Adieu Chang La

Prologue

How will you feel when you stand and behold the vast whiteness of an amazing snow world with towering peaks surrounding you, chilled winds biting the very remains of comfort from your skin? Your breath gets held; you remain mesmerized in the amazing beauty of the Mother Nature!!

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Snow World..Chang La

This is the reason why you travel hundreds of miles away from your home. You suddenly feel that you have won, feel empowered and your soul have been suddenly set free. This was exactly what was going inside me the moment I stepped out of our SUV when we parked at the Chang La top.

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Chang La…amazing views

Changa La Summit

Chang La standing tall at a towering height of 17585 ft above the sea level is probably also the second highest motorable pass after Khardung La Top. Compared to Khardung La it is a treat for the eyes, a world of snow, glaciers and towering peaks.

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Chang La Top…an amazing place

The Southern extent of the pass leads to the magnificent view of a mighty snow clad range with the Kharu and Setki villages lying way down in the valley. We had traversed more than 32 Km climbing uphill from Durbuk – a memorable journey that you all must have already gone through. But boarding down and beholding this visual spectacle around you was a lifetime experience for me.

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The Southern extent of Chang La

We had parked our vehicle near to the Chang La Baba Temple beside the BRO billboard. To our right was a flat table land looking like a giant meadow of snow dropping down into a steep slope marking that we were exactly on the summit of a mountain top. And to our left we had the huge wall of snow and rocks guarding the pass like a vigil guardian.

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Multi-coloured Tibetian flags were hung from tall posts

Multi-coloured Tibetian flags were hung from tall posts and tied with huge boulders. Their colourful exuberance – waving and fluttering alongwith the youthful icy winds were showcasing an unique display of colours in the backdrop of snowy monotony.

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Chang La… before I decided to have a stroll towards the cafeteria

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Chang La Baba Temple

The air at Chang La was thin and it was getting difficult to breathe. A mere 50 metres walk towards the Chang La Baba temple literally made me gasping for breath as I was struggling to get a decent grip on the slippery snowy road. Hassan Ji waved to me to get it done in exactly 5 minutes thanks to our acclimatized physique.

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Go Green and Garbage free Chang La

Chang La Baba Temple

The light blue coloured Chang La Baba temple stood humbly to our left on an elevated plinth way above the road. Folklore claim that this temple and the pass itself were named in the memory of a saint named Chang La Baba. Obviously there is no authentic evidence or historical proof to establish this claim.

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My Chang La Moment

The Cafeteria

I pleaded Hassan Ji to allow another 5 mins to have a cup of black tea at the small cafeteria located nearby to where I was standing. Apart from on-coming tourist vehicles from Leh, a long contingent of military trucks was parked near to the cafeteria. Looking at others having bowlful of hot Maggi, I could not resist this temptation. Afterall the three and half hour ride from Pangong early in the morning had hardly left any remains of the light breakfast I had in our camp canteen.

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Chang La Snowscapes

The Green and Garbage Free Chang La

It was very encouraging to find that the army and even the people at the Chang La had strictly maintained and marketed a Green and Garbage Free Chang La. The initiative was very simple and humble. Awareness posters and billboards were put up almost everywhere. Tourists littering even a scrap paper were asked to keep Chang La pollution free.

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Chang La Unplugged

Plastic Bags were strictly not allowed during any purchases made from the canteen store. I wondered if a good initiative could be a success at a place so far, high and forbidden for any common man then why couldn’t we people from the plains inculcate a little discipline in our day to day life to make our lives healthier and safer.

The Downward Journey

Compared to Khardung La we had a comparatively longer stay at Chang La. Probably we were more acclimatized in the last two days of our continued road trips in and around the high altitude destinations of Ladakh.

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Adieu Chang La…The Pangong-Leh Road

We left Chang La enjoying the wonderful snowscape around us. Our vehicle turned towards the right at a hairpin bend taking us down. This part of the road was an absolute beauty. Probably I had been looking at this part of the mountain slope way up from Chang La where we had parked the SUV.

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Driving through the snow meadow

To our right was the amazing flat table land covered with thick snow cover hiding its rocky surface. The left side led us to a spectacular view of a distant snow capped mountain range. The road at this part of the table land was very tricky with the snow cover and slippery muddy surface.

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Snowscape…Chang La

Loose boulders and debris from the mountain slopes made it difficult to swerve and drive down. Probably climbing up on this tricky strip was a better option. In this case we had no other option to be slow and careful.

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Loose boulders and debris from the mountain slopes made it difficult to drive

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Harsh Terrain..Pangong-Leh Road near Chang La

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Pangong-Leh Road amazing views

With another turn taking us further down the sight of the entire road taking us down to the valley scared the hell out of me. There were hardly anything left of any road due to thick snow cover.

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The Pangong-Leh Road

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Pangong-Leh Road…amazing sights

A tiny zig zag border line carved on the mountain sides marked the existence of the so called road. We knew the next one hour or so would be tougher than what we had imagined.

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Mountainscapes at its best

The snow was getting surprisingly thicker further down. Probably the dredging assignments at Chang La top might have not been extended on these parts making them scary and hardly navigable. But Hassan Ji was an expert. He seemed to be least bothered by the snow around us.

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Entering the avalanche zone

Later on while we had a break near Chemrey village (about 37 Km from Chang La), I asked him how could he remain so cool and composed while driving in these tough roads. I was surprised to know that it was a challenge to drive during summer months of June July with most of the glacier snows melting down into mad streams over flooding the Pangong-Leh road inviting incessant avalanches and landslides. With a stable snow cover the road was safe from the perils of being washed away by streams and naïve water falls.

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Welcome to the avalanche zone

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Changing views as we were descending down from Chang La

The extreme weather outside could be well felt even with the blowers working inside our vehicle. The window glasses were repeatedly frosted by the hot air inside. The bumpy and scary ride down continued for another 30 minutes when we first observed a tinge of grey in the surrounding mountains.

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The Pangong-Leh Road looking like a “Z” Letter

This was the worst part of the journey. There were hardly any remains of our road. Tiny pebbles drizzled down from the towering mountain walls in our left. A red billboard indicated that we were passing through an avalanche zone.

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Amazing views of a distant mountain range

With further descent, the snow cover was getting thinner with more grey rocks and boulders being exposed around the road. The Pangong-Leh road was beautifully carved like a gigantic “Z” on the distant mountain lying further south to where we were. Behind this mountain lay a valley to which we were heading on our way down.  The other side of the valley was guarded by a huge mountain range with snow clad peaks.

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The Pangong-Leh Road was beautifully carved like a gigantic “Z” on the distant mountain

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The other side of the valley was guarded by a huge mountain range

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Valley view for the first time on the Pangong-Leh Road

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The return of the grey moutains

As we were approaching Zingral, I found that we had already left the snow line and the typical grey mountains of Ladakh were back to mesmerize with their usual diverse shades of grey.

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The clear shot of the valley view…Pangong-Leh Road

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The valley floor growing bigger and bigger in front of our eyes

For the first time the valley below us was visible way down with sparse tinges of faded greenery and tiny villages. The road was really well maintained and we picked up a fair acceleration with the valley floor growing bigger and bigger in front of our eyes.

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On our way to Chemrey

Epilogue

Reaching Chemrey was smooth and uneventful ride. The beauty of this picturesque village was truly captivating. But I could hardly enjoy the sheer wilderness around us. Probably my mind and thoughts were still roaming in the snow world of Chang La that we had left behind long back.


 

 

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