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Old 23rd June 2011, 13:07   #46
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Default Re: Leg 1: Delhi - Srinagar

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All my bags are packed I'm ready to go
I'm standin' here outside my door
I hate to call you up to say goodbye
But the evenin' is here' it'd be night soon
The motor's runnin', the family's all in
Already I'm so excited I could die...

(with apologies to John Denver)
Thus began a journey that I had waited years for... A journey more satisfying than any I have ever undertaken.
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Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
955 km in 22 hours (departure 8 PM on 3 June, arrival Nehru Park, Srinagar at 6 PM on 4 June).
This journey has been described by many, and those who look forward to travelling the same road know all the landmarks, the diversions and points to avoid. My travelogue will focus on the road, with a repetition of the advice I have muttered to myself while at the wheel, the little words of caution and wisdom that are a one's support during long and tiring stints behind the wheel.

These night halts for tea are not my usual habit - I normally carry a flask of hot water, with coffee powder in it, to keep me alert. Rideon is now used to the punishing pace of 12-22-hour stints at the wheel, but that night he was not so confident.
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Met this gentleman and his children and dog in the early morning; from Indore, they apparently drive every year to Ladakh. The Scorpio sounded like it was protesting about this particular journey, but the gentleman perhaps thought his dog had a bad throat!
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Sweeping roads take us to Jammu and onwards. We were looking forward to a short stop at Pathankot, but having crossed P'kot rather too early, decided to push on.
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The juggernaut rolls on. We move a little faster
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Breakfast stop before Nandini tunnel. The paneer pakodas are superb, though the public toilet (the white structure on the right corner with a water tank above it) is locked. Public conveniences need some overnight rest too, I suppose.
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Old 23rd June 2011, 21:54   #47
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Default Jammu to Qazigund

Heading into the mountains gives me such a feeling of elation. The air is fresher, and the streams along the way are a sight for sore eyes. The greenery is greener and the narrow road has a widescreen vista of valleys, terraces and even more mountains displayed alongside. Stop anywhere, take my eyes off the road, and I am all refreshed in 2 minutes.
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One of the more picturesque fuel stops
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Having never travelled into the Kashmir Valley, all of us looked forward to the experience. Stooping to buy fruits on the way, a break for tea & soft drinks, and of course, letting the herds of sheep & goats pass by, were par for the course.
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With 94 km more to Srinagar, our moods were upbeat.
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The Jawahar tunnel is off-limits for photography, but the experience of entering that black hole and not coming out for 3 km is quite unique. Most tunnels have artificial lighting inside, this one didn't - power outage?

The first view of Kashmir Valley, and take a few steps further to see the last view!
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So here's the customary view... from Rideon's camera, this one.
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Why did someone name this the Titanic viewpoint? The ship sank this deep?
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And then, to sour up the pleasant mood from Titanic viewpoint, along came the Qazigund toll which we discussed earlier...
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Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
The two worst experiences of the leg of the trip were
(1) queuing up at the Kashmir entry point 70 km before Srinagar to pay Rs.70 each as toll tax. Park the car, go to the single window, jostle with 20 other smelly commercial vehicle drivers to pay the money, then wait to collect the receipt. Wholly mismanaged.
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Old 23rd June 2011, 22:35   #48
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Default Qazigund to Srinagar

The rest of the run to Srinagar was smooth, through moderate traffic on flat land, and we were on the fringes of the city within 1.5 hours.
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Our first view of Dal Lake and its houseboats and shikaras, after battling through intolerably undisciplined traffic while entering Srinagar.

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That night, we stayed on a houseboat as per a previous booking, after parking our cars at the Nehru Park parking. The parking itself is an experience, with cars double- and triple-parked, and a fee of Rs.100 per car per day. In case one wants to take out the car during that period and come back to park, an additional fee of Rs.20 would be levied. After a lot of pleading and cajoling, we managed to find slots to park both SUVs in such a manner as not to obstruct anyone else, and did not have to leave the keys to the cars behind. Too many things were left behind in both cars, that we did not want to leave at the mercy of the parking attendant overnight.
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Old 24th June 2011, 00:10   #49
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Default The houseboats of Srinagar

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Houseboats were introduced accidentally to Kashmir: members of the Indian Civil Service serving in the plains who vacationed in Kashmir were not permitted to build permanent homes because of the then Maharaja's suspicion of a British presence in Srinagar. They thus chose to live in houseboats. The first such, named Victory, was designed by Mr MT Kenhard in 1888. There are now about five hundred on the Lake.
From Srinagar - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Our houseboat, the Royal Star Deluxe, was located at the other end of the lake from Nehru Park, a good 10-minute shikara ride.
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Given the unstable rocking that a shikara suffers from when getting on/off it, the ladies were none too happy about the ride, but Rideon still seemed full of energy after 36+hours without sleep, all raring to capture every moment in his camera!
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However, the interiors of the houseboat were richly impressive, and the bedrooms utterly comfortable after our not having slept the previous night.
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This geotagged photo taken the next morning from the deck of our houseboat actually shows it to be on land as per Google maps!
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Old 24th June 2011, 16:05   #50
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Default Srinagar

Wake up in the morning and...
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Originally Posted by DKG View Post
...you realise this is a very interesting and novel way to live. I liked the laziness about the whole experience. Life slows down and everything is at paddle pace !
So what could one do, lazing around on the deck of a houseboat on the Dal Lake, early in the morning? Bird watch, of course!

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Old 24th June 2011, 18:00   #51
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Default re: Hawk-On-Fours® (H-4®) Roadtrip: Leh(t)'s go to Ladakh & Srinagar with QuickSilver.

Nice on SS. Can't wait to see further updates
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Old 24th June 2011, 22:19   #52
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Default re: Hawk-On-Fours® (H-4®) Roadtrip: Leh(t)'s go to Ladakh & Srinagar with QuickSilver.

We almost could have met up in Srinagar ! Didn't know you were in Srinagar on the 4th !!

Looking forward to more pictures and tales

Someday you should take the family to Pahalgam/Chandanwari/Aru, you will fall in love with that place

What bird is that? with the yellow beak?
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Old 24th June 2011, 22:34   #53
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Default re: Hawk-On-Fours® (H-4®) Roadtrip: Leh(t)'s go to Ladakh & Srinagar with QuickSilver.

It is a different Dal Lake that one observes when living on it, as opposed to viewing pretty pictures of paper or screen. The picturesque facade hides a number of problems, the biggest of which is pollution and overuse of the lake with scant concern for maintenance and the future. Weeds choke the waterways, most of the houseboats discharge their effluents and nightsoil directly into the water, and when the wind is not blowing, a putrid smell wafts up from the lake.
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Cleaning efforts are too little, perhaps too late, but on paper a lot of activism does seem to be going on to make things better.
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Promises, promises, and a lot more promises visible everywhere - but locals say the situation gets a little worse every year.
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Only the very brave or very foolhardy can do this in Dal lake...
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Life goes on however, and so does commerce. Flower-laden shikaras visit the houseboats early in the morning,
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gemstone sellers also drop in, and so do those selling saffron and shilajit.
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If you forget to carry your camera or run out of batteries, he's there too...
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Naah, we're not too happy on a houseboat. The owner collects his money,
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and we are on our way back to a brick-and-concrete hotel with a proper parking lot in front where we can access our cars at will.
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Last edited by SS-Traveller : 24th June 2011 at 22:51. Reason: Reposting photos - server timed out.
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Old 24th June 2011, 22:59   #54
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Default re: Hawk-On-Fours® (H-4®) Roadtrip: Leh(t)'s go to Ladakh & Srinagar with QuickSilver.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DKG View Post
We almost could have met up in Srinagar ! Didn't know you were in Srinagar on the 4th !!
Thought so, looking at your beautiful travelogue.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DKG View Post
Someday you should take the family to Pahalgam/Chandanwari/Aru...
A trip exclusively dedicated to Pahalgam, Gulmarg, Chandanwari, Baramulla, etc. has been kept reserved for the near future, preferably in September or so, a couple of years down the line. We wanted to get a feel of the Valley this time without venturing out too far - the fear factor continues to be rather high. On 6th June, when we were there, a policeman was reportedly shot by extremists at Lal Chowk. The heightened security as a result did make us worry to an extent, though a local dentist friend, who had accompanied us to Lal Chowk some 2 hours afterwards, helped to allay a large part of that worry.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DKG View Post
What bird is that? with the yellow beak?
Beautiful, aren't they? I'm afraid I have no idea what they are, but I hope some avid birder among T-BHPians will help to identify them all (apart from the sparrow and the crow of course! )
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Old 25th June 2011, 00:05   #55
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Default re: Hawk-On-Fours® (H-4®) Roadtrip: Leh(t)'s go to Ladakh & Srinagar with QuickSilver.

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Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
we dug out an old 5-kg LPG cylinder and stove that was in my stock for many years,

Apart from this, most equipment, tools and supplies I carry in my car are a result of accumulation & experiences over the years.
Saw your Scorpio in a few pics having a squatted stance, was wondering what happened to it. Now I know.

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Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
Sutripta was all ready to travel in his new Fortuner, but unfortunately his work made him opt out of the trip too.
Oh Dada got a Fortuner, didn't know.

Superb travelogue. Rated 5 stars!

Spike

PS- Tried calling you during this period, will give you a call sometime soon.
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Old 25th June 2011, 14:00   #56
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Default Srinagar

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Originally Posted by SPIKE ARRESTOR View Post
Saw your Scorpio in a few pics having a squatted stance, was wondering what happened to it. Now I know.
Superb travelogue. Rated 5 stars!
Thanks for the rating Spike!

Ya right! In the denser atmosphere at lower elevations the vehicle appeared to be squatting, things became all right once we reached regions with lower barometric pressure!
=========================================

To continue:

We moved to the Nehru Hotel, with plenty of car parking space in front, and a good view of the Lake from the windows. A tad expensive considering the amenities, fittings and fixtures were a little shoddy and poorly maintained, and the place gave off an air of gradual decay. The location and parking facility did it for us, and in any case there were not too many other options at that price because of the considerable tourist traffic in Srinagar.
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A group of non-vegetarian foodies in Srinagar will invariably gravitate towards local cuisine. Some recommendations we received and tried out were:

Lhasa Restaurant: A small setup located in a lane off the main Boulevard Road. Makes excellent thukpa and noodles, as well as good north Indian dishes. Nothing exceptional about it. Accepts credit cards. Average cost per person: Rs.200.
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Hat Trick: not far from the Tourist Reception Centre.
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A lunch of excellent mutton rista and chicken kanti with rice and daal to go, convinced us about the place.
Quote:
A Kashmiri delicacy, the rista is a spicy stew perfect with steamed rice or breads. An inseparable part of Kashmiri cuisine, here pounded boneless mutton is spiked with spices, made into balls and then cooked in a gravy of meat stock and spices.
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Quote:
kanti - deep roasted chicken barbeque
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Sultan Bakery: We had a taste of Kashmiri baqerkhanis here, and Rideon appears totally convinced!!!
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Quote:
Kashmiri Baqerkhani has a special place in Kashmiri cuisine. It is a thinner variety similar to a round naan in appearance, but crisp and layered, and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Traditionally Sufi (bakers) lighted their Tandoor ovens before morning prayers to have the product available by morning. Bakarkhani dough of white flour and [mayda (that works similar to yeast)] is kneaded well and stretched thin by hand over the entire span of wooden board. Then after spreading ghee over it, flour is strewn on and it is folded and the process repeated several times. After sizeable numbers of such small dough are ready, they are made into round bread on the board and sesame (til) seeds are spread on it. The round bread are then put inside the tandoor. During the process of baking, egg may be sprinkled, that turns it red. The Kashmiri Baqerkhani is typically consumed hot during breakfast.
These are called fish bread, though it's the shape and not the contents that dictate the name. A hard and dry bread, not much to my liking.
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The Jehlum (sic) View Park is a quiet little corner is the bustling city, and we were told the restaurant serves good local fare, but we finally did not get the opportunity to try it.
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Our little visit to Srinagar was topped off with a trip to Chashme Shahi, and further explorations were cut short due to thunderstorms on both the evenings we were there.
Hawk-On-Fours® (H-4®) Roadtrip:  Leh(t)'s go to Ladakh & Srinagar with QuickSilver.-nehru-16.jpg

Hawk-On-Fours® (H-4®) Roadtrip:  Leh(t)'s go to Ladakh & Srinagar with QuickSilver.-nehru-17.jpg

The next morning, we would leave for Kargil.

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 25th June 2011 at 14:15.
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Old 25th June 2011, 16:18   #57
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Default Re: Hawk-On-Fours® (H-4®) Roadtrip: Leh(t)'s go to Ladakh & Srinagar with QuickSilve

Verry naish. Your posts bring back many pleasant memories of those roads.

Pray carry on.

You're awakening the wanderlust again!
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Old 25th June 2011, 18:59   #58
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Default Re: Hawk-On-Fours® (H-4®) Roadtrip: Leh(t)'s go to Ladakh & Srinagar with QuickSilve

What are those 2 green cans in your dicky?
You went via Jammu - did you take the bypass? How good or bad was the traffic approaching Jammu?
Nehru's Hotel looks good - how much did they charge for a room? Is it close to JKTDC's Hotel Heemal on the banks of the Dal Lake?
The Nehru car parking stand is the one opposite TRC? This is the problem with houseboats, parking can be an issue. I have stayed in housebats on Jhelum River, near the Zero Bridge, not as picturesque as Dal Lake but very clean and hardly a 5-minute walk from car parking on the side roads of Srinagar.
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Old 25th June 2011, 22:41   #59
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Default Re: Hawk-On-Fours® (H-4®) Roadtrip: Leh(t)'s go to Ladakh & Srinagar with QuickSilve

Quote:
Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
What are those 2 green cans in your dicky?
Cans for diesel. We ultimately carried 8 of them, with @ 4 litres in each. Slight seepage from the caps was a problem initially, till we used thick plastic sheets between the caps. We carried diesel for the Srinagar-Leh run too, and did not need a fill at Kargil.

Here's rideon trying out the filled cans at Srinagar for size! The petrol pump location was geotagged...
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
You went via Jammu - did you take the bypass? How good or bad was the traffic approaching Jammu?
Yes, the bypass it was. Light traffic so early in the morning - around 7 am we were across Jammu anyway.
Quote:
Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
Nehru's Hotel looks good - how much did they charge for a room? Is it close to JKTDC's Hotel Heemal on the banks of the Dal Lake?
It's @2km further towards the Mughal Gardens from Hotel Heemal. Tariffs are 2000INR (rack rates).
Quote:
Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
The Nehru car parking stand is the one opposite TRC?
It was just behind the Nehru Hotel.

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 25th June 2011 at 22:44.
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Old 25th June 2011, 22:59   #60
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Default June 7: Srinagar to Kargil

This is a screenshot of the GPS trail we created on that day. The blue dot marks Zoji La.
Hawk-On-Fours® (H-4®) Roadtrip:  Leh(t)'s go to Ladakh & Srinagar with QuickSilver.-srinagar-kargil.jpg

We have diligently tried to record the road conditions during the whole drive, and shall put up the road pictures (as well as pics of the starkly beautiful surroundings, which of course our cameras do absolutely no justice to, after all the high-quality photos from Ladakh that you would have seen elsewhere on this forum).

With over 3100 photos to go through, my laptop wants a break tonight!

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 25th June 2011 at 23:01.
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