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Old 14th June 2012, 12:01   #1
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Default Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)

MISSION LEH (Photos at the end)

It’s the season again for one of the most exciting road trips, so no better time than now to present this piece. I feel excited thinking about what an A-MAZING road trip I completed last year and the places I visited are so vividly imprinted upon my memory, I can almost close my eyes and touch these visions...but alas! the cushions of memories cannot prevent the bite of reality from getting through; the reality of me being back in my office in Gurgaon, the reality that I have a meeting to go to at 4pm today, the reality that I will not wake up tomorrow morning not knowing where exactly I am headed to and what to expect, the harsh harsh reality of knowing that Leh is a world away from me and that I might not ever go there again, for Leh is not another place that you can pack your bags for and just drive to; there are alot of variables that have to fall into place at the SAME time for a successful road trip to Leh (family commitments, work commitments, weather, road conditions, etc)

Well, I do not know where or how to begin; should it be with an introduction of how our whole trip came into being, or with a description of the strikingly unique nature of ladakh as a place, or with how sad I am at being back to work and the daily routines of life?? There are a myriad of thoughts that creep into my mind at this point, all of a very eclectic nature and not necessarily all connected to each other, so what I will do is to start penning down (in this case typing down) instances as flashes, glimpses and notable experiences of the recent trip to Leh zip around in my head and in front of my eyes, words flood my thoughts faster than I can process them, points of definitive mention crowd and scream for priority, all a rolling juggernaut of expression that I somehow plan on presenting as a travelogue...a travelogue that makes some sense...so here goes nothing!!

Setting and background
Just like any good story, a brief mention of the backdrop of this trip and its participants will help all of you put this piece in perspective of what I think I will call ‘Mission Leh’

Flashback 1 (black & white) – The year is 2008. I got married in February. I had heard of the road trip to Leh but had never paid it any serious attention and had done zilch research. My ‘adventurous’ road trips thus far had been of a very routine nature with them serving the purpose of getting me from point A to B (Rishikesh, Haridwar, Chail, etc). I have always been the kind who seeks adventure, but somehow I could never find any that could satisfy the urge, and to be honest, I never really made any efforts in that direction. A couple of years earlier a friend had done the road trip to Leh in a Scorpio, 4 guys and a driver (why a driver???) and that is when the germ of a thought came into being, albeit a very futuristic thought, of a trip to Leh. It was always there at the back of my mind but I never really did anything about it; I just had this cognitive swagger in me that when people were routinely going to SE Asia, Europe and all the popular destinations, I was THINKING of a road trip to Leh, an offbeat, not-so-popular nor publicised destination. I was being a ‘couch adventurer’, if there ever were such a term that could be used to describe what I was doing. But in retrospect, along with solid planning, alot of thinking IS required before driving to Leh, thinking about the things that could go wrong, the hardships that might and will have to be borne, the dust filled drives that will leave you dirty as dirty gets, the almost absolute lack of creature comforts that will be all the comfort that one gets, the ever lingering possibility of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) and of being out of communication with your near and dear ones for long periods at a time. So that is all that happened on Mission Leh in 2008

Interlude 1 – At the time of getting married (2008), I suggested to my wife to be at that time that we could go to Leh for our honeymoon  She thought I was mad, and after having been to Leh, I think I WAS actually mad to suggest a place like Leh for a honeymoon. We finally went to Kerala, which is a beautiful place and I am so happy I went there. So for all those yet to become a ‘We’ from a ‘Me’, Leh is a strict no-no for honeymoons or for that matter, for first trips as well. Go to Leh with people you know well, because at times there is irritation because of bad roads, loads of dust, bad weather, and you seriously need someone to blame for YOU having decided on coming on this road trip. Being with people you know and who know you is a help in such situations. Besides, sharing the Leh experience with people you care for is a must, because it is one experience you will never forget and will talk about often

Moving forward a bit – The year is 2009. The last real trip that I can remember is our honeymoon, a year back. My brother in law got married in Feb 2009, we all went to Ranchi for the wedding, came back to work, a little while later another of my wife’s cousins got engaged, went to a couple of weekend sojourns around Delhi (Lansedown, Agra, Jaipur); life meanders along at a lazy pace like the ebb of flow in a mountain river as winters turn water to ice, I’m caught up in I don’t know what and have landed in a situation where I do not have any time, but if one were to ask me what I’ve been busy with, I would be hard pressed for an answer and before I know it 2009 is coming to an end and Mission Leh has all but ALMOST been forgotten, but folks it is not dead yet; the thought still holds a position on my bucket list, last position

Interlude 2 – I own a SX4, which I also had when all of the above was happening (read the long term ownership report at http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/long-t...roduction.html (SX4 VXi, 62000 kms - An ownership report and a brief introduction)). I was of the opinion that a road trip to Leh in the SX4 would be a tad difficult and would be cruel on the car. Incidentally, I hold this view after coming back from Leh, sedans and small cars CAN go to Leh via Rohtang et all, but it all depends on the weather and it would still be harsh on the car. So, with my firm view that I would need a SUV for Mission Leh, and given that I did not have one, I was still grappling with the SLIGHT concern of sourcing a vehicle for the trip. It was sort of a vicious circle; because I did not have a SUV I did not do any seriously planning and because I did not do any serious planning, I did not move forward in solving the SUV dilemma

Moving nearer to the present (colour comes back into the movie) – It’s early 2010 and I am nursing Mission Leh back to health. I have started doing some research and have come across weird sounding places like Tandi, Keylong, Jispa, Sarchu. Man! How will I ever figure out how to even BEGIN planning the road trip when the names of places sound like something out of a Kung-Fu movie. And what source do I trust; surprisingly, no-one has been to Leh, but everyone seems to have alot of gyan to dole out on it. What’s the deal with that!! I ask my friend who had done this in 2006 but because he himself did not drive he can’t help me much. I know absolutely zero people who have done this road trip and who can advice me. What does a poor man do to score some dope on Leh?? Are there no groups, no forums where I can gain some insight? Fruitfully utilising my time in office, I promptly log on to Google and type some key words for ‘Leh’ and ‘Forum’. Hmmm, this is interesting. There ARE people who have shared experiences I can poach from. I am surprised to find out that there are SO many people who make the road trip to Leh each year, and here I was wondering who can give me some advice!! It seems Mission Leh has moved forward an inch! After scouring a plethora of forums, I focus my attention on two, one of them being TBHP

An Acknowledgment – As my interest in Leh started growing and as my efforts became more focussed, I could just about start to make sense of data on a region I had no clue about. At this point I would like to thank LOCOMOTIVE, a fellow TBHPian for his excellent writeup on his road trip to Leh in his SX4 (.http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...adakh-sx4.html (The Great Indian Roadtrip - Mumbai to Ladakh in a SX4)) Reading the count peaked my interest to all new levels and instilled in me a belief that I COULD in fact take my SX4 to Leh. So LOCOMOTIVE, thanks a ton!! I did not eventually take the SX4, but reading that log was a turning point in Mission Leh; from this point on I just HAD to do this trip, it was no longer a question of ‘if’ but one of ‘when’. It was now March 2010

Interlude 3 – Enter possible companions – The life cycle of Mission Leh had reached such a stage now that it was realistic to ask friends/ family about joining me for Leh. There was my wife for sure, my ever-present companion. Now all was left was to sell the plot to a few more people. Using my powers of deduction, I thought that not everyone I ask would be game or would have time, thus my strike rate was expected to be low. So coupled with my excitement, I had this seemingly brilliant idea that I should ask as many people as possible. And so I did. Family, friends, friends of friends; I did not spare anyone. What this did was turn the whole thing into a circus; alot of people said yes subject to leaves and other things and I landed up in a mess where it seemed we would be three car loads of people going to Leh! Among these, serious contenders were my brother in law and his wife, my wife’s cousin and his wife and about 4 friends. I could not say no to any of the people who I had already asked, as that would be plain rude. So I did the next best thing, I stopped talking about it and waited to see who all would get back in touch with me for Mission Leh

As time went by and it became about May 2010, a few of my friends and the family mentioned above were the ones who displayed keen interest in as much as stating that yes, they would work out their leaves, etc once the plan took some shape; I was to make that plan and then people would jump in with their inputs. It becomes a tad difficult to make a 2-week long program without knowing who all is going for sure, especially to a place like Leh, where one has to figure out vehicles, route, stay, etc. Given that I did not have a suitable car (in my opinion), I was more or less dependent on two of my friends, both of who have Scorpios, for this trip. One of these friends is in Lucknow but would keep coming to Gurgaon. So on a number of occasions with these friends I would bring up this topic, and everybody would get excited and make all sort of plans. However, as these plans were not really going anywhere for certain, my friends made other plans and suggested that we go in June 2011 to Leh. I agreed at that time because I thought I would need that much time to really get absolutely everything in order and also I had the slight issue of a vehicle

Thus, Mission Leh once AGAIN went on the backburner and in September 2010, my brother-in-law, his wife, my wife and I went to a 20-day trip to the USA, where we have family and cousins. That was a wonderful trip in itself, but not relevant in this travelogue

Year 2011 – We have been back from our US trip, celebrated New Year’s Eve with gusto, and are generally entwined in the mundane course that life usually takes in a place like Gurgaon/ Delhi. At the time I got married in Feb 2008, we realized that we would need a second car for my wife to drive to work and back and for general mobility purposes for her. We had wanted a new car, but due to budget constraints, we had bought a second hand Wagon R. By 2011, it had been almost three years since my wife had been driving around in that Wagon R and although the car had served her well, we thought it was time for a change because my wife always wanted a new car and the Wagon R is too underpowered. So began our new car search and from moving to small hatchbacks to entry mid-sized sedans we finally decided upon the Scorpio MHawk, SLE (check out the buying decision and initial ownership report at http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/test-d...2-500-kms.html (Scorpio MHawk, SLE: Initial Ownership Report @2,500 kms)). As pointed out in the attached link as well, Mission Leh was a huge influencer in our decision to buy the Scorpio

We booked the car in June and subsequently, IN ALL HONESTY began SERIOUS and DETAILED planning for Mission Leh. I checked back with all the interest parties. Some friends backed out and one was getting married later in the year so he had to preserve his vacations. So in the end of it all, there was my brother in law & his wife, my wife’s cousin & his wife and my wife & I and one Scorpio. The car was due for delivery in the first week of July and taking into account the running in period of a 1000 kms, we planned the trip for 19 August, 2011. I got the delivery of the beauty on 3rd July, 2011. Given that there for six of us, I got one of the back seats removed and got a roof mounted carrier installed. We were all set for Mission Leh! Years of yearning and planning was finally going to come to fruition on the 19th of August 2011 (0 day)!!

Planning – All six of us involved with Mission Leh would exchange mails every day on what would be the itinerary, what all to carry, how much to carry, what would be the budget; generally excitement levels were at an all time high, work seemed to be the last thing on everyone’s mind and the countdown had begun, with each passing day bringing us closer to our departure on one of the greatest road trips! I have a friend in the hospitality and tourism industry in Delhi (Jaggi) and another friend who is a native of Leh and who has just recently established his own setup and caters to tourism in Leh/ Ladakh (Stanzin) (both college friends). After a few iterations our plan was finalised as follows:

19/8 – Leave in the evening for Chandigarh
20/8 – Chandigarh to Manali
21/8 – Manali to Tandi
22/8 – Tandi to Sarchu
23/8 – Sarchu to Leh
24/8 – Leh
25/8 – Leh to Pangong
26/8 – Pangong to Leh
27/8 – Leh to Nubra
28/8 – Nubra to Leh
29/8 – Leh to Llayamuru and back
30/8 – Leh to TsoMoriri
31/8 – TsoMoriri to Tandi
01/9 – Tandi to Manali
02/9 – Manali to Delhi

So this was the 15-day plan that we had charted out for ourselves to successfully accomplish Mission Leh. We had on purpose kept the schedule spread out so we would not be rushed at any time. Two of our companions were to fly back to Delhi on 30/8 as they were hard pressed for leaves from work

So began our purchases; warm clothes, gloves, body warmers for us and jerry cans, towing line, tyre repair kit etc for the Scorpio. More on what all we took later. As time for us to leave came nearer, things were looking upbeat, preparations were almost done and we were rearing to go, except for the small issue of it raining non-stop and beyond season in HP...

Setback – I had mentioned earlier that Leh is not a place where one can just pack their bags and be off to; all variables have to be favourable for one to have a successful road trip to Leh. As 0 day was approaching, though not fast enough for all of us, the rains just would not stop. I had setup this watchlist of 4-5 websites where I would check updates everyday for the weather en route to Leh. Apparently, while Leh itself was bright and sunny, HP seemed to be experiencing huge amounts to rainfall, incessantly. About 8-10 days before 0 day, we read that the road near Mandi got washed out and a little later we read that it was unsure if Rohtang would be passable with so much rain. Much as our spirits tried to soar, the rains would make sure that we remained apprehensive. As the rain piled on so did our misery and the possibility of us not being able to leave on 0 day seemed to be getting more realistic by the day. Even though we knew that if it continued to rain, or for that matter if it rains heavily near Rohtang even a day before we are to cross it, we would not be able to do so, we were of the firm belief that we WOULD leave on 0 day and brave the elements and atleast go as far as we could and hopefully we would make it through Rohtang. We knew that Rohtang was the biggest hurdle for us to cross. However, we were just being quixotic, and each passing day presented us with ever increasing advice from elders in the family; sound advice though unsolicited (what the heck!! We are 30-yr olds, not juveniles!!)

After much ado about Mission Leh, it seemed that all would be for nought!! Finally we bowed down to family pressure and the never ending rainfall and decided to postpone the trip, if not cancel it, as suggested. It seemed improbable that all deciding factors would favour all of us, all at once, again. Mission Leh seemed to have taken a gunshot wound to the stomach. Mission Leh seemed to be dying a slow and painful death. It needed a medic to step in and take charge of things, give it a shot of morphine, operate upon it and do whatever the hell it took to make sure that Mission Leh DID. NOT. DIE!!

Change of Plans – We were all in the dumps and kept telling each other that maybe it was not to be this time round. Because we had done so much planning, no one was really ready to just let it go. After much discussion, I called up Stanzin and told him that we would like to defer our program by 3 weeks, with the itinerary remaining exactly as it was except the change of dates, because it just would not stop raining in HP

Till about a week ago (before 0 day) we could hardly wait to leave and now we were stuck with another 3 weeks and the prospect of not going at all, because who knows what would happen in those ensuing 3 weeks. So, we had already planned everything, so there was nothing to do but to drag ourselves along to work and just get on with it

Good Decision - As our originally scheduled date of departure came nearer and nearer, I kept a check on the websites each day to see if our decision to defer the trip had been a wise one or not. As it turned out, on 19/8 (0 day) Rohtang had been closed for 2 days with about a 100 people in all stuck on either sides. There was a huge landslide and the JCB used to remove it had broken down itself. So our decision seemed extremely wise in retrospect, because if we had left, we would be among the 100-odd people stuck around Rohtang and I don’t think we would have come back and made a fresh plan again for a few weeks later. So, phew!!

Note: BCM Touring website has a day by day update on the road condition from Manali to Leh

Another Setback – It seemed that we would have to overcome one setback after another to accomplish Mission Leh! Soon as we sorted out one thing, something else would turn turtle. As luck would have it, my wife’s cousin’s leaves got cancelled. So, I again called Stanzin and told him that after having deferred all our bookings by 3 weeks, we were sorry to inform him that 2 of us had dropped out. Stanzin was helpful enough and nice enough to accommodate this change in plans as well

FINALLY, our revised 0 day, 09/09 comes!! – While planning for Mission Leh, because so much crap had already hit the fan that there was no place left to duck, all we could do was PRAY that no more crap would hit the fan

As days went by, our excitement levels again started peaking and we were all gung-ho about Mission Leh, but the damn rain would just not stop falling! It was not as heavy as around mid August, but was still there. Rohtang was open, but all it needed was one day of heavy rain for it to shut down and throw all our plans awry

We left for Chandigarh on 09/09 at about 5.30 pm. That day it was POURING in Delhi and for those familiar with Delhi, near the new elevated road from just before Rajghat to ISBT, the ring road was under about a foot of water and cars were finding it difficult to pass through. It was a really depressing and demotivating sight for the four of us; our journey had not even begun and it seemed the rain gods had decided to ruin our party for us. Nonetheless, with a prayer on our lips we set out upon Mission Leh!

As we moved out of Delhi, the rain started to subside and in about an hour’s time there was no rain at all. As the roads began to dry so did our spirits and we began believing that yes, we can do this and that the weather gods may finally have cast a favourable eye upon us

So, stopping on our way a couple of times for food and drinks, with my wife driving all of us, we finally reached Himachal Bhawan in Chandigarh at about 11 pm on 0 day, 09/09. We checked in and hit the sack by midnight

Day 1 (10/09) – Chandigarh to Manali – 301 kms – 9 hrs

Next morning, Day 1, the weather was cracking with bright sunshine and no signs of rain at all . So with spirits fresh as morning dew, we began our journey. We left Himachal Bhawan at 7 am en route to Manali. The roads just outside of Chandigarh till the toll at Ropar were in pretty bad shape, but if I had known the kind of roads that we would encounter later, I would never have complained. From Ropar till 7 kms shy of Kiratpur, where we begin the climb to Manali, the road was an absolute beauty with minimal traffic. However, we had a scary moment when on the flyover at the Kiratpur-Manali junction, there were two buses coming full pelt on the wrong carriageway and we happened to encounter them on the bend in the flyover. Nothing really happened, except a few missed heartbeats and flutters. It is when things like this happen that my belief is reiterated that one should never drive too fast on highways in India, however good they may be

After this potentially hazardous encounter and a few choice words for the bus drivers, we continued onwards. The journey was mostly uneventful, though we did encounter alot of trucks all along, due to the ACC cement factory at Barnala. After stopping for a quick and pretty bad breakfast of overcooked and gooey maggi, oily omelette and burnt paranthas, we reached Barnala. There we encountered a traffic jam of the ACC factory trucks. When things did not move for more than about 15 minutes, my brother in law got down and went ahead to see what the problem was. In about 5 minutes things started to move and when I picked up my brother in law from a bit down the road he told me that there were two policemen challaning a truck, which they had decided they would stop bang in the middle of the road! My bother in law told them that this had created a huge jam and finally they moved the truck to the side. It amazes me to see such lack of concern and common sense, seriously!! From this point on whenever we encountered any jam or roadblock, we would send my brother in law to investigate and invariably things would start moving. He had become our lucky charm when it came to road blocks 

I had never been to Manali earlier and in all my research I had never come across the 3 kms long tunnel near Aut. I was pleasantly surprised at this encounter. Without anything else worth the mention here, we reached Manali at about 4 pm. We checked into Club Mahindra (brother in law is a member). The rooms there are really nice with a two tier setup, one bedroom and bathroom on the ground floor with steps leading up for an identical setup on the first floor. The weather here too was extremely pleasant and upon asking the guard we found out that it had not rained for 2 days in Manali and it didn’t look like rain on that day as well. Yippee!! It seemed we were being rewarded for all our efforts and persistence. We just hoped it wouldn’t rain in the night so we could cross Rohtang without much difficulty, but we had ABSOLUTELY no idea what Rohtang was and had in store for us

Given that from Manali onwards, our mobile phones would not be working for almost the entire way till Leh, I called Stanzin and took contact details and directions for the places we would be staying at Tandi and Sarchu

We ordered some snacks and changed into our night clothes as we were a bit tired and were planning on leaving early the next day for Rohtang. We generally lounged around, ate, drank and took a few photos. We went to have our dinner at about 9 and were back and ready to hit the sack by 10.30. So that was all that occurred on Day 1

Note: Once has to collect a permit from the SDM for all non HP numbered vehicles going to Rohtang and beyond, without which one cannot go beyond Manali. We knew someone who arranged for the permit and we picked it up from Kullu on our way

Day 2 (11/09) – Manali to Tandi via Rohtang – 125 kms – 7.5 hrs

We had been told that it would take us upwards of 4 hours to reach Rohtang as there was usually a traffic jam of Manali tourists going up. It did take us upwards of 4 hours, but for very different reasons. We woke up at 4.30 am with a plan of leaving Manali by 5 am. It was cold but the weather was clear and thankfully it had not rained during the night. We left as planned. I was expecting that there would be significant traffic trying to beat the rush at Rohtang by leaving early but in the first 10-15 minutes we encountered absolutely no one

In about half an hour after leaving Manali, I for the first time in my life encountered lack of power in any car. Manali to Rohtang is only 52 kms but one gains more than 7,000 feet, more than the height of Manali itself (about 6600 ft). We encountered a herd of goats and had to slow down to a stop. When I tried to pick up the car in 1st gear as I usually do, I could feel lack of any power transmission and could feel the engine physically gasping for air. A moment of panic set in; this was an experience totally alien to me in my 17 years of driving thus far!! I could see the writing on the wall about the kind of driving experience I was going to have till Leh, where the lowest altitude would be Leh itself, at about 11000 ft, barring Tandi at about 10500 ft. However, the panic soon passed and I immediately changed my driving style and kept the engine well above the 2500 rpm range. This style also necessitated greater use of the clutch to rev the engine while moving from a dead stop else the car just did not pick up driving in the normal style. Having well adapted to this style, we moved on and all this while we had yet not encountered a single car or tourists, though we did come across a few trucks and buses ferrying locals. We reached Marhi, which would be about 10 kms short of Rohtang in about 2 hours. Here, one has to get the permit signed. We were told that we would have to keep the permit with us and get it signed at Koksar on our way back and deposit it as Marhi

Till now we had not really encountered any of the slush conditions that we had read that we would encounter at Rani Nulla on way to Rohtang. We had thought Rani Nulla would probably be a few hundred meters’ stretch with slush and given that there had been no rain for the past two days, we were not really expecting it to be an issue. But man!! We were so so wrong!! And now I know why the official at Marhi checking permits seemed surprised and a bit amused to see us going to Rohtang. He must have thought us a bunch of ignorant fools in way over our heads! But that’s not true; we were absolutely well informed about what to expect, it’s just that we had grossly underestimated the scale and extent of things to come

In less than 500 meters from Marhi we came to a bend in the road where there were trucks parked in the middle of the road. This is where the slush began and there was tons of it, about 8-12 inches deep!! In some places, it was even deeper. Here we met the first and last vehicle other than trucks and buses on the road from Manali to Rohtang; a local Sumo ferrying locals on a shared basis. Anyways, we stopped behind the trucks and waited for them to move, but they just wouldn’t. After about 10 minutes we realized that there was a U-turn ahead and the trucks were taking it one at a time lest they get stuck behind each other in the slush. Finally came our turn to go and we moved ahead. I was driving and my brother in law was besides me. I came to the U-turn and took a wide line going up and left. That was a mistake I made because all the trucks had taken the inside line and had made some sort of line to follow and the right side was all virgin slush. In about 20 meters, I had to stop and reverse back to the U-turn and take the inside line. Here, the almost a foot deep slush and the high altitude played havoc with the traction and I had to press the clutch, rev the engine to beyond 3000 rpm and then only could I get some traction in the slush. The going was so difficult that I had to look directly ahead to make sure which line to take. So my brother in law was given the task of looking further down the road to figure what side of the road I should try to move towards. This may not seem like much, but given the extensively slushy conditions, if I did not decide what line to take in advance then it might become impossible for me to change driving lines and move over to the other side of the road

I felt a real adrenaline rush mingled with raw nerves on this drive. On numerous occasions, as I revved the engine and then let go of the clutch, the rear end would just slide out and we would be moving at about 45 degrees to the road. I had seen on TV how on race tracks people get the rear sliding and control the direction by turning the steering in the direction opposite to that of the slide. So that is exactly what I did, although it came instinctively and seemed like the logical thing to do. My wife and brother in law’s wife were in the rear seat and were literally praying. Honestly. However, I never got scared for once. Nervous yes, but I was really excited to be doing this. This was real off-roading stuff!! There were just two things that worried me; the possibility of getting stuck and then having to get off to push the car because of so much slush and the other was of hitting hidden rocks big enough to screw our trip

I tried to drive along the ruts that the trucks had made, but it was not entirely possible because given the high ground clearance of the trucks, the mud in between the ruts was just too high in some places for the Scorpio and I would more often than not hit hidden rocks. So, making my own route, we slowly moved ahead. In some places, I had to take such extreme lines that the Scorpio would tilt so much that the running board would scrape the ground, but man was it fun!!

After about an hour into the madness, we realized that we had done only 4 kms, and all in 1st gear at about 3000-3500 rpm!! At this point we could smell something burning it seemed. At that time we thought it might be the tyres, as they had been spinning and screeching and screaming for traction. But a day or so later we realized that it was the clutch plates beginning to get hot and sticky. We later found out from fellow travellers that this is one problem that the Scorpio suffers from; if one would push it too hard for too long then the clutch starts to give. I can’t entirely blame the car after 1 hour at 3500 rpm, but in all honesty, one would expect more endurance from a Scorpio

At this point, I would like to share a driving tip. When driving in slushy conditions (or in sand), whenever the tyres get stuck and start spinning, then never press on. Always, reverse a bit (only 1-2 meters) turn the steering a bit and try to take a slightly different line. Stepping on the gas would only set the wheels in deeper. I did this continuously on Rani Nulla, otherwise I would definitely have been stuck in more places than I would care to mention

So slipping and sliding, with absolutely no other vehicles on the way, we reached Rohtang from Marhi in 2.5 hours, a distance of 10 kms!! This had been an extremely high revving driving, all in 1st gear. But I would like to mention that despite driving the Scorpio for 2.5 hrs, in 1st gear at 3000-3500 rpm, never once did the temperature needle move even a millimetre beyond where it usually is!! I was expecting some overheating, but none at all was experienced. So, on that count, the Scorpio gets plus points

Small cars and Sedans? NO WAY!! – After having completed this drive, I was really happy that I did not get the SX4. On a day like the one that we crossed Rani Nulla on, there is absolutely no way that any car but a SUV could have made that stretch; the underbody would have been torn to shreds!!

If it had rained that day, we would never have made it I feel. In fact, on our entire trip, since the time we left Delhi till the time we reached back, we experienced absolutely no rain!! The gods were with us!! This just goes to show that besides having a well thought out plan and being well prepared, sometimes you just have to take that first step and get moving and it is surprising how things fall into place. There may be small hurdles, but being determined and well prepared would see you over them

So having conquered Rani Nulla and feeling a foot taller, we reached Rohtang. I had heard alot and seen alot of photos of Rohtang, but on that day there was not a soul there. Man and beast alike had decided to be elsewhere. We could not even find a cup of tea or a bottle of water. In fact, on our way back we realised that on our way up, we had crossed Rohtang without even knowing it. We got to Rohtang at about 9.15 am and spent half an hour taking pictures and generally taking a break. The biggest hurdle in Mission Leh had been overcome

My bother in law took over driving duties from here and we left Rohtang at 9.45 am. The road from Rohtang down to Koksar is not particularly good; it’s not bad but could have been better. But I guess in the Scorpio one gets thrown around a bit more and the car really bobs up and down on bad roads. We had alot of this bobbing and being thrown around on Mission Leh

From Rohtang to Tandi, it’s about 75 kms and we did that in 2.5 hours. From Koksar to Tandi the road is pretty decent. It’s only when we near Tandi that the road becomes a little narrow. As one nears J&K and leaves HP, the roads become narrower and on many stretches, are usually wide enough for one car and when two vehicles cross paths, both have to pull over and slowly cross. At these times, those on the side of the drop should be careful to not pull over too much

Living on the edge: About 5 kms short of Tandi on such a road we came across a truck coming from the other side. My brother in law had to pull over to the edge. When I looked out to see where exactly we were in relation to the edge, to my horror I saw that the front left tyre was about an inch OVER the edge!! I told my brother in law to not move an inch and let the truck figure out how to cross us. Eventually it went clear and we could come back to the middle of the road. That was the scariest moment of the entire journey for me. Another few INCHES and we could have ended up in the Sutlej and I wouldn’t be writing this log. So this was one of those ‘seat of your pants’ moments!

After this little incident, we reached the fuel pump at Tandi. We got the Scorpio topped up (60 ltrs). Although we had a 40 litre jerry can, we did not think we would really need it till Leh, which was another 360 kms. After tanking up, we reached our destination at 12.15 pm. We were staying at these huts called Drilbu Retreat next to the Guru Ghantal Monastery. Yup, that’s the name. Immediately after the fuel pump, we took a right and climbed up a steep road to come to Drilbu Retreat. We had wanted to stay at Jispa, but Stanzin suggested that we stay here and I am glad that we did. Drilbu has about 20 cottages with attached bathrooms, but were the only ones there. The place is really nice with a very hospitable staff and a view to kill for

We asked our host, Raju to make some French fries for us while we setup a table next to the hill overlooking the river and took in the breathtaking view. We idled around and had lunch at 2.30 pm and took a little nap. We woke up, had tea, drove down to the market to buy some essentials and generally did nothing. With sunset at about 6 pm the weather became really cold all of a sudden. We wore our sweaters, jackets and caps and sat outside to enjoy a few drinks with hot pakodas that Raju prepared for us. We wrapped up the evening with dinner at about 9 pm and we were tucked in bed by 10. Thus ended Day 2 of Mission Leh and at I can safely say that it has been one of the most eventful and exciting days of any vacation so far for me

My advice to all those planning to break their journey at around Tandi/ Keylong/ Jispa would be to consider staying at Drilbu to get a feel of the outdoors with decent facilities. Tandi though cold, is still not as cold as Pangong or Nubra and staying in cottages is moderately pleasant

Day 3 (12/09) – Tandi to Sarchu – 125 kms – 6 hrs

We woke up to a bright day and after a quick breakfast we left for Sarchu by 8 am. The drive was ok and mostly uneventful except for our first landslide that we encountered about 3 hours out of Tandi. There was a JCB clearing things up and we got to talking to a few people who were also waiting for the road to clear up. There we met a couple from Poland on two firang bikes. They had left Poland in July and were planning in getting back by Christmas!! These guys had alot of time and real grit and determination to be doing a 6-month biking tour. They had tents and had no bookings or reservations made; they were really living it up. We also met a group of 4 guys from the armed forces in a Scorpio who told us that their clutch plate went bust (their Scorpio had done 25000 kms) on Rani Nulla and they had to spend a night on the mountainside. We counted our blessings that we had no such ill luck. Anyhows, the road cleared up in about half an hour and we were on our way

We reached Sarchu by 2 pm and ‘checked in’ to our tents. The day was nice and bright and the place is like a huge field, with mountains on either side. Lunch was over by the time we reached, so we went up to the market, 8 kms away and had a pretty lousy meal of dal, veggies, roti and rice, all cooked not too well and for which we had to pay Rs 600!! Before the lunch, a mistake that we made was that we had a bit of vodka each. Now, before coming we had had no medicine such as Diamox, we had all of a sudden reached a height of about 14,500 feet and we were not having as much water as we probably should have. Add to this the EXTREMELY windy nature of Sarchu and we had the makings of a bit of a disaster on our hands

By the time we finished lunch, we were feeling a bit heavy headed already. We went back to our camps by about 5 pm and decided to rest for a bit. In about half an hour to an hour’s time, the sun set and given the wind chill factor there, it became extremely and uncomfortably cold. My wife was feeling very nauseated, had a massive headache and could not stop shivering despite layers of heavy clothing. Though suffering from a heavy head, I was fine till now. By about 7 pm, we could hear my brother-in-law throwing up in the tent next to ours. He is prone to migraines and starts throwing up once the situation gets too bad, and we have to necessarily have to give him injections for nausea and pain, because oral medication does not work, he just throws it all up. What we feared happened; after throwing up 5-6 times, his wife came and told us that we would have to take him to the hospital. There was an army setup near the market that we had gone to, so we took him to the doctor there. By this time, my wife was also in pretty bad shape. The doctor tested the oxygen saturation in their blood and it came up to some 65%, which I was told was extremely low. So the two of them were given IV drips and were put on pure oxygen. I am sure our levels of oxygen saturation would also turn up low, if we got them tested

The doctor gave us all Diamox and some Paracetamol and told us to have half a tablet in the morning and evening for the next few days. He asked us how much water we were drinking each day and we told him about 2-3 litres. He said that we should have 9-10 litres a day while in Ladakh, because the low air pressure and the dryness leads to alot of water loss. He gave us all large glasses of warm water; I asked him why warm water and he told me that if one were to have a sore throat or catch a cold there, it would be almost impossible to cure it, so the warm water was a preventive measure

Word of advice: Please have warm water while in Ladakh and whatever you may not carry, DO REMEMBER to carry loads of bottled water. From Sarchu onwards, we were buying almost 20 bottles of water a day!! We bought close to 250 bottles of water!! So, buy from some wholesale place and save yourself alot of money

It was already about 8pm and in the hospital it seemed like it would take another hour atleast as the doctor wanted to keep the patients on oxygen till they stabilised, and we were wondering how we would manage dinner, which was sure to be up by the time we went back to camp. The doctor had left and said that he would be returning later. There were two of his army orderlies there and they offered dinner to me and my brother-in-law’s wife!! She had spicy chicken curry and I being a vegetarian got dal and lauki. It was yummy food and lifted our spirits a bit as we got to talking to the orderlies. They were from Bengal and Gujarat and told us that the army setup in Sarchu was primarily to support tourists and army movements through that area. We saw the really tough conditions that they live in and I found new respect for the Army folks staying there and serving their fellow countrymen and foreign tourists. I was especially touched by their hospitality

So with our little outing to the army hospital, we returned to our camps by 9:15 or so. Luckily dinner was still on, so my wife and brother-in-law had a bit to eat. There we met a group on their way back from Leh en route to Delhi. They told us that More Plains was absolutely horrible with the road mostly under construction and that we would have to drive through the plains, where roads were really horrible. They asked us if we were carrying extra diesel and we said no and then they said that we were making a mistake and that we might need extra fuel. Well, we really had no choice, so we ignored that fact and anyways I thought 60 litres for 360 kms was MORE than enough. The guys in this group then told us that they had come via Kashmir and were going back from Rohtang, with a Scorpio and a Swift!!! I told them that if Rohtang was anything like what it was when we came up, two days back, then there was no way on god’s green earth that they were taking that swift down Rani Nulla. Don’t know how they fared, hope they didn’t have any problem

So with pretty much all of us in low spirits and ill health, we retired to our respective tents for the night. And that, is when things started going bad with me. Soon as I lay down, I started shivering madly. I was wearing an inner, a sweatshirt, a sweater, woollen cap, socks and was inside a quilt and was feeling so cold as if someone had put me out on ice. Soon after, I started feeling nauseated and had a headache so bad, it was as if someone were trying to break free from the inside out with a sledgehammer. I had never felt so ill in my life!!

I had read about AMS alot before coming but had never thought it would happen to me. But man!! It hits you like a freight train and there is absolutely nothing you can do except pray that it wouldn’t get worse, because turning back was never an option 

So this is how we spent the night, with the knowledge that the next day would be a tough day and the longest and most tiring drive yet

Day 4 (13/09) –Sarchu to Leh – 240 kms – 9.5 hrs

After a night of fitful sleep, pounding headaches and shivering bodies, we woke up at 7 am and Sarchu didn’t seem like the most intelligent place to have stopped for the night. We washed up the best we could with a half bucket of hot water that was provided to every tent; we didn’t really care, we just wanted to leave Sarchu! We still had heavy heads but the sun seemed to make the whole thing a little more bearable. So at 7.30 am, we loaded the car up and everyone sat inside and then the next problem occurred, the Scorpio would not start!!

I tried and tried and tried but to no avail, the damn engine would not turn over. Then a local Innova taxi chap came over and told me something that really surprised me; all Mahindra vehicles have this starting problem at such heights while Toyota cars, including the prehistoric Qualis, have no such problems. No wonder so many Qualis’s still run in Ladakh. I was really disappointed with the Scorpio and realized why so many people are crazy about Toyota cars; reliability and efficiency, but then I thought not all my road trips would be at such crazy heights and found some comfort in that thought, affirming my decision to buy the Scorpio 

The Innova chap then opened the hood and pumped the fuel pump vigorously and after about 5 minutes and we finally managed to get the car started. We all felt like crap and were telling each other that maybe our parents were right, maybe we should have taken a flight. My brother-in-law, I found out, had thrown up a few times again in the night, so he was still in pretty bad shape. I was feeling much better with the morning and crisp sunshine, but only marginally. I took first driving honours and we set off from Sarchu

The way ahead was much the same as it had been till now, barren mountains and dusty roads. The difference now was the density of traffic on the road; it was already very less and got even thinner. We were a little apprehensive as well, because we had to cross Pang (15,500 ft) and Taklang-la (17,300 ft). With our moral shattering experience the night before at Sarchu, going higher seemed like a scary thing to do. Also, the roads and the scenery and the general feel of the place is so barren and ‘dead’, it adds to whatever misery being unwell has already piled on you

An hour or so out of Sarchu, we came to the famous Gata Loops. But to be honest, they were not at all what I had expected; there was nothing grandiose and magnificent about them as I had pictured in my mind, they’re just a regular stretch of twisty road!! So on and on we went, higher into bleak landscape, and at that time I was thinking what would happen to us if our car broke down here, with no one for miles and miles around us (we had come near the end of the season and tourist density was extremely low), and the prospect of another cold night in the higher reaches of these mountains, stuck in our car, sent a little shiver of fear down my back. Blocking all these thoughts, I drove on. It was a quite drive, with no one saying much, the sun and dust my driving companions for the most part

Eventually we reached Pang, where we had thukpa and maggi. We didn’t stay for too long and were on our way soon enough. After a while we reached More Plains. We did not know that we had reached the plains, but the flat land at 14,000 ft height, stretching for miles around us could be nothing but More Plains! It is a spectacular place not because on any extraordinarily beautiful scenery but because it makes you wonder the many ways of nature, of there being a huge plain at such a height. It is really amazing!

Here the main road that runs through the plains was under construction for the most part and we were forced to drive through the plains, trying to figure out the correct path that we were to take. Because we were not driving on the road, our journey through the plains was a rather bouncy and shaky one. The Scorpio does bounce more than is comfortable and thus we were forced to drive slower than other vehicles that we encountered there. I was especially surprised to see alot of bicycle groups on this route right uptil Taklang-la and beyond. It must take a set of brass heavies and alot of determination to undertake a cycling trip in such a place!!

Eventually the journey wore on and as we descended from the passes towards Leh, we all started feeling much much better and by the time we were about 70 kms from Leh, we were all in high spirits again, we were back to our chattering selves, we had the music back on, the jokes were doing the rounds and generally, we were a happy bunch again

Soon enough we reached Karu, the cantonment area before Leh city. Driving through it, I was extremely surprised to see distance markers for Beijing and Lhasa!! Never expected that. We finally reached Leh by 5.15 and were met by Stanzin who put us up in our hotel, Ladakh Continental. It is a really nice place with proper rooms and running hot water. We felt SO good getting into our rooms after a miserable night at Sarchu, it is beyond expression! Stanzin left us to wash up and relax and told us our car would be there the next morning; we had booked an Innova for our stay in Leh and for Pangong and Nubra, as we had thought that it would be a good relaxing break from driving before we again drove to TsoMoriri and back to Delhi

We were really weary and tired and stiff, so we had our dinner at about 9 and were tucked in bed by 10.30, happy to be sleeping in a warm bed

Day 5 (14/09) – Leh City – 0 kms – whole day

Next morning we woke up around 8 am, to a nice and bright day. We had slept well, in a proper room, with proper walls (against tent flaps) and a proper bed, with no wind creeping into the room (as happens in a tent). We ordered tea in the room and were in better spirits than a day before. We showered and went down to breakfast at about 9.30. The breakfast was buffet style and we had nice omelette, paranthas, toast and fruits

At 10am, our car, which was actually Stanzin’s car/ taxi that he uses for guests, arrived with our driver Jack, yup that’s the name. One thing that I later learned and was pleasantly surprised at was the fact that in Ladakh, every tour operator/ travel agent can only keep one taxi for their guests. This is to ensure that the local taxi operators get fair business and that no one with financial muscle can grind their competition to dust

Anyways, all four of us bundled into the Innova with Jack as our driver cum local guide. We first went to Thiksay monastery, then the Hemis monastery and then finally to the Shey palace. These are all wonderful places and if one is to really contemplate and think back in time, there is so much history attached to these monuments

We finished our city tour by lunch time and then went back to the hotel, washed up and went walking to the market, which is right next door, for lunch. There were a few places we wanted to explore for food, and settled for Tibetan Kitchen for that day. I have another friend from Leh, Sonam, who I did not know was in Leh at that time, who we met in the market and who also joined us for lunch

After a hearty meal we went back to the hotel for some rest. Our rooms were on the 2nd floor, and though we were all fine now, we would eventually lose our breath by the time we climbed two floors. So with a full belly, the prospect of a nice warm bed was too much to resist, and we all had ourselves a leisurely nap 

Earlier in the day, Stanzin had told us that in the evening he would take us to a spot next to the Indus that he and his friends sometimes went to for enjoying a nice evening. He came in his Innova at about 6.30 pm, we picked up some liquor from the market and he drove us about 3-4 kms and on reaching the outskirts of the city, he parked his car along the road. He then proceeded to take us from the road to the river, for which we had to cross this stretch of thorny Leh Berry bushes, which seem to line the river bank everywhere. So, after about 5 minutes of walking through bushes, we emerged onto the bank of the Indus! There, the four of us, Stanzin, Sonam and another of his friends’ who joined us spent a nice two hours talking and gazing at the mountains. From where we were we could see Stok Kangri, the highest peak in Ladakh. It is at about 19,000 ft and there are treks that go there. Stanzin told us how he had done this trek with a few friends and being a local, even he found it extremely touch going. That evening was special because we were in close vicinity of the Indus and the Himalayas at the same time! It is really awe inspiring to be amongst such legends

I also figured out why people in such places are so spiritual. With a population density of 3/ sq km in Ladakh, harsh winters, lonely lives and generally tough living, it is easy to become spiritual and a believer. I had never understood why, but that evening, after talking to Stanzin and his friends, after understanding the kind of lives the locals lead, understanding that isolation and solitude is all there is after all the tourists have gone and the land is buried in snow, I truly started respecting the beliefs and convictions of these mountain folks

After a fun filled evening with old friends, we came back to our hotel and had our buffet style dinner (that’s the norm everywhere in Leh) by 9.30 pm, went to our rooms, chatted for a while and said our good nights by 10.30 pm

It’s amazing how easy it is to adjust to a life where last dinner is served at 9.30 and the day is over by 10 pm latest, from a life where the night is still young at 11 pm and the day/ night is never over. Simple living, simple people, one amazing place!

Day 6 (15/09) – Leh to Pangong Lake – 150 kms – 5 hours

The next day we planned on leaving not too soon to Pangong as we planned on staying overnight there. Stanzin arranged for us to leave our luggage in the hotel, so we would not have to pack it and put in the Scorpio for the days we were not staying in the hotel. We left at about 10 am with captain Jack at the helm of our ship (Innova). As we neared Chang-la (17, 586 ft) it started to rain a bit and Jack told us that we should find snow soon. We stopped at Chang-la for really yummy maggi and tea. It was really really cold and really really windy and while we were waiting for our chai, true to Jack’s word, it started snowing!! I had seen snow before, but it was after I think nearly 20 years that I had witnessed a snow fall. It was even more exciting because it was the first time for all my other companions!! It was a surrealistic experience being on top of the world with white mountains all around us. City life seemed like a distant and easily forgotten dream. We enjoyed the snow, wind and our little snack and left after a 45 minute halt. There was a bit of snow on the road and even though he was a local, Jack took it real easy and slow till we were out of the snow line

Once out of the high pass area, we continued our journey. I forget the name of the place, but as we neared Pangong-Tso, we crossed an army establishment with milestones that had names of all the army regiments that had ever been posted there. It was pretty cool. There was also a small, nondescript, mention of Shaitan Singh, the Indian Army hero that led the defense of the place against the Chinese in 1962

As we moved on, we came across these plains/ plateau area. Here Jack stopped the car and asked us to come out with him. We did not know what the scene was till we spotted the local wildlife, the Himalayan Marmut, a beaver like rodent found in these and other high places throughout the Himalayan range. These were funny little shy creatures that disappeared down there burrows soon as we approached them. We soon learnt that from none other than captain Jack, that if we sat still enough with a biscuit outside the burrows, the marmuts eventually came out to take the biscuits. My wife tried this though we were warned that these cute little creatures have really sharp teeth, so we should be careful. In hindsight, I would discourage feeding these animals because in the harsh wilderness, it would not do them any good to get used to ‘free lunches’ so to speak

Now comes the best part. It was about 2.30 pm by now and we were almost at our destination. As we got closer the excitement at seeing Pangong-tso started to really build up inside me. Will I see it after the next turn, or the one after?? Finally, after a turn in the road, I laid eyes upon one of the most breathtaking sights in my life and that includes the first time view of the Taj Mahal. Through a small opening between the mountains, amidst the barren brown, I could see a patch of blue, the colour of which I had never seen before. I was awestruck and could not wait to get closer to the lake

After about another 15 minutes, we reached Pangong-tso, and what a beauty it is!! It was a crisp sunny day and the colour was a magnificently rich and deep shade of blue which I find hard to describe. We got out and spent the next hour or so taking pictures and walking around the lake. We learnt that depending upon the time of the day and the weather conditions, the water can change upto seven colours, which is pretty impressive. The lake is 130 kms long with 70% in China. It is the highest saltwater lake (yes saltwater) in the world and there have been conspiracy theories about the Chinese deploying submarines in the lake to spy on India and infiltrate spies of their own

After convincing ourselves that we were really there and this was not a dream and documenting our presence well, we headed to our camp, The Watermark. We could have come back the same day, but we had initially decided that we would not have a hurried trip and also it is a different experience altogether spending a night at a place than just making a day trip. If one is short on time, then this can be made into a day trip as well, with probably a 7 am departure. As the sun was setting the lake turned from blue to gray to black. It was partly cloudy with a bright moon, and the moon would keep slipping in and out of the clouds. The whole feeling was very gothic and eerie in an exciting sort of way, like those vampire/ werewolf movies. It got extremely cold but we had our layers so we weren’t really bothered. The camp was well appointed given the circumstances and we had a leisurely evening, had our dinner, chatted up some and then had the lights out by 10.30 pm

Day 7 (16/09) – Pangong - Leh – 150 kms – 5 hours

Next day we woke up to an overcast day. We were thankful we had come the day before, because this particular day was not good for photography and the mystic blue of the lake had turned into a granite grey. If we had not come a day before, we would have missed the brilliant colours of the lake

We had our breakfast and left for Leh, leaving behind the mysticism and natural wonder of Pangong-tso. We stopped en route at Chang-la. There was snow, but it was not snowing. After an uneventful journey, we reached Leh around lunchtime. Half our trip was over and I felt mixed emotions; sad that we would soon have to go back, happy that we had made it to Ladakh, content with the paces we had seen and excited about the places we yet had to explore. In the evening, we met at Stanzin’s office in the market and had some drinks followed by dinner. Next day we were off to Nubra!!

Incidentally, a day after we came back from Pangong-tso, we found out that heavy snow had covered Chang-la and vehicular movement had been suspended for a day atleast. Phew!! Thank god we went when we did, else we would have had our schedule thrown into a tizzy. It is uncanny how luck holds out when you make bold decisions (our decision to come to Leh after a 3 week delay). All one needs is belief, good preparation and a bunch of happy people to hang out with 

Day 8 (17/09) – Leh - Nubra – 150 kms – 8 hours (delayed due to blocked roads)

We woke up nice and bright all set for our excursion to Nubra Valley. Captain Jack arrived promptly at the designated hour and we set off. An hour and a half into our trip we came to South Pullu

South Pullu is an army checkpost on the Leh side of Khardung-la. On the Nubra side of Khardung-la and at a distance of about 40-50 kms from South Pullu, is North Pullu, where there is a huge depot of sorts and a small base for army vehicles and the legendary Bofors guns. There are regular army convoys that travel from North to South Pullu and vice versa during which time the road is closed to civilian traffic

So as we reached South Pullu at about 11ish am, we encountered a long line of vehicles all parked one behind another. We joined to make the snake a little longer and found out that three Bofors guns were being transported from North to South Pullu and we would have to wait. But no one told us for how long. With nothing to do, we listened to some music in the car, walked around a bit, took some photos, etc and generally got a bit bored waiting for the Bofors to come down. Finally, after about two hours of waiting, the guns went by and we were on our way again. But as luck would have it, after about an hour or so of travelling, with all the cars waiting forming convoy of sorts of their own, we encountered an army convoy of about 20 odd trucks coming from the other direction. This invariably led to a traffic situation that took about half an hour to solve itself

Jack told us an interesting fact; in all army convoys, the first and the last vehicles have large flags tied to their windows. The flag on the first vehicle is an indication that it is a convoy and not a stray vehicle coming and the flag on the last vehicle indicates the end of the convoy. It may not seem like much, but on twisty, narrow roads, such information is useful and helps avoid bottleneck/ jam situations

And in due time, at 18,380 feet above sea level, we reached Khardung-la and the highest motorable road in the world!! Some argue that the highest motorable road in the world is in Chile, but WHO CARES, so long as the BRO sign that I stood under confirms that you are now indeed at the highest driveable point ON THE GLOBE!! It is one of those moments where you feel really elated and ecstatic

There is the yummiest ginger tea to be had at the only canteen at Khardung-la, with steamed momos and maggi

I was surprised at the number of people at the pass! And more surprised at the number of old people there. And even more surprised at the people who had bicycled their way up to Khardung-la. I was really impressed and inspired by a 50+ foreign couple who had bicycled to Khardung-la!! In fact, all along the trip we saw numerous people, mostly foreigners on cycles, in places like, Taklang-la, Chang-la, Khardung-la. Without visiting the place, it is difficult to comprehend the hardship one would have to endure cycling across Ladakh. Hats off man, to these people!! They sure got a pair of brass knockers and the physical endurance to back their courage

The old people (about 60ish) I mentioned were I think a Bengali or Gujarati group that had come there and they were extremely inappropriately dressed. There was a lady wearing a sari, socks and chappals on Khardung-la!! And she was extremely unwell due to the altitude. I felt really sorry for her and was left wondering why people have to risk their lives in such old age and even if they have to can’t they prepare a little better by way of clothing, etc. But on the flipside, from personal experience, it is really difficult to envisage the situations and problems one can face in a place as charmingly and deceptively hostile as Ladakh

Anyhow, so we moved ahead yet once again and without any further incidences, we reached the Nubra Valley. It is surprising how the landscape is in Ladakh region. From the first surprise at the More Plains at such an altitude, I was also surprised by the pebble strewn plain of the Nubra Valley. We later learnt that there used to be a forest in that area and a great deluge once washed away all vegetation which never grew back

Here we also had our first view of the Bactrian Camels, the even toed and double humped camels native to the region, which are also endangered. The Nubra Valley used to be a crucial transit and trading point on the old Silk Route, with Chinese, Mongolian and Afghan traders passing through this region to enter India. The Bactrian Camels are native to the Mongolia, China region and over time, during the trading days, some got left behind or some people settled here and that is how they came to be in the Nubra Valley

We moved in and checked into our camps for the night. These were called the Organic Retreat and like a few other places in Nubra Valley, they grow all their produce organically, with the tents set amidst this cultivation. It is an extremely beautiful place with mountains around you and apple trees bordering your camping area and a little stream flowing through the camp. Lovely, is the word my friends!!

Later in the evening, the caretaker prepared a bonfire for us along with some hot snacks that we enjoyed prior to dinner. We found out that we were the only people there and two days hence the camp was being shut for the winters. In all these places around Leh, I found out that during the summers the workers are employed in Ladakh and in the winters they go work in either Kerala or Goa. Most are from UP and Bihar, thus being employed throughout the year

By this time into our trip, we had become good boys and girls and were used to sleeping by 10.30 and waking up by 6.30. Besides, soon as it got dark, it was as if the world had shut down for the day and it seemed wise to do the same

Day 9 (18/09) – Nubra - Leh – 150 kms – 6 hours

Next day we woke up and did some camel riding, which is much more uncomfortable than it seems. In the plains where the camels stay, the mountains along the road are so smooth and so sheer, that one feels so small, like a speck. It is another one of those humbling experiences that I had while executing Mission Leh

We then went to the Diskit monastery that has the largest statue of the Buddha in Ladakh at 30 feet. On our way back we stopped at North Pullu for lunch at a shop (the only shop) right before the army area. As we were finishing we could hear all the trucks starting up and the lady at the shop told us to leave quickly as a convoy was preparing to leave and if it left before us, we would be stuck for a couple of hours. So we QUICKLY left North Pullu for Leh. After about 10-15 minutes as we climed to Khardung-la, we could see a HUGE convoy prepare to leave North Pully below us. Phew again!!

Day 10 (19/09) – Leh City

This was the day that we had kept for going to Llamayuru, where you have the ‘moon walk’ and the magnetic hill. However, none of us was in the mood and we spent the day in Leh doing basically nothing. Just relaxing and eating and walking the market

Next day was our long drive to TsoMoriri and it being our last day in Leh, Stanzin again took us to the Indus for our last evening in Leh. It was another amazing evening, but by the time it was 9pm, there was so much wind and lightening that we decided to leave quickly. We came back to the hotel, said our goodbyes to Stanzin and Sonam, packed our luggage and slept

Note: Next day we were to leave for TsoMoriri and from there to Tandi, a total distance of about 500 kms with no fuel pump, so we filled our 40 litres can with diesel. I advice all to carefully calculate their distances and carry appropriate fuel quantities. Further, make sure that you put a polybag layer and a newspaper layer and then close the lid on any can, because all the movement on bad roads leads to some leakage and alot of stink

Day 11 (20/09) –Leh - TsoMoriri ~ 250 kms – 12 hours

The driving from Leh to Sumdo was very lonely with hardly any vehicles, being the fag end of the season. We however, found a bit of greenery along the river when we get off the main road and go to Sumdo, a small village where the road forks, one going towards More Plains and the other towards Kurzok and TsoMoriri and Chumur near the Chinese border

At Sumdo, we took the wrong road but did not go far and met a local elderly gentleman who guided us to Kurzok. Surprisingly, he spoke excellent English!! As we turned around, we saw a convoy of freight trucks coming from More Plains. They stopped us and asked us the direction to Leh 

So on we went to Kurzok. The road from Sumdo to Kurzok is really weird and amazing, primarily because there is no road!! One has to follow tracks or make their own way across grassy plains. Again, coming across plains at such altitude was amazing. The landscape was like one of those scenes out of Lord of the Rings; huge open expanses with mountains all around

There was a local Qualis ahead of us so we followed him for the most part thinking he would know the way. If not for him, we would have been not sure if we should go ahead, because driving without a road on a mountain plain just did not seem like it would get us anywhere. And there was no one we could ask. So on and on we went till we reached Kurzok, which is right at the edge of the lake. From there one can go to the lake or to Chushur and the Chinese border. The Qualis took a left and so we followed him. Here the road is higher than the lake and unpaved. We followed the Qualis for about 30 kms with no apparent way to get to the lake. There was construction work going on at the road throughout these 30 kms and it was really dusty. Eventually, we figured we were on the wrong side of the lake as we could see camps on the other side. The Qualis stopped and we asked the guy how do we get to the lake. He said he didn’t know!!! He had come there to pick someone up. So we had been going the wrong way and another 40-50 kms and we would have reached Chushur and the Chinese border!! That would have been something

So we turned around and after wasting an hour, we took the right turn from Kurzok and reached the camps and the lake. It had taken us till 6 pm to get there. Again, we were the only ones at the camp. TsoMoriri lake is supposed to be the 7th most beautiful lake in the world according to some survey and Pangong-Tso doesn’t even make the list. I was personally a bit disappointed. I found Pangong much better. Also, I think after a 12 hr drive we felt that it was not worth it, given that we were leaving the next morning. It was getting dark when we got there and TsoMoriri at 15,000 feet got really cold. The camp guy told us that the temperature drops below freezing in the nights. With nothing to do, we asked him for glasses. He asked us if we were going to drink, we said yes, he said not advisable, we said we are already acclimatised, so out came the bottle of rum. After a couple of drinks, we had soup and dinner and went to the tents to dwell on our last evening in Ladakh. There was a dog there that the guy told us had come from Ladakh with a group that had trekked down but decided to stay there then. Random dog!!

We were sad that we would be on our way back the next day, but really happy that we did this trip, despite its hardships and lack of creature comforts. After spending an hour or so talking, we slept

Day 12 (21/09) –TsoMoriri - Tandi ~ 250 kms – 12 hours

The night had been uncomfortable because a stray dog and a local wild *** kept barking and braying the entire night. We woke up to a really cold morning. The water had frozen in the night and we had a bigger problem starting the Scorpio here than we did in Sarchu. We were ready to push it to start after about 15 minutes of trying when the engine finally came to life. TsoMoriri was a weird sort of place, we saw in the morning. Behind our camp, was a small village where the road and all civilization ended and beyond it was just the barren wilderness. It was like spending the night at the end of the world!! Surreal

Note: In hindsight, we could have skipped TsoMoriri and I would probably not go there if I go again, but don’t let me deter all of you. Also, in hindsight we should have skipped TsoMoriri and come down via Kargil, Srinagar route. I guess next time I will do that and yes there WILL be a next time, whenever it is. You cannot not go to Ladakh again. It’s just plain absurd!!

So, we left TsoMoriri and from Sumdo took a left towards More Plains. On our way we passed what we first thought were snow covered mountains but turned out to be calcium and phosphorus layering due to hot springs. This was near Tso-kar lake, if I am not mistaken

It was a longish and absolutely lonely drive till we reached More Plains, where thankfully, the road had been laid by now. On our way back, while traversing the Gata Loops, we saw these small offroading trails and we took these straight down instead of taking the road. We crossed the loops in record time due to these shortcuts. One word of advice, if you don’t have a 4x4, then please do not try going UP the loops via these short cuts, because they are extremely steep and if your car starts sliding back, you will have SERIOUS problems

As is usual on the return leg of any trip, we were tired and excitement levels were on the ebb. We finally reached Tandi at about 6 pm, tired as a dog, looking to crash at Drilbu Retreat. To our annoyance, when we reached there, we saw a huge number of people, a movie crew and generally lots of mayhem. We were told that our cottages had been given to these folks and because we did not have phones, there was no way of reaching us. We were told that we were booked in the Deykid Hotel in Keylong. I was extremely angry but saw no point in arguing. We left for Keylong, reached the hotel and were actually happy to be in a hotel instead of a cottage. Cottages are fine when for onwards journeys, what with all the excitement and all. On the way back, a warm bed and a proper bathroom seemed much more inviting than a cottage. So, all in all, we were actually better off 

This was the only confusion that happened in the trip, a confusion that led us to better accommodations. On the whole, Stanzin made EXCELLENT arrangements and all the places were really nice

At Deykid, we had some Chinese food and went to our rooms by 10 pm

Day 13 (22/09) – Tandi - Manali - 125 kms – 5 hours

We left for Manali by 10 am. We had slept well and were feeling fresh. We stopped at Koksar to get our permit signed to deposit at Marhi

Note: Do get your permits signed at Koksar, though at Marhi, no one asked us for it

On reaching Rohtang, we were surprised at the number of people there. The slush had dried up and it was as if the whole world had come to Rohtang! There were quad-bike rides, mule rides, lots of food vends, hawkers, and basically the fully monty as far as it could have been

We stopped to have lovely maggi and chai. An interesting incident that took place was that while we were eating maggi, a hawker came to my wife and told him that he had the musk pouch from the musk deer and would sell it for Rs 100. I told my wife that first, it is illegal, second it is not real because if it were, it would have not been for a 100 quid and last, the man was a fraud. But my wife and her sister in law could not be deterred and bought that junk from him. The guy had a trick that he used for making sales. He would hold the ‘ musk pouch’ in his hand, close his fist and rub his hand against my wife’s and ask her to smell her hand. And voila, the hand would smell musky thus endorsing the man’s claim that the muck pouch was real!! When my wife tried this later at Manali, nothing happened  Then we realized that the man had already put some musk perfume on his hand so when he rubbed it against anyone else’s hand, of course it would smell nice!! What a bloody rip off!! Folks, please DO NOT fall for such tricks!!

When we crossed Marhi, there was paragliding happening. Rohtang looked nothing like what we had left it like on our way up, when there were just the 4 of us!!

We finally reached Manali where we had booked ourselves into Himachal Tourim’s Hidamba Cottages. These are nice cottages/ rooms near Hidamba Temple. They have no room service, but that was OK with us. In the afternoon we had Italian food at a joint right outside our hotel, run by an Itlaian couple. They served really nice food!! In the night we wanted to go to Johnson’s Cafe, of which we had heard so much. It was our last night of this trip, so we had a real blast at Johnson’s Cafe. It is an amazing place to eat and must go if one has time. It is on the road from the market to Hidamba Temple. They serve really nice fish, though everything else is also A1. And they also have a well appointed bar 

Day 14 (23/09) – Manali - Delhi ~ 550 kms – 12 hours

We left early for Delhi. We had thought that we would stop at Chandigarh if we got tired. The road from Manali to Chandigarh is extremely busy with truck traffic. And now that the rains had stopped, there was alot of tourist traffic as well. By the time were half way to Chandigarh, it became really hot; we had all but forgotten what feeling hot is in the last 2 weeks  We reached Chandigarh by late afternoon and thought we would push ahead to Delhi. We reached Delhi at about 8.30 ish

We had just finished a dream 2 weeks. Being in Delhi made all the things we did in Ladakh and the places we went to seem like a dream; it was like we had just come out of a really engrossing movie. But no, it was no movie, we had finally accomplished Mission Leh!!

Ending Notes

Now now now! What it is that I can write that I have already not written in the travelogue? All I would like to say is that please DO go to Ladakh, it is a Wonderland and you can be Alice. You would see places the likes of which exist nowhere else on the planet. You would experience the warm hospitality of the Ladakhi people and you would have an experience that you WOULD never forget

Driving is the real way to go, but if you want to fly, then do that, it would still be alot of fun. Driving is a bit dangerous, but so is crossing the road. Be well prepared, research well, plan ahead, book ahead (if with families and if looking for some comfort) and keep a couple of days spare just in case and you should be fine


 Take alot of water. Buy from wholesale. Plan on atleast 5 litres per person/ per day
 Take extra can for fuel, tyre repair kit, air pump, tow line (we only used the can but in an emergency these things would be a godsend)
 Take appropriate clothing such as gloves, warm caps, warm scarves, inners, warm socks and sturdy shoes. Please dress for comfort and not fashion. If possible and there is space take sleeping bags, just in case you get stuck in the wilderness
 Take a torch and batteries
 Extra memory card for camera (I have a 32GB card, so did not need any extra one. I took 1200 photos)
 Carry some food that won’t go bad such as cheese, energy bars, chocolates, juices, biscuits, etc. They may just save your life if things go bad and you are stuck
 May start having Diamox a few days before leaving. Check dosage from your doctor


 Drink and Drive. No explanation needed
 Don’t be more than 4 people to a car. Long journeys can be uncomfortable with more people
 Try avoiding alcohol at high altitudes. I know it’s a vacation so I won’t say don’t drink. So if you have to drink, drink slowly, limit consumption and have lots of water
 Please don’t drive rashly and fast. No matter what you do, average speed in Ladakh would be between 25-30 kmph
 Try not to rush the trip. Spend time and enjoy the place
 DO NOT overpack. We did and were ruing it. You would not be changing clothes in Sarch, Pangong and TsoMoriri because it is JUST TOO COLD and you can have clothes washed at the hotel in Leh. For 2 weeks, take 2-3 lowers, 6-7 tops, 2 heavy sweaters, 1 sweatshirt and a heavy Jacket

So that’s it folks. I would highly recommend getting arrangements made through Stanzin Norboo. If anyone is interested I can connect you to him

I hope the log has not been boring and has served the purpose with which I wrote it, of motivating and educating people about a road trip to Leh. Go and DO MAKE THIS trip, else regret and down the line wonder, what if...

Yours truly...signing off

PS: I want to upload more photos. How can I do it beyond the 30 photo per post limit

Slush on way to Rohtang
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-15.jpg

Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-18.jpg

View from Rohtang (it is empty with not a soul there)
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-19.jpg

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Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-24.jpg

Cottages at Drilbu retreat
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-29.jpg

View from Drilbu Retreat
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-31.jpg

Really cold in after sunset (Drilbu)
Attachment 941016

Last man on earth (On way to Sarchu)
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-37.jpg

View from our hotel in Leh
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-68.jpg

Thiksay Monastary
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-49.jpg

View from Thiksay
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-50.jpg

Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-51.jpg

Wife and Brother in laws wife walking up to Leh Palace
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-53.jpg

Snow and wind at Chang-la
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-55.jpg

First view of Pangong!
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-59.jpg

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Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-63.jpg

Cottages in the clouds (Pangong)
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-65.jpg

More snow on way back (Chang-la)
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-66.jpg

When nature calls (Chang-la)
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-67.jpg

Traffic jam (on way to Khardung-la)
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-72.jpg

Top of the world!
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-74.jpg

Organic Retreat (Nubra)
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-75.jpg

Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-76.jpg

Nature's might (Nubra)
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-80.jpg

Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-81.jpg

View from Diskit
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-83.jpg

No roads (on way to TsoMoriri from Sumdo)
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-88.jpg

Tso Moriri
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-91.jpg

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Old 14th June 2012, 17:35   #2
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Default Re: Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2

Thanks alot for sharing this, I've read each and every Leh log on this forum and every time i read one, I fall more for Leh. Really my dream destination.

I will surely do ladakh by car after some years down the line

BTW nicely written and presented well. Great way of writing. I really didn't moved my eyes from the screen till i completed the reading.

Do post more pics, specially of the steed ( your scorpio ) that you took along for this trip.


Last edited by GTO : 16th June 2012 at 09:34. Reason: As requested
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Old 15th June 2012, 13:55   #3
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Default Re: Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2

Absolutely wonderful pictures, you went through the harshness of the terrain to realize it aint easy doing a Leh/Ladakh trip. We still recall amazing beauty and harshness of the nature at the same time when we went there last year.

Someday hopefully we will drive there, If you have more such amazing pictures do upload them. Get the post with pictures missing deleted and upload again.
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Old 15th June 2012, 14:43   #4
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Default Re: Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2

Mod Note : If you have a question about the forum & features, refer to the FAQ. Alternatively, you can use the Contact Us form. A public thread is NOT the place for those questions.
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Old 15th June 2012, 15:11   #5
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Default Re: Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2

I am again uploading photos in lots so as to minimise time between the upload and the post. Here comes the first one!

Between Bilaspur and Manali
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-5.jpg

At Marhi
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-11.jpg

Permit Needed
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-12.jpg

Slush! Between Marhi and Rohtang
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-13.jpg

Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-14.jpg

After Conquering Rohtang!
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-20.jpg

View from Rohtang
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-23.jpg

Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-24.jpg

Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-25.jpg
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Old 15th June 2012, 15:41   #6
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Default Re: Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2

Amazing.. and I have no clue if it was the Prelogue which was better or the narration of your real trip. While the former was dotted with such beutiful display of "human" emotions and knotting of realities..the latter was nothing but a thriller which would just not let you move away. Believe it or not.. I read it all in one go.

Awesome post Speedy boy

PS - Gonna rate it 5 star, alcohol or no-alochol

Last edited by New.Novice : 15th June 2012 at 15:42.
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Old 15th June 2012, 15:46   #7
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Default Re: Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2

Originally Posted by New.Novice View Post
Amazing.. and I have no clue if it was the Prelogue which was better or the narration of your real trip. While the former was dotted with such beutiful display of "human" emotions and knotting of realities..the latter was nothing but a thriller which would just not let you move away. Believe it or not.. I read it all in one go.

Awesome post Speedy boy

PS - Gonna rate it 5 star, alcohol or no-alochol
Thanks for your vote! It would be prudent to stick to guidelines laid down, so unintentional slip ups like mine can be avoided

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Old 15th June 2012, 17:52   #8
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Default Re: Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2

How much time did it take to get permits to cross Rohtang?? Also are there any agents who can arrange it for us?
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Old 15th June 2012, 18:07   #9
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Default Re: Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2

That was a gripping read Crusader. I somehow feel the photos inline with the text would have increased the reading pleasure a lot.

Looking forward to more of the 1200+ pics u took.
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Old 18th June 2012, 10:34   #10
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Originally Posted by lsp View Post
That was a gripping read Crusader. I somehow feel the photos inline with the text would have increased the reading pleasure a lot.

Looking forward to more of the 1200+ pics u took.
Thanks! I agree! I tried that initially but had forgotten the 30 photo per post rule and ended up wasting alot of time! SO finally just posted them at the end. Will post more photos soon


Originally Posted by pushkark View Post
How much time did it take to get permits to cross Rohtang?? Also are there any agents who can arrange it for us?
You have to get these from the Magistrate's office. WE got it done through some family friends. It is apparently an easy exercise but it is better if done in advance. If you are having someone organise stay etc then ask them. Else you can call the Magistrate's office to find out the exact procedure; nos are available online


Last edited by Technocrat : 11th July 2012 at 21:19. Reason: Please use the EDIT or MULTI-QUOTE buttons instead of typing one post after another on the same thread. Thanks.
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Old 18th June 2012, 15:43   #11
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Default Re: Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2

Originally Posted by pushkark View Post
The pictures are not visible. Please check and reload.
Uploading in smaller lots

Sunset (Drilbu)
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-32.jpg

Landslide (On way to Sarchu)
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-34.jpg

While waiting for it to clear...
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-35.jpg

En route
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-36.jpg

Lonely Planet (Sarchu)
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-38.jpg

Sarchu to Leh
Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-44.jpg

Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-52.jpg

Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2011)-57.jpg
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Old 10th July 2012, 15:57   #12
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Default Re: Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2

nice pics and details, you should have give a shot to Ladakh with SX4, it does very well with few hiccups
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Old 11th July 2012, 00:53   #13
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Default Re: Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2

Congratulations, firstly for completing the trip and secondly for such a nice write-up and photographs.

This is the first time I have read about planning in such details. your perspective on who to go with and what to take is interesting and quite appropriate.

But it is your DO's and DONT's that takes the cake.

Cheers and congratulations again.
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Old 11th July 2012, 04:12   #14
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Default Re: Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2

Lovely write up and congrats.
A driving tip for slush. Once you get going in 1st switch to 2nd. 2wd vehicles need the wheelspin to move ahead due to lack of traction. Switching to 2nd gear reduces the strain on your clutch and engine and gives you the needed tyre speed/spin to plough through.
That said if you spin too much too early, you will get bogged down. So like I said, get going in 1st and shift to 2nd once you're moving. Oh and shift fast too long to change and you'll be bogged down again.
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Old 11th July 2012, 11:08   #15
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Thumbs up Re: Mission Leh! Four people, one scorpio and one helluva road trip! (Delhi-Leh Sep 2

A very detailed travelogue with beautiful pics. I am sure there are many more in the pipeline

I am not sure why you said that you actually realised you were MAD to suggest Leh as honeymoon. Infact after the trip it should have been other way round. No offence to God's Own Country.
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