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Old 17th October 2011, 11:37   #511
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Default Re: HumbLeh'd II (Indo Polish Himalayan Expedition to Ladakh & Himachal Pradesh)

Day 08
19th August 2011
Kaaza - Langza - Komic - Hikkim - Kaaza

Some more pictures from Hikkim to Kaaza
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continued...
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Old 17th October 2011, 11:42   #512
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Default Re: HumbLeh'd II (Indo Polish Himalayan Expedition to Ladakh & Himachal Pradesh)

Day 08
19th August 2011
Kaaza - Langza - Komic - Hikkim - Kaaza

We got a glimpse of Kaaza from the hills
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What a gateway

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continued...
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Old 17th October 2011, 11:53   #513
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Default Re: HumbLeh'd II (Indo Polish Himalayan Expedition to Ladakh & Himachal Pradesh)

Day 08
19th August 2011
Kaaza - Langza - Komic - Hikkim - Kaaza

Spiti River
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Road along Spiti River
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By 19:30 we reached the hotel. Freshened up and went for Dinner. Since now the number were less we were able to sit around a long table together. Uncertainties still prevailed. HVK kept on calling and finding out the details of the routes, while dinner was being served.

My phone ran again! This time it was SPK. He told us that he had successfully crossed Kunzum La, passed Chotta and Bada dhara and had reached Gramphoo.

He gave information that it will be very difficult for the Swifts and Alto to clear that stretch. Boulders, slush, 3 feet water crossings etc...

He shocked us by saying he is proceeding towards Manali and not continuing with us towards Leh due to some personal issues.

HVK spoke to SPK. After coining all the information he had, he says - Boys we leave early tomorrow


My Fourth Birthday gift : We are leaving tomorrow to Leh!

Dinner table became active with queries, precautions etc..etc.. By the time we finished dinner and slept it was 23:00hrs.

We are leaving to Leh!! Hell yes!! What lies ahead? Who cares!! We will take it as it comes!! And Yes, the Swifts and Alto is going forward, no matter what!

What a crazy passionate team

And what a wonderful birthday it turned out to me. This will be remembered for a long time!


We are moving out of Kaaza.......................

Last edited by laluks : 17th October 2011 at 12:17.
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Old 17th October 2011, 12:40   #514
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Default Re: HumbLeh'd II (Indo Polish Himalayan Expedition to Ladakh & Himachal Pradesh)

Quote:
Originally Posted by laluks View Post
[b]Day 08


My Fourth Birthday gift : We are leaving tomorrow to Leh!

Dinner table became active with queries, precautions etc..etc.. By the time we finished dinner and slept it was 23:00hrs.

We are leaving to Leh!! Hell yes!! What lies ahead? Who cares!! We will take it as it comes!! And Yes, the Swifts and Alto is going forward, no matter what!

What a crazy passionate team

And what a wonderful birthday it turned out to me. This will be remembered for a long time!


We are moving out of Kaaza.......................
Awesome news!!!, so the convoy is finally moving towards Manali & Leh, the next set of narratives would be really interesting

Last edited by motomaverick : 17th October 2011 at 12:41.
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Old 17th October 2011, 12:45   #515
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Default Re: HumbLeh'd II (Indo Polish Himalayan Expedition to Ladakh & Himachal Pradesh)

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Originally Posted by motomaverick View Post
Awesome news!!!, so the convoy is finally moving towards Manali & Leh, the next set of narratives would be really interesting
Getting stuck at Kaaza on the log too..
Isn't that coincidence?

Now that everybody's raring to go, the chief will start the engines soon. Keep reading.
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Old 17th October 2011, 13:19   #516
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Default Re: HumbLeh'd II (Indo Polish Himalayan Expedition to Ladakh & Himachal Pradesh)

Quote:
Originally Posted by laluks View Post
[b]Day 08
19th August 2011
By 19:30 we reached the hotel. Freshened up and went for Dinner. Since now the number were less we were able to sit around a long table together. Uncertainties still prevailed. HVK kept on calling and finding out the details of the routes, while dinner was being served.

My phone ran again! This time it was SPK. He told us that he had successfully crossed Kunzum La, passed Chotta and Bada dhara and had reached Gramphoo.

He gave information that it will be very difficult for the Swifts and Alto to clear that stretch. Boulders, slush, 3 feet water crossings etc...

He shocked us by saying he is proceeding towards Manali and not continuing with us towards Leh due to some personal issues.

HVK spoke to SPK. After coining all the information he had, he says - Boys we leave early tomorrow


My Fourth Birthday gift : We are leaving tomorrow to Leh!

Dinner table became active with queries, precautions etc..etc.. By the time we finished dinner and slept it was 23:00hrs.

We are leaving to Leh!! Hell yes!! What lies ahead? Who cares!! We will take it as it comes!! And Yes, the Swifts and Alto is going forward, no matter what!

What a crazy passionate team

And what a wonderful birthday it turned out to me. This will be remembered for a long time!


We are moving out of Kaaza.......................
Yes, we were by now weary of the Spiti Valley!

We had cancelled the Chandra Tal sector - where we had some plans to camp out by the Lake's edge - because we feared that the 14-km long Batal-Chandra tal road would not be motorable.

As I said earlier, we had been busy talking to many people about the road ahead and its status. At one point, thanks to akaush, your queries even reached the office of the Minister of Roads, HP!

Apart from the Kaza-Gramphoo road, we had also heard that the Gramphoo-Keylong road was also closed. To ascertain its status, we made phone calls to a hotel in Keylong - with the promise that we planned to stay there - and found out that the road to Keylong was now open after having been closed due to land slides for a couple of days.

And SPK's getting through to Manali was great news! We rationalised that if their Bolero Stinger 4WD could pass through, we are not going to be left behind, Scorpios, Boleros, Swifts and Altos!

Thus, we were all packed up to leave the next day.....
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Old 17th October 2011, 14:48   #517
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Default Re: HumbLeh'd II (Indo Polish Himalayan Expedition to Ladakh & Himachal Pradesh)

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Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
the Kaza-Kunzum la-Gramphoo road is maintained by the HP PWD DEpartment and not the BRO
I did not know this. Is this by virtue of this stretch not being a 'border area'?
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Old 17th October 2011, 15:22   #518
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Default Re: HumbLeh'd II (Indo Polish Himalayan Expedition to Ladakh & Himachal Pradesh)

Quote:
Originally Posted by laluks View Post

We are leaving to Leh!! Hell yes!! What lies ahead? Who cares!! We will take it as it comes!! And Yes, the Swifts and Alto is going forward, no matter what!


We are moving out of Kaaza.......................
HVK Scorpio
Aug 12, Bombay-Behror, 1402 kms
Aug 13, Behror-Rampur, 692 kms
Aug 14, Rampur-Chitkul, 144 kms
Aug 15, Chitkul-Pooh, 207 kms
Aug 16, Pooh-Kaza, 178 kms
Aug 17-19, Kaza, 291 kms


Aug 20, Kaza-Jispa, 236 kms

Lalu has expressed the spirits of the team as we 5 cars - my Scorpio, JC's Bolero, Mumbai Roadsters' 2 SWifts and the "Baby" Alto left at 515 am from Kaza. We were emboldened by the news the previous night that the Bolero Stinger had got through to Gramphoo, and we set our destination for Keylong that night, nature willing. Never an easy task though, I knew from previous experience that some of the worst roads in the region are in the Lahaul Valley west of the Kunzum la - total dirt track with cascading boulders in many places, following the River Chandra all along, and with scarcely 3-5 vehicles a day sometimes, mostly the Sumo share-a-seat taxis from Manali. This entire region is closed during winter once the Kunzum la closes down.

In my mind, I was having some trepidation - a couple of days ago, my Scorpio gears mysteriously "froze" when I climbed up to 15,000 feet on the Tashi Ganga-Tiddim "new" road, something that have never happened in high altitude terrain before - and I was worried that the gears may misbehave again when we ascended to the Kunzum la, the highest pass en route.

A month ago, one of my friends had reported major water crossing problems in the Hanse nullah and I was also anxious that we 2WD vehicles should get through that too.

Even as we started driving out of Kaza, a local car guy started telling us that the road ahead was closed, which we rebutted since we had better info now that our own Bolero Stinger had got across the previous night. For a change, our information intelligence was better than theirs. When we reached the Losar check post, the police at the check post were also surprised - and we had to inform them that the road was open!!! So much for co-ordination by various agencies working on roads in these parts. For example, Losar PWD folks know only about road till Kunzum la, and only the Chota Dara or Chhatru PWD guys knew about the condition ahead. Communication in these parts is still the old "pigeon messenger" story - information is gathered only from oncoming cars! Needless to say, there is absolutely no mobile connectivity between Kaza and Koksar or Manali region, which is a full day's journey.

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We reached Kunzum la (4560 mtres) at 900 am after having crawled up narrow dirt roads that were closed by snowfall just a few days ago. Surprisingly, I find that the altitude on the Tashi Ganga-Tiddim road was higher at 4650 mtrs!

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Many of our team were seeing snow for the time, and it was a thrilling time for all of us as we took the customary photo sheets, round around the prayer flags in Kunzum la, which separates the Lahaul and Spiti Valleys. A short break later, we were descending - lots of snow all around, and also the abandoned (?) alternative road looked as if it had taken quite a beating. Somehow, we missed the sight of some magnificent glaciers that glisten in the mountain sides around Kunzum la.

Next turning point was at the Batal-Chandra Tal "road" - I had fond memories of a drive to Chandra Tal 7 years ago in my Matiz. The "road" was so bad and terrifying that we christened that Ladakh trip as one of "B.C." (Before Chandra Tal) and "A.C." (After Chandra Tal), as though we were cleansed by a holy dip in the Ganga at Varanasi or a Haji! That drive was mortifying, and at the end of that drive, we saw the sign board saying "Jeepable Track" which we struck out and wrote "Matizable Track"!!!

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We had original plans to camp out in Chandra Tal, but those hopes were dashed by the prolonged "leisurely holiday" in Kaza. Nevertheless, we were tempted to check out the road. We could see a Qualis parked nearby indicating that the trekkers must have walked the 14-odd kms from there to the water's edge. I told the other 4 cars to remain behind while my Scorpio - with TS and Lalu on board - decided to take a reccee on the "road" to see how far we could go. Predicatably, it was narrow - steep fall on one side and in places the soil had crumbled and we had just enough space to manouevre the Scorpio, even as we waded through 2-3 water crossings. Gradients are steep on this road and if you are unlucky to stall on any of the steep slopes in a 2WD car, you may have to back up till you find a level ground in order to get the traction to complete the climb. Luckily, there was no evidence of the snow, but there were plenty of stones and boulders on the road. There was this Italian (?) mobiker who shrugged when we asked him if he had managed to get through. We drove 7 kms on this 14-km road before we reached a point where a outcrop rock impeded our passage further. We had to regretfully call off the drive there, even as we could see the River Chandra appearing round the corner from the Lake.

Turn back? How? We were in a road hardly the width of the Scorpio and on a steep slope. It took me some 12-15 turn manouvres - with Lalu sweating it out as the "spotter" to ensure the front wheels did not go off the cliff - but we managed to turn it around and be on our way back to Batal. I guess Chandra Tal will be another day.

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We rejoined the rest of the team and came down to the Batal dhaaba. The Batal dhaaba - and the Batal "chacha" who runs it - are well-known to any motorist in this region.
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It is like a beacon, the "chacha" is the saviour for many stranded in landslides. This dhaba hut apparently can house 30-40 people. It was just recovering from one such situation when some 60-80 stranded trekkers and motorists were marooned here for 2-3 days even as they were cut off by land slides on both sides - towards Chota Dara as well as towards Kunzum la. Wow, this dhaba has a "satellite" telephone number here, 08991722020 - you can call up to find out the condition of this difficult Lahaul Valley sector which is tormented by landslides often. Chai and Maggi were welcome, as we stayed there 30 minutes till 1130 am.....

It was to be a long day, so this is going to be a long post.....to be continued

All photos are from the albums of our team members like TS, VE and JP.
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Old 17th October 2011, 16:20   #519
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HVK Scorpio
Aug 12, Bombay-Behror, 1402 kms
Aug 13, Behror-Rampur, 692 kms
Aug 14, Rampur-Chitkul, 144 kms
Aug 15, Chitkul-Pooh, 207 kms
Aug 16, Pooh-Kaza, 178 kms
Aug 17-19, Kaza, 291 kms


Aug 20, Kaza-Jispa, 236 kms, ......Continuation

The Batal break was refreshing. As we were moving off, divine intervention happened - which we were to realise later: 2 mechanics approached us. They had been stuck there last 10 days thanks to the land slides and snow fall, after having come there from Mandi (100 kms beyond Manali) to repair a broken-down Bolero pick-up. Since we were the first car towards Gramphoo, they were eager to hitch a ride with the first car that came along. We are generally reluctant to give lifts to unknown people, but something that day made me say yes and we housed the 2 lads, one each in the Bolero and the Alto.

As we moved on, mostly in second gear, we tumbled along boulders, looking anxiously if the large stone atop the hill would roll down as we went past! We came to one particularly nasty-looking water crossing which had some deep crevasses that could have trapped the small car wheels, and the water flow itself was very rapid. Being the lead car, I drove the Scorpio through, and immediately realised that it would be an impossible thing for any of the small cars to cross it - therefore, we decided to town them across. The Bolero also made it across. A Sumo Spacio that came along got stuck badly and it was only with some hereculean efforts that he extricated himself. Some foreign mobikers charged their Bullets through, some almost falling down but being held up by the other mobikers. With great team effort, we managed to tow all the small cars across the water crossing without any one hitting their sump on the jagged boulders sticking underneath the water.

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The terrain looked terrifying, smarting under the onslaught of nature's fury, and we heard of some tragedies that happened in the last few days - of dehydrated trekkers and this lone mobiker who was knocked off by a boulder that fell on him as he was riding past - you can still see the mobike sticking out of the ground down the slope where it was swatted out of the road.

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The landscape was spectacular as mountain after mountain tumbled down to the water's edge as the River Chandra roared along towards its ultimate sangam with the River Chenab in distant Kishtawar in Kashmir!!! Ponies carrying goods the old-fashioned way - maybe the best way in this Lahaul Valley which looks stuck in the Silk Route Age! The PWD workers bull dozing the road cheerfully and patiently - it is a daily affair for them to clear up the debris form the mountain slopes above.

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16 kms in 1.50 hours, that is how the equation looked like when we reached Chota Dhara, the next "village" which has 3 buildings!

In each rough section, the protocol was simple: the Scorpio and the Bolero first make it across, stone or slush, then the "spotters" - as in a OTR event - remove stones, clear the path and have the cars guided through the path of "least" resistance!

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The "road" tumbled down a slope and we had quite a tough time guiding each car across some of the rough sections, but the "Baby" Alto was not so lucky - it hit the bottom and got stuck there, with gears jammed. Imagine the small one in the middle of the "highway" with gears moving neither to neutral or forward/ reverse - we are unable to move the car! Even towing was impossible.

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What do we do now? We had towing accessories, lots of tools, but definitely not the expertise to open up a gear box to release the stuck gears! I mentioned divine intervention sometime ago - it happened, the 2 mechanics got down to work, they knew exactly what to do, and within 45 minutes or so, they got the gears working again. Do not ask what was the reason why the gears got stuck, we were relieved that the car could move again, that is all. Of course, in the 1.5 hours that the Alto was stuck in the middle, no one came honking angrily to be given way!!!

In any case, this was turning out to be a relaxed day for the non-drivers as they got lots of time to saunter around and wait each vehicle negotiate the difficult sections. 120 kms in 11 hours, that is what the statistics looked like at 4 pm when we reached Chhatru.

It was 4 pm when we left Chhatru after a 5-minute break and we were getting worried about the coming darkness, especially since some of the worst land slide sections were up ahead.

It was virtually celebration time when we reached Gramphoo at 5 pm. Gramphoo is the junction of the Manali-Keylong road: Turn left and you climb up to Rohtang Pass in 15 kms en route Manali, and turn right (our way) and you go to Keylong. We were exhilarated that the small cars had made it successfully thanks to the team work, driving skills and sheer determination.

150 kms in 12 hours, I guess our speeds had increased despite the multiple water crossings that we encountered after Chhatru and the slush on the road which we all slithered through with the full might the engines could give them - We still had a long way to go before we could call it a day.........

All photos are from the albums of our team members like TS, VE and JP.

Last edited by hvkumar : 17th October 2011 at 16:28.
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Old 17th October 2011, 16:45   #520
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I have crossed some of the toughest and worst road in my SX4, but Chotta Dara is just too much. It can wreck some of the tough hearts and minds

I must say that without a good team work, it was impossible for Alto and swifts to cross that.

Just superb experience and some divine intervention.
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Old 17th October 2011, 16:56   #521
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HVK Scorpio
Aug 12, Bombay-Behror, 1402 kms
Aug 13, Behror-Rampur, 692 kms
Aug 14, Rampur-Chitkul, 144 kms
Aug 15, Chitkul-Pooh, 207 kms
Aug 16, Pooh-Kaza, 178 kms
Aug 17-19, Kaza, 291 kms

Aug 20, Kaza-Jispa, 236 kms, ......Continuation

So many vehicles! Here was Gramphoo. After so many days of the lonely valleys of Kinnaur, Baspa, Spiti & Pin, the convoys of trucks winding their way down the Rohtang Pass towards Keylong (and Leh) was a sight that dazzled our eyes, we had almost forgotten to drive on tar roads with other vehicles jostling for company.

Road were silky smooth and for the first time in many days, all cars got into overdrive as we whizzed along - the only thought in my mind was to reach the Tandi petrol pump before it closed between 7-8 pm. And the greenery of the Lahaul Valley now that we had descended to altitudes of 10,000 feet was bewitching as were the multitude of people in their colourful costumes.

Something new here? Yes, there is the North Portal of the Rohtang Pass tunnel that is under construction - that connects with this road between Kokshar & Sissoo - which will relegate the Rohtang Pass to the history books eventually.

We reached the Tandi petrol pump, the last refuelling point for the next 375 kms or so till before Leh. A very crucial landmark, this pump is open from 630 am to 730 pm, although the attendant did confide that they extend working hours depending on the load of vehicles.

Some chit chat with vehicles that had successfully crossed the Rohtang Pass - situation was terrible and the Qualis next to us had left Manali in the morning and had covered 100 kms by 7 pm, having struggled to dredge, crawl and trawl the 2-3 feet slush at Rani Nullah before Rohtang Pass. We thanked ourselves that we had not chosen the Manali route to go to Ladakh.

Some quick consultations amongst the team members and we decided to go on beyond Keylong - which has lots of nice hotels - to Jispa, the next place with hotels, so that we could reduce the distance to be travelled the next day. Keylong is also the last place where you can get any car repairs done (it also has a Maruti service centre). Everyone got busy with their mobile phones - there was good mobile connectivity. Roads approaching Keylong were rough, but the roads after that were great. But the water crossings immediately after the Keylong town were nasty, but by then all of us were dripping with oodles of experience with tackling 1-2 feet deep raging streams!!!!

We reached Jispa (3300 mtrs) at 800 pm to find the village under darkness - very depressing to grope in the darkness, we thought, especially when we wanted to charge cameras, etc. Padma Guest House, where we wanted to stay, was shrouded in darkness, so we decided to go stake out in Hotel Ibex, the super-expensive hotel of Jispa, which has been around for many years now and quite the place to stay on the Manali-Leh road. You cannot bargain much here, but we thought we all deserved a good rest after such a thrilling day which saw the team come into its own.....

Hotel Ibex, Jispa, 01900-233203/4,01902-252616,9418033211, 9418719313, 9418282037
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Old 17th October 2011, 23:22   #522
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So the convoy has finally started from Kaza, i would say that itself was like a short holiday

The initial few pics does show how dangerous the road really was specially so for the smaller cars.
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Old 17th October 2011, 23:26   #523
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Log Book of Day 9, Kaza-Kunzum la-Batal-Chota Dara-Chhatru-Gramphoo-Keylong

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Old 17th October 2011, 23:28   #524
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Originally Posted by cool_dube View Post
I did not know this. Is this by virtue of this stretch not being a 'border area'?
Yes, I think so. Al roads leading to border or along the border are maintained by BRO.
Spiti Valley west of Tabo is not near the border.
Similarly, the Suru-Zanskar Valley Kargil-Padum road is also maintained by the PWD, since it is also not on the border.
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Old 18th October 2011, 00:33   #525
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Originally Posted by idlebrain View Post
One question bothering me. Here in USA where most of the country blanketed under snow most part of the year. Vehicles will be just left on the driveways or streets under snow. I have never seen anyone "sweatering" them and they just start at first attempt. What makes the difference in the cars from here to India?
Most of the cars left on the roadside in the USA are gasoline or petrol cars, whereas in India there is a preponderance of diesel vehicles. Diesel starts clouding at 0 deg C, and 'gel'-ing at -9.5 deg C (unless suitable additives are added). Truckers who ply under extreme wintry conditions use additives which prevents this 'gel'-ing and hence makes the engine operable. Petrol has a much much lower 'gel'-ing point, and a freezing point of -120 to -150 deg F.
Hope this explains.
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