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Old 6th October 2012, 23:31   #1
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Default Skirting Himachal in 7 days in a Fortuner

This trip was supposed to be a very different one. Different route, different vehicle, different travel companion, longer duration, more grueling, etc. But our man up there had some very different plans J. So I feel some back ground is required as to how this trip materialized. After my trip to Ladakh last year the Himalayas were tugging my heart strings to have me return. So the trip was planned with my brother who happens to be a very avid and passionate photographer. He hadn’t been to Ladakh so the plan was simple. We were to literally repeat last year’s route in the Gypsy which meant driving from Mumbai to Leh via Srinagar, visit Nubra do the lakes and return via Sach Pass.
We finalized the first two weeks of September as the travel dates and I started to prep up the Gypsy for the trip. I replaced the front two tyres as those had lost considerable tread depth since last year’s trip, Changed engine oil and got the usual mods made to the interior of the vehicle to make it trip friendly. I was in Mahableshwar during the week of Aug 20 when I get a call from my bro in the states saying that he cannot make it citing work reasons.
Initially I was very dejected given that trip was in the making ever since the time I came back from Ladakh last year. I even decided to do a solo run but family would hear none of that J. Days later I run into a very close friend of mine who also happens to be a free lance travel scribe, Rishad S Mehta. He’s just published his first book “Hot Tea Across India” which is an absolute riot to read for all avid travelers. He knew about my my trip and asked about the preparations to which I explained the scenario. He then tells me that he is doing a Himachal trip in the next couple of weeks in a Fortuner and asks me if I want to join him. Do I want to join him? Of course I do!! We meet up that evening and chalk out the route. He has some time constraints whereby he has to meet someone for lunch on Sep 10 and has to be back in Mumbai on Sep 19 in time for Ganesh puja. Which effectively meant 8 days of travel available. He was to get the Fortuner from Toyota delivered in Delhi. This meant we fly to Delhi, pick up the car do the trip, drop off the car and fly back. Perfect!! Now the route

Day 1: Chandigarh - Dalhousie
Day 2: Dalhousie - Sach Pass – Killar – Cheri
Day 3: Cheri – Udeypur – Gramphoo – Kaza
Day 4: Kaza – Sangla
Day 5: Sangla - Chitkul – Sangla
Day 6: Sangla – Thanedaar
Day 7: Thanedaar
Day 8: Thanedaar – Simla - Chandigarh


So the plan was to circum-navigate Himachal over a 8 day period. As the details slowly sank in I realized that this was going to be far easier compared to what I had originally planned in my Gypsy, given it was a shorter trip, in a much more comfortable air conditioned hard top vehicle. So none of those early morning starts, crazily long non-stop driving hours to cover distance, no inhaling of truck smoke, dust etc. This was going to be a picnic!!!
To start with, I was honestly skeptical about the vehicle. Having read HVK’s travelogues on both his trips thru Sach pass I started to wonder if the Fortuner was too big for this trip. I had seen pics of the terrain and also started to wonder if the Dunlop A/Ts that the fortuner came shodded with, would be able to manage the terrain. Finally it also came down to having faith in the reliability of a vehicle that belonged to neither of us and also the fact that my working knowledge of a fortuner was next to nil as compared to my Gypsy. Needless to mention all my fears were laid to rest when I saw the vehicle in Chandigarh J.

Once the vehicle was confirmed by Toyota we booked our flights. Rishad was to fly to Delhi on the evening of Sep 10, pick up the fortuner and meet me in Chandigarh on the 11th morning at the airport from where we would leave for Dalhousie. The Sunday before we went and picked up rations read dry fruit packets and chocolates from Matunga market and were all set for the trip. Some preview pics
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Last edited by satan : 6th October 2012 at 23:51. Reason: change
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Old 6th October 2012, 23:48   #2
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Default Re: Skirting Himachal in 7 days in a Fortuner

Day 1: Mumbai - Chandigarh - Dalhousie
After sleeping in jumps and starts I was up to the TEET TEET TEET of the alarm. I was booked on the 7.20am Indigo that reaches C’garh by 9.40am. The flight was on time and Rishad was at the airport in this spanking new white 4x4 Fortuner. Toyota had been gracious enough to lend us a 6,000 km run fortuner which per me was brand new and still had that lovely new car smell. I could see the amusement on Rishad’s face as he gave me a knowing look that said, see you were worried about nothing . We loaded up, picked up some more provisions from C’garh like water, biscuits and were soon off towards today’s destination Dalhousie. The plan was to stay at Teddy’s Lodge, http://teddyslodgedalhousie.com/html_version/index.htm . For the un-initiated this lodge is owned by ex-national rally champion Hari Singh’s dad, Teddy uncle. It is a beautiful villa situated approx 2 kms outside Dalhousie town. Teddy uncle was constantly in touch with us over the phone directing us towards Dalhousie.We reached Dalhousie by 7.45pm that day after losing our way and exploring some countryside en route. Once we unpacked he invited us to drinks and had us in splits with stories of his youth. As a youngster he would lead expeditions of foreign trekkers from Manali across gramphoo, into Lahaul cross the Kumzum La and camp at Chandertal. He spoke of convoys of two dozen ponies laden with food and provisions, porters who would set up camp and cook. We finally had some awesome dinner and finally called it a day. It rained heavily that night and I could hear the raindrops hammering the wooden roof thru the night. Not many pics taken that day as the camera was buried deep into the backpack .

Last edited by GTO : 8th October 2012 at 16:23. Reason: Rule #11
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Old 6th October 2012, 23:48   #3
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Default Re: Skirting Himachal in 7 days in a Fortuner

Look forward to reading more. Nice photos as well.
A couple of quick ones ,
1. What is it that you are carrying in your fingers ? ( 4th picture )
2. The fortuner story ? - is that a new one your friend purchased ( i guess not, since i see this is a KA registerd vehicle)
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Old 6th October 2012, 23:58   #4
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Default Re: Skirting Himachal in 7 days in a Fortuner

Quote:
Originally Posted by jkrishnakj View Post
1. What is it that you are carrying in your fingers ? ( 4th picture )
Thats a fossil of a sea horse

Quote:
Originally Posted by jkrishnakj View Post
2. The fortuner story ? - is that a new one your friend purchased ( i guess not, since i see this is a KA registerd vehicle)
My friend is a travel scribe and the vehicle was provided byToyota
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Old 7th October 2012, 00:34   #5
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Default Re: Skirting Himachal in 7 days in a Fortuner

Day 2 : Dalhousie - Cheri
I woke up to the sounds of singing birds and the aroma of ham being slow cooked over a fire. Came downstairs for a kingly breakfast of Porridge, eggs, ham, bacon and cheese. Stuffed ourselves and got ready to leave. We would have loved to have Teddy uncle accompany us for the trip but he had some personal commitments that week although we could sense his reluctance in saying no. Next time, we told him we are bundling you up into the car and taking you along. Stopped at Khajjiar for the customary photo shoot and after tanking up at Chamba we proceeded on towards Sach pass. We encountered a couple of JCBs clearing a very recent landslide. Reached Sach pass by 2pm. The place was as desolate as it gets with fog and an overcast sky. Took pics of the temple there and moved on. There were huge glaciers scattered all over the mountains some of them very very precariously perched. Started our decent after spending 15 odd minutes at the peak. The decent was uneventful and only when we reached the foothills did the road start really deteriorating first very sharp stones and then some slush.

We reached Khillar and headed straight to the HPTDC guest house by 8pm only to find out that all 8 rooms were occupied. So we decided to make a dash for Cheri (pronounced cherry) which is an hours drive and also has accommodation. We were warned by the caretaker at Khillar that the roads were really bad and that there was hardly any traffic on that stretch at that time; “Bahut Danger raasta hai” J. He was right on counts. We did spot a leopard though that darted across the road, paused for a couple of secs and then disappeared into the forest before we could pull out our cameras. Reached Cheri @ 9.15pm, woke up the caretaker who we decided to christen Dr No, here’s why

Me: ji kamra milega
Him: Ji janab
Me: Khana milega
Him: Nai janab
Me: kyo ji
Him: Bas nahi janab
Me: Theek hai, kahan milega
Him: Pata nahi janab

After he showed us the room
Me: Mosquito coil hai
Him: Nai Janab
Me: Hum do hai, Extra Towel milega
Him Nai Janab

We finally walked across the road to a small Dhaba, which had already shut down. Requested the owner to give us something to eat and had some great masala omlette with chapattis. Retired by 11 that night, feeling a little disappointed. I had expected Sach pass to be a lot more challenging. That set me thinking about the fortuner and I figured that perhaps it was the car that had made it seem like a cakewalk. Like most govt guesthouses the location of this one is beautiful; in a valley right next to a bridge, above a flowing river. Also a very well maintained place. Some pics of that day
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Last edited by satan : 7th October 2012 at 00:36.
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Old 7th October 2012, 01:01   #6
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Default Re: Skirting Himachal in 7 days in a Fortuner

More pics from Day 2.
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Old 7th October 2012, 01:12   #7
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Default Re: Skirting Himachal in 7 days in a Fortuner

And? I want to read more, keep them coming. Nice pictures too. Hope you update very very soon. Also please do provide accommodation details in terms of rates etc. Did you face any issues with Dunlop through the trip or did they hold good?

Last edited by AbhishekB86 : 7th October 2012 at 01:13.
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Old 7th October 2012, 01:31   #8
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Default Re: Skirting Himachal in 7 days in a Fortuner

More pics descending from Sach Pass.

This was the most taxing day of the entire trip for the vehicle. The roads were non existent for more part of the journey but the vehicle never once felt unsettled nor show its bulk in handling. The suspension of this vehicle is a hotly debated and discussed topic on this forum but my take was, firm without being jarring. I mean we drove from 9 am to 9pm that day and we were not fatigued. I dont even want to think about the state of my back had I done this stretch, at the same pace as the fortuner, in my gypsy. Which brings me to the flexibility this vehicle offers you in terms of ground clearance, engine performance and sheer ruggedness. It was almost as if this thing was indestructible.

The only time she was left wanting was the flat spot you hit when you engage 4wd high with the centre diff locked and try taking off on a steep slope and are still below 1400 rpm. Without a clutch slip there is no way you can take off which also means you are frying the clutch nice and proper.
To avoid this we started to engage 4wd Low at a couple of places that required us to lift off on a steep slope or hairpin bend covered with Slush. However what happens when the turbo spools up beyond 1700 is a different story altogether.. That I will save for later.
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Skirting Himachal in 7 days in a Fortuner-img2012091200073.jpg  

Skirting Himachal in 7 days in a Fortuner-img2012091200072.jpg  

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Last edited by satan : 7th October 2012 at 01:34.
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Old 7th October 2012, 03:08   #9
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Default Re: Skirting Himachal in 7 days in a Fortuner

Another excellent thread!!! Amazing high quality pictures.

I'm losing count of number of the travelogues in this Forum to the amazing mountain range. I'm glued, keep it coming.

Please also give information on the fuel costs with the Fortuner for this trip. How will you compare the overall trip in the Fortuner to your trip last year in your Gypsy?
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Old 7th October 2012, 09:52   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AbhishekB86 View Post
And? I want to read more, keep them coming. Nice pictures too. Hope you update very very soon. Also please do provide accommodation details in terms of rates etc. Did you face any issues with Dunlop through the trip or did they hold good?
Will post the details of the accomodation for the entire trip shortly. The Tyres held up very well out in the rough despite Rishad and I using a very heavy right foot. There were a few side wall cuts which are bound to happen at Sach given the sharp stones that the road is liberally littered with.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MAS View Post
Another excellent thread!!! Amazing high quality pictures.

I'm losing count of number of the travelogues in this Forum to the amazing mountain range. I'm glued, keep it coming.
Thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by MAS View Post
Please also give information on the fuel costs with the Fortuner for this trip.
Will do that shortly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MAS View Post
How will you compare the overall trip in the Fortuner to your trip last year in your Gypsy?
I think they were 2 very different trips for several reasons. Last year was an excursion from Mumbai in a soft top Gypsy wherein we clocked close to 6,600kms over 19 days. That trip was far, far more gruelling in terms of the distances we had to cover each day from Mumbai just to reach the Himalayas averaging 16 hrs of daily driving in the plains constrained by the limited top speed of the Gypsy that too without an AC.

In comparison, as mentioned in my opening post this trip was a picnic for most part. I flew into Chandigarh, drove a very powerful, air-conditioned luxurious vehicle and had a very relaxed schedule once in the Baspa valley spending 2 days in Sangla and then 2 days in Thanedaar.

Also driving a softtop Gypsy is the closest you can get to riding a bike on 4 wheels. You are soaking in the environment and feeling every bump on the road wherever you go, which I personally enjoy but may not be every ones cup of tea. The fortuner on the other hand with the windows rolled up envelopes and isolates you however harsh the terrain and surroundings. So in that sense you do arrive at your destination inherently fresher.
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Old 7th October 2012, 10:45   #11
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Day 3: Cheri – Udeypur – Gramphoo – Batal – Kumzum La – Chandertal? No Kaza it is.
Woke up next morning had tea and pushed off. The target for tonight was Chandertal. We must have driven for less than an hour when we spotted a bus stuck probably a km ahead with its lights on. Apparently the valley side of the road had caved in and the passengers of the bus were trying to place stones and rubble to fill up the deficit in the width of the road. Spent 20 odd minutes waiting for the bus to cross us and post that we scooted off towards Udeypur. The drive was uneventful all the way until Gramphoo where we stopped for Lunch at a dhabha and then proceeded towards Lahaul.
This was my first trip to Lahaul and what struck me was the similarity of this valley to Zanskar. This valley which was formed several thousand years ago by a giant glacier cutting its way thru and submerging all marine life. Within an hour of us driving we noticed a rather familiar vehicle headed our way from the opposite direction. It was Harjeev in his 80 series LC coming towards us. We stopped very briefly exchanged notes on the road ahead and then moved on. Reached Chhatru by 3pm and then proceeded through a boulder field which I understand is the turn around point for vehicles participating in the Raid de. We reached Batal towards evening, met up with Dorjee and his misus and had some amazing tea there. It was getting dark and our plan was to stay at Chandertal. However plans best laid. We missed the turnoff towards Chandertal and reached Kumzum La. Then we backtracked and spent nearly 45 mins trying to find the exit to Chandertal, but to no avail. Within 10 mins it became completely dark and with no one to ask for directions we decided to call off our plan to Chandertal. Instead we decided to make a dash to Kaza stopping at Losar for dinner. On the way to Kaza that night the headlights picked up a fox crossing the road. This time we were determined to catch it on camera so we stopped and turned the car pointing the headlights into the field where the fox was heading. Now approx 150 metres from the road in the field there was a local taking a dump. Startled by the fortuner’s highbeam the fox headed straight to this poor guy, who panicked and switched on his torch and started yelling at both the fox and us for disturbing his activity. We gave up trying to catch the fox, had a hearty laugh and pushed off from there without causing the poor guy any more grief. Reached Kaza by 10pm and stayed at Banjara Camp there.
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Old 7th October 2012, 11:09   #12
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Default Re: Skirting Himachal in 7 days in a Fortuner

More pics from Day 3.
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Old 7th October 2012, 11:58   #13
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Lovely thread, rated five stars. Good to know about the Fortuner's performance - that is what is expected from such a great 4wd tourer (ok, I am biased ).

Looking forward to the rest of the narration.

Btw, did your friend ask Toyota for sponsorship?

Last edited by nilanjanray : 7th October 2012 at 12:08.
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Old 7th October 2012, 12:10   #14
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Default Re: Skirting Himachal in 7 days in a Fortuner

Fantastic travelogue with equally great pictures. My favourite is pic #2, I consider it worthy enough to be used by Toyota in their ads. Fortuner seems to make these terrains a much lighter work compared to hatches or sedans. Blessed are those who love to travel and more blessed are those who are able to do so to their hearts' content. Keep it coming.
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Old 7th October 2012, 13:28   #15
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Default Re: Skirting Himachal in 7 days in a Fortuner

Hey Neville,
Brilliant travelogue. Looking forward to more.
Could you please write a little bit about your experience in the fortuner in comparison to Gypsy in these terrains.
Specifically, the flat spot of fortuner. I've had similar experiences with it and we too, switched it to 4L. It was futile to change gears and so we had to cross the entire incline slowly on 4L 1st. How i wish that turbo kicked in at a lower RPM.
Cheers,
Deepak (clicked 5*)
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