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Old 18th August 2011, 00:08   #16
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Default Re: Ladakh & Zanskar: The road(s) less travelled

A request to the administrators! Could you please edit my post http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...ml#post2471355 (Ladakh & Zanskar: The road(s) less travelled).

I was not aware that the time limit of editing posts had been changed sometime back. And i was able to edit the post partially, resulting in a bad formatting. If you could remove the log bit and just keep the quotes, that would be just fantastic. Thanks in advance.
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Old 18th August 2011, 12:33   #17
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Default Re: Ladakh & Zanskar: The road(s) less travelled

A great account of things to come, Harsh. glued to this thread now. Subscribed and all set for the next chapters.
Lovely pics as always, and so is the narration. Bring it on!
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Old 18th August 2011, 15:01   #18
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Default Re: Ladakh & Zanskar: The road(s) less travelled

Though I started reading this thread with a pinch of salt (you started your trip on the day my beastie got stolen), I must say I was waiting for the thread to start. Great pics (as usual) and narration mate. Looking forward to explore Zanskar through your eyes.

From the pic, the Bhaga river seems pretty swollen, or am I imagining things? And just the thought of enjoying Il Forno's pizza and a cuppa at Johnson's cafe is too tempting to get rid of easily.
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Old 18th August 2011, 15:17   #19
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Default Re: Ladakh & Zanskar: The road(s) less travelled

Harsh and Aarti ,would like to congratulate both of u to have undertaken this trip and having shared your earlier trip with us all.I am sure that with your input(both now and earlier) lot of prospective travelers like us would be inspired to undertake this trip.Your TL with its lucid narrative coupled with some fantastic pictures makes for an interesting reading .Looking forward to reading this one too.
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Old 18th August 2011, 16:24   #20
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Default Re: Day 1: Delhi - Manali (580 kms, 12 hrs)

Quote:
Originally Posted by vardhan.harsh View Post

The next course of action was to check in to “our” hotel, the Johnson’s Lodge at Manali.
Johnson is possibly one of the best hotels in Manali. We too stayed during our last year trip to Leh. It has one of finest continental restaurants and the rooms are very spacious and nice with bay windows providing nice view of the gardens.

I Hope the clouds didn't play spoilsport in your drive till Rohtang. This stretch is really beautiful with many water falls and greenery all around. I posted them as part of pictorial on Ladakh in this thread.

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...de-ladakh.html (Fauji's Drivologues : Magical Mountainscapes - A Pictorial ode to Ladakh!)

Waiting to read your experience of the Manali - Leh drive and pictures.
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Old 18th August 2011, 20:55   #21
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Default Day 2 (10th July): Manali - Jam - Rohtang - Jispa (140 kms, 14 hrs)

Day 2 (10th July): Manali - Jam - Rohtang - Jispa (140 kms, 14 hrs)

The day began on a wrong note altogether - no water in our room’s bathroom. And mind you the room was not cheap at 2500 bucks. I have my doubts if we’ll stay there again. Aarti, who has been in love with that hotel for many years now, of course disagrees. Anyway, after running about and finally managing somehow, we left for Rohtang at 4:30 am. Satisfied that despite the water fiasco we did not get too late, we began the familiar climb to Rohtang. Much to our surprise, our permit was duly checked at Kothi by a policeman, who was wide awake even at that early hour. We reached Marhi by 6 am, and the road till there was excellent. However, that was the end of our good luck for the day.


Ladakh & Zanskar: The road(s) less travelled-dsc_0010.jpg
That's Sachin's Scorpio which we first saw much before Marhi

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Rohtang's climb was very pleasant untill all hell broke loose.

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This fall just before Marhi has its own charm

As we looked above us from Marhi, we saw a line of vehicles standing still. At first glance they seemed to be stone pillars at the edge of the road, but on getting a closer look, our hearts sank. They indeed were vehicles, and not stones. Half an hour after Marhi, we hit the mother of all jams. It was only 6:30 in the morning, how could the jam already be so long, we wondered. That is when it struck us - these vehicles had been stuck since last night, or maybe even before that.


Ladakh & Zanskar: The road(s) less travelled-dsc_0023.jpg
Thankfully, there were a few clouds that day

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And that's the long queue.

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A view of Marhi from above.

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Paragliding and all other touristy activities continue uninterrupted.

I got out and walked a bit further, and then came back to tell Aarti that it was going to be a long day, with an initial estimate of 6 hours. In the next 8 hours, we moved about 4 kms. In between the intermittent crawling, we chatted with the trucks walas around us, napped and ate chips, cursing Rohtang all the while. An interesting conversation also happened with a fellow T-Bhpian, Sachin (airwolf9211) who was also stuck in the jam in his Scorpio. He told me about his escapades in the interiors of Changthang and driving on roads that we crave to explore one day. Some people are just lucky to have their work lead them to places like these.

7 hours later, we finally reached the spot which was the root cause of the massive jam. The slush at Rani Nallah and before it was the worst we’d ever seen, and no car crossing the ugliest 100 m stretch was able to make it in one go. A dozer was stationed nearby, which was helping, rather towing out all the vehicles from the slush. It was literally pushing the trucks out of the slush when they eventually got stuck after a futile momentum run. The poor taxis, however, were the worst hit. There was hardly any traction and pushing an Innova with a dozer would not have been the best of ideas.


Ladakh & Zanskar: The road(s) less travelled-dsc_0049.jpg
A closer look at the ugly slush. Ugggh!

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Doing a miserable stretch by gaining momentum. One vehicle at a time.

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The most ugly stretch lies ahead.

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It was hot as hell, and look how much clothing these guys were made to put on.

It was a royal mess, and although tired, we did not get frustrated and overall took the jam pretty well. Our destination for the day was Sarchu, but it soon dawned on us that there was no way we were going to make it there, lest we did some part of the drive post-sunset. This, however, was not an option as we wanted to take in the highway as much as we could in daylight. We re-evaluated our plan, and decided to stay the night at Jispa. The plan was to reach Leh in 3 days from Manali and somethings would have to go off our itinerary in order to make up for the lost 8 hours. Well, that’s the Manali-Leh highway for you, even the best laid plans have to be changed at the last moment. And I guess that’s the beauty of it all.

We somehow made it to the top by 2:30 pm, after having crossed the final slushy stretch in one go, all thanks to the 4L mode that Safari offers. What was surprising though was that even with a 205 mm GC, some stones did hit the underbelly of our car. After a quick stop at the pass to check for leakages beneath the vehicle, we proceeded towards Jispa. Rohtang’s descent was much better than its ascent. The road was not good, and was ridden with potholes, but at least it was not slushy.


Ladakh & Zanskar: The road(s) less travelled-dsc_0057.jpg
This is still the worst stretch, it's difficult to shoot when the stretches are that bad.

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Finally R-top.

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The view towards Spiti.

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Koksar lies up ahead.

A fabulous lunch of meat curry and rice happened at Koksar, the lovely, windy village after Gramphoo, known to be the coldest place in Lahaul. Thereafter, the road was like a runway, and even the fifth gear saw light of day! A few kilometers after Koksar, just before Sissu, we saw the mouth of the Rohtang tunnel on the other side of the Chandra river, the sight of which, after the 8 hour ordeal we’d been through earlier in the day, was very pleasing. Aarti promised God that she would distribute sweets and also come to Manali the very day the tunnel opens. For the first time, I agreed that Rohtang was not worth all that pain. After ogling at the tunnel for a bit, we went on.


Ladakh & Zanskar: The road(s) less travelled-dsc_0065.jpg
The Chandra river after Koksar.

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Our saviour, the other side of the Rohtang tunnel

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A closer look of the tunnel

After a quick refuelling stop at Tandi, we moved on towards Keylong. We tried to log on to the net and also call a few people to update them about our freedom from the horrible jam, but the network was patchy, and we couldn’t. We finally reached Jispa around 6:30 pm, and headed straight for the Padma Lodge, where we’d stayed way back in 2008 when it was still under construction.


Ladakh & Zanskar: The road(s) less travelled-dsc_0067.jpg
Gyanphang peak, above Gondla village - little snow left.

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The biker in this shot added to the charm according to me.

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Chandra spreads wide after Sissu, at least for a while.

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A quaint village on the other side of Chandra. No roads, but still there's prosperity.

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The road runs almost level with the river after Gondla, just before Tandi

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The confluence of Chandra and Bhaga rivers, to make the mighty Chenab.

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Another prosperous village post Koksar in the valley on the other bank of the river.

After checking in, we went down till the river, and were totally floored by its beauty. The way the beautiful Bhaga spreads out at Jispa is stunning. The icing on the cake was the early moonrise, which captured the attention of our cameras for quite sometime.

The Padma Lodge is a lovely place with nice and clean rooms, and a charming dining room on the first floor. And guess what, it does serve a holy drink made of malt and hops for those who are interested ;-). The Lodge has two buildings, and both are almost equally priced. We got to know later that Rahul Gandhi had done the Manali - Leh highway last year, and stayed at the same lodge.


Ladakh & Zanskar: The road(s) less travelled-dsc_0076.jpg
Moon-rise was spectacular.

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The peaks beyond Darcha as seen from Jispa.

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This poor cow was tied up like a dog by its owner

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We went for a walk till the river, it was nice.

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Dying rays of the sun at Jispa

Although pretty tired, I could not bear the sight of Kiyang all muddy after Rohtang, and mustered some strength to clean it. Post my hard work, the shiny and clean Kiyang was all the reward I needed. We then had dinner, and hit the sack, listening to Bhaga’s pleasant roar.

Last edited by vardhan.harsh : 18th August 2011 at 21:17. Reason: Remove objectionable references.
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Old 18th August 2011, 21:43   #22
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Default Re: Ladakh & Zanskar: The road(s) less travelled

It is surprising that this is always the place the vehicles get stuck on the way to Rohtang resulting in jam. Since Rohtang and Manali are the prime tourist destinations in HP, why can't the authorities do something like having a stonger embankment or concrete road etc. We were also stuck here for one and half hours last year.
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Old 18th August 2011, 21:57   #23
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Default Re: Ladakh & Zanskar: The road(s) less travelled

Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
Bring it on, Harsh! Given your penchant for finding new roads and daring to travel off the beaten track, this t'logue is expected to be as (if not more) interesting as the previous Ladakh log. And I do need to sincerely thank you for the GPS tracks and details from your previous trip, which we have used to great advantage during our own trip (Hawk-On-Fours® (H-4®) Roadtrip: Leh(t)'s go to Ladakh & Srinagar with QuickSilver.) in June.

Edit: Could you please speed up the process of writing this? Like Sudev, my laptop's F5 button is also wearing out.

Edit 2: I like how your thread title and my avatar pic title match!
You are most welcome Shom. I'm glad the log was of help to you. And I did not write the threat title after seeing your avatar pic, honestly. It was pure coincidence and a good one at that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Swanand Inamdar View Post
A great account of things to come, Harsh. glued to this thread now. Subscribed and all set for the next chapters.
Lovely pics as always, and so is the narration. Bring it on!
Thanks Swanand. I hope not to disappoint.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lordofgondor View Post
Though I started reading this thread with a pinch of salt (you started your trip on the day my beastie got stolen), I must say I was waiting for the thread to start. Great pics (as usual) and narration mate. Looking forward to explore Zanskar through your eyes.

From the pic, the Bhaga river seems pretty swollen, or am I imagining things? And just the thought of enjoying Il Forno's pizza and a cuppa at Johnson's cafe is too tempting to get rid of easily.
I am so sorry to hear of your loss of your beastie. I really do feel bad about that. I hope the insurance covered for most of it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ramanjit View Post
Harsh and Aarti ,would like to congratulate both of u to have undertaken this trip and having shared your earlier trip with us all.I am sure that with your input(both now and earlier) lot of prospective travelers like us would be inspired to undertake this trip.Your TL with its lucid narrative coupled with some fantastic pictures makes for an interesting reading .Looking forward to reading this one too.
Thank you Ramanjit. Again will try not to disappoint, and by the way, the writing is all Aarti's. I'm just the typist here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fauji View Post
Johnson is possibly one of the best hotels in Manali. We too stayed during our last year trip to Leh. It has one of finest continental restaurants and the rooms are very spacious and nice with bay windows providing nice view of the gardens.

I Hope the clouds didn't play spoilsport in your drive till Rohtang. This stretch is really beautiful with many water falls and greenery all around. I posted them as part of pictorial on Ladakh in this thread.

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...de-ladakh.html (Fauji's Drivologues : Magical Mountainscapes - A Pictorial ode to Ladakh!)

Waiting to read your experience of the Manali - Leh drive and pictures.
Johnson's lodge does have nice interiors, although it's a tad expensive. Particularly since there's hardly a few from the hotel. I was too disgusted with the lack of water in our bathroom this time around. It made life pretty inconvenient. I would rather not go into the details, if you know what i mean.

It is surprising that this is always the place the vehicles get stuck on the way to Rohtang resulting in jam. Since Rohtang and Manali are the prime tourist destinations in HP, why can't the authorities do something like having a stonger embankment or concrete road etc. We were also stuck here for one and half hours last year.[/quote]
Rohtang has been a pain in, you know where, for a long time now. It's about time the tunnel was made. We are so looking forward to it.
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Old 18th August 2011, 22:11   #24
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Default Re: Ladakh & Zanskar: The road(s) less travelled

Quote:
Originally Posted by vardhan.harsh View Post
...I did not write the threat title after seeing your avatar pic, honestly. It was pure coincidence and a good one at that.
Threat? You mean thread, don't you? It certainly was a good coincidence in many ways than one (and we must both thank Robert Frost for that) - including the fact that we discovered ourselves as neighbours almost a stone's throw away, but unaware of it all the while!

Oh, and I must admire your energy and effort in cleaning your car every time! I am supremely lazy about it, and just the one time I cleaned my car throughout the whole Ladakh trip was at Hunder. On most trips, my car only gets its windscreens and lights cleaned - but that is done religiously, even half a dozen times in a 24-hour driving cycle.

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 18th August 2011 at 22:16.
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Old 19th August 2011, 00:46   #25
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Default Re: Ladakh & Zanskar: The road(s) less travelled

Oh man, another epic log in the making! I was wondering when you would return, it had already been long since your kutch TL.

Eagerly awaiting further updates.

Rated 5*
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Old 19th August 2011, 03:43   #26
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Thumbs up Re: Day 2 (10th July): Manali - Jam - Rohtang - Jispa (140 kms, 14 hrs)

Bring it on!! Rated 5 stars

Quote:
The road from Ropar till Kiratpur was also a pleasant surprise with the construction finally over and all flyovers complete.
The road is an absolute delight now. Infact the new road starts from Kurali till Nangal Dam if you don't go up towards Bilaspur.

Quote:
A dozer was stationed nearby, which was helping, rather towing out all the vehicles from the slush. It was literally pushing the trucks out of the slush when they eventually got stuck after a futile momentum run. The poor taxis, however, were the worst hit. There was hardly any traction and pushing an Innova with a dozer would not have been the best of ideas.
Reminds me of the incident I witnessed last year at Baralachla. You also posted the video in your last year's travelogue.


Quote:
The Padma Lodge is a lovely place with nice and clean rooms, and a charming dining room on the first floor.

Last edited by A M : 19th August 2011 at 03:49.
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Old 19th August 2011, 08:45   #27
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Default Re: Day 2 (10th July): Manali - Jam - Rohtang - Jispa (140 kms, 14 hrs)

Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
Oh, and I must admire your energy and effort in cleaning your car every time! I am supremely lazy about it, and just the one time I cleaned my car throughout the whole Ladakh trip was at Hunder. On most trips, my car only gets its windscreens and lights cleaned - but that is done religiously, even half a dozen times in a 24-hour driving cycle.
Ha ha. Dont judge me as a energetic man as yet. This was the ONLY time i washed it myself during the whole trip. The slush level was on the higher side this time, and really even after cleaning the day before, the next day's end was a bleak site. So i gave up.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dry Ice View Post
Oh man, another epic log in the making! I was wondering when you would return, it had already been long since your kutch TL.

Eagerly awaiting further updates.

Rated 5*
Thanks buddy. One can take only as many leaves in a year.
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Old 19th August 2011, 12:51   #28
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Default Re: Ladakh & Zanskar: The road(s) less travelled

Awesome Harsh. I do not have any words to share my joy. Photos are ultimate.
The distance along with time is a timely tip.
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Old 19th August 2011, 12:53   #29
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Default Day 3 (11th July): Jispa - Darcha - Detour - Darcha - Part 1

Day 3 had to have an early start. We’d lost 8 hours the previous day, and were determined to make up on the lost time. Jispa looked ethereal in the early morning light, and we had to steel our hearts to leave it in a hurry. We wanted to reach Sarchu for an early lunch, and planned to camp that night either at Debring or at Tso Kar.


Ladakh & Zanskar: The road(s) less travelled-dsc_0105.jpg
A clean hotel room at Padma Lodge, Jispa

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Early morning at Jispa

As we crossed Darcha, we came to the cut which marks the beginning of the Darcha-Padum trek route. We stopped and mulled over our obvious curiosity to check out till where the road was complete. We’d anticipated this, and knew that if we took this detour, all our plans would again go awry. But as we all know, curiosity killed the cat, and in this case the cat was our plan. So we took the turn and rolled on.

A few kilometers after the cut, we came upon the beautiful twin villages of Chikka and Rarig. Moving further, we came to a tiny hamlet with a couple houses by the name of Palmao, which was also a makeshift BRO camp where construction related work was on in full progress. A few meters ahead, an old lady, a young girl and a little girl waved to us for a lift. As we drove along with them towards the end of the road, they told us that they live in Kargiak, a village across the Shingo La. From Zanskar Sumdo, which marks the end of road for now, it would take them another 3 - 4 days to reach their village. They had come to Manali for some work, and were now going back. We asked them why they had not taken the Kargil - Leh - Manali route, because although longer, it is much more convenient as there is a road all along the route, and the trek from Kargyak to Padum would not be very difficult, being a relatively flat walk. But the old lady said that that makes the trip very expensive, and they prefer to trek and save that money. What we consider a ‘difficult’ trek is taken head on by these brave locals without even a tent! Respect!


Ladakh & Zanskar: The road(s) less travelled-dsc_0110.jpg
A Google earth snap-shot in a North-South alignment depicting the topography of the region.

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The road is metalled almost untill the twin villages of Chikka and Rarig, 6 kms away from the highway

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A clean Kiyang above the twin villages

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The dusty road meanders next to the Barai Nallah

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The valley at Palmao, where construction activities were at full swing

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The valley beyond Palmao is uninhabited

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It pretty much resembles the Gramphoo-Batal stretch, does it not?

Ladakh & Zanskar: The road(s) less travelled-dsc_0128.jpg
The brave Charlie's Angels, ready for the rough 3-day trek ahead.

Zanskar Sumdo is about 20 kms from the Manali-Leh highway and takes about an hour. The literal end of the road was marked by a bridge over the Barai Nallah. The Nallah had accompanied us throughout, and drains itself into the Bhaga at Darcha. This bridge was only for people on foot, and was not meant for vehicles. However, on the other side of the river, we saw that a couple of switchbacks had been blasted, where a dozer and a blasting machine were parked. We wondered how those crossed the river, and then saw tyre marks on the bank of the river at a place where the embankment was not high. We then realized why no one was working on the road now - the only way for machines and material to cross the valley was through the river, and it was monsoon time now when the water was too much to allow crossing. It is indeed a marvel how BRO manages to construct excellent roads under such constraints and in such difficult terrain.

We crossed the bridge, which has to be the ricketiest bridge we’ve ever crossed in our lives. It swayed like crazy while we were on it! The view from the other end was spectacular, and we just stood gazing at it for a few minutes. Oh what fun it is to see the end of roads!


Ladakh & Zanskar: The road(s) less travelled-dsc_0136.jpg
The rickety bridge which marks the end of the road

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One will reach the Miyar Valley after crossing the mighty Tarasalamu Pass (5400 m) which lies somewhere beyond those mountains

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The few meters of road that have been blasted on the other side of the Nallah

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The stellar view from the other side

It was 9’o’clock already and our stomachs were beginning to rumble! We decided to have some breakfast at the tiny dhaba there where the family to whom we’d given a lift were also snacking. Over chai and Maggi, the owner of the little shack told us how difficult life was for him, and how desperately he was waiting for the Darcha - Padum road to get completed. It would bring more business, more tourism and overall prosperity to the region. Not to mention a much better level of medical facilities in case of emergencies. After a hearty breakfast and exchange of lots of stories, we said our goodbyes and moved on. It took us about an hour to reach the Manali - Leh highway.


Ladakh & Zanskar: The road(s) less travelled-dsc_0157.jpg
Our breakfast point

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Shingo La (5100 m) lies somewhere beyond those mountains

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That is not the river, but a water crossing on the road!

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Going back to re-join the highway

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Horns

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The road improves after this bridge

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And we're back on the highway!

Once the road to Padum is complete via Shingo La, Zanskar would be a two day drive away from Delhi.

The detour to Zanskar Sumdo had been completely worth the 3 hours spent on it. However, even now, a full day of stupendous scenes awaited us. The exquisite plains of Sarchu and Moreh never fail to awe and shock, even for returning visitors on this highway to heaven.
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Old 19th August 2011, 14:50   #30
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Default Re: Day 3 (11th July): Jispa - Darcha - Detour - Darcha - Part 1

Excellent as always Vardhan and Aarti.

I guess this is your second trip to the region? Can i ask how many Kms has the Kiyang clocked so far?

Quote:
Originally Posted by vardhan.harsh View Post
It is indeed a marvel how BRO manages to construct excellent roads under such constraints and in such difficult terrain.
+1 to this. I especially love the captions that are put up by BRO on this route.
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