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Old 7th December 2012, 17:23   #136
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Default Day 8 #4 : Even more pangong, and Sand dunes north of lake

Right next to the army area is a flat sandy patch.
Attachment 1023660

We had intentions of camping here. But at this particular moment we did not know you cannot camp on the left, so we spent time here looking for a flat dry spot... and also got a visual treat. The colors of pangong, deep blue, green, clear, light blue... all in one shot
18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again-dsc_dsc_6389_lrxl.jpg

The wind also let up a bit
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But it was cold, so we decided to check out the ample available options higher up. At that time we got to know about the ban on camping by the lake. Anways, not a downer, since it was below freezing, and night sees -7 easily. We would not have survived in those "claimed -10" sleeping bags.

Accomodation options sorted(All you need to is pay 700-1000 for a room with attached bathroom by the lakeside in this season) we moved on.

I recall, two years ago, there were very few options, but thanks to rising tourist rush, accomodation options have multiplied.

Our next destination is towards phobrang. We decide to use the DSPT to make a phone call home, and then visit the dunes north of the lake. Very few venture there. Some dozers and tanks come here to have fun, but you will rarely find tourists here.
18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again-dsc_dsc_6394_lrxl.jpg

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I shoot some ducks and other exotic birds too with my other camera. Pics not processed yet, will share them later. anyways, they are nothing great.
But the lake view from here gives you a different perspective.
One moment its blue
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And then its all green
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And if you want reflections....?
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We make footsteps in the sand
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18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again-dsc_dsc_6404_lrxl.jpg

But the biggest tracks are of this guy
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Was it a tank, a crane? A dozer with tracks.... who knows. The white elephant is on the road, and I have absolutely no intention of getting her here for that sinking feeling.


The sun sets by the time we reach the road. We take up our room, and just relax, chill out and eat.
Today has been a very relaxed day. Not much driving, just walking and clicking.

Tomorrow is going to be a long long drive, over a road I have never done before. I don't even know yet how motorable it is, and some locals tell me that its blocked.

But why worry. We will cross that bridge when we reach it. For now its past 9:30pm, the moon has just risen and the milky way is waiting.

Last edited by Rudra Sen : 9th December 2012 at 08:51. Reason: removed duplicate picture
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Old 7th December 2012, 17:37   #137
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Default Day 8 #5 : Nightfall

Night sky has always facinated me. At the risk of sounding real old, let me tell you, when we were kids, we could see the milky way after the clouds dissipated after a rainy day. And we did not live in a village, we lived in a decent sized town.

However, now the stars are gone. If you live in Delhi, you probably do not know there are stars in the sky, and if you live in a slightly clearer place, you would see some bright objects like jupiter, sirius and venus twinkling defiantly.

However, up here, the night rules. There is no pollution, and little atmosphere. So the cosmos is visible. You can look up and see all the constellations. You can see the seven sisters, the milky way, the hunter, the bear, and if you are so inclined, you can have fun locating the zodiac.

So here we were, a little way from the camps. We actually got a bit late. We reached at the time of moonrise. It was not a full moon, but nevertheless for the camera, even a little moon changes the character of the shot. Astrophotography becomes landscape photography, and in a long enough exposure, the moon looks as bright as the noonday sun.

So here it is, the milky way.
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The moon rises over the white elephant
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With every passing minute, it brightens. The sky goes washed out. Within 10 more minutes, you will have difficulty spotting the milky way
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I change the lens to 16mm, to catch the moonrise. Look closely above the moon towards the right. You can see the seven sisters or pleiades star cluster
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You cannot leave the lake without taking a "loooooong exposure".
435 seconds... with pole star towards your right
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Finally, close to 10pm, I take the last shot of the day, and call it a night
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Its time to settle in our room, and sleep, but again, there is work to do. Before we tuck ourselves in, we tuck in the white elephant in her tarp. If she gets a cold, we arent going anywhere.
And then much before midnight, its time to sleep, lets see what tomorrow has in store for us!
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Old 7th December 2012, 17:47   #138
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Default Day 8 #6 : The Journey so far

18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again-lehnubrawarilatangstepangongxl.png

How about a recap of our trip?
Well lets see, we started from Leh couple of days back.
We crossed Khardung La, the 6th pass of our trip to reach Nubra.
From Nubra we drove to Tangste crossing Wari-La and Chang La, passes 7 and 8.

As you can see on the map, the direct route(which was blocked) is a short cut. It saves you around 2.5 hours of driving.

The 8 hour run from Diskit to Tangste becomes a 5-6 hour run only, less than the time it takes to come to Pangong from Leh.

From Tangste, you can go to Chushul either via Erath(we never took this route, as its not very scenic), or you can simply go along the banks of Pangong. Beware though, without permits, you won't get past Merak on Pangong side, or little ahead of Tangste if you go to Erath side.

North of Pangong lies model village Phobran, with solar panels and all, and north of that lies the turn off to Marsimik La, the toughest, meanest pass you can climb. However, its not very scenic.

So till now we have done 5 lakes, and 8 passes. We have to cover many many more miles than we have covered till now on this trip. I would say, its 30% done. 70% to go.

Tomorrow, it will be one of our longest drives in the region. Longer and tougher ones do await us, but thats far into the future... for now, its time to prepare for Tomorrow
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Old 7th December 2012, 17:56   #139
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Default Re: 18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again

Wow, what pictures ! The red huts come in handy when it suddenly starts raining . I can vouch for that. I did the same route Nubra-Wari La - Chang La -Tangtse -Pangong last year in mid September and stopped at the same guest house there too.
This is how Wari La looked back then.
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Old 7th December 2012, 18:56   #140
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Default Re: 18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again

Superb night shots Tanveer! Absolute marvel. Have been seeing it again and again.
Have you used FZ35 in this trip?
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Old 7th December 2012, 20:37   #141
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Default Re: 18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again

Quote:
Originally Posted by rajesh1868 View Post
Superb night shots Tanveer! Absolute marvel. Have been seeing it again and again.
Have you used FZ35 in this trip?
Thanks

FZ 35 was used only sparingly, and for videos(though the yak fight was shot with the D7000)

I will put up some pics from FZ-35 too soon
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Old 9th December 2012, 03:04   #142
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Default Day 8 #7: Pangong Recap - From the FZ35

Lets go back a few hours. I finally got a chance to process the few pics of the Brahmi duck, the geese(bar headed?) and the gulls.
Also got a video of the same

First the videos
Birds



Remember I said, the white elephant thrown in the the lake would make a bigger splash, well not exactly into the lake..!



Two videos of Brahmi ducks




And finally the bar headed geese


I also took some telephoto shots
Horsing around
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Brahmi duck
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Geese
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Mountain
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Old 10th December 2012, 18:17   #143
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Default Day 9 #1 : The road along the lake

Our night was not too uncomfortable. The rooms were well insulated,and we had an abundance of blankets. Nevertheless it got very cold in the night.
I woke up at 6am to start the white elephant, and thankfully, without any drama she started.
Let her idle for 10 minutes, and then I caught 40 winks.

It was -8 degree C, and frankly I did not have the courage to stand out and welcome the sun.

Around 8am we were ready to march on after a good breakfast.
Today, we will take the road along the lake, and go beyond. Our journey today was going to be long. How long? No idea. Never did the route we planned to do today, so it was all an open ended thingy

Pangong in the morning
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There were hardly any clouds in the sky, and the car quickly warmed up. In 2010, getting to Spangmik had been quite a task, but now there is a new "high road". Till Spangmik you have excellent black tarmac
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In the above pic you can see the old route, just a rocky track through a dried riverbed.

The lake showed us all its colors in full glory
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Shot taken near Merak. Our road is now a track, bad at some places, and horrendous at others
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The mountain range
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Far behind us is a local truck, ambling along
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The vegetation is all yellow now
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At some places we even needed 4x4 due to soft sand.
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Another pic
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An interesting thing to note here is that there was no checkpost anywhere. The local police checkpost must have been dismantled because permits were not longer issued to Chushul

Blue skies, and the lake with many colors. Pangong in its full glory awaited us here
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A nice place to stop and stare
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I really wanted to do it in a hurry, but could not. The lake kept stopping us!
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Old 10th December 2012, 18:32   #144
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Default Day 9 #2: The road along... cont..

The sun is surely bright. Very very bright. But its cold, really cold. Actually sub zero.
However, inside the cabin its warm and nice.
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And the lake looks simply amazing. The water is so clear, that you can see the bottom
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And the road goes right along the lake, on its banks
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The moon is now at west, soon it will set
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As we pick up speed, we have to stop again. For some things you need to stop, and wonder. Its autumn, its cold, the green is lost everywhere, but here. Here it blooms in full glory, like spring
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The white elephant strikes a pose for us
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But yellow is no less pretty, is it?
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The track wanders away from the lake, and I spot the solar observatory. Like hanle studies the stars, this one studies the sun
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There is a tempting offroad track leading towards the observatory, but we decide against hanky panky and march forward
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We are approaching the "end of Pangong"
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Blue yellow and brown makes a nice color combo, what say?
18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again-dsc_dsc_6461_lrxl.jpg
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Old 11th December 2012, 17:55   #145
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Default Day 9 #3: The End of Pangong

Our track led us on, along the blue pangong. As the sun rose higher, the lake turned ink blue.
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Only to turn green and turqoise
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And then we had to stop again. Some sights are truly magical
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The bumpy track, and our white elephant, shining in the bright sun
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Some places got very bumpy though
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And some places got very sandy
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And then little before 10:30, it was time to leave the lake, as our track veered southwards, towards chushul.
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Is this the last glimpse of Pangong, nope.... We would glimpse it again. But for now, its time to head towards a little town called chushul... and beyond!
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Old 11th December 2012, 18:18   #146
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Default Day 9 #4 : Chushul!

As we leave the lake, the track gets bumpier. I would say it gets a lot bumpier. There are a few water crossings, and they are mostly dry and sandy, with sharp point angry looking rocks. The little vegetation also starts vanishing, with some red shrubs for company.
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As you can see towards the horizon, the road starts rising. Right before chushul, there is an unnamed pass. There are no signboards, just a marker and flags, and many ignore it. But its not to be ignored. It offers something...

But before that, we have a lot of ground to cover. As we go away, we glance back at the lake called Pangong. This is our third trip, but I am sure we will be back for more. Pangong is something you cannot have enough of.

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The track towards Chushul
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As you rise, you get a glimpse of Pangong again, with red shrubs for company. Autumn is the season of colors here, as opposed to Spring.
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And then, little before 11, we are at the unnamed pass. I told you it offers something. Well here it is. It offers the last glimpse of pangong, before you go down. Yes, its the last glimpse of pangong, that 'most people' get.
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We decide to while some time here, and savour pangong. After all, isn't it the last glimpse? This unnamed little pass is our 9th pass of the trip.
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And then the track goes downwards, towards chushul
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Finally we are at Chushul
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And here lies our problem. Now where? Last time we had gone 'left', as suggested by everybody who had done this route, and gone to Tsaga La, and then to Loma and finally to Hanle.
However, today we were not going to take that short route, we had to take the longish route. The route from Chushul to Mahe.
It exists for sure, but where.

In such conditions, the first thing to do is ask locals. Well not many locals are around in Chushul.

We finally find a school, and a pick up truck parked there. I speak to the driver, and he guides me towards the Erath route. I will have to reach the head of that route, and then turn left towards the Army Camp. But he warns me that the route is not "motorable".

road construction is under way, its all rocks, and tires will be cut, and we will get stuck....

Not a good Omen I must say.

Anyways, we head towards the Erath route, and then again ask for directions, and finally we reach the Army Camp.

Its a big camp, and as I cross the checkpost, I can see everybody looking at us. In their shock they do not stop me, but 20 meters past, I hear whistles.

Time to promptly stop.
And get down.

The checkpost guys are pretty amazed. What are we doing here, and where are we going? I explain I need to go Mahe, and I have permits for Chushul as well as Mahe.

In this dialog I notice that regiment is "Punjab" regiment.
That upps my hope, and I ask to be let through.

Sorry, no go says the officer. Two or three more officers come, and they are ery very amused to see a Safari from Punjab in these parts.

They are happy to see us.... but they do not have the authority to let us pass. Permits etc., are for police posts, for Army, well it depends.

So here we are, at Chushul, figuring out what next, when the officer remarks, well we have to ask our CO(Commanding Officer). There is a regiment few kms ahead, and he sits there.

The checkpost phones ahead, and then begins the task of locating the CO.
Finally, after 15 minutes he is on the phone.
I hear one sided conversation

Two people...
Couple....
Going to Mahe...

I egg on the check post soldier to tell "couple from Ludhiana, having permits from DC office".

And he smiles and says so. I can almost feel the smile coming through the telephone, and "mission accomplished".

We are ready to go! Yay.
But before we go, we are given a dire warning "That road ahead is hell"
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Old 11th December 2012, 18:59   #147
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Default Day 9 #5 : The road ahead.. to magic

And so, we are off. The road rises, its not too bad yet, just a bit bumpy, and there are tiny landslides, with rocks lying here and there. So far so good. The sun is high, our spirits are high, and the weather is all clear
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Vegetation has vanished though. Barren brown mountains greet us. the road rises steeply, and up ahead I can see switchbacks
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But we still have tarmac. Bumpy tarmac, but tarmac
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As we gain altitude, we take a look back. What do you see? Blue. Yes blue
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This cannot be the Spangur Tso, as the Spangur gap does not lie in the line of sight from where we are standing
So the answer is... Pangong Tso!
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What we saw at Chushul pass is the last glimpse for most people, but we are not most people I guess. Pangong shows herself again. Far away, with its trademark blue


One more pic, taken from even higher. As the road switches back and forth, we get glimpses of the magical pangong Again and again
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And then the road becomes a track, and pangong hides behind the mountains
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And then, half past 12, we reach our 10th pass. I do no know what is it called. Its high, its barren, and its windy. As we step out to enjoy the view, the cold wind hits like a knife. yes, its cold, very very cold. Its colder than what Wari La was, and much more barren. Is this harsh climb what they called hell? Well does not seem so, the road is a bumpy track, but its okay steep, and very much motorable!

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and then we march forward. Barely two minutes later, we witness what takes our breath away.
Say Hello to Mirpal Tso. Our lake number 6.
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Need a recap?
Chandertaal, Deepak Tal, Suraj Tal, Chagar Tso, Pangong Tso... and Now Mirpal Tso.
We have crossed 10 passes, traverssed a thousand miles, and now we stand watching the lovely blue lake of Mirpal tso

The track goes ahead, marching along the lake. And with every passing meter it gets worse. The pebbles turn into rocks, and far ahead I see the mountain looming. There is a pass approaching, a biggie at that too.....

But the view... that makes it all worth it
18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again-dsc_dsc_6505_lrxl.jpg
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Old 11th December 2012, 19:39   #148
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Default Re: 18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again

Hats off to you tsk1979!!! I have been following this travelogue right from the start and I cannot help but admire the way you write about your travels. It seems that you have made the whole of Kashmir-Himachal your backyard.

So now we stand at 10 passes and 6 lakes, right? The story is turning more and more interesting as we are moving ahead.
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Old 11th December 2012, 22:50   #149
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Default Day 9 #6 : Heaven and hell

Kanyakumari is unique.
Really. Its one of the few places in the world, where you can see the rising, as well as the setting sun, on the ocean.

Where we were now, was also unique. You had heaven and hell at the same place. Yes.

First lets get a glimpse of heaven. The Mirpal Tso. The lake which had taken on a greenish hue, deeper than the deepest greens
18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again-dsc_dsc_6506_lrxl.jpg

Do not be fooled by what you see in front. Its not a walk to the lake, its a big drop, looking oh so smooth and inviting.

Which brings us to hell. Yes, the road was positively hellish.
I have driven on a lot of bad roads in Ladakh.
Some have been very very dusty. Some very bumpy. Some positively hideous, and some totally insane.

The road we were driving on started with a bumpy tarmac. Then it backe a dirt track. Then it became a pebbly track. And now, it became an "under construction" track.

Up here, first the road is cut, then its levelled, then somewhere, somebody decides you need tarmac. Then rocks are thrown on the levelled track. Depending upon where the rocks were picked from, they are big or small or sharp or smooth. And then depending upon requirement and manpower, you get a nice road.

Up here, we had not seen a single vehicle since we crossed that check post. Yes, not even one.So I guess there was no tearing hurry here. So we had the under construction track, with rocks on road. And big ones. Sharp ones.
18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again-dsc_dsc_6508_lrxl.jpg

They do not look very daunting, do they?
Well, consider it camera trick
18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again-dsc_dsc_6509_lrxl.jpg

These sharp rocks are the most dangerous kind of stuff which you can drive on. Sidewalls get ripped to shreds at these. And at many stretches, the rocks were fairly sharp, and big in size. So occasionally, I would hear a sharp clang of a flying rock hitting the underbody.

At stretches, I actually got wheelspin, so I did it in 4 low. And every few hunderd meters, as we climbed, I had to get down and inspect the tires. The sidewall had visible injury marks, but the continentals held up. Three ladakh trips and they have never let me down. Now I understood, what the Chushul local meant by tire cutting road.

And when we stopped, we also looked back, at the mirpal Tso. I often wonder, how did such a jewel land up here in the middle of nowhere.
18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again-dsc_dsc_6510_lrxl.jpg

WE kept climbing... and climbing, and the road actually got worse
18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again-dsc_dsc_6512_lrxl.jpg

At this point, I could again feel the rear wheels spinning. Spinning wheels usually get cut. So its time to 4L again, and gingerly crawl over big sharp rocks. This road, indeed was hell.
18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again-dsc_dsc_6514_lrxl.jpg

And then after a hairpin, the road is blocked.
18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again-dsc_dsc_6516_lrxl.jpg

I spy a "off road" track which bypasses this obstruction. You can see it left of the frame.
The good bit. No rocks, the bad bit?

I have to now reverse 300mts, and then take the steep track.
But before that we rest
18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again-dsc_dsc_6517_lrxl.jpg

Then its time to reverse and take the off road track, which actually is much worse than it looks.
Again, its 4L time, and we are reminded of our Marsimik La trip. But this road actually goes somewhere.

Shortcut done, the road thankfully turns back to a bumpy dirt track, and we heave a sigh of relief. And couple of switchbacks later, we arrive at the 11th pass of our trip.
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Old 11th December 2012, 22:52   #150
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Default Re: 18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again

Quote:
Originally Posted by addyhemmige View Post
Hats off to you tsk1979!!! I have been following this travelogue right from the start and I cannot help but admire the way you write about your travels. It seems that you have made the whole of Kashmir-Himachal your backyard.

So now we stand at 10 passes and 6 lakes, right? The story is turning more and more interesting as we are moving ahead.
Thanks for liking.
We stand almost at the 11th pass now
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