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Old 16th September 2012, 07:00   #1
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Default Raiding the Himalayas - Swift style!

Hello guys. I have never written a proper proper travelogue till now on team-bhp, so forgive my writing skills.

As I had posted earlier, my friend Rahul and me wanted to go Kashmir since almost 2 years, but education and parents not agreeing stopped the execution. Got back from UK in August end and parents were okay with me taking a road trip to Kashmir as they realised that I would be restless till this was done.

Set of on 15th September morning at 2:30 am. The road map was initially planned as follows:


0 Thane-Hanumangarh
1
2 Hanumangarh-Amritsar
3 Amritsar-Srinagar
4 Srinagar-Kargil
5 Kargil-Leh
6 Leh
7 Leh-Turtuk
8 Turtuk-Pangong
9 Pangong-Tso Moriri
10 Tso Moriri-Sarchu
11 Sarchu-Manali
12 Manali-Delhi
13 Delhi - Udaipur
14 Udaipur - Mumbai

But as we started, we realised that human endurance and planning on Indian highways don't always work.

Starting off at 2:30 am, it rained like cats and dogs for 300 km till 7 o clock in the morning, hence progress was slow.

During the first 150 km, there were puddles of water all over the highway. On one of them, the car on an empty stretch which was going at around 95 kmph, aquaplaned and went straight instead of turning on the light right hander. Luckily, the truck on the left was far ahead and it came back in control after skidding for 3 to 4 seconds. Never have I seen the Michelin XM1+'s aquaplane, they are 23 thousand kilometer's old. Anyway jotled my senses to 200 % alterness and carefully proceeded towards our target which we had set as Hamunangarh.

With excellent guidance from HVK sir on the phone and through his log book, we managed to bypass Ankleshwar truck traffic jam through entering the city and inside roads.

After Ahmedabad bypass, we got a bit lost on our road to Himmatnagar but were put back on track by a quick call to HVK sir who was tracking us on google latitude and with quick calls we were exchanging after each land mark. We stopped for some pictures in between on the Airavalais.

Raiding the Himalayas - Swift style!-finaluploadcarfinalfinal123.jpg

Himmatnagar was passed, Udaipur bypass cleared with extreme truck traffic and more than one and half hour wasted. We were getting tired too now. Chittorgarh was decided as a stop over for the night with HVK sir's guidance as Hanumangarh was almost 500 km more. Had no energy to drive that much more in the night after the early start we had made.

We were initially planning to leave for Amritsar at 3 am, but were so tired that ended up getting up late and now, its 7 am and we are on our way to Amritsar. Lets see what today holds.

PS: I have to say, I used to love India before, now I think my only religion is India.

Last edited by humyum : 16th September 2012 at 07:06.
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Old 16th September 2012, 07:21   #2
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Default re: Raiding the Himalayas - Swift style!

Quote:
Originally Posted by humyum View Post
PS: I have to say, I used to love India before, now I think my only religion is India.
Awesome i say, but this is a teaser. You're not indian cricket team that the opener can only make one run. we need 15-20 in the opening post itself
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Old 17th September 2012, 14:20   #3
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Day 2 -

Chittorgarh to Amritsar

Route Taken ---> Chittorgarh--> Kishangarh --> Ratangarh--> Hanumangarh ---> Amritsar--> Distance 905 km

Because of the tiredness of the past day, we could not leave early and ended up leaving at 7:45, 8ish.

Had packed breakfast from the hotel itself and stopped on the highway and traditional Indian style, sat on the floor and had aloo paratha's, omlette and Dahi.

Anyone stopping at Chittogarh, should check out Hotel Meera for a stay over.

Brilliant food, rooms and at reasonable rates and clean bathrooms. HVK sir recommended this place.

We payed 800 bucks per night.

reached Amritsar at 3 am in the morning after covering 950 kilometres for the day. In total our trip meter shows 1899 km since we left Mumbai in 2 days. The Swift D is an excellent highway cruiser but around 140 mark, the engine sound kind of gets high to sustain that speed for long. I drove at a comfortable 120 to 130 during most of the 1900 km.

The roads in Punjab are arrow straight most of the times, but due to the heavy rains, there was water logging at many places and the car aqua planed quite a number of times even at 90's and 100's. It took us around 6 hours to cover Hanumangarh to Amritsar. Hamunangarh has Rajvi palace for amazing food and stay at very reasonable rates. Its like a palace. This too was recommended by HVK sir.

We have refuelled thrice till now. The first one we forgot to calculate the mileage but for the next two refills the mileage figures we got are 17.98 km/litre and 19.5 km/litre.

We have been refuelling at gaps of 600 to 650 km as there are ample fuel stations in between.

Here is a picture which we clicked while we were around 100 km from Hanumangarh. We have not been stopping much and clicking pictures on the way as we plan to give maximum time possible to Kashmir as Rajasthan we can go anytime but not Kashmir.

HVK sir was with us throughout the trip and is he a human GPS or what. On some occasions, the map my india GPS we took got proved wrong by the directions he gave. Truely thankful to him for all the help.

Now, Golden temple, Wagah border for today after which around 12 or 1ish, we ll leave for Srinagar as less traffic and due to the Hella's, day or night, it all looks the same from the front glass.
Raiding the Himalayas - Swift style!-img_2133.jpg

Quote:
Originally Posted by phamilyman View Post
Awesome i say, but this is a teaser. You're not indian cricket team that the opener can only make one run. we need 15-20 in the opening post itself
. Der aaye, durust aaye. When the Kashmir leg starts, Tendulkar will come to the pitch when it comes to the matter of pictures.

Last edited by humyum : 11th December 2012 at 02:03.
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Old 11th December 2012, 02:04   #4
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Day 3 - Amritsar

After driving almost 2 thousand in 2 days we were tired. We had reached Amritsar at around 3 am in the night, we were in no mood to get up early and sight see anything. All we needed was good food, some rest. We ended up leaving for Wagah border in the late afternoon after a good nap back in the Hotel. I forgot the Hotel's name, Maybe HVK sir can help with the name here.

We ate at Hotel Crystal in Amritsar and there was a dish called 'Veg Frontier'. I have never eaten such yummy Panner in my entire life.

Wagah border in the late afternoon and to our bad luck, it was raining and they would not allow the Camera bag inside and we could not dare risk our SLR's in this down pour, so we decided to watch from afar, our next stop was Golden Temple.

As we were searching for the Golden temple in the small indisciplined filled with traffic streets of Amritsar, we entered a wrong lane by mistake which got narrower narrower uptil an extent where in a little more than Swift's width was all that was in size and it was a 2 way street IMAGINE.

And came an autorickshaw from the opposite side and it was a mexican stand off. Bikers behind hoking, rick guy flashing honking, no where to go.

Ultimately, he made his rick climb the stairs of the houses which were on the side of the road and we moved on in this narrow lane for another 20 minutes before seeing the main road. Even with the full AC blast we were sweating from the near misses we kept having driving in Amritsar.

We decided, enough was enough, can't take this anymore and hence decided to scoot to Srinagar right then without seeing the Golden Temple.

It was 8ish and we left for Srinagar with the aim to reach there by morning.

This is the only pic I got from the Amritsar day as Wagah border had the rain clouds hovering over it the whole day.

Raiding the Himalayas - Swift style!-finalpak.jpg

Last edited by humyum : 28th December 2012 at 11:35.
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Old 28th December 2012, 12:35   #5
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Day 3-4 - Amritsar To Srinagar

As I mentioned earlier, we left from Amritsar at 8 am for Srinagar, initially 80 km of roads were pure pathetic with Amritsar facing heavy rainfall many days, the highways were flooded and again the car kept aquaplaning on many occasions. Some of the bridges in between had around 1 feet plus of water and the bridges had stones which we could not see because of the water, all this combined with the rains and night, harrowing experience. On some of the stretches inspite of the 2 Hella 500ff's, 2 fog lights and headlights at high beam all I could drive at was 40 kmph. But this ordeal was not to remain for long and as we neared Jammu and Kashmir border, roads improved and we were back to our 100-120 kmph stints.

After crossing into Jammu and Kashmir, the highway gets 2 laned till Jammu city and with empty roads I maintained a cool 120 kmph constant. The rains had stopped long time back and roads were Mumbai-Pune expressway material. On the way, a large puddle appeared out of no where and whaaam, aqua planned and instead of turning the car went straight and was going to go off road until I slammed on the brakes, engine stalled, and we coasted to a stop. Tried restarting her, 2 cranks and still she would not start, WHAT ? Was this where it all ends ?

Well no, 3rd crank she came back to life and from then on, it was 80 kmph all the way till Jammu. Enough of this aquaplaning business, have to research on this.

Reached Jammu city bypass at 1, we had taken almost 5 hours to cover 200 km arounds, it was 1 am, everything was closed, the chances of having dinner seemed like a distant possibility, we bypassed Jammu and the ghats started and we stopped over at a road side stall to eat some panner pakoda and rest.

Started again at 1:30, my friend was feeling sleepy, so he slept off while I kept myself entertained for the 300+ km of ghats we had cover till Srinagar.

No pictures as it was pitch dark and nothing could be seen from the camera.

The roads were empty we could spot maybe a vehicle or 2 every half an hour. Tragedy stuck at 2:30 when I saw a stone on the road and decided to take it from the centre of the car as it did not seem too big, was it a big mistake or WHAT.

BANG, the car lifted from the front for 2 seconds and came down again, nothing else touched except the one hit.

I literally had sweat pour all over my face. Rahul woke up with a jolt and the first thing I was looking for after the hit was some error light appearing on the dash.

Stopped a little ahead to check what was up, It was still raining and there was no sight of civilisation in any direction. We had been warned by people not to stop on this stretch but if it was a major hit, we had no option but to stop. I rather get mobbed or killed than be alive to see my Swift's engine seize

Looked around for damage, but could not find any until my eyes fell on the oil sump. The left hand side of it had gone inside by an inch but there was no oil leakage, no engine oil light, Nothing at all and she drove just perfect.

With a sigh of relief we proceed further only to get tired at Uddhampur. Stopped the car and slept near an ATM machine with the AC on for an hour. It was 3:30 and we started again only to be tired again at Patnitop after an hour and we stopped again for an hour to sleep. We need to get to Srinagar asap and take the much needed rest. I never thought things would get this tiresome in the night. We later concluded that because of the mental stress of bad roads taking a toll on the car was the reason for us getting tired so soon on these stretches.

A note here for whoever is planning to travel such long distances, carry as less a luggage as you can, we learnt it the hard way. With the boot of the Swift and the rear seats packed with luggage till the brim, we could not recline our seats all the way behind and hence we were left to sleep in the car whenever we had to in upright seating position.

Daylight was breaking and with the rest taken, we started again from Patnitop in full force, but is life so easy ? No

There was a major traffic jam on the ghats, but the best part is, small cars can go on the wrong side and overtake as many trucks as possible till someone comes from the opposite side and you duck in. We moved to the extreme front of the jam and in one hour we were free.

Here are some pictures we took of the car before we reached Jawahar Tunnel.

Raiding the Himalayas - Swift style!-swift123.jpg

Raiding the Himalayas - Swift style!-swiftagain.jpg

and the picture of this dude with his goats, We decided to call him Singham

Raiding the Himalayas - Swift style!-singham.jpg

What a sight the mountains were turning to be. Reached Jawahar tunnel and marvelled at what they had built in between the mountains. Kudos to BRO.

After exiting the Jawahar tunnel this is the first view you get, behold the Kashmir valley

Raiding the Himalayas - Swift style!-first-view-kashmir-valleypart3.jpg

Raiding the Himalayas - Swift style!-first-view-kashmir-valley123.jpg

We went on going clicky clicky for a long time, both of us had DSLR's and were avid photography enthusiasts.

Left for Srinagar and reached Hotel Malik palace at 3 am, again HVK sir's recommendation, we even saw a "We are Hvkian" sticker on the entrance of the reception of the Hotel. The hotel rooms are nice and clean, but the food served inside the Hotel is not that great. Ate up and slept like a log till next morning. We were to leave for Kargil that day, but we decided to extend it the day after as after driving around 3000 km in 4 days, we were in no mood to drive again.

Last edited by humyum : 26th February 2013 at 11:14.
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Old 28th December 2012, 12:55   #6
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Day 4 - Srinagar

Oh I forgot to mention in my last post, As soon as we entered the main Srinagar, we stopped next to a cop to ask him the way to Boulevard Road, the road adjoining Dal lake, where our Hotel was, he explained the directions to us and the next word that came out of his mouth, 'Tints in the car, Get out of the car, your car is siezed".

I was like 'erm, Did i hear that right, are you saying you are going to seize a Tourists car who had come almost 3 thousand kilometres driving to your state?

He yelled at both of us and asked us to get out as he needs to seize the car, We pleaded to take some cash and let us go, his tone kept getting rude with every sentence, ultimately with us being tired, we lost our tempers and asked him to 'keep the car' with all the luggage in it, we have had enough.

He got astonished and asked us 'Saaman toh lekar jao'

I told him, he can seize that too as I was in no mood for this nonsense, seizing a car for having light tints, sheesh, we do live in the Taliban era.

We started walking and he ran behind us and told us, 'Thoda paisa de do and Jao'. Gave him a 100 and scooted off. Had rolled all our windows down during our entire stay in Srinagar.

HVK sir had advised us to visit some famous gardens and food joints but the lazy lads we were, we just could not pull ourselves out of bed and when we did, the first thing I wanted to get done was, head to a Maruti Service station and get the car raised up on a ramp and get the sump checked for leaks.

We did find a huge maruti service station ( forgot the name) and they were more than happy to check the car, even retorqued the suspension for us as they realised we had a long journey ahead.

While we were leaving from the Hotel, we were surprised that the Hotel Manager stopped us and informed us the do's and don't of travelling in Srinagar.

He mentioned some area's which were a strict No go zone for the tourists and we should be careful not to venture into those territories as they had very high anti indian sentiments. Took the advice and left only to park ourselves right opposite the Hotel to click pictures of the Dal Lake. Here are some of them.

Raiding the Himalayas - Swift style!-dallake.jpg

Raiding the Himalayas - Swift style!-dallake2.jpg

and the last picture which was clicked the next day morning before we left for Kargil

Raiding the Himalayas - Swift style!-dallake-1.jpg

Kargil, here we come !

Last edited by humyum : 28th December 2012 at 13:01.
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Old 28th December 2012, 13:33   #7
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Day 5 - Srinagar To Kargil

Early morning 6 o clock, we started our trip to Kargil from Srinagar, a distance of 215 km and did it turn out to be a 15 hour journey for the Swift or what. Roads till Sonmarg are good.

A word of caution, the truck drivers from now on are extra professional drivers and they will drive at break neck speeds around corners, straights and bad roads. Their trucks are extremely well maintained and these guys know their thing. Initially I would get super taken back when a truck would slow down an inch or 2 away from my bumper when I was passing a bad stretch at almost 2 kmph where as without me on his front, he would not even touch his brakes.

Got used to their incessant honking and scare tactics to get me moving faster over bad roads, but I stuck my ground and proceeded at my speed towards Gulmarg and then on comes the dreaded Zozila Pass.

This is a shot I took near Sonmarg as the actual Himalayas started

Raiding the Himalayas - Swift style!-img_2446.jpg

After Sonmarg and Gulmarg were warned of the Zozila Pass and the climbs started. Initially roads were good but steep, 1st gear only steep kinds. I thought to myself 'This is dangerous ? Really ?, CHILLING, We ll pass this in no time' but it was not to be

Roads got narrower and narrower as we climbed and then the middle section of the road started gaining height and the sides were tracks which were way below the middle section.

Initially I could drive the car on those tracks at 2 and 3 kmph until there came a track path where in the swift scraped a little in the centre and I had to drive it with one wheel on the raised road and the other on the track.

Now roads got bad to worst and wayyyyyy steeper for even the Swift with 1st gear to climb. On one of the hairpins she stalled and slid back. Truckers were coming from behind and all of them stopped with some curses thrown at us from their end for making them lose momentum.

Rolled back a bit, decided on the path as the road was littered with big stones. Gunned the accelerator to 4 thousand rpm ( Sorry Swift ) and dumped the clutch, she climbed half way and lost traction with the front wheel spinning hysterically and the car going behind. DAMN Now what ?

My friend, got out of the car, moved some stones and we thought of giving it a try again. This time she climbed 3/4th of the way, lost traction and wheel spin again, but suddenly they gained ground and the car inched forward only to stall after the steep climb. PHEW

By then, I could see a one km traffic jam on the pass because of our car. There was not enough space for the trucks to pass our car. Moving ahead, I had to keep slipping the clutch for the engine not to stall as she just would not climb or reach anywhere near 2000 rpm for the turbo to spool and pull the car forward. Again on a stretch ahead she stalled and I had to rev and dump the clutch ( Sorry again Swift )

The pass was filled with mud mud mud mud, many a times traction was not a problem, it was the lack of torque power for such steep climbs that was the problem. After about 5 kilometres into the pass, a trucker appeared from the opposite side and I had to kill precious momentum on the steepest straight mud slope I had ever seen, but what is this, the car has stopped and is going behind with all its wheels locked. Hysterical, my friend climbed out to try and get some stones but rolling down on her own, she hit some stones on the left side of the road at a / angle and stopped on her own. WHEN WILL THIS PASS END ?

After almost 20 kilometres and 1nd half hours, Zozila had been conquered what a relief this. The most dangerous road I had ever driven. Its narrow and just so steep for regular hatchbacks to climb, but the Swift made it. Hurrayy and we were instantly greeted with this for which we had to get a picture.

Raiding the Himalayas - Swift style!-swift1finalfinalfinal.jpg

Behold, we are entering Ladakh.

Last edited by humyum : 13th January 2013 at 11:15.
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Old 26th February 2013, 17:30   #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 26th February 2013, 22:31   #9
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The going was not easy from here, The roads till Drass have patchy bad stretches, but these patchy bad stretches are nothing like what we see on the normal Indian highways. These have big boulders and rocks in them which the puny swift and soft michelins have a tought time negotiating. Many a times, I had to stop all traffic behind, make Rahul get out, remove the stones, guide me from outside so as to save any part of the car from bottoming out and to carry out this exercise in those high altitudes takes some will power.

For example, when I had got out on Zozila pass to help remove some of the debries from the road, I instantly had a blackout for 15 seconds in front of my eyes with heavy breathlessness while lifting the stones. HVK sir had warned us that lifting a 20 litre diesel can on ground 0 is easy, but trying the same on these heights is next to impossible. True to his word, life was difficult for the city boys here. Rahul being a hench man, did most of the stone removal. Kudos to him.

Our next stop was Drass, it is one of the coldest inhabited place in the world as the board says when you enter Drass. Also while driving on the way to the Drass you see these huge walls on the left hand side of the highway. We realised that those walls were in place so that Pakistani's cannot see or target the vehicles passing on the highway. There was a small hole in one of the walls, I put my 55-250 lens inside it to check if I could not see their bunkers, but nothing came of sight. Maybe they are heavily camouflaged.

We reached the war memorial and the soldiers there explained to us the entire Kargil war in detail. A must visit place to feel proud of our legacies and victories.

Here is the picture of the Indian flag standing proudly in front of the mountains which were part of the Kargil War

Raiding the Himalayas - Swift style!-india.jpg

Munching Noodles, Puri Bhaji from the army canteen which is priced extremely nominally, we proceeded towards Kargil at 5 pm. Kargil is a cool 60 kilometres away from here but 60 kilometres at these places can take hours and hours.

Here are some pictures right after leaving Drass

Raiding the Himalayas - Swift style!-mountainbridge.jpg

Raiding the Himalayas - Swift style!-mountainsupload.jpg

Raiding the Himalayas - Swift style!-swift.jpg

The going gets tough now. The roads get from horrible to worst. every 400 metres or so there is a stretch of 400 metres which is downright destruction. This went on for the next 60 kilometres with a traffic jam on one of the mountain passes. Getting the car started on those inclines had me dump the clutch and rev some more.

Finally the kilometres would just not munch up and I stopped braking for the bad stretches in the last 10 kilometres as I neither had the stamina nor the patience to keep slowing down on those bad portions. Both our heads aching big time, we wanted Kargil, we wanted food and we wanted sleep, finally making it at 10 o clock in the night to Hotal Zozila as suggested by HVK sir. Had a light dinner, dymox , lots of water, still both of us feeling breathless, we tried getting some sleep but we remained awake the entire night as neither of us could breath properly and we had to literally make an effort to take in some oxygen.

Lets see what the next day awaited. We had plans of leaving for Leh, the next morning, but none of us were in any good health or physical capacity to leave, hence stayed in Kargil next day for the much needed rest to leave for Leh the day after.

Last edited by humyum : 26th February 2013 at 22:53.
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Old 27th February 2013, 00:36   #10
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It is a Very practical & concentrated travelogue. As we are having many photograph on many threads of that area, the tings described by you are direct answer of many questions.
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Old 27th February 2013, 02:53   #11
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Very nice write up!

Given the quality of pictures so far, I expect many moire pictures to come.
Also detail the things you carried with you on the trip, and also mention till what point you got the GPS signal up there?
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Old 27th February 2013, 13:39   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by humyum View Post
Day 3-4 - Amritsar To Srinagar
We went on going clicky clicky for a long time, both of us had DSLR's and were avid photography enthusiasts.
Great travelogue!!!
Lots of info being copy and pasted from here.
Eagerly anticipating lots of boundaries and sixes from Sachin's camera.
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Old 27th February 2013, 14:03   #13
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Excellent writeup.
Each Ladakh travelogue is unique in itself. Very professional touch to photographs. Mind sharing the gear used? And what generic post processing was done?

Waiting for more. Specially with regards to Swift performance!
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Old 27th February 2013, 15:18   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by humyum View Post

Lets see what the next day awaited. We had plans of leaving for Leh, the next morning, but none of us were in any good health or physical capacity to leave, hence stayed in Kargil next day for the much needed rest to leave for Leh the day after.
Nice going there, my friend. Wish I had the time and the guts to take this on. Nevertheless, I am traveling with you on this one. Bring on some more pictures, and do keep the write-ups coming in nice and thick.

Thanks.

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Old 27th February 2013, 22:03   #15
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Default Re: Raiding the Himalayas - Swift style!

Really really nice log, humyum. And great photos! Your journey has well... err... rekindled my love for Swifts! Can't wait to pick one up, this summer.

Waiting for the rest of the story.

Last edited by anekho : 27th February 2013 at 22:05.
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