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Old 11th March 2011, 15:42   #1
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Default 4x4 Explorers : A Thread on Off road routes and exploration

The 4x4 scene is opening up, and from the past few years, there has been a spurt in number of OTRs around the country.
However, a class of offroad trips is still nascent in India.
Thats Off road exploration.

At many places in the world, there exists the concept of Off Road exploration tours. They involve getting from village A to village B via an alternate route, which is not mapped, and does not see normal traffic.

Routes vary in difficulty as well as terrain. For those looking for extreme, you could drive to north pole from Canada, as Jeremy Clarkson did in the polar challenge.

You could drive across the desert, and take a dune route instead of the tarmac running through the desert.

Among easier tracks there are the Bolivian Salt flats, as well as many other salt flats around the world.

So what do we have in India. Being a densely populated country, such routes are few and far in between, but do not despair. Large parts of the country are somewhat unexplored, and there exist many routs which the offroader in you can attempt.

Till recently only the bikers did such routs, but now with 4x4 vehicles like Fortuner selling in large numbers, many more can attempt these trails

They range from high lofty mountains to the sands of Rajasthan, to salt flats and desert trails.

In this thread, I will put forward a few routes with technical details about difficulty, permissions required and other do's and dont's

But before we start here are a few things you need to consider

Vehicle
you may have the best offroader in market with diff locks and 31" tires, and it may just decimate the competition in offroading events. But this does not mean your vehicle is capable of serious offroad trail driving. Offroad trails rarely involve hard core offroading, and in some seasons are even doable by experienced 2WD drivers, however, they take the toll on vehicles in other areas. So before attempting any trail, know your vehicles strengths and weaknesses

Personal fitness
Do you need to be fit to drive? Well yes. Some trails take you to such altitudes, that AMS can kill you. Some trails run through areas which can see fall of temperature to -5 degrees from a comfortable 10 degrees in a matter of couple of hours. So being physically prepared is very important

Legal issues and Permits
Not all trails are accessible. Just because there isn't a checkpost does not mean you drive into private property or go through a reserved forest. Its illegal, and can get you in trouble.
In the northern areas, there exist many trails which are allowed for Indian Citizens, but you need permits beforehand, and its a matter of national security, and violaters can get in serious trouble

Navigation
Are you good with maps and GPS? If not, brush up. Esp in north areas, a wrong turn can lead you into China. In Rajasthan, you can find yourself lost in dune country. In Gujrat, you can be stuck in a lonely salt flat, with every direction appearing same. The daytime heat can kill you. Read this 'Death By GPS' Increasing In America's Wilderness - Slashdot

A Team-BHP Article on GPS Navigation off the road
https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/every...-software.html

Environment
A lot of places exist which are legally accessible. That does not mean you abuse the privilege. Always follow existing tracks. Avoid grass as this is the only food in winters for Animals. Do not drive roughshod over vegetation in desert, because a shrub may be the only food source of local wildlife.

Judgment
Remember, its an exploration trip. Do not attempt foolhardy escapades. When the going gets tough, turn back. There is nothing macho about tempting fate. You can always come back later. The trail won't go anywhere else, and the source and destination will also not go anywhere else.


So with that out of the way, we can begin.
To start with I will put forward a trail of Medium difficulty in the next post.

Index
1. Hanle Kyun Tso Nidar route : http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/4x4-ex...ml#post2274843 (4x4 Explorers : A Thread on Off road routes and exploration)

Last edited by tsk1979 : 16th March 2011 at 15:07.
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Old 11th March 2011, 17:07   #2
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Default Hanle To Nidar/Nyoma via Kyun Tso Twin lake system

Hanle is a small village in south east Ladakh, at the very edge of Changthang Plateau. When coming from Leh city, there is a direct route to Hanle, which goes via Nyoma Town. From Nyoma to Hanle, you can take an alternate route, which goes through Nidar village, and passes through the twin lake system of Kyun Tso.

This route can be done both ways, but its wiser to attempt it from Hanle, as there are less uphill sections, and sleeping at Hanle means you spend a night at 4300mts, which leads to better acclimatization. Leh city is at 3100mts, so if you directly attempt this route, you will need to start early, and by the time you reach 5100mts, you will be tired. Not a good thing

Permits and Permissions
Make sure you have permits for Nyoma, Hanle, and Tso Moriri. If possible take Chumur also. Its overkill, but the more the merrier. Permits are available from DC office Leh, and are required for most places in Ladakh.
Apart from Chumur, all others are easily available.

Vehicle
Any vehicle whether full time or part time 4x4 will be good enough. High ground clearance is mandatory. Make sure your vehicle has glow plugs, or starting at Hanle in the morning will be tough.
Heater and AC will definitely be helpful, but not mandatory.
Other than that an excellent cooling system is required. Make sure your engine oil is in top condition, and your engine has no overheating issues. Above 5000mts, the air is so thin, that even a slight compromised cooling system can result in engine damage.
While you can attempt with HT tires, AT tires are preferred as there is some risk of cuts due to sharp stones
apart from that, if you are doing Leh-Hanle-Kyun Tso-Leh, make sure you have approx 700kms of fuel range. To be on safe side, carry enough fuel for 800kms.

Normally if your vehicle gives 10kmpl in city, expect 7-8kmpl on those terrains due to low speed and 4x4 usage.

Last but not the least, night temperature can fall drastically, leading to diesel being frozen. So its a good idea to park the car(if diesel) somewhere where sun comes early. In sunlight, it takes around 15-30 minutes of sunlight to work its magic.

After your vehicle starts, let her idle for atleast 10 minutes for engine oil to get warmed up. your gears will be very hard due to gear oil thickening, so a short warm up run is a good idea.

Personal Fitness
Hanle is around 4300mts above sea level. The track goes upto 5100mts before descending again to 4100 near Nyoma. Leh is around 3100. For attempting this route. make sure you have spent atleast 2 nights at altitudes of 4000mts or higher. So if you have just arrived in Leh, do not rush here. It can kill you.

Navigation
I will be adding the complete GPX to this post. With this GPX you can navigate this track. All you need is a GPS with track loading facility. When we did this track, all I had was Longitude and Latitude coordinates for Kyun Tso lakes, so it took us more time than usual, as we ended up taking an unwanted diversion. That diversion is also marked in the GPX, as you can see from the screenshot. It takes you up a lovely table top mountain.
Track characteristics
This track is a moderate difficulty track. 4x4 usage is not required at most places, but at a couple of places, there are water crossings, which can be wet or dry depending upon your luck. Early june, there can be ice in the crossings, which makes it tricky.
Apart from this, its a pure dirt road, with some sandy sections, esp near Kyun Tso lake. The track is flanked by grass, which is the source of food for Kiangs. So do not leave the track unless you are venturing to dry non grassy terrain. The track surroundings have some bounder and climbs, which you can attempt for fun, but if you are alone, do not try as vehicle damage will mean that you are stranded till the next vehicle comes. It can come the same day, or after a weak, again, your luck
Drive slowly, and steadily, and enjoy the view. You will get some great sightings of local wild asses, the Kiang. They are shy animals, so will run away with engine sound. Shut off your engine, and the curious kiangs will come very close for great photographic opportunity
Other details
Start by 9am from Hanle. This will ensure you will reach Leh while the sun is still up.

With that out of the way, lets start with the route.

First a global screenshot of the route
4x4 Explorers : A Thread on Off road routes and exploration-map.jpg

You start the route at 4300mts above sea level climb steadily till 5100mts, and then come across a small unmarked mountain pass(you see prayer flags here, just like all ladakhi passes), and then come down to Nidar village, where you take a small dirt road to main Leh-Nyoma Road which is well Tarred


At Hanle, you go south towards the village of Punguk. At around a couple of kms away its the last village till you hit Nidar, near the main road. In between you won't find anyone, not even nomads(changpas).
This village has a DSPT (Direct Satellite POTS Telephone). Call cost is 1rs/minute. Hanle also has a similar DSPT.
Make sure you have a good breakfast at Hanle, as you won't get anything to eat till Nyoma.

From Hanle, it takes approx 10-15 minutes to cross Punguk. the road is marked with pebbles, and very very bumpy. ITs like driving on those small speed breakers. Bone jarring. Thankfully after crossing Punguk, it turns into a dirt track which is slightly better

A picture of the village
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Remember, this is a major village. Surprised? Now you understand the loneliness up there

This is what the Track looks like. Its the easy part of the track.
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At 32.8L 78.8E you will come across a fork. Its around 10kms from Punguk(approx), and from there right takes you up a table top mountain. If you started at 9am, you have enough time to explore this mountain.

This mountain is like the true changthang desert, and soon, the track vanishes into nothingness. You can chose to explore if you like, and spot kiangs.
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If you continue on the main road, this track will twist and turn along a river, and the track will keep rising up.
At 32.916/78.652, you will reach a fork. The Left takes to the border village of Chumur, and right track continues towards the first lake of Kyun Tso.
You will find lots of Kiangs here
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At this place the track turns sandy, and you can see grass on the sides. Its best to park and explore the area around the lake on foot.
The Actual Lake. This was June second week, and lake was frozen. Day temperature? 5-8 degree C, night temperature???
Altitude, 5100m
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A wider view
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Its very important that you walk slowly here, and do not attempt to leave the track. Seemingly harmless shallow sand can quickly give away, and if you get stuck here, there is no rescue. Moreover, leaving the track will damage vegetation.

This track continues north, and after around half a km, you will see the second lake to your right.
This lake shore is very marshy, and your feet will sink in. So again, do not take your vehicle into the marsh.

The mountain behind Kyun Tso is interesting in its colors. A point to note here. Sudden storms are common here, and track can get slush if it starts to snow or rain
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Unfortunately the lake shore is very far away, and you have to walk a lot. Do it only if you are feeling fit. Exertion can kill you here
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If you see the track, we did take the vehicle a little towards the lake, as the area was devoid of any vegetation, but soon the wheels started sinking, and we scooted out. Due to disuse, the track itself is not very clear in places, and its hit and trial. So keep your vehicle in 4x4, engaging 4x4 after getting stuck is not a good idea. For full time 4WD, best time to put your vehicle on 4WD lock mode is here

After this you follow the track northwards, and keep going.
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Till now you should have come 50kms from Hanle.
Just before the pass, the road starts rising, here you need to stop and look at an amazing spectacle. The twin lakes of Kyun Tso in one frame
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Few minutes later you will reach the pass.
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After that its a steady plain track for some time
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And then comes the worst section. No pics, sorry, was too busy staying alive.
The road is very narrow, and downhill series of hairpin turns. Another reason to do this from Hanle to Nidar, because if you come from nidar, due to steep nature and loose rocks, its easy to lose traction.
downhill, its easier, but equally dangerous.
Make sure if you see rocks on road, get down and move them away. If a road section is very rocky and bounder like, shift to low ratio and gingerly go over them.

Finally 30kms after Kyun Tso, you will reach the main road. Total distance? Around 95kms if you did the table top mountain, or 85 kms direct.

View of the Indus from main road.
to connect to main road, you will cross a small bridge, There is only one road, so you can't lose your way after you cross Kyun Tso.

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On the main road, left takes you to Leh, and 2kms to the right is Nyoma town, which actually has a cell phone tower(BSNL). You can have a meal here, but do not expect anything fancy.

Related Tracks
From Kyun Tso, you can take left turn to Chumur, and from there you can head to Tso Moriri via a proper off road route. Harsh Vardhan's Ladakh log has the details, I will ask him to pen a detailed post here.

You can check out "Ladakh and Changthang : The Wilderness Chronicals" for route details about Hanle etc.,

So with this ends my first post, the Hanle-Kyun Tso-Offroad excursion.
Hopfully, this season, somebody will leave the beaten track and attempt this.

But make sure you drive a high GC 4x4.

Thanks for reading!

GPX file is attached. This is also mapped on openstreetmap.org
This covers entire route from Hanle-Leh via Kyun Tso
hanle_kyun_tso_nidar_leh.gpx

Last edited by tsk1979 : 11th March 2011 at 20:38.
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Old 14th March 2011, 15:52   #3
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Default Re: 4x4 Explorers : A Thread on Off road routes and exploration

Tanveer, Thanks for sharing this.
BTW are you planning Ladakh again this year? Got some more exciting routes mapped out.
Chushul - Mahe (Mitpal Tso)
Hanle - Fukche (Permits will be nightmare)
Hanle - Ukdungle - Fukche (Permits will be nightmare, might not be possible in summers due to river crossing)
Lukung - Phobrang - Datta (Permits might be difficult, or they might just allow with Marsimik permit).
That route btw extends to the east bank of Pangong Tso which is still under-construction.

Will update the thread with Tso Moriri - Chumur, Chumur - Hanle soon, and Little Rann of Kachchh, or you can do that yourself ;-)

Last edited by vardhan.harsh : 14th March 2011 at 15:53.
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Old 14th March 2011, 16:17   #4
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Default Re: 4x4 Explorers : A Thread on Off road routes and exploration

Quote:
Originally Posted by vardhan.harsh View Post
Tanveer, Thanks for sharing this.
BTW are you planning Ladakh again this year? Got some more exciting routes mapped out.
Chushul - Mahe (Mitpal Tso)
Hanle - Fukche (Permits will be nightmare)
Hanle - Ukdungle - Fukche (Permits will be nightmare, might not be possible in summers due to river crossing)
Lukung - Phobrang - Datta (Permits might be difficult, or they might just allow with Marsimik permit).
That route btw extends to the east bank of Pangong Tso which is still under-construction.

Will update the thread with Tso Moriri - Chumur, Chumur - Hanle soon, and Little Rann of Kachchh, or you can do that yourself ;-)
Nothing planned yet. I don't think ladakh can happen this year for us.
Anyways, why don't you put up a post in the above format about Tso-Moriri-Chumur-Hanle route?
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Old 14th March 2011, 16:39   #5
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Default Re: 4x4 Explorers : A Thread on Off road routes and exploration

tsk - this September I will be driving/riding from Hunder - Diskit - Agham - Shyok - Durbuk - Pangong Tso - Marsimik La - Pangong Tso - Spangmik - Man - Merak - Chushul - Nyoma - Hanle.

Most likely to do this on a Pulsar 150. I may take the Gypsy along though.
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Old 14th March 2011, 18:18   #6
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Default Re: 4x4 Explorers : A Thread on Off road routes and exploration

Quote:
Originally Posted by gsferrari View Post
tsk - this September I will be driving/riding from Hunder - Diskit - Agham - Shyok - Durbuk - Pangong Tso - Marsimik La - Pangong Tso - Spangmik - Man - Merak - Chushul - Nyoma - Hanle.

Most likely to do this on a Pulsar 150. I may take the Gypsy along though.
Bikes have it easiest on such routes. The Agham shyok route is tricky due to landslide issues. If its open, its open, if its not, you can sneak a bike through.
I will be posting track log for the Pangong-Chushul-Man-Merak route and track details soon.
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Old 14th March 2011, 19:55   #7
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Default Re: 4x4 Explorers : A Thread on Off road routes and exploration

I would have imagined a well prepared Gypsy would have an easier time. I guess the power sapped by the high-altitude and the fact that vehicle weight doesn't change with altitude make it harder in 4-wheelers.

I had a blast the last time on a P150...lighter is better, especially when you have to push uphill in snow and ice as I had to at Wari La.
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Old 14th March 2011, 20:42   #8
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Default Re: 4x4 Explorers : A Thread on Off road routes and exploration

The problem is partial landslides on such routes. Sometimes, the route is partially blocked, and only bikes can go through.
In 2009, we had to abandon Kyun Tso because of precisely this reason.
That said, with no such landslide issues, a Gypsy will do well.
But speaking of well prepared, any mod which makes the engine run hotter should be avoided.
Overheating is a serious issue at such altitude.
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Old 15th March 2011, 09:55   #9
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Default Re: 4x4 Explorers : A Thread on Off road routes and exploration

Great initiative to document such trails. This is the real reason why I like a 4x4. Thanks, looking forward to learning about the many options around India
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Old 15th March 2011, 10:04   #10
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I guess this means removing my AC condensor from it's current location in front of the radiator and braving the heat from Mumbai to Srinagar...Or removing it in Srinagar.

I understand that thinner air - less efficient radiator heat transfer = overheating but I expected that the lower ambient temperatures would compensate. Also the fact that the engine is running richer due to lower air density would also cool things down inside.

I guess it is a vehicle dependent phenomenon. The innovas running around in Ladakh didn't seem to have any issues.

Yes - bikes are definitely easier to get out of a tight situation. Any breakdowns simply means waiting for an army stallion to come by, load up and get off at the nearest camp. Not that easy with 4 wheels.


TSK - is there a route from Turtok to Kargil? What about Padum to Leh?
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Old 15th March 2011, 10:29   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tsk1979 View Post
Nothing planned yet. I don't think ladakh can happen this year for us.
Anyways, why don't you put up a post in the above format about Tso-Moriri-Chumur-Hanle route?
Ya will do that soon. Don't worry. the activity is up on the task list

Quote:
Originally Posted by gsferrari View Post
TSK - is there a route from Turtok to Kargil? What about Padum to Leh?
Yes there is a route from Turtuk to Kargil but a trekking one, mostly. The track is partially motorable till some distance but being so close to the LoC they do not allow it beyond Turtuk. I do not know how far the road goes beyond Turtuk in the direction of Kargil, but people informed me that they were building and currently it's about 20 odd km from Turtuk.

Padum to Leh, as far as i know, the only existing motorable route is via Kargil. Although construction is planned for Padum - Chilling - (Indus , Zanskar confluence) - Nimmu - Leh.

Another route is being planned which will be Darch (Upper lahaul) to Padum, but these routes should take at least another 5-10 years to complete in my opinion. Once done, the army will have an all weather road till Leh from Manali side. Of course it all depends on the Rohtang tunnel too, but as people at SASE have told me, the construction is on for that in full swing. Some colleagues at office are visiting the site this weekend, hopefully will get a first hand account soon too.

Last edited by vardhan.harsh : 15th March 2011 at 10:30.
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Old 15th March 2011, 10:38   #12
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Default Re: 4x4 Explorers : A Thread on Off road routes and exploration

Quote:
Originally Posted by DKG View Post
Great initiative to document such trails. This is the real reason why I like a 4x4. Thanks, looking forward to learning about the many options around India
Thanks DKG
Quote:
Originally Posted by gsferrari View Post
I guess this means removing my AC condensor from it's current location in front of the radiator and braving the heat from Mumbai to Srinagar...Or removing it in Srinagar.

I understand that thinner air - less efficient radiator heat transfer = overheating but I expected that the lower ambient temperatures would compensate. Also the fact that the engine is running richer due to lower air density would also cool things down inside.

I guess it is a vehicle dependent phenomenon. The innovas running around in Ladakh didn't seem to have any issues.

Yes - bikes are definitely easier to get out of a tight situation. Any breakdowns simply means waiting for an army stallion to come by, load up and get off at the nearest camp. Not that easy with 4 wheels.


TSK - is there a route from Turtok to Kargil? What about Padum to Leh?
Innovas are stock. Moreover, they do not do the routes we are talking about. Crossing a high pass, and running whole day above 5000mts are two different things. So a stock vehicle will not have any issues. But the mod you mentioned, for example AC condensor in front of radiator, can have an issue if it blocks airflow. If it does not, you can go ahead with it.
Speaking of ambient temp, it often goes to 20 degrees in August Sept.
Quote:
Originally Posted by vardhan.harsh View Post
Ya will do that soon. Don't worry. the activity is up on the task list


Yes there is a route from Turtuk to Kargil but a trekking one, mostly. The track is partially motorable till some distance but being so close to the LoC they do not allow it beyond Turtuk. I do not know how far the road goes beyond Turtuk in the direction of Kargil, but people informed me that they were building and currently it's about 20 odd km from Turtuk.

Padum to Leh, as far as i know, the only existing motorable route is via Kargil. Although construction is planned for Padum - Chilling - (Indus , Zanskar confluence) - Nimmu - Leh.

Another route is being planned which will be Darch (Upper lahaul) to Padum, but these routes should take at least another 5-10 years to complete in my opinion. Once done, the army will have an all weather road till Leh from Manali side. Of course it all depends on the Rohtang tunnel too, but as people at SASE have told me, the construction is on for that in full swing. Some colleagues at office are visiting the site this weekend, hopefully will get a first hand account soon too.
Harsh you have summed it up nicely. The end goal is an all weather route from
Darcha via Padum to Leh. However, Darcha-Padum-Chilling-Leh should be done in 2 years. The 5 year time frame is when we include the Rohtang tunnel.
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Old 15th March 2011, 11:04   #13
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Default Re: 4x4 Explorers : A Thread on Off road routes and exploration

Quote:
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Thanks DKG
The end goal is an all weather route from
Darcha via Padum to Leh. However, Darcha-Padum-Chilling-Leh should be done in 2 years. The 5 year time frame is when we include the Rohtang tunnel.
Didn't know that the Darch-Padum-chilling-Leh will be done in 2 years from now! That's fast. That will be one fantastic new route to cover. Wonder if there are any passes on that. Considering the fact that it's going to be an all weather route, shouldn't be.
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Old 15th March 2011, 11:35   #14
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Default Re: 4x4 Explorers : A Thread on Off road routes and exploration

A great thread

very informative & well documented .

Keep up the great work .

love to do this with the "Thar" very soon .


Cheers !
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Old 15th March 2011, 12:07   #15
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Default Re: 4x4 Explorers : A Thread on Off road routes and exploration

Google Earth has stunning mountain views and it really feels like you are there when you go to the street view in Hundar/Diskit etc. Amazing! I'm moving towards Wari La now...the pass that nearly took my life!
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