Defeated by Chang La... Indian Army saves the day.

By @Saravana |
In between Leh and Pangong Lake lies the mighty Chang La pass. At over 5400m high, Chang La is officially the 3'rd highest mountain pass in Ladakh (after Khardung La and Tanglang La). 

After successfully cycling across the Leh - Manali highway i did not think that crossing Chang La on my bicycle would pose much of a problem. But i was wrong.

From the Sakthi village it is a 30km ride to the pass, during which the road ascends over 1500 meters. It was a straight slog up a steady gradient and the going was slow and tough. By the time i reached the army checkpost at Zingral i was totally drained and had hit a wall. I got off my cycle, sat down by the side of the road and struggled to catch my breath for the next 10 minutes. Even after that i had trouble breathing normally.

I knew then that i could not carry on any further. I had to either camp overnight at Zingral and proceed the next day or take a lift over Chang La to the next town.

There were no restaurants or tea shops at Zingral but the army jawans were gracious and invited me for some hot tea and lunch. It was a nice experience and i got to chat with a few army engineers from Chennai and Bangalore. The engineers were scheduled to travel to the Siachen glacier the next day and they offered me a ride saying that i could spend the night at their quarters. It was mighty tempting for sure, but i was put off by the bleak surroundings of Zingral and wanted to be on my way towards Pangong Lake as soon as possible.

So we flagged down a truck belonging to GREF (General Reserve Engineering Force, the road builders) and i was on my way. The truck was a monstrous thing. Sitting inside, the road looked so far below and so small that i often wondered if we would fall off the road and tumble down back towards Zingral. Obviously nothing of that sort happened and we crossed Chang La with ease and raced down towards Tangste.
We stopped for a while at a nomadic settlement near a tiny lake. The driver obviously knew the family and chitchatted with them for a while. The members of the family were busy rounding up their sheep into their tiny pens. Once inside, the sheep were lined up in rows, one row facing the other and the heads of the sheep from the opposing rows were tied tightly together. It seemed brutal but they told me that this was necessary to keep the sheep warm during the bone chilling nights.

This was something i had never seen before and might not have seen had i not stopped at Zingral and taken a ride on this particular truck. Amazing how things work out sometimes.
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