There are a few well-camouflaged deep crevasses directly below the pass, which invariably claim a few sheep each year as they are shepherded over the ‘la'. Spiti horses are taken over the Changthang side where they are sold to the Changpas (nomads of Changthang), for money or pashmina (a rare variety of wool) in return. Sticking to the right of the pass on the descent, one crosses the Pare Chu at the mouth of the glacier over a not so stable snow bridge. The horses need to be coaxed here as they invariably show a little reluctance while crossing what with the river raging a couple of feet below.
The advantage of starting this trip from Spiti is that after the first few days of continuous ascent, the descent is fairly continuous for the next few days though not entirely effortless, making the walk really enjoyable. Camp is set a few kilometers below the mouth of the river at Dak Karzong, a green meadow on the banks of the Pare Chu. A chance meeting with a traveler from Karzog is not ruled out though they usually are in more of a hurry, going the entire distance in four days.
The river begins to divide itself over several channels now and the valley is nearly a kilometer and a half wide. Crossing its many channels is pan of the days work as one works one's way downstream. The next two days are spent walking along the river through green meadows and wind formations (called kathpa boozae).
A week after having left Kibber, we reach the confluence of lhe Pare Chu with the Phirtse Phu at Norbu Sumdo. A river crossing here brings one to an almost incredible change of landscape as we walk north towards the Rupshu plains of Changthang. Camp for the night is at Chumik Shilale, a parrot green meadow set in wide green plains and low rolling sun kissed hills. From now on, spotting the changthang wolf remains a very good possibility.
At Norbu Sumdo. we part company with the Pare Chu, which flows south from the confluence to flow into Tibet, flowing past Chumur, India’s last outpost along its border with Tibet.
A few kilometers from Chumik Shilaic lies Kiangdom. named after the abundance of kiangs, the Tibetan Wild Ass found here. The walk towards Tso Moriri over a scree slope with the lake and its delta visible sends the adrenalin levels up as the enormity of the lake sinks in. Kiangdom lies at the southern edge of the Tso Moriri (15.000 feet), a high altitude lake 27 kilometers long and nearly 8 kilometers wide. This lake is the breeding ground for the bar-headed geese, black-necked crane and the Brahminy duck. Kiangdom needs to be visited to realize the immense beauty of this area, opened only in 1994 to visitors.
The track goes along the Tso Moriri till Karzog. The lake makes a fitting finale to a trek through landscape seemingly out or a picture postcard. A day or two spent here is a great idea to take in the sights and sounds of the Buddhist way of life. A worthwhile visit is to one of the Changpa settlements in a bowl high above Karzog, where living in their yak-skin tents, this hardy race breeds yaks and pashmina, one or the trade items to go over these high passes.
A four hour drive from the Tso, passing through equally scenic terrain lies Tsokar, a salt lake which was once the source or nearly all or Ladakh's salt supply. The road climbs away from Karzog to Kiagar Tso. a smaller lake above Tmo Moriri which, according to locals was part of the latter till both receded. The jeep-able road passes through hot sulphur springs at Puga, well known for its healing Powers, as several locals and also people from Leh will gladly testify. The dusty road climbs on to Polo Gonka, a small pass before the descent to the huge bowl or Tsokar. Large salt mounds litter the lake and the water is expectedly extremely uncomfortable to taste. There is one convenient spot to camp next to a fresh water source on the banks of Tsokar. It is not surprising to see Kiangs run along and overtake the vehicle one is t raveling in. On the opposite bank from the campsite is the village of Tugche, which boasts of a massive wolf trap and an ancient monastery. From the monastery, one can see the water marks of the lake which at on time was nearly 200-300 feet higher than what it has presently receded to.
Four kilometers from Tsokar one meets the main Manali-Leh highway before the climb to Taglang La. the world’s second highest motor able pass. A comfortable four hours drive away lies Leh. (be capital or Ladakh, the highest and largest district in the country. And justifiable so having witnessed firsthand the enormous scale and the rugged weather beaten beauty or a region which remains much or a magical mystery and for some of us, the end of a rainbow.