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Old 23rd September 2013, 12:48   #61
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Default Day 7 - 29th Aug

DAY 7 – Solo Drives & Julley!
August 29th 8:30am
Location: Sonmarg
Destination: Leh
Route: Sonmarg – Zojila – Drass – Kargil – Mulbek – Namikla – Fotula – Khaltse – Nimmu - Leh


Woke up to another cold morning at around 7AM, tried to get some hot water going but apparently the hotel is under renovation for the next season and they have cut off the hot water supply to this section of the place. Well no worries, just complete the morning rituals and get ready to drive without a bath.

Today our destination was Kargil though some of us were saying we should go towards Leh. But before all that we had the mighty Zojila to conquer. Standing at 11200ft one could easily say that is not much of a height to climb so what’s the big thing about this pass. Well, all I can say is have a look at this picture.

Does it not remind you of the mountains from the Lord of the Rings triology
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Yeah I know it is not the height that’s a problem but the route and how intimidating the entire ambience is especially for people like us coming from the south who think climbing Ooty is the highest motorable road. For me the only concern was the under body hit if any that the car might be subjected to, but I was prepared for that. What I was not prepared for was something else, which I will be revealing sometime later.

While these thoughts were going around in my head and others were getting ready, I took the camera from Venkat and tried to capture whatever Sonmarg I saw in and around the hotel room.

That is the Hotel Snowland that we stayed in
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That is the view you get once you step out of your room
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A closer look at the meadow and the snow in the mountain
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Nice place to have your cup of tea
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Low flying clouds
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Not finding anything more interesting on the front side, I trudged to the back of the hotel. Each room has a balcony and it opens up to Nallah Sindh (The largest tributary for River Jhelum).

Some cottages very near to the river, same property
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Rolling hils
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There you can get a glimpse of the Nallah
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It was already close to 8AM when everyone was ready, after yesterday’s skipping of lunch I did not want to skip breakfast, so we all went down to the restaurant for a bite. Seeing us go inside, everyone followed suite to fill up their tummies.

What a parking lot
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Winding up breakfast for everyone it was almost 9AM when we started rolling. The initial drive up towards Zojila is on tarred roads. Checked at the police check gate about the conditions up there and got a nod that everything is cool and dry. Slowly, the climb starts, though still on completely tarred roads. There are a few anxious taxi fellows who honk their way forward, we liberally gave them way wherever it was possible. Slow but surely we gained good amount of height, you can only know you gained height when you look towards the valley.

Good roads to start with, the sign board on the right says Camping site, probably for next time
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Amazing views on our way up
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It only gets better as you progress, please excuse the dirty windshield, forgot to clean it that day.
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The impatient taxi’s doing their normal Srinagar Leh run
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Intermediate sections were broken
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Here on we start encountering Army convoy, this one was coming down Zojila
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Does it not remind you of the LOTR Tale of Two Kings
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Seeing this view makes you realize that you are gaining serious height
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After a few switchbacks we were almost on level terms with the opposite mountains and that is the when the road also started to give away. First it was solid gravel and then it slowly started to become rocky with dips at a few portions. After one switchback were reached a junction where there were two roads, one going to our left up and the road we were in going straight ahead. There were a few army jawans there directly all upstream traffic through the left road. As soon as we hit the left road, the path became rocky and dusty. By mistake I was on a higher gear and suddenly I lost complete revvs from the engine and the car stalled. Restarted and tried to move ahead but the car did not want to budge and was losing traction and slipping back towards the Duster which was behind me. Quickly Venkat and Hari got out and directed the Duster to move a little back, then we placed a stone behind the Manza to stop the slide. Somehow the Duster turned and moved ahead of the Manza but just burnt its clutch up ahead at a sharp step kind of a stone. So out came the folks from the Duster, driver changed and it managed to climb and move ahead. With the way clear and using handbrake, I was able to move Manza ahead and park with the rest of the folks. Frankly it was a tension time for me as it was the first time the car refused to climb. In all this commotion, Venkat was brave enough to pick a big stone and put it inside the Manza to use it again if required.

A little word on what happened which I was able to guage sometime later. Mind you the car was loaded completely and since after the remap the peak torque comes at 1900 rpms, the car is not able to gather enough revs quick enough to move forward at that high altitude. Probably due to low oxygen the peak torque curve might also be effected and kicking in even later. All this deduction came after completing Chang’la but I am presenting here for everyone to read.

The road becoming less of a road and more of a path
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Check out the truck and the shear drop
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The army convoy climbing down
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A break after the little fiasco that we had on this short climb
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After the small loo break, we started rolling again, this time I wanted to be ahead but somehow Duster managed to start before and proceed, so there I was following Duster now driven by Narsi. Though I did not mind following anyone but my driving style is that of maintaining momentum and proceeding in higher gear as much as possible so I was slightly uncomfortable for sometime and started looking for space to go ahead.

Giving way to a different kind of horse power
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Finally, on one of the turns there some space and I went ahead. After finding a clear road, I was able to drive in my own style. Though the pace was not much as the road was pretty bad with deep ruts created by the trucks, which resulted in us keep one tire on the rut while the other was on the central mound. This was also coupled with some puddle and slush crossing but the car was behaving well now and maintaining the revs. Quite often we encountered sheep crossing, at one such crossing I had to stop at a small incline. So while starting back again used the handbrake and high revs. Finally, after almost probably 30mins of overtaking the Duster, we reached the top of Zojila, you will know who have arrived when the road turns from muddy to cobbled stones. But don’t look for any prayer flags here as you are still in Kashmir. Once it had sunk in that we crossed our first pass without any incident, there was a sense of elation and jubilation.

After getting ahead of the Duster, because of the pace I was maintaining was able to gain distance
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That is the other older route which as few who have used it will agree that it is more difficult
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Sheep crossing
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Lovely view from the window
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Manza at Zojila
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Can you spot the whale among the sheeps
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Sumo arrives after some 5 mins
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To be continued…
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Old 23rd September 2013, 12:53   #62
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Default Day 7 - 29th Aug

Continued from the previous post…

Followed by the Duster
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An elated superman surprisingly sitting inside a car
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We moved ahead from the highest point and immediately faced the first Mexican duel situation with the truck coming from opposite side. Thankfully we were on the mountain side and hence, could give a lot of room to the truck.

Look at how the SX4 has parked to give way
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Finally we are entering the Ladakh region
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Manza moving towards the sign board
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Hari got himself clicked
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So did Venkat, both of them were walking towards the sign board
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Papparzzi
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We did it, we are at Zojila
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That’s the end of this post where we conquered Zojila, coming up the rest of the journey. Just breaking it as there are a lot of pictures
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Old 23rd September 2013, 12:53   #63
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Default Re: Day 6 - 28th Aug

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Well this para is not intended to show case any limitation of anyone but when in the land of lamas if you don’t know or not very confident of driving up there, it is always good to owe it up especially when there are two other lives at stake. Apparently what happened was there were a few close shaves with the Duster last evening when traveling to patnitop and those saves it seems were pretty close. One of them I had mentioned in my previous post but for the rest I think Narsi would be able to better elaborate.
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So ultimately, the two folks Narsi & Mohan totally lost confidence on their partners driving in the hills and the counseling was all about relenting the steering to someone else until Sathya feels confident of handling the car.
Well, yeah we had few close shaves the previous day in the Samba road. They were pretty close in some places. One is already explained by Hirak in previous post. The others were also similar ones and the Duster went off the road on few occasions. Thankfully it was not on the valley side. The darkness added fuel to the fire. I felt that the drive was like a race and the Duster wanted to be right behind the others and was on an overtaking spree with risks being taken. This did not go well with me & Mohanan and we voiced our opinion and asked to slow down. It was the only road without any diversions and I felt there was no point in chasing the other cars. This happened in spite of the other cars in visibility (2-3 trucks were in between though). This can be tolerated in plains to certain extent, but in the hills the risks increase manifold and we lost confidence.

I would like to mention one more thing. I felt this is where I made my first mistake which I realized only later in the day. Whatever problems I had with my travelling partner, I should have spoken to him first and then to the group. But I did the other way around.

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Originally Posted by motomaverick View Post
While we were winding our vehicle checks, the other half of the team were having a gala time at Dal Lake. Though it was overcast, the beauty of Dal Lake does not fade.
Hirak, you guys really missed the Shikara ride. We spent close to an hour in the Shikara. It was very relaxed and pleasant.

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Originally Posted by motomaverick View Post
While we were winding our vehicle checks, Man trying to go over board (pic courtesy Mohan/Narsi)
Attachment 1142055
This guy both entertained and scared us equally. Even the Shikara guy lost his patience when Manoj kept on moving in the Shikara

Quote:
Originally Posted by motomaverick View Post
However, as soon as we got together, all was not rosy. If you remember the earlier morning counselling session, well its effect was wearing off and plus it was not fair for Rajesh to keep Sathya in his car and acting as a counselor. So once Sathya got the wheels of the Duster for Dal Lake he was not about to let go. Now what ensued was a serious issue wherein we had two travelers Narsi & Mohan not willing to travel in the Duster if it was driven by Sathya and were ready to catch a flight back home from Srinagar. A lot of us tried to pacify and tried to arrive at a solution but the issue was spinning out of control. It was sad that due to personal issues there were folks ready to move back. But then the group was also delayed to move towards Sonmarg as it was already starting to get dark. In fact we spent some 1 hour trying to resolve the situation but to no avail. Finally, Narsi & Mohan came to say their byes, it was a sad moment for me as I hate for any traveler to go back like that but there was nothing we could do as only 3 of them could solve their own situation.

So the 3 cars Sumo, SX4, and the Manza slowly left the place leaving the Duster and its 3 occupants to decide. If Narsi and Mohan decided to fly back, then it was left to Sathya if he wanted to travel alone to Leh or turn back as well. However, there was a surprise in store of us after few kms of leaving that place.

Venkat’s phone started to ring after some 20kms inside the Bandipora road, it was Mohan, and apparently he was asking Venkat for directions of how to proceed to the Bypass as Duster was again restarting their journey with 3 on board. Well, the 3 of them trashed it out among themselves and finally after most of the things was clear they were back on the road with none having to fly back.
This is one episode in this trip which I will never forget. Hirak has already given a complete account of what happened and I do not want to go over it again.
I would like to convey thanks and apologies to everyone in the group. Thanks for waiting and trying to resolve the issue. Apologies for making you guys wait.
Special mention about Hari here. He called me aside and gave me a simple but very effective advise which solved the issue. Having experience in handling team conflicts and resolving them, his solution was very effective.

Hari to me: Your team has reached the peak point of conflicts and it is a make or break situation now. But whatever is the outcome, it has to be after dialogues. Put your foot down, express yourself and make everything clear between you guys. Most importantly, do it among yourselves and do not go to others. I am sure that the issue will be resolved.

This was really true. After the other three cars left, we spoke in length about the issues and sorted them out. It lasted about 45 min and we were back on the road with me taking the wheels. As I already said I realized my mistake here. If I had spoken to Sathya directly, probably we could have avoided this situation. This was the last time on this trip we three had arguments or difference of opinion between us.

The drive to Sonamarg from Srinagar was bit scary. Since the three cars had left sometime before, the Duster was the only car on the road. People here might know about the sensitivity of this route. We were alone and the drive was thrilling . We caught up with others in Sonamarg. We reached 5-10 mins after the other reached. After few handshakes and hugs we checked into the hotel
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Old 23rd September 2013, 13:14   #64
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Default Re: Day 6 - 28th Aug

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Hari to me: Your team has reached the peak point of conflicts and it is a make or break situation now. But whatever is the outcome, it has to be after dialogues. Put your foot down, express yourself and make everything clear between you guys. Most importantly, do it among yourselves and do not go to others. I am sure that the issue will be resolved.

This was really true. After the other three cars left, we spoke in length about the issues and sorted them out. It lasted about 45 min and we were back on the road with me taking the wheels. As I already said I realized my mistake here. If I had spoken to Sathya directly, probably we could have avoided this situation. This was the last time on this trip we three had arguments or difference of opinion between us.

The drive to Sonamarg from Srinagar was bit scary. Since the three cars had left sometime before, the Duster was the only car on the road. People here might know about the sensitivity of this route. We were alone and the drive was thrilling . We caught up with others in Sonamarg. We reached 5-10 mins after the other reached. After few handshakes and hugs we checked into the hotel
Yeah I remember Hari speaking on the team dynamics a lot inside our car, thankfully he gave that way forward. But yes, after this major incident there was no problems. For the next time if you have strangers traveling along it is better to take everyone through a team bonding exercise first
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Old 23rd September 2013, 14:10   #65
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Default Re: Day 6 - 28th Aug

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For the next time if you have strangers traveling along it is better to take everyone through a team bonding exercise first
Ha ha. Yeah, the next time we will implement the plan we devised about conducting interviews and short drives before the actual trip
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Old 23rd September 2013, 17:09   #66
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Default Re: Day 6 - 28th Aug

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Finally, Narsi & Mohan came to say their byes, it was a sad moment for me as I hate for any traveler to go back like that but there was nothing we could do as only 3 of them could solve their own situation.
Would not it have been possible to find seats for Narsi and Mohan in any of the three other vehicles rather than leaving them stranded?
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Old 23rd September 2013, 17:18   #67
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Would not it have been possible to find seats for Narsi and Mohan in any of the three other vehicles rather than leaving them stranded?
Good question, but the logistics and future routes that we actually had planned did not facilitate such a move. Even if we had accommodated them it would have been a torture on them itself to squeeze into the other cars. Afterall it was not a 300 odd kms journey.
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Old 23rd September 2013, 17:18   #68
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Default Re: Day 6 - 28th Aug

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Would not it have been possible to find seats for Narsi and Mohan in any of the three other vehicles rather than leaving them stranded?
Quote:
Originally Posted by motomaverick View Post
Good question, but the logistics and future routes that we actually had planned did not facilitate such a move. Even if we had accommodated them it would have been a torture on them itself to squeeze into the other cars. Afterall it was not a 300 odd kms journey.
Hi, adding this to above point mentioned by Hirak. Yes there was space in all the three cars and we were offered seats. But we refused since it will be bad to leave Sathya to drive alone in spite of we continuing the trip. So either we had to continue with him or fly back. That was the thought that crossed our minds.

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Old 23rd September 2013, 18:37   #69
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Default Re: 25-0-40 DownUnder to UpOver - LEH'd 2013

Thanks to Hirak & Narsi. You guys are pouring your hearts out. The conversation pulls the readers into the journey.

Hooked on to your conversations
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Old 23rd September 2013, 18:43   #70
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Thanks to Hirak & Narsi. You guys are pouring your hearts out. The conversation pulls the readers into the journey.
Thanks HillMan for the complement . During our journey we decided to pen down all the events of the travel. We learnt a lot of lessons about convoy driving and we wanted everyone to get benefited.
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Old 23rd September 2013, 19:30   #71
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Default Re: 25-0-40 DownUnder to UpOver - LEH'd 2013

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We learnt a lot of lessons about convoy driving and we wanted everyone to get benefited.
I doubt you guys did any convoy driving
Might have done in the future write ups.
But one thing for sure, you guys had a gala time up there. The sense of accomplishment must have been overwhelming.

Eagerly awaiting the next installment.

Cos the topic came up; quick tips on convoy driving:
- In a convoy you always stick together. A good driver leads the way for others to follow the track. Specially a must in terrains where everyone is not trained or experienced.

- Usually the most capable vehicles stays ahead so it can help with a tow, if required.

- Everyone maintains reasonable distance. The speed is decided for the drive and no one steps on the gas unless catching up.

- In case one is stuck in traffic (general anticipated scenarios), others don't need to stop. The one behind need to catch up, there by maintaining time and speed.
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Old 23rd September 2013, 22:43   #72
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Default Re: 25-0-40 DownUnder to UpOver - LEH'd 2013

Wonderful write up Motomaverick! Your trip and Sathya's trip has made me move my plans for Leh from my Bucket list to my Things to do now list.
Rated 5 stars!
regards,
Ashok

Last edited by ashphil : 23rd September 2013 at 22:44. Reason: spelling errors
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Old 23rd September 2013, 23:06   #73
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Default Re: 25-0-40 DownUnder to UpOver - LEH'd 2013

Amazing read, this.

The pictures are really good, making look forward to 2014 when hopefully I'd finally get to Leh. The set of vehicles is also good, by design or otherwise. It would've surely given lots of confidence to have two sturdy vehicles. While the sedans he selves are also more than capable of covering the terrain.

It's unfortunate when such issues come up, but really good to know how you guys sorted it all out so amicably. Shows the maturity of everyone involved.

Looking forward to reading more soon.

Cheers,
Sam
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Old 24th September 2013, 08:55   #74
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Default Re: 25-0-40 DownUnder to UpOver - LEH'd 2013

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I doubt you guys did any convoy driving
Might have done in the future write ups.
But one thing for sure, you guys had a gala time up there. The sense of accomplishment must have been overwhelming.

Eagerly awaiting the next installment.

.
Wait till you read further during the return journey. All the above points are valid but rule number 1 is "Calm your ego, ready to compromise" otherwise you can never get a group to drive as a convoy. Perfect example are the Army trucks, equal distance, similar speed and perfect attitude of letting faster cars pass.


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Wonderful write up Motomaverick! Your trip and Sathya's trip has made me move my plans for Leh from my Bucket list to my Things to do now list.
Rated 5 stars!
regards,
Ashok
Yes, you should definitely do this trip once. It is even more fun from the south side as you travel more distance and see more of India.

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Originally Posted by samarth.bhatia View Post
Amazing read, this.

The pictures are really good, making look forward to 2014 when hopefully I'd finally get to Leh. The set of vehicles is also good, by design or otherwise. It would've surely given lots of confidence to have two sturdy vehicles. While the sedans he selves are also more than capable of covering the terrain.

It's unfortunate when such issues come up, but really good to know how you guys sorted it all out so amicably. Shows the maturity of everyone involved.

Looking forward to reading more soon.

Cheers,
Sam
Yes, Sam sedans are more than capable of handling these terrains which can be termed motorable, but even then they are out of their comfort zones of cruising on a expressway, plus driving them up there you are constantly wary of stones and rock hits on the underbody, that tension I feel is not there when driving an SUV.

Last edited by motomaverick : 24th September 2013 at 08:56.
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Old 24th September 2013, 11:03   #75
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Default Re: 25-0-40 DownUnder to UpOver - LEH'd 2013

Guys it will be good if you can elaborate a bit on the various permit/licenses that are needed and government procedures for the trip as well. The Do's and Dont's.

For starters, I see a yellow strip on the left headlight of the vehicles. Got curious, did some research and found its a mandatory requirement in Gujarat. These little things go a long way to help people planning a trip.

Sathya_sc has posted his experience which brought these kind of questions to my mind. I feel should be shared in the forum from their own experiences for benefit of others.
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