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Old 30th June 2011, 13:52   #181
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Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
As of 8th June 2011, the road through Lamayuru is still closed, and traffic is diverted above the town along a narrow road.
Oh! even after 7 months - must be big road widening work going on.
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Old 30th June 2011, 15:15   #182
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ADC,

Wonderful photographs of the festival. It all looks like a picture setting for me. Great photos and really thank you for your patience and time and posting this on this great forum. Good to see such hospitality from the locals and feels great. Thank you once again.
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Old 30th June 2011, 15:23   #183
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Sir, you have done a journey which would be the dream for many of us around here.

Atleast for me right now it is a dream to go there. Hope I will be able to realize this dream soon.

Amazing determination shown by your son, wife and you on this trip. Kudos to all of you!!!
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Old 30th June 2011, 15:41   #184
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Amazing travelogue ADC, I had not checked on it for couple of weeks and was missing all the fun . This is first time I have seen any pics of Fukche/Koyoul. Hats off again to you and your family on this brave expedition sharing it with us in such details.

Also its very nice to see you cover so much about your personal interactions with the locals and army. Trip of a lifetime.
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Old 30th June 2011, 15:59   #185
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Originally Posted by Indian Ranger View Post
Good to see such hospitality from the locals and feels great.
Absolutely - simple people, simple minds and great openness and hospitality all through this travel from the home stay at Hanle to Koyoul to here in Dah and that guide in Chandrataal and also one Kashmiri gateman of Sonmarg - will be detailing that in the next post..

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Originally Posted by naman07 View Post
Atleast for me right now it is a dream to go there. Hope I will be able to realize this dream soon.
You will surely, any travel is good travel - as long as we escape the daily grind.


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Originally Posted by supertinu View Post
Also its very nice to see you cover so much about your personal interactions with the locals and army. Trip of a lifetime.
Trip of a lifetime it is, and a travel without local interaction takes half the experience away.


And thanks much to all of you, the trip log hasn't finished. As said the experience at Zoji la and an epilogue coming up in one big final post. Shortly and today itself...
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Old 1st July 2011, 09:36   #186
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Kargil to Sonmarg to Panthankot to Delhi to back home in Kolkata.

We had at Kargil that there had been quite a snowfall a few days before and that Zojila has been closed for the last 3 days, though today, the day we are leaving Kargil, the Zoji la pass is finally being reopened again.


Day is bright and sunny and soon we reach Drass and brief stop at Kargil War Memorial.
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At Drass we learn that all some vehicles are coming down and so the pass though open, and traffic from this side would be allowed in around 3-4 hours or so. That few hours goes to long hours and finally at 4 pm, with all the traffic of 407 buses and taxis we are allowed to leave Drass. But then from the Sonmarg side also vehicles are still being released, some alleged here that the administration took money to release the trucks as that side also huge backlog was there as the passes were closed


It was only after a 6-hour wait at Drass, as evening came all buses, taxis, and us we were allowed to leave from this side
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and we get caught up in the jam.
Self-Drive Expedition Travel-Ladakh and cold desert Changthang in "off-season" Oct 10-img_7855.jpg

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Was following the line, though the taxis carrying local people jumped lines and was whizzing by. After a hour or slow progress, a Scorpio taxi coming from the Sonmarg side take the trouble of stopping and asking me to jump the line, must have seen the number plates, saying huge backlog is there as otherwise we will get stuck for the night.


Anyway that decision of jumping the lines and overtaking the trucks was too late. A huge convoy of trucks decides they are not going to go further and that exacerbates the whole situation - everyone is stuck.


And then the ordeal starts
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at 9 pm around 1st day/night
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at 11 pm
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at around 4 am
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Early morning on 2nd day
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And all the local passengers started the 4-hour trek to Sonmarg, only drivers and their helpers were there now with us. People were worried about weather dumping snow and the consequences of it. There were no authorities around.

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at around 1 am around 2nd day/night
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Safari VTT idling for 2 days and nights as we were stuck in it at Zojila top. The front truck is already busted, the other one at the opposite just got busted with axle problems half hr ago, and the truck that is turning will soon get stuck as it could not complete the turning in one go.
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And finally free at last.
Self-Drive Expedition Travel-Ladakh and cold desert Changthang in "off-season" Oct 10-img_7903.jpg


A few drive situations were scary on the ice:

1. The rear tyre goes does on the side but there is no smooth edge to go back on to the road. The front wheels are on the road but the rear is down by the edge and gets dragged as it cannot get up the steep edge of the road with the ice surrounding it. So, it is like this the safari is going perpendicular to the road. This goes on for some seconds which seemed minutes before the suddenly it climbed up and traction got.


2. Second day was Safari was standing on ice packed downward slope and even with handbrake on, it was slipping slowly towards the edge of the road. Put some footmats underneath the tyres.


3. A backup drive at 2 am around. I get down and tell trucker that I am coming through now and not to let pass anyone now. But as I start going another 407 bus has already overtaken the trucker and is now coming down and the Safari is also coming down. The 407 brakes but that does not have the enough traction, and the Safari does a back up drive in the dark with wheels spinnign to glory but still it got up the incline again.. Only the torque and somehow traction it got saved from a collision.



And among over 2 nights spent over at Zoji la top at 13k feet, I do take some memories too:

1. A sardarji driver with whom I chatted, he said of driving experiences in far distant north east, the roads and the lands.


2. How another driver who breaks the axle, all these trucks are way overloaded too, and cooly closes all of truck window and goes to sleep. These long distance truckers everywhere have great patience, they take situations as they come without a flutter.


3. Seeing how they understood whether diesel in tank is freezing or not - they just keep a bottle of diesel outside hanging - if it starts to freeze, they start up engines again.

4. Another truck driver, with all the overload of contruction iron bars, cannot get up a u-turn incline, drops the material there and then itself and continues forward.

4. Cigarettes finished, soon I shared bidis with some bus and truck drivers and then again in the 2 nights when no one has any smoke stock, a Kashmiri person, call me aside and give me a cigarette! It was precious stuf then - the only thing that could keep your nerves cool and you a fleeting sense of warm outside!

5. As the winter season was coming up, all the labourers from Ladakh were on their way out. It was troubling to see how they were stuck also with no food or warm clothes - though by next day they finally took the trek to Sonmarg rather than wait here hungry and be freezed.

6. And lastly, the most touching moment, we reach down to Sonmarg, all hungry, sleep-deprived and tired that we are - the Kashmiri at the Sonmarg check post gate brings up bread and 2 cups of hot tea at 5:30 am for us to have, after hearing that we were there on Zojila for 2 days and nights.


We do carry a gas stove in long journeys along with very basic food of rice and dal in case we get stuck somewhere - here it was decided that we would stretch the basic biscuits, snacks and fruits that we had for the first 2 days and then start cooking on the 3rd only, so as to stretch our supplies. We really thought we would be there for another 2 days or so -- there were no authorities around and clearing, shouting and effort were by the drivers by themselves


This video posted earlier, goes in over here - the Zojila hours spent.

Description: It was around -3 like outside but the cold was big due to winds. The first part taken at 11 pm of the 1st night, wife dozing and child is sleeping, heater running, engine rumbling, myself mumbling, the next part is at 3 am of the same night - in 4 hours we have advanced 1 km, child is up and having buiscuits and playing games on the mobile, the next part shows the day 2 morning as overcast clouds passengers, all local, starting the 4/5-hour walk to Sonmarg - people were really worried about any sudden snowfall, everyone would have been burried - only the drivers and essential helpers were there left with us and the last part shows when we finally were free somewhat and trucks still going up. There were no authorities anywhere and this whole jam was manmade. The jam finally ended on the 3rd day evening.






Reached Sonmarg early morning on day 3, 2 days were gone on Zoji la. Sleep, sleep and sleep all through the day. Evening time go around a bit, and soon see all the local taxis leaving. We had this idea of going through beautiful Kashmir to Srinagar after spending the night with rest in Songmar.


However, 2010 was troubled times for Kashmir valley and soon therew are some taxis coming up with broken windows from Srinagar side plus another curfew in the day time tomorrow. Hurriedly everyone leaves Sonmarg, all the taxis - we also leave Sonmarg for a night journey beyond Srinagar. What we planned as slow relaxed drive across Kashmir valley and 1 day stay in Dal Lake, ended up driving in the night through all the Valley, past an absolutely dead silent curfewed Srinagar city.


But in that dead of the night, a missed a turning on the main highway, and headed straight into the city of Anantnag, a very troubled spot in 2010. Soon was stopped by police and military and they on seeing us lost, escorted us back to reconnect back to the highway some 3 km adrift.

Jawahar tunnel as usual was a mess but that gave me time to sleep inside as we progressed intermittently.


Early mornign a stop and tea and breakfast at the hills before Jammu and soon even after speaking with SS-traveller's friend, we lost way and dont how after bypassing Jammu, instead of connecting to the highway we went through a desolate yet very beautiful state highway that goes through dams that proctected by military. Was stopped at the checkpost and was given the correct direction and we connected again to the Srinagar-Delhi highway at Lakhenpur.
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Entered Punjab and it was noon around we reached Pathankot, when we decided we had enough of long hours of driving from Sonmarg, - had a rest in highway hotel - just slept and with a plan to go out in the night for a drive to Delhi. But too tired I was, slept through the night to leave in the morning.


And the whole journey of Pathankot to Delhi via all the towns and cities of Punjab is like one huge drive all through in city conditions. Huge traffic and a big tiring journey, but not before being adrift and when it seemed to empty to be a highway, asked, the local said this road goes to Pakistan, you have to take the Gurdaspur-Hoshiarpur road. Promptly a u-turn, no more travel and we have to go to home now!


Also got pulled by Punjab Police about taking a left turn, which I thought was allowed. But must have been very lucky, they let me go hearing that I was just new to these parts and going off to Kolkata. The momentarily siezed DL was returned and was just allowed to go, was mentally prepared to pay the fine - was stunned for somtime but definitely moved out fast before they changed their minds!


Urban More plains!

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Reached Delhi/Noida at night and a full day's rest and a very good dining at a restuarant by us and two of my cousin brothers. After a month, we were having good food, we gorged on the food - and for me to top it up with the taste of single malt - it does also feel good to be back to city life.


A late evening start from Delhi for an overnight drive to Calcutta, and we reach in around 22 hours.


Nothing significant, other than a stop sleep-rest at a petrol pump, a great chat with a small dhaba owner about the eastern parts of UP, a getting into a mela that was happening bang on the highway in the middle of night. Police themselves have cordoned up and blocked the highway - did not know that one can do that for such an important national highway. Huge lines of trucks were there and all were told that till 4 am this thing will continue.

But then saw a meaty Ford Endeavour turning and going through the opposite side and followed it as knew this was only thing that can lead me through the mela. Though not an UP SUV, it had the VIPest of the numbers one can get -> "1", yes thats it.

It went right through the mela and its people, with the police allowing it and we closely following it to look as if we are in a convoy. Done that we saved at least 6-7 hours of time, otherwise another night sleeping in Safari - now here in UP.

And then Kolkata reached safely on Oct 31, 2010, exactly after a month, 7 days of over of the planned days
Self-Drive Expedition Travel-Ladakh and cold desert Changthang in "off-season" Oct 10-img_7957.jpg


So here thus ends a travel, a travel that had so many surprises, so many expeiriences. A mutual fund was sold, son missed school, wife got holidays merged, and I gave up work for the lasat 1 month - but it was worth every day we spent on this travel. This trip has been priceless.

Last edited by adc : 1st July 2011 at 09:59.
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Old 1st July 2011, 09:49   #187
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amazing, can not believe that it has come to an end. that overnight stay at Zozilla needs some guts and planning.

I am eagerly waiting for your next adventure
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Old 1st July 2011, 10:14   #188
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Fantastic travelogue, adc. Enjoyed each and every photograph and sentence of it.
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Old 1st July 2011, 10:20   #189
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Epilogue


This travel is also the 3rd year ownership celebration travel - Safari Dicor LX 2.2 VTT-TMT 3-year Grand Ownership Travelogue. A great touring vehicle bought under 8 L, from the first batch itself when the 2.2 came out, it had over the years defied forum ideas of Safari 2.2 VTT and has shown for a touring vehicle the decision that we took was vindicated all throughout our journeys.


And in that I am very pleased of - could give Safari VTT-TMT its due of Ladakh, a vehicle that has taught and told us that let not a 2wd be the reason that we should not travel far and away. It has taken us to the remotest of lands all over India and it has brought us back, each and every time back to home safely - from this non-stop idling at Zojila for 48 hours to taking us again up the road as we lay in a ditch in our Arunachal trip, to going towards Gurudongmar to interior Danetwada and Orissa tribal lands without missing a beat. This travel is dedicated to the Safari VTT-TMT all the way.



The reasons to own a Safari is out there in the wilderness - you just gotta drive and travel
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And VTT-TMT will remain a part of our family - it is not going to get sold ever!
Self-Drive Expedition Travel-Ladakh and cold desert Changthang in "off-season" Oct 10-img_1932e.jpg







So what was next and what will be next.



What was next: Two major travels were done.


A travel like this leaves one emaciated and famished, the next months were spent on work and work as I recouped the lost work and expenses - till the end of Dec, Christmas holiday time, when some good friends gathered with us for a journey. And in mind I had the right place, a place where no tourists have gone in 2 years, a land and forest beautiful, where the river sand is golden and exotic bracket fungi grows in the wild water streams but the land is also disturbed - these are "liberated" areas. Even forest officials dont go or stay in the night in the FRHs. We stayed there overnight in a old dilapidated FRH but very colonial and stately and with last tourists here 2 years back - they dont even take any charge for the days stayes as there's no register or as people dont come here!


But the main reason was to go and see wild buffaloes/von bhaisa, the State Animal of Chhattisgarh and also the forests of Udanti-Sitanadi. There are only pure-bred 7 left in Chhattisgarh and in the age of endangered tigers, they are neglected!


Quote:
There is much more to India’s wildlife than the widely-talked-about flagship species like the tiger, the rhino or the elephant. While conservation efforts dedicated to these flagships trickles down benefits to other species that share their habitat, certain species require more than just these indirect interventions for survival.

The wild buffalo (Bubalus bubalis arnee) population of Central India is one such example whose local existence is gravely threatened. Once found in abundance across northeast India extending to northern and central India, the species now has its last bastions in some pockets in northeast India and Chhattisgarh state.
Wild buffalo in Udanti Wildlife Sanctuary, Chhattisgarh
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Momentarily lost at a Chhattisgarh jungle at night
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Old charm stately Forest bungalow - disturbed lands these are and were the only travellers for quite some time.
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But these no-tourist lands bring out things incomparable - golden river sands and exotic bracket fungi
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But as everywhere, friendly and smiling among all the adversities.
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And then this travel in mid February 2011, a journey to another absoulutely unknonw yet great forest of North Bihar, the Valmiki Tiger Reserve in Indo-Nepal border. contrary to popular belief an overnight journey was done all across Jharkhand and Bihar and I can vouch that it now as safe as any other highway with good night bus and truck traffic.


Fantastic experiences again, a Rs 2/- ticket [!!] Indian ralway metre-gauge railyway ride to one end of the forest to the border of Nepal, going into Nepal by walk after crossing a river, and then a 10 km trek through the core of the forest [very few forests allow that nowadays], stopping dead on the forest tracks on hearing tiger calls to going into most interior forest tracks and almost getting stuck.

Valmiki Tiger Reserve and National Park, West Champaran, North Bihar
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Tiger and cub calls and we are frozen in the tracks - an experience exhilarating in itself
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And a core forest trek - very few forests allow that
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A journey well done
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And while going to interior forest and while returning back it was this where went in momentarily. Son wanted to see how the rear tyre moves in a 2wd vehicle and was very securely held, and again asked when we get a 4wd.






And what's next: As son grows up, we will be starting trekking - a thing that I have missed all through the last decade of due to regimented work and later on trying to stabilize work done independently.


At least 1-2 high-altitude trek will be there in a year and a drive journeys will be somewhat limited. All these driving, I am confident of doing even at 60 but now almost close to 40 years of age, high altitude trekking is something that we have another 7-8 years maximum of capablity before the knees and the body start to give way.


And to start that we have one wonderful warmup trek coming up - a travel to Valley of Flowers in August - not a drive but train/trek journey with a big group of 14 of my good friends. We all are eagerly looking forward to it.


Safari VTT journeys though less will be taken as and when possible, there are much to see till - drives to the land of headhunters, to the land of Blue Mountains, to a drive along imaginary longitudes, or a drive to a deep depth in the heart of India.

Some of the travel would may require tough lonely 4wd drives but as said these driving can be done even 10-15 years from now - surely will have 4wd by that age and do wish to take up extreme 4wd journeys later on! - so trekking would take preference now.


Plan to do some Bullet rides also later on, a few rides done before done were never penned as writing and imaging was nowhere near me and thus those memories remain just in the mind. A lesson from this is - Though it is quite an effort to do more keyboard fingering after a whole day spent in work - always write down a travel, even it be in your personal notebook or diary - you can go back to those in days when work or adverse situation burdens you for some fleeting relaxation. It does feel good again to read once in a while of the travels done as memories start to fade.




But very importantly Would busy myself in travel project and ideas long nurtured in mind: Now and also before, as and when I get time, do read quite a few of travels all over the internet. And the diversity and fantastic travel done by citizen travellers still beats any glossed up travel magazines adjective filled write up.


Amateur travel is done and expenses ignored just by that love for travel and I have always wondered what if more recognition or even some money, though may be just token amount to start with, goes back to the travellers as it is shared and written out - may be through a magazine published just solely by travellers like all of us or may be something like writing up on the interent. But these are just ideas now, a few of my close friends are helping me out, but its a huge challenge and then nothing may come out of it - however would nevertheless try this as also other ideas over the next immediate months without the fear/stigma of failure.



Also with Safari EMIs gone, could afford to take up photography now, though just a hobby. A late starter, the camera mode for the first time came out from auto JPEG and so much still to learn from photography to photoshop, and Ladakh was good place to start with. Images will come out good whatever be the mode! So too some hobbies long wished for - like learning how to ride a horse to shooting a gun!



Hope all these would now keep me quite active/busy, actually these should have been done when at least I was like 10-15 years younger but then if able to do even now half the treks/drives planned, it would keep ourselves busy for all the other years to senior citizen age and beyond!!



Of course what if all that is said is just vapour? Nothing comes out of it? Thats also a real possiblity, many a factors are there along with health, work, cost - only time will tell how much it happens.



So just a few of my rambling thoughts before I sign out from here. I will be keeping updated as much as possible the Safari VTT ownerhsip thread in the Long-term ownership sub forum.



Anyway, a sincere thanks to all those who have followed the travelogue and will read in the future. The appreciation and the feedback has always been overwhelming. Wishing you all best of travel in any and all the trips - as any travel is good travel!

Last edited by adc : 1st July 2011 at 10:30.
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Old 1st July 2011, 10:42   #190
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Default Re: Self-Drive Expedition Travel-Ladakh and cold desert Changthang in "off-season" Oc

Quote:
Originally Posted by rkbharat View Post
I am eagerly waiting for your next adventure
If I am correct, you are going to Zanskar? Will be on the look out for that travel, as planning Zanskar sometime in late Sept/October. Of course, that Kyun Tso attempt how it goes - that's adventure coming up!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by J.Ravi View Post
Fantastic travelogue, adc. Enjoyed each and every photograph and sentence of it.
Thanks again. A great travel experience it was!

Last edited by adc : 1st July 2011 at 11:02.
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Old 1st July 2011, 12:53   #191
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Originally Posted by adc View Post
If I am correct, you are going to Zanskar? Will be on the look out for that travel, as planning Zanskar sometime in late Sept/October. Of course, that Kyun Tso attempt how it goes - that's adventure coming up!!
Yes Zhanskar in September is confirmed, trying to cover Znagla, Kharsha, and places around and go as deep as possible towards Phutkal, I heard progress on Padum-Dracha road is going in full swing
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Old 1st July 2011, 13:20   #192
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Default Re: Self-Drive Expedition Travel-Ladakh and cold desert Changthang in "off-season" Oc

Superb trip log Adc. Thanks for sharing this one. The tires slipping on the edge at Zozila must surely have been hairy and scary. Its amazing to see that what you achieve with a 2wd leaves many 4wd owners who just keep and own shiny vehicles gasping and hesitate to take foot off the road, while you squeeze your Safari for every penny worth.
Also kudos to the resilience of you family and more so your wife who supports you through all these wonderful family expeditions. Im sure Adc Jr. will grow up to be a fine young explorer in his own right.
Until we meet again soon.
Cheers,
Jay

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Old 1st July 2011, 17:58   #193
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Default Re: Self-Drive Expedition Travel-Ladakh and cold desert Changthang in "off-season" Oc

Thanks for sharing this wonderful travel story with fellow BHPins. You have an amazing travelers sprit and it gets reflected in your pictures and writing. Wish I had a fraction of the same.

I have seen Zojila throwing many challenges to people and ofcourse remain in news for wrong reasons for many years. Being a native I have heard horror stories and people have lost loved ones.

I am not at all disputing your decision of “staying put” and coming out in 2 days. This probably was the right thing to do given the circumstances. Sir, your are among the most traveled person on the form and have the experience of traveling in extreme circumstances and hence this decision of staying back but not all have that grit of steel. Zojila melts people.

As an experienced traveler, what would you recommend to fellow forum members if stuck in similar situation?
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Old 2nd July 2011, 09:42   #194
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Default Re: Self-Drive Expedition Travel-Ladakh and cold desert Changthang in "off-season" Oc

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Originally Posted by rkbharat View Post
go as deep as possible towards Phutkal, I heard progress on Padum-Dracha road is going in full swing
"Deep" is the word in Zanskar if you have to go and see Phuktal. People say once you look at that monastery hanging over at a cliff at those heights, all others "monastery pictures" just fade in comparison. Do try to travel till Phuktal, even if you dont go till Zangla due to day constraint. And Zanskar will also be less "wild" once the Padum-Darcha opens, though it would be a boon to all those remote villages of Zanksar.



Quote:
Originally Posted by jaysmokesleaves View Post
Also kudos to the resilience of you family and more so your wife who supports you through all these wonderful family expeditions. Im sure Adc Jr. will grow up to be a fine young explorer in his own right. Until we meet again soon.
Cheers,
Jay
Everyone during a travel, whether friends or family members, must enjoy each and every day of a trip to have that fulfilling experience, so that you just concentrate on the sights and sounds. Decisions are made fast and not prolonged - one does become weary if talk of why to and wont go, why we came here, could have gone there and like predominate a travel.

Of course, definitely in that I am let say blessed! Wife and son both look forward to any and all travel and each and every step is there with me. So also with some of my close friends and their families with whom we have travelled in some of the journeys.

The Safari was bought for that only, just so that we can travel all 3 together as with a child now our Bullet journeys were done with for the moment. Once son goes to college and is independent, have promised wife a Bullet ride across Ladakh.




Quote:
Originally Posted by sanjaykaul View Post
As an experienced traveler, what would you recommend to fellow forum members if stuck in similar situation?
I dont know if any rule can be established like that. Each and every people are different and they will react as such differently.

But here there was no question of leaving the Safari even if we were covered with snow as that would only given us shelter like a solid tent. We had our warm clothes in the Safari, we had the diesel even if had finished the whole tank, we had another 3-4 days of food, and the car would still be running and we had the heater.

Of course as you say when things go adverse, the best would be to just slow things down and think and decision comes up soon, whether it be stuck at Zoji la or at mud tracks in forests.

Anyway I am no authority - things are taken as come and decisions are made there and then.


But again, definitely you would also travel and good luck to your future journeys!

Last edited by adc : 2nd July 2011 at 10:04.
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Old 3rd July 2011, 18:39   #195
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Default Re: Self-Drive Expedition Travel-Ladakh and cold desert Changthang in "off-season" Oc

Bewitched and mesmerized , sad to see the travelogue come to an end. We were eagerly awaiting each installment !!!.

One of the best I have come across anywhere .
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