Chang La: Northern pass

A drive through the town of Shey is one of the most rewarding experiences in Ladakh. Here, the morning sun blesses the willow and poplar lined roads, resulting in lateral streaks of soft light falling on the ground. Accompanying this are bird songs and the sight of irrigation canals running merrily along side the road. This pleasant feeling sets you up nicely for what Ladakh has in store, up ahead, on the road to Pangong Tso.

Indus river near Karu
The Indus shines a brilliant aquamarine under the mid morning sun and merrily accompanies you till Karu, where it deserts you in favor of the Leh-Manali road. From here, the only sight of water will be snow-melt from the high passes.
Thiksey monastery
The Chemrey monastery presents an imposing sight. Even from a distance, it easily dominates the surroundings and stands out from the beige landscape and the green plains below.

Sakthi village
Up next is the village of Sakthi, which also serves as a pit-stop for people climbing up or descending from the Chang La. This is where you leave the valley behind, up ahead you start climbing the pass.
Sakthi Village below
Patchwork fields of barley and mustard are evident as you climb higher and higher up the pass. This is in stark contrast to the Khardung La, which mostly treats you to a sight of dusty plains in the valleys.

The Chang La connects Leh, or rather the entire Kashmir region with Tibet, as in the old days. Today, one won’t be able to cross the borders due to obvious reasons.

Chang La pass
The famous z-shaped road to Chang La, epitomized in countless travelogues and trip reports on Ladakh, is characteristic of most passes here.
Sakthi village and Zanskar range from the Chang La pass
The valley bids adieu for one last time before you cross into the snowy abodes of the mountains. Tashi pointed out the highest snow capped peak visible in this image (the snow capped tall peak on the right of the range), as the Stok Kangri.

There is snow at all times of the year on these stretches and hence, the vehicle has to wade through streams of ice cold water. Not long after the descent, which is even more steeper than the ascent at Chang La, one is knocking at the doors of Tibet – the gigantic Chang Thang plateau !


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