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Old 29th June 2012, 15:11   #91
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Default Re: Reflecting on Driving Addictions - Bangalore to Spiti and Changthang

To begin from where I left off, two more snaps of our ride. Like someone said 'Here's to looking at you Baby!'
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The roads towards Losar were replete with water flow from snow melt across the road some were gentle and others roared across the path destructively.
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The beautiful but lonesome village of Hull snapped as we looped towards it and then onwards. Wonder how life would be here during the long winter months ?
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A differently structured Monastery.
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Looking at these pictures as I post them here the entire Journey takes on a dream like quality.
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We just drove through Losar as we had a long way to go. Its a small town with shops filled with colourful packages of plastic selling various types of fried snacks and biscuits to Tourists. It also is the staging point of the local 'Green Pea' trade where the lorries buckle up to the long drive over Kunzum la and Rohtang La to get to the Plains.
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Onwards we drove towards the distant Kunzum La..
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These little shoots of lovely little pink flowers totally covered of the surrounding mountains here and turned them a stunning and contrasting Pink. They also seemed a favourite snack of the local cattle.
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Not Sheep, just Sheep Dogs.
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A chorten on the climb up to Kunzum La.
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Old 29th June 2012, 15:46   #92
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Coooolcat,
Awesome travelogue and great pictures. You made us feel as if we are visiting!!
Wondering,should I download all of them for a new desktop wallpaper everyday!
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Old 29th June 2012, 17:34   #93
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Finally we were here 'Kunzum La'. In kaza we had been informed that traffic had been halted on this road, the previous week, due to snow at Kunzum La. However when we got there we could not see any sign of recent snow, at least to our untrained eyes it seemed so. The air was chilly and there was a mini-bus parket that was accompanying some cyclists who had gone on towards Chander Tal. That was one destination that we missed and promised ourselves to come back to. We grabbed a late lunch of Parantas, boiled eggs and Cheese slices and went on our way towards Chotta Dhara.

Chortens and Prayer flags mark the La.
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The Forest Department / WWF Board giving the details of Chander Tal
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Snow covered mountains that we had been seeing the whole day from afar.
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Departing from Kunzum la.
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Please note ,SONU, was here!!
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He probably learnt to write his name under this Government sponsored educational programe, they just did not educate him as where he could practice his newly acquired skills
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Snow melt
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Birds making the best of the season.
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Flower Beds.
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We had to stop here as the Sumo was resting on its differential and the wheels were spinning free. We were contemplating if we should offer to tow him out when another vehicle came from the other side to inform us that the road beyond was fully closed by a huge land-slide that would need heavy machinery to clear and it made no sense to try to cross this present hurdle. They were of the opinion that the PWD would probably have a bulldozer clear the land-slide by the morning at present the mixture of mud slurry and rocks of all sizes had slid down the mountain side and formed a squishy mound a few feet high across the road. It was totally uncrossable.

The stuck Sumo at a furious snow melt that had washed away the mud and left the road a pile of rocks.
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This is how the side of the mountain looked like beside the Sumo. Just standing there was not without danger, all those rocks were loose of the mud they had been embedded in, washed away by the flowing water. All it needed was one of them to slip for the entire lot to come down on the road.
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We decided to turn around and try to find accommodation in Losar where there was a Govt. Guesthouse.
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It grew dark rapidly.
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We drove on worried about our night stay and hoping that we could find accommodation some place. The Dhaba at Chotta Dhara was full of Cyclists who had been traversing the region in two vehicles, they had come from Kashmir cycling where they could and hitching a ride on the two Taxis where they could not. We moved on towards Losar. It was pitch dark and the Sky was a beautiful blanket of Stars. We just concentrated on the roads and drove on...
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Old 29th June 2012, 19:02   #94
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After a drive that seemed not to end and crossing over Kunzum la in pitch dark we arrived at Losar and found the Govt Guest House to be already occupied by some bikers caught like us due to the land slide. We found, after being guided there by the keeper of the Guest house, a Inspection Hut, situated just after crossing the bridge near Losar village, that was empty and the 'tipsy' but kind hearted keeper let us stay there for a nominal fee. Even though we had arrived without notice he was kind enough to give us warm tea followed by a green pea 'fried rice' that was filling and took care of Dinner. The place itself though looking sturdy and neat from the outside was run-down. The doors did not close, there was no water, the commode and the sink were broken, the wooden floor had holes in it covered with a green carpet decorated with a modernistic pattern caused by water marks and liquids spilled on it during its long and eventful life. However it was home for the night. we slept fitfully and got out early in the morning hoping to beat the melt waters that flow across the roads here when the sun rises higher in the Sky.
The 'Inn' keeper too seemed to be in a hurry to get rid of us stating repeatedly that some officers were expected and we were to get clear before their arrival. However we were thankful for the shelter extended to us in the night, which was miserably cold.
We grabbed a quick breakfast at the Samson Cafe at Losar and drove on to see if the roads had cleared towards Gramphoo.
Inspection Hut Chichong
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Samson Cafe. The Owner had hair like the legendary hero before Delilah got to him.
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Flowers along the way. These were of a different type from that we had photographed yesterday.
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The turn off towards Chander tal near Chotta Dhara.
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The Bridge before Chotta Dhara Bhaba.
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Snow clad Pinnacle.
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We pass the Chorten before Kunzum La again. Since the actual 'La' is marked by a sign post and Chortens a few meters away from the road, we did not go there but drove on straight. So no photographs today.
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Snow melt waters flowing across the road.
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They do fuel these beautiful flowers along the way for a few short months before the snow smothers all plant life in the Winters.
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Lorries loaded with Green Peas ahead, they too had been stuck due to the land slide.
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Various minerals oxidise and mark these stone surfaces with varying colours.
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We came to a halt here. we had successfully crossed the point where we had turned around last night, however the larger land-slide had not been cleared as of the late morning when we arrived there. There was a traffic build up of Tourist vehicles and Trucks loaded with Green Peas and a few other assorted material.
There were some people there who seemed to be the Agents for the transporter of the Green Pea load who were organising the tourists and drivers from various vehicles to collect and throw the largest rocks that they could carry on to the 'Land Slide'
The land-slide itself was a mixture of mud with porridge like consistency embedded with rocks of all sizes. It was atleast 5 to 6 feet in height and about 50 to 60 feet in width. let alone a vehicle even a person could walk over only this mush only hopping from rock to slippery rock. Even standing on one of these started you sinking into the slush gradually and inexorably.
There were two or three theories as to when we could cross over other than the way being cleared by the Bulldozers.
We could keep throwing rocks in the Slush till it hardened enough to allow us to drive through.
It would harden as the sun rose, but conversely the water flow too would increase as the sun rose bringing down more mud and rocks making the barricade even more difficult to cross.
In view of the above it was decided to first channel the water flowing down away from the slushy barricade by diverting the flow by throwing rocks in its path. The water in the slush would slowly flow away and the rising sun would harden it enough to allow us to drive over it without the vehicles sinking in. We were to help this process by throwing in more rocks in the slush.
There was a lot of Public Rock throwing encouraged that day, but nothing seemed to make an impact on the slush, the water kept on flowing down the mountains and mix with the mud across the road.

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Old 29th June 2012, 20:02   #95
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Still early in the day and we waited hopefully.
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The Chain Gang at work dropping rocks on to the slush spread across the road. It finally seemed to be filling up and firm enough to stand on.
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Flowers nearby. The scene around was beautiful as the rest of the land.
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Traffic Jam at a most unlikely spot.
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These were the same cyclists who had slept over at Chotta Dhara, they had carried their bikes over the land slide and cycled on further only to return late in the afternoon as there was another landslide further up the road even worst that we were stuck in. They could not even cross that one on foot. It looked like even if we managed to cross over this hurdle there was a bigger one waiting for us further up the road. We started to have thoughts of turning back the way we had come and retracing our footsteps all the way back to Simla. Our friend had to get back to Delhi and onwards, more problematic was that we had been out of connectivity area from the last two days. The BSNL tower at Losar too had been down.

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With the night came the chill and hunger pangs, we prepared to hunker down for the night on the road for the first time.
The Sky remained spectacularly beautiful and at the same time remote to our problems below.
The stars twinkled merrily down on us as we lit up our Gas Stove to heat water and prepared MTR ready to eat packets of 'Bisi Bele Bath'. We had carried these all the way from Bangalore for just such a occasion.
It was heavenly and reminded us of home. All of us were born and brought up in Bangalore, except my son, and the Bele Bath tasted heavenly in the chill, and after ages of Aloo Paranthas and other assorted Aloo preparations that HPTDC had force fed us.
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Old 30th June 2012, 14:06   #96
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Originally Posted by carzone View Post
Coooolcat,
Awesome travelogue and great pictures. You made us feel as if we are visiting!!
Wondering,should I download all of them for a new desktop wallpaper everyday!
Thank You Carzone, even I do not think that all the pictures are of the same quality. but it is the thought that counts. Regards.
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Old 30th June 2012, 16:09   #97
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Just before midnight we heard the clatter of a heavy diesel engine from the other side of the land slide, a cheer went up from the by now morose crowd of tourists and drivers. The bulldozer was here to clear the mess and soon we could be on our way.
After a lordly inspection of the site the dozer driver first said it was a little too late to start such a enormous enterprise and then that he was running low on engine oil as there was a leak in the casing. However after some coaxing and mollycoddling he agreed to give the clearing operations a try.
The water flow was first directed away from the mound of slush that had slid across the road. After this was done dry mud and stones were piled up along the sides of the mountain of slush to make a ramp like structure so that vehicles could drive over, then some more stones and dry mus were poured on top of the slush. It was here that all the rocks that the trapped people had laboured to drop into the slush all day long helped and the slushy land-slide started to firm up and declared as safe enough to drive over.
It was now that the Transport agents got into the act. It was declared that the heavily laden trucks would be sent across first as their weight would help firm up the mud slide by settling the dumped rocks and stones firmly into the mud. As most of the vehicles were two wheel drive with not so high clearance most of us agreed to go by this arrangement. All the taxis and tourist vehicles were backed off and made to park along the side of the narrow road wherever they could manage. The trucks were brought forward and with their engines screaming into the night and gears grinding in the lowest ratio they slipped and slid across the slushy barrier.
After this things got more confusing and disorganised, somewhere past midnight our partners in the Bolero made it across, just after them a heavily laden mini-lorry sank in up to its axle on top of the mud pile effectively blocking the road totally. All the combined advise of everyone present and the drivers determination to try his best to see his gear box catch fire by igniting it with a burning clutch came to a total naught.
It was very late, dark and chill, there seemed like there was nothing more we could do tonight. Our friends who were across the barrier drove some distance away from the traffic pile up and slept in their vehicle. We did the same and waited for the morning light.

This is what we woke up to, a bright and chilly morning.

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Old 30th June 2012, 22:16   #98
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Coooolcat21,

Your landscapes continue to mesmerize!

The diverse and unrealistically contrasting colors of the mountains right beside each other, the oxidized rocks and boulders, the intricacy of brass work, the richness of the colored panels are all so very well captured and so precisely detailed in your write up which is really amazing. Do you make (on site) notations? Even the thought of presenting this level of detail gives me shudders.

Then, Mr. Samson..is he still single as he continues to sport that Samsonite mane?

Kabhi gadi se bhi utra ki jeyae..when you come across points of interest like "The Bridge before Chotta Dhara Bhaba".

"It grew dark rapidly" is a classic.

The one below "A differently structured Monastery" is so ethereal.

"We continued on towards Kaurik and the open Monastery there, the landscapes were as before simply breathtaking" is out of this world.

Looking forward more on your documentary.
Regards,

Last edited by fazalaliadil : 30th June 2012 at 22:31.
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Old 1st July 2012, 18:41   #99
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Coooolcat21,

Your landscapes continue to mesmerize!

The diverse and unrealistically contrasting colors of the mountains right beside each other, the oxidized rocks and boulders, the intricacy of brass work, the richness of the colored panels are all so very well captured and so precisely detailed in your write up which is really amazing. Do you make (on site) notations? Even the thought of presenting this level of detail gives me shudders.

Then, Mr. Samson..is he still single as he continues to sport that Samsonite mane?

Kabhi gadi se bhi utra ki jeyae..when you come across points of interest like "The Bridge before Chotta Dhara Bhaba".

"It grew dark rapidly" is a classic.

The one below "A differently structured Monastery" is so ethereal.

"We continued on towards Kaurik and the open Monastery there, the landscapes were as before simply breathtaking" is out of this world.

Looking forward more on your documentary.
Regards,
Thank you Fazal Sir, The landscapes there are always stunning, no matter how often you see them. Regarding writing down notations, no we did not, though to remind myself I did snap as many signboards as I could, so the sequentially saved photographs give you an idea and help recall. My brother too helps me in this.
Regarding Mr. Samson, he is otherwise named though I do not recall now, since he had his hair intact I guess he must be single or may be they were growing back and there is a heart wrenching tale there, guess that will remain a mystery for now.
We did get down at the 'Bhaba' all the three times we crossed it and had a cup of tea and i think omelettes. You cannot effort to miss these luxuries in the area we were travelling in.
thank you and regards.
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Old 2nd July 2012, 02:16   #100
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Lovely Pics (as usual) Coooolcat21
By now I am pretty sure that there is some "MAGIC" in your camera that brings out such lovely pictures consistently. Wonder if I could borrow it for a short spell? (Just kidding!)
Regards,
Ashok
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Old 3rd July 2012, 14:52   #101
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Lovely Pics (as usual) Coooolcat21
By now I am pretty sure that there is some "MAGIC" in your camera that brings out such lovely pictures consistently. Wonder if I could borrow it for a short spell? (Just kidding!)
Regards,
Ashok
Thank you Ashok for your appreciation, but there is no magic in my Camera, its a fairly adequate one and my knowledge of photography is also of the same category as 'fairly adequate' its just that the vistas in this part of the Country are stupendous.
Regards.
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Old 3rd July 2012, 16:33   #102
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This was the 24th of August. We slept badly and got up in the dark to a chilly and damp morning. The Truck drivers from Gramphoo side were stirring and one of them had backed up his truck to the edge of the land slide, the idea was to tow the mini-lorry stuck in the mud, the operation though painfully slow was successful. The road was clear however the traffic from the other side had to be let through first. By the time this was done the Sun was rising and it was fairly bright. We went over once again without any issues driving the 4 x 4 mode and met up with our friends in the Bolero who were waiting for us. We chatted for some time about the previous day and heard that it was almost certain now that there was a blockage on the road up ahead, so we decided to go up ahead and see for ourselves, we were now considering ourselves veterans of this road and the hurdles it could throw our way.

I have no photographs of the actual crossing and the final state of the land slide, it was simply too early and we were all just too tired wanting just to get on to the road again. Though now it seems like a missed opportunity.
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Having fun at a water crossing and also hoping to wash off some of the muck.
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Looks clean ??
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After just a little while we came to the second land slide that we had heard about. By now most of the people on the road had developed a level of bonhomie as seen among long distance train passengers, So we were greeted with 'where have you been?', 'look another land-slide' 'Think the same bulldozer can clear this mess?' and similar messages. However the bulldozer though just a little way off could not come to our help as this area fell under a different PWD Division / Zone. Bummer !

We were tired and hungry and there seemed to be no immediate solution here, we turned around and went back some distance where we had seen a fairly level ground and decided if it was to be another day on the road it would be a little more comfortable than yesterday.
Along the way we came across this huge herd of sheep and goat.
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This is how they carry the new born lambs. It is too strenuous to make them walk in this terrain additionally it also kept the dams in control and made them follow the Horse like Sheep ! The lambs were simply too cute.
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The animals had a different look compared to those found in the villages in the plain, they looked wilder. I noticed that the shepherds were as agile as the animals though there were a noticeable number of animals limping, upon inquiry we found that they had hurt or broken their legs during their arduous journey over the mountains finding new grazing grounds.
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This is how we camped, parked the two vehicles parallel and strung a bed sheet across the top, got protection from the Wind and the Sun. We were running short of bottled water as we had not calculated for the two day delay so went some distance to a stream and filled up a 10 Lt water bottle that we had carried, this water boiled was used to make our breakfast and Tea. The Breakfast consisted of once again heat and eat MTR snacks, Masala Cup-o- Noodles and some tinned Ham with Hot Coffee, We washed freshened up and were set for the day, we were prepared today.
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The Sheep way up the Mountain.
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Our Camp Site from not so way up the Mountain.
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This place always does the unexpected, suddenly we heard a revving two stroke bike engine coming from the direction of the landslide, which was about a Kilometer away. Since we knew for a fact that he could not have got across without some change in the situation we rushed to wave him down and were informed that a bulldozer was clearing the land-slide and the road would be open in a short while, he had himself squeezed through in the first opening made by the bulldozer. We were also advised to hurry back as the traffic towards Gramphoo would be allowed across first. We wrapped up all our camping spread along with the plans of lunch that the boys were already making (consisted of heating a mash of tinned ham and chicken sausages in a pan) and move out. To tell the truth we were a little disappointed, we had been rather looking forward to camping here for the night, the open space was inviting and better than the narrow road we had been stuck on last night.
This is the picture of the landslide as we crossed it, the incline went up and sharply curved first to the left around a huge boulder, then sharply right and down. All the rocks in the pile seen in the picture, had rolled down the hill side and blocked the road, the gushing water that had caused this can still be seen flowing down the road. The bulldozer had to push an equal amount of rocks and mud down the valley to the left to clear the road. Once again we made it across without a hitch.
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The Roads beyond towards Chattru. The Mountains again started to turn green and we saw some of the most beautiful waterfalls along the road.
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The Dhaba at Chattru.
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Just 17 Kms to Leh Road.
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Old 3rd July 2012, 17:28   #103
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The Bridge just after Chattru Dhaba.
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The vistas turned green and water falls appeared in abundance, remember this was way after the rainy season in this area, however the sky remained overcast and beautiful.
A lovely waterfall we kept seeing as we climbed up steeply towards the Leh Road.
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Wild Flower Beds along the road.
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Made you want to trek over...
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The Chortens on this side of Spiti Vally were fewer than the other end.
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This was right next to the Road.
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Dhaba at Gramphoo, the Kaza road - Leh Road junction.
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Signage at the Junction.
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We set off towards Keylong, where we had a booking in the HPTDC Hotel, but for the 23rd, after a hot cup of Tea.
Reflecting on Driving Addictions - Bangalore to Spiti and Changthang-36.jpg

Just look at that stream, We all wanted to just go down there and camp for the evening, It was all so beautiful.
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The last remains of the snow that must have covered this entire area. Just a film of snow, dirt and tiny air-pockets remained.
Reflecting on Driving Addictions - Bangalore to Spiti and Changthang-40.jpg
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Old 3rd July 2012, 18:32   #104
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We moved on towards Khoksar, the drive was lovely and it was still early evening.
we were tired and skipped Lunch, after just Tea at Gramphoo, it was unanimous, we wanted to reach Keylong and have a hot shower before we did anything.
Dhabas at Khoksar.
Reflecting on Driving Addictions - Bangalore to Spiti and Changthang-41.jpg

A lovely Monastery nestling under a Mountain side.
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Looks like Hulk was here and some taxi must have cut him off at the Bridge, dont ask what happened to the Taxi and its occupants.
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That grated on the nerves a little.
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The Water-falls were breathtaking, each and every one.
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We crossed Sissu soon after.
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I hoped that happened soon, at least the sign would be taken off then..
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Tandi Bridge
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The turn off towards Udaipur and the other Holy Grail of HP, Sach Pass.
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Then we came to this shocking sight, we saw what appeared to be a Municipal Tractor simply dumping garbage by the side of the road into the Jispa. They saw us photographing them from across the river and kept watching us as we crossed over across the Bridge just before Keylong and drove past them. Sly and criminal that was their demeanor and look in their eyes. From the look of the Garbage pile it looked like a regular practice here in Keylong.
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This was what they were Contaminating.
Reflecting on Driving Addictions - Bangalore to Spiti and Changthang-64.jpg

Entering the Keylong Town.
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We finally reached Keylong and checked into the HPTDC Hotel there, like always they were beautifully located, but the Rooms and the attitude of the Staff was definitely run-down!
Reflecting on Driving Addictions - Bangalore to Spiti and Changthang-66.jpg
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Old 4th July 2012, 15:59   #105
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For the first time we had a bad experience at a HPTDC at Hotel Chandra Bhaga. They spoiled the spotless track record of our experience. First off we had a booking for the 22nd and we had arrived on the 24th, evening, due to the Landslides at Losar / Chotta Dhara. It would have been fine if the Manager had stated that his rules did not allow him to shift the booking amount, that we had paid in full for two rooms, from one day to the other.

He however insisted that the roads had been clear and open on both the previous days and we were simply lying about the road block.

He insisted upon calling up the Road Transport Offices for a confirmation and said that they had buses running both the days to Kaza. So there it was, we were either 'High' the previous two days or suffered from 'delusional episodes' but by the look on his face, his money was on the fact that we were simply not telling the truth.

It was frustrating and stupid at the end of the last two days, we were simply too tired to argue with him as his stubbornness simply made us angrier, we gave in and checked into the Hotel making payment once again in full.

By now the situation in our friends Office was quiet complex and he simply had to get back to Delhi to fly out of the country. We tried all combinations of traveling together to Leh so that he could fly out from there and a few other options including all of us returning to Delhi. This was quickly negated after having travelled so far we did not want to go back without completing Leh, Hunder and the Changthang loop.

The problem was we had two vehicles and there would remain only three adults, (if my friend left for Delhi in a Taxi from Keylong, as was one of the proposed plans) so one of us would have to drive alone and both the Vehicles originated from Bangalore. It was a tough call. However finally it was decided that both our friends would leave for Delhi in the morning in the Bolero and we (My brother, son and me) would drive on to complete our planned route. We arranged for a Driver to pick up the vehicle from Delhi and drive on to Bangalore. While one of our friends would fly out the other wanted to stay back and do some local sight seeing (he did Delhi, Mathura and Agra by the time we returned) till we returned to Delhi. I would then fly out of Delhi with my son, my Brother and his friend would then drive back to Bangalore. He did not want my brother to do the long haul back home alone. A friend indeed!! He spent more than a week alone waiting in Delhi.

Having finalised our plan we had a HPTDC patented dinner and hit the sack. Since we had only to reach Sarchu the next day we were not worried and decided to leave leisurely.

Since the Hotel was full of horror stories about the Rohtang crossing our friends left a little early, they took about 5 hours to cross Rohtang and reached Manali only late in the evening. They remember the ride even to date.
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