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Old 16th August 2012, 11:44   #136
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

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Originally Posted by WindRide View Post
Difficult to believe those roads are actually two-way. Unless you are a seasoned hill cabbie, its impossible to reverse and give way on those treacherous and narrow bends.And what can you do if your vehicle decides to act up bang on a narrow stretch with rock wall on one side and void on the other?

hvkumarji - What is the rule for reversing on such tracks? I saw in your video that you immediately started reversing on seeing the other vehicle. Who should reverse? On gradients, i will assume its the vehicle coming up from a slope, but on flat tracks?
Pure courtesy. Whatever is convenient. The protocol I follow is that I pull to the side first. If it is a truck or heavy vehicle, regardless of whether he is coming up or down, I give way unless he gestures me to go ahead. Round hairpin bends, one honks, looks up to see no one is coming & goes ahead first. On flat tracks, whoever gets the shoulder first stops. I always keep an eye out for the shoulder even as I sight he oncoming car & pull into it as soon as possible. In hilly regions, local vehicles (except barring some taxis) follow old-world "hospitality" and give way first too, and do not rush in as though they are chasing the Space Shuttle rocket taking off


Quote:
>> "Will you dare take your 25 lakh SUV here?"
case of being big on cash and low on guts? But then the rich dudes can always say "There is a fine line between madness and guts"
Understand your vehicle & its capabilities.
Trust in your own driving capabilities even more.
More than madness or guts, it is plain common sense approach that always wins. Never let the blood rush to your head!!

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Originally Posted by codelust View Post
Another important aspect is wing mirrors. A lot of people in India seem to keep them closed to 'protect' them from damage. I find it impossible to drive anywhere without them open on both sides, especially in the hills. I can't imagine backing up anywhere in the hills without using my wing mirrors.
I have all 3 mirrors. I fold them up during these close encounters with oncoming vehicles. When I have to back up, I get lots of guidance from my co-pax, that is their responsibility too. On occasions, Lalu or Romin get out of the car super-quick & show me the way backward.

Last edited by hvkumar : 16th August 2012 at 11:46.
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Old 16th August 2012, 11:55   #137
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

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Pure courtesy. Whatever is convenient. The protocol I follow is that I pull to the side first. If it is a truck or heavy vehicle, regardless of whether he is coming up or down, I give way unless he gestures me to go ahead.
We also need to keep in mind whether the truck is loaded or not. As drivers of smaller vehicles we don't have an innate understanding of how differently the heavy vehicles perform under different load levels and loss of momentum is the thing that bugs the life out of a driver whose truck is heavily loaded.

Load levels also play an important factor in braking distances for them. What may look quite OK to us from the outside won't work at times for them even if they were to stand on the brakes and use all the engine braking available to them. Learnt this last year while coming up to Gramphoo from Kaza where we could not understand why the truckers were insistent on us backing up and yielding while we had the right of way going by the normal rules.

On these narrow roads and remote places working with each other is the best way to go about getting places, which is something that most of us cityfolk are not always keen on.

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Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
I have all 3 mirrors. I fold them up during these close encounters with oncoming vehicles. When I have to back up, I get lots of guidance from my co-pax, that is their responsibility too. On occasions, Lalu or Romin get out of the car super-quick & show me the way backward.
Oh, yes. Forgot the bit about folding them while being at mirror-to-mirror level
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Old 16th August 2012, 20:06   #138
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Does this video also scare you?

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Old 16th August 2012, 20:29   #139
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

You may have heard of "The Spy who came in from the Cold", but why did Agent Vinod break into a sweat?



Watch the above video. Agent Vinod (last 5 seconds) climbs up a steep slope, goes too close to the cliff wall, jams the Lady's running board against one of the rocks jutting out of the cliff face - to give himself space from the steep fall on his side - and stalls!

Madam Safari starts sliding back - there is no margin for error. If she slides back even 20 feet or so, she would go off the edge if the slide is not controlled. Taking a delicate turn in reverse slide without guidance not easy or possible. He slams the brakes, engages the hand brake and slips into first gear to hold there just there!

WE were behind him in our SCorpio. Saw what was happening, Agent Vinod's sweat was running down the hill (it that a new water crossing???!!!) as he appeared helpless without any support. He could not obviously gather enough power to continue the climb since the slope was too steep.

WE saw what the problem was, the running board scraping against the cliff wall & with the same turning posture, could get stuck. First we pushed the stones against the rear tyre. Then we asked him to steer that much gently away from the cliff face towards the Valley.

A gentle first gear release, but the Safari was not moving forward. Lalu & I pushed from behind even as Agent Vinod coaxed Madam Safari to some more power, and we got her released, up and running. You can see some of those bits here, but of course, the video does not convey the drama that was enacted then.



That was the one scary moment Agent Vinod will remember for a long time. But then he is a cool cat!
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Old 17th August 2012, 01:51   #140
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

I wouldnt call this route scary but I am sure its a test for one's driving skill and the amount of understanding one has about and with his vehicle. Truely testing every nerve. I would love to do this route one day, but for sure with experts like you all around.
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Old 17th August 2012, 12:00   #141
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

TYARI-SANSARI-KHILLAR SECTOR

I saw the photos of the Tyari-Khillar road – are these photos morphed?

Not even saturated. Real. Very Real.
The “road” has been cut out of the steep cliffs dropping precariously down to the water’s edge – the River Chandra Bhaga has ploughed its way through the high mountains of the Padder & Pangi Valleys. The road follows the river upstream all the way, you never lose sight of the river. There is no other way.

Did anyone ever tell you are a fool to be driving on such dangerous roads?

I have a couple of philosophies.
1. You live only once.
2. Your car is as capable as you are.
Dangerous? Yes, you can get crushed under a boulder that can fall down the cliff onto your car, but I can also become an Ex- crossing the road in Bombay city too, isn’t it?

Why are these roads so bad?

One is mightily impressed with the Govts of JK & HP – and their respective PWD Departments – for having constructed and maintained such roads. No, these roads are not under the control of the Army, BRO or GREF simply because they are nowhere near the border with either Pak or China. Expect less efficiency & funds for maintaining these “local” roads, but one must salute the bull-dozers, workers & contractors who work ceaselessly to keep this road open & motorable. Everytime I cross a workmen crew, I can sense their appreciation that someone is driving on the roads they have built & repaired with such hardship & dedication.

You feel a proud citizen of India when you see money so well-spent in building roads in such difficult places & enabling remote area populations to travel anywhere in the country. Jai Hind.

Ah ha, I can see the road on the maps, is it this road?

Kishtwar to SH 37 - Google Maps
That is a Google Map link of the Kishtwar-Khillar "road"

Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts-khillar.jpg

Yes, that is the road we took in the first half of the day. The 20 kms cost us 8.5 hours, starting from Kishtwar at 545 am, reaching near Khillar at 245 pm.


Does this road close down during winter?

The entire country side we drove through receives heavy snowfall during Jan-Feb, including Kishtwar & Khillar towns. Khillar is cut off from the rest of the country, but for this road. This Kishtwar-Khillar road is kept open throughout the year despite the snowfall although you can expect major blockades from time to time. It is a crucial gateway for the residents of Pangi Valley to get their farm produce, food & essentials & medical help to & fro.


What would you do if your car breaks down or worse?

A well-maintained car should not break down. That is the first belief with which we embark on journeys on such “dangerous” roads and to inaccessible remote regions like these.

If you do have a problem with your car, you should have your wits & smartness to diagnose the problem and repair it yourselves, depending on the problem.

If it is beyond your understanding or abilities, then if you have a support vehicle (like we were the Scorpio & the Safari), then the car can be towed out – we always carry towing ropes with us – or get another pick-up to help you. You have no choice but to be towed to Kishtwar even if you have broken down near Khillar since you have no facilities at any other place.

If the unmentionable does happen, I do not think it is worth anyone’s while to go down pick up the pieces.........it will be one definite nirvana down to the water’s edge several 000 metres below.

I have heard that water crossings can be dangerous – what about this road?

There were several water crossings. All of them were benign. But yes, I guess they can also become malevolent at some times – say, after midday – as the day’s heat melts the snow in the upper reaches & increases the water flow & force, making it impossible for any vehicle to cross. Luckily, we did not encounter any such situation, probably because the sky was overcast (we never saw the Sun) and the weather was very cool & pleasant.


Did you have “crossings” with other vehicles on the narrow stretches?

This is a oft-repeated question. Firstly, there is hardly any traffic, the only ones being the jeep taxis & the pick-ups. No, we did not see any other people like us or private cars like you. Like most of you, most of India has never heard of these roads & except for motoring freaks like us, the region holds little to interest even the above-average tourist since it connects nothing with nothing!

We did have “crossings”. Sight the oncoming vehicle miles in advance – since the cliff face is open & visible for several miles – and plan where you will push your car to the side so that it can pass. There are several “wider” places where 2 vehicles could nudge past each other (with mirrors folded up, some manoeuvring here & there, tyre almost off the edge, etc). We did not have to reverse anywhere. Patience & good manners is the name of the game.

How many kms are these narrow cliff ledges?

From Gulabgarh onwards till Khillar, it is almost continuous driving on the edge, all of 50 kms or so, with some places where you run through some jungles. Road is narrow, dirt, some places have loose soil or rubble where your tyres can spin. It is a steep climb almost all the way, especially between Tyari & Sansari. Road curves are sharp, there are several hair pin bends & water crossings are many. Due to the dry weather, no slush, but I guess if it rains hard in Padder Valley, this will be a crazier “road”. I would dread to drive the Tyari-Sansari sector at night. There was no fog when we drove. NO high passes on this route.


Is this Kashmir or Himachal?

Padder Valley of Kashmir till Sansari check post. Pangi Valley in Himachal.


At Sansari check post, you were videographed? Why?

This practice is prevalent at this check post. The policeman at the check post makes you all stand before the car, and shoots you with a video camera – with the car’s number plates visible – for the record. I believe this is part of the anti-insurgency measures to keep tab on terrorist movement (don’t ask me how!).


You did not go into Khillar? Where does one go from there?

Khillar is the main “town” in Pangi Valley. It has a Rest House & a small lodge.
From there, the road south on goes to Lahaul valley/Keylong & thereon to Manali/Leh.

The road west – and the one we took – goes to Chamba Valley/Pathankot.
We do not have to reach the town, one can turn off before itself to connect with the Khillar-Sach Pass-Chamba road.

For those who reach this point late, it is best you stay back in Khillar since the next sector has to be done before dark since it is equally dangerous as this Kishtwar-Khillar sector we had just come through.


I am impressed that the lady in your group could manage – how did she really?

Don’t be fooled by her innocent looks. She is a trekker & an outdoor person. She walks, climbs & runs. She does not get motion sickness. She does not whine for toilets. The whole outdoors is for all of us to use. We were really fortunate to have someone of the calibre of Megha Jain-Joseph in our company.

Do you get bottled water everywhere?

You must be joking!?
Our team has a philosophy of carrying along its own water from source to destination.
I hate buying water.
I hate plastic bottles.
We stock our own water, we refill en route from springs & restaurants/ hotels where you get natural spring water. The “mineral” water we drink is no match for the Kinleys & Bisleris which many drink.
We are Indian. Even if the water is contaminated, we will survive, and keep writing travelogues!
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Old 17th August 2012, 12:22   #142
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

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Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
TYARI-SANSARI-KHILLAR SECTOR

Yes, that is the road we took in the first half of the day. The 20 kms cost us 8.5 hours, starting from Kishtwar at 545 am, reaching near Khillar at 245 pm.
Typo above. Not "20 kms" - should read as "120 kms"
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Old 17th August 2012, 12:44   #143
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

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Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
Do you get bottled water everywhere?

You must be joking!?
Our team has a philosophy of carrying along its own water from source to destination.
I hate buying water.
I hate plastic bottles.
We stock our own water, we refill en route from springs & restaurants/ hotels where you get natural spring water. The “mineral” water we drink is no match for the Kinleys & Bisleris which many drink.
We are Indian. Even if the water is contaminated, we will survive, and keep writing travelogues!
First, very clear crisp detailing answers for most common FAQ's.

I appreciate your idea of carrying water/using springs. Wish the city janta/educated lot is bit aware of this technique and reduce plastic wastes.

2. Same what I too keep saying to my "videshi" friends that "I am an Indian, no matter how bad the situation is, we Indians will find out way out of it! - contamination cannot stop us." - because they keep asking me "how do you guys manage with so much population, dirt, dust, unhygienic situations and yet prepare to send a satellite to Mars and Land a man on Moon?".
OTOH, the springs from the mountain are pure and I am sure nobody needs to doubt a bit on their purity. Yes, one should know a little bit of desi jugaad techniques to filter out the mud(if anything that comes washed along with the stream) - which are taught to us by our grannies and mom's. Great going HVK sir. Keep it on!

Last edited by AlphaKilo : 17th August 2012 at 12:46.
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Old 17th August 2012, 13:25   #144
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

It is one of the best TV report.
HVk - how long this deadliest road last long ? It is very scary one
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Old 17th August 2012, 13:33   #145
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

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Originally Posted by contactme27 View Post
It is one of the best TV report.
HVk - how long this deadliest road last long ? It is very scary one
First 120 kms completed between Kishtwar & KHillar.
Next "deadly" 80 kms more to go before the end of the day!
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Old 18th August 2012, 00:16   #146
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

HVK Sir,

I bow to you in Respect!
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Old 18th August 2012, 08:02   #147
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

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Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
We are Indian. Even if the water is contaminated, we will survive, and keep writing travelogues!
One of the most informative posts!


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Originally Posted by CliffHanger View Post
HVK Sir,
I bow to you in Respect
Is there any point in saying that! I have lost track on that count.
To extent that I have to search for more adjectives for every new TL by the master!

I gave up and now I just read in silent ecstasy!
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Old 18th August 2012, 09:08   #148
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Wonderful travelogue garnished with quality photos. Thanks for going into the minutest of details – so entertaining and extremely informative!

And I really liked the way you have mixed music in those video clips. Really add to the experience. Good going!
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Old 18th August 2012, 09:35   #149
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

TYARI-KHILLAR SECTOR

Name:  khillar2.jpg
Views: 2948
Size:  29.9 KB

You can read how we fared from the time sheet above – 35 kms took us almost 3 hours! From Tyari onwards, it was sheer climb, the “road” becoming narrower, stonier & slushier.

You have probably seen the videos above that show you how we made progress on this road.

Shortly after Tyari, Madam Safari kissed the cliff face with her running board, stalled & was helped up on her way. These sections were very tricky. In case the car slides back & you also panic, you will become one more statistic.

Landscapes are wonderful – the river flowing tempestuously way below, greenery all around, lots of waterfalls thundering down the hill sides & the occasional water crossing too on the road. From time to time, you will see stones & boulders on the road itself, they have rolled down from above and thank your stars that you were not there when they fell!

The Istahari check post guys were appreciative of the 2 MH-registered cars that had come from afar and braking to halt amidst a cloud of dust. Everyone was super friendly. Further down, at the Sansari Check Post, we had to sit down and indulge in polite conversation as the cop raved and ranted about his experiences when he had been posted during his army stint in Bombay & Pune. His younger colleague sullenly videographed us & reminded him that we must also move on! There do not appear to be any night drive restrictions on this road. But they told us that if you drive at night & there are some landslides, you have to wait till next morning for it to be cleared, so better avoid night drives!

Around 4 kms before Khillar, we turn right – no, there are no sign boards there, but I know where the turn off is from my last year’s trip to Khillar – towards Sach Pass, to begin the next sector’s drive........

Last edited by hvkumar : 18th August 2012 at 09:38.
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Old 18th August 2012, 11:05   #150
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HVK,

Thank You for providing us the minutest of details the drive and the videos surely are spine-chilling.

Hope to do this drive one-day and even though I have acrophobia but the passion for driving should override that

What would be the driest months which will facilitate a safer drive? You wouldn't want the road to turn more risky with all the slush around.
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