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Old 18th October 2012, 14:48   #1
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Default 18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again

Prologue

Its past 6pm.
the sun is down, and the evening twilight fades.
The road is black, fresh tarmac.. and Hanle is just 35kms away. 124RCC has ensured, that the ride to Hanle no longer has those sand traps which can sometimes swallow entire trucks.
Its fast going.
The night is not here yet, and its cold outside. Very cold.
But 35kms away warm bed and the night skies await.

The mood is upbeat, our travel is on a roll. We have seen sights only imagined, and climbed passes only heard off in stories and whispers.
Its our third trip to Ladakh... and the most adventurous one till date. We have had troubles, but we have overcome.
More than halfway into our trip, we are on top of the world.

And then steam starts erupting from the engine bay.....
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Old 18th October 2012, 14:48   #2
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Default October

October

Its the end. The end of the harsh Summer. The sun still rules, for its the kingdom of sun. It will still burn you. And it will still warm you. For its his kingdom.
But the winds are strong now.
The winds are icy.

The summer is gone.
The green is gone.
The Trees cling to their yellow foliage, in an act of last defiance.

The tumbleweeds make their last roll, in a desperate attempt to spread their seed.

The Kiang are almost gone too. To the higher reaches. Searching for whatever little grass that is left, for all that remains lower down is claimed by the herds of domestic sheep and goat... and cows. They are fattening up, for in a month, there will be no food, and whatever little remains, they will have to fight for it.

The ducks and cranes are taking flight. Waiting, for the last moment, waiting for their little ones to grow strong enough, so they can escape southwards.

The streams still fight. Every night they loose the battle against the mercury, freezing to near death, only to be awakened by the sun.

The glaciers look forlorn and dirty, awaiting the disturbance.
The disturbance which will make them whole again.

They have fought against the sun the entire summer, and their time to recharge is coming.

But those who have really gone are the tourists. The brave ones remain. Those lusting for adventure remain. Those ready to witness -5 to -10 remain.

As for the locals, they have a new mission. The mission to gather as much grass and wood for the harsh winter. The winter who is not here yet, but watches from the mountain tops. Knowing. Its her land now. One more snowfall, one more disturbance and it will conquer. The sun will shine in all its glory, but it will be the winter who will win. For its her time, and her land.

This is October. The ides of summer. The time of a confused autumn, impregnated with the winter temperatures.

And in this land of yellow and icy cold we went. Riding across the highest passes, crossing the driest deserts, watching the largest glaciers.
We went in search of new roads, new lakes, and new friends. And new skies.
We went in search of the milky way. The sights forgotten in the plains, where once were stars, and now only city lights and the smogs remain.,
Yes, we went to ladakh again.
We went to ladakh the third time
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Old 18th October 2012, 14:52   #3
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Default So we went....

We packed our bags... and a lot more
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We went beyond the Rohtang.. and crossed it in the night
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WE saw the lake of the moon, on a full moon night
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We tucked ourselves in, braving -5
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And we tucked in the white elephant
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We reflected and pondered.. and wondered, is this real
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Old 18th October 2012, 14:56   #4
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Default So we went....

We did "the highway"
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And we crossed the pass of a million signboards
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We danced on the dunes
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And watched the deadly dance of the beasts
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We saw the lake so blue, once ours, now shared
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And greeted the winter moon
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Last edited by tsk1979 : 18th October 2012 at 15:02.
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Old 18th October 2012, 15:04   #5
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Default So we went....

Yes, we did what was once forbidden
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And saw the wonder of wonders
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We crossed passes high and mighty, passes unheard, unsung... only whispered
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And sometimes, we faced defeat
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But the milky way cheered us on
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And the stars showed the way
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When all seemed lost.. we patched up our white elephant
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With a lot more than a little help from new friends
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Old 18th October 2012, 15:09   #6
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Default So we went....

We met old friends too
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And welcomed the visitors
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We went searching for colors
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But found beauty in black and white
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We greeted the autumn
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And celebrated a union
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We broke bread on the highest passes
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And drank from the glaciers
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We flew
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And greeted the winter...
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And this is how we went to ladakh....
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Old 18th October 2012, 15:11   #7
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Default The Plan

There is always a plan. Even when there is no plan, there is a plan.
But this time there was actually a plan.
you do not take a 80000+ kms done SUV made by a company called Tata motors to ladakh without a plan.
So, there was a plan.
When people make plans, they plan for the trip. Our plan for the trip was not really there, except that it was there. Confused? Even I am confused.

Coming back to the actual plan, it was for the "white elephant".

It started months back.
Replace, repair, replace, repair.
I spent hours on the workshop floor, being shooed away by guards, only to return, to go over her. Did anybody miss anything here? Or miss anything there.Whatever was doubtful was replaced. If not by extended warranty, then by goodwill warranty, if not by goodwill, then out of our own pockets.
And then extended warranty got over.
But the plan continued.
And continued.

And she was ready.
And loaded.

The trip plan was a lot simpler. Took merely days. Maybe it feels simpler.
Torch "tent stuff" clothes tire

Clothes we had, torches we had and bought some, tent stuff we bought,and thanks to Anupam and UmeshG, we had an extra spare tire too.

Maybe it was an elaborate plan too, but when I compare it to the WE plan... it seems simple.

But on second thoughts, it was also there. Just sidelined. It took a lot less effort, but we did make lists.
First time campers need lists. Esp me. I claim to be an amateur photographer, yet I forgot my tripod in 2010 ladakh trip.

So this was it.
Car plan done.
Packing plan done.

What about the trip plan?
What do you see in Ladakh for the third time.
Esp if you have just 2 weeks.

This was tricky.
We wanted to camp.
We wanted to see the lake of the moon
We wanted to see Zanskar, because it was unfinished. It was what had defeated us in 2009
We wanted to see all the lakes I could see on google earth.
And we wanted to do it all in 2 weeks.

And thus the trip was born. A trip like none before it. But then, isn't every trip to ladakh different?
Well, this was... different. A little too different. A little like no other

As the story unfolds, the plans will unfold...
For now, its time to begin.
The story of our journey.
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Old 18th October 2012, 15:12   #8
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Default Day 1: So it begins

Our journey did not start in the morning. Or even late morning.
It started on a warm sept afternoon.

But no worries.
Our destination was just 6 hours away.

We were going to Anandpur Sahib.
Our first halt. And then with blessings and prayer, we would begin.

But for now NH1 awaited. Delhi traffic awaited.
We ambled along, with the flow.

The road is good now. Much better than what it used to be. IT does not cause noises in safaris now.
But in ours it did.
Faint, but audible. Like old creaking doors. But Faint....

With no worry, we just ambled along, and reached well in time.
The trip had begun
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Old 18th October 2012, 15:19   #9
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Default Day 2 : Twist in the tale

Normally, I take out my camera few minutes into the trip, just before the mountains start.
However, this time, I was craning my ears, trying to figure out where is the rusted door. Is it the tailgate. But then there is no monkey swinging on it.

What was faint had become deafening.

Every turn of the steering, every bump on the road... and that creaking sound. So loud that even truckers stopped and stared. Audible over everything else. I did not need to honk. Just a little bump or a twist of steering, and they ran helter skelter.

As we tanked up, I tried looking. But no luck. I even thought of a solution. Splash through a swimming pool full of WD40. But there was no swimming pool there. Not even of WD40

AS we started climbing, the unthinkable happened. The noise became even louder. And then there was the road. The bumps and craters are supposed to be up there, at Rohtang, but this time, they were right there, on the PB border-Bilaspur stretch.
Craters so deep that even truckers avoided them. As for us, it was creak creak, with a steering, which was tightening by the second.
The nearest TASS was was still far away, at Mandi.

I made a few calls here and there, and thus they were waiting for us. We would be there by noon.
As we stopped for a quick breakfast stop, I held the roof rails and shook the vehicle. The din was so deafening that a few monkeys fell off the trees.

Something was really really wrong.
But there was no option, we had to trudge along, and its almost lunchtime when we reach the workshop.

Its full. All the lifts are full. So they decide to use a jack to lift the RHS front wheel, and then figure out whats wrong.
Culprit? Busted lower right ball joint. Eventually this would have led to rhs suspension and steering failure.

Caught in the nick of time.
We spend around one and a half hours, and after a modest bill of around 1200. We were ready. And I had a worry. What other gremlins I had missed in the past three months? What else will give away?

And thus with such happy thoughts, we continued our journey towards manali.

We had to cross the Rohtang today, as we had permits for today. A friend had graciously gotten them for us and he was waiting. Finally around 6 ish, we reached his place, had a much needed hot tea, and took the high road up.

The road was in the good shape, but I cannot say the same about downhill traffic. The wisdom of giving right of way to uphill traffic is lost on those taxi wallahs. They come literally to hit you, so you have to save yourself.

Eventually, in darkness we crossed an unmanned kothi barrier. I guess those guys do not stay for long in the winters. On the plus side, the road was awesome. Last time I went there, all hell used to break loose after Gulaba, this time, even after Marhi the tarmac stayed with us.

The dreaded Rani Nallah stretch was fixed by a mere flick of the 4L switch, as we left behind trucks spinning their wheels and groaning and grunting.
And in the dead of the night, we crossed the Rohtang. I have crossed Rohtang at night many times, sometimes safetly, sometimes not so safely, but thankfully, this time there was no adventure. Only moonlight, and a long exposure. Took some more, but somehow, was too tired to make a worthwhile composition.
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Finally, but 10pm, we had our beds at the Khoksar PWD.
Tomorrow, we go to Chandertaal, the lake of the moon, and witness her beauty on a full moon night!
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Old 18th October 2012, 15:21   #10
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Default Re: 18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again

Thread moved to travelogues section
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Old 18th October 2012, 15:48   #11
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Default Re: 18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again

Awesome thread opening Tanveer, looking forward to read the whole story in one go (Read live the story).

Exceptionally brilliant photography like it or not.

Cheers
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Old 18th October 2012, 15:49   #12
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Default Re: 18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again

Beautiful pictures. You sure are a brave soul to venture in this terrain with a 80K+ Safari !
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Old 18th October 2012, 15:52   #13
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Default Re: 18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again

Awesome clicks Tanveer and brilliant write up. Keep it going, I'm hooked!
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Old 18th October 2012, 15:55   #14
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Default Re: 18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again

Another Leh Thread.

Fantastic photos. As always you travelogues are getting better each time. A well deserved 5* rating for this thread.

I'm hooked. Keep em coming.
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Old 18th October 2012, 16:04   #15
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Default Re: 18 Passes, 15 lakes and 2 breakdowns : Ladakh and Lahaul call again

Brilliant.

Was first worried seeing the luggage snap. And as it progressed - more worried to see the sound travelling with you. But got bit of sigh - unearthing the problem early and continuing the journey !.

on lens' view
- You went searching for colors and am stunned with the colors in it
- you flew and am watching the glide here
- the wonder of wonders - am still wondering 'how on earth...'

keep going. My eyes wide open....
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