I’m not cold in bed but don’t sleep for very long, unfortunately. I get up at 3am and sit outside for a little while to look for shooting stars but its too cold to stay for long, if very peaceful and beautiful. It makes a change to hear trumpets and drums from the monastery in the village rather than the muzzein’s call to prayer early this morning. Dawn is as beautiful as sunset was.
Three of our number are not feeling at all well this morning and Shahid checks their blood oxygen saturation and administers oxygen to them all. One is fine very rapidly but we decide the other two should go for a check up at the local clinic. This leaves us with a rather depleted group for our planned morning activities and Tony has announced he wants to run instead as part of his high altitude training.
We get the cars to drop us two or three km further along the lake shore, close to a rock outcrop we spotted yesterday which looks more promising than most of the scree close by.
Heading for the outcrop
John was expecting granite but it turns out to be some lightly metamorphosed slate and phyllite. That’s more exciting than it sounds though, as the quartz veins are associated with minerals, some of which may be silver…
Quartz veins in the slate outcrop
Some of us are at least equally interested in the creepy looking lizards and large group of Bar-headed geese we spot en route.
Though the shore looks pretty barren at first glance there are actually lots of tiny, well-adapted plants as well as our old friend, Nepeta floccosa (catmint) from Hemis. We walk back slowly looking at some of these and also at the rather limited life in the lake.
Bright red leaved Armeria sp.
There is little in the way of brown slime looking like diatoms but we do catch a shrimp to bring back and look at under the microscope. The real stars, however, are yet more Gentianellas.
Gentianella tenella (left) and G. paludosa (right)
We just have time to do a quadrat on the sparsely-vegetated ground just back from the lake before we head back for lunch. Some people are very pleased to see Chinese rather than Indian food on the menu! I don’t feel I can eat very much without feeling really full at this altitude so I’m often hungry between meals as a result.
One of the people who went to the clinic this morning is now looking much brighter but the second is not and we jointly take the decision that she should go back to Leh this afternoon. She should be much more comfortable not having to spend another night at this altitude.
Most of us are not feeling wildly energetic after lunch and it’s cloudy with the prospect of heavy showers. The drivers take us down to the wetland at the north end of the lake – we don’t see many birds there but we do see a hoopoe at very close quarters on the way as well as another family of bar-headed geese. Danny had set off walking with the intention of meeting us all at the wetland but was unable to convince Tashi that he really didn’t want a lift when they drove past so he ended up walking back to the camp instead, and enjoyed it despite getting caught in a heavy shower. Tashi (driver) was noticeably chattier than when we’d had Tashi (guide) in the front seat with us, which was lovely, and told us how much he liked Tso Morori – only his second visit, apparently. He’s been to Pangong Tso much more often because that’s where most domestic tourists want to go – it features in a famous Bollywood film, apparently.
We then have a lift to the southernmost driveable point, on a hill above where we looked at the outcrop this morning. We are lucky enough to be treated to the sight of a beautiful double rainbow over the lake.
It was distinctly chilly by this time so we headed back to the tents. We stopped for a cup of chai in the campsite shop aka yurt and I bought a great pair of handknitted socks for 200 rupees which I’m hoping will keep my feet toasty tonight.
John and I spent a bit of time thinking about tomorrow’s route then went off to see if we could find a suitable rock with diatoms. We wandered up through the village and down the road a bit, meeting Danny on his way back.
Drying cow dung for winter fuel on the roof
John risked life and limb, or at least wet feet, to get me one rock to sample but there were precious few suitable rocks around. We had lovely views of Karzok as we hurried back to the camp afterwards to beat the rain. There was significantly more surface water than at lunchtime after just one heavy rain shower. As yesterday, we soon found our socks full of the spiky seeds of a wild grass – obviously very efficient at using animals to spread its seed!
Dinner was a very nice, mild mushroom curry – more like mushroom stroganoff – and the usual dal and Tashi came in while we were eating to give us the good news that our altitude sickness casualty has arrived safely in Leh and is feeling better already.