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Old 29th January 2013, 19:11   #256
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Default Day 15 #3 : Fourteen Fifteen

Its 9am as we move on.
18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again-dsc_dsc_7003_lrxl.jpg

Penzila Pass. Its one of the few passes here which are flanked by snow covered mountains even in October
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And then its time for the twin lakes of Pensi LA. Our lake 14 and 15. The first one is small and dirty
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They are called StaTso LangTso. Not as grand as the one which flanks Kakasang, or the Horla, these ones have their own beauty. Esp number 15. The bigger lake.

A rumbling tummy means we need to eat, and what better spot than this?
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Its time to unload the elephant
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And bring out the Kit
Stove, utensils, and of course the lovely paronthas. Add to that the paradise like location and hot fresh tea, made from almost near expiry date milk powder, and we can safely say. "The best meal of our lives".
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We are short on water, but have enough for what we need. But I am not worried, here you can never be short of water I guess.
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Old 29th January 2013, 19:12   #257
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Default Re: Day 12 #1: From the Cold Moriri to the colder La

Quote:
Originally Posted by adc View Post
Anyway do continue, will be catching up with the travelogue as it goes on -- but then still how much left or where do you go next!?
I think only 7-8 posts left. Should be 3 days or less!
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Old 29th January 2013, 20:10   #258
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Default Re: Day 15 #3 : Fourteen Fifteen

TSK, I never respond to your TLs, because I just savour it. There is not point writing. But this one takes the cake!

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Old 29th January 2013, 21:35   #259
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Default Day 15 #4: Mountains

18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again-dsc_dsc_7013_lrdsc_dsc_7017_lr20copyxl.jpg

ITs almost 10am when we start our journey again. I am on the passenger seat, and the entire landscape is towards me.
The sun shines brightly, and all we can do is slowly move forward, and gawk at the scenery.
This landscape is what defines Alpine. Now we understood, why do Italians leave their Dolomites and the like, and come searching for glaciers here.
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So much snow even in October.
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Our water woes get solved at this glacial stream. At the top of the image, you can just glimpse a glacier. The stream is mostly frozen, but still, there is enough flow to fill our bottles with the sweetest water we have ever tasted.

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AS we head downwards into the Suru valley, another smaller glacier comes into view. This looked so different in the evening. I guess in may, there would be a lot more white here.
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One of the most imposing mountains you can see
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This is where we cross our first vehicle. A truck. Five hours on the road, and all we cross is a truck
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And then, here we are, in Suru valley. Very few landscapes look so magnificient in the harsh light of the sun.
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The patterned mountain of Rangdum, shaped by glaciers, stands tall, and dwarfs everything else
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And the road, probably the worst we have ever driven on. But with scenes like this, who's complaining!
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Behind us, likes the range which separates Suru and Zanskar valleys
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And far ahead, likes Rangdum, with its Gompa on the hill
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The town of Rangdum
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And the lofty mountains towering above it. Never seen such landscape ever!
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We have had our breakfast, so we can skip the Rangdum break. ITs time to move on, ahead!
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Old 30th January 2013, 18:34   #260
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Default Day 15 #5: More mountain

We move on, on the dusty trail or road or whatever. A few goats get scared and one of them gives us dirty looks
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And I look at the mountain
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An impatient taxi breaks our trance, and we let it pass. Taxis are always in a tearing hurry
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As for us, frequent stops are a norm. We have stopped caring when will we reach Kargil. WE will reach Kargil, thats all that is important
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A few clouds now grace the skies, adding some more charm into the scenery, as if it needed any more charm!
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Well the ducks are still here. I guess they will leave only when the winter really arrives with its cold and icy winds
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Lets fly
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We are approaching Parakchik, and we decide to take a pause on the grassland. It feels nice sitting on the brown grass
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Its 1 degree C outside. Though the bright sunlight makes it hard to believe it can be this cold under the noonday sun!
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Our ride, resting.

18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again-dsc_dsc_7078_lrxl.jpg
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Old 30th January 2013, 18:39   #261
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Default Day 15 #6: Chasing Glaciers

Its past noon now, and we are fully relaxed. There is absolutely no sense of urgency. I guess this is also a joy you rarely experience at the start of your journey.
So how to while time? Well you get out of the car, and start searching for glaciers. While coming, we had gotten a glimpse of a glacier, behind a hill. We again park at a different location, to see if the views are better
Well, there is no view
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We scout the river, to see if we can cross anywhere, and climb that hill
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But nothing is found.
So we start heading backwards, on foot first
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Five minute of walking yields no results.
Time to drive back
We have spend 20 minutes here, driving back and forth just to get this glimpse
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To bad, we could not cross the river on foot and get a better view. For now, this will suffice.
This is the hill we have climbed
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The valley gets narrower as we approach parakchik
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And as the afternoon draws near, clouds obscure the peaks
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Blue waters
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And some horses
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More glaciers await us
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Some of them are small
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And some big ones lie ahead. But first, we have to stop for the colors of the Suru valley
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And then its time for the glacier on the road
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The trees will tell you how big it actually is
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Clouds gather towards the Northwest
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So we bid goodbye to the glaciers. This is probably the last sighting on this route for us of big glaciers.Also notice the mountain behind. Its probably nun/kun. Speaking of glaciers how many biggies had we see?
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Well lets see
Drang Drung, the one next to Drang Drung, the 20 minute chase glacier, and number 4, the Parkchik glacier. Many more lurk behind these mountains. And for these people go trekking here. Some day in the future we will also spend some time here, and go glacier hunting
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Old 30th January 2013, 18:43   #262
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Default Day 15 #7: A chapter ends

Its past 2pm now as we slowly make our way in the bad road
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Domesticated ducks. Roast duck anyone?
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The kingdom of yellow
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More yellow. This forest just sits there like a carpet
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A grazing horse. I guess it likes brown
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After prakchik the road improves, and we can go faster, but first, the Nun Kun, and the Nun Kun glacier
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At Sankoo we ask about the Umba la route. This route will allow us to skip kargil, a town we have never likes much. But its closed according to the locals, so we push ahead, and I take the wheel
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Its 4:55pm when we finally roll into Kargil. A good place to spend the night? Are you kidding me or what? Well we are going to push ahead. Beyond the Zoji La.

For all practical purposes, our trip is over. Changthang, Lahaul, Nubra, Zanskar. We had seen it all. This trip for us was supposed to be the closure trip. We wanted to be "done" with ladakh after seeing it all. But I guess, with every trip, you find something new. There is always that something more you want to do, and explore. We will definitely come back to Zanskar some day, and find a way to cross that river, climb that hill and see where that glacier begins.

But for now its time to eat some 20rs a stick kababs. In 2009 we had found a street vendor who served us the best kababs we had ever eaten. This time also a street vendor sat at the same place, but I am sure he was different, as the kababs were atrocious.
Nevertheless, now its 5:20pm, and good or bad kabab, we have to push on. With pedal to the metal, we race on the NH1D towards Pass number 18. Its called Zoji La. And as we gaze westwards, dark clouds crown the mountains.
A disturbance is here, finally.....
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Old 30th January 2013, 18:46   #263
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Default Day 15 #8 : The winds of Winter

Night falls quickly. It usually does in mid october. There is still traffic on NH1D, and its mostly trucks. I guess there is a sense of urgency. Any day now, the winter will come, and dump a ton of snow on the passes. And then first only light vehicles will ply. And then very soon, even they will stop. For the winter will say stop.

We make our way through towns and villages, and as we cross drass, we realize that the winter is here.
It has started snowing. Right after drass most trucks stop for the night. Do we stop here, or cross over. Well the road still appeared open, and the night is young so we push ahead.

And then it starts snowing even more heavily
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Foxes scurry across the road, and it feels pretty exciting. The Himalayan fox is a quite an avid road crosser. Have seen it so many times on our travels. But then as we approach 3000mts, something else crosses the road. Its not a fox. Its not even a wolf. Its a cat. Not your regular housecat, but a full grown leopard!
As I fumble for the camera, it scampers to the side, and is gone in a flash.

Was it a snow leopard. Well the coat was light. Could be due to snow. We will never know. But up here, wonders never cease.

We push on, and the snowfall gets heavier. I don't know when we crossed the Zoji La signboard.
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Its 8:45pm. But somehow I do not feel any urgency. Coming out of the car, and standing in the first snowfall of the season somehow feels more important than reaching our destination, whatever it is
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And then it starts snowing a lot more heavily. Winter has decided to arrive with a bang, and then we decide to scoot
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As we head downwards, nature has another surprise in store for us. Cloud. Where there is snow, there is cloud, and here, the cloud is sitting on the road, and visibility goes to zero.
The last time we had driven on a high mountain pass through a cloud, we had nearly ended up falling off a 1000 foot cliff, so this time, its time to be a lot more careful.

We hang out of the window, literally sniffing the road edge, and somehow make it to Sonmarg before 10pm.

Thanks to low tourist rush, we get a room in the JKTDC.
We have cup noodles for dinner, and then its time to crash. The trip has now really ended. We are going to leave the mountains tomorrow. Its going to be a long long drive though.

But life is usually not so simple, little did we know, what tomorrow had in store for us!
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Old 30th January 2013, 18:49   #264
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Default Day 16 #1: Sonmarg to Sringar

18 Passes, and 15 lakes. This is what we have done in the last 15 days. As I fire up the elephant, we just reflect back on our journey. In the back of the mind, there is this sense of relief, we made it, and also a sense of remorse, of coming back to the daily grind. Today, for the first time after so many days, I did not have to tarp the elephant at night.
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The mountains were covered with snow, and no vehicles were coming from Kargil till now. A few inches of snow usually means closure for trucks
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Our journey today is to the heart of Punjab, and if you are still at sonmarg at 9am you usually hurry, but, surprisingly, we are not in a hurry at all. So we drive to the meadows, which are devoid of tourists, and simply click a few
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Zoji la is still crowned by clouds and the town of Sonmarg is slowly waking up
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Finally, around 9:20, we start off for the town of Srinagar. Another city I always like to avoid

Anyways, the views are superb
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The hills have been really pounded last night I guess
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As we proceed to Srinagar, this catches my eye
"Beware of your own"
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And this
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We just stop on the way once, to buy apples. The orchard guy really makes a fool of us on the pricing, but the apples are nice
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A landscape on the way
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Its half past 12 when we arrive in Srinagar. Usually people take the bypass, but my wife wants to do some shopping at Lal Chowk, so off we go right into the city.

Lunch is a not very simple wazwan at Mughal darbar.

Its past 2 as we set out again. There is no 16th lake on our itenary. We skip Dal lake. Can you believe that?
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Old 30th January 2013, 23:13   #265
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Default Day 16 #2 #ENDE` : The night without End

Twelve hours. Thats what I reckon will take us to reach our home state. There are no bad roads ahead, no passes, no mountains to climb. Its all the very tame Srinagar-Udhampur highway.

But you know what, never assume. Esp when travelling in J&K.
Soon after hitting the main road after Sringar, we realized that driving here is a Risky job. A thing all the cabs know, and display
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We are also at full risk. Every move we make, every where we brake, and every where we accelerate, there is danger of being hit my a maniac in one of these "Risky jobs". Some risky jobs are with non functional horns. So if you hear "oye oye oye", assume it to be equivalent to "I can't brake, get to the side or I will ram you".

Another interesting titbit. Every seen the glorious Army convoys in Ladakh. Here they have to travel in nets, lest something very potent and explosive is thrown into the truck
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Being in Delhi teaches you a lot of "avoid getting hit" driving, and somehow we make it to the maggi and tea point before Jawahar tunnel. Another titbit. As you start the climb, there comes a point where GPS stops working. A jammer at work I guess

At Jawahar tunnel, its time for tea and maggi.
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And little past 5 we are off again.

Till the tunnel its smooth sailing, and its due to the sunset. All the herds of cattle and sheep use the national highway to return to their homes, leading to crawl traffic. Nevertheless, we trudge on, slowly but steadily. Okay, not 2am but we will reach at 3am?

Its only when we cross Patnitop we realize the mess. There is a long jam from here, almost till Udhampur. A truck has broken down somewhere, leaving little space to pass. Due to this the traffic pilup has stopped traffic for 50kms, and even the cranes cannot get to the truck.

As we sit and stare around in the darkness, I observe many things. Truck drivers are dead drunk. The "risky jobs" are even more drunk. A risky job right in front of my eyes, goes bang into a truck stopped in the jam, with engine off.

Bang, go his lights. He swaggers out accusing the truck driver of driving in reverse, and the truck driver swaggers out with an iron road swinging it in the air. Few onlookers come and mutter something, and both go back to their vehicles. Risky job who is probably 10 pegs down will not drive without headlights.

No wonder, its a risky job.

As for us, we pass time listening to some music. The time for listening for hisses and leaks and clangs and rattles is pass. We are going to Safari land, where no safari problem is unsolvable.

Guess what. 1:30 am we are at Udhampur. From Udhampur we take the bypass, and right near Mansar, we face another obstacle. JK cops. The guy checks for all papers, and the like, and does not find any fault. Now its against his oath to let anybody pass without a fine, so he asks us to give him something "We are standing here in such cold weather for you blah blah".

It reminds me of the nagging I have to endure at traffic lights every day on the lines of "Bhagwan ke naap pe... Tera bhala ho" blah blah.

So I just shake his hand, say thank you, tell him "you are great and doing a good job", and simply zoom off before he can even understand what has happened.

The drive after here is uneventful. Mild traffic issues at Lakhanpur because of parked trucks. The border officials let trucks etc., park right on the road, which leads to 3-4km jams during daytime. Early morning, its just a few minutes.

Finally at 7am, we arrive at Jallandar, and take the breakfast at McDonalds. Just an hour of drive left, we proceed, splashing water on my face every 20 minutes, and arrive home in once piece.
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Yes, the trip has ended.

COMING UP NEXT: All the maps and trip log
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Old 30th January 2013, 23:14   #266
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Default Maps and log

First our trip log. Not very detailed, but gives you a fair idea about speeds and distances
18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again-trip_logx2.jpg


Secondly. here is the route map for our entire trip
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High Res Large map
18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again-all_map_osm.jpg

Last edited by tsk1979 : 1st February 2013 at 11:29.
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Old 31st January 2013, 00:20   #267
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Default Re: 18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again

Yeyy, read the travelog almost at one go. Your writing, as usual short and sweet and loads of lovely photographs to accompany.
Few things,
Tso Moriri, Karzok has some guest houses (or atleast had few years back) and they were cheap and decent. Costed us 500Rs only then. But yeah, I kinda agree with your view of the place being look a bit sad. We also saw heavy rain and a very damp Tso Moriri and to make matters worse, AMS hit us there.
Few places they do jam GPS signals it seems. We were told the same in Arunachal that the GPS won't work after we cross Menchuka due to jamming as the place is very close to the border. But Jawahar tunnel is not that close to border but may be because of it's importance?
The Khurs are much more used to people than Kiangs it seems.
Do you need any permit for Zanskar too? Any idea when the road from Leh will be completed?
If you go from Leh to Hanle via Tso Kar-Mahe route, then can you visit Mirpal Tso without any special permit from Army? OR they won't allow one to pass thru?
And at last, thanks a lot for sharing this lovely log..
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Old 31st January 2013, 09:37   #268
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Default Re: Day 16 #1: Sonmarg to Sringar

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18 Passes, and 15 lakes. This is what we have done in the last 15 days. As I fire up the elephant, we just reflect back on our journey. In the back of the mind, there is this sense of relief, we made it, and also a sense of remorse, of coming back to the daily grind. Today, for the first time after so many days, I did not have to tarp the elephant at night.
So at last the "18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns" come to end after 18 long pages of this thread. Each page is worth savoring. In my full lifetime, even if I don't get a chance to be physically there in this wonderful heaven on earth called "Laddakh", I won't regret it, because I have just now completed the trip along with you, though viryual I am making a list of all those near & dear ones with whom I want to share this travelogue & once again, start this journey along with them.

Don't have words to express my gratitude, but thanks a lot for taking us with you on this wonderful journey.
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Old 31st January 2013, 11:00   #269
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Default Re: 18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again

Awesome Tanveer, good to see all those photographs and the travelogue ending on the 18th page. So did you mend the hose pipe thing on the Safari?
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Old 31st January 2013, 11:06   #270
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Default Re: 18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again

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Yeyy, read the travelog almost at one go. Your writing, as usual short and sweet and loads of lovely photographs to accompany.
Few things,
Tso Moriri, Karzok has some guest houses (or atleast had few years back) and they were cheap and decent. Costed us 500Rs only then. But yeah, I kinda agree with your view of the place being look a bit sad. We also saw heavy rain and a very damp Tso Moriri and to make matters worse, AMS hit us there.
Few places they do jam GPS signals it seems. We were told the same in Arunachal that the GPS won't work after we cross Menchuka due to jamming as the place is very close to the border. But Jawahar tunnel is not that close to border but may be because of it's importance?
The Khurs are much more used to people than Kiangs it seems.
Do you need any permit for Zanskar too? Any idea when the road from Leh will be completed?
If you go from Leh to Hanle via Tso Kar-Mahe route, then can you visit Mirpal Tso without any special permit from Army? OR they won't allow one to pass thru?
And at last, thanks a lot for sharing this lovely log..
No permit for Zanskar needed.
From Hanle to Tso moriri, you can take the road towards Yaye. Atleast till Yaye there is no permit required. However, onwards, a checkpost may be setup near Kakasang La in the future. Till then you can actually reach till chushul before you encounter the checkpost

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Awesome Tanveer, good to see all those photographs and the travelogue ending on the 18th page. So did you mend the hose pipe thing on the Safari?
I got all hose pipes changed after coming back and also got the belts changed(though they were fine). The Safari is 90K+ kms now.
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