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Old 10th April 2012, 17:21   #2146
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Default Re: HumbLeh'd II (Indo Polish Himalayan Expedition to Ladakh & Himachal Pradesh)

Quote:
Originally Posted by KSM-Vtec View Post
[center]Sach PASS

OR

Sach FAIL

[b]?????


The rain dint stop and the fog increased drastically. Finding the road was becoming increasingly difficult and the constant hairpin bends with steep declines made the situation very critical and demanding.


The situation became even worst and we couldn't see a thing, on one occasion KP and myself got off the cars and we were actually looking for the road with our searchlights while YP & AP were following us slowly on getting a clearance.
Yes, that is a pretty bad situation to be in. One wrong step and you can find yourself either in a ditch or worse, looking out into the valley! If you noticed from my earlier videos, you will find I have not crossed 15-20 kmph speeds most of the time since I had to keep looking out for the road which was as good as invisible - especially where there were landslides and water crossings. Remember to carry a couple of strong powerful torches the next time you decide to travel on such routes.

I had bought specifically for this trip a trekkers' torch - Petzl make - which I always strapped around my head - like a head band - whenever I steeped out of the car


Quote:
It was 2220 hours and the Jawans were shocked to see us coming their way at that hour. They got very suspicious looking at 4 guys in 2 similar looking cars types of which are never seen in that locality and demanded for each ones original photo id and also checked both the cars and all the bags thoroughly. They wrote down all our details and warned us about the road ahead as it was going to be very slushy and steep with a lot of water flowing around.

This is a sensitive check post meant to filter out Kashmiri terrorists and I am sure the CP guys must have been shell-shocked seeing you guys! Just 4 hours earlier, we "decent" guys were simply let through by simply making entries in the register, no videos or searches. The guy came out of the tent where he was crouching from the cold - they were playing cards - just to open the barrier.

Quote:
We signed the register at 2230 hours and noticed that there was just one entry between ours and the SUV teams who had crossed the CP at 1840 hours, that is about 4 hours before us.
Ah Ha, we had the advantage here. I remember the last time the MUmbai Roadsters had the advantage, when they were searching for our entries in the register at the Sumdo check post in the Kinnaur-Spiti Valley when we were supposed to have been ahead of them - on the way to Kaza - but were actually behind thanks to one Army Captain, whose deeds have been discussed before
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Old 10th April 2012, 18:46   #2147
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Default Re: HumbLeh'd II (Indo Polish Himalayan Expedition to Ladakh & Himachal Pradesh)

To continue my narrative:

The first time I went to ladakh, I was 18 years old. It was May, I think. Zojila had just been opened. We had spent the night in a JKTDC hut and arrived at the checkpost at the head of the queue that was to form soon thereafter. I don't know how it is now, but in those days Zojila had one way traffic. As I recall, traffic from Sonmarg would be released while traffic from the other side was held up, then when the checkpost on the other side reported all vehicles through, the direction would be switched. In a subsequent trip, there was a blizzard at Zoji La when I was on my way back. In mid JULY! We were on our way up to Zojila from the Gumri side when some distance short of the pass, we snow coming down heavily and traffic was diverted to the right, where we found an absolutely VAST staging area that was a huge parking lot, maybe 1km long. It is not visible from the road. So there we were one or 2 or 3 vehicles that were not trucks, with the snow coming down heavily, no communication, no facilities except a chaiwala, told by the army jawans to shut the hell up. The blizzard dumped 12 inches of snow within minutes, but then moved on. It was a tense time, I can tell you because the last thing we wanted was to get stranded at near the top of the pass with no provisions or warm clothing. We had not expected a damn blizzard in July. As I was wandering around looking for a bathroom for the ladies, the call went up that the pass had been opened, and there was a race as all the truck drivers ran to their trucks and suddenly there was the roaring of a thousand truck engine revving brrm brrm brrm brrm! as they started to stream out of the lot out towards zojila, goliaths with my little gypsy scampering for a place in the melee.

Anyway, at that first trip, it was early or mid may, Zoji La had just been opened for the year and I was at the head of the que. It was raining steadily and the guard at the checkpoint ambled over to me with an ominous expression and said, “barish hai, mushqil hogi aapko”. I couldn’t imagine why. I was in a convoy that included a 2 Gypsys, 1 Gypsy King, and a long wheelbase Mahindra MM540 (all property of the J&K government). I was in a Gypsy King. If it was muddy, no problem! Little did I know. The most thrilling and least advisable time to attempt Zojila is just when the pass has just been opened when its been raining. Why? Because the rain accelerates the snow melting drastically (warm rain water goes straight through the snow, melting it at a huge rate), and with so much snow around, the water doesn’t just benignly and obligingly get out of the way. It gushes downhill along the road turning it into slithering mud. Climbing towards Zoji La, those loops that are across from the nala that goes up to Amarnath, the mountain side slopes very steeply, the road climbs very steeply and the track is very narrow. To feel the vehicle slither around while negotiating the bends at barely above walking pace, looking thousands of feet straight down when you glance out the driver’s side window, while the fog swirls around you and the rains lashes against the vehicle as if trying expend its fury on you, it feels like you’re climbing up into the heavens that are not happy to have you intrude. A really exhilarating experience. But that was the easiest part. It got worse when there were soft patches where army trucks had sunk in and created ruts so deep that the ridge between the ruts was deep enough that our vehicles would get beached on their bellies. But it wasn’t easy to avoid those ruts either because the track had 20 foot high snow banks narrowing the track and leaving very little room for maneuver. My ultimate strategy was to drive with driver side of the vehicle in the rut but trying to climb onto the central rut, the idea being to find traction against the side wall of the central ridge, because there wasn’t any at the muddy bottom of the rut and also to put the passenger side of the vehicle past and thus outside the other rut. This had the effect of providing good traction and thus sustained mobility, the vehicle tilting at a crazily steep angle, the edge of the roof on the driver’s side periodically scraping the snow wall on the side. But the worst, most dangerous and most scary part of it, that completely removed any aspect of this being just good safe fun was the roaring extremely fast flowing nallas that had made their course right across the road. These are not normal nalas that happen to cross roads in these parts. These were formed by huge quantities of snow melt, highly accelerated by the rains, that finding no immediate nearby nala, was rushing straight down the mountain side along the shortest path. This had the effect of creating deep furrows in the track, with deep wickedly viciously roiling seething water rushing across the road. In every case, The standard procedure was to put it in 4wd, low range, enter at a speed that would not surprise the driver (you suddenly expose too much side area of the vehicle to fast flowing water and the vehicle will jolt downstream suddenly and may loose contact with the ground underneath), then keep a steady throttle as the vehicle tractors through. In every case, the object is to maintain momentum, without building a bow wave ahead of the vehicle, without picking up speed that could bash the vehicle against something. The water flow was so fierce that in 8 out 10 cases, I had to counter steer against the push of the water, and the vehicle would skip and slither sideways while moving forward.

One such nala almost took me. It was particular wide and particularly deep, and I was fighting to keep the gypsy straight. It was tough but everything was in control until the lightly loaded rear end hit the middle part of the stream where the flow was deepest and fastest. Also, at the point, there was no snow bank to stop the vehicle. The water roared off the precipice straight down at high speed. Just as the rear part of the vehicle entered the mid stream, gypsy suddenly went sideways. The rear tyres had lost their hold on the surface, and the current had got hold the gypsy and was going to drag it off the road and throw it off the mountainside. But just as I felt the rear end shift a bit, I was furiously counter steering (where I had earlier been steering against the current, now I was steering downstream to try to keep the nose pointed in the right direction), and working the throttle furiously. Fortunately, the front tyres had by then found a surface, and getting dragged against the ground underneath that dug them in and they hauled the gypsy forward far enough that the rear end was pulled free of the worst of the current. All of this happened in maybe 2 or 3 seconds, but its seared into my memory as if it all happened in slow motion. The Gypsy hauled itself out of the water onto the gravel on the other side, streaming water like a shaggy dog that had just come out of a pond. Then I realized that water had gotten into the car in such quantities that my shoes were completely soaked with the icewater and all this water was now pouring away out of the vehicle. I am willing to bet that we were well beyond the specified wading depth of the vehicle.

Soon thereafter, not far short of Zojio La, we broke the rain and entered an area of such peace and tranquility, it only added to the feeling of having climbed to the heavens that had tried to discourage us. We climbed up to Zoji La and stopped for a few minutes. It was quite, damp, and cloudy and really a most remarkable counterpunch to the trouble it had cost us getting there. This would be the last bit of trouble we had for a couple of days. The drive down to Gumri and to Meena marg was breathtaking if you were thoughtful about where you were. We had climbed a major watershed. Till Zojila, all waters would flow west into the jhehlum. From here, all rivers would flow north east into the Indus, and would not meet the waters we had just left behind until they had gone way north to baltistan and gilgit, swung around and flowed as far as mithankot in southern Bahawalpur where the Indus is met by the united 5 rivers that give Punjab its name. Waters on this side of the ridge would have to flow thousands of kilometers before they would meet the water that had fallen on the other side. But this is also were the vast vast great asian desert starts. Till here we were in the rich monsoon fed green verdant Indian subcontinent. Now we have crossed into the rain shadow of the great himalaya and entered the desert that extends from here to the steppes of Mongolia. We had crossed the a defining point in the mountain range that creates the monsoon and the rich fertile populous Indian plains, and into the vast deserts that this mountain range has created. And it is breathtaking to see the landscape transition from alpine to low lying grasses as you speed down towards gumri. Soon you are at Meena marg, which is the last you will see of lush green grasslands till you leave ladakh.

From here on out, all the way to leh, my memories are of a landscape that got more and more wild, more and more bizarre, more and more desolate, of steep gorges and huge valleys, and through it all a narrow dangerous road that never stopped turning that never had enough space for overtaking, that never allowed time to stop and enjoy the scenery. But I was loving it because this was driving heaven. IT was hard and fast driving, the machine never getting a rest, the driver never getting a rest, the corners going on for miles and miles and miles, but each bringing a new surprise. It was just a breathtaking drive. I hate to give it short shrift because after so much going up zojila, I don’t want to give the impression that the rest was only worth a few lines. It was just spectacular, but I am not going into it because after 15 years, the memory is freshest on aspects of the trip that were most scary or worrying. You’ll have to forgive me for the imbalance in the narrative this selective memory causes.

We spent the night at kargil, a town that was then just a sleepy frontier town with only wood construction and a wonderfully charming air about it that made you want to halt a few days and take in the town and the people who have grown so gentle and whose pace of life and interest in things is so innocent. I don’t suppose kargil is like that since the Kargil war).

After kargil, the landscape changed again. More desolate, even more dry, even more ancient. After the military airfield at kargil, apart from the occasional PWD or army truck, the landscape was completely devoid of both humans and signs of human presence. This place looked like it was beyond human capacity, providing far too much adversity and far too little benefit to tolerate human occupation. In one valley we came upon an abandoned government rest house that had two rooms and a toilet in the back. We stopped since the ladies wanted to go. I found I did too, and while the narrative is not for polite society, it was a memorable experience. Later as I was waiting for the ladies, I walked to the low stone wall of the compound and looked out at the valley. I had not till then seen a place so hostile to human presence. The valley ran for some kilometers across to the towering mountains on the other side, the road disappeared into the distance down the length of the valley, but the spectacular scale of the place, and the utter desolation were mind boggling. Unlike in deep ladakh where you have huge but softly contoured valleys and mountains, here the valley lay strewen with rock debris and the mountains looked like they’d been in savage battles, and as I looked around it started to look like this valley had been cut by a long gone glacier perhaps in the last ice age, and it showed the the vast scale on which the battle had been waged. I am of course only speculating. I am no geologist. THe point is, this place was a small abandoned human settlement in a place that showed no human presence at all, in a place that was outside the parts of the world that humans could inhabit. Unfortunately, I do not remember exactly what this place was.

Also memorable was the approach to Namika La, where the landscape shows, if one take the time to look, evidence all over the place of vast geological forces that have drained vast water lakes and rivers that carved this place. Next time you go, take the time to cruise through the approach to Namikla.

I don’t remember much till leh apart from these things: The climb up to Fotu La, which was marked by constantly looking uphill and seeing the blue sky fill the windshield, the lamayuru, khaltse, the plains before Leh where the road goes dead straight and you can go hammering along (I have forgotten the name, though it is mentioned in this thread at the appropriate point) and then leh town itself. I don’t know about now, but back then, leh was a sleepy ancient sparsely populated town. Apart from a few intrepid western tourists making a monastery tour, you saw no outsiders who were not in the employ of the government (civil or military). We went around the local monastaries and gompas and in every case, there was no one there but the monks and a western tourist or two. The roads were completely empty, and the place had a sense of being far removed from the world that made the worries and stresses of the world seems so irrelevant. I don’t think this feel could be recreated in a place that now has ATMs and mobile phones and the internet and a roaring tourist trade.

The streets of leh were so sparsely populated at they were mostly empty and they looked just right, not deserted because the place had the feel of what I imagined a far off central asian silk route town like yarkand might. I am very sorry to contemplate that Leh will not be what I remember. We stayed at a hotel owned and run by a friend of my father’s, which has one of the most charming common areas I’ve ever seen. It was right next to the fort that Zorawar Singh had built a long time ago when he occupied Ladakh on behalf of Gulab Singh, before he went off on an ill fated campaign against the Tibetans. I feel I have no done leh justice because what I remember most about leh is just how empty, quiet, still the place was, while still feeling like you were around a thriving friendly community and not in a unfamiliar desolation.

From here, in that trip, we made two excursions, one over khardungla to Hundar and Panamik, and one to Pangong and and back to leh via chumathang. Coming next.å
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Old 10th April 2012, 20:55   #2148
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THe drive to khardungla I am sure you're all familiar with. The difference is that at the top, there was nothing then except a board and a small military hut. Considering that it was may, it was cold, windy as hell, and very and desolate. I am appalled to now see a museum! Not to mention pictures of red bull formula 1 cars at khardungla. Its absolutely ridiculous. TO be honest, it feels a bit pathetic that this place, which isn't even the highest in the world has taken on such a giant position in the Indian psyche. Are we India so deprived of far out extraordinary things that a mountain pass should become a national celebrity for a country thats made up of 1,200,000,000 people?

sheesh.

Anyway, moving on, much more impressive than khardungla was a bridge not much further down from khardungla on the nubra side. This bridge was claimed to be the highest bridge in the world at over 18,000 feet. Who knows the truth about that. What IS true however is that this bridge had a very high mortality rate and would be torn off its moorings by the glacier of snow under it and sent down the mountain. If you stopped on the bridge and looked down the mountain side, you could see two old bridges that had been ripped out and had tumbled down the mountain side STILL in one piece. More disturbing was the remains of many army trucks down the mountain side.

I don't have much to add to this travelogue's view of the nubra valley except that it made leh look positively metropolitan. There was NOTHINg there. It was as if we had crossed into the deep sahara and arrived at the end of humanity. Dishkit was just some mud houses and walls. There was nothing else there. And it was all closed up. except for a some men walking on the road, there was no sign of life at all. Hundar was similar, but even less developed. It was breathtaking to see road signs telling distances to places that were no more than a 6-8 mud buildings. I was amazed to hear of tented camps at turtok and to see big expensive religious buildings with a huge buddha statue on them. None of this was there. Dishkit and Hundar were exactly the same color as the sand and mountains around them, looking like if you turned away for a minute, you might not see them again because they'd disappear into the desert. Its so incredible to think that even these far off places have become something.

More impressive than either dishkit or hundar was the drive across the nubra valley into panamik. I have to say that this was by the far most scenic part of the whole expedition. the giant mountains, the huge huge sky, a bridge across the nubra that truly told of the awesome scale we were looking at, sheer emptiness of the nubra valley, the feeling of having left planet earth, as if we were on Tatooine or some far off world in the star trek universe was absolutely complete.

We spent the night in Dishkit, I think, but I am fuzzy on that. We had gone towards panamik to see a small hydroproject of the J&K power department. It was really amazing to see this system working away dilligently so far away in the back of beyond. Props to the engineers.

We went back to leh via khardungla.

The drive to Pangong from Leh was also very memorable. Apart from the beauty, this is also where we had some adventures, one threatening to be fatal.

I have no recollection of pagal nala but do vividly recall the unending climb to Changla. That was a really magnificent drive because the road was mostly unmetalled (as I recall) and the landscape was exceeding dry, and it left a very powerful impression on my mind about how you can be in a desert and then find the next day that there is dry and then there is DRY. I also remember this because I got food poisoning and had to stop driving, and started vomitting out of the passenger window. I have never ever gotten mountain sickness before or after so I am pretty sure it wasn't motion sickness. Anyway, we did arrive at pangong and the things to note that are different from now, 1 there was nothing at Changla except a little unpainted stone monument. TO be honest, I feel that the isolation and natural beauty of the place has been wrecked by the garish colors and by the military buildings and signs that loudly shout out to visitors about where they are.

At pangong itself, there was no tent colony. There was NOTHING there, except 1 army shed and an army boat. and there was no one there except a couple of soldiers. THese were tense times and we would not have been allowed there but for the fact that the permits had been arranged for us by the divisional commisioner of kashmir (to whom the DCs report). THe soldiers told us that the incursions by chinese in the sector were common but they were trying to keep everything cool so as to not trigger a crisis. THey told us that as we got past the lake, we would be entering a no man's land between Indian and China, where the ridges to our left are in chinese control and that we would certainly be under chinese visual monitoring as we drove through, and that we should not do anything furtive but must always remain on the visible side of our vehicles so that when we stop for rest breaks or photoshoots or whatever, there would be no concern on the part of the chinese or the Indian troops who might be observing us about what we were doing.

At that time, there were absolutely no facilities to stay the night anywhere near pangong and we would have to push through to chushul. Unfortunately, we got late and we were still on the bank of the pangong when the sun sank behind the mountains and it started to get dark. Here my memory gets a bit hazy because we ran into some serious obstacles that fully occupy my memory but now I am hazy about exactly where this was except that it was between pangong and chushul, or whether there is any such thing to be seen now.

The first bit of trouble we ran into was a small stream, in itself small enough that a fit young person could long jump across it and everybody else could stroll across it if they didn't mind getting their feet wet. The problem was that it had cut a deep narrow channel for itself in the sand, and we could not see how to safely get across. Any approach straight down into the gully would have beached the noses of the vehicles in the opposite bank and allowed no chance of climbing back out on the other side. And there was the question of whether the sand would afford the traction to make such a steep climb straight up and out. We drove up and down the length for adecent distance but did not see the situation improve. The ladakhi driver who was with us was confident he could get all the vehicles across, but I was pretty worried because this was so clearly so beyond my skill that I felt we had been stopped dead at about 15,000 ft with the sun setting. The ladakhi driver offered to show us how he’d get his own vehicle across. We decided to take a chance. This guy turned out to be obviously some kind of desert driving god. He lined up his jeep (we had picked up an old classic style jeep in leh to accompany us as guide and fuel carrier) pointing diagonally into the gulley. This looked really dangerous to me because it looked pretty likely that the jeep would topple sideways into the gulley. Well, this guy’s strategy was really advanced technique that nobody will ever teach a newbie. Kinda like juggling swords. I don’t know what he did, but he caused the vehicle to slide sideways with tricky brakework down the slope while also driving it forward. This had the effect of making the wheels of the vehicle slide down hill at a fast enough rate that were the vehicle to want to topple, it would always find the vehicle’s wheels still under it and thus never roll. And while doing this, he also built up enough forward momentum to drive up and out of the gulley at an angle without the danger of topping or slowing down. It was such a masterful display that I just stood there staring as if I had seen Superman. He then proceeded to drive all the vehicles through, except the MM540 whose driver decided to pull the same trick, and only just managed.

I have never heard mention of this obstacle in all the recent travelogues I have encountered and I can only guess that it was a temporary gulley that opened up and has since filled in with drifting sand.

anyway, the worst was yet to come. By now the sun was well hidden behind the mountains and we were driving in the shadows of the mountains. So that sky was still well lit but the ground was in shadow. And after some time, disaster really did strike. We came upon a stream that had so late in the day reached a very heavy flow. It was very wide, very fast flowing, and deep. It should have been manageable but for driver error in one case and vehicle failure in the other case. One gypsy and the old leh jeep made it through. Then it was the turn of the Mahindra and its engine stopped midstream. This jeep had recently started stalling on water crossings (I have now forgotten why) but had always made it through. This time it stopped absolutely dead. And then the driver of the gypsy I had been driving till I started vomiting earlier in the day also goofed. He put it in 4Low drove in slightly downstream of the stuck Jeep and also got stuck. By this time, it was completely dark, the water level was rising even higher, the flow becoming even more ferocious, and to make things really very difficult, my 49 year old mother had arrived in leh and joined us there, and while she had been ok over khardungla, here she was started to show signs of serious altitude sickness. She had completely collapsed in the last remaining gypsy on the pangong side, night had overtaken us, there was telecommunication, no medical aid of any kind, and we were getting frightened that without immediate transport helicopter transport to low altitudes, she would not make it through the night.

So tensions were running very high, and people started making mistakes as they started to panic and communication between those who were calm and those who felt responsible broke down. The driver of the gypsy that got stuck had engaged 4L but forgot about the hubs that were not locked and drove into the stream in 2L. When the vehicle encountered resistance, he gunned it and and spun the rear tyres and really bogged it down. Even before he drove in, I kept telling him that the hubs were not locked, but I guess in the momemt of such high stress, the one thing he didn’t want to listen to was some 18 year old kid telling him what to do in an emergency.

Once we got well and truly stuck, the water was high enough that it started pouring into the vehicle around the door opening. He opened the window and climbed out on to the bonnet to lock the hubs, which were by now well under water, and then got back in the vehicle, but by now, it was too late.

So we stood around in pick blackness, engines switched on, under a carpet of blazing stars, the the noise of stream in our ears, for all practical purposes, feeling like we’d been marooned on uninhabited planet with a dangerously sick passenger and not one of the 5 billion people around to help us.

The vehicles that had got across then drove off towards chushul and at some distance from us, they encountered a J&K Power department 10 tonner truck (the standard tata). This truck came to aid us, with chains and things. Using the headlights of the vehicles that were not stuck, the driver started to back it up into the stream to the front of the Mahindra with the hope of pulling the vehicles free. But within a minute we realized the truck had also gotten stuck in the stream. Off went the vehicles again to look for help and they came back an hour later with army three tonner (those old nissans). This vehicle was then backed up to the front end of the stalled tata truck. Attempts were made to extricate the Power department truck, but it refused to budge. By now it was 11.30 at night. Trust me, you do NOT want to be stuck in that place at that hour, stranded with a possibly dying parent on your hands.

Eventually it was decided to abandon the stuck vehicles for the night. We all waded out to the Mahindra, climbed up onto its bumper, spare tyre, its roof, forward onto its bonnet, the jumped across into the 10 tonner, walked across its bed (it was open bed, with low sides), climbed up onto its cabin, down onto its bumper, and jumped across into the army 3 tonner’s bed. This was not as easy as it sounds. A lot of the party with us, were not adept at clambering over trucks and jumping from truck to truck, in the complete darkness, with the roaring stream underneath to sweep you away should you fall.

but we all did manage to get across, and we managed to carry my mother all the way across into the army truck. This truck then drove us a few kilometers to a one house structure (I don’t remember what it was) that had window openings but no windows, and here in this room we all collapsed. Fortunately, the leh jeep that was carrying our fuel was also carrying the blankets and chai pani ka saman for the other drivers. The driver’s blankets were given over to make my mother comfortable and warm as much as possible, and we all drank some cold tea (cold water, pati, and sugar, no heating, no milk) and slept as we could.

The next morning dawned bright and crisp, and the bright sunshine filled us with pleasure and courage just as surely as the loneliness of the dark night had depressed us. Happily, my mother was much recovered and the danger seemed to have passed. She was still weak, but we were all very relieved. I and a couple of the drivers drove back to the stream in the leh jeep to extricate the stucke vehicles, and were amazed to see that the stream had by morning reduced to a tiny trickle that wouldn’t wash away a baby chick. The 10 tonner truck and the stuck Gypsy drove straight out under their own power. The Mahindra’s engine needed some fiddling, but then it too started up and drove straight out.

The day could begin.

However, things didn’t go so well for me after that, and in fact created a huge memory gap for me. Enough that I now have virtually no memory of what happened after that. The older people in the group, well and truly concerned by the previous days events, felt that safety and prudent and foresighted decision making was essential to ensure the safety and continued progress of the group and that given that we would be entering an area of very fine sand that requires very expert driving, that the driving should be left to the experienced “adults” and that an 18 year old kid like me should sit in the passenger seat. I grew extremely upset at this decision and behaved in such a way as to prove that I was exactly the sort of child that they were treating me as. So I did not get to drive. I sulked and paid no attention to where we were. I remember taking in a lot, but I can’t remember what it was now. But my humiliation wasn’t complete. We stopped at some point where the sand was supposed to be especially difficult. The driver from leh was explaining to the other drivers how they must tackle this sand if they have to have any hope of getting through (speed, rapid sawing of the steering wheel so that the tyres are always tyring to climb out of the rut instead of creating a bow wave of sand in front of them, keeping up the momentum, etc. sounds easy, but its pretty tough. This sand was fine as talcum powder.) However, being the child that I was, I took this break in the journey to insist that I be allowed to drive. SO finally they agreed to let me drive the MM540, and into it piled my buddy, my sister and a couple of other girls. Shruti was a girl in my class who was one of the most glamorous girls I knew, but I never had the courage to talk to her. Just before this expedition, my dad mentioned that his friend and his family would be going with us. THe friend I knew from before, but I had no idea that shruti was his daughter! So when Shruti and her equally gorgeous older sister showed up in Srinagar to join us for this trip, I had been over the moon! And now here was, just the young crowd, Uber classy and sexy girls from my class, and I was going to be Mr. Adventurer over here. Except the Mahindra went exactly 4 feet before it got stuck. It didn’t even spin its tyres. It just stopped dead. I tried messing around with the 2 levers next to the main shift lever, but I had no idea where the low range and 2wd/4wd positions were or what to do with it. I tried to make the jeep go while everybody was watching but it wasn’t going to move an inch. Had I not been in such a humiliating position, or had I been a stronger personality, I would have just stuck with it till I figured it out. But right then I was seething with humiliation and anger, feeling like I had been deliberately humiliated at this spot. SO with so many people watching, I had to get out of the car and let somebody else drive while I went and got into a another gypsy that was carrying supplies.

I didn’t speak for two days. And I remember nothing of what happened after that point in that trip apart from seeing a fancy contraption somewhere designed to measure rainfall and shade temperatures, and hot sulfur springs, I think at changthang.

I made subsequent trips to ladakh after that but none as memorable or adventurous as that one.

I want to go again but last two years I have been stymied. I came in 2010 from the US to drive to ladakh with my dad, but when I arrived here, the stone pelting in Srinagar started and that route was closed. I started trying to arrange a curfew pass, and then decided to go via manali, but as I was arranging for the vehicle I was going to go from Srinagar in to be delivered to Chandigarh, the massive 2010 floods hit and that was the end of the plans. Both the manali and Srinagar routes closed down. And then the disaster become massive. Choglamsar, a charming Tibetan refugee village near leh that I had absolutely been in love with was completely washed away with 500 dead. It was most depressing and I returned to the US. Then I moved back to India in late 2010 and hoped to visit ladakh last year and made plans with a gang of 4 vehicles. The plan was to go to go from Srinagar to leh, drive in ladakh, then out via manali, to jammu, then back into the valley via the mughal road. Unfortunately, I ended up cooling my heels in Srinagar for 2 weeks while the other parties kept delaying due to marriages and stuff, until it ran into the ramzan period and my cotravellered being mostly muslim, the trip was cancelled entirely. I came back to delhi.

I am hoping to go this year and hoping to buy a pajero but I don’t know how that will work out. My longer term plan is to outfit a Pajero (or similar) as an expedition vehicle so that it is A. unusually capable of making progress alone in very bad conditions, B. Fitted out with gear to enable me to drive and stop at my own pace so I never have to reach anywhere by a certain time, so I can stop wherever I like and spend the evening and night in comfort, and C. outfit the vehicle to carrying food and water for two weeks for two people, and enough fuel for 1800km (a 147litre extended range tank plus a couple of jerry cans on the roof ought to do it). The idea is to be able to travel alone, to travel without a schedule, to be independent of facilities, and to be able to survive two weeks should I get stranded. This means things like a multifuel camping stove that can run on diesel, a dual battery system for the vehicle, 2 spare tyres instead of just 1, etc.

We’ll see how it goes. Really the only concern I have is how safe is one sleeping in or near a vehicle in the wilderness. Perhaps I’ll take a my dog along to provide warning at night should their be intruders.

These are all plans that I intend to follow through, but probably not this year. If this year I can just acquire a pajero, that will be good enough for me.

And that’s my tale.
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Old 10th April 2012, 22:22   #2149
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Dear KSM, you urgently need a V-tec in your keyboard. What did doctroque do?!

The thread is already a member of team bhp hall of fame, so I'll spare you the long list of praise words, which are due here.

One thing needs mention here.
I got severely angry when Lalu made the decision to leave you guys behind. I bet myself that you guys are going to follow through - no matter what.
I have won my bet and that's the beat part of this travelogue.



Quote:
But right then I was seething with humiliation and anger, feeling like I had been deliberately humiliated at this spot. SO with so many people watching, I had to get out of the car and let somebody else drive while I went and got into a another gypsy that was carrying supplies.
The intensity of the narration explains your pain quite well, alive and fresh even after so many years.
Awesome short travelogue this one.
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Old 10th April 2012, 22:45   #2150
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Harbir, your account of the 18-year old's trip to Ladakh was fantastic. In 2 threads, you have told us the story of wonderful landscapes, incredibly tough driving conditions, imminent hazards of nature, combating sickness and the sadness of the days gone by. I wish you would get hold of the photos somehow too!
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Old 11th April 2012, 00:15   #2151
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I got severely angry when Lalu made the decision to leave you guys behind.

Sirji it wasn't me.
I am undercover now.
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Old 11th April 2012, 06:15   #2152
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Harbir, your account of the 18-year old's trip to Ladakh was fantastic. In 2 threads, you have told us the story of wonderful landscapes, incredibly tough driving conditions, imminent hazards of nature, combating sickness and the sadness of the days gone by. I wish you would get hold of the photos somehow too!
Thank you. You're very kind.

I know exactly where the pictures are. I saw them a few weeks ago as I was discussing with my parents that we should buy a photoscanner and digitize the entire photo library of the family. Unfortunately, I also saw a lot of the ladakh pictures missing from the album. I have some vague recollection that I took them out of the album to show to my friends (which means they would have been the best ones) and they somehow never ended up back in album. I am hopeful they are still around in some envelope somewhere. I'll been going through all the pictures and will share the ones I can find (once I buy a scanner). I also remember there are a few black and white pictures of ladakh taken when my parents went in the mid 1970s. I recall seeing a couple of pictures of myself as a 3 or 4 year old in ladakh.

I have to find them, buy a scanner, and only then will I be able to share.

Last edited by Harbir : 11th April 2012 at 06:19.
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Old 11th April 2012, 06:29   #2153
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Originally Posted by Harbir
I have to find them, buy a scanner, and only then will I be able to share.
Hi Harbir, I am filled with admiration for your parents too for having confidently undertaken such expeditions in those times. Just a suggestion till you get the scanner you could click some snaps of those photos on a digital camera and share with us.
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Old 11th April 2012, 06:42   #2154
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Hi Harbir, I am filled with admiration for your parents too for having confidently undertaken such expeditions in those times. Just a suggestion till you get the scanner you could click some snaps of those photos on a digital camera and share with us.
Thank you.

as to your suggestion, even that will have to wait till I go to Chandigarh. I am in delhi and the photos are at my dad's place in CHD. but I will post them up soon. next trip i make to chandigarh

Last edited by Harbir : 11th April 2012 at 06:44.
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Old 11th April 2012, 07:05   #2155
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The thread is already a member of team bhp hall of fame, so I'll spare you the long list of praise words, which are due here.

One thing needs mention here.
I got severely angry when Lalu made the decision to leave you guys behind.
Ha ha, we have to be thankful to the one(Laluks ran away....Then 'who dun-it' ??) who detached those poor Swifts and abandoned high and dry in the proverbial 'Hare and tortoise story' fashion, at the deadliest of the patch of their expedition, so that we got to EXPERIENCE the haphazard travails of a foursome facing it bravely when even our bravest musclemen heroes like 'John Abrahams' and SRKs will run back for life??

And also they wouldn't have got elated to such high pedestals of fame, even to fade those mighty Suv-guys, to make the real endurance test with a tiny car.(Sure, we acknowledge 'Guru & team' with due credit, with out
whom this feat was never possible...)

So, go on Swifty friends, go on...
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Old 11th April 2012, 10:40   #2156
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I have to find them, buy a scanner, and only then will I be able to share.
Thanks for sharing that amazing story. You have to be really fortunate (and brave) to be able to travel to those places in those times. Even as I travel to these places in the current era and people tell me it is so adventurous et al, I keep reminding them that the real adventurers used to travel these roads a decade and more ago when practically nothing existed there. And then I get to hear your stories and there is also another one I remember about someone doing this in a Yezdi a long long time ago. It just blows my mind.

You have a standing offer to be driven to CHD to find the pics and back. I have a scanner here

P.S.: I think this should be spun out of as a different thread. Few pages down the line it will get lost when more of the original log gets penned down here.

Last edited by codelust : 11th April 2012 at 10:42.
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Old 11th April 2012, 10:58   #2157
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I got severely angry when Lalu made the decision to leave you guys behind. I bet myself that you guys are going to follow through - no matter what.
I have won my bet and that's the beat part of this travelogue.
It was KSM-vTEC who suggested we go ahead. We were with him till that, it is unfair to suggest that we "left" anyone behind. The decision for the SUVs to move ahead was taken after lot of deliberation - and also accepting that the chances of the Swifts making it beyond Khillar were bleak, no point in breaking up the cars.

You must have realised by now that the entire team was supporting each other all the way, and the SUVs decision to move ahead was not like some Indian cricketer jeopardising his team's chances because he wants to score a century or something like that. We gained nothing by driving the Sach Pass, nothing to prove or crow about, so you can rule out any selfish motives in this decision. Like many other decision which may be debatable, the team talked over the drive scenarios to Chamba in detail and the Mumbai Roadsters were well aware of the consequences of what they were getting into, wished to test their cars' endurance and capabilities as much as possible, knew that it was impossible for the SUVs to tow them indefinite number of times if in trouble, and well-prepared to retreat if necessary.

Last edited by hvkumar : 11th April 2012 at 11:00.
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Old 11th April 2012, 11:46   #2158
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Originally Posted by codelust View Post
Thanks for sharing that amazing story. You have to be really fortunate (and brave) to be able to travel to those places in those times. Even as I travel to these places in the current era and people tell me it is so adventurous et al, I keep reminding them that the real adventurers used to travel these roads a decade and more ago when practically nothing existed there. And then I get to hear your stories and there is also another one I remember about someone doing this in a Yezdi a long long time ago. It just blows my mind.

You have a standing offer to be driven to CHD to find the pics and back. I have a scanner here

P.S.: I think this should be spun out of as a different thread. Few pages down the line it will get lost when more of the original log gets penned down here.

Spinning it out as a separate thread may not be a bad idea, but I guess thats a call the moderators have to take.

and yes, it used to be pretty lethal. A ladakhi friend of my father's who was in the army was killed on that route when his jeep tumbled down the hill. Never found out what happened. THis would have been around 1983, I think. I always felt terrible for his children. WHen I was looking at these old pictures, I came across pictures from 1982 Divali celebrations at our house in srinagar and there is a picture of his daughter holding a phuljhari as far out from her body as she could, and ler left hand on her cheek, he mouth wide open in a girly "Oh my god!" kind of expression. SHe must have been about 10 in that picture. A reminder of the lethality of these places and of the very real people who are impacted when their family members risk life and limb in these areas.
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Old 11th April 2012, 12:44   #2159
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Originally Posted by Sunney View Post
Ha ha, we have to be thankful to the one(Laluks ran away....Then 'who dun-it' ??) who detached those poor Swifts and abandoned high and dry in the proverbial 'Hare and tortoise story' fashion, at the deadliest of the patch of their expedition, so that we got to EXPERIENCE the haphazard travails of a foursome facing it bravely when even our bravest musclemen heroes like 'John Abrahams' and SRKs will run back for life??

And also they wouldn't have got elated to such high pedestals of fame, even to fade those mighty Suv-guys, to make the real endurance test with a tiny car.(Sure, we acknowledge 'Guru & team' with due credit, with out
whom this feat was never possible...)

So, go on Swifty friends, go on...
Those are very kind words. Appreciate it.

It has been one of the toughest days of our lives, for all four of us. Psychologically, its been the harshest testing experience i have been through. I am in a state where i can kill for some energy, the source of that energy was food. Having come down a little bit from Sach i started keeping an eye on my phone. I have a Airtel connection. The need was to get just one bar of network on my phone to inform Hvk and team of something.


We were half hour ahead of the checkpost at about 23:00hrs, It was now about 18hours from the time we started in the morning with just a quarter of a Paratha each. I had typed a text and saved it to drafts for the moment that i get network without telling anyone in the team. I did not want them to panic one bit because of my condition. i got the one bar of network that i was desperate for.


The text was “Sir, we have crossed Sach and are driving towards you. Please arrange for some food and accommodation. Will call you as soon as i get proper network. Reply back with your location.”


The emotions going through my mind after a successful delivery report of the sms cannot be described in words.
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Old 11th April 2012, 14:10   #2160
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It was only because of the slow progress we were making with the Swifts, we as a team decided to as the SUVs to go ahead and wait for us only they reach a situation in which they could do something to help us. (Believe me they really couldn't have helped us on the long inclines we faced, only a winch could have worked there apart from the manpower we used).

At that point we really dint know where they themselves will be able to reach by EOD.(it could be only Killar due to lack of day light)

No one ran away or decided to leave us behind, in fact each one - HVK, Lalu, BolBolero & SS were shocked when we asked them to continue at their own pace. They were extremely concerned about us and wanted us to reconsider.

We had decided to try this route knowing how treacherous it was (for the SUVs themselves) and only after considering the eventuality of having to turn around (alone) and go all the way to Leh and return via Srinagar adding almost 5 days and a lot of $$$ to the trip.

I guess we were mentally prepared to detach from the SUVs and hence we actually got the courage to do so at the point we actually did.


Quote:
Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
It was KSM-vTEC who suggested we go ahead. We were with him till that, it is unfair to suggest that we "left" anyone behind. The decision for the SUVs to move ahead was taken after lot of deliberation - and also accepting that the chances of the Swifts making it beyond Khillar were bleak, no point in breaking up the cars.

You must have realised by now that the entire team was supporting each other all the way, and the SUVs decision to move ahead was not like some Indian cricketer jeopardising his team's chances because he wants to score a century or something like that. We gained nothing by driving the Sach Pass, nothing to prove or crow about, so you can rule out any selfish motives in this decision. Like many other decision which may be debatable, the team talked over the drive scenarios to Chamba in detail and the Mumbai Roadsters were well aware of the consequences of what they were getting into, wished to test their cars' endurance and capabilities as much as possible, knew that it was impossible for the SUVs to tow them indefinite number of times if in trouble, and well-prepared to retreat if necessary.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunney View Post
Ha ha, we have to be thankful to the one(Laluks ran away....Then 'who dun-it' ??) who detached those poor Swifts and abandoned high and dry in the proverbial 'Hare and tortoise story' fashion, at the deadliest of the patch of their expedition, so that we got to EXPERIENCE the haphazard travails of a foursome facing it bravely when even our bravest musclemen heroes like 'John Abrahams' and SRKs will run back for life??

And also they wouldn't have got elated to such high pedestals of fame, even to fade those mighty Suv-guys, to make the real endurance test with a tiny car.(Sure, we acknowledge 'Guru & team' with due credit, with out
whom this feat was never possible...)

So, go on Swifty friends, go on...
Quote:
Originally Posted by laluks View Post

Sirji it wasn't me.
I am undercover now.
Quote:
Originally Posted by sen2009 View Post
One thing needs mention here.
I got severely angry when Lalu made the decision to leave you guys behind. I bet myself that you guys are going to follow through - no matter what.
I have won my bet and that's the beat part of this travelogue.

Last edited by KSM-Vtec : 11th April 2012 at 14:13.
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