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Tour Circuits- Tso-Moriri Lake

Leh-Upshi-Debring-Puga-tsomoriri-korzok and return
Leh-Upshi-Chumathang-Mahe-Puga-Tsomoriri and return.

The area traversed by the Manali-Leh road, and containing Tso-moriri and other lakes, is known as Rupshu. Here, the Zanskar range is transformed into bare rolling many-hued hills, divided by open high-altitude valleys scoured by dust devils. It is a landscape quite unlike any other in Ladakh or elsewhere in India. This area is now open for foreigners for visiting, along the two tour circuits.

  Overview of Tsomoriri Lake
Overview of Tsomoriri Lake

The first circuit follows the Manali road over the Taglang-la as far as Debring, a Changpa camping place. From here it strikes off eastward on a rough track across the basin of the twin lakes Startsapuk-Tso (fresh water) and the Tso-kar (salt water), over the Polokongka-la (about 16,500 ft/5,030 m) to Sumdo in the Puga Valley, near the site of old sulphur mines, then over a roller-coaster track to the head of the Tso-moriri, and on to Korzok viilage, a quarter of the way along the lake's 20-km length.

The alternative route, instead of leaving the Indus at Upshi, carries on up the river through the gorge between the Ladakh and Zanskar ranges, to the village of Chumathang, where there is a hot spring. At Mahe, about 17 kms further, the road crosses from the north to the south bank of the river, over a bridge, and then follows the Puga stream up to join the first circuit at Sumdo

Brahmani ducks near Chumathang  
Brahmani ducks near Chumathang

Korzok, situated at 15,000 ft (4,572 m) with its dozen or so houses and its gompa, is the only permanent settlement in Rupshu, which is otherwise inhabited only by nomadic Chang-pa herdsmen. The Rupshu Chang-pa live in tents all the year round, moving according to an old established annual routine, between the pastures that exist wherever an occasional stream makes possible the growth of grass, which is said to be highly nutritious. The few barley-fields at Korzok are believed to be among the highest cultivation grounds in the world, although there is no guarantee that the crop will ripen every year.

Despite its barrenness Rupshu’s hills support a sparse population of wildlife, and the animal most likely to be spotted is the Kyang, the wild ass of the Ladakh and Tibetan plateaux. More plentiful are marmots (ubiquitous to mountain slopes all over Ladakh), hares, and an unusual tail-less rat. The lakes are breeding grounds for numerous species of birds. Chief among them is the bar-headed goose, found in great numbers on the Tso-moriri, the great crested grebe, the Brahmini duck and the bar-headed gull.

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