In the first part of our road trip organized by Scout My Trip and OYO, I wrote about Zoji La, Namika La and Fotu La. Part 2 covers the mighty passes Chang La, Rezang La and Baralacha La. So fasten your seat beat and drive with me to –
Chang La is at 17688 feet so feeling the chill, out came our jackets. While the debate about it being the world’s second highest pass is still out there, there is no debate about the adreline high you feel on reaching it. However since the air is thin, our Scout Neeraj had briefed us not to stay for more than a few minutes at Chang La.
It was evening by the time Scouts Neeraj, Samarth and Pratik in the white Scorpio and Bolero reached the pass along with Swati who took my photo, Medhavi, Ami, Abhinav and myself. I relished a hot glass of sweet black tea served at the Army Cafeteria. The tea is offered free as a goodwill gesture by the Army. The Changla Baba temple was closed by the time we arrived. The temple is open from 7am-5 pm. Changla Baba is believed to be the divine guardian of the pass.
In order to get to know everyone better on the road trip, we would shuffle who sat in which vehicle and who were our companions for the day. For Rezang La, it was my turn to be seated in the white Bolero of scout Pratik while bloggers Medhavi and Johann gave me company. Rezang La is located on the approach road to the Chushul valley in Ladakh.
Chushul is just a few kilometres from the Indo-Chinese border. With an average height of 16,000 feet, the highlight is the memorial built in honour of the 114 brave hearts of 13 Kumaon Regiment who fought to the last man, last round, last breath in the Sino-Indian War of 1962.
Circa to 18 November 1962, (a Sunday) when 5,000 – 6,000 Chinese troops attacked Indian positions. The valiant Indian Ahir troops under Maj. Shaitan Singh beat back repeated attacks, and despite being outnumbered and lacking artillery support, killed over 1,300 Chinese soldiers. Our Indian soldiers died in their trenches either killed by bullet or splinter injuries still holding their weapons.
The Battle of Rezang La is beyond doubt the greatest last stand taken by outnumbered soldiers in the history of warfare across the world. This battle is listed in the eight stories of collective bravery published by UNESCO. The brigade commander of this formation, Brigadier T. N. Raina later rose to be the Chief Of The Army Staff. Did you know that the heroism of our troops in this battle inspired Chetan Anand to produce the film ‘ Haqeeqat’?
As I paid my respects to our Martyrs’ at the Rezang La Memorial, I was overwhelmed. I have an Army background, and humbly salute the sacrifice of my brothers who valiantly laid down their lives for India. Jai Hind! All of us in the white Bolero were quiet after leaving Rezang La Memorial. 15 minutes later, Pratik braked and got down from the Bolero. His grim expression said it all. The right back tire was punctured. There was no one in sight, no mobile connectivity and we were in the direct firing range of Chinese snipers. We were literally sitting ducks. I also spotted an animal carcass not far from our car.
Tensed and helpless we waited. Sometime later, 4 Army vehicles driving by stopped to help us but they didn’t have the spanner required and so we continued to wait without knowing what to do. The sight of the white Scorpio with our Scouts Neeraj and Samarth and Thar with our Scout Amit and bloggers Neha and Karan driving back to come to our rescue is one that I am not going to forget anytime soon. We drove on collectively to our next destination, all of us together as a team overcoming another uncertainty of a road trip and bonding better over the incident.
For this leg of the road trip, I was in the black Scorpio of Scout Neeraj and joined bloggers, Johann and Raza. Neeraj aka dada is a goldmine of information and told us that Baralacha La is the pass that connects Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir to Lahaul in Himachal Pradesh. The meeting place of three mountain ranges namely- Pir Panjal, Zanskar and the Himalayas, this pass has an altitude of 4850 metres.
Here throughout the year, you can get to see patches of snow because the sun doesn’t fall into the crevices and other areas of this pass. Don’t miss Suraj Tal and its shimmering water. This Tal is the origin of the River Bhaga.