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Old 17th June 2013, 15:19   #91
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Default Re: Leh, Ladakh and Zanskar - The Ultimate Guide

Info from a friend on current traffic restriction in Rohtang :

6 am to 11 am - vehicles are permitted to cross Rohtang Pass from Manali side.

11 am to 1 pm - only cabs are permitted to enter the pass from Manali side.

1 pm - 3 pm - Road is closed for traffic to carry out repair work.

3 pm onwards - Traffic returning to Manali is allowed.
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Old 19th June 2013, 00:21   #92
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Hello All,
Have just got back from a Nasik-Udaipur-Ranthambore-Srinagar-Leh-Keylong-Swarghat-Delhi trip. I will write more in a travalogue but just wanted to update everyone interested in the roads.
Srinagar-Leh road is in excellent condition. After Sonmarg to Drass the road is hard with landslides and some bombing still in progress. Expect delays due to army convoys.
Leh-Manali is not the best. Still plenty of landslides, snowing, river crossing and slush closer to Rohtang pass.
There are an average of 10,000 taxis plying daily from Manali to Rohtang pass- the timings mentioned before are correct but no matter what expect delays. I took 7 hours from Rohtang pass to Manali.
The Manali-Chandigarh road is good for only the last 70 kms. Most of the way is slow (averaging 10-15 km/hr with car traffic in the day and heavy truck traffic in the night). The cement factory at Bilaspur does not help. Roads are quite poor in many sections.
I did the drive in a Wagon-R: Not the smartest decision to do it at this time of the year but I'm back in Delhi without a single problem.

Some points to add:
1. Water is freely available on all roads through the melting glaciers and springs. I carried a 20 liter bottle from Nasik and kept filling it where I could. Saved me literally hundreds of plastic bottles. Plastic is a menace and please try and follow this.
2. Kargil has a well-stocked automobile shop called Frontier Automobiles, opposite the taxi stand. One can stock up on anything here.
3. If one takes the road straight from Kargil, missing the left to Leh, there is a MASS and a Tata Service center called Zoji La Automobiles.
4. The bridge after Sarchu towards Manali is in a bad condition with lots of gaps with the shifting plates. My tire fell into one of the gaps. Luckily the car is light and 2 people could lift a little and I accelerated out.
5. Baralach La was snowed out with landslides. I had to spend a night in the biting cold at Bharatpur. Please take enough warm gear for such incidents.
6. The temperature fell to -2 degrees C at Bharatpur. The next morning 2 diesel Swifts and 1 Mahindra Scorpio did not start for 4 hours. If you're in a similar situation please start the diesel engines at regular intervals through the night. That said a Duster, Innovas, a Qualis had no problem.
7. For bikers, please be aware that the road is slushy and wet and if you're coming from Manali towards Leh and get caught at Baralach La, then there is no choice but to spend the night on the road up to the pass. 2 sets of bikers chose to put their bikes onto a truck and head back to Manali due to stalling, falls and extreme exhaustion.

Finally a big thank you to everyone on this thread who helped with my planning. I am more than happy to respond to any other queries and help where I can.
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Old 19th June 2013, 14:03   #93
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Originally Posted by Carcass View Post
The Manali-Chandigarh road is good for only the last 70 kms. Most of the way is slow (averaging 10-15 km/hr with car traffic in the day and heavy truck traffic in the night). The cement factory at Bilaspur does not help. Roads are quite poor in many sections.
Its better to do this stretch during the day as truck movement is restricted. Due to this truck traffic at night has gone up manifold


Quote:
4. The bridge after Sarchu towards Manali is in a bad condition with lots of gaps with the shifting plates. My tire fell into one of the gaps. Luckily the car is light and 2 people could lift a little and I accelerated out.
This place is called Killing Sarai. Bridge is always in bad shape. So SUVs/MUVs prefer to go through the river instead of taking risk on the bridge.


Quote:
6. The temperature fell to -2 degrees C at Bharatpur. The next morning 2 diesel Swifts and 1 Mahindra Scorpio did not start for 4 hours. If you're in a similar situation please start the diesel engines at regular intervals through the night. That said a Duster, Innovas, a Qualis had no problem.
Using a tarp and warming engine at night ensures good start even with -10 degree C.
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Old 19th June 2013, 19:27   #94
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Just back from Ladakh drive, though could cover only a part excluding, Tso Moriri, Hanle. We were duly returned back from Chushul bridge by Army checkpost inspite of having the necessary permit in hand and had to return back to Pangong Tso for another night stay and thus washing out further plans down South even with 20 ltr jerry cans in stock and in turn later head back home due to shortage of time.

A few points:
1. Car workshops: There is a huge conglomeration of workshops in Kargil where all big and small cars are repaired/serviced is right near the Tourist Reception Center / Dak Bunglow. I got some minor damages to front guard and front bumper fixed there for cheap. These are much better than the ones in Leh. All the Leh workshops are located near airport road but seemed a little wary to do any work unlike Kargil guys. There is a big Nazeer automobiles workshop on the road where many big cars are worked upon including Army's Gypsies, on all sorts of works but seemed pretty costly and not keen to get hands to fixing somethings on impromptu basis.

2. Rangdum Road: The road is a chaos with the most undulations which caused more damage to my Front Guard, Bumper and underbody scraps. The road after Rangdum is much better. Did not cover upto Padam from Darang Durung glacier but returned back. But heard the road is similarly good afterwards.

3. AMS: If you are hitting Panzi La (14k+ ft) directly from Kargil without suitably acclimatizing at Leh or lower areas, make sure you do not stay long at Panzi La, Darang Durung in the icy winds which choke the breathing. Even after acclimatizing at Leh or lower areas, there is no surety of not facing AMS symptoms. Most of us did not face but a few in family did including small kids, but everybody sustained well. The best thing is let your body acclimatize naturally with deep and long breathing. We did have small oxygen canisters but did not use them inspite of the situations. For small kids, like in our case my 1.5 yr son, mouth to mouth is the best solution as a preventive as well as emergency solution without getting frantic and observing their reactions constantly. It is very much possible to take your infants to Ladakh with constant keen watch on their behaviours, tantrums, reactions.

4. Water crossings: Avoid crossing in afternoons as the snow melts and creates deep nallahs. We did manage to cross some deadly ones in later afternoons in Khardung La, Chang La but many were not able to, a motorcycle was just left short of being washed into the valley and was managed out by 4 guys. Also, the crossings had to be done literally from the edge. Judge the depth when in doubt, carry a long bamboo stick to prod the waters and walk across to judge the best depth and way to take. One of our Innova got stuck in wrong side between Tsoltak before Tangste while returning from Pangong Tso due a bad decision. It was towed out with a metal towing rope we had by a Tata Xenon coming from opposite direction. The others behind us including a Force Traveller, Sumo, Scorp etc showed no inclination of helping out although no offense to them. Also, make sure not to let the engine stall in case vehicle is lodged in the water like this. Our Innova did die for a moment but we restarted immediately and kept it alive until towed out.

5. Rohtang La - Kullu road: Avoid in rains as far as possible unless you have Safari or something like it. We did manage to nudge 1-1.5' of slushes with care but also saw a Safari getting stuck unnecessarily due to wrong move. Learnt why the best time to do Ladakh trip is in Aug-Sep-Oct when the road stabilizes. It took us about 5 hours in Rohtang to cross about 7 kms. Road to Manali was extremely bad with the traffic jams for kms right upto the market junction. Use your traffic jumping skills here and zoom ahead if you do not want to keep in line for ages being a prompt traffic follower. Kullu road was bad with landslides and trucks traffic and needs swift overtaking and zooming ahead to not keep tailing the traffic and jams ahead.

6. Taking your Innova for ride in Ladakh: It did extremely well inspite of its huge overhang and low GC in all terrains of Zanskar, Nubra, Chamthang valleys. In fact at Zanskar when we were there, there were only 2 Innovas plying on the road and all were telling "yahaan ke Innova taxiwaale bhi idhar nahi aate jyada rates milne par, aap kyon apni Innova leke aaye yahaan pe, yeh chhoti gaadi hai is jagah ke liye", where all around we could only see Scorps, Sumos, Gypsies and Xylos. Ofcourse there are smaller cars which are local favorites there, 800, Alto, Santro, WagonR etc but which are a different ballgame than driving the bigger cars. In all other places, Innova as a Taxi is common sight. All the damages we got were at the front side due to ripping the respective roads at unrealistic speeds for those terrains. And yes, never ever in mornings did I have to crank the engine more than once anywhere. The temperatures too would not have been too much below 0 this time.

7. Guards and Steps: If you are taking your Innova there, loose your front guard (unless it is monolithic and with big rods) and side footsteps before going there. I donated my 7 yr old Ajanta footsteps to Zanskar valley, just did not have time and patience to go back and pick them, as it is I lost them one after the other due to loosening of nuts at different distances. One must be lying in a dhaba at Rangdum. If somebody gets them, use them well, they are still good

8. Driving experience: After doing these circuits and driving on the edge, there is nothing that can parallel this. This is also true until the roads are made well (which are there in some places) but which in itself a far off dream considering the terrains and the efforts it takes to build and rebuild these roads.

Rest will come up in my travelogue.

Last edited by parsh : 19th June 2013 at 19:30.
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Old 20th June 2013, 13:27   #95
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Thanks for the important updates mate!

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Originally Posted by parsh View Post
... We were duly returned back from Chushul bridge by Army checkpost inspite of having the necessary permit in hand...
What was the reason given by the Army folks for turning you back? Were you in a big convoy?
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Old 20th June 2013, 17:05   #96
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Thanks for the important updates mate!

What was the reason given by the Army folks for turning you back? Were you in a big convoy?
We were a convoy of 2 Innovas. They duly stopped us at the Chushul bridge. They seem to have been alerted after a Thar went through the route. The Army check post called up the captain in charge and reverted back to us in negative. We insisted on speaking with the authority, spoke to the captain and he told us about the sensitivity of the China border thereby disallowing any transit of visitor vehicles that side added with possible wandering towards the China road which is very likely for somebody not knowing the roads that side. Their Commander and office is located at Tangste and we tried to talk to them through all links for ours but to no use. We finally had to abandon the plan and returned back to Spangmik. We were not even allowed to go to the Chushul War Memorial of Shaitan Singh.

BTW, Spangmik seems to be the only good place to stay with lots of huts, camping tent sites, just need to negotiate hard. Lukung is just developing with the accommodations options.
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Old 21st June 2013, 10:44   #97
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Default Re: Leh, Ladakh and Zanskar - The Ultimate Guide

Dear TSK,

this happens to be my first post in TBHP (just got my membership approved). Your T-logs are one of The Best... Specially, this one, it has inspired me plan for a Ladakh road trip...

Lovely photographs and some meticulous well planned logs.

thanks for inspiring mere mortals like me to love the idea of driving and visiting places like Ladakh (which otherwise would not have been possible).

Have rated this T-log as 5 stars, it deserves 10
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Old 21st June 2013, 16:36   #98
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Just thought will add a bit more to the Chushul Bridge passing:

At Chushul, there are 2 roads at the junction of Chushul Police Check Post.

The upper broken tar road goes over the hill right into the Army base, left of which is the Chushul Bridge that takes to Tsaga La and right of which is the Army Gate that takes to Tangste.

The lower rough road, it was recently laid gravel/gitti road when we went there, which directly takes to the Chushul Bridge bypassing the Army camp.

If you have necessary permit in hand and had no issues at the Chushul Police Check Post, Remember to take the lower road directly to the bridge and if no sentries/watch there, you may be able to go through onwards towards Tsaga La route towards Nyoma, Tso Moriri, Hanle and make those circuits.

Last edited by parsh : 21st June 2013 at 16:38.
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Old 21st June 2013, 16:56   #99
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Originally Posted by parsh View Post
Just thought will add a bit more to the Chushul Bridge passing:

At Chushul, there are 2 roads at the junction of Chushul Police Check Post.

The upper broken tar road goes over the hill right into the Army base, left of which is the Chushul Bridge that takes to Tsaga La and right of which is the Army Gate that takes to Tangste.

The lower rough road, it was recently laid gravel/gitti road when we went there, which directly takes to the Chushul Bridge bypassing the Army camp.

If you have necessary permit in hand and had no issues at the Chushul Police Check Post, Remember to take the lower road directly to the bridge and if no sentries/watch there, you may be able to go through onwards towards Tsaga La route towards Nyoma, Tso Moriri, Hanle and make those circuits.
Actually, if you do not go towards the police check post, and keep right along the hill, you will cross a small crest, and come to an army check post. From there the road takes you to kakasang la and then only Mahe. At this check post they stop you, but since you are going "away from china" they seldom stop you!

Here is the map
http://maps.cloudmade.com/?lat=33.58...1&opened_tab=0

Last edited by tsk1979 : 21st June 2013 at 17:04.
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Old 21st June 2013, 17:09   #100
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Actually, if you do not go towards the police check post, and keep right along the hill, you will cross a small crest, and come to an army check post. From there the road takes you to kakasang la and then only Mahe. At this check post they stop you, but since you are going "away from china" they seldom stop you!

Here is the map
http://maps.cloudmade.com/?lat=33.58...1&opened_tab=0
Yes, it takes through Kakasang La to Mahe. But that would be more difficult route for a non 4X4 as we had the understanding and so all were telling. Thus, we had only choice to take the Tsaga La route over the bridge.
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Old 21st June 2013, 17:09   #101
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Originally Posted by tsk1979 View Post
Actually, if you do not go towards the police check post, and keep right along the hill, you will cross a small crest, and come to an army check post. From there the road takes you to kakasang la and then only Mahe. At this check post they stop you, but since you are going "away from china" they seldom stop you!
Hi Tanveer, thanks for the tip. Have a doubt though. Is the kakasang la doable in a sedan or hatch? I rememeber reading in your T-Log that the road was in real bad shape and with lots of boulders. There are only 2 UVs in our convoy (Duster and Sumo Grand).
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Old 21st June 2013, 17:32   #102
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Yes, it takes through Kakasang La to Mahe. But that would be more difficult route for a non 4X4 as we had the understanding and so all were telling. Thus, we had only choice to take the Tsaga La route over the bridge.
Quote:
Originally Posted by narsi_6989 View Post
Hi Tanveer, thanks for the tip. Have a doubt though. Is the kakasang la doable in a sedan or hatch? I rememeber reading in your T-Log that the road was in real bad shape and with lots of boulders. There are only 2 UVs in our convoy (Duster and Sumo Grand).
On October 2012 this road was under construction at a war footing. Due to road construction activity, we had to take very difficult offroad tracks. But it should be done by now. That said, till Mirpal Tso you can manage in a sedan with very careful driving.

Since road construction was on full swing, its a good chance that road would be good this year.
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Old 21st June 2013, 18:55   #103
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Dear TSK, I have been following your thread since day 1. It is by far the best thread on Team-BHP I have read. I have been too caught up with work so writing all this now.

I have decided few months back to visit Ladhak this year and your thread has helped me in shaping my plan. I have a few doubts about the whole trip and would appreciate your and all other experienced travelers' inputs regarding the same.

My dates: will start in the last week of july.
Total Number of days (entire journey) : Maximum 20 days (stretchable by 1 or 2 days).
My car: Mahindra XUV 5OO FWD
My companions: My wife (who hates road journey), 1 friend & 2 cousins (Couple).
My tentative route plan:

Day 1: Nagpur- Jhansi [608 kms]: (stay overnight at cousin's place).

Day 2: Jhansi - Delhi [438 kms]: en route I am planning to visit Taj Mahal (if thats possible).

Day 3: Stay in Delhi with relatives

Day 4: Delhi - Amritsar [454 kms]: (visit Wagah border at 3PM & Golden Temple mid night). Need inputs regarding accommodation & food.

Day 5: Amritsar - Jammu (wife will fly till Jammu) - Pahalgam [487 kms]: (almost whole day driving). Need inputs regarding accommodation & food.

Day 6: Pahalgam - Srinagar [95 kms]: (Need inputs on places to see in Pahalgam & Srinagar). Need inputs regarding accommodation & food.

Day 7: Stay at Srinagar & visit Gulmarg.

Day 8: Srinagar - Drass [143 kms] or Kargil [+60 kms] : Need suggestions on whether to stay overnight at Drass or at Kargil? Need inputs regarding accommodation & food.

Day 9: Drass or Kargil - Leh [215 kms] : Need inputs regarding accommodation & food.

Day 10: Leh: Visit Pangong lake and all other recommended attractions at Leh.

Day 11: Leh - Sarchu [251 kms] or Manali [+223 kms] : Need suggestions on whether to stay overnight at Sarchu or reach Manali? Need inputs regarding accommodation & food.

Day 12: Stay at Manali, visit Rohtang Pass.

Day 13: Manali - McLeodganj [238 kms] : Need inputs if its feasible to visit McLeodganj for just 1 night. I can skip this. Need inputs regarding accommodation & food.

Day 14: McLeodganj or Manali - Chandigarh [247 kms] : Stay over night at cousin's place.

Day 15: Chandigarh - Gwalior [578 kms] : Stay overnight at uncle's place.

Day 16: Gwalior - Nagpur [712 kms] : Trip ends.



I request all travel gurus who have done this route before to guide me in finalizing my trip.
Few important questions:
1. Is this doable during the dates I have mentioned above (as I have heard a lot of land slides happen this time of the year)?
2. Will I face any problem in my 2WD XUV 5OO?
3. Do I need to carry emergency Oxygen tank in my car?
4. Do I need to carry extra stepny (spare tyre)?
5. Do I need to carry a Jerry can for extra diesel (full tank range of XUV 5OO is 800kms on normal roads).
6. Is it safe to keep luggage during the whole trip on a normal carrier or should I go in for the Box type roof carrier?
7. Will my Vodafone mobile work everywhere or do I need to carry another service provider like BSNL or Reliance?

Thanks
Shantanu Sharma
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Old 21st June 2013, 22:44   #104
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Originally Posted by tsk1979 View Post
Actually, if you do not go towards the police check post, and keep right along the hill, you will cross a small crest, and come to an army check post. From there the road takes you to kakasang la and then only Mahe. At this check post they stop you, but since you are going "away from china" they seldom stop you!
Yes this is the away from China road and Army Check Post makes one go through this route either to Mahe or Tangste as we were asked to do and which we did not.

The road that goes to Army check post is the same tar road besides the Chushul police check post. When we were driven back from Army check post, we returned back by climbing over the hillock and back near the police check post into the Chushul village.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tsk1979 View Post
On October 2012 this road was under construction at a war footing. Due to road construction activity, we had to take very difficult offroad tracks. But it should be done by now. That said, till Mirpal Tso you can manage in a sedan with very careful driving.

Since road construction was on full swing, its a good chance that road would be good this year.
I really hope the road is complete if someone has to do this circuit through the Kakasang La route. We were not assured even with talks with various people and hence had to decide against going on that route as Army told us to, they did tell us it is rough. We definitely need to ascertain for sure what is the status of this route, maybe somebody having done it recently can update upon it. I know for sure the Thar before us went over the bridge and not through the Army Check Post.
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Old 22nd June 2013, 11:33   #105
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Just taking liberty to address some aspects as per my recent experience.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shantanu1970 View Post
My dates: will start in the last week of july.
Mostly Rohtang is unstable at present mainly due to landslides, slush, road works and which may be stable by the time, I am not sure.

Quote:
My car: Mahindra XUV 5OO FWD
My companions: My wife (who hates road journey), 1 friend & 2 cousins (Couple).
A very good car for the terrain. Have faith in it and just get everything checked before embarking on journey. With the occupants, 5, you should check their comfort in the back seat. You will need 3rd row folded completely for the luggage and necessary utility items, whatsoever.

Quote:
Day 7: Stay at Srinagar & visit Gulmarg.
If Gulmarg is just to enjoy the green mountain beauty without snow now you are good to go. But for snow you will be direly disappointed. So is the case for Sonamarg.

Quote:
Day 8: Srinagar - Drass [143 kms] or Kargil [+60 kms] : Need suggestions on whether to stay overnight at Drass or at Kargil? Need inputs regarding accommodation & food.
Make it to Kargil. There is a an year old TRC (Tourist Reception Center) which you can get easily for acco and which is a fab place to stay and eat. Otherwise, lots of guest houses around in market as per liking.

Quote:
Day 9: Drass or Kargil - Leh [215 kms] : Need inputs regarding accommodation & food.
Leh is full of acco options even without having any reservations at hand. Just need to do some hunting. Carry the Hotels list from Leh official site http://leh.nic.in/. Check out acco in Tukcha (Upper) Road. That is walkable distance from Leh main market and drive down as well. The best of the guest houses we found was Glacier View, their number is in the hotel list.

Quote:
Day 10: Leh: Visit Pangong lake and all other recommended attractions at Leh.
Are you sure you going to be able to do all this in 1 day? Pangong Tso is worth staying over night. Even then it will eat up the whole day for a to-fro day tour. Not to forget the Chang La nallahs become deadly in the afternoon, but this is not to frighten you, with care and proper route planning you can take them on if required as we did. If you return back the same day it will be pretty late when you hit Chang La ghat and so the nallahs situation worsens due to melting ice. Best would be reach Pangong Tso (about 5 hrs from Leh) by 12-1 PM. Chill out for the night. Start back next early morning with morning glimpses of Pangong Tso.

Quote:
Day 11: Leh - Sarchu [251 kms] or Manali [+223 kms] : Need suggestions on whether to stay overnight at Sarchu or reach Manali? Need inputs regarding accommodation & food.
Sarchu is at higher altitude. It is recommended to stay at Jispa or Keylong. Better try make to Keylong. If you hit Jispa late, there are few options (about 3 hotels only) and acco depends upon tourist flood that time. We were fortunate to get acco at Mountaineering Instt Guest House at Jispa at about 9:15 PM in night with a late start from Leh, it is right on road as you enter Jispa.

Quote:
Day 12: Stay at Manali, visit Rohtang Pass.
Frankly I was disappointed with Rohtang Pass, it is dirtied beyond consideration compared to my rendezvous with it back in May 2004. You may have a passing stop at it while on way down, but thats my view.

Manali too has become too crowded and the traffic is the worst which can take ages to cross Manali. Better places to stay would be down to Kullu with lots of decent guest houses right on the outskirts on the highway only.

Quote:
Few important questions:
1. Is this doable during the dates I have mentioned above (as I have heard a lot of land slides happen this time of the year)?
2. Will I face any problem in my 2WD XUV 5OO?
3. Do I need to carry emergency Oxygen tank in my car?
4. Do I need to carry extra stepny (spare tyre)?
5. Do I need to carry a Jerry can for extra diesel (full tank range of XUV 5OO is 800kms on normal roads).
6. Is it safe to keep luggage during the whole trip on a normal carrier or should I go in for the Box type roof carrier?
7. Will my Vodafone mobile work everywhere or do I need to carry another service provider like BSNL or Reliance?
1. Should be very easily possible. My only worry is Rohtang slush.

2. As said have faith in it. It is very good car for the terrain however, do not rely on its highly quoted GC, you will still need to be careful in various terrains. I did not find a single one in Zanskar but other places, it was very much there.

3. Not at all necessary. Make your body acclimatize with deep and long breathing, even when any symptoms are observed, it is very easy to overcome without getting frantic/panicky.

4. Tell you what, I ran the whole circuit with a defunct stephany on just 4 tyres and with care all is fine till date.

5. First, forget the normal road FE here with the 2/3 rd gear riding most of the way, at best consider average 10kpl to be on safe side. But No, you will not need the Jerry Can. Unless you are doing the whole Tso Moriri circuit alongwith Pangong Tso.

6. As said earlier, fold up your 3rd row seats, that is good enough space for all luggage etc. Our Innova's boot was good enough with 3rd row in place for the entire trip except the 3rd row used to get logged with other useful items including a Jerry can later on.

7. Only Leh will give Vodafone connectivity that too in liaison with Aircel. Postpaid BSNL is the only thing that connects most of the way which we had with us.
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