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Old 26th September 2013, 19:27   #1
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Default Solo-Leh-Tude: Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar in my Alto K10

“Are you crazy?” was the common refrain thrown at me when I talked about my planned trip to Leh. Driving solo through unknown highways, the reputation of the Manali-Leh stretch, the car in question, were all brought up. Many people planned to join in, then cancelled, one guy who seemed very eager went down with dengue, one of my pals had to fly to the Gulf on family business, and so it went till 19th Sep dawned and saw me en route, in my Alto K10, solo and quite happy for it.



Driving solo has been the norm for me so far, having explored the Konkan thoroughly on my bike. But my recent move to Delhi has seen me give up my bike for my car. And having lived with the K10 for an year, I was in no doubt about its reliability, having driven it from Delhi to Pune on a whim last November. That confidence was about to be shaken and then resoundingly reaffirmed.


Two days before the departure date, the speedo failed and a warning lamp glowed on the dash – some sensor failure. “This is not a good sign,” I thought, and rushed to Motorcraft Noida. They were, as usual, extremely efficient and replaced the sensor with no charge. On second thoughts, it was probably my car ensuring that this minor failure was addressed in Delhi rather than on the open highway. Call me crazy, but I like to think my car as something more than a heap of metal and fabric. I care for it and it cares back.


I am no mechanic and despite much advice, did not learn any minor mechanical fixes ; given my limited knowledge, I am more likely to create additional problems than fix anything by trying my hand at any amateur mechanical breakdowns. In case something went wrong, I decided my best bet was Maruti road-side assistance or hiking to the nearest town. I did take along some fuses, extra lamps, a puncture repair kit, tow rope and a jerrycan of petrol. The car had been recently serviced as well.


19th September, 6.00 am, I set off from Lajpat Nagar. Breakfast at Murthal – the paranthas are nothing like home-made, but far better. I stopped in Ambala to buy a spare USB cable which I had forgotten to carry, took the Ropar – Kiratpur sahib – Mandi – Kulu – Manali route. It was fairly routine till Mandi.


A chai break en-route

Solo-Leh-Tude: Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar in my Alto K10-dsc04211.jpg

From Mandi to Kulu, this road is a pleasure to drive on. The river runs right beside, the road itself is breathtaking, carved out of a side of a mountain and towering mountains on both sides. The stretch between Kullu and Manali has some bad patches, but nothing like what I was about to see after Rohtang.


Reaching Manali late, I was in no mood to look at multiple hotels and settled on the first decent option I found – clean rooms, and a view of the moonlit Beas river from the balcony. For 400 bucks, it was a good deal.

Attachment 1144074

Solo-Leh-Tude: Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar in my Alto K10-dsc04225.jpg

Crossing Manali
Solo-Leh-Tude: Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar in my Alto K10-dsc04226.jpg

After Rohtang
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Solo-Leh-Tude: Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar in my Alto K10-dsc04229.jpg

Rohtang and the Alto
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Solo-Leh-Tude: Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar in my Alto K10-dsc04238.jpg

Breakfast after Rohtang - a change from the normal view of Gurgaon's skyline that I get to see during breakfast
Solo-Leh-Tude: Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar in my Alto K10-dsc04239.jpg

Sissu from afar

Solo-Leh-Tude: Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar in my Alto K10-dsc04244.jpg
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Old 26th September 2013, 19:43   #2
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Default Re: Solo-Leh-Tude – A Solo Drive (Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar - Delhi) in my Alto

Started off from Manali by 7 am, after a quick breakfast in the market. The route from Manali to Gulaba is in excellent shape and I was so engrossed at looking at the meadows on the sides of the road, that I completely forgot to snap even a single picture – something I will regret till I return next year, armed with a DSLR camera. The fabled Rohtang pass was a walk over, and the pass itself was deserted. I kept moving, saw no reason to stop at all. After Rohtang, the road is being redone and is a pain. The Alto performed brilliantly; it didn’t mind that it was travelling over a surface that resembled something out of a dirt race. Rocks, mud, slush, small fords, were tackled with ease. Stopped for breakfast at this little cafι that is at the crossroads of the fork to Lahaul and Keylong.


From thereon, the road ceased to exist. The entire stretch to Jispa is being redone and while I am glad that the coming years should see a much better road, it is currently a nightmare to traverse. I averaged 15-20 km/hr and I began to question my wisdom in attempting this route. Decided to stop at Jispa for the night. The hotel at Jispa, nestled beside a river – a great place for an evening walk.
Solo-Leh-Tude: Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar in my Alto K10-dsc04248.jpg

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Solo-Leh-Tude: Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar in my Alto K10-dsc04289.jpg
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Old 26th September 2013, 19:58   #3
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Default Re: Solo-Leh-Tude – A Solo Drive (Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar - Delhi) in my Alto

From Jispa till Sarchu, the road is dirt track in patches, good in patches. The Killing Sarai was tough but thankfully, the bridge at the river crossing was up – I didn’t fancy trying to wade through flowing water, however capable my car. From Sarchu onwards, the roads improved and I decided to have lunch at Pang. However, the road from there was in bad shape and I reached Pang only by 3.30 pm, the journey from Jispa having taken close to 8 hours.
Solo-Leh-Tude: Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar in my Alto K10-dsc04291.jpg

Solo-Leh-Tude: Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar in my Alto K10-dsc04292.jpg

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Solo-Leh-Tude: Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar in my Alto K10-dsc04316.jpg

Solo-Leh-Tude: Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar in my Alto K10-dsc04319.jpg

Solo-Leh-Tude: Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar in my Alto K10-dsc04321.jpg
Soon, I crossed the Gata loops and stopped at the top – looking back at the loops, I couldn’t resist an impromptu hurrah!
Solo-Leh-Tude: Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar in my Alto K10-dsc04327.jpg
Some lunch at Pang restored my flagging energy, and a friendly ladakhi lady who served me lunch assured that the road was much better from here onwards. I had also run into a small problem– the petrol jerry-can which I had filled up at Tandi was beginning to leak slightly around the cap, inspite of sealing it as tightly possible. The resulting petrol fumes were making me uncomfortable, so I poured the petrol into the car tank, ditched the jerry can and soon hit the famous More plains. Enough has been written about them and I won’t try to top that. But the pictures put it across

Last edited by spiritofmars : 26th September 2013 at 20:00.
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Old 26th September 2013, 20:47   #4
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Default Re: Solo-Leh-Tude – A Solo Drive (Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar - Delhi) in my Alto

Solo-Leh-Tude: Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar in my Alto K10-dsc04331.jpg

Solo-Leh-Tude: Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar in my Alto K10-dsc04333.jpg

Solo-Leh-Tude: Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar in my Alto K10-dsc04336.jpg

The road is indeed great, for a few kms. Here again, the BRO is rebuilding the stretch up to Taglang La and I slowed down, for the constant bad roads were wearing me out. I am no fan of off-roading and I like it even less after experiencing these dirt track-like patches. May be it would be fun in an SUV, but it’s hell in an alto. Taglang La claims to be the second- highest motorable pass.


This information was interesting but I was getting worried. It was getting late, I was quite far from Leh and dusk was falling. I did not relish driving at night, as I would miss out on the beauty of this road and the landscape. Also, I had been driving for close to twelve hours on mostly lousy roads and still had a slight headache from the petrol fumes. Crossing Taglang La, I came across a small guesthouse and decided to stay the night, even though Leh was merely 70 kms away. The off-season rate was 150 bucks and I fell asleep quickly after some maggi. Early next morning, I pushed off to Leh.
Leh, has to be seen to be believed. But even before the sight-seeing, I headed over to Druk Auto on Airport road to get the car washed and the air filter cleaned.


The view from my hotel at Leh

Solo-Leh-Tude: Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar in my Alto K10-dsc04340.jpg
Solo-Leh-Tude: Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar in my Alto K10-dsc04343.jpg
Solo-Leh-Tude: Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar in my Alto K10-dsc04356.jpg

The Shanti Stupa in Leh
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Solo-Leh-Tude: Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar in my Alto K10-dsc04377.jpg

There are many photos of this place online, but nothing can rival being there and soaking in the silence and peace of the Stupa. It commands a bird's eye view of Leh, with the Leh Palace visible at the same height on the opposite hill.

On the return leg from Leh to Delhi, I decided to take the Srinagar route which was in much better shape, with an overnight stop at Sonmarg. Although that route is undeniably attractive, nothing beats the Manali-Leh route for savage beauty. It tests you as a driver, and throws stunning images of wild landscape at you. Other roads pale in comparison, and even the zoji la pass seems tame in comparison.

I drove back to Delhi, making plans for Leh 2014, this time with a DSLR and more time, to visit Hanle and Tso Moriri. My Alto had proved equal to the challenge ; this entire journey, it proved completely reliable and did not stutter once or suffer even a puncture. Who says you need an SUV or anyone else's company to experience Leh !

Last edited by spiritofmars : 26th September 2013 at 20:54.
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Old 27th September 2013, 09:16   #5
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Default Re: Solo-Leh-Tude – A Solo Drive (Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar - Delhi) in my Alto

Note from Mod : Thread moved from Assembly Line to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 27th September 2013, 09:58   #6
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Default Re: Solo-Leh-Tude – A Solo Drive (Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar - Delhi) in my Alto

Good on you spiritofmars to undertake this beautiful journey alone !

I believe anyone with a passion of motoring , no matter what kind the vehicle should do the Manali - Leh drive at least once in his/her life. It is a feeling that can only be experienced and never be undersood no matter how many travelouges you read or how many photos you see !

I am sure you are hungry for another trip because i don't see Pangong,Khardung La , Nubra, Tso Morriri etc here. Hope the mountains call you back soon !

Cheers.
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Old 27th September 2013, 10:32   #7
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Default Re: Solo-Leh-Tude – A Solo Drive (Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar - Delhi) in my Alto

Thanks for sharing.
Splendid views and to do this solo, in an Alto and as claimed 'limited Mr.fix-it' skills, can imagine how spirited and elated you must feel, pre and post the trip. Inspired!

Any particular stretch, moment that raised 'second doubts?
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Old 27th September 2013, 11:55   #8
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Default Re: Solo-Leh-Tude – A Solo Drive (Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar - Delhi) in my Alto

Quote:
Originally Posted by mobius 1 View Post
Good on you spiritofmars to undertake this beautiful journey alone !

I believe anyone with a passion of motoring , no matter what kind the vehicle should do the Manali - Leh drive at least once in his/her life. It is a feeling that can only be experienced and never be undersood no matter how many travelouges you read or how many photos you see !

I am sure you are hungry for another trip because i don't see Pangong,Khardung La , Nubra, Tso Morriri etc here. Hope the mountains call you back soon !

Cheers.
Thanks mobius 1 ; I absolutely agree that the Manali Leh stretch has to be any travel junkie's bucket list. You are right about the mountains - I am completely bowled over, and one of the reasons the t-log is so short is because I am still re-living the trip & just cant find the words to convey the wonder and beauty of the Himalayas. I had planned for Pangong but ran out of time. But that just gives me another excuse for Leh 2014 !

Quote:
Originally Posted by andyonwheels View Post
Thanks for sharing.
Splendid views and to do this solo, in an Alto and as claimed 'limited Mr.fix-it' skills, can imagine how spirited and elated you must feel, pre and post the trip. Inspired!

Any particular stretch, moment that raised 'second doubts?
Thanks .. driving upto Leh has been a dream ever since I saw pics of my uncle's gypsy in the himalayan rally, back in the 90's. Elated, overjoyed, and refreshed - those are the words right now

One stretch in particular - between the Gata Loops and Pang, the road is a nightmare and I was really worried about the Alto's suspension and tyres. But the views are a mix of Grand Canyon and the Texas Badlands', so some compensation.
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Old 27th September 2013, 11:56   #9
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Default Re: Solo-Leh-Tude – A Solo Drive (Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar - Delhi) in my Alto

If only you had clicked more

Good on you man. Just like you, I believe the best drives are enjoyed alone. This thread is an inspiration for people to know that they can do this alone if noone would join them.

Also I feel you were lucky as you got away without having to use your limited skills to test.

Very inspired. Have shared the link of this thread on FB too. Any particular pointers you'd like to offer to fellow hatch owners who might be attempting this next year?
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Old 27th September 2013, 12:01   #10
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Default Re: Solo-Leh-Tude – A Solo Drive (Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar - Delhi) in my Alto

Hats off spiritofmars, you have shown the door which others can take heed and follow. Now that you have tasted the Ladakh air, more trips should be a piece of cake. I envy that you stay in Delhi and can hit the mountains at a moments notice.
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Old 27th September 2013, 12:12   #11
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Default Re: Solo-Leh-Tude – A Solo Drive (Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar - Delhi) in my Alto

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Originally Posted by AbhishekB86 View Post
If only you had clicked more

Good on you man. Just like you, I believe the best drives are enjoyed alone. This thread is an inspiration for people to know that they can do this alone if noone would join them.

Also I feel you were lucky as you got away without having to use your limited skills to test.

Very inspired. Have shared the link of this thread on FB too. Any particular pointers you'd like to offer to fellow hatch owners who might be attempting this next year?
Thanks AbhishekB86 I clicked over 200 photos , but have uploaded only a few. Like, when I was at Shanti Stupa, there was heavy cloud cover over the distant peaks and once they cleared, I could see it had snowed there because the peaks had turned much more white ! Unfortunately I had no telephoto lens to capture such moments ; it would have made some great snaps. But atleast I got the memories!

I definitely agree I was lucky - but I am a fanatic when it comes to my cars/bikes and ensure they are in top shape mechanically - so it was a calculated risk of the car not breaking down.

As far as pointers go, I would recommend tsk1979's Leh guide which is up on tbhp - excellent source, but the road conditions I found were very different from his descriptions. I guess the variance is because he's experienced them in an SUV. Just ensure your car is in shape, carry the essentials and emergency rations, and drive very very carefully. I negotiated water crossings at a crawl, never exceeded 15-20 kph on the bad sections even though SUVs & other local cars sped by in clouds of dust. It's tempting to do so, but it screws the car. And beware of the tempting hill corners -it's all too easy to drift around one and face a truck aimed at you.
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Old 27th September 2013, 14:46   #12
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Default Re: Solo-Leh-Tude: Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar in my Alto K10

Great driving spiritofmars, and a great travelogue. Two things that stand out, you are in an Alto and you are alone. Things that others would rubbish the moment they hear it.
Wonderful and hats off to you!
I too have an alto(pre-gen) and am extremely pleased with its reliability and ease of use.
Visiting the mountainous side of our country has really been my dream. It is yet to be realized. Hoping that I can achieve it sooner than later.
All the best for your future "solo" adventures.
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Old 27th September 2013, 16:37   #13
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Thumbs up Re: Solo-Leh-Tude: Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar in my Alto K10

This has to be on the top of the 'You did what ??' category of travelougues


Its great to see that all those cancellations did not deter you from going ahead with the drive, I am a firm believer that the journey & company matter more than the destination, your Alto proves great company indeed

Thanks for sharing, looking forward to reading about Leh 2014
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Old 27th September 2013, 17:10   #14
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Default Re: Solo-Leh-Tude: Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar in my Alto K10

Thanks AbhishekB86, for pointing out the thread!
And thanks spiritofmars for putting it up.

Abhishek and I can understand only too well that this short travelogue inspires both of us immensely. Leh 2014 may see us spoiling any plans of yours to travel alone :P

And dude, let's catch up soon at one of the upcoming meets. It'd be good to know more details..

Good stuff!
Oh, and you went the Manali way! Even better. Loved reading this.

Cheers,
Sam
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Old 27th September 2013, 17:24   #15
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Default Re: Solo-Leh-Tude: Delhi – Manali – Leh – Srinagar in my Alto K10

Kudos to you, spiritofmars.. Definitely worthy for a 5* rating

I have ready many travelogues of Leh trips done by so many of our TBHP-ians in SUV, XUV, Jeeps, Vans, Sedans, Hatchbacks, Bikes and what not.

But completing the trip in a small hatch, that too an alto is a real feat achieved and I bow to you man. HATS OFF!!!!

Was the vehicle able to climb the ghats/mountains with such a low torque and power ?? Any other experiences with the vehicle ??

Anybody planning to do a leh trip on a M800 ??? Waiting eagerly!!

Cheers!!!!!!!!!
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