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Old 19th September 2011, 08:35   #1
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Default Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!

Ladakh....Engulfed by mountains, caressed by winds, embedded in stillness, eloquent in silence.

Apprehension…that’s the word, every time I thought about the drive to Ladakh I felt apprehension...Would it be safe for a couple to drive through? Would the roads hold up? Would the passes be ‘passable’? Would the car give way or would the mountains slide down over us? Can I survive as a single driver or can my better half survive the monotony of the drive? These and umpteen other apprehensions shot through my mind whenever I thought about the road trip but then putting ‘mind over matter’ we resolved to cross the final frontier.

A saying goes “How do you make God laugh?...Tell him your plans!

We decided to keep things fluid at first but then the thought of landing up in remote lands without a roof (or a canvas) over the head increased my apprehensions again and I decided to make God laugh after all by making a solid itinerary and some concrete bookings at hotels and camps all through my planned route.

Putting together material to hold us up through the route was quite a chore…military style jerry cans came in from Bangalore, tow rope was sourced from south Mumbai, puncture repair kit, jump start wires, a 20 liter Bisleri can all made their way in to the Xylo and by the time we packed in our clothes, there was no more space left! I had got the Xylo serviced a few days earlier and had her filled to the brim the night before along with 40 liters in the jerry can’s, stocked the fridge with chocolates and red bulls…all set to go.

This is the story of our journey to the roof of the world.

Day 1: Mumbai to Ratangarh

The initial ODO reading....
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This was going to be a stretch by any means and the rains did not make it any easier. Started out at 12am on the 13th of August and made our way through to NH8 amidst torrential rains. There is construction going on all through till Virar and beyond for around 50kms and progress is slow and as if on cue the windshield wiper fluid gives way…I could see God laughing already

Driving in the rain through truck traffic with a muck laden windshield is no mean task but I pushed on till day break with numerous stops at way side mechanic shops trying to wake up those sleepy souls only to be told to try the next one. By day break I had made it to Bharuch and thankfully the rain too subsided. Once on dry roads, I picked up speed and tried to make up for lost time, the road were lovely and the sun was shining.

Just before Udaipur, we branched off towards Chittorgarh via NH76 and then to Bhilwara via NH79 to rejoin the NH8 at Kishangarh by around 5.30pm. We had taken a couple of quick brunch breaks along the way and things looked good to achieve the day’s target.

The megahighway branches out from Kishangarh and runs through Rupangarh, Makrana, Didwana, Ladnun, Sujangarh and onto Ratangarh for our night halt. The 2 laned road is flat out and has minimal traffic and we made the 220 odd kms in just under 2.5hrs.

Reached RTDC Hotel Chinkara by 8.00pm and checked in to crash for the night after a light dinner and some barley brew!

Day 1 done at 1337.5kms added on the odo…and the God’s must be laughing!

Fevicol....
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Breakfast somewhere near Chittorgarh
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The 2 laned mega-highway from Kishangarh to Hanumangarh.
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A new personal high...1337.7 kms in 18 hrs!!!
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Last edited by nix1976in : 20th September 2011 at 22:08.
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Old 19th September 2011, 09:02   #2
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Default Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!

Day 2: Ratangarh to Amritsar

The day started early and after a quick cuppa we rejoined the megahighway making quick progress towards our first destination…the Wagah border. The megahighway continues through towards Sardarsahar and ends at Hanumangarh. The good road continues on to Fazilka, Firozpur, Tarn Taran and onto Amritsar. Enroute, we had a real heavy breakfast of an assortment of parathas with huge dollops of butter!

RTDC, Hotel Chinkara at Ratangarh
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Twain' shall not meet
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Mega Highway towards Punjab
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Peacock on a pole!!
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Desert Rain...
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Canal's after Punjab border
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King on a wire.
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We had a sumptuous lunch and then crossed the city to make it to Wagah border by 4.30pm only to be encountered by a swelling crowd and we literally had to make a dash to get a ringside view of the parade once the gates were opened. Seeing the border and the Pakistani public up close somehow makes you feel more Indian and the patriotic songs playing full blast add to the fervor. The BSF does a great job at marshalling the public and getting everyone to participate in the melee, soon there were around a 100 women including foreigners dancing away to glory and some (including my better half) were given flags to carry right up to the border.

The actual ceremony lasted around 30-45 mins and was more a show of aggression than anything else (am told that they have toned it down a few notches after 2006). All the foot stomping and angry gestures somehow made no sense to me. The flags were lowered, bundled and stored away marking an end to the ceremony which I felt was an exercise in futility especially when all and sundry are rooting for peace and cordial relations.

Just 23kms to Lahore
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Blazing sun at Wagah
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Welcome to India!
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Wagah ceremony
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LOC...
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We started back towards Amritsar by 6.30pm and checked into Hotel Sapphire right next to Darbar Sahib. The room was clean and neat and afforded spectacular views of the entire Golden temple complex. We settled in and after dinner watched some debates over Anna Hazare before crashing for the night.

Day 2 done...with 581 kms added on the ODO.
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Last edited by nix1976in : 20th September 2011 at 22:14.
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Old 19th September 2011, 23:25   #3
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Day 3: Amritsar.

This was a planned rest day and we decided to take it easy since only the Golden Temple, Jalianwala Bagh and Punjabi lunch at a good place were on the menu.

But then the God’s laughed and the hotel staff informed me that our parked car had a puncture and being 15th August, most shops would be closed. Luckily an auto rickshaw guy came forward and offered to take me around to search for a mechanic…we went all through the narrow Amritsar streets and managed to locate a person finally. The tyre was changed, the puncture was taken care of and we were ready to roll again by lunch time.

We decided to leave the car parked at the hotel and take rickshaw tour through the city. The first stop was Darbar Sahib where we had a good darshan before chilling around the place. The kirtan chants and serene ambience make this one of my favorite places not to forget the delicious bhog.

Golden Temple...Harmandir Sahib.
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Goldfish in the Amrit Sarovar
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Jalianwala Bagh gave me the jitters every time I read about it and seeing it first hand is even more chilling…the narrow passageway, the martyr’s well, the bullet ridden walls all should have added to the angst that one feels inside, however, Jalianwala Bagh instead of being a stark reminder of the atrocity of the ‘Raj’ comes across more like a park where couples sit on secluded benches and kids play on the grass with families milling around. Somehow, I feel the spirit that the place needs to inspire in us is lost in this urban jungle.

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The martyr's well...120 bodies were recovered from this well
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Bullet Marks
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Moving on, we went to the Crystal, a restaurant that comes highly recommended and were not disappointed by its rich fare of Amritsari Machhi and succulent chicken.


After some rest at the hotel, we moved back to the Golden Temple complex and spent some quite time by the Amrit Sarovar listening to the chants of kirtans reverberating through the place…a very serene experience.

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Coming back, we had a light dinner and bundled up for the night.

Last edited by nix1976in : 29th September 2011 at 11:10.
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Old 19th September 2011, 23:40   #4
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Day 4: Amritsar to Srinagar
An early start by sunrise saw us racing through to Pathankot where we stopped for breakfast at a small roadside dhaba serving the most sumptuous parathas with huge dollops of butter.

View from the room at Hotel Sapphire, Amritsar
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Good roads meant that we made it to Lakhanpur and entered J&K by 9am. Exactly 32.0 kms from Lakhanpur toll is Dyala Chak where we took a diversion off to a narrow road leading to Udhampur. This road , although narrow, is in a good condition and one can notice a perceptible change in the landscape when rolling acres and acres of farmland give way to tree lined roads with clouds clinging to tree laden hills.

Lakhanpur Border...
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Bypassing Jammu through Dyala Chak
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Joining back on the highway to Udhampur was a breeze where we had a light lunch and continued towards Kashmir. We were at Jawahar Tunnel by around 3pm.and reached our destination at Dal Lake by 5.30pm after a long jam on the outskirts of Srinagar.

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We had booked a couple of nights on a houseboat in Dal Lake and were picked up at the parking by some attendants and escorted via a shikara to the place.

Dal Lake is (had a long pause here to get the correct word) serene…or you could call it an oasis in the chaoas that is Srinagar. Anyway, it’s beautiful…I could spend a lifetime sitting on a houseboat deck watching life go by on the water, the flower vendors, kabab wallah’s, shikara’s with cackling tourists, floating grocery stores with ducks on the water and birds circling above.

The sunset too, was an awesome experience. The month of Ramadan was on and the faint chants from a mosque far away were ringing through the evening adding to the mystique. We did nothing but lazed around the place soaking up the ambience.

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Kababs on the lake!!
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The houseboat was tastefully appointed with heavy walnut furniture in traditional Kashmiri style and the rooms were clean, spacious and comfortable Dinner was an elaborate affair with some Kashmiri delicacies which we thoroughly enjoyed.

Watched some more of the Anna Hazare coverage over the news and then called it a day…

End of Day 4...524 kms added on the ODO.
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Last edited by nix1976in : 29th September 2011 at 11:13.
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Old 20th September 2011, 00:03   #5
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Default Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!

Day 5: Srinagar

Rest day again….but wanted to catch the sunrise so woke up by 6.00 and sat around on the deck watching the lake change colors with each passing minute. The Dal seems to have a huge avian population and I caught quite a few Kingfishers, Kites and other species diving and fishing at that early hour.

Dal Sunrise
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After breakfast, we asked the owner to give us a guide who can take us through the city for sightseeing and shopping. The first stop was Pari Mahal which affords sweeping views of the city and the golf course. Moving on we also visited Nishat and Shalimar gardens which are lovely if one is interested in flowers.

Old Srinagar from Pari Mahal
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Shalimar Gardens
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Nishat Gardens
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Nishat Gardens
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The temperature was soaring as we made our way to Hazrat Bal which is quite low profile given that it holds such an important relic. We then visited Jamia Masjid which is very different from any mosque I have ever seen. No big domes here…it’s one big courtyard surrounded by huge spires and big halls with 40feet tall wooden columns…very impressive and well maintained.

Hazrat Bal
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Jamia Masjid
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Jamia Masjid prayer hall..
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All these touristy endeavours left us famished and we drove through the afternoon traffic to Ahdoo’s which comes highly recommended for Wazwan cuisine. The Tabak Mas, Rishta, Goshtaba among others were delicious…a non-veg paradise!

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Coming back to the Dal, my better half decided to wear her shopping shoes and we were rowed off to the bustling shopping district in a shikara. Rows and rows of shops line the lake here and we brought some interesting walnut artifacts here. The complimentary shikara drive was an added advantage as we watched the sunset over Dal while floating over the lake.

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Dal Lake shopping district..
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The evening passed away on the tranquil lake with another rich heavy fare at dinner.

Sunset over the Dal Lake.
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The real journey starts tomorrow….

Last edited by nix1976in : 20th September 2011 at 00:06.
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Old 20th September 2011, 08:36   #6
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Day 6 : Srinagar to Kargil.
Another early start saw us idling through the sleepy streets of Sringar towards Sonamarg. The landscape changes rapidly giving us first glimpses of snow topped mountains and green meadows.

Sonamarg
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The ascent to D’Zojila after Sonamarg creeps up and the road conditions start to detoriate rapidly. The climb gets steeper and steeper and the road gets narrower and narrower. Luckily we were not met with much oncoming traffic and could negotiate the climb with minimal difficulty. The last 3-400 meters were especially difficult with a tanker stranded on a steep incline on a turn but we managed to make our way out over the top where a wide paved track awaited us.

Ascending D'Zojila
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Road to nowhere...
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Half way through the climb...need all the blessing's!
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We were halted by the army right at the top since a huge army convoy was coming up. We thanked our stars that we didn’t encounter them on the other side of the D’Zojila. Getting down was the easy part and the views got even more amazing.

Can you spot the convoy...
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View from D'Zojila Top.
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Snow near the top...
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Passing the Draupadi Kund, we came across some of the Operation Vijay monuments. Tiger hill came up just before Drass town…the second coldest inhabitated place in the world…the sun was bearing down on us and it didn’t feel so cold after all.

View onwards to Kargil.
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We stopped for a breakfast of eggs and maggi at Drass and had a chat with the owners who recounted stories of the ’99 war…of bombs landing on houses and of hasty evacuation.

Wasn't so cold...
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The Kargil Memorial just after Drass is a stark reminder of the dark days of the Kargil war with names of scores of our martyr’s embellished on the memorial. Tiger Hill and Rhino Horn along with Batra Top and the Toololing (where Capt. Vikram Batra laid down his life) stand tall all around the monument.

Drass Memorial
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Rhino Horn and Batra Top Features
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Moving on, long winding roads hugging the river lead us across the barren landscape and into Kargil Town by 1pm. We had already booked a room at D’Zojila hotel and checked in. The place is neat and tidy with spacious rooms. We went down to the main market a couple of kms away and had a nice KFC meal (Kargil Fried Chicken!!).

Onwards to Kargil...
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Coming back, I cozied up in the snug room and dozed for a couple of hours. In the evening, we strolled across the road to the river front, the winds started getting chilly and we got a first taste of the cold Himalayan weather.

Over dinner, we caught up with fellow team-bhpian Kapil (guess his id is cutthecrap) who was coming back from Leh with family in a Safari and had decided to stay at D’Zojila after seeing the LTD sticker on my car in the parking.

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Back in the room, we spent some time watching the idiot box before signing out for the night…Gonna get Leh’ed tomorrow.

Day 6 done...208 kms added on the ODO.
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Last edited by nix1976in : 29th September 2011 at 11:16.
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Old 20th September 2011, 09:30   #7
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Default Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!

Day 7 : Kargi to Leh.
One of the most desolate, isolated yet beautiful stretches of the journey thus far….The roads were good and the drive was fast.

Outside Kargil Town
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First stop Chamba Buddha near Mulbekh Gompa. A 1st century, 35-40 feet tall monolithic Maitreya Buddha cut on the rock face right by the highway. Mulbekh is said to be the imaginary divide between Islamic west and Buddhist east in Ladakh and here onwards signs become evident of a pro-Buddhist culture with prayer flags and chortens visible in abundance

Chamba Buddha near Mulbekh Gompa...1st century Maitreya Buddha
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Moving on….we made good progress on good tarred roads, through mountains and hills ravaged by the passage of time shaped like “dinosaurs” in my wife's parlance. Well., they do seem like dino’s if you let your imagination do some thinking

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Do these look like Dino's??
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We went over Namikala and Fotula with relative ease after the tough climb over D’Zojila the day before. The views from these summits are awesome and the morning sun was doing wonders to the landscape

Namika La Pass
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Now that's cold!!
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Fotu La Pass
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View from Fotu La Top
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Second stop, Lamayuru Gompa with its moonscape like backyard. This was first of many Gompa’s that we visited on this trip, all situated high up on a hilltop with lots of steps to get to the first level and just when you think you have made it….you realize that there are even more levels!!!
Lamayuru Gompa sits nestled on a small hilltop and is a quiet quaint place. The monks were chanting away in their typical reverberating monologue which added to the holy ambience. The landscape visible in the distance is stark but does hold your attention….somehow reminded me of the Chambal ravines!!

Lamayuru Gompa
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Moonscape!!
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Just after Lamayuru we were caught up in a landslide clearing for around an hour and again a few minutes down the road for another…nothing major.

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Enroute to Leh
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A fork further down invited us to take a “weak” bridge (there are many bridges, big and small, in Ladkah and majority have boards claiming that they are weak) to Alchi Gompa so we deviated from the main highway, drove 5-6 kms down a flat road and were at Alchi in no time.
Alchi has no steps but narrow alleys from the parking lead you through to the temple. Alchi has many separate temples and lots of chortens. A quick tour and we realized that we were famished, after all it was almost lunch time and all we had till now was the packed breakfast from D’zojila hotel in Kargil.

Alchi Gompa
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There are numerous restaurants and souvenir shops lining Alchi Gompa and we had a quick lunch at one of them. Lovely food and a great place, with apricot and apple trees all over the compound.

Apricots...
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Apples
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Joined the highway to move on to our next stop…Magnetic Hill. Stopped the car in the designated box on the slope near the top and ‘lo and behold’ the Xylo pulled back and over the top of the hill…Astounding!!. I moved the car further down the slope and turned off the ignition…slowly but surely the car slid up the slope in reverse…now I turned the car around with the nose facing up the slope…and it surely did move up…’tis was amazing!!

Illusion or not…the magnetic hill thrilled me no end!



Next up down the road is Gurudwara Patthar Sahib where Guru Nanak is said to have meditated and rid the local populace of a demon. The imprint of the guru on the rock and the spot where the demon kicked the rock all add to the mystique of the place.

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And then finally….Leh!!
Just like any other small town with shops lining the roads and people milling around!

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Leh outskirts
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We had booked ourselves at Skara which is around a one km from the main market. A quiet place with a small garden, neat and clean rooms, good breakfast and great service, Hotel Caravan Centre is highly recommended for people with their own transport and who wish to stay away from the hustle and bustle of the main market.

We checked in around 5pm and settled in to watch some TV and had a nice hot cup of tea.

Later in the evening we drove down to the main market haggled with a local souvenir shop over a dancing Tara statue but couldn’t agree on a price.

Had a nice dinner at Chopsticks, stocked up on chocolates and Red Bull and crashed for the night.

Finally Leh'd...with 246 kms added on the ODO on Day 7 adding to a total of 2897 kms from Mumbai
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-end-day-7-odo.jpg

Last edited by nix1976in : 29th September 2011 at 11:20.
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Old 21st September 2011, 19:09   #8
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Default Re: Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!

Day 8 : Leh
Rest Day….Nothing to do!!

Am an early riser (specially on vacations when I have all the time to sleep)...so was up and about around sunrise. Got the car out and roamed around a deserted Leh town asking for a place to watch the sunrise...was directed towards the Khardungla exit where after 3-4 kms, I came across a diversion for Tsemo Gompa. An amazing vantage point looking over Leh town.

Leh Town from Tsemo Gompa
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Gave our Id’s to the front desk to get permits done for our drive to Pangong, Nubra and Tso Morriri and then drove down to Thiksey Gompa for a leisurely stroll after spending a few minutes at the Sindhu confluence.

Thiksey is set on a steep hill and has shrines at 3-4 levels. The views from the top was good and the meals in the temple cafeteria are also worth a mention. As for everything else, I guess most Gompa’s look and feel the same.

Thiksey Gompa
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View from Thiksey Gompa
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Coming back we went to the Druk school, where preparations were in full swing for some big conference. Posters of Aamir Khan are all over the place as well as the café is called Rancho!!
Nothing special…just a photo-op.

The Druk School
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Leh Fort
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Later in the evening, went back to Leh main market, were coaxed into another round of bargaining for the Tara but couldn’t agree on a price…
everything was good natured but the price just wouldn’t come down!!

Had a nice heavy dinner again at Chopsticks and crashed for the night…

No sign of AMS…yet…Good!!
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Old 21st September 2011, 20:42   #9
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Default Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!

Day 9 : Leh to Pangong Tso

Big day…Big pass….Chang La here we come.

ODO reading at start of Day 9...
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My apprehensions were working overtime ...the mighty Chang La awaited us at 17580 feet. We started nice and early around sunrise, the drive was smooth till Karu where we branched off for Pangong via Sakti.

Enroute to Pangong
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Marmot by the road...
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The road snakes all over the landscape…up, up and over, down, down and out and again up and above…I couldn’t really make out whether we were climbing or descending...the roads were not great but after D’Zojila they seemed just fine and just when I was thinking it can’t be this easy…the Gods laughed

On the final turn towards Chang La just below the summit, the car just stalled. It was so sudden…no real bang, no sputter, no jerks…no nothing…it just stalled. The display blanked out and my apprehensions told me that it was an ECU failure….the car developed AMS!!

I had blocked the approach to Chang La and created the “world’s highest traffic jam” (at least at that particular moment). Got off and opened the bonnet…and then the anti-climax, a battery connection had come off. Quickly, set it right and gave it a few thumps with a rock to make sure it holds its place and with a silent prayer turned on the ignition….and the car came to life!!!

The only casualty…my trip meter got reset!!

Changla Top...
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Got up on Chang La in no time and spent some time clicking and milling around the Changla Baba temple.

The descent was easy and we came across a small emerald lake by the highway. The views were beautiful here

Wild horses, marmots, Yak, Dzo’s and sheep abound in the meadows on the plains before the lake.

After Chang La pass
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Wild Horses...
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A smalll lake before Pangong Tso
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After a quick drive across the plains, we descended to Pangong. The views are mesmerizing…the aquamarine lake, the brown hills and the blue sky.

Pangong Tso
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This is a Dzo...cross between a cow and a Yak.
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We had to get to Spangimik where we had booked ourselves at Camp Watermark. So off we went on the dirt track hugging the lake….it took us up up over a cliff and the there a small fork…one went down through a steep slope to the banks of the Pangong Tso where I could see just some dust tracks leading to nowhere and another went further up. I figured that since we needed to get to a village, we needed to take the route that went up.

However, I was wrong as the track led us further away from the lake so I turned around with great difficulty and came back down to the fork and descended down to the lake. There are quite a few tracks to get to Spangimik and we took the one closest to the lake. Made it to Spangimik by 1.30pm finally!!

Dirt Tracks leading to Spangimik
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The Water mark camps are basically swiss tents located right on the lake..clean and neat with attached bathrooms and cozy quilts. We lazed around the lake…the sun was bearing down on us but the winds were chilly!!!

The waters of the lake change color with each passing hour...emerald, sky blue, dark blue…it’s just amazing

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After tea and a quick breakfast, we drove back through the dirt tracks to the ‘3 idiots’ point…a small stretch of land which juts into the lake…pretty cool location!

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The '3 Idiots' point...
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Action continues in the next post...

Last edited by nix1976in : 21st September 2011 at 21:43.
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Old 21st September 2011, 21:39   #10
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Day 9 and 10...Pangong Tso continued and return back to Leh.

The sunset changed the landscape and bathed the mountains in an orange hue…one of the most amazing views I have seen!

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We had some great company in the form of 2 trekkers from Bangalore and a family from Delhi. We settled in for a long night of ‘gupshup’
Dinner was elaborate and we had a good time before cozying up under the quilts for the night.

The dinner tent..
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We woke around midnight….guess there was dog fight going on right outside the tent. Coming out of the tent we saw the most amazing sight with a half moon illuminating the entire landscape. The entire night sky was covered with stars with the Milky Way clearly visible…

All in all….a very satisfying day!!

ODO at the end of day 9...added 174 kms.
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Day 10 : Pangong Tso to Leh

Return journey’s are always faster even when we take the same route…An uneventful ride back to Leh….Let the pictures do the talking here.

Pangong Tso Sunrise
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Watermark Camps, Spangimik
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Enroute to Leh...cold desert.
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Z curve...the road covers around 6 kms
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A poem befitting our warriors
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Day 10...end of day ODO..added 168kms on the way back!
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Reached Leh around Lunch time....and dozed off till evening. Later in the evening, we went back to Leh market for another protracted round of haggling over the Tara and a reclining Buddha....we haggled and argued till the cows came home but couldn't agree on a price.

Came back to Caravan Centre for a nice buffet dinner before crashing for the night.

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Old 29th September 2011, 20:12   #11
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Day 11 : Leh to Nubra Valley
Khardung La here we come….

Another early start , by 6.30 am we were passing through the sleepy streets of Leh steadily gaining altitude over narrow curving roads but the going was good . The road snakes all over the terrain, hugging the mountains, ascending and descending with the curves.

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India Gate...just before the Khardung La pass
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We were over Khardung La in no time, this was fast and easy…is this really 17.5K feet??? (as claimed by lot of skeptics of the 18,380 feet claim).

Khardung La Pass....mandatory pics!!!
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Highest Cafe' from the Khardung La monastery
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It was windy and quite cold on the top but we mustered enough courage to amble up the 50 odd steps to the small Gompa. We were very early and the café was not going to serve the famed chowmein for another hour. So we had some black tea and started the descent over to Nubra making a mental note to have the chowmein on the way back.

The descent is as easy as the climb and we were through to Nubra by around 11am.

On the descent after Khardung la
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Traditional turqouise headgear
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Near Khalsar...cold desert. Can you spot the bus on the road?
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We had booked a room at the Silk route cottages in Sumur, a quaint little village towards Panamik. Now in Nubra Valley, there is a fork in the road once you reach Khalsar …a right takes you to Diskit and Hunder while the straight leads on to Sumur.

We went straight on to Sumur, checked in at Silk route cottages. Had a light lunch and rested a bit before coming back around 16kms to the fork and driving on to Diskit and Hunder.

Hunder sand dunes are a much smaller version of Sam in Jaisalmer…the only difference being the color…this one is greyed out! There is a small stream running across the area and it creates a nice little pond at the end.

Hunder...
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Bactrian camels are the star attraction here and we went for a small ride across the dunes on them. Well…sitting on animals troubles us both…me and the animal, so after a torturous 20 minutes we both were glad to get rid of each other!!

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d11-13-hunder-bactrian-camel.jpg

Hunder sand dunes
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d11-14-hunder-sand-dunes.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d11-15-hunder-sand-lake.jpg

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Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d11-17-hunder-sand-dunes.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d11-18-hunder-sand-dunes.jpg

On the way back, we visited Diskit Gompa…nothing new apart from the 100ft tall Maitreya Buddha staute looking down on Shyok river as it flows into Pakistan.

Diskit Gompa
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d11-21-diskit-gompa.jpg

Maitreya Buddha near Diskit Gompa
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View from Diskit Gompa
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d11-20-nubra-valley-diskit-gompa.jpg

Vistas near Diskit Gompa
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d11-22-near-diskit.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d11-23-horses-near-diskit.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d11-24-desert-landscape-near-diskit.jpg

Making our way back towards Sumur, we decided to go on to Panamik and check out the hot springs. Well, nothing great…just some sulphur flows with pipes directing the hot water to small pools.

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d11-25-sulphur-flow-panamik-hotwater-springs.jpg

It was almost 6pm by the time we came back to Sumur and lazed around the property. The property belongs to a retired army colonel from Ladakh who had come for a visit at the same time with a few other high ranking army officers. The dinner was great with quite a few Ladakhi delicacies and single malt was on offer!!!

After spending some time gazing at the gazillion stars in our milky way…we signed out for the night.

End of Day 11...265 kms added on the ODO.
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d11-26-end-day-odo.jpg

Last edited by nix1976in : 29th September 2011 at 20:28.
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Old 29th September 2011, 21:14   #12
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Default Re: Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!

Day 12 : Nubra Valley to Leh

Return journey….uneventful, easy and quick.. Let the pictures take over

Silk Route Bamboo Cottages, Sumur
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d12-1-bamboo-cottages-sumur.jpg

View from Silk Route Bamboo Cottages, Sumur
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d12-2-view-cottages-sumur.jpg

Enroute to Leh
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Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d12-4-enroute-leh.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d12-5-enroute-leh.jpg

Icles near Khardung La
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d12-6-icles-near-khardungla.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d12-7-icles-near-khardungla.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d12-8-snow-near-khardungla.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d12-9-icles-near-khardungla-pass.jpg

Enroute to Leh
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d12-10-enroute-leh.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d12-11-enroute-leh.jpg

Approaching Leh Town (the green expanse in the distance)
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d12-12-enroute-leh.jpg

BRO Toad near Leh
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d12-13-bro-toad-near-leh.jpg

Leh Town...
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d12-14-back-leh.jpg

Day 12 End of Day ODO...139 kms added on the ODO
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d12-15-eod-odo.jpg

Our last night in Leh...back we went to the market in the evening for another long protracted haggling session over the dancing Tara and the reclining Buddha...both sides inched closer to a deal and we finally reached an agreement...he had the determination to make a sale and we loved the artifacts, we joked, bartered, haggled and argued for all 3 days that we went there....looking back, we may still have been fleeced but the fun was all in the negotiations!!!

Ladakhi's are a jovial lot...the terrain is barren and life is hard but there is always a smile on the face.

A queer thing we noticed was that the locals were all wrapped up in woolens and tourists like us were roaming around in flimsy T-shirts and track pants...strange but true. We even asked a few locals as to the reason they were feeling so cold as it may never have been less than 15 degrees in the evening but could'nt really get a satisfying answer!!!

We had dinner at the quaint Tibetan Kitchen just off the main market and crashed for the night.

Last edited by nix1976in : 29th September 2011 at 21:49.
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Old 29th September 2011, 23:55   #13
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Default Re: Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!

Day 13 : Leh to Tso Morriri

The beginning of the end….we now leave Leh and turn back down towards Manali via Tso Morriri and Sarchu. The day’s destination is Tso Morriri, the emerald lake in the middle of the cold desert.

Leaving Leh behind, the first halt is at Hemis Gompa…we managed to lose our way by taking a wrong turn in the hills and ended up on a rocky stream on the wrong side of Hemis, we had to reverse all the way back on the boulders to get back on the right road, luckily despite all the hits, the XYLO rolled on nonchalantly.

Hemis was, again, pretty but nothing different from all other Gompa’s that we came across on this trip. We spent some time at the small museum here and started back by around 9.30am

Hemis Gompa
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-1-hemis-gompa.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-2-hemis-gompa.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-3-hemis-gompa.jpg

Near Hemis..
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-4-near-hemis-gompa.jpg

Bijeing...Just over 2000 miles away!
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-5-bejieng-milestone.jpg

The road to Tso Morriri hugs the Indus all through
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-6-enroute-tso-morriri.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-7-enroute-tso-morriri.jpg

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Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-8-enroute-tso-morriri.jpg

The next stop was at Chumathang hot water springs which are by the Indus river. The water here is literally boiling away…there are little puddles of such boiling water all over the place. The water is sucked in by the river and suddenly gushes back out and begins to boil….its amazing to watch.

Chumathang Springs
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-11-chumathang-hot-water-springs.jpg

Boiling water...
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-12-boiling-water-chumathang-hot-water-springs.jpg

The roads further down from Mahe are good all the way to Sumdo village where there is a fork in the road, the right leads to Sarchu and Manali while the left goes all the way to Tso Morriri.

Enroute we encountered a distorted rainbow in the sky...was quite a sight.

What is this??
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-13-cloud-color-enroute-tso-morriri.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-14-cloud-color-enroute-tso-morriri.jpg

Enroute to Tso Morriri
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-15-enroute-tso-morriri.jpg

The roads detoriate after Sumdo and progressively worsen but we made good ground and reached Tso Kiagar , a small lake around 20 kms before the real thing. This is a salt water lake and provided amazing vistas with the cloud cover.

Tso Kiagar
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-16-lake-before-tso-morriri.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-17-lake-before-tso-morriri.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-18-lake-before-tso-morriri.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-19-lake-before-tso-morriri.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-20-lake-before-tso-morriri.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-21-lake-before-tso-morriri.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-22-lake-before-tso-morriri.jpg

We spent around an hour here before moving on towards Tso Morriri. Just ahead of Tso Kiagar is a big expanse of flat land with small trails all over the place. We sped through and were fortunate enough not to get stuck in any sand traps.

Plains before Tso Morriri
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-23-enroute-tso-morriri.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-24-enroute-tso-morriri.jpg

Contd...in the next post

Last edited by nix1976in : 30th September 2011 at 00:20.
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Old 30th September 2011, 00:13   #14
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Day 13 continued...

Finally, Tso Morriri came into view ..a vast expanse of blue …surrounded by snow capped mountains and brown barren hills.

We checked into Camp Watermark on the banks of the lake and spent the rest of the day driving all around the tracks and gazing at the amazing painting by the divine artsit!!

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-25-tso-morriri.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-26-tso-morriri.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-27-tso-morriri.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-28-tso-morriri.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-29-tso-morriri.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-30-tso-morriri.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-31-tso-morriri.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-32-tso-morriri.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-33-tso-morriri.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-34-tso-morriri.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-35-tso-morriri.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-36-tso-morriri.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-37-tso-morriri.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-38-tso-morriri.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-39-tso-morriri.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-40-tso-morriri.jpg

The night was cold…real cold. We were told that it was 3 degrees and the wind chill made it even worse. A hot soup before dinner failed to keep us warm enough and we huddled under thick mattresses to cozy up for the night.

Day 13 End of day ODO...244 kms added on the ODO
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d13-41-eod-odo.jpg
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Old 30th September 2011, 01:08   #15
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Default Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!

Day 14 : Tso Morriri to Sarchu
A lazy start around 8am saw us retracing our steps to Sumdo village and turning left towards Sarchu. Very straightforward uneventful journey

After Debring, we crossed over the more plains where a 2 lane road is being constructed but for now we had to make our own road over the sandy tracks. There were some areas where we had to gun the car to gain momemtum in or to not get stuck but we made it through kicking up quite a big dust storm in the process!!
Once the road takes over, I guess the thrill of crossing More plains will vanish....(its thrill in hindsight...but at that moment, the thought of getting stuck in a sand trap in the middle of nowhere is not too great feeling)

I guess the pictures will tell a better story…

Camp Watermark Tso Morriri
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d14-1-watermark-camp-tso-morriri.jpg

Tso Morriri...around 8.30am
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d14-2-tso-morriri.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d14-3-tso-morriri.jpg

Enroute to Sarchu
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d14-4-enroute-sarchu.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d14-5-enroute-sarchu.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d14-6-enroute-sarchu.jpg

After Pangong Tso, Tso Kiagar and Tso Morriri, the white brackish expanse of Tso Kar was uninspiring.

Tso Kar
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d14-7-tso-kar.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d14-8-tso-kar.jpg

Near Tso Kar
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d14-9-enroute-sarchu-dzo.jpg

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Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d14-11-tso-kar.jpg

Enroute to Sarchu
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d14-12-enroute-sarchu.jpg

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Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d14-14-enroute-sarchu.jpg

More plains...one of the better streches...
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d14-15-enroute-sarchu.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d14-16-enroute-sarchu.jpg

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Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d14-19-enroute-sarchu.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d14-20-enroute-sarchu.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d14-21-enroute-sarchu.jpg

We crossed over Lachulung La and Nakee La without incident, then Gata Loops also posed no problems. A few water crossing’s here and there, some gravel roads and some deep ruts but the XYLO took them all out with ease.

Lachulung La
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d14-22-lachulung-la.jpg

Nakee La
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d14-23-nakee-la.jpg

Gata Loops end
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d14-24-gata-loops.jpg

Twing Twing Bridge
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d14-25-twing-twing-bridge.jpg

Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d14-26-twing-twing-bridge.jpg

Enroute to Sarchu
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d14-27-enroute-sarchu.jpg

Reached Sarchu around 3pm and checked into Mulkila camp right by the highway. Nothing much to do...lazed around and generally rested through the chilly night.

Sarchu...
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d14-28-sarchu.jpg

Day 14 End of day ODO...added 236 kms.
Ladakh: A sojourn to the roof of the world…over 21 days and 6500kms!!-d14-29-eod-odo.jpg

Last edited by nix1976in : 30th September 2011 at 08:52.
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