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Old 30th July 2012, 11:56   #1
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Default Driving in Thin Air

Ladakh 2011

Ladakh is a place which epitomises the saying "The journey itself is the destination." A dip in the Ganges is supposed to wash out your past sins however petrol heads like us beleive that a drive on the Manali-Leh highway has the same effect of washing our sins. The drive is difficult, tough, under harsh climatic conditions and certainly not for the faint hearted. Here some of your best laid plans go for a toss in the very begining for you are insignificant in front of mother nature. However
everything is compensated by the feeling of driving on the roof of the world and the stunning vistas it offers. Every hairpin bend takes you higher and higher to dizzying heights and with every meter you climb the air gets thinner and thinner. The thin air makes you aware of every breath you and your car takes, every beat of your heart and the car's engine till a time comes when you feel you and your car have become ONE.

This log is my account of Driving in the thin air of Ladakh.

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Maximus at More plains
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Old 30th July 2012, 14:07   #2
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Rohtang 9th July 2011

Battle of Carthage

It had been more than 9 hrs since we were stranded at Rahni Nullah on our return from Leh. Monsoon had stuck in full fury and landslide had become a daily issue. With little hope of the route getting cleared we were mentally preparing ourselves to spend the night there. Vikrant, my partner, was desparate to cross over the other side. His 5 month expecting wife was in hospital. Though i pressurised him cross over on foot and take a lift to Manali but he did'nt want to leave me there. Suddenly the news came that the route has been cleared. Time to move.
The scene at the Landslide zone was fresh out from a horror movie. BRO workers were constantly throwing stones in the slush to make the ground firm. The slush was more than a foot deep, cars stranded on sides, the BRO Dozer constantly clearing the area from slush and vehicles both, people trying with all their might to push out there vehicles, constant rains, dense fog in short...pure hell.
Ahead me a Mahindra Pickup was being "aided" from behind by the BRO dozer to cross the landslide. The dozer left the pickup just short of incline. It was my turn now. 4L and the Fort was ploughing through the slush.
The pickup got stuck again at the end of incline making me stop right in the middle of landslide zone. I came out and stood on the footboard to gauge the path i'll take. Suddenly everybody shouted " Patthar aaya..Patthar aaya ".
As i looked up i saw a huge 2 foot by 2 foot rock flying down straight towards me ! I said to myself "This is it"....
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Old 30th July 2012, 14:26   #3
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Some thoughts before i begin the actual log.

The Indian army perhaps works in the most difficult terrain in the world against some very hostile neighbours. The courage, the valour, the sacrifice shown by these men in uniform is supreme. Its ironical that we pray that the Guns of the Indian Army never fall silent for we can sleep peacefully at home with our families. My salutes to these men of honour.

Guns of Ladakh

Driving in Thin Air-gunsofladakh.jpg

The Manali - Leh higway is a tribute to mans everlasting fight with nature. Its a different thing that nature has had always the last laugh but no one can take the credit from the BRO in achieving something which should be counted amongst the wonders of the world.

BRO.... the road builders of Ladakh

Driving in Thin Air-img_0893a.jpg

Its said that "Four wheels move the body, Two wheels move the soul." Driving a Toyota Fortuner on the Manali - Leh highway with all the power of 170BHP, 4x4, low gear ratios under the hood was by no means easy. But on bikes its a different ball game alltogether. Exposed to the elements on a bike the road to Ladakh can test you to the limits.

The lone rider

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Bring it on

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And there are many.....

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A thought has been sown.... lets see when it is realised .

Last edited by columbus : 30th July 2012 at 14:28.
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Old 31st July 2012, 11:54   #4
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Trip details

Bhopal - Leh - Bhopal

Date : 24th June - 12 July 2011

Vehicle : Toyota Fortuner (nick named Maximus)

Total Distance : 4850 Kms

Number of persons : 2 ( ex Delhi )

Number of drivers : 1 ( yes drove the whole 4850 Kms solo )

Fuel Efficiency in Plains With AC : 13.5 kmpl

Fuel efficeincy in hills with AC : 10.5 kmpl

Total expenses for 2 persons all inclusive of
fuel, stay, food and any toll taxes : Rs. 57000 ( 28500 per head ).

A harbinger of things to come

Day 1
Bhopal - Delhi

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Day 2
Delhi - Bilaspur

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Day 3
Bilaspur - Manali

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Day 4
Manali - Keylong

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Day 5
Keylong - Sarchu

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Day 6
Sarchu - Leh

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Day 7

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Day 8
Leh - K Top - Nubra - Turtuk

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Day 9
Turtuk - Diskit - Leh

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Day 10

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Day 11

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Day 12
Leh - Pangong

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Day 13
Pangong - Chushul - Hanle

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Day 14
Hanle - Tso Moriri

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Day 15
Tso Moriri - Jispa

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Day 16
Jispa - Manali

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Day 17
Manali - Delhi

Day 18
Delhi - Guna

Day 19
Guna - Bhopal
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Old 31st July 2012, 14:49   #5
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Days before

The City has been with me since last 8 years. I have travelled the length and width of the country in it and she has never disappointed me. I was determined to take her up there and made her battle ready with protection plates underneath. But Ladkah was a different cup of tea alltogether. The trip to Ladakh was cancelled two times in the last two years for some reason or the other and want of a better suited vehicle. But during those two years the City had fueled my wanderlust to the extent that it no longer served my purpose. The desire to take the
path less travelled had possesed me. The amazing travelogues of this far away mysterious land added fuel to fire.
In came the Fortuner. Maximus arrived in my life on 20th November 2010 and we got leh'ed on 29th July 2011.

The idea of me going to Ladakh was opposed vociforiusly by the Home minister (wife) and vehemently supported by the President and the Prime Minister (Parents). Every trick in the trade was tried to nip it in the bud. But some times a man has to follow his dreams even if he has face the anger of his loved ones. The Home minister relented but parents never approved of the trip.

The preparations for the trip were guided by the enormous amount of information on the net.The travelogues from Tanveer and Harsh were immensely helpful.
The mother documents being the xl file made by the great HV Kumar which was posted on team-bhp for trip and car preparations. Thank you sir !
Also my special thanks to Harsh & Arti for making that superb map on changthang area. That was like bible for us through out the whole trip. The list made by HVK is very exhaustive and requires some time to collect all the items mentioned in it. But trust me Ladakh is a place where you don't want to go unprepared. Almost everything mentioned in the list came handy. Some of the things which we carried

1. Car inverter from Belkin.
Brilliant device. Plugs into DC socket of car and converts to 220V AC. So you can charge your camera batteries, mobile phones, laptops on the go. Needless to say the most used item in the entire trip.

2. 2 nos 1ft x 2ft long wooden planks
3. Tow rope steel with D-shackles on both ends. Could'nt get nylon one.
4. Tubeless tyre puncture repair kit.
5. Foot pump
6. Rubber Gloves. Proved very handy when we had to change a tyre.
7. Battery Jump start cables
8. 2 20L Bisleri cans + 10 2L Bisleri bottles for carrying additional 60L fuel.
9. Gum boots. came very handy at Rohtang
10. 5L gas cylinder with attached burner
11. Utensils for cooking
12. Ready to eat Packages, Maggi, 200ml juice/ matha tetra packs, dry fruits, home made laddos, biscuits, wafers, and what not.
13. Medicines as mentioned in the list by HVK
14. 2 bedsheets. came in Handy at Hanle
15. Blankets
16. Sunscreen lotions and creames.
17. Plastic sheet

Apart from this all the personal stuff like clothing, Camera body, lenses, batteries, charging adaptors cables etc...in short when the Fort was loaded with all this somebody commented " Are you guys going on war" .

Before i write any further let me introduce you to my friend Vikrant. Vikrant lives in delhi and used to work as Financial Analyst. After getting leh'd, where the idea of starting something of his own, he has now started his own stock brokrage firm.
We know each other through our better halves and before the trip we had just met two times. Though I had been ditching Vikrant since last 2 years by cancelling the ladakh trip at the very last minute he had kept his patience. But as they say You will get Leh'ed when your time comes !
Vikrant is a superb navigator and beacuse of his years of experience in crossing Jams on Agra bypass we managed to cross the jams at Rohtang
on both times.
I was to start from Bhopal and Vikrant would join me from Delhi. I had planned the trip in third week of june so as to cross Himachal before monsoon hits. But that year monsoon arrived a bit early and was in full fury when i was about to start.
Could'nt sleep for days before due to excitement. After a wait of 3 years i was going to Ladakh. My time to get Leh'ed had come...
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Old 1st August 2012, 08:26   #6
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Day 1

Bhopal to Delhi (750kms)
Route : Bhopal-Beora(NH3)-Guna-Gwalior-Agra-Delhi

Eye of the storm

Today will be the longest ride of the trip and it also became the most difficult one. It was the first time i was going on a trip without my wife and daughter. Could feel their and absence and the subsequent emptiness
in in the entire trip. But sometimes a man has to do things which he just has to do. There are no explanations for it...

Bhopal - Delhi by road has never been easy. For the most part you travel on the dreaded AB road (NH3). Now i have driven on many a roads in the country and NH3 has been the most difficult to drive on. Its single lane, pot holed and truck infested like fleas. And when it rains NH3 becomes a nightmare.
Started from home at 7:30AM and had anticipated that it would take me about 13-14 hrs to reach Delhi. Would reach Vikrants place in Noida by max 10:00 PM in the evening. How very wrong i was.
Till Beora its a state highway where it joins the NH3. From Beora the real hell starts. It started raining cats and dogs and continued till Gwalior.
Crater size potholes, water overflowing on the roads from the feilds, the slushy ruts on the sides which can easily break your axle, add to it zillions of trucks..the progress was excruciatingly slow.

Rain Rain go away..little johny wants to play

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Could not even get out of the car

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To add salt to injury got stuck in a jam for 2 hrs before Guna at the famous Guna bridge.

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Had my packed lunched after crossing Guna. Another Jam at Dhoulpur and another small one at Morena. Dhoulpur should be now renamed as Dhoolpur. The complete stretch through Dhoulpur is under construction of a flyover.Till the flyover is completed it will be Dhoolpur only. I do not know the present condition. Has the flyover completed ?

Finally at Gwalior i was out of the eye of the storm and managed to catch the Fort in fading light.

Gwalior Fort from the pathetic Gwalior bypass

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At 8:30 was at Agra Bypass. Had dinner at a dhaba infront of the bypass. Was feeling really tired. In fact felt exhausted. Took out a pillow from car and slept for half an hour on the manji under the open sky. At 9:30 it was
decision time. Whether to stay at Agra or continue towards Delhi. Staying at Agra meant loosing morning start from Delhi to Bilaspur which we eventually did even after reaching Delhi in night.
Decided to Push of to Delhi. Agra bypass is natorious for huge jams at the three railway crossings it has. Inquired from a truck driver returning from Agra bypass about traffic condition. He said its jam at the railway crossing. Better to go via the city.

Thankfully the city traffic was light and i quickly got out of the city. The road is excellent from here on and crunched some crucial miles in good time till i entered Delhi Border, where Maximus was swarmed with trucks like bees from a hive. Though he held his ground and managed to bring me out on more peaceful roads of Noida. It was at 1:00 clock that i touched Noida border. By this time i was bone dead.

If driving on the Manali - Leh highway was my pilgrimage then driving that day appeared to me as penance for my past sins. As written in our scriptures the path to salvation is not easy. I certainly knew what it meant now.

Wait a minute guys the day has not ended. The real fun starts now !
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Old 1st August 2012, 11:14   #7
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Day 1 contd.

Now some crazy things happened after that.

In the era of mobile phones we feel that we are always connected and sometimes forget to note even the address of the person whom you are visiting. Mobile to hai...phone karke puch lenge..!
Well what happens when at 1:30 in night a Bhopali lands with his T fort in Delhi and rings his friend to tell him that he has reached the designated spot, where he is supposed to meet him, only to find out that the friend is
sleeping with the phone ringing. This is what happened :

1. All i new that Vikrant lived in BHEL township noida. Now i am not afraid to drive on the treachrous roads of ladakh but i am petrified by the maze of flyovers, underpasses in a city like Delhi has and that too at 1:30 AM in night. Had to ask for directions from some very shady characters and i was sure will be looted, robbed any minute by the looks they gave me.

2. I had to pay 200 Rs fine to a Noida policeman for not wearing a seat belt. A belt which i was wearing for the last 20 hrs and which i forgot to put after i asked for directions from a autorickshaw guy. In fact i had stopped to ask direction from that cop and first thing he says " Sahab aapko fine hoga seat belt nahin pehenne ke liye..

3. Had to wakeup my neighbours to wakeup my wife cause my wife's phone was not working and the landline was also dead.

4. Had to ask my wife to wake up Vikrant's wife so that she can wake up the sleeping Kumbhakaran.

So after some 50 missed calls, waking up my neighbours, my wife and Vikrant's wife my cell rang " Vikrant calling ". Needless to say he was all ears for some choicest of Bhopali slang..!!. We were in constant touch when i started from Agra. I was supposed to give him a call as i entered Delhi from the toll plaza. It so happened that he decided to take a nap thinking that he will hear the mobile ring.!!

He managed to locate me and led me to his home where a couple of chilled glasses of water were waiting. . After 21 hrs i was finally disconected from the steering wheel ! Exhausted, fatigued in short tired dead. Oh what a ride !

The ordeal dose'nt ends here

I thought i would sleep like a rock. But i had forgotten how Delhi can be in July.. Hot, Humid, Stuffy. They had just moved in a new flat and AC was not working. For 3 hrs i tried to sleep but just could'nt. Forget about the morning start to Bilaspur, at 5:30 AM i knew if i did not sleep i will fall sick and the trip will go for docks. Got up started the car, put the AC in ventillate mode, rolled down the windows a bit and slept for 4 hrs straight
on the back seat.
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Old 1st August 2012, 13:28   #8
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Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 1st August 2012, 13:35   #9
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@ Columbus: WOW! Awesome narration and Fantastic pictures. Hooked on to your drive in Thin Air!
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Old 1st August 2012, 14:34   #10
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Nice travelogue in the making! I am sure with all the expertise (likes of HVK, Laluks and TSK) on-board, TBHP list will be more than enough to capture any terrain in any part of the country.

Preparations takes more than going for a war. Its not a very easy place to chill out and that's the reason, which you had ofcourse mentioned in your very first post, that even mighty Indian Army has to dance to the tunes of mother nature. Hats off to those brave men and women warriors of the nation. As such BRO is one such organization which receives less or no credit for the job it has been doing up the hills. If not for the Army, MES and BRO, Leh would have remained only on our maps.
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Old 1st August 2012, 15:25   #11
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Wow!! Amazing T-Log in the making! Gripping start and amazing pictures. Am so glad that Maximus figures prominently in the pictures also. I dare not discuss this TL while driving the Fortuner. It will auto eject me as i have been promising to stretch its legs in this region for sometime now.

Looking forward to lots of pics and detailed information to help me plan this elusive trip also. Please also continue to update the thread regularly. Don't keep us waiting!

Hooked!! (Rated 5 stars already)

Last edited by Manuuj : 1st August 2012 at 15:43.
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Old 1st August 2012, 16:22   #12
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Incredible log. Stunning pictures and beautifully written. Not to mention gripping!! Can't wait for more. Inspirational.
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Old 1st August 2012, 17:09   #13
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I dont want to stop reading it. The narration is superb as are the pictures. Hats off to your perseverance man !! Hooked up obviously
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Old 1st August 2012, 18:00   #14
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Ever since I read your ownership report, I knew this was coming. Its been worth the wait and those pictures are just 'class'. Really liked your narration and waiting for the rest of the story to unfold. Hope the rock that was tumbling down dint cause any serious issues.

Just a query on the road condition : Apart from the Dholpur stretch, how is the road condition between Gwalior and Agra?
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Old 1st August 2012, 18:26   #15
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Oh this promises to be one heck of a TL. Bring it on bro! Please dont delay in posting things. This TL is already delayed by a year!
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