Day 10: 18 August 2013: Part 1: Serthi/Sakti to Chang La

We woke up early and finished our daily routine with the two buckets of water that was kept in the washroom. There was no more water, so there was no question of getting a bath or shave even. Since we wanted to get rid of the place, we didn’t even opted for tea and knocked the room of the caretaker. He was too surprised to see us ready early in the morning, but we had to go. We settled the bill with him and then he came to open the gate of the guest house.

By 0605, we were out of the guest house, ready to load our luggage.

Below is the approach road from the guest house to gate, so hidden by outgrowth of shrubs that you can’t even imagine that there is a guest house!

Serthi JKTDC


View from the gate…

Serthi JKTDC gate

The gate was locked and so we had to call the caretaker. Interestingly, the caretaker came and lifted a heavy stone kept to stop the gate swaying. Below the stone were the keys! By 0610 Hrs, we were out of the guest house premises. Fortunately, the caretaker had informed us last night that the road within Serthi village was closed due to repairs and to reach Karu, we will have to take the bypass road which was about 2 kms back before the village started. So we took the bypass.

Serthi monastry on hill just opposite the road.
Serthi Monastry

The morning air was fresh and misty. Some views enroute






By the time we reached Karu, it was drizzling a bit. First we rushed to the petrol bunk as we didn’t wanted to be in a situation where the diesel wasn’t available at the bunk. And since thereon we wouldn’t get any petrol bunk till Tandi (our plan was Karu-Pangong-Chusul-Mitpal Tso-Tso Moriri-Tso Kar-Sarchu-Keylong-Chandratal and further), the idea was also to fill the two 20 litre cans with diesel.


On way to Petrol Bunk

We got our ILP checked and details entered at the checkpost and proceeded towards the petrol bunk. We informed at the checkpost that we do not intend to come back from Pangong as we’ll be going to Tso Moriri via Chusul. The person manning the checkpost stated that people are not allowed to go past Merak. Will see! When we reached at the petrol bunk and removed the tarpaulin on the carrier, we noticed that the burner of the gas which was mounted on the small cylinder itself, fell somewhere. Also gone was the tow rope. One more task added to the list — find the burner in local market. We got the diesel tanked up and came back to Karu market.

Karu 2

Since it was too early for breakfast (only 0650 Hrs), we decided to skip it at the moment as we could have it later anywhere. However, this being the last decent market till at least Keylong, we decided to procure the burner. To our dismay, the only shop which dealt in gas stoves, didn’t had it. What the shopkeeper offered was the single burner gas stove. He said that it would fit. We too, in hurry, procured it along with a gas tube without giving much thought. This however, would not fit the regulator (something that we discovered later) as the diameter of the rubber tube and the regulator were different! Having procured it, we started our journey to Pangong.

An inscription at Karu. How true!

I was a bit worried that it was still drizzling and the sky was full of clouds. If the day remains like this, then we’d not be able to capture reflections at Pangong.


We proceeded on the same way to Serthi/Sakti and Oh Boy! What a dramatic change the light has brought to the landscape!

We didn’t took the bypass back to the village, rather proceeded towards Chang La and soon reached the T-point where the road from Serthi village was meeting.

Just a bit ahead, the road took a left turn..

and the ascent started!

Not too ahead, I captured what appears to be a dilapidated, old fortress.

Looking back, this is how it appeared..



Pretty soon enough, we reached above the clouds..

The signs indicated further ascent..

… to that road…

And we did reached there…

A look below saw what was painted Yellow and Green..

We crossed some streams and kept driving…

Past a milestone announcing arrival at Zingral in couple of minutes..

But before that, the road itself turned into some signs…

A closer look.. The “Z”. Now is this announcing arrival at Z for Zingral?

Soon through the clouds…

Zingral announced itself!

This lion, painted as a tiger was out of his den.. so we didn’t stopped. Or was it a Tion?? Or a Liger??

And then ascent from Zingral started with a warning.. You are approaching avalanche prone area!

Soon the road disappeared in the clouds.. cloud 9 is it?

Not sure since the road literally disappeared!!!




But soon a board declared.. We’ve reached the Mighty Chang La. The time reads 0850 hrs
Chang La

We caught some Lamas by surprise…
Lamas at Chang La

While some Lamas caught one of us.. Avi! 🙂

It’s not raining here, so I don’t need any wind-cheater. What? The temperature is freezing with strong winds and traces of snow? Man! I’m built for this place!! 🙂 So let’s mark our presence here.



And wait, we have to meet Chang La Baba..
Chang La Baba

So let’s go there..

And why are we suddenly feeling hungry? Oh! We didn’t had anything since morning (well actually last noon to be practical, the dinner at Serthi was a disaster)!! Let’s have some free tea and boy! it seems there is something to eat too – Mok Mok. What’s a Mok Mok? We’ll know shortly. 🙂

Chang La canteen


But who’s gonna wash your glass in which you just had the Tea? Well, at least as a goodwill gesture, you should.


Something to eat? Mok Mok! Ok, Mok Mok is nothing other than dumplings/momos, though they have soya filling. They are really yum! 🙂

Mok Mok at Chang La

While we have yet another round of the free black tea, the weather outside is still cloudy, misty and windy.

We come out and meet two little permanent residents of Chang La pass, and they readily agree for a pose. Obliged, we say “Thank You!”



It’s almost about an hour that we spend at the top and then decide to proceed. Bye bye Chang La! Since we would not be coming back, we shall meet you on our future travels.

Next: Chang La to Tangtse and the Pangong!


Total Distance covered: Approx 63 kms

Driving Directions from Serthi to Karu: Generally, you should be coming out of the JKTDC, Serthi and turning right to take the road, however, the caretakers informed us that the road within the village was blocked due to some construction, we will have to take the by pass road. So we turned left from the gate of JKTDC, and travelled about 0.5 kms where there is a fork, take the left fork and it descends down the village. Keep on the main road without taking any turn and finally you should join the road coming from Chang La. Turn left to go towards Chang La. However since we had to get fuel also, which is available at Karu, we turned right towards Karu. Drive straight and you should reach Karu market area with a gate. Drive straight towards Leh and about 1.5 kms later, past the checkpost, the fuel bunk should be on the right.

Driving Directions from Karu to Chang La: Return on the same road to reach Karu Market and take the left fork (the same road you travelled from Serthi) to go to Chang La and Pangong. The right fork goes towards Manali. Take the left fork and drive towards Serthi to pass by Chemrey to arrive at the Serthi junction point. The left fork goes to Serthi village and the right to Chang La – take the right fork and shortly after Serthi, the ascend starts. Drive ahead on the road and descend to Zingral. Ascend again on the same road and many twists and turns later, you arrive at Chang La pass. This is fairly the only major road in the region and shouldn’t be difficult to recognize.