permits in Leh, for a few of the areas in Ladak. Unfortunately, this whole area is patrolled by army with Pakistan to the west and China to the east, so you cannot wander off too far without a rifle in your face, asking for a passport. But a few spots in Ladak are very easy to reach, and some of them are empty of tourists.
Most of the tourists filling the streets of Leh are controlled and don’t wander out too far, so they are easy to escape. The travelers are usually stopping in a bit to hang in the hippie quarter (stay a night or two but don’t lose out on the hiking ops.) and then fuck off to Menali for the ‘Cream’ or Dharamshala to find their spiritual side, or onto a motor-bike and join a gang of Israeli hippies, hashed up, and ‘free thinking’ -escaping the army.
Getting to Pengong Lake
The bus is very cheap (a few bucks literally) up to the lake as it’s for locals. The trip takes about 6 to 8 hours through some great terrain, of high, distant snowy capped Himalayan pyramids. Alpine forces jabbing up to the atmosphere’s breaking point, seen in the distance, while you’re surrounded by the high hills of Tibetan life, bouncing like you’re in a jeep taking on sand dunes in the Sahara -with locals beside you bouncing with their goods tied up with rope and bungee cord.
Around Tangtse you’ll cross one of the highest road passes in the world at about 6300 m. Further north-west, there is a seperate one that is slightly higher with travelers renting bicycles to shoot back down to Leh (like in Bolivia -but not as insane).
About a 150-kilometres long lake that is only one-third inside of India and the other two-thirds in Tibet (China). There is a huge three hundred and sixty of rolling, baron, lifeless mountains, lacking enough oxygen to grow trees. It was a scene, that to me, was exactly how I imagined Tibet to look like (being only about 50 km away). The place is empty of people, but for a few very little villages and a couple of large, white, nearly transparent tents for the tourists that make it up to this region so they can live in luxury with big, thick down blankets.The lake is freezing cold, even in July, and the area, at night is also very cold middle of summer. We went with a tent and a couple sleeping bags (mine rented in Leh for a buck a day -zipper broke the first night) and the cooking supplies, but without enough food for more than a couple days, left us in a tight situation. Unable to wander too far, for a lack of resources, it wasn’t only the cold air without thick, winter jackets, but also the lack of food.
It’s an isolated phenomena of nature and breathtakingly pristine in every direction, so prepare better than we and take advantage of the region a little more.
The lake itself, changes colours as the clouds roll in and out through very strong currents and temperature changes. You want to roam the region to climb the baron hills, and taste the highest views, but the altitude also climbs and your strength deteriorates quite quickly because of it. Still, these plains are something of a unique force; these high mountain plains at 4300 m at lake level.
Not only does the lake itself shift between 5 different colours, depending on the time of day, but the mountains around it are all very different shades of mother natures unreal creations.
My heart wanted to wake up in Tibet, and walk the baron mountains into Lhasa, but the chances of a Chinese patrol finding me, I’d say, were pretty fucking high. So, you’ve got about 40 kilometres to stroll down and then turn around. It’s a damn shame we can’t simply take our tails to China or Pakistan or Afghanastan and keep going, like the nomadic, pilgrims our hearts want us to be, but that is the life we live in. That is the world we exist in. Full of controls and limitations given to us by the higher powers ‘looking out for our benefit’.
*Recommendation: If you join all the Israelis on motor-bikes, it’ll give you the freedom to tear up the region on your own beat. But be careful of gasoline. It can be watered down. This is a very premium tip.
Certainly a big wow, that is priceless in effect, but with the right gear can be experienced for no more than a few bucks a day.
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