After 5 beautiful sunny days around Pangong Lake, the weather turned for the worse and dropped a ton of snow on the mountains around Chang La. I had to find a way back to Leh. Cycling was impossible now, but i had not planned on cycling back anyway. So i waited at Tangste, hoping to get ride on a jeep or truck going towards Leh.
I waited at Tangtse for more than an hour without any luck. So i decided to go a bit further and wait at Durbuk, the last village before the climb to Chang La. Another couple of hours passed without any luck.
Just as i was losing hope a large convoy of army trucks approached. I asked the locals if the army would pick up civilians, they said NO. So i did not try to flag them down for a lift.
The wait continued. I began having second thoughts about letting the convoy go. I felt that i should have atleast tried my luck flagging them down. Thinking this, i walked a little further along the road and spotted the entire convoy parked a few hundred meters down the road.
With nothing to lose i went down there and asked one of the officers if they could offer me a ride back towards Leh. I painted a sorry picture of myself, telling them that i was stuck there with no hope of cycling across snowed out Chang La pass. It worked. They told me not to kill myself trying to do something so stupid and asked me to come along.Â
It was exciting being part of the huge convoy snaking up the mountain roads. We made good progress and i was enjoying the ride.
But soon we came across the snow and the whole convoy slowed down to a crawl. The temperature got colder and the convoy was getting slower by the minute. After a while the entire convoy stopped to put snow chains around the wheels of the trucks.
Still excited about the adventure, i got down and started taking pictures of everything happening around me.
The excitement didn't last long. I slipped and fell in the snow a couple of times. My shoes were totally wet from the snow and started to freeze. My fingers and toes were getting colder by the minute and pretty soon i beat a hasty retreat back in to the truck.
I didn't move much of the rest of the trip. I was wearing my warmest clothes but still it wasn't enough. My shoes were wet and my feet felt as if they were immersed in freezing water. It was miserable. We were all sitting there, constantly shaking our hands and feet trying desperately to get some warm blood flowing through them.
Just as i hoped that the ordeal would end soon, it started getting longer.
Traveling in an army convoy is a slow business.Â Every 15 to 20 km the convoy would stop at a check point (TCP) and wait 30 minutes or more to get all their paper work started again. Then its off to the next check point, another long wait and so on. It seemed like the famed IndianÂ bureaucracyÂ did not spare its army either.
A trip that should've taken 2 to 3 hours by car took us over 7 hours. It was dark by the time we reached Karzoo. And the convoy which was supposed to go till Leh was stopped at Karoo as it was against the rules for the army convoys to travel in the dark.
It was a dull end to an otherwise exciting, but miserably cold day. A day full of memories to last a lifetime.