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Old 12th January 2013, 13:15   #1
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Default 4 day run in an Audi Q7 - Delhi to Gurez via the Mughal Road

In comparison to our planned trip to Himachal in September, this trip came out of the blue. It was the last week of October when my good friend Rishad calls and checks my availability to do a marathon trip from Delhi to the upper reaches of Kashmir. As with a lot of us on this forum, the Himalayas and I have a connect, so any opportunity of revisiting the north is always welcome. Given the time of the year we agree to make this a really short trip so we club thursday and friday to a weekend so that we can be back at work in Mumbai within 4 calendar days
Here's what the plan looked like
Day 0 – Wed evening: Fly out from Mumbai to Delhi; Drive from Delhi – Jammu overnight
Day 1 – Thursday: Jammu – Srinagar via the Mughal Road
Day 2 – Friday: Srinagar – Gurez
Day 3 – Saturday: Gurez – Srinagar
Day 4 – Sunday: Srinagar – Chandigarh – overnight to Delhi
Day 5 – Monday: 6.20 am Fly back to Mumbai report to work 10am

We knew this trip would require some really long hours behind the wheel so we asked a common friend Gev to join us. Gev owns a specialist garage in Parel Mumbai and is an ace driver. He agrees and the deal is done. The next couple of days flew past tying up work, packing, booking tickets, shopping for supplies including thermal wear (after checking temperatures of places along the route) and before we realize it, we are sat on a wednesday evening flight to Delhi
For this trip we had an Audi Q7 4.2. For the uninitiated this baby has a V8 diesel, that makes 250kW with 800NM of stonking torque! Quite easily one of the bigger and faster cars on our roads but more on the driving experience later. Given the driving involved and the distances to be covered each day, photography for a change was given second priority.
A few highlights from the trip
1. Getting lost in Jammu trying to find the exit to the Mughal Road
2. Black ice along bends that caught us off guard on more than two occasions
3. Close encounter with a very angry and upset Afghan
4. Historic relevance of places along the route dating back several centuries and eras
5. Midnight banter over Old Monk below freezing temperature in Gurez
6. Driving up the twisties before Rajdhan pass

Some pics across the 4 days of the trip. Rishad please contribute to this post and do post some pics from your camera.
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Old 12th January 2013, 13:32   #2
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Default Re: 4 day run in an Audi Q7 - Delhi to Gurez via the Mughal Road

Day 0: Overnight drive : Delhi – Jalandhar – Pathankot - Jammu
The three of us landed in Delhi and were received at the airport by a representative from Audi who quickly briefed us on the features of the vehicle. That tuition lasted for 10 mins after which Rishad started driving only to be caught in bumper to bumper evening traffic outside Delhi airport. It took us nearly two hours to get to the outskirts and by 10 pm we stopped for coffee at a Dhaba after which I took the wheel. It was very easy to find a good driving position and within a few seconds of mashing the pedal speedo had climbed to a very deceptive 140kph. Truck traffic was thin but nevertheless, I slowed down to a 100kph and sat there for the next 4 hours slowing down occasionally for the bypasses of the under construction flyovers until we reached the Mc Donald’s at Jalandhar by 2.30am. After a quick bite and coffee we continued until we crossed Pathankot reached the outskirts of Jammu around 5.30am. Parked outside opposite a fuel pump and took a quick but very refreshing nap to wake up by 7.15am and continue the journey.


Day 1: Jammu - Akhnoor – Naushera – Rajauri – Shopian – Srinagar
We chose the Old Moghul road after reading up on its historical significance. Apparently this was the alleyway from where the ancient moghul armies of Humayun and Babur would invade India. The route also has significance with respect to Alexander the great as his horse Bucephalus had died here and he had decided to turn back in his conquest of the world after being defeated by the then king Puru. Enroute we encountered Afghan Gypsies who are very camera conscious and can potentially turn violent if they detect you clicking them as we found out. So there we were driving up the beautiful twisties when we overtook this Afghan walking with his donkey and wife in tow. I stopped the car some 100 metres ahead for Rishad, who stepped out to take a snap of the Aghan approaching him. Suddenly without a warning the guy charged at the car first hurling the stick he was carrying at us and then stooped down to pick up a stone. With Rishad back in a flash I floored the Q7 to ensure that missile did not shatter our rear windscreen. Very touchy guys, these chaps I must say. By noon I was very tired and Gev took over the wheel and drove through some of the most narrow and remote mountain roads I’ve see. While the surfacing was good every bend was a blind turn and being so remote it was hardly used. This meant that despite honking around each bend we found ourselves face to face with local taxis on atleast 4 occasions. Looking at the shocked expressions on Driver’s faces it was easy to understand that they were neither used to seeing vehicles such as the Q7 in these parts nor were they expecting someone from the opposite direction. However we saw none of that aggression/ hurry that you tend to see very often in Himachal. As we drove to the higher reaches of the road we started finding black ice on the road in areas where the sunrays could not reach, typically on U bends.
We stopped for pictures once we reached Pir Ki Gali which is the highest point on the road. The Aliabad Serai you see in the valley is pretty stunning and it’s a marvel to see how it has survived the harsh weather over the years. Had we not been pressed for time I would’ve loved to trek down to the serai. Perhaps the next time..
We finally reached the outskirts of Srinagar by 6.45pm. Driving into the city felt very eerie at that time of the day with smoggy fading light, quiet houses and Birch trees swaying gently with the evening breeze. We drove to a friend’s house, dumped our luggage there and were off to have dinner at Ahdoos. All of us had eaten there before and we had very high expectations of the food which was disappointing to say the least. We thought it might be the offseason period that had led to the drop in quality and taste. The Firni however was excellent and we gobbled up a couple of bowls each. Drove home thru isolated streets and crashed for the night with the plan to wake up late the next day to drive leisurely to Gurez.
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Old 12th January 2013, 13:54   #3
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Default Re: 4 day run in an Audi Q7 - Delhi to Gurez via the Mughal Road

Day 2: Srinagar – Bandipore – Gurez
We left srinagar by 9.00 am after a great breatfast to meet a friend at Bandipore which is about 80kms from Srinagar. This gentleman heads the Maruti Dealership and service centre there. After the customary meet n greet and discussing the route forward we left by mid-day and headed out towards Gurez. This gentleman gave us the contact details of the SHO at Gurez and informed him of our arrival. The approach road to Gurez was a mix of great twisties with excellent Tarmac around Rajdhan Pass and some really poor un-surfaced roads. The approach road to Rajdhan Pass was very dusty and as can be seen in the pics below the audi started to change color :-).
There were certain sections of the road similar to yesterday that had black ice on bends where vehicles (especially heavy trucks) were struggling to make it uphill, rear wheels losing traction on the glass-like surface. We reached Davar, Gurez with light fading away in the back ground by 4.30pm. The quaint little village comprises of wooden houses built along the banks of a flowing river. The landscape was quite barren as autmn was over and winter was almost upon us. We asked for directions to the JKTDC guest house and were very impressed to see the shiny red roofed stone cottages complete with a chain-link fence awaiting us. The caretaker had a heads up from the SHO’s office of our arrival and had prepared our rooms. We dumped our luggage there and decided to drive to the SHO’s office. We met Mr Abdul Majid the SHO who was a soft spoken gentleman. He is local from Gurez and that meant the entire town has known him since he was a kid. We had tea with him and he offered to show us around. Hardly 15 mins from the village you can see bunkers of our unfriendly neighbors Pakistan. He did mention that until 3 years ago, infiltration from this side was very high and he had been in a number of skirmishes with these groups. He explained how difficult it was to identify the infiltrators unless they were in very close range as they would always show up dressed as locals and attack when confronted at near point blank range.
It was great to see the kind of respect that the villagers had for him each time we would stop and it wasn’t difficult to see why. He actually gave each individual his ear and patiently responded to their complaints/ questions. On the way back they were blasting for road widening and we stopped for a while to chat with the demolition men who showed us the charges and the dyanamite sticks used for the purpose. After that we dropped off Mr Majid to the station and decided to walk around the town and take some snaps. After a while it got really cold so we were back at the guesthouse and had Mr Old Monk keep us company over dinner.
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Last edited by satan : 12th January 2013 at 13:57.
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Old 12th January 2013, 14:14   #4
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Default Re: 4 day run in an Audi Q7 - Delhi to Gurez via the Mughal Road

Day 2 (contd): some more pics of our approach to Gurez and the town.
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Old 12th January 2013, 14:43   #5
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Default Re: 4 day run in an Audi Q7 - Delhi to Gurez via the Mughal Road

Day 2 (Contd): Last set of pics of Gurez town that evening.
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Old 12th January 2013, 20:00   #6
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Default Re: 4 day run in an Audi Q7 - Delhi to Gurez via the Mughal Road

Is there a route map?
What fuel consumption figures for the trip?
And how was the cars handling? Good and bad points?
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Old 13th January 2013, 21:12   #7
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Default Re: 4 day run in an Audi Q7 - Delhi to Gurez via the Mughal Road

Nice pictures, just a pointer.
1. They are not afghans but Gujars and Bakarwals from the Pir Panjal region.

The roads seem to ahve been made tarred very recently as I think this valley was opened for civilians about 2 years back, if I am not wrong. During my times there the Razdan was a major hazard in its own and merely an OP track.

Gurez still remains a major infiltration route especially along the the KishanGanga and Makalwain. Do they allow you till Domel now?
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Old 13th January 2013, 23:11   #8
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Default Re: 4 day run in an Audi Q7 - Delhi to Gurez via the Mughal Road

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Originally Posted by sudev View Post
Is there a route map?
Dont have a map but you could plot one on GMaps using the below places
Delhi - Lughiana - Jalandhar - Pathankot - Jammu - Sunderbani - Naushera - Rajauri - Baramgala - Shopian - Srinagar - Bandipora - Gurez (Davar)

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Originally Posted by sudev View Post
Is there a route map?What fuel consumption figures for the trip?

And how was the cars handling? Good and bad points?
I'll post a detailed report at the end, on living with the Audi for the 4 days and 6 nights. Hope thats ok
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Old 13th January 2013, 23:20   #9
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Default Re: 4 day run in an Audi Q7 - Delhi to Gurez via the Mughal Road

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Nice pictures, just a pointer.
1. They are not afghans but Gujars and Bakarwals from the Pir Panjal region.
Yes you are right. They dress up like and resemble afghans and are nomads.


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Originally Posted by wanderernomad View Post
Gurez still remains a major infiltration route especially along the the KishanGanga and Makalwain. Do they allow you till Domel now?
We drove until Purana Tilel as we had to turn back as the weather suddenly got very threatening and while it would've been a life changing moment, we honestly had no intention of being boxed in Gurez w/o mobile connectivity for the next 5 months. More on that in the next post
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Old 13th January 2013, 23:55   #10
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Default Re: 4 day run in an Audi Q7 - Delhi to Gurez via the Mughal Road

Day 3: Gurez - Purana Tilel – Gurez - Srinagar
We packed up, had breakfast and loaded up the car by 8.30am with the plan to explore the inner reaches of the border as far as we could and then head back. We paid off the caretaker for the accommodation and the food and while we were all set to go we realized we had a flat in the rear left tyre. Honestly I wasn’t surprised given that we had driven very quickly over some really rough terrain last afternoon enroute to Gurez. Now Audi does not provide a full sized tyre on its flagship Q7. Instead you get a powerful and compact air compressor which is the size of a removable cassette player. Along with that you also get a deflated tyre that is approx 2 sizes smaller than the rest of the tyres (space saving measure). So you are expected to inflate the spare and replace the punctured tyre with it. We were in a hurry so came up with a standard ‘off roading shortcut’ for a flat on the trail. Jacked up the car (to keep the pressure off the little air compressor) and rotated the tyre to see if there was significant damage by way of a sidewall cut. Luckily there was none so with the tyre raised above the ground but still screwed on we re-pressurized the tyre with the help of the air compressor. The little compressor managed to fill up 34psi in about 3 mins which I thought was very impressive. We lowered the car checked pressure again, filled in some more and then scooted off to the puncture repair person who was 5 mins away at the entrance of the village.
Having fixed the puncture we headed North east crossing smaller villages like Barnoi, Kashpot, Zedge and finally stopped at Purana Tilel. The landscape kept getting more and more desolate as we drove thru the villages. Also sad were the harsh living conditions of people in these small villages with very basic amenities provided by the government. Unlike some of the remote villages of Zanskar and Ladakh, the kids were very shy and would run away as soon they saw us approaching. The houses were basic wooden strip/planks hammered together with tin roofs. What was however very endearing was the hospitality that the village folk extended , with almost everyone asking us to have tea with them wherever we stopped. It was around mid-day when we got a signal from the heavens that we should turn back now. The previous evening the SHO had warned us that we were indeed pretty late in the season to be visiting Gurez and that we should leave immediately if the clouds started decending as that would signal impending snowfall, which could spell disaster for us. Disaster by way of the valley being cut off from the rest of the world for the next couple of months. We turned back from Purana Tllel and started our journey back to Srinagar. There was a wedding scheduled for that evening at Purana Tilel and we could see a feast being prepared for the guests and numerous sheep had been slaughtered. Very interesting to watch the villagers make mince with wooden mallets eating bread while hammering away the meat.Some villagers were also decorating the “Palkhi” for the bride and invited us to join the celebrations.
The drive back was uneventful with some amazing twisties before the Razdhan pass and fresh snow on the road. We reached Srinagar by 7pm that evening, did dinner at Mughal Darbar and then went to Ahdoos for the Firni. Returned to the guest house and lay awake in bed tossing and turning throught the night as there was a wedding reception bang next door and the musicians and singers there made sure we were entertained throughout the night.
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Old 14th January 2013, 00:06   #11
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Default Re: 4 day run in an Audi Q7 - Delhi to Gurez via the Mughal Road

Day 3 (Contd) More pics from that day. We got the car washed at Bandipora on the way back to Srinagar.
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Old 14th January 2013, 12:00   #12
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Default Re: 4 day run in an Audi Q7 - Delhi to Gurez via the Mughal Road

Quote:
Originally Posted by satan View Post
Enroute we encountered Afghan Gypsies who are very camera conscious and can potentially turn violent if they detect you clicking them as we found out. So there we were driving up the beautiful twisties when we overtook this Afghan walking with his donkey and wife in tow. I stopped the car some 100 metres ahead for Rishad, who stepped out to take a snap of the Aghan approaching him. Suddenly without a warning the guy charged at the car first hurling the stick he was carrying at us and then stooped down to pick up a stone. With Rishad back in a flash I floored the Q7 to ensure that missile did not shatter our rear windscreen. Very touchy guys, these chaps I must say.
Would you not be similarly offended if a complete set of strangers were to take a photo of you, your wife and your kid? The father was being protective; yes he did react aggressively but that is their way of life.

Frankly speaking, was it not a bit rude on your part? See it from his eyes.

No offence meant.
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Old 14th January 2013, 12:17   #13
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Would you not be similarly offended if a complete set of strangers were to take a photo of you, your wife and your kid? The father was being protective; yes he did react aggressively but that is their way of life.

Frankly speaking, was it not a bit rude on your part? See it from his eyes.

No offence meant.
Ouch! For some reason I think you are even more touchy than that gentleman in the picture.

No seriously your point is well taken. This is the first time I've been in such a situation. Most locals we meet on our travels are very enthusiastic to stand and pose with you and dont mind being photographed. While we normally ask people for their permission in this case we had already crossed them and we some distance from them and the rest is history.
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Old 14th January 2013, 13:22   #14
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Default Re: 4 day run in an Audi Q7 - Delhi to Gurez via the Mughal Road

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Ouch! For some reason I think you are even more touchy than that gentleman in the picture.

No seriously your point is well taken. This is the first time I've been in such a situation. Most locals we meet on our travels are very enthusiastic to stand and pose with you and dont mind being photographed. While we normally ask people for their permission in this case we had already crossed them and we some distance from them and the rest is history.
It depends on the environment you are in. That valley still has a lot of suspicion and fear in its environment. No one knows what use that picture might be put to at some stage. But yes had you asked he might have agreed.

Based on your latest sojourn would you say the route is doable by a low GC sedan? Because what I remember of the tracks from my time I would have termed even getting a Q7 as insane, lol.
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Old 14th January 2013, 13:53   #15
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Default Re: 4 day run in an Audi Q7 - Delhi to Gurez via the Mughal Road

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It depends on the environment you are in. That valley still has a lot of suspicion and fear in its environment. No one knows what use that picture might be put to at some stage. But yes had you asked he might have agreed.

Based on your latest sojourn would you say the route is doable by a low GC sedan? Because what I remember of the tracks from my time I would have termed even getting a Q7 as insane, lol.
There are certain very bad stretches where even the Audi in its road mode (lowest Ground clearance) scraped its belly before being raised to the offroad mode. I wouldnt get a sedan on this road.
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