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Old 13th September 2013, 18:38   #1
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Thumbs up The XUV Face-off: Chennai to Leh Ladakh! Turtuk, Pangong Tso, Hanle and Tso Moriri

It was sometime in 2011 when myself and few of my friends were in Kodaikanal and an ambitious plan to visit Leh-Ladakh in our beloved cars from Chennai was seeded. Initially it sounded like a crazy plan because of the distance involved; travelling from down south - TamilNadu to the northern most tip of India seemed rather too optimistic. But, in my mind, the words Leh-Ladakh were constantly lingering and even deprived me of sleep for a few days. On that week end, I had a casual chat with my wife on this trip and the excitement spread like a virus from me to my better half. She was also very interested, but the question was- How do we do this in a Linea T-Jet considering the fact petrol prices increase every night!

Days and months passed, and when it was June 2012, a new member came to my family and it was the XUV which will be henceforth called “The HAWK”. The thought of travelling across the length of the country was continuously going on in my mind and with the Hawk it looked like a possibility. By then, I knew the terrain was bad and tough, and at a high-level, felt, the Hawk can do it since it is an SUV (atleast it was called that way!!). With the vehicle finalized, the discussions started at the office for a three week vacation and it was agreed finally.

When all of this was falling in place, I had one year of time left for planning, finalizing the dates, routes etc., Being a S/W project manager by profession, the concept of project planning, strategizing and execution was applied even in this case and truly it helped (crazy isn’t??). I created a quick and dirty excel sheet with the list of items to be planned for this trip. By then, got the acquaintance of Mr.HVK, the human Indian GPS, and resonated my thoughts of going to Leh from Chennai by road. HVK quickly acknowledged the trip and gave some tit-bits which helped the planning phase.

Every day, I used to spend atleast an hr or so on the right season to visit Leh given the fact I have to cross multiple states across the country; monsoons in Mumbai, Dry weather in Rajasthan, Rains in J & K, winter in Leh and so on. The time was tentatively finalized as August or early September. Read about Zojila and Rohtang La and just reading about them gave so much high. The more and more I read, I understood the toughness of the terrain and the possibility of my Hawk getting stuck in slush and mud in a no mans’ land gave jitters down the spine. But the impending challenge excited me even more and kindled the fire in me to do this trip at any cost.

With numerous versions and iterations of the itinerary excel sheet, the dates were finalized as 21st August till 13th September, 2013. I socialized the plan with HVK to find that the plan was too relaxed; but in my mind, I wanted to remember every km of this trip and wanted it to be slightly relaxed. I was not too keen in driving more than 12 hrs a day (maximum cut off being 15hrs).

A special thanks to HVK sir and his team (Gautam Basak) who helped us every minute and who were travelling virtually with us every moment. Without HVK’s help, this trip would have been only a dream for us. No words from my side are enough, to show the gratitude that I owe you sir. Hats off to you!! You are truly an asset to the Indian Travel community.

With all this happening, the question of what I must be doing in Leh also was going on. Initially self and my wife decided to do the ordinary – Nubra, Pangong and Tso Moriri. Then after reading Tanveer’s thread, decided to add a few more circuits where only crazy travelers venture out – Turtuk, Chushul and Tsaga La route to Hanle.

Thanks a ton Tanveer – Your thread is just mind blowing and an eye opener. I felt like I was in Leh when I read your thread.

With all this happening at the back ground, the places were finalized – Ascent via Srinagar; visit Leh, Turtuk, Pangong, Hanle (specifically via the Chushul and Tsaga La) and Tso Moriri; Descent via Manali. Now, my wife wanted to see the Taj Mahal and the route plan was slightly modified to accommodate Agra.

Was convinced with the plan and the level of information that aided in the decision making process. I was Ok to take risks but with sufficient information and data. So by April, 13, the routes were finalized, and a check list was prepared on what are the things that I must buy for the car, and our 20 day nomadic living. But there was one problem, the question as to whether to take my daughter along or not, was continuously debated and finally the plan to take her along with us was turned down due to high altitude (stay at Pangong, Hanle and Moriri back to back) and because of the weather predictions stating that the temperatures will dip sub-zero by Sep 1st week.

Numerous shopping visits were done and all the necessary items were purchased. When all of this were completed, it was just a month away to the actual trip and the count down began. Every minute was like an hr and every day was like a year until it was August 21st – felt like I am going to achieve something in life, being passionate about driving, like all other BHP-ians.

The day came – August 21st evening when the first leg of our nomadic travel to Leh-Ladakh began. It was me, my better half and the Hawk waiting to explore.

Day 1: 21-08-2013: Chennai to Tumkur:

With a heavy heart to leave my young daughter behind (she is 5yrs now), the trip started by 5PM. There was a clear silence for the first 30 mins. of travel with myself and my wife thinking about the next 10000kms and the need to complete this trip without a hitch. I could hear my elevated heart beat – but not “lup-tup” this time – it was beating “Leh – Ladakh”!!

Soon we were on the Bangalore highway and by 10PM we were in Bangalore. No issues with the route, but there was sporadic but heavy rainfall enroute. I was thinking, did I plan this trip early – should I have started by September, so that I could have avoided heavy rains?? For some reason, there was too much silence, between myself and my wife; the thought of whether we are doing a crazy thing in life must have been going strong in our minds.

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By 11.30PM we were in Tumkur; checked in to hotel and had a very disturbed sleep – may be the excitement about the rest of the 9500kms were running too strong. Slept for about 4-5 hrs before I could feel the sun strong through the windows. It was time to head towards Mumbai.

Day 2: 22-08-2013: Tumkur to Mumbai (Thane):

Felt better in the morning after a shower and started the Hawk. The roads were empty and my speedo was reading 120km/hr constantly. After a few hundred kms, when we were heading towards Hubli, the rain God was too happy I guess, it started pouring like no-mans’ business. Visibility went down to near zero and slowed us drastically and I became very jittery because we were losing time. But my wife slowly said – “Don’t get upset because of the rains.. Let us enjoy it and face whatever comes by the way.. After all we have chosen to do this and we will stand all odds that we might encounter”. The words were soothing and the rains that were seen as a nuisance to the trip changed to something enjoyable. We were slow, enjoying the monsoon and had multiple pit stops for photography since the weather, the greens around were just great. By 6PM we were in Pune. At about 8PM we exited the Mumbai – Pune expressway to head towards Mumbai. Now the nighmare started – the deadly Mumbai traffic.

The traffic was insane, and it took solid 3 hrs to cross the traffic and head towards the hotel where we were booked (in Thane). Had the pleasure of sharing the dinner with HVK sir and went to bed by 12.30AM. Had a peaceful sleep, may be because we were too tired and it was 8am when we woke up on 23rd August to continue our journey towards Rajasthan.

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Day 3: 23-08-2013: Mumbai to Chittorgarh:

Got up at 8AM, had superb Poha as breakfast and started the Journey towards Rajasthan. It was bright and sunny throughout the day. We crossed Ankleshwar by 1PM and exited the Vadodara – Ahmedabad expressway by 4PM. This included a lunch break of 45 mins. and multiple pit stops for photography sessions. We crossed Himmatnagar and then proceeded towards Udaipur. By about 6PM the rains started again and went on and on until about 10PM. By then, I have got used to the rains and took it with ease.

Reached Udaipur bypass by 8PM and proceeded towards Chittorgarh and reached there by 10PM. Checked-in to the hotel and rushed for dinner. Had Dal, Spicy Bhindi, curd and pappads.. Yummy, the food was. Crashed by 11.30PM.

By now, without us realizing, we were consistently hitting the threshold of 11PM every day and 13-15 hrs of driving daily. But the good part was, we were ok and not too tired. But, fatigue was definitely there.

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Day 4: 24-08-2013: Chittorgarh to Abohar (Punjab):

We got up by 8am, had our breakfast in the hotel where we stayed. Meanwhile, the Hawk was too dirty and badly needed a shower. Spoke to a few folks in the hotel to give my Hawk a clean wash and paid them Rs.100 each. By 9.30am we were out in the Rajasthan Highway. One word to explain the highway – Awesome. Was doing some good triple digit speeds (cruising). There was sporadic rainfall here and there. This time, the rains were seen like a routine. Looked like, we would have been upset, if there were no rains. One thing that took me by surprise was, Rajasthan was too green than what I had thought. It was just too good and scenic.

By 1PM, we were at the Bathinda highway proceeding towards Kishangarh. By 6PM, I was in Hanumangarh. The actual plan was to halt at Hanumangarh, but both of us felt that we can drive for another 2hrs atleast. So we decided to proceed towards Punjab and stay at Abohar, very close to the Rajasthan – Punjab state borders. We reached Abohar by 8PM, checked in to the hotel, had dinner and went to bed by 10PM. The best part was, for the first time in the last 4 days, we slept early by our standards.

One thing that scared us enroute was – while we were in the Rajasthan highway, unknowingly I crash landed the Hawk in a moon crater that came from no-where in the highway. The vehicle created a huge thud noise; with a bated breath stopped the vehicle, inspected the wheel (front right) which crashed into the pothole and did not find anything alarming. The moment, the Hawk crash landed into that pothole, the only thing that came into the mind was the remaining 7000kms to be completed. However, luck favored us and we proceeded further without any issues.

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Day 5: 25-08-2013: Abohar – Amritsar – Jammu:

It was 6AM in the morning and the alarm in my phone woke me up and hurray – it was my Birthday and I was turning thirty. The plan was to visit the holy Golden Temple at Amritsar and then proceed towards Pathankot for a night halt.

Started from Abohar by 7.30AM in the morning and it was a peaceful drive to Amritsar. Punjab was awesome with greens everywhere. What an experience it was. By noon, we were in Amritsar and visited the Golden temple. After the visit, called one of the friends of HVK sir – COLONEL ZAHL TANTRA from Indian army and got an update that the Amritsar – Pathankot road was almost non-existent. So, there was a change in plan to go through Jalandhar through the HN1 (Grand Trunk Highway) and then proceed towards Pathankot. This route was chosen even though we had to travel 80kms more. But thanks to Zahl sir, the roads were good and in no time we were in Jalandhar and then progressed towards Pathankot. Met Zahl sir at Pathankot and spent some time discussing about Leh. It was a great experience to be inside an Army regiment speaking to a dignified officer. From Pathankot, we proceeded towards Jammu since it was only 5PM and we were good for another atleast 3 hrs of drive. But HVK suggested to stay put at Jammu since the next town after Jammu (Udampur) would take atleast 3 hrs to reach from Jammu. So we halted at Jammu and it was actually the right decision.

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Day 6: 26-08-2013: Jammu – Srinagar:

We woke up early and the tiredness faded away after we started the drive through the curvy mountains and here begins the Ghats. We were told that after Jammu, it is ghats, ghats and ghats until we hit Chandigarh in our return journey.

We were in Udampur by 9AM, and by 11AM at Ramban and by 4PM at Srinagar. I got very excited to drive in Ghats and maintained some good speeds enroute. There were thousands of army trucks that were plying in that route and the right of way is for them. But, did not feel the pinch of slowing down because of traffic.

At Srinagar, checked it at the House Boat at the Nageen / Dal Lake and took a Shikara ride for 1hr 30 mins. in the beautiful lake. Was mesmerized by the beauty of the Dal lake and truly the place deserves to be called a paradise on earth. Missed my daughter very much, when we were doing the Shikara ride. Took a lot of photographs and the day ended very well with a good sleep in the house boat.

Next day, the Hawk will face-off with the Mighty Zojila and my heart was beating high after having read a lot of stories about the deadly Zojila.

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Old 13th September 2013, 18:55   #2
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Default Re: The XUV Face-off: Chennai to Leh-Ladakh: Turtuk, Pangong Tso, Hanle and Tso Morir

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Day 7: 27-08-2013: Srinagar – Kargil:

Beauty.. Beauty and Beauty everywhere from now on. Did not know what to click in my camera and what not. The drive till Sonamarg was great with good tar road and then the Zojila ascent started. The terrain changed, the tar disappeared and it was gravel, stones and kacha road through the ascent and descent of the Zojila pass.

The week before I had hit zojila, it has rained so heavily and with the trucks plying left, right and center, the roads have become very uneven. Even though the Zojila was dry, it was difficult to drive through the narrow steep ascents and the worst part was the inability to drive through the center of the road because of the un-even roads. What the trucks have left behind is a huge mound at the center of the road and two tracks on either side. When the Hawk tried to have its tires on either side of the mound, the underbody scrapped like no-bodys’ business. It was almost impossible to drive like that. So the only option was to put one of the tires on the center heap and one tire on the cliff, and drive that way for about 10-15kms and it was a scary experience. One mistake and we will have a freefall for a km or so. My wife screamed many times when my tires were on the edge of the cliff causing some dirt and stones to roll down the mountain.

Finally, we crossed Zojila after some careful driving. We came to Drass and the Kargil War memorial. What an experience it was to witness the valor and courage exhibited by our army in the Kargil war. Had goose-bumps to see our flag hoisted high. Felt like I was in a temple and had tears in my eyes when I read “Beneath this earth, sleep the young warriors”, “For your tomorrow, we gave our today”. Took time to come over that feeling and I salute our Army and the Nation – Jai Hind.

Post Drass (Second coldest place on earth – where temperature dips to -60C during winter), we were comfortably at Kargil by 4 PM and the rest of the day, we relaxed. The feeling of Drass and the sacrifice our Army has done will be something that MYSELF AND MY WIFE WILL REMEMBER FOR OUR LIFETIME.

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Day 8: 28-08-2013: Kargil - Leh:

Again, beautiful is the only word. In about three hrs, we were at Lamayuru, we had our lunch at Lamayuru and visited the Lamayuru Gompa. We saw the Lamayuru moonlands and proceeded towards Leh.

We reached Leh comfortably by 4PM and the roads were just awesome. Hats off to BRO for such beautiful tarmac from Lamayuru till Leh. The best part was traffic was very sparse and most of the time it was me, my wife and the Hawk travelling with nature, alone. It was nothing short of being “out of theworld”. At Nameeka La I felt a little dizzy and breathless due to high altitudes but the body coped up after some time. We crossed Fotu La at 13500ft to reach Leh finally. The moment our car entered Leh – What a feeling it was – when we turn back and look at the 4500kms long journey from Chennai. We were emotional and over-joyed but realized only 1/3 of the journey has been done and we still have a long way to go.

In Leh, took the Hawk for a car wash and it was all spanking new. It was a peaceful night and two days of rest at Leh with some local sight-seeing only. We wanted to take it easy on our health and give enough time to acclimatize.

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Day 9/10: 29-08-2013 and 30-08-2013: Leh:

First, we obtained permits from the DC office for our internal Leh circuits. Post permits, we did Hemis monastery on 29th, Leh Palace and Shanthi Stupa on 30th. Both were very light days with lots and lots of rest. We took time to digest the beauty of the place and the fact that we were at a place which we have been dreaming for close to 2 yrs now.

Also, one of my office friends – Kannan Srinivasan joined by air at Leh directly. The plan was to have him in my Hawk during the internal circuits and then drop him back at Delhi airport during our return journey. From 31st August, the internal Leh circuits bagan with the first day hitting the Highest Motorable road in the world (atleast on paper) – The Khardung La.

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Day 11/12: 31-08-2013 and 1-09-2013: Leh – Turtuk - Leh (Via Khardhung La):

Got up by 5am in the morning and started our journey towards the last – northern most village of India before Pakistan – TURTUK. This was previously known as Balchistan and this village was a part of Pakistan before the 1972 Indo-Pak war. Another point to note was, this village was opened for tourism from 2010 onwards and only a handful visit this place.

As per lonely planet, Turtuk is one of the “SEVEN PLACES ON PLANET EARTH THAT ONE MUST VISIT BEFORE HE/SHE DIES” and the village stands true to that statement. What a beautiful village it was.

The journey began at 6am with the first milestone – The K TOP at 18000 ft. Did Khardung La with some difficulty. The ascent and descent were steep with no roads for almost 20kms. More importantly the roads were too rocky with some water crossings here and there. The Hawk scrapped its belly a few times but nothing alarming. What is more important is the way, the terrain changes.

First was Snow covered peaks before Khardungla, then it was rocks, rocks and rocks everywhere until we reached Khardung La, then the high altitude desert with sand dunes until horizon at Hunder followed by greens, greens and greens everywhere at Turtuk. One must be there to realize how the terrain changes and we were simply speechless. We were in a state of shock with emotional tears in our eyes.

By 5PM we were at Turtuk at a Holiday camping site and it was just beautiful. We went for an evening walk for a few kms and also to the actual LAC – just 5kms before Pakistan.

During the evening walk, we discovered a hidden jewel, a small village which looks like a beehive – so cohesively knitted and a community of people who are so friendly and self contained by all means. That evening which we spent in TURTUK is by far the best evening I had spent in my lifetime. Next day, it was the return journey to Leh with another run to conquer Khardung LA (K TOP) again.

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Old 13th September 2013, 19:09   #3
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Default Re: The XUV Face-off: Chennai to Leh-Ladakh: Turtuk, Pangong Tso, Hanle and Tso Morir

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Day 13: 02-09-2013: Leh – Pangong TSO (Via Chang La):

It was again an early start where we began our journey to visit the world famous Lake Pangong that is 140kms long and massive. Portions of the lake are in India with a fair amount of the lake extending into China.
The drive through Chang La was tough because of the loose rocks all over the roads and some deep water crossings which had good currents. By 11AM we crossed Chang La with the Hawk taking some beatings but managing them quite well. Chang La is at 17500 ft above the sea level.

We had stocked 40L of Diesel since we have to do some 800kms before we could see another fuel pump or for that fact some form of human habitation. To our bad luck, the diesel started leaking because of pressure differences and we had to work hard to tightly seal the Diesel can caps. We tried to seal it with rubber Balloons and viola, it worked. We reached Pangong by 2PM and what a gorgeous site to see the mighty and massive Pangong Lake. We were overjoyed and had some fun without realizing whats’ in store for us that night.

Took a lot of photographs and exerted us through the evening. As night started to set in, it started to become cold and the high altitude had already started to hit us badly. Both myself and my wife were gasping for breath and the night was close to being miserable. We had to take a stroll during the night in that cold weather to get some air / oxygen. We decided to open the windows even though it was spine chilling cold outside. We did not sleep well and it was horrible to be in that altitude actually. But the evening fun compensated for the nights misery. We were counting minutes before the sun could rise so that we can proceed further.

I was thinking about the next two days where we will be staying at even higher altitudes than Pangong. But again, we wanted to take it as it comes and not worry too much.

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Day 14: 03-09-2013: Pangong TSO - Hanle (Via Chushul and Tsaga LA):

This was the day we have been waiting for since we read that we will be travelling along the banks of the Pangong Lake for around 40kms and it was nothing short of “unexplainable” beauty. But, mountains and nature had different plans for us.

We headed out of Pangong by 6AM and a few kms at the banks of the Pangong lake, there were no tracks or tyre marks.. All we could see was Pangong Lake that has eaten into the roads / tracks that we were supposed to take. We turn back to see no living soul until we could see and to our left-hand side is our neighboring country. Fear started to creep in and we were thinking, should us re-tract. But something within us was urging to go and not to step back even if it means trouble and more trouble. We decided to figure out our own routes and started driving or rather sailing through the water crossings of the mighty Pangong. It was ONE OF THE SCARIEST EXPERIENCES in my life to travel near the border in a route that changes its form and shape minute after minute. There were rocks, pebbles, loose sand and water. And more importantly not a single human being till our eyes could see. With so much fear, we crossed Chushul and at one point my vehicle bogged down in loose sand / a water crossing.

We thought, it is the final nail in the coffin and our faces turned pale and the fear increased as we see around - mountains, mountains and mountains surrounding us. And on one side, we knew that our neighboring country will be watching us. We almost thought we are dead and started to think about our families at this point. I got down from the car, reversed it with much difficulty and tried again and the worst happened again. The Hawk went down the loose sand further deep. Me and wife were panicking. Again I took some courage, got down, carefully studied the area where my Hawk was stuck, reversed it and floored the throttle. The vehicle took some serious hits, but managed to limp through the water crossing and what a sigh of relief. We were out of that deadly trench/water crossing.

We crossed Rezang La war memorial, but was not in a mood to stop or take pictures since the feeling of fear overtook everything else. From that point there was no stopping, I was on a “pedal to metal” drive with my Hawk flying (literally) and skidding in the loose sand and traveling in all directions. We went mad and were just running for safety literally. I was maintaining 100-120 in those pebble / rock / sandy tracks and for some-one who would have watched us from a chopper, it would be like a Car flying through the barren mountains, “MI” style.

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At many points we had to remember, “DO NOT TAKE THE TRACKS TO OUR LEFT and WE WILL BE IN OUR NEIGHBORING COUNTRY WITHIN A FEW KMS”

God knows how we reached Tsaka and Loma. It was the most deadly drive and God saved us from being stuck without help, food and basic needs in that no mans’ land. If there is a time machine, I would have gone back and taken the alternate route to Hanle. But now, it’s a thing of the past and I do not know whether it was courage or insane stupidity to have done that route. Some-how we managed to cross it and reach Hanle by 4PM. Hanle is a village where there is World’s second highest observatory and a village where no photography is allowed because of the political sensitiveness.

There was only one home stay and the village itself had only a few houses here and there. We checked in and took some rest.

We went to the observatory in the evening and the place was freaking cold. The guys over there explained about the telescope very enthusiastically and we learnt quite a few things. We came back and crashed in that cold remote place where the temperature would have been sub-zero easily. Next day morning woke up by 7AM and started our journey towards TSO MORIRI.

Day 15: 04-09-2013: Hanle – TSO Moriri:

Started early in the morning and nothing major other than the last 20kms of dirt tracks from Kiagar TSO to TSO Moriri. Had some serious fun driving fast in those dirt tracks and drifting there, is serious fun. Reached TSO Moriri by noon itself.

One of the coldest nights I have spent in my life with the recorded temperature as low as -5C that day. We were at a tent without electricity and struggling to cope up with the biting cold. Was very difficult to take that chillness without a heater. Some how managed to stay there at that temperature, but the beauty of the lake surpassed all odds we crossed. We spent some quality time there even though it was biting cold and the day passed where we started to think about our descent finally.

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Day 16: 05-09-2013: TSO Moriri – Key Long (Via Polokong La and TSO Kar):

Again a route less travelled and less preferred, about 100+kms of no road with dirt tracks all over and very steep inclines. At one point, my Hawk lost traction and went over a rock and landed with a big thud. Got down and inspected the left front wheel and to our luck nothing bad was visible. Crossed Polokong La with some difficulty and then came to TSO Kar, the little jewel. Spent some time there, before we proceeded towards Debring, Sarchu, Jispa and Keylong.

The journey was nothing less than being a VERY TIRESOME drive for close to 14hrs completely in Ghats. Extremely bad sections with my Hawk taking bad underbelly hits every now and then. My shoulders pained and after some effort we were finally at Key Long.

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Day 17: 06-09-2013: Key Long - Manali (Via Rohtang La):

We started by 7am from Keylong and thought it was going to be a very peaceful drive with only 110kms to Manali. But rains played spoil sport. While we were heading towards Rohtang La, we were in for a rude shock. Slush and mud that was atleast 2 feet deep. Every other vehicle including the local taxis were struggling to cross those sections.

But to our luck we saw three Indian Oil tankers behind my Hawk and a plan was strategized. The plan was to leave two Indian Oil tankers ahead of my Hawk while I get sandwiched between the second and the third tanker. This actually helped us in two folds. The first two tankers ironed out the roads for us aiding in some traction and the third tanker behind us ensured we gained enough respect from the local taxis; they waited until the 3rd tanker passed and in that process we also cleared the incoming traffic!

However, in all this my Hawk took ample underbody hits, pretty bad ones in some stretches. But luckily we crossed the sections without a break down.
After these bad sections, I lost patience and stepped on the pedal (a little rash). An incoming lorry banged at the rear part of my Hawk and dislodged my car. I believe my car moved a few inches off the road due to the impact. I got down in despair thinking that I have lost the complete rear of my Hawk. To my surprise, only the rear mud flaps were broken and the tires have taken the brunt. Thanked God and the lesson learnt was, never lose patience in the mountains and this could prove to be a costly affair.

After all this drama, we reached Manali by 2PM and stayed at Club Mahindra, Manali. Got some good rest and mean while I enquired about the nearest Mahindra Service Station and found out that it is in Mandi – 110kms away from Manali. The day passed and I had some good sleep and rest. In the morning, we were all set to hit Chandigarh from Manali. Also, the plan was to have a quick check of the Hawk at Mandi Mahindra Service Station.

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Day 18: 07-09-2013: Manali – Delhi (Via Chandigarh):

The next day started late for us and we left Manali by 9AM. It was hills, hills and hills all along for us until about 3PM. Amidst this, we took a 1hr pit stop at Mandi to do a general check up of the vehicle and in the process also changed the broken mud flaps. I also noticed less air pressure at the rear left tire and took it to the nearest puncture shop to find out a nail in the tire. Good that I noticed it; had the puncture repaired and the Hawk was all set for the drive towards Chandigarh.

We reached Chandigarh by 6PM and thought we can proceed towards Delhi. We reached Delhi by 9PM but the Delhi traffic again ensured we do not get to the hotel in a sane time. We reached the hotel by 11PM after much struggle. It was a very long and tiring day. Took some rest in Delhi and got ready for the drive towards Agra the next day. At the end of this day, my friend took the return flight to Chennai from Delhi.

Day 19: 08-09-2013: Delhi – Agra – Jaipur:

We woke up at about 6AM and got ready by 7AM and then a plan came in the mind. Why don’t we visit Hotel Saravana Bhavan and have some south Indian delicacies. We did not think twice and went there and had a superb south Indian breakfast – Pongal, Vada, Ghee roast and what not..

We proceeded to Agra through the Yamuna Expressway. But the sad part was not to speed beyond 120 in the expressway. I engaged the Hawk in cruise and vividly remember that I disengaged cruise only 3-4 times; rest of the drive, the Hawk was cruising happily at 120km/hr with true speed around 114km/hr.

Reached Agra as per schedule and visited the Taj Mahal. Spent solid 3 hrs in the Taj Mahal and mesmerized by the beauty of Taj and Shahjahan’s love for Mumtaz. We started from Agra by 4PM and reached Jaipur by about 8PM. Finished our Dinner and crashed at one the Highway motels.

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Day 20: 09-09-2013: Jaipur – Valsad:

The day started early and about 7am, we left Jaipur and it was a non-stop drive towards Vapi. Just about 20kms before Vapi we stayed in a Hotel at Valsad. Enroute, we met another FIAT Linea (Biju Jose and team) which was heading towards Leh and had a quick chat with them. We reached the hotel by around 9PM and had some good rest.

Day 21: 10-09-2013: Valsad – Hosur:

We started by 6.30am in the morning fresh as a morning dew and thought of halting at Tumkur. But, was able to do good speeds even though it was raining very heavily in some sections.

Crossed Mumbai and Pune and headed straight towards Hosur.. Did 1301kms in flat 15hrs – My Fastest and longest drive ever. The Hawk behaved like a freight train pulling endlessly and we were at Hosur sharp by 9.30PM. Had some good south Indian food and crashed at Hosur.

Day 22: 11-09-2013: Hosur – Chennai:

The next day was a very emotional day when we reached our home after some 10000 odd kms. My mother and my daughter were in tears seeing us. We too were very emotional turning back and looking at the journey we made.

As I narrate this, it feels crazy and even weird to have done this trip all the way from Chennai. But as driving enthusiasts – we all truly “LIVE TO DRIVE” and we stand by it.

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I dedicate this trip to all the martyrs of the Kargil War who sacrificed their life for our country and for our well-being. Jai Hind.

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Old 13th September 2013, 19:10   #4
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Default Re: The XUV Face-off: Chennai to Leh-Ladakh: Turtuk, Pangong Tso, Hanle and Tso Morir

WOah!! Big Thanks for bringing Leh experience to my desktop and i just read in one GO!

Cheerful writing keep it coming and more photos please. Kudos to your wife for making it along with you to LEH

Congratulations on making ladakh trip happen, inspiration drawn and have already forwarded this link to my wify to draw some inspiration ! LOL

Best regards,
Deepak Shivanna
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Old 13th September 2013, 19:19   #5
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Default Re: The XUV Face-off: Chennai to Leh-Ladakh: Turtuk, Pangong Tso, Hanle and Tso Morir

Wow.. any more pics ? I was lost in staring pics of XUV500. must have been a hell of a journey. And if i am not wrong you were the solo driver !!

Not everyone gets so lucky to achieve such a feat.
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Old 13th September 2013, 19:31   #6
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Sathya- congratulations on completing the journey.
This is a very well written travelogue and amazing pics.

I agree with you about it being about the journey and the experience rather than a race to a destination.

Last edited by GTO : 14th September 2013 at 23:13. Reason: Typo
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Old 13th September 2013, 19:41   #7
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Default Re: The XUV Face-off: Chennai to Leh-Ladakh: Turtuk, Pangong Tso, Hanle and Tso Morir

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sathya_sc View Post

I dedicate this trip to all the martyrs of the Kargil War who sacrificed their life for our country and for our well-being. Jai Hind.
Thanks for such a beautiful narrative coupled with some exotic photographs, Sathya. I'm sure you must have enjoyed every km of the drive. The trip to Ladakh is my dream drive, don't know when I'll be able to make it ! Why do you call it face off ?

Could you pl give us a snapshot of the vehicle performance ? Did get some idea like underbelly rubbing and taking hits, broken mud flaps, etc. Problems faced, if any ? What FE did you get in the ghats ? What is the main reason for the fatigue / tiredness you have mentioned on most days ? (Long driving hours ?)

CONGRATS ! You will remember and cherish this trip all your life. Like I remember my Bangalore - Hasimara trip in my Indica in 2002.

Lastly, your dedication of the trip to the Army and its martyrs is commendable. Many salutes to that spirit.

Last edited by lifebuoy : 13th September 2013 at 19:42. Reason: correting spelling
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Old 13th September 2013, 19:42   #8
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Default Re: The XUV Face-off: Chennai to Leh-Ladakh: Turtuk, Pangong Tso, Hanle and Tso Morir

Great post Sathya. I read it all in one go.
Some of pics are simply amazing and I am not just talking of the scenery itself but the skilled capture that made it perfect, especially the Dal Lake pics.

Great Journey Indeed and you made it sound like it was so easy
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Old 13th September 2013, 19:56   #9
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Wow! Mind-blowing travelogue and amazing pictures, actually I am running out of superlatives to describe the thrill and joy I experienced while reading your post.

Many Thanks! You are a true inspiration!
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Old 13th September 2013, 19:59   #10
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Default Re: The XUV Face-off: Chennai to Leh-Ladakh: Turtuk, Pangong Tso, Hanle and Tso Morir

Quote:
Originally Posted by DeClutch 4X4 View Post
WOah!! Big Thanks for bringing Leh experience to my desktop and i just read in one GO!
Thanks DeClutch.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rajshenoy View Post
And if i am not wrong you were the solo driver !!
Thanks. Have taken about 16gb worth of pictures and every km after Srinagar has been recorded in a Car DVR.

and Yes, I drove every single km in this trip - Solo Driver.

Quote:
Originally Posted by arepalli99 View Post
I agree with you about it being about the journey and the experience rather than a race to a destination.
Thanks Arepalli99. Yes.. This is definitely not a race.. every km has to be enjoyed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lifebuoy View Post
Why do you call it face off ?

Could you pl give us a snapshot of the vehicle performance ? Did get some idea like underbelly rubbing and taking hits, broken mud flaps, etc. Problems faced, if any ? What FE did you get in the ghats ? What is the main reason for the fatigue / tiredness you have mentioned on most days ? (Long driving hours ?)

Lastly, your dedication of the trip to the Army and its martyrs is commendable. Many salutes to that spirit.
Yes.. Its indeed a face-off b/w the XUV and the mighty mountains! and indeed the mountains were merciful on the XUV.
XUV did not develop any issues. It did not miss even a single beat.
Avg FE was 12.4 km/lt for the round trip.
2-3 sections of the drive made me tired. They are,

1. Tumkur - Mumbai: Because of Mumbai city traffic
2. Tso Moriri - Keylong: 14hrs of ghats was a little too much for me
3. Manali - Delhi: Delhi city traffic was horrible

and rest of it was ok. and remember I was a solo driver all along (close to 10000kms).

Quote:
Originally Posted by vidyanand View Post
Great post Sathya.
Thanks Vidyanand.
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Old 13th September 2013, 20:04   #11
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Default Re: The XUV Face-off: Chennai to Leh-Ladakh: Turtuk, Pangong Tso, Hanle and Tso Morir

One more Leh travelogue... congratulations on fulfilling your dreams and undertaking such a big trip.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sathya_sc View Post
First, we obtained permits from the DC office for our internal Leh circuits.
How was the experience of procuring permits? Did you get them yourself or through an agent? And considering that others have reported this and last year that Chushul and Hanle were off-limits for civilians, what was your experience at the checkposts? Also, was there any interaction with the ITBP/Army regarding carriage of GPS units, esp. at Tso Moriri?
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Old 13th September 2013, 20:10   #12
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Default Re: The XUV Face-off: Chennai to Leh-Ladakh: Turtuk, Pangong Tso, Hanle and Tso Morir

Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
One more Leh travelogue... congratulations on fulfilling your dreams and undertaking such a big trip.

How was the experience of procuring permits? Did you get them yourself or through an agent? And considering that others have reported this and last year that Chushul and Hanle were off-limits for civilians, what was your experience at the checkposts? Also, was there any interaction with the ITBP/Army regarding carriage of GPS units, esp. at Tso Moriri?
Thanks SS-Traveller.

I went through an agent; but I also went along with him because Chushul route was denied for most of them. So I went in person in case I have make a personal request. I got it without issues.

At Hanle, Cameras were not allowed.. and no problems with GPS in TSO Moriri.

And reg. Chushul route, what I heard was, some are allowed and some are not. I am not aware of the rational though.
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Old 13th September 2013, 20:19   #13
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Wow. The most awaited travelogue is finally out. Wonderful narration coupled with beautiful photographs. I think I badly missed this trip.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sathya_sc View Post
It was sometime in 2011 when myself and few of my friends were in Kodaikanal and an ambitious plan to visit Leh-Ladakh in our beloved cars from Chennai was seeded.
Wasn't this seeded at Kothagiri at the twin tree resorts?
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Old 13th September 2013, 20:41   #14
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Default Re: The XUV Face-off: Chennai to Leh-Ladakh: Turtuk, Pangong Tso, Hanle and Tso Morir

Bad that one can't take photos at Hanle!

What FE did the Hawk return?
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Old 13th September 2013, 20:51   #15
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Default Re: The XUV Face-off: Chennai to Leh-Ladakh: Turtuk, Pangong Tso, Hanle and Tso Morir

I've just browsed through the pictures, and yet to read the write-up.
Excellent Sir, The photos are amazing and the trip should have been awesome.
We must organize a meet-up in Chennai to share your experiences personally.
Thanks for sharing.
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