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Old 18th September 2013, 13:03   #1
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Default 25-0-40 DownUnder to UpOver - LEH'd 2013

PS: The Photographs are taken by most of the members of the group (except me as I didnt have a camera) and they will be mixed during the log. I offer my gratitude towards them for sharing these pictures.


25-0-40, is that someone’s figure?

Well I am sure no one would want that but we went from 25deg to 0deg and back again through 40deg. That is the temperature change of our Incredible India!


Prologue
Circa 2012 AD: August


How it all began
Standing at the downstairs cafeteria having evening chai in Hyderabad, the idea of traveling to Ladakh was thrown in to the discussion. This was after reading the travelogue by Rohit Tunga in his Linea (How Hard can it Be (How hard can it be? Bangalore to Ladakh in a Linea)). The idea was easily gobbled up by gauravdgr8 and thus begun the research and itinerary preparation. But how can such a big idea stay under wraps. The same thing happened with this trip as it was thrown open with the creation of an FB group by the name LEC India.

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The first wave of this idea hit us when we read about the first travelogue to these lofty mountains. A lot of reading has been the inspiration of this trip. The initial idea was always to buy an SUV or UV and drive to these regions, however, with recent positive changes namely in terms of roads and facilities has given us the idea to take our everyday use cars up there. These changes ensured that we need not postpone this trip until we have a large vehicle. Yes, of course we need to prepare the machines and need to be careful rather than carefree with these cars but there isn’t anything these vehicles cannot conquer so why deny them the opportunity this time around.

So What are the Odds?
The Odds that were against us in the trip are tremendous. Let try to list a few of them that we anticipated and a few that was not anticipated and faced a lot.

Quote:
Time : Though we have plenty of time, time sometimes also translates to the right thing at the right place at the right moment, or for the worse, the wrong thing and the wrong time and at the wrong place - which tersely would means we are in deep shit. Time just flew out of the window when Nature took precedence in Baruch.

The Emotion : Often called envy is one of the oldest known to man. And no doubt it would reverberate in this trip. There is no doubt that LEC managed to materialize this trip in a big way like this, and for many others who were trying, might be envious, but I hope they support us and not turn their faces away to what we are doing. For what goes around comes around. So everyone wish us good luck!

The Enemy Within : We are most afraid of ourselves, because we know ourselves the least. The folks on this trip must safeguard everyone else & themselves, against their negative emotions, for it is very easy to give your leash to the grinning evil face of fate. This enemy within surfaced to the core on the 3rd day itself, when plans started falling apart and driving times started increasing. Of course you had the cool as a cucumber types in between who literally became the garbage disposal bags for some who were not entirely in control of their own elements. More on that as the story unfolds.

Anti Social Elements : Various insurgencies caused by groups in the northern part of India is a very real problem and danger . But we came out unscathed. And then there are terrorists, highway robbers and not to forget our own men in the uniform. Phew that's a long list but thankfully we did not face any of them.

The Elements : Earth, Fire, Water & Wind. Add sleet, slow, black ice, subzero temperatures and more. A definite hazard to the mechanicals in the vehicles. Add to it the manmade and natural water crossings which adds that much more masala to the mix.

The Beloved : I am sure all the folks in the trip will be very attached to someone back home. The every fact could weaken us if dicey situations are not handled properly. Being away from home, many times even without any phone connection for days at end could mean stretching the delicate fabric of love. Hang On is all we could say then.
Though the above odds-against are evaluated before the trip, we are proud that we completed this maha trip successfully and here you are reading our odyssey.

Hang On! Before we move further, how about getting to know the team, it is not always that we read this in a travelogue.

INTRODUCTION
Spending more than 8000 kms for more than 15 days with strangers is a Herculean task for any human, so it is always good to get oneself introduced and be comfortable. Here let me bring you the team which was finally a part of this mega trip. I will car wise, so it is easier to introduce to you the men & their machines.

Manza aka White Whale
One of the original few cars that were lined up for this trip ever since its conceptualization stage. Ladies and gentlemen this is not your everyday Tata Indigo Manza, but a slightly transformed whale. It performed exceptionally especially under the daunting mountains which were trying to scrape away its underbelly like there was no tomorrow. But after 8000kms it has safely brought us back to our homes.
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Hirak aka motomaverick: works in support services, lives in Bangalore and was the main brain behind the trip. He is the owner and was the sole driver of the white whale. Only time he was away from the steering was in Pangong when he came under the Chowmein’La.
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Venkat aka “Sir”: works with a software MNC, lives in Bangalore. He was the perfect navigator for the Manza. Also unanimously appointed the treasurer for the car. Hats off to him for not only keeping up the records books of every paisa paid but also supplying the driver with food and drinks.
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Hari aka “The Photographer”: works as a consultant for a MNC, lives in Bangalore. He was the most level headed and soft spoken of the entire lot. His main area of expertise is the camera, and he will be out to take pictures even before the car comes to a stop. Being level headed gives a good balance to the group
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Sumo Grande
The only ladder on frame SUV in the group. Was more like a Sheppard herding the cars when in the mountains. Ample space, next to zero maintenance, good clearance makes this is a wonderful SUV to have and most certainly the most underrated vehicle.
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Rajesh aka serriakamat: is a doctor who gives interesting remedies for almost everything. He was the only other person who drove all through the trip probably relenting during the Bhatinda super highway after having delicious paranthas.
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Nariman Kavina aka “Mr. Cool”: The most apt navigator for the doc in the sumo. A very nice person and a gentleman to the core, ensure that he took pictures, navigated and kept everyone in the group united. They say he is a dentist by profession but some his ideas did give me a scare
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Chandrakant Kamath aka “The Negotiator”: Probably even the shrewdest person will feel shy in front of his negotiating skill. Even after a day’s drive he is the go to guy to get you the hotel rooms. Makes his living as an IT person in a financial institute.
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Neeraj Dabake: Another soft spoken and quite guy, the only time we heard him was when at the end of the day the water starts to get in. An avid photographer as well as he was learning the trade whenever the opportunity came.
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Maruti Sx4
The black ninja was the 2nd sedan of the group. Though a much better suited sedan for Ladakh. Also, the only car with 2 folks and a CNG tank in the boot. Thank god it did not blow due to low pressure up there. Driven like a knife by its owner. Also, having the distinction of doing some off road climbing near the magnetic hill.
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Jaswant Singh aka “The Flying Sikh”: probably the most involved person in the group. Works as a finance guy. They don’t call him the flying Sikh for no reason, he drove the SX4 like there was no tomorrow.
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Manoj Chouhan aka “Superman”: the most jovial and outspoken guy of the group. Also a fashion statement with tshirts like “Superman” at Patnitop or the batman when the trip started. One of the most adjusting guys you can get.
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Renault Duster
The new kid on the block, bought by the owner specifically for this trip. One of the most all round vehicles of the group with proper GC, did not even scrap once on the trip and with ample amount of luggage space.

Sathya Prakash aka sathyaprakash: an expressway specialist who always wanted to be ahead of the pack. The oldest of the pack but still the most colorful of the lot.
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Narasimhan aka Narsi: the youngest of the entire group and probably the most compromising of the lot. Drove the Duster with all the enthusiasm but in a sane manner. Always had attention to detail and knew the mechanics of the car well.
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Mohanan aka Mohan: the quietest of the lot but a really good driver. He was the single lane specialist in the Duster. Loves those 2 lane non-divided highways.
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So now that we know who are the folks in the pictures to come later, lets get started with the actual drive....

Last edited by motomaverick : 18th September 2013 at 14:55.
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Old 18th September 2013, 13:10   #2
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Default Re: 25-0-40 DownUnder to UpOver - LEH'd 2013

DAY 1 - THE START
Circa 2013: August 23rd 12:45pm
Location: Chennai
Destination: Hubli
Route: Chennai – Vellore – Hosur – Bangalore – Haveri – Hubli


The Duster was the first vehicle to start this trip. Being in Chennai and god fearing folks, Narsi & Sathya, started the journey at 12:45pm an auspicious time for such a mega trip. It was smooth drive for the Duster with next to nil traffic. They were covering distances very quickly, the reason for which came to light later was probably the driving of Sathya; an expressway specialist. Scheduled to meet up at NICE road intersection in electronic city at around 5.30pm they were bang on target with the time. Duster was also loaded to the gill and apparently with so many bags that they were partially covering the rear windshield.

Meanwhile, in Bangalore, I was busy completing office work and getting the car ready. Morning itself Venkat & I loaded the Manza to its gill with bags and all the rest of the stuff. Have a look at what we loaded into the humongous boot.

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In the afternoon I went down to change the horns of the car where only 1 was working. Accidently I shorted the wires and the horn stopped working entirely. Went into a panic attack and quickly drove to TASS calling up the SA to hold a mechanic from going to lunch. Reached TASS in 15 mins and the problem was diagnosed as fuse gone bad due to the shorting. Taking the opportunity got some more extra fuses as well. After fixing a new fuse, everything was hunky dory and the Manza was talking once again.

Shortly after 5PM Got a SMS from Narsi stating they crossed Hosur, immediately I called up Venkat & Hari to get to Koramangala soon. In the frenzy forgot to get in touch with Mohan, whom we had to pick up before he boarded onto the Duster. After several tries finally was able to reach him and he was on his way to Silk board for a 5:30Pm pickup. Quickly got ready, took god’s blessing and got down to the car to depart. Venkat was there on time, and finally at close to 6PM the Manza started its first mega trip.

The odo reading at the start of the trip
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Picked up Hari from near my house on the main road. But we were in for a surprise, being Friday, Madiwala was all jammed and we got stuck for 15 mins in the slow moving traffic. Meanwhile, Mohan was pacing anxiously near Silk board as we were more than 30mins late. But with just about 420kms for the day, I was pretty relaxed irrespective of the traffic situation.

Finally, after 45mins delay we met up with the Duster on the NICE road before the toll gate. After the usual round of introductions and shifting of luggage, the BangChen Express was finally on its way together. Crossing the NICE road all the way to Tumkur Road was a breeze without any delays. On the way drizzle started, which apparently would be accompanying us on and off till Hubli.

Onto Tumkur road and surprisingly there was next to nill traffic at the Neelmangala toll gate. Crossed Tumkur quickly amidst medium to heavy rains. Finally after Davengere, stopped for some tea and rest. I was feeling a little tired since this was the first highway drive after almost a year. But a refreshing cup of coffee and it was the usual zipping past the small towns on the NH 8.

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Close to Haveri the first small incident of the trip took place. Somehow someone due to some lack of sense left a speed bump on the highway. We were crising at around 70-80kph when suddenly in the headlight beam I see a small hump, too late to brake, so said my prayers and let the car fly. The front tires hit the hump with a thud but we never heard the rear tires hit the bump, so effectively the car was air borne for few secs. So someone who wants to make his car fly head over to that section of the NH8. Seeing our little antic a few meters behind the Duster was able to reduce speed but they also managed to fly a little.

Reached Rannebennur and stopped at the Kamath Upachar to see if we could get food. It was close to 11PM. Thankfully, the caretaker informed that they have anna sambhar (rice & dal) with pappad, without any other option at that time of night, we quickly gobbled up the simple dinner. A thumbs up to this Kamath for at least serving hot food so late.

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At around 12:30PM we entered Hubli and immediately landed up at a police check post. It was a routine checking and more considering the time of the night. The usual questions start to be asked, license, car papers, insurance, etc. My insurance was set to expire on 7th Sept, so I presented only the old insurance paper. Suddenly the cop says the insurance is expired, come out of the vehicle. I was surprised, but thought maybe I had the dates wrong so I presented the new renewed paper as well, seeing that all papers are intact and being a KA vehicle, they let us proceed without any payment. However, the Duster being a TN registered got stuck for some time. Being a new vehicle there is no PUC required so it took some time to make the cops understand it’s a new vehicle. All this drama costed us some 30mins time. Next was to find out the hotel, this found pretty easily without getting lost.

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Lonely streets of Hubli
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Very tight parking spot at the basement
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Having booked the hotel, it was a breeze to check in and get to our rooms. But there was some more drama in store for us that night. As soon as we were about to reach our rooms, there was a loud blast as if some bomb went off in the hotel complex. My first thought was the Manza tire bursting considering the hit it had taken. So quickly dumping the luggage, went down to inspect. Thankfully it was not the car tires but one of the lifts that had caused the blast. So that brought curtains to the first day’s drive of this trip. Tomorrow was another small run of 600 odd kms to Thane, where we would be meeting up with the rest of the folks. But as Mr. Murphy would have it, all plans are just plans.

Distance covered: 763 kms
Map:

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Stay tuned for what’s in store in the morning.
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Old 18th September 2013, 18:55   #3
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Default Day 2 - 24th Aug

DAY 2 – Jamming Day
Circa 2013: August 24th 9:30am
Location: Hubli
Destination: Thane
Route: Hubli – Belgaum – Kohlapur – Satara – Pune – Mumbai - Thane


Woke up pretty groggy as I had only 4-5hrs of sleep. In fact woke up before the alarm went off. This has always happened to me when on holiday, the body always wakes up before the alarm. Was the forst to get ready and that too quickly as we had 3 people to finish the morning chores. In the meantime was able to update some of the logs as Internet connection was still on 3G.

Our booking entailed us for a breakfast and we all had a sumptuous first meal thinking lunch might be skipped. The outside weather was all cloudy and gloomy. But our spirits were certainly high as we would be joining the rest of the group today.

Came down to the parking lot and behold! Mr. Murphy had done his work. The rear right tyre of my car was flat. What a start to the day, a puncture! Quickly opened to the boot and after a herculean task of removing all the luggage we were able to change the tire. The hydraulic jack came in handy as it was effortless to jack up the car. But most of our things became wet as it had started to rain as well. Well on the bright side we were after all not going to skip lunch as whatever breakfast we had was spent in changing the tire.

Next task was to get the puncture repaired. Hari & I decided to move ahead to search for a puncture shop while the rest would join us in the Duster. Thankfully being on a highway, it was easy to locate a puncture shop. Hari quickly volunteered to go with the puncture wala to his shop as I had to park the car in a “No Parking” zone. Thankfully still being in KA helped as the cop was liberal enough to allow us to stay. This entire exercise set us back by 30mins. But thankfully the puncture wala was able to repair both the punctures and we finally started our 2nd leg to Thane.

I don’t know whose face I saw that day morning but our luck had still not woken up for the day, as we were directed wrongly by the GPS. Thankfully a local fellow was a Good Samaritan to show us the way out of the city. After tanking up on the way, we were finally off. Seeing some bad roads the Duster flew and within few meters were not able to see them, but we were happy to drive slowly over the bad section until we hit the NH 8 again.

Hubli Dharwad section of NH8
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Single lane bliss for around 20-30 odd kms
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I had previously travelled on this section of the NH8 which is a super smooth single lane with even weirder toll gate with the toll collector sitting facing the same side as you drive. Soon after hitting the NH8, it was time to let loose the Manza, and it did not disappoint as within a few kms we were back in sight of the Duster and in fact overtook them to proceed ahead.

Closing in on the Duster
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Yes, you have guessed it correctly it was no group driving but then we were only two cars and we knew the places to stop so it was ok. Roads till Belgaum are a breeze, probably the best section of the NH8 in Karnataka. Within no time we crossed Belgaum, saw the replica of the Vidhan Soudha of Bangalore which is right on the highway. I do not understand why they built it on the highway, I guess just as a show piece.

Post Belgaum, one of the best roads in Karnataka
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Crossed over to Maharashtra without a hitch, in fact you will not even know when you crossed over as there is no gate or check post here. This is what I call free country, saves a lot of time and hassle. Near Saundalaga, we stopped near a river which was passing right under the NH, don’t know the name but it was all brown. Spent some 20mins over there taking rest, and also giving our photographers something to cheer.

Thats the unknown river
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Manza the poser
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A B&W take
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One for the books for Venkat that he was in the Manza
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Our in house official photographer, thats how he does it
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Still not Leh'd but what the heck
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Closer look at the art work
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This was probably the first trip where I was not carrying a camera. Yeah, right the mother of all trips and I had no camera. Don’t ask me how and why. But then I was enjoying it a lot as I could become the subject rather than the person behind the camera.

Reached Kohlapur in good time, in fact reach there at around 2 PM. considering the fact that we started properly at close to 10:30 AM it was pretty good time make up to cross 200 odd kms. But we were still way off our initial time to enter Thane at 3PM. Lol! I don’t know which brilliant person thought we could reach at 3PM. Had lunch at the customary MCD in Kohlapur. The joint was choc-a-bloc with college and school kids from Kohlapur. Probably it’s the only MCD in town. Thankfully we were able to wind up the lunch program in 45mins. With Pune a long way to go, I decided to try my hand on a non-stop run. So from Kohlapur till a place called Wai just after Satara, drove non-stop 160kms. Since the roads were in good condition was able to complete the distance in 1.30 hrs. It was pretty good timing considering the fact that MH has a lot of motorcycle traffic on the highway. No, I was not driving like crazy but maintining 3 digit speeds wherever I could. Stopped for a tea break at Wai where we prepared for a night drive to reach Thane.

Kohlapur MCD
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Duster is aptly named
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Wai chai stop
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Preparing the windshield washers for the night drive
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Till now the entire morning we did not face any rains and we were optimistic that the sky’s will show mercy but that was not to be as Pune was drenched in showers. Just near the Katraj tunnel we got deluged in rain. My first sight of Pune city was that of like a hill station as it was all misty and rainy with the bypass road being like a ghat section. I liked what I saw and I am sure my fellow Poonawalas would agree that rains do bring a charm to the city.

One of the tunnels when approaching Pune
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Skyies threatening to open up
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Crossing Pune was quite easy as we just followed the bypass road through Hinjewadi. The ill famous Hinjewadi was a no brainer as there was hardly any traffic. The added advantage was the rains preventing 2-wheeler folks from venturing out. After tanking up on diesel for the Manza, we hit the famous Mumbai – Pune Expressway or as it is called “Yashwantrao Chavan Expressway”

Pune city under a mist or maybe combination of pollution as well
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One more angle, really liked the rolling hills in the background
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Downpour as soon as we entered the city
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The 3 of us inside the Manza enjoyed the expressway as it was raining and big roads with proper disciplined cars plying on it. Did see one or two cars flying about but most of them were pretty orderly, I guess the rains prevented them from flying about. Also, observed quite a lot of cross winds on the expressway, I guess that is the reason for seeing quite a few accidents on this road. It was funny to notice that the highway had a permanent road sign “It is raining now, please drive carefully”. I guess this area gets quite a lot of rains.

One of the many tunnels on the Mumbai - Pune Expressway
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From inside one such tunnel
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Another one with speeds marked for each lane. Did not see any interceptors though
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It rained throughout the 90kms stretch of the expressway
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After a short tea break just before Kalamboli, we entered Mumbai at close to 7PM. Yeah, right what a time to enter the most densely populated city in India. Marked the GPS to our Hotel in Thane, and the GPS was asking to go via the Thane – Belapur road, whereas everyone in all the forums suggests to go till Airoli and then cross over to Mulund. We did not do that as we saw a huge pileup near the Airoli Bridge and thus continued on the Thane route.

Last chai stop before entering Mumbai
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Well mistake or not we were stuck royally in Truck traffic coupled with bad roads due to expansion and all were at the end of theirs wits. In fact we thought of finding a hotel somewhere on the jammed road and not waste time in the traffic. But our resident guide “The Doc aka Rajesh” kept asking us to reach Hotel Fountain in Ghodbunder Road, Thane as it was the outskirts and easier to get out in the morning. We obliged and thankfully after a 3 hour ordeal of Mumbai traffic we finally reached our Oasis for the night at around 10.30PM. I was completely drained of brain and body energy and we took whatever type of rooms we got. Had an awful Mutton biryani for dinner (Hyderabadis will agree that putting rice over a Mutton curry after coming out of a handi is not a Biryani) and slept off.

This was the night when my brain and body both were reluctant to drive the next day. I had never driven continuously for 2 consecutive days, so I was even contemplating asking someone to drive. But somehow the idea of progressing 900 odd kms closer to Leh was the fuel in deciding to keep driving. The Bangy & Chennai guys were also taunted by the Mumbai folks in our Whatsapp group of us being the “slow Virar local” since we took so much time today. So this was the 2nd reason to put an alarm for 4.30AM despite sleeping at 12 for the scheduled early morning start at 5.30AM.

Thats the Hotel Fountain complex with the 24 hour cafe. Picture taken the next day
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Distance covered: 602 kms
Time Taken: 14 hours
Map:

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Views: 14099
Size:  116.0 KB


For tomorrow the target is Ajmer, did we reach it? Stay tuned to find out.
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Old 19th September 2013, 00:30   #4
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Note from Support: Moved to Travelouges. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 19th September 2013, 08:02   #5
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Wow.. super. How did I miss you in Leh and inner circuits.. I started from Chennai on 21st Aug.. and may be a day or two ahead of your schedule.

For that fact, I was in Thane on 22nd and remember HVK sir telling that a Duster is on its way. Was that you guys??

Anywayz hooked on. What were the circuits you did within Leh and when. I did Leh - Turtuk on 31st Aug. Took two days in Leh to acclimatize.. by that time, you must have been there. Sorry for jumping guns. Feel.. we could have met in Leh. And more importantly, how did I miss your vehicles.

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Old 19th September 2013, 09:07   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sathya_sc View Post
Wow.. super. How did I miss you in Leh and inner circuits.. I started from Chennai on 21st Aug.. and may be a day or two ahead of your schedule.

For that fact, I was in Thane on 22nd and remember HVK sir telling that a Duster is on its way. Was that you guys??

Anywayz hooked on. What were the circuits you did within Leh and when. I did Leh - Turtuk on 31st Aug. Took two days in Leh to acclimatize.. by that time, you must have been there. Sorry for jumping guns. Feel.. we could have met in Leh. And more importantly, how did I miss your vehicles.
Hey Sathya, just saw your travelogue, I am also wondering how we missed and its pretty hard to miss an XUV or a Manza (not many upthere) . We were in Leh on 29th Aug at around 10.30pm. 30th we were in Leh itself. We stayed in a Hotel Omasila. 31st we did the Pangong circuit and Hunder circuit on 2nd Sept. We actually had to cut short a lot of things, will be revealing everything in the trip log.
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Old 19th September 2013, 09:50   #7
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Default Re: 25-0-40 DownUnder to UpOver - LEH'd 2013

Excellent travelogue. Especially the introduction of the participants in the trip make this interesting to read!
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Old 19th September 2013, 10:25   #8
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Default Re: 25-0-40 DownUnder to UpOver - LEH'd 2013

Glued to the thread. With the amount of planning you did this trip had to be a success. Waiting for the episodes to continue.

Keep em coming.
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Old 19th September 2013, 10:43   #9
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Originally Posted by joe1980 View Post
Excellent travelogue. Especially the introduction of the participants in the trip make this interesting to read!
Thanks, in fact everyone had a nick name but I was not sure if someone penned nick name for me so I put my tbhp handle

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Originally Posted by nkrishnap View Post
Glued to the thread. With the amount of planning you did this trip had to be a success. Waiting for the episodes to continue.

Keep em coming.
Oh yes, the planning was mother of all planning. But this trip made me realize that I should just take the key and drive, plan along the way!
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Old 19th September 2013, 11:28   #10
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Default Day 3 - 24th Aug

DAY 3 – Complete Stop
Circa 2013: August 25th 7:30am
Location: Thane
Destination: Ratanpur
Route: Thane – Vapi – Surat – Baruch – Vadodra – Ahmedabad – Himatnagar - Ratanpur


Wake up! Wake up! Wake up! It’s a brand new day!
Wake up! Wake up! Wake up! It’s a brand new day!


That was the alarm song that NEVER rang at 4.30AM. My mobile completely lost charge as I had absent mindedly forgotten the wall charger. But somehow woke up from my slumber at around 5AM thankfully. Seeing the watch there was a frenzy in our room as we were supposed to be ready by 5.30AM. Within 30mins 3 people had to finish. I rushed to the bathroom first before any morning tea. Somehow managed to charge the phone using Hari’s wall charger while I was getting ready. As soon as I turned it on saw a deluge of messages in Whatsapp from the Mumbai team updating that they were on their way to the Hotel.

Went downstairs just in time to meet up with the faces that have been virtual up till now. A round of introductions and ice breaking was all that was required to gel with the folks in the Sumo. In the meantime I gave some good news to my roommates stating that the Sx4 was late. Apparently the “Flying Sikh” did not wake up from his slumber in time and Manoj was waiting to be picked. So Venkat & Hari got some more time to get ready.
With time to kill some 2-3 rounds of chai started along with finishing up on breakfast.

The Sumo all shining while the Manza all dirty
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Discussions and talks is what we did for 1.30 hours that we had to wait
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We did not know that this small delay is going to stretch till 7.30AM a good 2 hours lost when the black Sx4 arrived in the parking lot. Finally we were on our way as a group. Crossed the Vasai creek with the SX4 leading, followed by the Sumo, Manza and the Duster. Everything was cool and green at that time in the morning. But all that changed very soon when the downpour started nearing Manor. The downpour was now a constant drizzle. The SX4 suddenly was not to be seen, later we got to know why, the “Flying Sikh” was behind the wheel. With good roads inviting, I overtook the Sumo and let loose the 120 horses on those excellent 3 lane roads after Manor. But the fun was soon lost as there was a deluge of trucks near Vasai and they were hogging almost all the 3 lanes as usual.

But a good car & driver never loses an opportunity to have fun in a safe manner. So I broke the shackles and started overtaking the snail paces trucks whenever wherever gaps were presented. Venkat helped a lot looking from his side to inform if I can go from the left side or not. Soon an Innova & another car joined the fun and 3 of our cars started slicing through the traffic. We soon caught up with the flying Sikh at a toll gate, went ahead and were gone from their sight quickly.

Spotted a Team-bhp stickered car somewhere after Vasai
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Crossed the Maharashtra border in no time, Vapi came and went in a blur, I was trying to look for the Woodland Hotel but due to rain and the flyover could not quite spot it. We were cruising pretty well. Got a message from the Sumo that we need not stop and should proceed ahead of Surat. I thought we can regroup somewhere on the way as the Manza required some Diesel as well but no one was ready to stop. So we proceeded ahead. Tanked up after Vapi, but still no signs of the others. Since it was updated to stop after Surat, we started driving again. Just before Bilimora the heavens opened up in full force. The visibility was reduced to a few meters only, and we had to literally crawl at 50-60kph with rear fogs and lights on. Wiper was at full speed for the first time but still it could not give better visibility. We thankfully were able to follow a local Travera taxi.

Thankfully the rains stopped a little and our guys in the Manza decided to stop for some chai and regroup. Messaged in Whatsapp where we were and it turned out that the rest of the folks were some 30kms behind us. A wry smile crossed my face as suddenly the slow “local Virar” of yesterday had become a bullet train. Only the Duster stopped a few minutes after us, we thought Mumbai folks would continue on, but apparently they too wanted a break, so finally after some spirited driving, the group was together.

Awesome Gujarat roads
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The place where we stopped just before Surat
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The group enjoying some tea
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From Surat onwards we tried to follow a group drive, so with the Sumo leading, Sx4 and Manza, started following behind. The Sumo was doing just about 90, but with a determination of following convoy driving both the sedans were in line. However, one car that was not wanting to follow the convoy at that time was the Duster as it went far ahead of the Sumo. However, fate had some other ideas, as we neared Ankleshwar, we had to proceed on the NH8 instead of taking the town route, since the news was confirmed that Golden Gate bridge is closed due to flooding. Suddenly after entering the flyover we were stopped dead on our tracks with the biggest jam of probably all our life’s. At least for me this was the mother of all jams.

Group driving with the Sumo leading
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Rains came back again after some rest
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The start of the biggest traffic jam
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All cars on the left lane to squeeze through the gaps but no one moved
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Smiling at his fate as they knew they will be stuck for hours
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Highway round table conference
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Hari relaying information about the jam after walking far ahead
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Sx4 had squeezed ahead of us somehow
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Manza in a pickle (photo courtesy Santosh Rao)
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After some 4 hours there was some amount of progressing. The traffic flowed for 1 min but rested for 10 mins. Somehow in the chaos and confusion of moving ahead, the Manza and the Duster went on the left most lane while the rest Sumo, Sx4 and the Rapid (Santosh Rao, who was on a Gujarat tour) on the right most lane. They apparently found a gap in the median and with the help of the cops and now were driving on the wrong but free side to move ahead. Yes, it was a bad decision to take the left most lane but that was our fate. Somehow the Duster was not the fastest out of the blocks when the jam moved forward and in order to get ahead of them I went left. Few minutes later we got a message asking us to come to the right most lane and find a gap in the median to cross over. The jam was mentioned to be 10kms long. Reading the distance my heart came to my mouth!

Video of the 10km long jam in Baruch (Video courtesy Chandrakant)



So out came the binoculars of Hari to survey and find where the gap would come. But for kilometers we did not see any median. Venkat & Mohan decided to walk ahead to find the gap. With god’s grace we finally found a gap in the median which was some 1 kms ahead of us. But to get to that we had to spend close to an hour. Thankfully Venkat & Mohan become the traffic cops as they were asking all the right most laned trucks to move to the left so that the two cars can take the gap. Finally, we crossed over to the wrong side and that was such a relief for us.

Over flowing Narmada river
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Another view of the floods
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Once we crossed Baruch which was at 4PM, it was again open roads. The best part of this section from Baruch till about Vadodra is that its 3 lanes with very less traffic. We started cruising in triple digit speeds again. But what’s a drive without some annoyance from other cars. When we were cruising at triple digit speeds and trying to overtake a truck. A brand new Innova blinks its head lamps wanting to go first. I was like wait dude let me finish my move. But a few more flicks and I decided to let loose T-O-T on the unsuspecting Innova. It is so much fun when the Manza accelerates now leaving behind the Innova to bite some smoke within few meters. Had such fun for few kms as the guy driving it could not understand how this Tata car can go faster than him.

But not to hurt his ego further and with fading light let the car through. So after the boring jam we 3 had some good fun before Vadodra. It was surprising for us that Sumo & Sx4 did not stop for us but we were pretty chilled about it and since we did not have any lunch nor tea for a long time, the Manza decided to stop for some chai just before hitting the Vadodra – Ahmedabad Expressway or as it is called the NE 1. While having chai we saw the Duster cross us, well they decided not to stop, it does not matter for us but once again the convoy drive was in shambles after Baruch. Well not having driven in a convoy we did not mind all this so much, but the drive from NE 1 was like it was a solo trip for us.

Entering the NE 1 (pic courtesy Manoj)
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The blissful roads of the NE 1
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I want to dedicate this little paragraph on NE 1. It is probably the best road anyone can drive on. Though it is not as wide as Mumbai Expressway, but it’s made of tar and is much smoother. The added blessing of driving on this road is the super disciplined traffic. We only had to use our dipper once and if someone was on the fast lane, they moved over. I don’t think we had to overtake from the left at any point during the 100kms stretch. Hats off to the Gujarati’s for following lane discipline so harmoniously.

By the time we took the exit from the NE 1, it was already close to dark, had another stop for some corn cobs on the Sardar Patel Ring road. We were now following the others to reach Himatnagar, where it seems they had stopped. But we were long way away from that place, close to 100kms. So resigning to the fact that we cannot catch the other folks started driving lesuirely. The plan was to cross Gujarat, find a hotel near Rajasthan border and call it a day. Our original plan was to reach Ajmer, but due to the Baruch fiasco, we could only drive some 600 odd kms.

Along the way to Himatnagar, we got a phone call from Narsi, asking us to stop to click the “Tropic of Cancer” board, some 15 kms before Himatnagar. Apparently they had missed taking pictures with the board and wanted us to complete the formality. Welcoming the picture break we stopped near board and clicked a few photographs. In fact we probably would like to take the distinction of peeing under the Tropic of Cancer (if it has not been claimed earlier)

The Tropic of Cancer was passing above our heads
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Finally at around 10 or 10:30PM we reached Ratanpur, where the others had booked some rooms in a hotel named Kingfisher Palace. Nothing to write home about this hotel, as it was almost in the same state as the airlines of the same name. But it did have clean toilets and air condition which is what we wanted. By the time we reached the parking spot, the late evening snacks and revelry had already started. With dinner, the topic veered towards driving in a group. It was emphatically stated and agreed that we should drive in a group from now on as the overall group is delayed as per when the last vehicle comes in. So the lead vehicle should always stop if it sees the group has disintegrated as driving alone in the dark can be dicey. Any number of mishaps can occur to any of the vehicle and they would need help. Well the topic was headed in the right direction. All were in agreement to follow the protocol of “Not overtaking the navigator”. Well who is the navigator? No one knows but unofficially Chandrakant got the position. So with some reassuring thoughts we all retired to our rooms after a long day. Scheduled to start in the morning at 5.30AM aim to reach Hanumangarh.

The Kingfisher Palace Hotel
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Distance covered: 623 kms
Time Taken: 15 hours
Map:

Name:  map_ratanpur.jpg
Views: 14577
Size:  131.3 KB


So did we really follow what was preached at the dinner? Read on to find out..

Last edited by motomaverick : 19th September 2013 at 11:42.
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Old 19th September 2013, 12:30   #11
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Default Re: 25-0-40 DownUnder to UpOver - LEH'd 2013

Hello Hirak,

Thank you for starting this thread. I was eagerly waiting for the trip log & also inquired with Neeraj couple of times for the pictures.

Originally I was scheduled to be part of your group, but had to drop-out as I was scheduled to shift to a new home on 30th August. Frankly speaking I was desperately looking to join this trip but now my quest to go to Ladakh remains unfulfilled.

Congrats on completing this mamoth journey successfully & also hats off to your penchant for planning which amazed us the most. Infact we (myself & fellow BHPian SDP) discussed & wondered the amount of time & efforts you invested in planning this trip.

I would certainly like to be part of your group next time if the North East drive do happens in future. Also any plans of doing the Ladakh circuit again?

PS: Do you follow the same level of planning in your personal & professional life?

Thanks,
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Old 19th September 2013, 12:35   #12
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Default Re: Day 2 - 24th Aug

[QUOTE
I don’t know whose face I saw that day morning but our luck had still not woken up for the day, as we were directed wrongly by the GPS. Thankfully a local fellow was a Good Samaritan to show us the way out of the city. After tanking up on the way, we were finally off. Seeing some bad roads the Duster flew and within few meters were not able to see them, but we were happy to drive slowly over the bad section until we hit the NH 8 again.

Hubli Dharwad section of NH8
Attachment 1140218
QUOTE]

Firstly Congratulations on getting Leh'd. Is'nt that NH4 you meant through the route to Mumbai ?
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Old 19th September 2013, 12:36   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jignesh View Post
Hello Hirak,

Thank you for starting this thread. I was eagerly waiting for the trip log & also inquired with Neeraj couple of times for the pictures.

Originally I was scheduled to be part of your group, but had to drop-out as I was scheduled to shift to a new home on 30th August. Frankly speaking I was desperately looking to join this trip but now my quest to go to Ladakh remains unfulfilled.

Congrats on completing this mamoth journey successfully & also hats off to your penchant for planning which amazed us the most. Infact we (myself & fellow BHPian SDP) discussed & wondered the amount of time & efforts you invested in planning this trip.

I would certainly like to be part of your group next time if the North East drive do happens in future. Also any plans of doing the Ladakh circuit again?

PS: Do you follow the same level of planning in your personal & professional life?

Thanks,
Thanks Jignesh for the kind words, the planning comes easy to me, probably due to the nature of my work (no I am not a travel agent ). But this trip has taught me to just drive and plan along the way. As all plans are just "plans" until they are put in practice.

Well I do try to put it in practice in personal life but somehow now with a small kid it has to be instant plans.

Yes, next Ladakh is definitely on the cards, most probably in couple of years, in fact that is the bribe to my better half for being allowed to do this trip. Besides has you will read further on there are quite a few places left. The next Leh trip will definitely be in an SUV.

North East & Bhutan is somehow in the radar, it maybe next year though not sure. Research has started in a small way.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alokgunhal View Post

Firstly Congratulations on getting Leh'd. Is'nt that NH4 you meant through the route to Mumbai ?
Yeah it is the NH4, I somehow botched up the name. The highway is also called AH43 (Asian Highway). But post Mumbai its NH8 hence the goof up.

Last edited by motomaverick : 19th September 2013 at 12:39.
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Old 19th September 2013, 12:57   #14
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Default Re: 25-0-40 DownUnder to UpOver - LEH'd 2013

Lovely Travelogue. Hats off to all of you. Forming a group on Social network sites and undertaking the most coveted journey is laudable. Your introduction about each member of your group is very interesting. That set the mood towards the journey where each member is very important with the responsibilities that they were given to them. Enjoyed reading and waiting for more. This TL is going to be a lengthy one I suppose and I am also very eager to see the next episode.

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Old 19th September 2013, 15:54   #15
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Default Re: 25-0-40 DownUnder to UpOver - LEH'd 2013

Great going on the travelogue motomaverick.
Enjoying reading every bit of it . Eagerly looking forward to further updates.
being a Manza owner myself , i find some of the snaps with the front stance from the lower camera position very attractive .
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