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Old 24th December 2011, 19:51   #1396
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While we wait for JC to return (he's traveling - again!), here's what i saw between Leh and Turtuk.

While we assembled outside Jorchung Guest House, i spotted the Shanti Stupa in the distance, beautifully outlined by its lights and with a black and deep blue background!

Shanti Stupa
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Map
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From the guest house to South Pullu, the road was uber-smooth and I was able to keep pace with the group. Things however changed after South Pullu and I had to slow down considerably due to a rattling noise that came from the front of my Alto. I thought it was something with the suspension but discovered only on taking the car to my workshop in Mumbai that it was a problem with the steering rack.

Anyhow, struggled and reached K'La top. To my surprise, cellphone reception was way better than it had been down in Leh town!! Even GPRS worked!!

Facebook addicts, rejoice!!

Altitude Profile
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My GPS (Motorola Milestone) recorded an altitude of ~5372m (17623 ft) above MSL. Much less than the claimed 18380 ft. That certainly wouldn't prevent me wearing a T-Shirt that loudly proclaims the latter to be the height!!

I'll let the photos talk now!

Hunder Sand Dunes
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THOISE Airstrip (actually clicked returning from Turtuk)
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Clear and Murky water of the Shayok
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I wish these were labeled Khapalu [POK] instead of Khapalu [PAK]
That's despite the fact that the Simla Agreement talked about evolving the Line of Control into the international border..
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Flowers at Turtuk
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Opium Poppy
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ingenious use of discarded jerry cans - here's a bench!
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Kids at Turtuk
Hardly 10-12 years old, the girl on the right carried another kid on her back.
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probably the most expressive one in the lot! This kid innocently gave all kinds of facial expressions for the team to photograph.
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When i stood in front of this one with my camera, he said "no thanks!!"
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Peeping Tom!
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I then wandered away from the rest of the group to taste apricots! A local saw me near the tree and helped me pluck a few. He then showed apricot being dried on rooftops and went on about the other produce of Turtuk (mostly - Apples and Walnut).
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Just when i started walking back to camp, i heard a voice shouting out "ONE PHOTO!! ONE PHOTO!!!".
It was the same girl who was carrying another kid on her back!

here's what this bundle of cuteness looked like!
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Last edited by GTO : 26th December 2011 at 09:12. Reason: As per your reported post
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Old 24th December 2011, 21:19   #1397
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Default Re: HumbLeh'd II (Indo Polish Himalayan Expedition to Ladakh & Himachal Pradesh)

Wonderful pictures. The one of Shanti Sthupa stands out. The capturing of the expressions of the kids is fantastic.
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Old 25th December 2011, 14:44   #1398
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HVK sir thanks for the nice video of K.Dungla the background score was awesome.
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Old 25th December 2011, 17:04   #1399
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Turtuk was a lovely place, and we enjoyed the village walk immensely - it slowed us down from the frenetic pace of driving of the past few days. We all love the fast, long day drives, but here was a tour that made us very relaxed and rejuvenated for the coming days. Our desperation to reach Turtul early - and we did before 5 pm - paid off and we could spent over an hour on walking the bylanes of the village meeting many people before the sun set and darkness enveloped the countryside - with POK just 10 kms away.

The locals eat a sort of roti which you probably saw in some of the pictures. They are apparently blessed with long life due to the salubrious climate and good food they eat. Winters are cold, but nowhere as harsh as they are in Leh or other parts of Ladakh since they are at lower altitude and the River Shayok does not entirely stop flowing, although water flow is vastly reduced. Apparently, the road from Leh is open through the harshest of winters.

The locals are quite self-sufficient, growing a variety of grains, vegetables & fruits. Their cooking styles are also somewhat different although we did not get any info on how they are unique - the only local dish we had that night was chicken cooked using local spices (not tandoori type) which was nothing extraordinary as per the folks who had it.

Everyone was very friendly - some of the women did not mind being photographed but others shied away. None of them look conservative or extra-religious, for a far-flung village, we did not see a single lady in a veil. Lots of children around, I believe they have their own primary school but for higher education they have to head out to Leh and faraway places in India.

Apart from the Turtuk Holiday Camp (on the road) which we stayed in - definitely the most luxurious place - you can also stay at a small guest house located in the village itself. The Camp owners themselves live in the premises - although the brother AK is in Leh.

There is no mobile connectivity here in Turtuk but I think they have a satellite phone. I found that JKSRTC does run an occasional bus service to the village during summer but if locals want to travel to Leh - as in other parts of Ladakh - they have to book a seat in one of the Sumo taxis that run on demand. It is very difficult to have a definitive visit plan to Turtuk without having your own car. As in our case, it is a full day's drive from Leh to Turtuk, but try to book your hotel room in advance either at the Turtuk Holiday Camp or the guest house (I don't have its contact number).

Do not try to go beyond the village - the road is closed to all civilians to the India-POK border post of Gorkha Ridge. I am sure - as Lalu KS mentioned - that it will be a pleasant experience to spend a full day (we only spent a night) in Turtuk exploring the village, going down to the River Shayok bank and so on. A couple of our friends also visited the Raja of Turtuk and were shown around his "Palace" for a small fee by the big man himself.

The residents of Turtuks speak their own Baltistani dialect -using Urdu script - but people like Rahmatullah Khan speak excellent Hindi and are very marketing savvy - they have nice printed brochures of the resort, a Face Book group and so on.

Tempted by the fresh apricots we saw on the trees, we bought some newly dried apricots plucked just a week or so again and sun-dried - they are very delicious and apart from that, we also took as a memento a finely-carved walking stick ordered by one of my friends back home in Bombay.

We are scheduled to leave early next morning......as the generator switched off, we stored away our torches next to us as we retired to bed.

Last edited by hvkumar : 25th December 2011 at 17:13.
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Old 25th December 2011, 18:05   #1400
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Finally managed to get on the forum days later. 2 days and 94 pages later you guys are still at Turtuk.. Cummon guys, no more Kaza type landslides stopping you now. Buck up..!!

Wonderful account of camaraderie, teamwork, stupendous planning and execution. Hvk, your narration is excellent.
Excellent information and motivation for those who would like to enjoy the splendours of the northern frontiers of India.

Cheers team.
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Old 25th December 2011, 18:08   #1401
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Finally managed to get on the forum days later. 2 days and 94 pages later you guys are still at Turtuk.. Cummon guys, no more Kaza type landslides stopping you now. Buck up..!!

Wonderful account of camaraderie, teamwork, stupendous planning and execution. Hvk, your narration is excellent.
Excellent information and motivation for those who would like to enjoy the splendours of the northern frontiers of India.

Cheers team.
Jay, it was bad that your drive to Turtuk was derailed by that landslide - we will be delighted if you can point us to the page in your travelogue on that bad experience!

The road to Turtuk has many sections where you can face landslides and I am surprised that it does remain open most of the time!
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Old 25th December 2011, 18:16   #1402
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Jay, it was bad that your drive to Turtuk was derailed by that landslide - we will be delighted if you can point us to the page in your travelogue on that bad experience!

The road to Turtuk has many sections where you can face landslides and I am surprised that it does remain open most of the time!
Kumar, ive not posted my Tlog yet, hopefully should be able to do it soon as i find some time.

What we faced was not a landslide but of avalanche proportions.. there was a sustained torrential downpour right from the time we reached Deskit early in the afternoon. It increased when we reached Hunder and while we were returning to Deskit the entire mountain side almost melted like hot chocolate and came gushing down.. it was like a mix of cement concrete/lava of high density just flowing across the road capable of washing away any vehicle off the road. Terrible to say the least, and bad enough to cause the military stallion truck to first get stuck and then turn around and skimper away.
Will post video and pics when i come up with the Tlog.
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Old 25th December 2011, 22:30   #1403
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What we faced was not a landslide but of avalanche proportions.. there was a sustained torrential downpour right from the time we reached Deskit early in the afternoon. It increased when we reached Hunder and while we were returning to Deskit the entire mountain side almost melted like hot chocolate and came gushing down.. it was like a mix of cement concrete/lava of high density just flowing across the road capable of washing away any vehicle off the road. Terrible to say the least, and bad enough to cause the military stallion truck to first get stuck and then turn around and skimper away.
Will post video and pics when i come up with the Tlog.
Here is the link to Satan's thread on the mud slide on the road to Turtuk when they drove there:

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...ml#post2490669 (An Unlikely Pair (Safari & Gypsy) do a 6600km circuit Mumbai – Srinagar- Leh - Mumbai)
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Old 25th December 2011, 22:39   #1404
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Here is the link to Satan's thread on the mud slide on the road to Turtuk when they drove there:
That video does not depict the true nature of the experience. Infact i cant even see any mud slide on to the road. Patience.. will post a 'real' mudslide video soon.
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Old 26th December 2011, 14:28   #1405
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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
Aug 21, Jispa-Leh, 374 kms
Aug 22, Leh-Kargil, 343 kms
Aug 23, Kargil-Padum, 248 kms
Aug 24, Padum-Kargil, 275 kms
Aug 25, Kargil-Leh, 259 kms
Aug 26, Leh, 148 kms
Aug 27, 2011, Leh-Turtuk, 241 kms

Aug 28, 2011, Leh-Pangong Tso, 445 kms

445 kms? In Ladakh in a day? You must be joking, right?

This day was a crazy day of sorts - lots of ups & downs, indecision & decisions, hits & misses.

- Will we reach Pangong Tso today?
- What if the car topples over?
- To go or not to go?
- Rs 7,500 is a lot of money to lose, isn't it?
- 27-16-14, the shrinking team?


We had scheduled very early departure this day, knowing that this is not going to be an easy drive. Waking up at 3 am is never an easy thing and when you know that there is darkness all around and you need a torch to go to the loo outside, the task becomes all the more onerous! Nonetheless, everyone was in their car bays by 4 am, and Rahmatullah Khan bundled up our breakfast too in packets for each to carry. He must have also been bemused to see a bunch of motorists leave so early in the morning in total darkness! Each picked up his packets of dried apricot, fresh from the plucking season.

My Scorpio refused to start! Hey, it is not even cold here, battery cannot be that bad, I had checked it just before I left and had faced no problems so far. Disheartened after a few cranks, I turned away, when one of the team told me to try again and hey presto, the engine fired up.

410 am we were off. At the Chalunka Bridge, the jawans probaby thought we must be the Pakis invading the way they got startled by our convoy as it crossed the suspension bridge over the River Shayok. The police check post over, a couple of us - me and KSM-vTEC - decided to sprint to Hunder which we reached at 625 am even as the sun brightened up the countryside and cast shadows on the sand dunes. Everyone wanted a cuppa, but there was absolutely nothing around here and we had to continue to Khalasar for the first tea break at 7 am - "Strictly 10 minutes", those were my words to the rest of the team since I was worried about not losing momentum after having such a promising start.

Tea break over and we turned off the Leh road a little after Khalasar - the road to Wari la via Agham & Tangyar. This short cut saves you some 40 kms and the bother of climbing up K La and going via Leh. Awesome route, the road first runs on the dry river bed - which is one reason why the Wari la route reopens the last every year, since the river floods the entire plains - before starting a climb just short of Agham Village. If you go through Agham, you can go direct to Pangong via the Shayok route (to Durbuk). This is a new "road" which opened sometime last year - however, a couple of bridges were washed away and there is no way you can complete your drive. We were nursing some hopes of going this way, but on making local enquiries it was reconfirmed that the road is simply not ready yet and we have to stick to the Wari la route. You see lots of wildlife on this route - yaks, ibex, birds, etc - as the dirt roads starts ascending steeply to Wari la. At 5325 metres altitude, it vies with the K La, Chang la & Tanglang la as among the highest motorable passes in the Ladakh region.

The gap between the leader car (mine) and the stragglers widened and soon we were high up in the mountains looking down at some of the other cars way down below! We reached the Wari la - some traces of snow here and there - at 10 am, having driven 186 kms since we left Turtuk 6 hours before.

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The road does not pose any problems for 2WD or small cars. The descent from Wari la is fun because many "short-cuts" have been made by making paths straight down instead of following the curvature of the formal roads. All well, but the constant braking meant my wheel hub cap flew off because of the high heat that had developed in the wheel hubs - the fresh grease (which I had cleaned and put 2 days ago in the Leh workshop) also spilling all over. Luckily, Lalu went back and found the fallen hub cap which we fitted. Lesson for the day - try to avoid braking as much as possible, instead down-shifting gears to reduce speeds. The Wari la-Sakti road looks bad for my Scorpio, last time (2009) too I faced the same problem.

At Sakti, you rejoin the main Leh-Pangong road. We had already decided that we will travel that extra 10 kms or so towards Leh and refuel at the Karu petrol pump so as to reduce our off-tank storage capacity for the long drive circuit. Dropping off Lalu at the teat shops in Karu to order lunch for the entire gang, we were all at the petrol pump by 1130 am.

During the refuelling session, events took a turn which took us all by surprise and threatened to break up the team and reorder the trip itself............but that story is after the break!!

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Old 27th December 2011, 01:01   #1406
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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
Aug 21, Jispa-Leh, 374 kms
Aug 22, Leh-Kargil, 343 kms
Aug 23, Kargil-Padum, 248 kms
Aug 24, Padum-Kargil, 275 kms
Aug 25, Kargil-Leh, 259 kms
Aug 26, Leh, 148 kms
Aug 27, 2011, Leh-Turtuk, 241 kms


Aug 28, 2011, Leh-Pangong Tso, 445 kms


- Will we reach Pangong Tso today?
- What if the car topples over?
- To go or not to go?
- Rs 7,500 is a lot of money to lose, isn't it?
- 27-16-14, the shrinking team?
- How to locate one Pole with a soul?


The last picture in the previous post hides many clues.
Look at the second Bolero slightly inclined.
Look to me on my knees examining the Scorpio's undercarriage.

Jeep Captain discovered he had a flat tyre.
I found 3 leaf springs broken in the LHS rear, something which was OK the previous day when I examined it in the workshop.

We had intended to refuel and proceed directly to Pangong after finishing off quick lunch at Karu.
This was a crucial point where everyone was requested to download whatever they wanted - photos, GPS tracks - into their computer since we were to be in high-altitude places for the next 3 days continuously - at those heights, laptops will get ruined if switched on.

Getting into Karu, lunch was ready. Jeep Captain found the only puncture shop there to mend his tyre. But I was in serious trouble. Now that 3 springs have broken, the cascading effect will mean more spring breakages on both rear wheels. Quick consultations amongst ourselves - and also a quick call to my reliable mechanic - and we concluded that could have disastrous consequences with the vehicle becoming instable and even risk getting toppled over on sharp curves or the entire shackle assembly collapsing and crippling the car.

I pressed the button and decided to return to Leh to get the springs repaired since continuing further would mean I have no workshop for the next 4-5 days, besides driving on the roughest terrain possible. Being a Sunday - and a call to a known spares dealer confirmed that - meant that all workshops were closed which meant that I would get delayed in Leh by a day. That would upset our schedules. That would mean the team wasting lots of time just to help one car. We consulted the team and 2 possibilities emerged - except me, the rest of the team proceed on the circuit as planned, taking the original permits with them. Or we stick together, finish my Scorpio's repairs ad proceed together the next day as planned. I was unhappy with this since I could not commit any time frame for the spring work except that the next day all mechanics will be back in action and the work itself should not take more than 2 hours. Leaf springs are available with any spares shop, no need to shop at the M&M dealer.

The team thought it over - but were firm that we all go together even if it meant that we lost a day. What team spirit! It went against my own code of driving articulated before the trip - we wait for none, the itinerary and schedule is immutable and the journey goes on. But here I am, sprawled under the Scorpio ruing the damage and our friends are telling me, chalo, let us all go back to Leh, you repair your car, we stay back in Jorchung Guest House and leave after the car is ready. If necessary, we cut out some sector ti make up for the lost time. Wah Wah, I cannot but express my admiration and gratitude for this team spirit.

So, I start off first from Karu back towards Leh - driving very slowly to avoid risking more breakages or break-downs. Being a Sunday, the roads were empty. I get into Leh town, start looking around, asking each workshop - all of them are closed, but I find one which is open and he directs me to the main workshop area off the Airport road. Workshop after workshop, they are all closed. I make some random enquiries, find myself knocking a couple of doors where the mechanics stay. But they are all out somewhere. So no luck there.......I walk around the area next 15 minutes or so, asking around (hardly anyone though) about the whereabouts of the "phaata" wala - since leaf spring work is done by spring specialists. By luck, I meet a guy who directs me to one corner of a ground where - O M G - there is indeed a spring guy at work on a Tata pick-up! He is there specially that Sunday. He looks at my springs, nods and asks me to wait.

And soon, within 30 minutes, he is done with the Tata and tells me that he does not have the new springs - since all 3 are totally broken - but he can weld the broken pieces together. A chat between JC and me, and I decide to go for it - what other option do I have? The mechanic tells me that it is customary to weld broken springs - cheaper than buying new ones, and also means you do not waste time running after the spares. One of the springs he welds together the broken pieces. In case of the next one, he found a similar piece in his scrapyard and welds it with the original. In the case of the third, it is badly broken, so he cuts out a chunk from one of the other springs and puts it there. So, at the end of 30 minutes, I have a complete leaf spring assembly welded and refitted together. He virtually guarantees that the springs will hold through the worst of Ladakh and take me back to Bombay (He was right, it not only did that, but I continue to drive my Scorpio even today with the same welded springs, although ride quality is terrible!)

A very relieved person I was, but now what? It is hardly 4 pm - what do we do now? There is going to be a twist in the tail!
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Old 27th December 2011, 07:29   #1407
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Lucky you Mr HVK to find a pattawala who knows his onions at that time at that place. But is welding plates an accptable practice though it has stood you firm all along the rest of the expedition and beyond. What kind of welding rod did he use, any idea.
Waiting for the twist to unfurl.
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Old 27th December 2011, 08:42   #1408
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Lucky you Mr HVK to find a pattawala who knows his onions at that time at that place. But is welding plates an accptable practice though it has stood you firm all along the rest of the expedition and beyond. What kind of welding rod did he use, any idea.
Waiting for the twist to unfurl.
Normally, finding a pattawala in Leh is not a problem because that is one of the booming business there in view of so many vehicles breaking their springs in these rough roads. There are 3-4 specialists in the workshop area, but being a Sunday afternoon they were on holiday.

The guy I found was a patta expert. I understand that it is generally practiced in the case of pick-ups and such like (the commercial vehicles) although this is the first I was hearing about it (but J C was familiar with the practice). Because of the electric welding, there is no possibility of a breakage, but (a) the springiness is gone and the vehicle gets rough suspension, and (b) because of the ensuing stiffness, some other part of the same patta may break. Which is why the pattawala also suggested that I go it easy, not drive too fast on rough roads. As I said, it is over 10K kms since I repaired the springs and they are holding up fine.
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Old 27th December 2011, 09:42   #1409
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Thanks HVK, this post will be a great eye-opener for folks attracted to the lure of the open highway, not just Ladakh!
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What if my car breaks down in Ladakh?
For all except the most popular Tata, Mahindra & Maruti, parts may be difficult to get anywhere in Ladakh.
You forgot to mention the ubiquitous Toyota Innova that rules the taxi market in Ladakh. All spares available, and almost any taxiwallah will point you to the right guy to carry out repairs, even if it isn't an authorised service centre.
Quote:
There are hardly any puncture shops to repair punctured tyres.
Which is why tubeless tyres and puncture repair kits (including inflator pumps) are an absolute must-have.
Quote:
There is no mobile connectivity, who will I call if in distress?
Carrying a postpaid BSNL mobile in Ladakh is a must - for the regions where even BSNL gives up, the satellite phone in the local village is the last saviour.
Quote:
Are there some essential spares...?
Each type of car has its own unique requirement of spares. Even the fuses can be of different types. Certain cars are more prone to have a particular component fail - ask your FNG what might be the Achilles' heel of the car you drive, and carry that spare. In short, make sure you carry the right stuff specific to your car.
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...So don't worry - be prepared, get your hands dirty and trust in God.
HVK, I absolutely adore this last one - a quotable quote!!!
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Old 27th December 2011, 11:18   #1410
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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
I remember reading in this forum that one of our friends whose Esteem's clutch plate gave up even got a spare clutch plate (it was apparently the same as the Army Gypsy's) from the army workshop nearby and got them to repair it too.

So don't worry - be prepared, get your hands dirty and trust in God.
I guess am that fella who still has mixed feelings about the incident. Though I missed visiting Pangong but got to experience the royal hospitality & tales of our army folks. One correction, the Gypsy's clutch plate was ultimately deemed unsuitable for Esteem at the army workshop and one specific to the latter was required. But yeah, army mechanics tried best to get the vehicle fixed pronto.

And your last sentence is awesome from the perspective of a wanderer in his vehicle!

Last edited by lordofgondor : 27th December 2011 at 11:21.
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