Ladakh is a land of formidable “La” (Mountain Passes) and heavenly “Tso” (Lakes). In our two day stay we had already raided the mighty Khardung La, seen the mysterious Nubra valley, traversed miles through the dangerous yet breathtaking Shyok basin before stepping into the lake world of Pangong Tso.
But we had more adventures left with our roadtrip back to Leh from Pangong Tso passing through the tricky avalanche zones of the snow capped Chang La Pass. This roadtrip was really fascinating and uniquely thrilling as we were to traverse entirely through the world of snow clad mountains.
Leaving Panong Tso was a painful moment for all of us. We were all madly in love with the vast blueness of Pangong Tso. The aura in this blissful place was simply adorable and out of the world.
The aura in this blissful place was simply adorable
The mountains pulled us back, the freezing breeze held our hands and the fatal attraction of the Pangong blueness was too irresistible and hard to ignore. With heavy hearts we had to bid adeau to Pangong.
We entered a shady world…leaving Pangong Tso
As we steered into the dusty uphill road taking us away from Pangong, we observed that there was perhaps a strange dullness in the mountains. The many shades of grey in these mountains had now adored a delicate sheet of snow and frost cover giving these towering slopes a peculiar melancholic makeup.
Were they also mourning the arrival of the harsh winter? The question remained unanswered as we entered an entire shadow land created by the towering mountains guarding the narrow valley from our left.
There was an aura of melancholy in the dullness of the moutains
Amazing views..leaving Pangong Tso early in the morning
There were snows around us. We bumped and skidded and descended down to a pebbled valley floor, which might have been another Tso (lake) long ago. We were now driving round an arc like curve taking us further away from the shadowed valley. Here the mountain walls to our right adored an amazing yellowish tinge bathing the early morning daylight.
We were descending into a pebbled valley floor
Amazing views..way out from Pangong Tso
Suddenly we climbed into a high bend and the wonderful blueness of Pangong Tso was blissfully in our sight from our back. This was perhaps the moment to cherish the blueness of Pangong for one last time, before we climbed further up leaving the pebbled valley floor way below us.
The wonderful blueness of Pangong Tso was blissfully in our sight from our back
A lone yellow milestone welcomed us as we were again descending down into the other part of the pebbled valley. To our surprise, the Pangong was still there in our sight. Although we thought that we had missed it out once forever in the last bend way up and back.
Adieu Pangong Tso
The pebbled floor of the valley now looking like a desert
The Lonely Yellow Milestone
We had been driving slowly for the last ten minutes. The pebbled valley floor was now overtaken by a sandy desert floor. The valley to our right was gradually turning into a narrow gorge as our road swerved up and down taking us further away from the blue-world of Pangong Tso.
Roadscape…. further away from Pangong Tso
Moving down the valley..away from Pangong Tso
The Yak herd
The sights around us were fast moving away from the window pane of the SUV as we entered into a beautifully maintained strip of road. The vehicle now had really picked up a good momentum till we had to suddenly jam on to the brakes.
The unexpected Yak Herd
There were a herd of black wooly creatures crossing the road from our left. It was an unexpected moment. We were right in front of a herd of wild yaks!! The animals were least bothered of our presence as they lazily guarded their calfs to the other side of the road like a herd of household buffaloes.
One among the Yak shots from our SUV
I had an idea to get out for some close shots and had to lock my feet with Hassan Ji holding me back. As he drove away leaving the yaks on their way down to the valley to our right, he told that these harmless looking animals could get dangerous any moment with their sharp horns.
On the way to Chang La from Durbuk
Road Map from Durbuk to Chang La (Courtesy: Google Maps 2017)
Rabindra Sangeet and the mountains of Ladakh
We reached Durbuk cross in almost another hour. Leaving the road to Shyok on our right we started our uphill climb into a huge mountain. Durbuk was fast disappearing way down below us like the land of liliputs as we were climbing up towards Chang La.
Durbuk was fast disappearing way down
View of Durbuk Fading Fast
There was a change of scene around us. A new unexplored world awaited us with lofty snow capped mountains preaching their gorgeous presence. There was an unexpected surprise from Hassanji.
Mountainscape..on the way to Chang La
Amazing views…way to Chang La
Country Roads…Take me Home…Way to Chang La
He played Shaan’s Rabindra Sangeet. It took us entirely awestruck. He said that today morning he had found an old pen drive in his kit and during his visit to Kolkata last winter one of his friends had uploaded these beautiful songs in his pen drive.
Our Roadtrip Video
Tagore’s magical tunes “Megh Boleche Jaabo Jaabo” and the amazing mountains of Ladakh created an out of the world aura. The feeling was hard to describe. We were transported into a whole new world of heart touching music and nature at its best.
Mountainscapes on the way to Chang La from Durbuk
Amazing moment……a lovely mountainscape on the way to Chang La
Raiding the mountains to Chang La
We were spellbound for the last half an hour and hardly noticed that we had climbed way above the snow line and a new world awaited us. These mountains had an altogether different terrain as compared to what we had seen in Khardung La.
An altogether different world..way to Changla
We were now into a world of snow and the sight of the same was an absolute visual treat. We crossed the Itak Tso to our left. There were hardly any signs of its blue waters.
We were riding way above the snow line
Mountainscapes near Tso Itak
The lake had completely disappeared in the whiteness of the surrounding snow clad mountains. Tso Itak is another beautiful natural mountain lake (16,618 feet above the sea level) of Ladakh. It was surprising to see it completely frozen as early as that in the month of October.
Valley view..the frozen Tso Itak
We crossed a small iron bridge and entered into a snow covered bumpy muddy terrain with hardly any signs of a so called road. It was a stiff climb.
Into the avalanche zone
A whole new world..A shot of the lovely mountains from the SUV Window
And the rough snowy and rocky terrain had all the signs of a dormant avalanche zone. An avalanche billboard soon welcomed us to the infamous landslide zone of Chang La. The almost 8 Km stiff uphill ride was awful. We were literally driving over the rocks, soft mud and skidding many a times on the snowy floor.
Into the Snow World
Snow, clouds, blue sky and perils on the road..an amazing aura…on the way to Chang La
View of the serpentine road we had climbed after leaving Tso Itak
Snowscapes…on the way to Chang La
The road was getting treacherous with softness, snow and mud
Yet it would be selfish if just leave without describing the heavenly beauty of the snow clad mountains that surrounded us. The check post at Itak village and the valley looked like tiny dots from the amazing world we were into.
Climbing to the roof of the world..that was the feeling on the way to Chang La
We felt as if we were riding into the roof of the world with hardly any peaks as high as on what we were standing now. It was getting difficult for Hassanji to give side to cars and other vehicles on their downhill journey towards Durbuk as our road was getting more muddy and soft.
Chang La Atlast..A whole new world
Epilogue: Chang La atlast
We left all the least remains of any grey mountains with a sharp turn to our left leading us into an absolutely white world we had hardly seen in Ladakh. It was none other than the snow world of Chang La.
Chang La atlast
A green avalanche billboard to our right drew our attention. And we could clearly see the remains of an avalanche after effect to our left with gigantic bulldozers and snow dredgers working tirelessly to clear the debris of snow, rock and boulders lying to our left.
Mighty Chang La and its breathtaking snowscapes
This was the mighty Chang La (17,590 ft above sea level). The vastness of the snow clad mountains and their aggressive dominance over human interference on these treacherous roads indicated that the other side of the journey down to Leh would be tough and breathtaking.
WATCH OUR ROAD TRIP VIDEO TO CHANG LA