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Tsokar Lake


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Beautiful scenery, diverse wildlife. A photographer's and nature lover's paradise.

I visited the TsoKar lake back in October 2010 while cycling the Manali - Leh highway.

The Tso Kar lake is located close to the main highway and one can always do a short detour to the lake before continuing on their way to Leh (or to Manali). It is well worth the effort.

The approach:

To reach the Thukje village one has to take a diversion at Debring (at the base of the climb to the TangLang La pass) and follow the asphalt road for about 15km to reach the village. There are a few dirt tracks available before Debring which lead towards the lake. We (me and 2 other cyclists) followed one of them, only to realize later that they do not lead to the Thukje village but to a campsite near the lake's wetlands.

By the time we realized our mistake, we were too far in to turn back, and we could see the Thukje village in the distance. So we cut across the rough scrubby terrain, the going was a bit tough as the path was mostly sandy and sometimes our tires would get caught in the sand and we had to get down push our bikes along the sand. It was tough going, but i knew that it would be a fun experience to look back upon and it is :)

Thukje village

Exhausted, we arrived at the village only to find out that it was deserted. The occupants of the village were all Chang Pa nomads and it turned out that they were all camping at Debring, grazing their herds of sheep and horses there before returning to the Thukje village for the winter. Luckily for us, the monastery was still open and the lama of the monastery had keys to a homestay in the village. He would also take care of our food, for a little fee, and that worked out perfectly for us.

The village itself was more rustic than the typical Ladakhi village in central Ladakh. The houses were small, made of stones with a simple flat thatched roof. The roof of the houses were all stocked with dung patties (as opposed to dried grass in central Ladakh). Life is tough here with meagre resources and the Changpa nomads have to make to with what best they have. Their livestock.

The lake and its surroundings.

The lake itself, as a waterbody, is located a couple of kilometers away from the Thukje village. In the immediate vicinity of the village we have the swampy wetlands which dominate the landscape.

What sets the Tsokar lake apart from the other two, Pangong and Tsomoriri, lakes is that landscape here is composed of many different elements which are all beautiful in their own right but combine together to provide a visual extravaganza which cannot be matched anywhere else in Ladakh. We have the wetlands with numerous streams flowing through them, lust grasslands, dry salt flats and strange tiny multi-colored hillocks most probably created by the salt deposits. And also the lake itself, vast, deceptively close but actually quite far away (atleast a couple of kilometers away from the village).

The best time to explore these wetlands is early in the morning when the wetland is still frozen (make moving around easier) and the light is perfect for photography.

The wetlands attract a lot of migratory birds like the Siberian Black Necked Cranes (known locally as Thrung Thrungs), the bar headed geese and numerous other species. You can also spot large herds of Tibetan wild ass, the Kiang, grazing on the dry grasslands a few kilometers out of the village.

So there is plenty to explore here. A visit to Tsokar is best done as a multi-day trip.. giving sufficient time to explore all aspects of this place.

Accommodation:

There are a few home stays available in the village. We stayed at a place called the Tibetan Argali Homestay, which is located right by the main road opposite the Thukje monastery (which is located on a small hill overlooking the village). Even if the place is closed, you can track down the lama of the monastery and he should be able to arrange some food and accommodation for you. The lama also runs a small provision store and you can find a few basic elements like biscuits and noodles.