The wind tore through my jacket relentlessly, the chill starting to give me a headache, and I cursed myself for forgetting the woolen cap at the guest house, as I walked slowly through the grass. It created ripples in the water, of the size of small waves that crashed gently against the shore. The sound of the waves and the whistling wind were the only sounds around. There were a few birds around but they preferred to be silent. I could not recognize any of those.
I turned back to look at the matchbox houses of Karzok beyond the vast marshy grassland that I had walked through. Civilization seemed far enough now. I turned to the water again, took my glove off, bent down, and touched the freezing waters. Tso Moriori looked as beautiful up close as it did in my dreams.
Tso Moriri – The Mountain Lake
Tso Moriri simply means – The Mountain Lake, justified by the average altitude of 4522 m above sea level on the Chanthang Plateau where it sits prettily. Ringed by mountains rising as high as 6000m, this brackish water lake is the largest high-altitude lake that lies entirely in India. Its dimensions are vast, while the width is about 3-5 km, the length of the lake is around 26 km. It is fed primarily by two mountain streams, from the East and the North, and has no natural outlet, causing the salinity of its water. The area around the lake is a marshy grassland.
Tso Moriri is the core of Tso Moriri Wetland Conservation Reserve, a protected area that supports a variety of flora and fauna endemic to the region, including many mammals and birds.
The only human habitat near the lake is Karzok, a small town of about 1200 people, one of the highest inhabited settlements in the world. The town has some good hotels and tent camps that cater to tourists who arrive in the short summer. Since we were there at the end of the season, there were hardly any tourists in the town.
Tso Moriri, as seen from an elevation with the town of Karzok on its banks, nestled under a mountain.
View From The Top
At some distance from Karzok is a ‘View Point’, basically a small hilltop that offers a breath-taking view of the lake and the town on its shores and what lies beyond on the other side. We drove up there and spent a quiet afternoon on the top, absorbing the magical beauty of nature that laid in front of us. The only sound was that of the wind which made the prayer flags flutter wildly.
A small stupa on a hilltop, adorned with sheep (?) horns, that gives a panoramic view of Tso Moriri.
At this point, Ekta was not feeling well. She was having signs of AMS since we reached Pangong Tso and though most of the symptoms had subsided, she was still experiencing headaches and fatigue. So we decided to head back to our hotel where she could be warm and comfortable and take a rest while I set out to explore the lake again, crossing the marshy expanses.
Sometimes we make impulsive decisions that we regret in retrospect. Karzok is a good old rustic Ladkahi town that provides a precious glimpse into the lives of the people of the region. While driving to the town, I had made a mental note to explore it on foot later. However, when we reached our hotel we realized that this would mean walking up an incline for quite a distance. At that point, this was something that I did not have enough strength to accomplish and I just let it do. Today, when I write this post, I regret not summoning my remaining strength and make that one hike up to the town. Hopefully, I can do that in another trip to the lake someday.
Beyond Tso Moriri, the mountains at Narbu Sumdo
What Lies Beyond?
On the far side of the Tso Moriri towards the south, lies a land of rugged snow-clad peaks and barren lands, looking mysterious in their desolation. Those sharp ridges make you wonder what secrets are they hiding within their unforgiving height. After coming back, I research around a bit to find what those mountains were and what lies beyond them. What we see from the View point towards the south is the mouth of a mountain river that opens in the lake with a huge delta like opening. Beyond that lies Narbu Sumdo which is in Himachal Pradesh. In fact, all of that area beyond lies in Himachal Pradesh and Tso Moriri can be reached from Kibber along an ancient trade route.
Our Tso Moriri Video
We made a very short video on our trip to Tso Moriri, which is available on our YouTube channel. Hope you like this video and encourage us to make more content.