Start it up.. The daily dance between fire and ice to get the trucks moving.

By @Saravana |
Traveling along the Manali - Leh highway, one is witness to numerous interesting sights. While most of them are of the stunning, take your breath away variety, there are few quirky man made sights that are equally interesting. The strangest of them all for me was sight of truck drivers squatting underneath their trucks every morning and lighting its fuel tank on fire !!

The first time i saw one of those smoking trucks from a distance i was sure that it had caught on fire. Looking closer, i saw two men sitting beside the truck kindling a fire underneath its fuel tank.

"Those guys must be out of their minds or have a death wish". I thought. For who in their sane minds would light a fire under the fuel tank of a big truck.

"Its perfectly safe". They reassured me as i got closer. The biting cold nights in the high mountains turned the diesel in the fuel tanks from its liquid state into a gooey gel like substance which does not flow well and in turn clog the fuel filters in the truck. So heating the fuel tanks like this was the quickest way for the trucks to get going again in the morning. Despite their repeated reassurances it did not look safe to me at all.

I wondered how the diesel cars and jeep fared in such temperatures. They must face the same gelling issue as well (Diesel gels at a temperature of around -10C) but i never saw any of their fuel tanks set on fire. Guess maybe it is better insulated or their drivers just simply wait around for the sun to warm their jeeps well enough to get the diesel flowing once again.

I remembered one incident at the Tsomoriri lake where we tried in vain for over an hour to start a jeep without much luck and finally ended up pushing the jeep down a slope where it rolled downhill for about 2km before finally starting.

Its amazing how the simple things we take for granted down here in the plains become such a chore up in the mountains. All this just increases my respect for the mountains and even more so for the people who live there in such difficult conditions.
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