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Old 28th May 2011, 19:27   #1
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Default Hawk-On-Fours® (H-4®) Roadtrip: Leh(t)'s go to Ladakh & Srinagar with QuickSilver.

The history and nostalgia

The seeds of this trip had been planted over 25 years ago, during my first trips into the Himalayas of Garhwal & Kumaon, and later, Himachal Pradesh. I cannot explain why I have never ventured into J&K beyond Jammu and Vaishno Devi, but the urge to go to Ladakh came after a short trip into Lahaul & Spiti sometime in 1997 IIRC. I needed a 4WD vehicle, but the pressures of life made sure I didn't.

Until about a year and a half ago, when H-4® came home in October 2009.

H-4®was specifically procured for mountain drives to places where sedans do not venture, those roads as exemplified by my avatar pic. Additional inspiration came from dozens of travelogues to Leh & other parts of Ladakh on Team-BHP, that I read through over 2009 and 2010. But 2010 was a year that conspired to keep me away from the mountains. Though we travelled across the country (Hawk-on-fours on a pan-India tour: Delhi-Mumbai-Goa-Manipal-Coorg-Kolkata-Delhi) last summer, the mountains up north and H-4® hardly met each other.

October 2010 was a time for long leaves, and most offices and educational institutions in and around Delhi shut down for about 2 weeks for the Commonwealth Games. We were all set to go to Ladakh. The great flood and cloudburst of Leh had happened some weeks ago, and the roads were kept open from Manali and Srinagar for longer than usual, to keep the supply lines to the region going, and enable rescue and relief work to progress longer before winter set in.

Time for us to take that trip to Ladakh. adc had promised to travel together - he would drive up from Kolkata, and we would proceed to Ladakh together. Unfortunately, fate intervened.

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 30th May 2011 at 13:28.
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Old 29th May 2011, 22:39   #2
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Towards the end of September 2010, we had the misfortune of discovering a serious termite infestation in the house, just a few months after an extensive (and expensive) anti-termite treatment. At the same time, adc called to say that his trip to Ladakh was off - he was snowed under with work. It seemed like the end of the road for my Ladakh plans for 2010.

In the couple of weeks that followed, I must have been one of the very few people in all of Delhi who did not leave town and take a holiday during the CWG break. I didn't want to go watch the Games - I wasn't in the mood. I wanted to go play in the snow. What made matters worse was a chance discovery that adc had borrowed a GPS device from another friend, and left for Ladakh (Self-Drive Expedition Travel-Ladakh and cold desert Changthang in "off-season" Oct 10) at the time we were originally supposed to go. A phone call to him revealed he was already in Manali. I hated myself. I hated those termites. And most of all, I hated adc for not informing me before taking off on a trip that I looked forward to doing together.

After sitting at home through almost 3 weeks while the workmen made a mess and subsequently cleaned it up, we made a couple of weekend trips to Amritsar (Hawk-On-Fours® (H-4®) Roadtrip - Amritsar & Pathankot) and Lucknow (Hawk-On-Fours® (H-4®) Roadtrip - LUCKNOW).

Ladakh was off for 2010.

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 30th May 2011 at 13:29.
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Old 31st May 2011, 10:52   #3
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Default re: Hawk-On-Fours® (H-4®) Roadtrip: Leh(t)'s go to Ladakh & Srinagar with QuickSilver.

The prologue to Ladakh 2011

Re-planning to undertake the trip in 2011 began in the end of 2010 itself. The window with the best opportunity to take a long break from work appeared to be the school summer holidays in May-June. I decided to keep the dates fluid for the time being, and it was good I did.

Soon enough, along came a need to undertake a work-related trip to Thailand. But how does one take off to Thailand in the middle of one's daughter's summer holidays, and leave the family at home? The trip had to be another holiday (10 days across Thailand (2009) - and 8 more days (2011)) - no question about that.

In the meanwhile, discussions were on with a few other BHPians, namely Sutripta, rideon and v&v, for us to travel together. I proposed an early departure and a clockwise circuit of Delhi >> Srinagar >> Leh >> Manali >> Delhi. v&v wanted to drive anticlockwise and leave later, while I wanted to leave by end-May or early-June. Sutripta was all ready to travel in his new Fortuner, but unfortunately his work made him opt out of the trip too. rideon too was having work and leave-related issues at the office, and till yesterday he was not sure if he could go. The good news as of yesterday is that his leave has been sanctioned, and we travel together.

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 31st May 2011 at 11:12.
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Old 31st May 2011, 19:04   #4
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Default re: Hawk-On-Fours® (H-4®) Roadtrip: Leh(t)'s go to Ladakh & Srinagar with QuickSilver.

The preparation

So what does one need to carry on a Ladakh trip? The suggestions and lists are endless. From toolkits to tow ropes to tents, from torches to tyre inflator pumps to traction mats to two spare tyres, the 't' list can fill up a full truck and there still would be big lacunae in the list of everything that one can possibly carry.

While planning for the October 2010 trip, one thing that worried me was the issue of diesel fuel gelling in sub-zero temperatures (What temperature does diesel start gelling up? - Yahoo! Answers) - this was also discussed on various threads here (Common Rail : Why is cold start tougher at higher altitudes) and here. My understanding is that there is no winter-grade diesel for civilian use in Ladakh - kerosene added to diesel acts as an antigel, but is not a nice thing to have inside hi-tech engines (though I believe the armed forces do have winter-grade diesel supplies). So I got myself a supply of this:
Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
...a product called BG 248... Check this out...

Attachment 392536

from BG Company.
AMS or acute mountain sickness has affected us once or twice during our travels to high altitudes. Although not debilitating to the extent of requiring to abort any trip, there are times we've thought having an oxygen cylinder would have eased matters more quickly. Therefore, apart from the usual supply of Diamox and camphor, we carry a 70-litre portable refillable oxygen cylinder with its own built-in regulator.

A friend loaned us a portable enclosure for use as a toilet tent, to carry and test out. Should be useful for the ladies.

I hate tea boiled in milk and laced with a variety of spices and condiments. The same goes for my coffee - it is difficult to find good coffee while travelling, outside of a CCD or Barista. We've always carried an electric kettle as a result, with our own supply of tea and coffee. This time, we dug out an old 5-kg LPG cylinder and stove that was in my stock for many years, but not used recently since the ingress of electricity into what were earlier "remote" places. Should come in handy for boiling water, preparing noodles and heating up packaged foods.

Apart from this, most equipment, tools and supplies I carry in my car are a result of accumulation & experiences over the years. With the understanding that supply of electricity may not be a constant factor while travelling in the Ladakh region, a Belkin car inverter was procured to keep camera and laptop batteries charged - I have faced the issue of no electricity a long time ago, but then we didn't carry around rechargeable devices, and candlelit evenings and nights were to be enjoyed, not detested.

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Old 2nd June 2011, 08:51   #5
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Default re: Hawk-On-Fours® (H-4®) Roadtrip: Leh(t)'s go to Ladakh & Srinagar with QuickSilver.

The car

Scorpio VLXs come equipped with Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), which is a major boon on long and lonely roads. A slight pressure drop on any tyre is notified with beeps and a flashing indicator. I also habitually carry a heavy-duty foot pump that has been doing yeoman service for quite some time (no, I don't trust electric tyre inflators running off a 12V DC socket to do the job under taxing conditions), and of course, a tubeless puncture repair kit. A spade goes too, not something I usually carry.

H-4® has been serviced, and all filters (air, diesel and engine oil) and fluids (engine, brake, clutch, gear, diff) replaced recently. The clutch was getting a little harder to press over the last few thousand km, so an emergency replacement of the pressure plate was done, along with replacing the clutch slave cylinder to a newer design (the old design being a known Achilles' heel for the manufacturing period of my model).

The travellers

The travellers on this trip include my 69-year-old MIL, apart from my wife and 13-year-old daughter. Rideon, his wife and 3-year-old daughter accompany us on his Safari aka QuickSilver.

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 5th June 2011 at 18:14.
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Old 5th June 2011, 18:38   #6
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Default Leg 1: Delhi - Srinagar

955 km in 22 hours (departure 8 PM on 3 June, arrival Nehru Park, Srinagar at 6 PM on 4 June). The first leg of the much-anticipated journey is over and done with, and our first night at Srinagar was spent in a houseboat on the Dal Lake.

Trip report to be written and photos uploaded as and when time and network are available!
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Old 5th June 2011, 19:21   #7
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Default re: Hawk-On-Fours® (H-4®) Roadtrip: Leh(t)'s go to Ladakh & Srinagar with QuickSilver.

Good start!
That was quite a drive from Delhi to Srinagar direct!
Did you use the Dyala Chak-Udhampur route?
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Old 5th June 2011, 19:38   #8
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Wow that seems to be really interesting. 22hrs ride!! I am also planning for ladhak in Aug along with couple of other Bhpians. Your inputs n experience would be really helpful.
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Old 5th June 2011, 20:07   #9
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Default re: Hawk-On-Fours® (H-4®) Roadtrip: Leh(t)'s go to Ladakh & Srinagar with QuickSilver.

Nice Prologue. I hate those termites too. But it gives us a first hand authentic account of 2011. We are all ears. Have a great journey.

You know what, I feel envious.
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Old 5th June 2011, 20:15   #10
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Default re: Hawk-On-Fours® (H-4®) Roadtrip: Leh(t)'s go to Ladakh & Srinagar with QuickSilver.

Were all these posts kept in the `assembly line', to be revealed at one go? I am pretty sure I looked for new posts from you in the last few days, expecting this thread to start, but didn't find any.

Will be following the thread closely.
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Old 5th June 2011, 20:16   #11
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It seems Doctor Sahib, patients are on leave or else how could you manage so many trips. Am envious & glued to this TL...
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Old 5th June 2011, 20:34   #12
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Default re: Hawk-On-Fours® (H-4®) Roadtrip: Leh(t)'s go to Ladakh & Srinagar with QuickSilver.

Hi SS,
And so a journey of ten thousand Km begins with thousand Km step.

Why are you lazing around Srinagar?

Regards
Sutripta
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Old 5th June 2011, 21:00   #13
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Default re: Hawk-On-Fours® (H-4®) Roadtrip: Leh(t)'s go to Ladakh & Srinagar with QuickSilver.

awesome Doc.

as kumar ji asked, did you took samba route? If yes, how is road condition now.

Me too planning this September, but mainly Zanskar, Pangong, Hanle, and Tso kar/Tso moriri
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Old 5th June 2011, 23:36   #14
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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 hvkumar View Post
Good start!
That was quite a drive from Delhi to Srinagar direct!
Did you use the Dyala Chak-Udhampur route?
Thanks, HVK.

Considering that we were at Azadpur only around 9:30 PM, I guess we did good time after that. Also, we were past Pathankot around 5:15 AM (was supposed to meet my friend there at 6:30 AM, but given the time we crossed Pathankot, we decided not to wake him up at the unearthly hour - sorry, Jerry68!), and on the Jammu bypass by 7 AM.

My GPS has packed up and the Satguide software needs to be reloaded on the Asus. I was using Waze, but not too effectively. Rideon has a Mapmyindia dedicated GPS device, but was letting me take the lead in the hills. Without the mapping layout, I was a little confused at times, but I think we did manage to bypass both Jammu and Udhampur via Dyala Chak - we did not enter either city.

Also, coordinating two cars to be together, with a 3-year-old child in one, does slow progress down to an extent, especially since this is rideon's first non-stop 24-hour drive (he did an overnight drive in January 2011 with me to Narkanda (Hawk-0n-Fours® (H-4®) Roadtrip: H-4® & QuickSilver Go Snow-Hunting) to try things out first). My hats off to rideon - he'd been in office the whole day on 3 June, came home, packed, and left Gurgaon at 6:30 PM to join us for the trip. Incidentally, we went to sleep at midnight yesterday!

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.
(2) humongous traffic jam before the Badami Bagh Cantonment area, on entering Srinagar. The Traffic Police are totally ineffective. Took 1 hour to cross 2 km.

There was freak rain with thunder and lightning over Srinagar in the evening, though weather reports predict clear sky for the next two days.

Edit:
@adalvi, laluks: Thank you.
@akp: Yes, it was in the Assembly Line for the last few days.
@gd1418: Patients have patience! Thank you.
@Sutripta: Never been to Srinagar before. And I needed that R&R after a very hectic last few months.
@rkbharat: Road surface overall was not too bad, except in one or two patches. Lot of resurfacing work going on all over J&K.

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 5th June 2011 at 23:46.
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Old 6th June 2011, 08:05   #15
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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 SS-Traveller View Post
My GPS has packed up and the Satguide software needs to be reloaded on the Asus.
Finally after struggling through last night, SatGuide is up and running again!
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