The road from Manali to Leh is stunningly beautiful. Of course there are washouts and holes and detours. There is mud and snow and rivers to cross. And most of the road is one lane and the art of moving around large trucks with wheels inches from a thousand foot drop is common. Far below, in the river valleys, one can see the rusty carcases of cars and trucks that tumbled off the highway.

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The mountain passage is hard on vehicles, too. The truck drivers and auto drivers work together to fix flat tires, broken brake lines or a snapped engine belt. Every hour, it seems, there is a group huddled around a vehicle trying to fix one thing or another.

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When we get to Tanglang la (5328 meters) we all gather around a loader blocking the one-lane road. What needs fixing? Numerous guesses float in the high mountain air. A truck driver brings spare fuses. The loader starts–but then dies again.

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Finally, after two hours and some work on the engine the loader starts again and we are on our way, descending into Ladakh.


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