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Old 21st July 2013, 00:14   #1
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Default Driving on the edge - Our Ladakh Drive of June 2013

One wonders, what is wrong with these monstrous yet beautiful mountains!

the eldest and the youngest of the caravan taking a stand against the beauty and the brutality of Darang Durung glacier and its valley
Driving on the edge - Our Ladakh Drive of June 2013-p1170643.jpg

It is about 2 PM on the Day 5 of the Ladakh Drive and overall Day 11 of my drive from Mumbai. We have been driving through the beautiful valleys of the Zanskar reaching Darang Durung glacier now standing in front of it adoring it and the beauty around equally.

The mountains are lovely at each turn and passing moment. They are bare and they are snow-clad, sometimes partly sometimes fully. Glaciers gleam through the huge crevices of the mountains, some having made their own ways in the valley between two mountains, some in their full youth and some on decline due to ice melts giving water selflessly to the rivers flowing in the valleys. Innumerable streams from mountains and glaciers snow melts rush down onto the roads and into the valley. The green pastures in the valley, the wild horses, an occasional fox, the naughty marmots, the herds of cattle and sheep all create an aura that no words can prove sufficient. One can just keep on watching each and every part of this world this side, as indeed it turns out to be a completely different world of its own sitting exclusively on one part of the earth. All bits create such innumerable enchanting vistas as one drives through them. If one could, one can just take a walk of life through these endlessly and still not be done with them even in a lifetime.

Yet, one wonders, what is wrong with these monstrous yet beautiful mountains!

Or is there something wrong with the souls that roam once in a while in lifetime in these outrageously out of the world places?

And then, that out of the world beauty hits with its stinging truth!

The wind is icy beyond words at Darang Durung glacier as we get down ecstatically from the cars to enjoy the awe-inspiring beauty. And it is blowing left and right, stinging like thousand spikes sinking into the skin. What if you are clothed in thick windcheater jackets, the face is still bare. What it is doing more is hitting at the right spot, hitting the nose and is extremely successful in choking breathing. Open the mouth to inhale or exhale and it succeeds to block there too. So a humble human body seems no match to the icy blasting wind blowing from the Darang Durung into the face and engulfing in its stinging embrace. It is extremely successful and winning on the feeble bodies. It reminds the bodies not to brave it more. Finally, it makes everybody clamber back into the cars not long after everybody got down to admire and soak in the beauty of the place.

The sudden stinging and choking of breathe due to the strong and wild icy wind at that height of about 14k feet has left some with breathlessness, headache and unnerving feelings. The nature seemed crystal clear in its creations. With a few deep and long breathers, nearly all get around to deal with it once inside the cars secluded from the stinging bite outside. But then the realization starts hitting somewhat more cynically.

It was the princes, princesses and the eldest member in the caravan that were to be worried about more. No, it was not a late realization that utmost precaution has to be taken, but just that it had hit extremely hard in that extremely short time out there on the edge of the valley adoring Darang Durung. There was a quick recount of whether to proceed towards Padum or immediately retreat back to lower base of Rangdum and we decide to take the later way around, leaving Padum for another day in some unknown future.

There was also nobody but just us 2 cars on that entire stretch there and nobody in sight too for long distances. Nobody had and not even intended to venture out towards this side from Rangdum as we had seen before leaving Rangdum earlier, although a few had arrived at Rangdum from Padum by then.

It had hit the little princess of 7 years badly in the first car that drove off immediately from Darang Durung towards Penzi La first, wait for each other there and then back towards Rangdum. She had started showing sudden gloom, headache, fading color giving a deep sinking feeling at that lone, remote and high altitude place. It was clearly the sign of AMS, the lack of oxygen hit swiftly and came across late. But was it really late? Some panic had crept in with the gloom seen on her face. But soon after, the senses came around and the oxygen canisters came out that had been in the stock but were forgotten till now. She breathed deeply with one and regained her stance wee bit but not completely out of the comatose. The car had now come back to Penzi La and waiting for the other to come around from Darang Durung, while every moment was seemingly crucial calling to return back to the lower base of Rangdum asap. They somehow managed to drag the time as they waited with eager breaths for the other car to turn around back to Penzi La. The winds did not seem so punishing at Penzi La. And they waited, waited and waited for the other car to return, with equated breaths trying to recuperate the situation with each passing moment unsure of how good or bad it was going to turn.

While the first car had left Darang Durung, the second car had decided to stay put there for some more time for a matter that needed addressing urgently.

There was the 1.5 year old, 19 months to be precise, prince that was the point of attention here. All along the planning and then the drive the major point of concern to all in the caravan had been how it would work out for him. For, he could neither talk nor express with any blabber anything felt to him, but only the faces and expressions would have to be understood to ever understand if anything was really happening to him.

And then at that point at that place, the doubts turned somewhat realistic, Darang Durung and Penzi La, the first highest places at about 14k feet directly attained from Kargil and Panikhar without any longer stays at lower altitudes to acclimatize. But was it so, I cannot tell for sure.

The boy had not eaten much on the way and not even had inclination to intake anything while at the Rangdum dhaba stop we had, though he had some breakfast to start the day. He must have been experiencing the volatility of the place as we drove around. However, he had not shown any tantrums all along. At that time nearing his lunch time, it was high time he was hungry and yet not eating properly while in the drive. And now as the first car left for backing off from the place, there was beginning signs of the boy’s tantrums. The boy was clearly getting traumatized. And as it dawned at that moment, there were a couple of aspects to it. The hunger must have to have struck him badly and the atmosphere must have started to cast its spell on him. So it was decided to not to rush back but try to calm the boy a little bit at that point. While the first car had left and there was no way of communicating inspite of having BSNL postpaid mobile phone, there was some chance we had to both understand and act accordingly. It had thus struck us as we start observed him. It seemed to have hit him, the lack of oxygen and the lack of inability to deep inhale and exhale. Afterall, how can a 1.5 year old child be assumed be able to do that. Yes, we did know that, but did not expect that it was going to hit it here and this is how.

We had to calm the boy first with something. Having not eating while on drive we set to observe his change of body tantrums, colors while trying to feed him some khichadi which was made early morning before departure. We gain some confidence as he starts swallowing small spoonfuls slowly and slowing down his tantrums in those moments. However, there is still some crankiness and cry in his sound which we are trying to mellow down by all means.

We first tell ourselves, no panicking. We have the oxygen canisters with us but those are not going to help him as he has no knowledge of forced breathing. Luckily, my better half being a doctor too helps. And we all start trying to cheer him up and make him active at the same time he takes in some spoonfuls of soup and khichadi and shows decent recovery giving us good hopes, eating process also activates his body to some extent.

But at the same time, it has hit elder one of 7.5 years too, the breathlessness and the headache. He is crying of the pain and unable to breathe properly. In cheerful mood we all start the good long breaths and make jolly time for him to feel cheerful and recuperate by following us. With some moments passed, he seems to already sustain the situation with ease. A dose of crocin syrup and a little more wait and a bit of feeding goes with the small one to calm him more. But, the situation has still not completely recuperated. And to top it off, we are a bit far away from Rangdum. So whatever recuperation has to be done, we realize has to be done in this place and on the route back to Rangdum. Situation comes under control in sometime and both show good improvement.

But that is not all yet. Father at 70 has had his first kind of such situation now and is also seems affected a bit. But bravely he doesn’t show or say anything and is trying with himself to be calm and cautious. In the cheering of long and deep breaths to the elder son, he too recovers and sustains himself well from the first hit.

A good 20 minutes have passed in the time and the first car must have been eagerly waiting for us to return back to Penzi La to head back to Rangdum.

The rendezvous makes us think, so is this what happens on hitting the 14k feet directly without acclimatization and driving madly on the road to Rangdum and onto Darang Durung?

Yes and no! Because even though it is science, it really is a guideline and subject to each body behaving in its own way to the changes it faces all along. So while some will easily cope even in winters, some may not be able to cope even in summers without proper acclimatization. But then is there anything called proper acclimatization and is there a surety too that such a thing will work surely unless one is living in those areas over a long duration? Quite speculative and subjective it is.

At that point with the situation stabilized a bit, I start driving back! Back from Darang Durung to Penzi La and then to head back towards Rangdum hoping to seek end in Kargil. Oh, it is only the end of the day’s road in Kargil. And it is not the end of the Ladakh journey!

It is, but, just the true beginning of the 6500 km sojourn, that I had never imagined, of Zanskar and Ladakh Drive and we knew now what was coming our way!


While the experience at Darang Durung and Penzi La was something to reckon with, it was the amazing experiences and sights

to see Nun Kun wear a cap
Driving on the edge - Our Ladakh Drive of June 2013-p1180584.jpg

to find the bridge that led inwards of Zanskar from Rangdum
Driving on the edge - Our Ladakh Drive of June 2013-p1170573.jpg

to find the way through the rocks
Driving on the edge - Our Ladakh Drive of June 2013-p1170407.jpg

and through the glacial waters
Driving on the edge - Our Ladakh Drive of June 2013-p1180602.jpg

to find Zanskar valley welcoming us with its wide arms
Driving on the edge - Our Ladakh Drive of June 2013-dsc_0056.jpg

to find the horses at peace in their abode
Driving on the edge - Our Ladakh Drive of June 2013-dsc_0055.jpg

to be welcomed by the eager Marmots
Driving on the edge - Our Ladakh Drive of June 2013-p1170519.jpg

to carry the weight of mountains all along
Driving on the edge - Our Ladakh Drive of June 2013-p1170558.jpg

to bow to the towering Kingly mountains
Driving on the edge - Our Ladakh Drive of June 2013-p1170469.jpg

to see the mighty mountains shedding some of their load
Driving on the edge - Our Ladakh Drive of June 2013-p1170415.jpg

to swim through the glacial waters on return from Rangdum as they nearly swallowed the road
Driving on the edge - Our Ladakh Drive of June 2013-p1180778.jpg

and with just a few of those Zanskar excerpts let me try to take you through our Ladakh drive step by step hence...
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Old 21st July 2013, 11:05   #2
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Another Leh Ladakh Trip!!! Wow.. Keep it rolling. Painful AMS experiences there but happy to see both the kids coming out better.

Wonderful snaps and thanks for sharing.

Luv,
Manjunath
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Old 21st July 2013, 12:31   #3
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Default Re: Driving on the edge - Our Ladakh Drive of June 2013

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Originally Posted by parsh View Post
One wonders, what is wrong with these monstrous yet beautiful mountains!

The rendezvous makes us think, so is this what happens on hitting the 14k feet directly without acclimatization and driving madly on the road to Rangdum and onto Darang Durung?

Yes and no! Because even though it is science, it really is a guideline and subject to each body behaving in its own way to the changes it faces all along. So while some will easily cope even in winters, some may not be able to cope even in summers without proper acclimatization. But then is there anything called proper acclimatization and is there a surety too that such a thing will work surely unless one is living in those areas over a long duration? Quite speculative and subjective it is.
Well this is definitely a new perspective, one never discussed much in any earlier travelogues, to think upon by all future travelers and Thank You very much for providing one.

You may be right in musing that any amount of acclimatisation may not suffice.

In such a case, this thought crossed my mind. In the first place should we take the risk at all, by taking our children to such places and exposing them to such conditions. This is more true with the aspect of them not able to express their discomfort and our inability to understand what ever little is being communicated by them - clearly brought out by you, in your narration. With the elderly it is a different thing since each individual with a zeal to travel would like to explore different places and experience them in his life time. Hence for them, taking the risk may be worth (we would rather die than not seeing new places ).

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At that point with the situation stabilized a bit, I start driving back! Back from Darang Durung to Penzi La and then to head back towards Rangdum hoping to seek end in Kargil. Oh, it is only the end of the day’s road in Kargil. And it is not the end of the Ladakh journey!
This was gripping preview for the main drama to unfold. looking forward to a long and wonderful travelogue with many more new thoughts hitting us in the face. Awaiting eagerly.

- Sai
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Old 21st July 2013, 16:36   #4
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Default Re: Driving on the edge - Our Ladakh Drive of June 2013

Ladakh had enchanted us since ages. All the pictures and travelogues beckoned again and again for us to venture on the Ladakh drive sometime soon. Not to forget the travelogues of ADC, HVK, LALUKS, SST, TSK, HARSH and quite a few others are both motivating, right to the point of making you feel like getting out of that office chair and start driving right away as well as adding knowledge about Ladakh.

Afterall, major purpose of buying family cruisers was to be able to embark on such long hauls, be worry-free of any vehicle issues at the same time being able to carry family comfortably with sufficient luggage. Only the time for Ladakh had never come till now due to one reason or the other, although the cars saw many short and long hauls unlike Ladakh.

The urge started to grow painfully since the beginning of 2013 and thoughts started flowing as to whether to do it and how. There were many precedents to it. The prime being a would be 1.5 years boy alongwith the matching of summer vacations of all children in family and work alike and the utmost probability of not being able to do any such adventure for the next 2 years due to various reasons.

With various consultations and discussions with pediatrician too, it was decided to finally take the plunge and do the adventure with the 1.5 years old infant while keeping a constant watch on him as the drive unravels the mystery of the terrain. Additionally, initially our father at 70 years was thought out of the game-plan due to his age and vertigo, though he is probably more fit than us and he had no issues in travelling in drives earlier ever. But then, we thought and rethought and boosted him and prompted him to join on this first of kind adventure of his lifetime. He was skeptical initially but with some boosting he decided to join in too. Unfortunately, a few other kids in family had to cancel their joining on the drive. So we were now a total of 9 travelers on 2 Innovas slated for the journey. The cars were more than enough and we could have the rest of the cars beyond 2nd row for lying around of stuffing more if and when needed.

Eventually, it was finalized in middle of March to embark on the adventure anyhow in the vacations of Summer 2013 and most probably to start the venture in 4th week of May or start of June 2013, with some uncertainties there too. It also had to have a duration deadline of about 15 days due to various constraints including the school re-openings and work schedules.

While all that scrutiny was happening we had already started to compile information, travel items by jotting down our own listings and information from logs of anybody who had already done it before. What could be better but HVK’s Excel workbook which proved quite a help while doing the compilation.

Soon the whole information took the form of our own Excel workbook with various information sheets segregated into it, route plan, maps, clothing, medications, vehicle maintenance etc and Google docs became the place to exchange and modify it between the distantly located houses, although we started doing it by email earlier. All the bits were highly important, we being newbies to that side of the world and we needed to know more of less everything required to be able to deal with any kind of situation. And with that we were more or less set to embark so to say.

At the same time information was being compiled, the necessary items were being investigated and gathered as and when, primarily the high altitude AMS medicines of COCA 30, Diamox and Oxygen canisters which my elder brother managed quite swiftly and meticulously to lay his hands on in Noida while I still kept searching for the proper source and stock of the same in Mumbai.

In the route planning, we had to investigate what all places we could visit, what attractions, milestones to look out for in those places and which were possible to be covered, what distances and timelines we may target and most primarily what were the altitudes and where we could and should try make our night stops. At the end of the investigations, the route plan worksheet became quite a jumble but still giving a overview of what needed to be targeted.

Initially as the plan formed, the idea was to cover Ladakh in entirety as much as possible since it was being done for the first time and so the route planning was done accordingly with a understanding that anything can go astray there whatever be planned. The journey to Ladakh would begin via entry through Zoji La which is said to be better from getting better acclimatized for the terrain and then doing rest of the circuits. Also Zoji La was planned as entry point as it is known to open quite early but no surety of Rohtang La. However, as it happened, Rohtang La was already open a week before the time we started the journey.

Thoughts of including a visit to VaishnoDevi in Katra before embarking on further journey came up in the meanwhile and it was finalized to be the starting point of the sojourn adding a couple of days to the plan to begin with. My start from Mumbai was decided to be Sunday, 26 May 2013 all to avoid most of traffic with an easy halt at Udaipur and then reach Noida by 27th June. I had option to choose the NH8 straight or via Yamuna Expressway which was a detour of 100 kms additionally from Jaipur. I chose to deliberately do YE as this was a good time to do it and also I was going to have about 4 days stop at Noida before actually starting the Ladakh drive which was finally slated to start on Saturday, 1 June 2013. So an addition of 100 kms detour to take YE did not seem like an issue to me and it indeed proved its worth.

The vehicles at both the homes were checked and serviced in the prospect of the drive. I had just done the scheduled service of my Innova and it was noticed that the brake pads were wearing out with some scouring marks on the discs. However, it was not possible to get it done on that day due to some constraints as I needed the car anyhow the same day. Just about 3 days before embarking from Mumbai, got an urgent appointment at Millennium Toyota, Wagale Estate, Thane and requested for the work to be done immediately the following morning without having an appointment. They called back confirming and asking to be there earliest. I was at the gate so on dot before 9 AM. The SA duly took in the car and quickly opened a job card to schedule asap in the midst of the scheduled appointments as the workers were yet to arrive and work yet to start on anything. So it was basically first waiting until the unfinished cars from yesterday got finished and my car would go under the spanners. Must really thank the SA for the quick actions and tremendous help he proved. The car was duly done with replacement of brake pads and skimming of discs and readied by 2:30 PM while I waited there.

Meanwhile, I had remembered seeing jumper cable pack on one of our Team-BHP Fortuner adventures last year up the Rajmachi and enquired with our good friend Guderian about the jumper cables and towing ropes and he replied duly. Finally, I procurred 2 things from Mulund East car accessories shop, a jumper cable for Rs 650 and a metal towing rope for Rs 475.

Yet, a few doubts remained about the car. How will it perform up there with the low GC, longer wheelbase, the overhang and low torque having loaded to the brim? There were not many stories of personal Innovas doing those circuits. The terrain as was heard and seen from logs and pictures was immensely varied and there were even stories of tanks being hit en-route and sufficient need of torque at places. So, there were thoughts of even putting up reinforcements of guard plates below to protect the tank atleast. Also there was a thought of whether I should boost my Innova with the kits. But brushed them aside and thought to see whatever happens through. And did she behave well in those terrains? Oh yeah, she glided all along, be it twists and turns, slopes with mud or hairpins, absolutely no looking back, only she got some damages to the front and dents to underbody.

We had done many travels small and big in past but this was going to be a different ballgame from any and all perspectives, never having to encounter such a varied and challenging terrain but more so with people of varied age in the caravan and not knowing how each one would react to the terrain and drive.

Finally, we were all set to embark on the journey that would turn out to be one of its kinds till date, with the Mumbai to Noida leg kicking off on 26 May 2013 and the Ladakh leg kicking on 1 June 2013.


Our bible for the journey but not limited to, also not to forget HVK's workbooks for checklists which are not included herewith

jun 2013 - leh.xlsx

The route as it was planned initially but turned out with quite a few variations as the drive caught on
Name:  MumbaiLadakhMumbai Route.jpg
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The Ladakh circuits that were initially planned, but alas, we can only plan
Driving on the edge - Our Ladakh Drive of June 2013-ladakh-drive-planned-route.jpg

The towing rope, Rs 475, which proved its worth near Tsoltak
Driving on the edge - Our Ladakh Drive of June 2013-220520131870-custom.jpg

The jumper cable, Rs 650, which did not help starting our other Innova but still proved its worth by being there and being able to try atleast. The battery turned out to be dead and had to be replaced in Toyota A.S.S., Leh
Driving on the edge - Our Ladakh Drive of June 2013-220520131872-custom.jpg

All packed to load in the car
Driving on the edge - Our Ladakh Drive of June 2013-p1160247.jpg

Loaded her in the night of 25 May only and she swallows it all without giving an hitch, to top it off leaving 3rd row free for now and even the rear windshield clear to watch behind
Driving on the edge - Our Ladakh Drive of June 2013-p1160250.jpg
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Old 21st July 2013, 20:00   #5
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Default Re: Driving on the edge - Our Ladakh Drive of June 2013

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Only the time for Ladakh had never come till now due to one reason or the other, although the cars saw many short and long hauls unlike Ladakh.
The same applies for many of us and we still are waiting!

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Originally Posted by parsh View Post
The battery turned out to be dead and had to be replaced in Toyota A.S.S., Leh
This is the reality of planning. No matter how much you take care of all things required, all the checks to be made to the vehicle, still we miss something. Missing to check the state of the battery is too risky. Lucky that everything is available even in the farthest corners of the country, mainly due to the development of tourism.

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All packed to load in the car
Yeah, I am gathering things required for Ladhak trip. I already have one item - the 4 Kg LPG cylinder with attached stove.

Eagerly waiting for the flow to resume.

- Sai

Last edited by GTO : 22nd July 2013 at 11:58. Reason: Fixing quote
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Old 21st July 2013, 21:52   #6
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Default Re: Driving on the edge - Our Ladakh Drive of June 2013

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Yet, a few doubts remained about the car. How will it perform up there with the low GC, longer wheelbase, the overhang and low torque having loaded to the brim? There were not many stories of personal Innovas doing those circuits.
Parsh - thank you. You have described my dilemma exactly. However unlike you, I have my own self-driven Innova and not even a convoy of two.

I am in two minds whether to attempt Ladakh circuit
a) onward through Manali and returning via Srinagar or
b) the reverse i.e. Srinagar- Sonmarg - Drass - Leh - Manali

I have similar constraints - as you - summer vacations are key. So it is likely that I can attempt this only in the end of May / first week of June.

My question - in hindsight - given the Innova's foibles - which option would you recommend?
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Old 21st July 2013, 22:37   #7
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Another Leh Ladakh Trip!!! Wow.. Keep it rolling. Painful AMS experiences there but happy to see both the kids coming out better.

Wonderful snaps and thanks for sharing.

Luv,
Manjunath
Thanks Manjunath. Yes actually all 3 kids recovered well and once back at Rangdum they turned absolutely normal.

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Originally Posted by Vihari View Post
Well this is definitely a new perspective, one never discussed much in any earlier travelogues, to think upon by all future travelers and Thank You very much for providing one.

You may be right in musing that any amount of acclimatisation may not suffice.

In such a case, this thought crossed my mind. In the first place should we take the risk at all, by taking our children to such places and exposing them to such conditions. This is more true with the aspect of them not able to express their discomfort and our inability to understand what ever little is being communicated by them - clearly brought out by you, in your narration. With the elderly it is a different thing since each individual with a zeal to travel would like to explore different places and experience them in his life time. Hence for them, taking the risk may be worth (we would rather die than not seeing new places ).

This was gripping preview for the main drama to unfold. looking forward to a long and wonderful travelogue with many more new thoughts hitting us in the face. Awaiting eagerly.

- Sai
Thanks Sai. The AMS is quite subjective and would vary from case to case basis and would even depend on a place and the environment at that place at that time. It certainly throws doubts on whether or not to take kids/infants there. But I can safely say, we can definitely take them, with cautious watch over them. Also, in some cases, even adults can face severe AMS while children will easily cope up without any issues. There have been cases of adults with mountaineering background having given up (and I mean 'UP') in Ladakh en-route.

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Originally Posted by Vihari View Post
The same applies for many of us and we still are waiting!
Just make it happen when you feel like and when it would matter to you most.

Quote:
This is the reality of planning. No matter how much you take care of all things required, all the checks to be made to the vehicle, still we miss something. Missing to check the state of the battery is too risky. Lucky that everything is available even in the farthest corners of the country, mainly due to the development of tourism.
Oh, that battery. Actually it did not miss the checklist. We knew the battery was weak but still thought it will live through, it had already needed push start a few times quite sometime back but did not expect it to die, still it did live its life at 50k. Also, there are quite a few shops in Leh which can help with such things if the A.S.S. is not present.

About the availability of support up there, there are very few companies which do have except for the common ones. Thankfully Toyota's basic workshop arrangement is atleast fully functional. Otherwise, one has to rely on the roadside garages which are in plenty and can easily mend your machine but at unknown and sometimes unreasonable costs.

Quote:
Yeah, I am gathering things required for Ladhak trip. I already have one item - the 4 Kg LPG cylinder with attached stove.
That is a nice planning for very long drive, now put in the plan to attach a trailer to your car to carry it specially. People with LPG car kits will need no such planning.

Quote:
Eagerly waiting for the flow to resume.

- Sai
Will try best to be faster, but you know...the work, plus it will not be easy to jot down 20 days of drive in total and managing pics, so it will be in installments

Quote:
Originally Posted by joybhowmik View Post
Parsh - thank you. You have described my dilemma exactly. However unlike you, I have my own self-driven Innova and not even a convoy of two.

I am in two minds whether to attempt Ladakh circuit
a) onward through Manali and returning via Srinagar or
b) the reverse i.e. Srinagar- Sonmarg - Drass - Leh - Manali

I have similar constraints - as you - summer vacations are key. So it is likely that I can attempt this only in the end of May / first week of June.

My question - in hindsight - given the Innova's foibles - which option would you recommend?
Joy, let me tell you one thing, whether you are in a convoy or alone, it is you who has to maneuver your car in the end, whatever gyan or mental comfort you may gain from the compatriots. Just feel company with your car, know its behavior, trust your instincts, be confident and take it coolly.

Innova is very capable of doing these circuits and tell you literally we glided over the terrain where all others I saw had to be cautious. See the last pic of my first post, you will see it swimming through the road, which became nallah, having literally stony road underneath without much efforts. Just be cautious of the sudden ditches and dips that spring up like shock in the midst of the road. You will just need good tyres and good maneuverability. Check my specific comments in TSK's Zanskar and Ladakh Ultimate Guide also.

Having said that, I can safely say either way is fine. Don't be apprehensive of any fears. In fact I had every intention of going via Rohtang if it was surely going to open and if we had not thought of VaishnoDevi visit. Given your constraints as mine, it will be atleast until next Summer that you will be able to plan. So you got decent time in hand to plan it properly.

The advantage you gain with Zoji La is it gains altitude slowly and is supposedly better from acclimatization perspective. If you feel that there is definite need for the same then take a call to go via Zoji La. Otherwise, if you want to do the entire Ladakh circuit you will be doing both routes one way or other.

A few aspects I found with Rohtang:
1) the landslides, traffic snarls/jams, heavy rush of tourists from Manali to Rohtang La for merriment, impatient waits to get clear way through and loosing precious time in the process and this can be either way up or down
2) easy to descend than ascend surely with the kind of road there, especially Rani Nallah is a pain.

Both are prone to slush in some parts due to rain or glacial water melts, but you will see longer slushy stretches in Rohtang. In fact I faced the worst slush of the entire drive in Zoji La, so much so that I could have stranded but Innova waded through effortlessly with a little push. Rohtang slush though for long stretches was easily traversed by Innova.
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Old 22nd July 2013, 11:26   #8
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Default Re: Driving on the edge - Our Ladakh Drive of June 2013

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Originally Posted by parsh View Post
Yet, one wonders, what is wrong with these monstrous yet beautiful mountains!
Hello Parsh,

Your opening post wonderfully describes the delimma of a adventure traveller & driver embarking a journey to unknown place with a 70 year old father & 1.5 year old son. We are eagerly waiting for your story to unfold & know the high & low point of the trip. The pictures seem to be equally good.

It is really great to know that passengers of 70 & 1.5 years completed this journey without any major complications. Hope you were not struck in middle of nowhere due to battery failure.

I am glued to this thread for any new updates.

Thanks,
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Old 22nd July 2013, 11:38   #9
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Default Re: Driving on the edge - Our Ladakh Drive of June 2013

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Originally Posted by Jignesh View Post
Hello Parsh,

Your opening post wonderfully describes the delimma of a adventure traveller & driver embarking a journey to unknown place with a 70 year old father & 1.5 year old son. We are eagerly waiting for your story to unfold & know the high & low point of the trip. The pictures seem to be equally good.

It is really great to know that passengers of 70 & 1.5 years completed this journey without any major complications. Hope you were not struck in middle of nowhere due to battery failure.

I am glued to this thread for any new updates.

Thanks,
Thanks Jignesh for your good words.

Both did extremely well in the entire journey till the end without posing any complications. Also fortunately except for few blasting waits did not get stranded anywhere.
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Old 23rd July 2013, 00:01   #10
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Day 1: Sun, 26 May 2013 - Mumbai - Chittorgarh

Well, it was surely not going to be just a Ladakh Drive as in drive only in Ladakh! I had to still travel from Mumbai to Noida before we actually start driving into Ladakh later. Some thoughts did pour in of transporting car to Noida and saving on efforts and time there. But those were hard to swallow and eventually could hardly appeal to a motoring mind.

I was surely not going to miss the golden opportunity to enjoy the drive, and try something en-route, especially having envied my brother who had done the Yamuna Expressway drive and that too for free just in the initial days as soon as it was opened for public. So that was one sureshot thing I had to try, always on mind since long, just there was no opportunity since it opened.

It is finally Sunday, 26 May 2013 and our drive begins today, the D-Day, Day 1 of the drive. See any butterflies? No, I didn't see any flying nearby neither did I swallow any, just the itch in the palms to drive.

We get up decently early at about 4:30 AM and are ready decently in time as thought and by the time we reach down to the stilt it is about 5:20 AM. The car is ready downstairs waiting just for us, having both her bellies full. Well, the boot was anyway loaded in the night only before sleeping and after loading it I had done a dry run of the load to satisfy her appetite. This was the 2nd loaded dry run actually, the first one I had done the day I got the brake work done with the boot loaded and seen how she balances, sags etc and she had behaved extremely well. Now, I had taken her to fill her thirsty belly to the full and then let her settle down for the night.

With the sweet sound of first cranking she comes to life from her night’s slumber and purrs ready to ride as we settle inside comfortably. I take a few minutes out to adjust various things and let her idle. It is about 5:40 AM by the time she eases out of the stilt and is eagerly looking forward to hit the highway.

Today’s targeted drive is easy Udaipur, about 764 kms as per gmap, hoping clear roads with not much traffic on the fantastic NH8 with a straightforward route

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Thought of a break for breakfast near Vapi but as we reached the Vapi bridge, nothing was visible worth a stop. McD came up just in time which was opening to the public just then. Got some breakfast picked up in Drive-In and Drove-out as they were anyway just cleaning up the place and had it after the toll that followed.

While the Ladakh drive would prove beyond words, the drive scene here too was pretty good with its own charm.

Khatarnak mod? We did have some hearty laugh there. The road, makers, the governors and many drivers of it have no inkling that up there where we were going, there are absolutely deadly ones with blinding turns on edge and that too without any warnings!

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Slow Down? Why not? Not because the roads are not good surely, when you can just glide over even the worse of the roads up there. But here it is the law of the land that trucks will have the priority, who cares a dime for the others

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We hit the Ahmedabad bypass by the lunch time, spot the Mayur Restaurant on a corner on first floor and hop in there. The food is damn good too and makes me worried of drowsiness in the onward drive after lunch. Well, it goes well and the road and scenery keeps me awake alright.

While the mountains and terrains we were going to were glorified, the Rajasthan Mountains seemed no less in their own respects. What is the green fencing lining on the mountains? It is difficult to guess what it is from a distance. It is actually the Cactus lining. On the contrary, we see Mehandi or some such plant lining for fencing in our side of the world.

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Laluks may find this snap interesting, the same (similar) place, the same (similar) shot? Just that his was probably in B/W if I remember. This was just purely coincidence when I found out recently the same shot while looking back again into their HumbLeh’d log

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By the time we are about to hit Udaipur, I sense it is fairly early to stop having no business in Udaipur, although there are attractions aplenty there if one wishes for a tour. We discuss and do a quick math. Chittorgarh is just about 116 kms away, kind of round the corner and we can easily make it by fall of light while the Sun was still up now, and in turn, reduce tomorrow’s drive which would actually help the drive on the Yamuna Expressway too. So we decide to just drive on.

I make the first big mistake, which could have proved quite costly on time if things had gone otherwise. I take the Udaipur bypass for the heck of checking it out inspite of knowing it not good and it being better idea to take the highway through the city only. Oh boy, did we have fun there?

Absolutely, with all the severe undulations on the road, that could even leave behind some of the Ladakhi roads that were to come as I look back now, narrow (especially narrow tarmac with uneven sharp edges even if road was wider enough) with huge craters in the tarmac and heavy traffic of heavily laden trucks. To top it off, as I get to hear from a rare passing car coming from opposite side, the narrow bridge ahead has a heavy truck stranded causing both sides to come to stand-still for quite sometime creating the long queue. We join at the end of the queue with quite a lot of traffic joining behind us too and the wait begins for the queue to move ahead while the opposite lane is more or less empty. What the hell, I think, what I have done, should I just turn back and go through the city. I see some vehicles from our lane turning around in the RVM but see a Qualis surge to try its luck ahead in the jam. I take the cue and plunge ahead myself from the line and get to the point of the bridge that was blocked, now jumpers like me from our side making a short second queue at that point behind the Qualis and few small cars. As the small ones go through, a relatively small gap is seen, comparatively much small for the size of my car on our side of the road but nearly on the edge. The truck our side had stopped earlier than the bridge to leave that gap, while the opposite side truck is stranded. So that’s why an occasional small car was squeezing through. The bridge too has small parapet walls and the road is narrow on the bridge but decently wide otherwise. What to do? Take a chance to scrap myself by trying to get through or turn around. I see the Qualis turn around and a few others too in the queue. It just becomes unthinkable to turn around and finally take the plunge and attempt to squeeze through. The truck guys too are helpful, guide through, with slow and careful maneuvers with thin space on either side, we make through without a scratch. Relief comes to us as we see us through and the completely open road ahead. But the stranded truck line on opposite side is seemingly queued upto a km atleast and those souls didn’t even know what they have got into. I take it slowly initially as we are observing and a guy in an Innova asks what the problem is. We tell them the situation and tell them to turn back if not necessary and go through the city instead and later as I see in RVM, some of them start to follow suit. Hope it helped them as the truck seemed to be lodged for long time to come with no support having come through yet.

We carry on now uninterrupted though the road is equally good as it was until now except for no traffic which was held for us by the stranded truck.

We hit Udaipur bypass end and find ourselves on the outskirts at a chhotisi chai tapari soon for a tea and snacks break. The tapari does best what it can and serves us much needed tea break

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Finally, we land at Hotel Nandan Palace, Chittorgarh, near station at 7:52 PM and settle down into a nice cozy room with 2 double beds for Rs 2200. We are hungry now and the tour manager duly places the order for the night at the hotel’s restaurant.

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The food is nice and serves the purpose and we retire peacefully for the night chilling after the drive while watching MI finally winning over CSK in the IPL 2013, which was the only match I remember having watched in that duration.

The day’s drive unlike planned turned out to be, about 866

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and the log came to

Driving on the edge - Our Ladakh Drive of June 2013-ladakh-drive-log_page_1.jpg

Now, I do not know how long I am going to be able to produce logs as somethings got jumbled and forgotten in the later drives due to ofcourse the driving frenzy. But I will try put it as far as I can.

BTW, I had got the blinds installed on windows for Rs 3600 from Mulund East accessories market and they proved pretty useful in the first leg itself

Driving on the edge - Our Ladakh Drive of June 2013-p1160258.jpg

Last edited by parsh : 23rd July 2013 at 00:09.
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Old 23rd July 2013, 23:29   #11
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Default Re: Driving on the edge - Our Ladakh Drive of June 2013

Day 2: Mon, 27 May 2013 – Chittorgarh - Noida

When I started from Mumbai, the GPS of my E72 had already started giving trouble and was not catching up and so I gave up on it thinking, anyway I do not need it on this straight road. We were absolutely without any map books and active GPS devices for once and only had the route plan printed with us, and I thought forget the maps we will see what happens. Rightly so, I had forgotten completely about maps and GPS during drive on the Day 1. Day 2 seemed pretty straight too but later proved a little tricky and interesting, for us atleast, as we drove on and went circling around some places due to lack of clear guidance and maps.

Today’s targeted drive is easy Noida with eagerly awaited Yamuna Expressway drive taking a diversion to NH11 from Jaipur instead of taking NH8, about 682 kms as per gmap

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Quite a few interesting things turn up on this drive too as we continue with a leisurely start from Chittorgarh at 7:31 AM.

I might as well try putting down observations about things that came up. Atleast until the later Ladakh scenery leaves me without words and the pictures themselves talk of the places. The Zanskar experience coming up later zipped our lips and I mean about the experience of the beauty out there. Not to confuse with the experience in the first chapter except for the pictures, which was to showcase purely the firsthand experience of what can actually happen up there unpredictably and not from the perspective of being afraid or deter anyone.

I am sure quite a few would expect Ladakh pictures to start showing sooner, but they will have to wait in order for their turn. Presently, I would rather try to do justice to what transpired in the entire travel than just focus on Ladakh. Tanveer, ADC, Laluks pictures have already enticed many and already show the quintessential portrait of the beauty out there and more will keep on pouring in always as we are also seeing AKP, RahulK’s travelogues too going on in the same season.

In fact these initial chapters seem to have been pretty easy to compile still being busy in work, while I sort the pictures of later chapters and formulate their contents, which is proving more difficult task.

Coming back to the present, we set out from Chittorgarh for Noida for a detour via YE and had hit the Kishengarh-Jaipur Expressway presently.

The tour manager wants to try hand at the drive having got bored of the masti

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While another fill goes into her for the day’s drive ahead

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We underpass middle of Jaipur

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Get dead-ended within Jaipur as we circle around with some loss of direction there (which is actually a T-junction)

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Some Consatruction company in front of the heavily chipped mountain that dead-ended ahead, these and alike must be the guys responsible for that chipped mountain

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Back on the busy road in Jaipur bypassing Birla Temple

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While some Jaipur life bypasses us

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Observed some of these as we are circling around in Jaipur, which is where I feel the pinch of map/GPS for the first time and which also dearly costs quite some time of the day’s drive. Bro gives a call asking where and why we are circling and dictates us direction based upon our said location at a square, and guides to proper route and also identifies places coming up soon to stop for lunch, all on phone, no map/GPS. Famished, we drive into Central Mall for lunch, which we find en-route and later proceed towards the Agra Expressway having got correct coordinates now and hang of the route to take.

And come upon this marvelous Agra road and tunnel. We do not zoom through but take it bit slowly to admire it. There is no way to stop on this stretch too for this sightseeing

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But soon natural speed breakers of Indian Highways halt our drive too

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What better to control your speed than the usual suspects of the Indian Highways

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Drive onwards turns out pretty much mundane on NH11 and we continue until reaching Sewar phata. With a small board proclaiming Sewar, I see a small rough road going inside. I take that one to a little distance just to see what and how it is, hoping I will just turn around to the NH again. The locals tell it as a short route towards Bharatpur and continue on it onwards instead of turning around which turns out to be a decent road and short drive but through a little congested market. Little did I know there is a proper junction ahead on the NH only, which I realized when looked at the maps later on. Soon we touch the Bharatpur-Mathura road bypassing most of Bharatpur through Circular Road. This is the second time the lack of map/GPS pinched, but not a big deal in this particular case.

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Next we drive upon a flyover which is a T bridge junction at Mathura and is totally at chaos of both public and vehicles, buses stopped as if a bus stop on the bridge, a few tapari shops on side right on bridge while the other vehicle traffic is also moving on and people and motorcycles criss-crossing at will. There is literally dead end with no-go to right which is supposedly where the direction towards Bharatpur-Mathura road is, but is barred with barricades installed on road. This is the third time the map/GPS could have shown me the route properly to the point without having to spend undue time asking.

We make an enquiry for Noida and Yamuna Expressway, silly us we should have asked Mathura Hathras road for better. The wise men with bikes parked on the side think why the hell are we asking for a farther and costlier route when there is a shorter and cheaper one NH2 running about right over there and specifically tell me it is so much more kms and to take the NH2 that is going straight on the left. They literally tell me all this in their words, except for ‘hell’ ofcourse, but their way of looking at us and telling shows it, but more interesting is their tone and language, mind well nothing wrong in that. Wow, I think to myself, wise guys these are, I am taking a 100 kms detour just for YE and they are telling me to take the NH2 here. I thank them and tell specifically I only want to go via YE and then they spill the beans. With no right turn here, I have to take the rightful left on the flyover I have landed on and find an immediate U-turn about 1 km after the flyover ends, take it and come back the same flyover, take the left after the flyover ends, with big Hotel Govardhan Palace at the corner, take that road straight and then just ask anybody afterwards.

We take the U-turn which is actually less than half a km and find the junction and the hotel and take the road left which is the continuation of Bharatpur-Mathura road. From there on, there are pretty good signs on the road indicating precise turns for going towards YE joining into Mathura-Hathras road which exits Mathura. While there are good indicator boards for YE on this route, there are a couple of corners on which the boards for YE direction at the side of the road can be missed, so one needs to watch out for them.

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We soon find ourselves far-off on the outskirts with the entry to YE in most probability coming soon. That calls for the evening’s tea and snacks break.

The tour manager is waiting for his order eagerly, infuriated not being served soon

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The Yamuna Expressway entry follows soon after the tea break and what an awesome drive it turns out to be, one has to experience it atleast once surely

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The smog has literally mellowed down the scorching Sun into Moon

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While the YE drive is fantastic, and I mean in all respects, not only the road but the support and facilities also where we see quite a few marshalling Innovas doing up and down too, equal responsibility lays on the users to use this road well. Particularly, if one sees the kind of smog that is created, it even blinds road after about a quarter of a km. There was also a sand storm on some stretch completely blinding and we had to slow down dramatically. We couldn’t even click any proper snaps of the sandstorm as nothing would come up unlike the smoggy stretches. The onus absolutely lies on the drivers to watch out for any such hazardous situations. Also, I saw very bad sense from few who just zipped by criss-crossing through the traffic without any signaling though traffic was not dense. Oh, I would rather not be a saint and don’t want to say that I did not reap it to my heart’s content and I rather not talk here about the digits I did there, but it was only for a part of the stretch that had rarest of traffic. There are also speed guns and cameras installed on the high posts inconspicuously (atleast until you know), so atleast from that perspective one has to be careful always, not knowing if and when they would come on the way. For regulars, it must have become a common knowledge and habit now to control their driving at certain places. But, let me not blabber gyan of rules and regulations on this travelogue.

The drive soon ends in the Greater Noida Expressway landing us back into city life’s reality, traffic jams, and rightly so it being a working day with the office closing times already passed, and have to negotiate major traffic block at the Great India Place and a slow progress onwards to home and finally landing at 8:13 PM.

The log of the drive comes to

Driving on the edge - Our Ladakh Drive of June 2013-0-fw2-chittorgarh-noida-682-route-log.jpg

Last edited by parsh : 23rd July 2013 at 23:35.
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Old 24th July 2013, 21:25   #12
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Day 1: Sat, 1 June 2013 - Noida - Katra

Day 1? Well, I have to reset the day count now as the Ladakh drive begins today, even if still not straight-away into Ladakh though.

For the last 4 days we have been chilling out in Noida since we arrived while some schooling days were yet to end here and some office work to wind up. Meantime, another round of stock keeping, some last minute purchases for the travel including clothes, goggles, medicines, food items (noodles, pastas, MTR packs etc), repacking etc goes on to get ready for the drive.

Today’s drive is an easy drive to Katra via NH1, about 663 kms as per gmap

Driving on the edge - Our Ladakh Drive of June 2013-1-noida-katra-663-route.jpg

The drive turns out pretty mundane on NH1 with a near flawless road but slowing at times due to traffic and sometimes trucks as usual and some flyovers under construction. Still a few memories remain of the drive which makes this the easiest compilation of the log.

We are ready decently in time and start off from parking at 6:40 AM.

All packed again and now 3rd row stuffed with some things that added on, including food cartons, utensils, a blanket and bed sheets, and warm clothes specifically taken out of luggage and kept out in open to be useful if and when needed, still leaving decent space for stuffing a lot more if needed

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Fill goes into both the cars followed by air pressure check and I observe something in the ORVM, bro is taking a deep look at the RHS front tyre

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Wow, we just say a good thing that came up now than later on the way, this must have happened by just yesterday night and come to light now while topping up air, but gets mended easily and quickly too

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The nearly straight NH1 drive is pretty boring as such, with some traffic jams and negotiating at under construction flyovers providing some entertainment

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Lunch at a Sagar Inn after Phagwara and now it is the tea break in the evening. Just like this Sonia Vaishno Dhaba, it seems like dhabas and hotels en-route all along have patented inclusion of "Vaishno" in their names

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Lakhanpur check post and toll comes up pretty soon after

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The Sun shows it is his time of the day with Katra just around the corner

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We land at Katra and speculate if we should just climb up now or in the morning. Some time is lost in the speculations while we also search for accommodation. We finally decide to stay the night in Katra only, as also we are hungry and find the accommodation in JKTDC Hotel near Counter Number 2. It is just ok with all necessary facilities, situated in a corner congested by the private bus stand around and it is quite a task to drive around that place at that late evening hour with many buses parked haphazardly without care. The dinner is limited choice and is ok to fulfill ourselves.

We rest for the night thinking of going up to Reasi earliest in the morning about 6 AM. That is in the hope to lessen hot day time while going up atleast as it will be 13 up and 13 down kms trek. Also there is a thought probably pushing out to Patnitop afterwards depending upon how we fare in the trek.

The log of the drive came to

Driving on the edge - Our Ladakh Drive of June 2013-1-noida-katra-663-route-log.jpg
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Old 25th July 2013, 08:58   #13
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Lovely travelogue, like the way you have composed it and loads of information.
Its a very brave call to take your little prince up there, hats off.
Waiting for more.
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Old 28th July 2013, 10:52   #14
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Nice trip report there, I will do a couple of more iteration to read through. With so many pictures loading, the page just keeps scrolling so I keep missing some detail here and there...

So you did the trip with your 70 years old father and 1.5 year old son! Lovely.
3 generations in 1 Innova in Ladakh - priceless .
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Old 28th July 2013, 11:10   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by himadrimondal View Post
Lovely travelogue, like the way you have composed it and loads of information.
Its a very brave call to take your little prince up there, hats off.
Waiting for more.
Thanks Himadri for your good words.

Quote:
Originally Posted by anandpadhye View Post
Nice trip report there, I will do a couple of more iteration to read through. With so many pictures loading, the page just keeps scrolling so I keep missing some detail here and there...

So you did the trip with your 70 years old father and 1.5 year old son! Lovely.
3 generations in 1 Innova in Ladakh - priceless .
Thanks Anand. You said it man

Yours is also coming up superbly, just read it in the morning. Good to see you made the Ahir Dham visit, and I am glad that I am going to get glimpse of it through your travelogue until I do it next myself.
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