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Old 16th March 2014, 23:16   #1
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Smile Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination

"Once you have travelled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey" - Pat Conroy.

Well, this is how I have been feeling for the last 5+ months. Have been trying to write this for long, but work has been keeping me too busy.

I finally managed to realize my dream of driving to Ladakh from Bangalore in September 2013. It was truly an antidote to city life! Need to specially thank numerous fellow Team-BHPians whose travelogues helped me in achieving this. Special thanks to Tanveer (tsk1979) for being an excellent guide. This is my first travelogue, so please bear with me if it is not too interesting!

Long time back I had read this somewhere, "One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things." When you travel across the country and 9000+ kms in 3+ weeks that too only with your wife, it definitely teaches you a lot, not just about driving. But we can talk about that later!

Firstly, the planning: Me and my wife applied for the necessary leave about an year back! Planning was majorly taken care of by my wife who prepared the route maps, list of accommodation in various places and detailed itenary after an analysis of how much can be driven in a day, though we didn't end up following it 100%. My responsibility was to get the car ready. Got the Fortuner serviced, replaced the oils, changed the suspension to Bilstein and got light films on the windows from 3M.

I do not want to enlist all the necessary stuff for the trip as many people have done a very good job of it already. Wanted to list some things which I feel are extremely essential. From the vehicle support perspective, we carried the following:
1. Jump Start Kit
2. 40-litre spare diesel fuel can
3. Spare air filter (I replaced the stock one with BMC and carried the other one with myself) - was very useful when we reached Leh.
4. Air Filter cleaning kit
5. 2 shackles with heavy duty tow rope
6. 3 x 25 litre water cans
7. Autoglass Cleaner
8. Spare bucket and mugs
(From the above, we used everything apart from the tow rope.)

From a drive support perspective:
1. LED lights (lanterns and torch)
2. Portable charger for all devices (Belkin) could even charge tablets/laptops
3. Auto Garbage Can / bag (bought this disposable one from my friend) as we hate throwing stuff on the road, this was way too handy. Can be attached to the rear of seats.
4. Tomtom - This might not be handy at times where you do not want a default route. Therefore, use this when you know many landmarks in your route. For example, rather than searching Udaipur to Hanumangarh, try to keep track of Udaipur-Chittorgarh-Kishangarh-Makrana (bypassed)-Sujangarh-Ratangad-Sardrashahr-Hanumangarh.

One thing we really missed was probably some sort of rat repellent. Yes ! we had a rat entry in Leh. It was a pain to empty the whole vehicle everyday to check. ng & hilarious experience - coming to that later.

We started for this trip on Monday September 09 after celebrating Ganesh Chathurthi at home. Though, we initially planned to start in the morning, the battery of my Fortuner suddenly went down. Therefore, the start of the trip was with the jump start kit. Recharged the battery from my VW Polo.
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-jump-start.jpg

Finally all packed, we left Bangalore around 5:30 pm. To avoid traffic inside city, I took the NICE Road.

First destination targeted: Pune
Driving Duration: 10 hours (including dinner break of 1 hr)
Distance covered: 869 kms
Driving conditions: Extreme rains all throughout. Sometimes roads were hardly visible due to big rain droplets.
Route: Bangalore-Chitradurga-Hubli-Kolhapur-Pune
Attachment 1220383

Reached a friend's home at around 5 in the morning. Slept for a few hours. Caught up with some more friends. By the time we left Pune, it was around 4:30 pm. a Big BLUNDER! We landed in Mumbai peak traffic and had to stand for hours near Thane which tired us badly. Though the next halt was planned at Udaipur, we took a break in Vapi.

Day 2: Final Destination targetted: Udaipur
Reached: Vapi
Distance covered: 298 kms
Driving Duration: 6 hours
Driving conditions: Loads of traffic. Rains
Route: Mumbai Pune Expressway and NH8

Stayed in Woodlands Hotel on the National Highway. It was continuously raining even in Vapi. Would recommend this hotel for stays in transit. Basic amenities and breakfast was good.

Day 3: Left Vapi for Udaipur. Due to few bad patches on the way to vapi and rains, the steering was tilted. Wanted to get it right. Went to the Toyota Service Center in Vapi and got it done. Terribly slow service. After that was determined to reach Udaipur the same day. The weather and skies were changing colours every now and then. (photos below)
Final Destination targeted and reached: Udaipur
Distance covered: 613 kms
Driving conditions: Small patches of heavy rains but mostly dry
Driving Duration: 8 hours (including dinner break)
Route: Surat-Baroda-Ahmedabad-Udaipur

Stayed at RTDC Hotel in Udaipur. Though room was basic, breakfast was cold, bland and sub-standard.

Road Conditions
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-vapi-tp-udaipur1.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-vapi-tp-udaipur2.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-vapi-tp-udaipur4.jpg

Day 4: Left Udaipur to reach Amritsar. This was a very long stretch. Though we initially planned to halt at Hanumangarh, I decided to go further to cover up for the loss of day by halting in Vapi.
Final Destination targetted and reached: Amritsar
Distance covered: 1074 kms
Driving conditions: Mostly dry and hot
Driving Duration: 12 hours (including dinner break and a break for replacing flat tyre)
Route: Udaipur-Chittorgarh-Kishangarh-Makrana (bypassed)-Sujangarh-Ratangad-Sardarshahr-Hanumangarh-Bhatinda - Amritsar

The roads between Sujangarh to Hanumangarh have very bad patches in between. It slowed us down terribly. Wonder why they charge us toll for a non-existent roads! We met with an accident en route. A cow suddenly came running in a sharp left turn on the highway. To avoid hitting it, I had to drive over the median. Thankfully the median was a wide patch of mud and grass but some lorry driver had left a huge stone there. The front right tyre ran over it. Result: Well, the alloy wheels cracked, flat tyre, broken fender guard (I guess its also called the Fender Splash Shield or wheel arch liner). In scorching heat, after reading the manual, we were able to remove the broken guard and changed the tyres. Now the million dollar question was whether we should continue with our trip without a spare or not? After all we were traveling in September, when the Ladakh season was ending. It would be very difficult to find help if we got stranded. After careful consideration, we decided that we will approach the showroom in Amritsar and get new alloy wheels.
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-udaipur-amritsar.jpg

Status of car after temporary disaster recovery by us
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-accident.jpg

In Amritsar, we stayed in Hotel Hong Kong Inn. The rooms are large and spacious. But it doesn't have a restaurant. However, if you like street food, there are a few options close by. The chola bhatura stall on the main road and a few hundred metres from the hotel was really good.
Visited the Golden Temple, Jallianwala Baagh and Wagah Border. The Golden Temple was truly beautiful and a peaceful place. The food at Langar was awesome. I was totally awed by the way people offered their service there. Jallianwala Bagh on the other hand incited a mix of depressing and infuriating emotions.

Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-golden-temple-1.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-golden-temple-2.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-golden-temple-3.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-jwbagh.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-jwbagh2.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-jwbaghefore3.jpg
Attachment 1220587

I also left the vehicle at the service center for a check-up hoping nothing else was damaged. Thankfully the tyre was not damaged. But then the challenge started - no showroom in Punjab had a spare alloy wheel. The closest where we could get one, was Delhi. And the detour started. Drove to Delhi, called up a dealer there, who was very supportive and helpful. They promised they would get one in 2 days and they did. Truly helpful and service oriented.

We planned to stay in Amritsar for 2 days and head to Srinagar from there. However due to this, we were in Delhi and were behind schedule by 5 days. But human desires are never ending ! Couldn't resist the temptation of visiting Agra and driving on Yamuna Expressway. So we spent a day going to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. On the Yamuna Expressway, with Bilstein and Pete's the vehicle never felt light or unstable. First I felt the toll was exorbitant but then now I change my mind.

Now 6 days behind schedule, but with our spare wheel ready we got stuck into the next question - Should we change our route to go via Manali (as it is shorter) or stay with original of Srinagar-Kargil? I was not convinced about changing the route. Therefore, we started off from Delhi towards Srinagar. The drive was long and tiring.

Day 10: Final Destination targeted and reached: Srinagar
Distance covered: 834 kms
Driving conditions: Weather was warm, roads really bad.
Driving Duration: 18 hours (including few breaks)
Route: Delhi-Panipat-Ambala-Hoshiarpur-Pathankot-Jammu-Katra-Ramban-Banihal-Anantnag-Srinagar

For this leg we had initially planned via Samba and bypass Jammu but the road conditions were really bad. After a few kms on that stretch, a lorry driver stopped us from going further and asked to go via Jammu. But the road from Jammu to Ramban stretch was terrible. Construction is going on. Some stretches were very risky with a narrow path ending with a fall of few hundred metres. Exremely muddy as well. When we reached Srinagar, the Fortuner was brown ! There was a very strong presence of army in this stretch as well. About 180 kms from Srinagar I was too tired and wanted to sleep. A local army patrol team asked us if we wanted to have tea with them and sleep in their camp/regiment space for sometime. Hats off to them for being in such harsh conditions and yet be so polite ! Here are some glimpses of the roads
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-welcome-jand-k.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-jltunnel.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-srinagar.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-entering-srinagar.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-car-side-view-srinagar-highway.jpg

After resting in Srinagar for a day we left for Kargil. I particularly felt this is where the true drive started.

Day 12: Final Destination targetted and reached: Kargil
Distance covered: 203 kms
Driving conditions: Weather was cool. Roads around Zoji La Pass were bad. Rest of the stretch was good.
Driving Duration: 6 hours including photography breaks and visit to Drass Memorial
Route: Srinagar-Sonmarg-Drass-Kargil

More than the drive, what really hit me hard was the visit to Drass Memorial. When a jawan explained us the stories of the war and the gallantry of the Indian army, I felt very heavy hearted. Never did I feel more Indian than that moment. I think every Indian citizen needs to visit these places to understand how many people give up their family, their pleasure and even their life so that we live our busy lives complaining about traffic, politics, cricket and the 'system'.
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-way-kargil.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-srinagar-kargil-view.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-srinagar-kargil-river.jpg

Zoji La
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-zojila-car.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-zojila-car2.jpg

Roads better after Zoji La
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-after-zojila.jpg

Drass War Memorial
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-kargil-war.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-warrios.jpg

Day 13: We left Kargil in the morning towards Leh. At this point the feeling of Ladakh started kicking in. For miles together, we didn't see a vehicle. The landscape changed drastically every few kms. The best of all was the brilliant roads. Thanks to BRO! The road quality is far better than most toll roads in India.

View from Kargil to Leh
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-view-way-leh.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-view-way-leh1.jpg

The GPS device. Loved the shapes of the roads
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-tomtom.jpg

The changing landscape
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-namik-la.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-view-way-leh-after-la2.jpg

Last edited by GTO : 19th June 2014 at 15:14. Reason: Adding spacing for better readability
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Old 12th June 2014, 15:31   #2
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Default re: Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination

Some more pictures en route Leh
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-fotu-la.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-fotula.jpg

Lamayuru (Moon Land)
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-lamayuru.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-lamayuru-2.jpg

I guess I would have taken a 100 pictures on this circuit... mind-blowing views
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-way-leh.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-way-leh-2.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-way-leh-3.jpg

That's a runway (the only stretch where we saw straight road after lot of ghat section)
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-road-status-way-leh.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-welcome-leh.jpg

Day 13: Final Destination targeted and reached: Leh
Distance covered: 211 kms
Driving conditions: Weather was cool. Roads were awesome
Driving Duration: 6 hours including photography breaks
Route: Kargil-Lamayuru-Leh

We stayed in Hotel Padmaling in Leh. It has a beautiful view. The owners are very friendly and nice. There is ample parking space. They also have a small apple orchard inside the campus. The rooms are basic but clean. I would recommend this place to anyone going to Leh. We stayed in Leh for 3 days. We spent a day on the permits, the next day I was feverish as I dared to have cold water in that weather. So again our plan fell back by a day. Having said that, there is nothing much to really see in Leh. We visited a local festival to see the dance. Leh Palace was very disappointing. There was hardly anything left in it to see apart from the view of the city. The weather in Leh was extreme. It was sunny and hot during the day and very cold at night.

The apples at the hotel and the view from the hotel
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-hotel-padmaling.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-hotel-padmaling-2.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-hotel-padmaling-3.jpg

At Leh Palace
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-leh-palace.jpg

Day 17: We started for Khardung La to go to Nubra Valley. The roads are in a good shape till South Pullu. There was some BRO work going on and they were conducting blasts. All vehicles were blocked in South Pullu till 3 pm. This turned out to be disastrous as we missed the timeline by 10 minutes and had to wait there for about 4 hours. After traffic was released at 3 also, we again got blocked 2 kms ahead for the blasts to be completed. It is good to check with locals on this.

En route Khardung La
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-khardung-la-ont-he-way-1.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-kardung-la-way-2.jpg

Picture of blasts and blocked traffic
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-blasts-way-khardung-la.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-queue-waiting-khardungla.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-tfort-khardungla-top-first-day.jpg

And finally we reached the Khardung La top - officially called world's highest motorable point. It felt good to be there. However it was getting dark and we had to make a quick move as all other vehicles. The army officials also asked us to not to stay there for long as it might cause sickness. After some quick clicks, we made a move as we wanted to reach Hunder by night. Most of our drive from Khardung La to Hunder was after dusk. Only while returning back, I actually I realized what I drove through that night
We halted at Snow Leopard Guest House in Hunder. It is a beautiful place to stay in. The best part was 24 hours of hot water supply. They have a small garden of theirs where they cultivate some vegetables and apples. I have never eaten more tasty apples than the ones grown here.

Day 18: The target was to cover the white sand dunes, Diskit monastery, Panamik hot springs and head back to Padmaling Guest House in Leh. We pretty much covered this. We left Snow Leopard guest house early in the morning and straight went to ride the bactrian camels. The weather was cloudy and breezy as you can see from the pictures below. Riding the camels was fun. They charge 300 per person for a ride. There is no negotiation involved here. More than the camels, I think we enjoyed taking a walk on the dune.

We visited the Diskit monastery after this. By this time it started raining and we had to slow down a bit. We headed straight to Panamik from here. By this time the rain subsided and we saw a pretty sunny valley on the other side. However Panamik was a again a total disappointment. The drive is brilliant as the roads are well laid and there were hardly any other vehicles on these roads and many stretches run along the river and the valley. However we reached close to check-post and couldn't find the hot springs when a localite guided us back to find a yellowish water source landing into a man-made washroom ! And they charge 30 Rs. per person to even see that! I would suggest anyone going to Leh to avoid this place.

However, the highlight of this day was snow. It started snowing in Khardung La when we were returning that day. The whole view from the top changed and it was a sight to see. The temperature on our dashboard started reducing by 1 degree for every hairpin curve we passed, while climbing back Khardungla pass. All in all, that day we experienced cloudy breezes to rains to sun to snow! A day fully experienced at its best indeed!

Snow Leopard Guest House
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-hotel-nubra-valley.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-hotel-nubra-valley2.jpg

The yummy green apples
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-apples-nubra-valley-hotel.jpg

Sand Dunes and bactrian camels
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-tfort-hunder.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-sand-dune-hunder-1.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-sand-dune-hunder-2.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-sand-dune-hunder-3.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-tfort-sand-dune-1.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-bactian-camel-umesh.jpg

Diskit Monastery
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-diskit-monastery.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-diskit-monastery-2.jpg

Last edited by Aditya : 16th June 2014 at 20:10. Reason: Adding spacing for better readability
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Old 12th June 2014, 19:37   #3
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En route Panamik hot springs
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-enroute-panamik.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-enroute-panamik-2.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-enroute-panamik-3.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-tfort-way-panamik-2.jpg

Panamik Hot Springs - Yes, that's all it is
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-panamik-hot-spring.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-panamik-hot-spring-2.jpg

And it flows into this!
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-panamik-hot-spring-3.jpg

The weather takes a turn on the way back to Khardung La
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-snow-while-returning-nubra.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-minue-1-degree.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-snow-khardungla.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-tfort-khardungla-top-second-day.jpg

Day 19: Left to Panamik on the banks of Pangong Tso. Bright and sunny weather in Leh helped us get started after breakfast. Refilled the tank before taking the deviation towards Karu.
Route: Leh - Karu - Sarkti (Take right fork towards Chang La) - ChangLa - Durbuk area(Take right) - Tangste (Take left, right goes to Erath, Chushul), Pangong
Total distance : 160+ kms

After Sarkti it started snowing. Chang La was snow covered and the army was working on clearing the roads. After Chang La, it was snowing till we reached Tangste, post which weather cleared up.
The road conditions are pretty good till Tangste after which there are many broken stretches. The roads from Lukung (the first town near Pangong) to Spangmik was virtually nil with many bad stretches. Hopefully they are better now.
At Spangmik, our initial plan was to camp in our own tent. However it turned very cold at night and we stayed at Padma guest house. It has basic accomodation. No hot water available.

On our way to Chang La
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-way-chang-la.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-way-chang-la-2.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-way-chang-la-3.jpg

At Chang La
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-chang-la-board.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-umesh-chang-la.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-snow-tfort-post-chang-la.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-dogs-enroute-chang-la.jpg

Day 20: I would call this as the best and worst day in the trip. The morning started bad when my wife discovered that there was rat in the car. We unloaded all items from the car, cleaned all stuff it had eaten and bitten which ranged from water sippers, instant noodle packets, apples, some extra plastic covers, cleaning cloth. However couldn't trace the rat. The unloading and reloading took a good 2 hours and was frustrating.

After this, we started from Spangmik to Marsimek La. We did not get official permit for Marsimek La but had been adviced that we can reach the checkpost and request the army and they might let us. And the army did not question us. Lot of work was going on by BRO to construct pucca roads in this stretch.

Coming to road conditions, as most would know, the initial stretches are manageable. However as you reach closer, the paths are extremely steep. There were many huge boulders on the way and it has also snowed. This lead to some wheelspin on a few stretches. One of the inclines was virtually impossible, the snow had melted making it slippery and the path was laid with huge stones. My wife had to eventually keep two boulders behind the back wheels for me to throttle up. The only feel good factor of driving in that messy stretch is that the vehicle did not get any underbody hits.

However, passing all that and reaching the top makes up for all the mess. It was a truly proud moment for me as a driver who always wanted to drive till up there. And, then, I got out to freeze.. Yes ! it was super windy and snowing together. I would say that every BHPian who drives to Ladakh HAS to experience Marsimek La.

After clicking some quick pictures, we left as we wanted to reach Chushul the same day via Man and Merak. Drove from Marsimek La to Spangmik and then started another confusing journey. After Spangmik, the road deteriorates and around the Man village, its a track. This track often is a path through the waters of Pangong. About 18-20 kms from Spangmik comes the village of Merak. I think, this is the last place one is allowed to go with Pangong Permit. A small checkpost here checked our permits and we went along. After Merak there were many tracks and we weren't sure. Our saviour was a local transport vehicle who guided us for till the deviation from Pangong came along. Till that point, you pretty much drive along the banks of Pangong after which the lake enters China. From here, it started getting difficult as the sun started setting and it was dark. But somehow we managed to reach Chushul.

At Chushul, we requested and stayed in the PWD guest house. The guard prepared basic food for us. It was very soothing to have hot dal chawal after a long day. However the guest house did not have blankets. I would recommend people to carry their sleeping bags if you want to stay here.

Pangong Tso in the morning
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-pangong-morning.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-pangong-morning-2.jpg

Near Lukung
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-tfort-near-lukung.jpg

On the way to Marsimek La
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-kiang-way-marsimek-la.jpg

At Marsimek La
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-overdrive-stone.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-tfort-marsimek-la-top.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-us-marsimek-la-top.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-tfort-marsimek-la-top-2.jpg

Pangong Tso in the noon (on our way to Chushul)
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-pangong-afternoon.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-pangong-merak.jpg

The stretches to drive after Man and Merak
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-pangong-man.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-road-after-man-merak.jpg

Last edited by Aditya : 16th June 2014 at 20:19. Reason: Adding spacing for better readability
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Old 13th June 2014, 19:38   #4
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Day 21: Again started with 'chase the rat' exercise in the morning. A whole lot of stuff again bitten and eaten by the rat which had to be cleaned. And then awaited a thrilling drive ahead. We were not allowed by the military at the check-post to drive to Chushul Memorial and thereafter to Tsaga La. About 2 days before we landed there, a tourist jeep was captured by the Chinese military and they did not want another incident. After many requests of no benefit, we returned back to the town when we met the PWD guest house guard. He asked us to go around the town, get off the track and drive in the middle of the valley and said there is no check-post there. The only caution he laid was: if there is a mountain on the left and one on right, be always towards the right one. And thus we started to drive on a track of our own. The views were breathtaking on this route and in no time we reached Rezang La memorial. After the memorial, we just followed the tracks. At times, we found many diverging ones and stuck to the one on the right. About 27 kms ahead is Tsaga La. After Tsaga La, the stretches of the roads are red (as mentioned by Tanveer in his posts) and there are some big sinks on the route which you will need to carefully maneuver. However the roads are decent with mostly tarmac stretches here. We reached the Loma check-post where our camera was taken away by the military (not phones with cams though). After crossing the check-post, I felt the tyre pressure had gone down. Therefore, we stopped at a military camp asking for help. They were so happy to see us that they seated us with them and offered tea, biscuits and juices till they got a tyre pressure monitor. We chatted for sometime with the officers who wanted to know our drive experiences and they shared their stories with us. It was a heart warming experience. While leaving they stocked us up with juices and biscuits from their camp saying we should eat and stay hydrated at that altitude. Appreciate and salute them!

At the PWD guest house in Chushul
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-view-pwd-chushul.jpg

Starting from Chushul in the middle of nowhere
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-start-chushul.jpg

At the marsh, on the way from Chushul
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-view-chushul-marsh.jpg

Rezang La Memorial
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-rezang-la-board.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-ahir-dham-board.jpg

The roads after that
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-tfort-chushul-memorial.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-road-hanle.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-kiang-after-chaga-la.jpg

Tsaga La Post
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-chaga-la-post.jpg

At Hanle
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-tfort-hanle.jpg

At Hanle Observatory, they explained us in detail on how the telescope works
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-hanle-observ.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-tfort-hanle-2.jpg

We were allowed to take as many pics inside the observatory as we wanted. However I did not want to post all the pics here with due respect to the BSF guidelines to not shoot here.

Day 22 and Day 23: Now we were determined to get that rat out the vehicle. At Hanle, we stayed in a guest house operated by an employee of the observatory. Suddenly the not-so-brilliant 'Tom and Jerry' idea struck one of us. The owner had a pet cat, so we emptied the vehicle of everything, tied the cat inside and left one door open. Well, he was damn sure that his pet cat would catch the rat at any cost. However, to me the cat looked more scared than ever. It did everything it could to get out of the vehicle, let alone scaring the rat. We had only one option left - Presume that the rat would have run away and be patient till we reached Bangalore. So with all optimism that Lord Ganesha took back his favourite, we left Hanle.
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-cat-hanle.jpg

To be frank, I did not what went into me that day. I drove from Hanle straight to Chandigarh. Yes, you heard it right. Today it sounds a little crazy even to me.
Route: Hanle - Loma (had to collect my camera back) - Nyoma - Mahe - Sumdo - Tso Kar - Debring - Pang - Sarchu - Jispa - Keylong - Rohtang - Manali - Bhuntar - Mandi - Bilaspur - Roopnagar - Chandigarh
Total kms - 800 (approximately)

Road Conditions - From Hanle till a little ahead of Mahe, it is tarmac. However after that, till a little ahead of Tso Kar it was only a track laid heavily with stones. This stretch was super tiring to drive. But till then I hadn't seen the worse yet. Till Debring the roads were again awesome, freshly laid with a few bad dips but a total pleasure. The pain started between Debring and Pang where everything vanished. I don't think I would even call them tracks. Every inch of the suspension and every joint in my spine was crying from that moment. We drove this whole stretch at night and were waiting to reach Rohtang somehow. I really pity the lorry drivers who take this route. The route all the way to Rohtang had inexistent roads with some very tricky inclines and curves.

After Jispa, I got too tired and we decided to take a break and sleep for a few hours. In 2 hours we woke up frozen and realized that it started snowing. The painful roads and the chilling snow drove me crazy that I somehow just wanted to get out of this stretch ASAP. We reached Rohtang next day early morning. Rohtang had a very pleasant weather considering from where we came. Had hot Maggi to comfort our cold stomachs and wondering why the honeymoon couples wearing snowsuits for that place found horse (so-called) so interesting. (There was no snow at Rohtang)

After Rohtang roads improved till after crossing Kullu, post which there were some stretches which were bad and some very good. By night we reached Chandigarh and stayed at the first motel available on the highway (was not mention-worthy).
Good news: We didn't notice any damage by rat this day. Probably the bad roads also jolted it enough to wait for exiting the vehicle!

Views on the way from Hanle to Keylong
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-way-hanle-manali.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-way-hanle-manali-2.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-way-hanle-manali-3.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-way-hanle-manali-4.jpg

Sunsetting over Tso-Kar on our way
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-tso-kar.jpg

Rohtang Pass - Fortuner standing tall and proud after all the abuse
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-tfort-rohtang-pass.jpg

Breath-taking morning views
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-view-rohtang.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-clouds-rohtang.jpg

Day 24: We decided to return back via Nagpur instead of taking the same Vapi-Mumbai circuit. After the super tiring drive from Hanle to Chandigarh, I just halted outside of Agra to take a break on this day.
Route: Chandigarh - Ambala - Delhi - Agra (Took the Yamuna Expressway again)
Total distance: 457 kms

The roads are mostly tarmac stretches apart from many unbuilt flyovers on the GT Road. At Agra, we stayed at Sai Palace. The accommodation is good and worth the price. They also have an in-house restaurant which serves decent food. Rooms were very clean and well maintained.

Day 25: Started from Agra to Nagpur. The roads are in a decent shape will entering Madhya Pradesh. However, once you enter MP, the story is different. Potholed stretches and very bad traffic.
Total distance: 825 kms
We reached Nagpur by late night. Spent day 26 meeting friends and gearing up for a straight drive back to Bangalore.

The vehicle at 0 point - Center of India in Nagpur
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-tfort-nagpur.jpg

Day 27: Aah! the urge for reaching home was more than anything. Little did I realize that the roads ahead might not be very helpful in my goal. MP has virtually 0 roads. Added to that were rains. So all that I drove through, was slush, slush and more slush. Barring a 80-100 km stretch which would be tarmac, the state of the roads are worse than some stretches in Ladakh. Added to this was the ongoing problem of dividing Andhra. We were very skeptical of being able to reach home that day. But to our surprise crossing Andhra was a breeze and the roads between Hyderabad and Bangalore need no mention of their quality. At around 9 pm on Day 27, we were back at home elated with all our experiences right from broken alloy wheels to the rat eating up all our food.

Thanks again to all the posts by BHPians for making this happen ! The road conditions might have hopefully changed for the better. Any updates are welcome. Please feel free to PM me for any questions or support.

Last edited by Aditya : 16th June 2014 at 20:25. Reason: Adding spacing for better readability
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Old 16th June 2014, 12:37   #5
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Default Re: Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 16th June 2014, 15:11   #6
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Default Re: Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination

Nice travelogue, came very late but then brought back our memories from Aug-Sep 2013. Yes, we returned back from Ladakh on 5th of Sept 2013 if I remember correctly.
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Old 16th June 2014, 15:14   #7
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Default Re: Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination

Nice travelogue and great pictures. Must have been a fascinating experience - this is the beauty of travel, especially on your own.

Foxed at your decision to turn back to Delhi after going all the way to Amritsar. Surely Punjab isn't that bad in terms of catering to every need of your faithful ride ?

The "business" end of your travelogue - Ladakh - is lovely. Great photos complimented by your fresh narrating style. What a wonderful place it is. No matter how many travelogues on Ladakh we read, it will never be predictable or boring. Totally intrigued by the road marker giving distances to Beijing, Tokyo, etc !!

Day 23 is seriously scary

You've scored at least one unique "first" amongst the many travelogues that sparkle in this forum. Nowhere do I think has a murine featured so prominently

By the way, how much of your odyssey is doable by a small car - hatchback or a sedan ?
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Old 16th June 2014, 15:29   #8
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Default Re: Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination

Hi

Good TL.

One can go through any number of TLs on Leh and everyone has something unique.

Between the decision of the route from Hanumangarh/Amrtisar to by pass Delhi or to do Udaipur/Jaipur/Delhi/Amristar - which one do you think makes more sense? I know RJ remote areas are awesome but I am left wondering how all of PB and CH (?) or even HR did not have a spare and you had to drive back to Delhi.

Please also mention if you had to indeed use spare fuel anywhere. I see you carrried extra but given the 80 ltr tank of a Fortuner that may not have been needed?

Bring on more pictures. Did you get the bookings done by yourself or had someone pre book them for you?

Good TL.

Cheers

Rajain
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Old 16th June 2014, 19:46   #9
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Default Re: Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination

An incredible travelogue and photos. The stories of how well the people and the army treat visitors there- it NEVER fails to amaze.

And it is great to see a T-Fort being used the way its meant to be (more so for me cuz I work for the T-company )
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Old 17th June 2014, 10:02   #10
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Default Re: Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination

Nice TL, I just cannot wait for 2014 to end 2015 to begin! My next expedition to HP and Ladakh planned and greatly sought-after by me in 2015. Brings back fond memories of my trip in 2012 but unfortunately, we did the usual touristy places and did not get to do the off-beat places, inspite of driving there in a Gypsy. In any case, I've already started planning the 2015 trip in terms of the route I want to take this time about. A TL like yours goes a long way in helping plan the route.

Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful experience.
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Old 17th June 2014, 13:51   #11
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Default Re: Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination

Agree with Rajain, each Ladakh travelogue is unique. Thanks for sharing, ru153.

Short and to the point.
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Old 17th June 2014, 14:05   #12
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Default Re: Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination

Quote:
Originally Posted by Secretariat View Post
By the way, how much of your odyssey is doable by a small car - hatchback or a sedan ?
This has been my favorite research topic. Several experts in the forum have answered a resounding YES to the question. My answer too is yes. Here are a few more insights.

In my opinion, it is best to stick to the regular routes. That is, Srinagar-Kargil-Leh , Leh-K'dung La-Nubra, Leh-Pangong and finally, Leh-Sarchu-Keylong-Manali.
Other interesting roads like Kargil-Rangdum-Padum, Nubra-Pangong/ Durbuk , Marsimik La etc would be difficult. Leh-hanle too is possible but from one has to comeback to Upshi to go to Manali. ( 4X4's could go through Tso Moriri)

Crossing Nallah's too is possible if you plan and time it properly.

Most important - One place where many hatchbacks take a hit is none other than Rohtang Pass. Due to the heavy slush there, many small cars get stuck, loose their bumpers, ask other cars to tow them etc etc. That slushy period in Rohtang has to be avoided.
That means, if one is taking a hatchback, it is better to go in September.

Please note, I have never visited Leh. So take my opinions with a pinch of salt. I have planned Leh trip 3 times to the minutest detail, only to drop it later. I planned to take my Swift ZXI. All three times I planned to do in Sept, and I was confident of doing it. Trip got cancelled due to other reasons.
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Old 17th June 2014, 14:23   #13
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Default Re: Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination

Wonderful Travelogue with some really amazing pcitures.
Hats off to you for driving across from down south in Bangalore to the hills of Kargil and beyond and back.
On a secondary note, I would like to ask you a very basic question around the driving etiquette of people across the length and breadth of your journey.
I have heard that just like the language and cultures changing every few kilometers within India, so do the driving styles and sense.
Did you encounter any specifics and what scared you the most while driving on those stretches.
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Old 17th June 2014, 19:10   #14
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Default Re: Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination

Quote:
Originally Posted by motomaverick View Post
Nice travelogue, came very late but then brought back our memories from Aug-Sep 2013. Yes, we returned back from Ladakh on 5th of Sept 2013 if I remember correctly.
Thanks !

Quote:
Originally Posted by Secretariat View Post
Nice travelogue and great pictures. Must have been a fascinating experience - this is the beauty of travel, especially on your own.

Foxed at your decision to turn back to Delhi after going all the way to Amritsar. Surely Punjab isn't that bad in terms of catering to every need of your faithful ride ?

The "business" end of your travelogue - Ladakh - is lovely. Great photos complimented by your fresh narrating style. What a wonderful place it is. No matter how many travelogues on Ladakh we read, it will never be predictable or boring. Totally intrigued by the road marker giving distances to Beijing, Tokyo, etc !!

Day 23 is seriously scary

You've scored at least one unique "first" amongst the many travelogues that sparkle in this forum. Nowhere do I think has a murine featured so prominently

By the way, how much of your odyssey is doable by a small car - hatchback or a sedan ?
Thanks ! No offence intended on Punjab. Sadly our luck was bad that showrooms did not have stock and they said it would take atleast one week and we did not have that much time to spare.

I would say most of the stretches are doable with a small car. Please avoid Marsimek La and Chushul. You can drive to Pangong but avoid Spangmik. Again do not drive from Pangong to Hanle on the route I took i.e. via Man Merak Chushul. I chose September for two reasons - avoiding crowd which I believe is the most in July August and waiting for most snow to melt. However luckily, after losing a few days we got to see the start of snowing also. If you really want to see snow capped mountains, September might not be the best time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rajain View Post
Hi

Good TL.

One can go through any number of TLs on Leh and everyone has something unique.

Between the decision of the route from Hanumangarh/Amrtisar to by pass Delhi or to do Udaipur/Jaipur/Delhi/Amristar - which one do you think makes more sense? I know RJ remote areas are awesome but I am left wondering how all of PB and CH (?) or even HR did not have a spare and you had to drive back to Delhi.

Please also mention if you had to indeed use spare fuel anywhere. I see you carrried extra but given the 80 ltr tank of a Fortuner that may not have been needed?

Bring on more pictures. Did you get the bookings done by yourself or had someone pre book them for you?

Good TL.

Cheers

Rajain
Thanks ! To answer your questions:
1. Between the decision of the route from Hanumangarh/Amrtisar to by pass Delhi or to do Udaipur/Jaipur/Delhi/Amristar - which one do you think makes more sense? - I would say the second option has better roads than the first but first is shorter. Also depends on the type of car, on the first route there was 60-70 km stretch which was totally inexistent when we went. Not sure if it has improved now.

2. Many asked me this question on the spare - I would just call it my bad luck. The showroom in Amritsar tried all his might but it did not work out and they wanted a week. Then I picked a number in Delhi to check and he offered me immediate stock. Thus the detour !

3. Please also mention if you had to indeed use spare fuel anywhere. - Yes we did use spare fuel. Once you refuel outside Leh, there is no fuel available in the stretch I drove i.e. into Pangong to Marsimek La to Chushul to Hanle and back on Manali highway. This is where I re-fuelled using the spare.

4. Did you get the bookings done by yourself or had someone pre book them for you? - We did not book any accommodation. We carried a directory of all hotels, tagged them on Google maps. Once we reached a destination, we would pick one and stay. However I would not advice this if you are going during peak season.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ajslave View Post
An incredible travelogue and photos. The stories of how well the people and the army treat visitors there- it NEVER fails to amaze.

And it is great to see a T-Fort being used the way its meant to be (more so for me cuz I work for the T-company )
Thank you !

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gentle Giant View Post
Nice TL, I just cannot wait for 2014 to end 2015 to begin! My next expedition to HP and Ladakh planned and greatly sought-after by me in 2015. Brings back fond memories of my trip in 2012 but unfortunately, we did the usual touristy places and did not get to do the off-beat places, inspite of driving there in a Gypsy. In any case, I've already started planning the 2015 trip in terms of the route I want to take this time about. A TL like yours goes a long way in helping plan the route.

Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful experience.
Thanks ! Please PM me if you need anything. Would be happy to help another BHPian do this circuit

Quote:
Originally Posted by HappyWheels View Post
Agree with Rajain, each Ladakh travelogue is unique. Thanks for sharing, ru153.

Short and to the point.
Thanks !
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Old 18th June 2014, 20:57   #15
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Default Re: Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination

In this, I am posting the pictures of what you and your vehicle would see while embarking on this route. Please note that these roads might have improved or deteriorated now and any updates are welcome !

From Vapi to Vadodara
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-vapi-vadodara.jpg

Udaipur to Hanumangarh (After this I drove at night to Amrirsar, so couldn't take pics of the bad stretches)
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-udaipur-hanumangarh.jpg

Amritsar to Delhi - Decent Roads but traffic can get bad at times
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-amritsar-delhi.jpg

Yamuna Expressway
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-yamuna-expressway.jpg

Amritsar to Pathankot (from Pathankot to Katra and Jammu are again roads with very bad stretches. Drove this also at night so couldn't take pics)
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-amritsar-pathankot.jpg

Jammu to Srinagar (a mix of good and bad stretches)
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-jammu-srinagar.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-jammu-srinagar-2.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-jammu-srinagar-3.jpg

Srinagar to Sonmarg (Barring Zoji La, brilliant roads)
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-srinagar-sonmarg.jpg

Roads after Zoji La
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-zoji-la.jpg

I have posted pictures of the runway stretches from Kargil to Leh in the travelogue. So did not want to repeat.
On the way from Leh to Rohtang Pass
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-enroute-rohtang-pass-near-south-pullu.jpg

At Rohtang Pass (you can see the slush due to ice melting)
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-rphtang-slush-ice.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-rphtang-slush-ice-2.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-rphtang-slush-ice-3.jpg

Road to Hunder/Diskit (Nubra Valley)
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-nubra-valley.jpg

On the way to Panamik
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-roads-panamik.jpg

On the way from Leh to Chang La
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-way-leh-chang-la.jpg

At Chang La
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-changla.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-changla-2.jpg

Around Durbuk on the way to Pangong
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-durbuk.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-durbuk-2.jpg

At Lukung
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-lukung.jpg

Around Phobran on the way to Marsimek La
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-phobran.jpg

Enroute Marsimek La
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-marsimek-la.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-marsimek-la-2.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-marsimek-la-3.jpg

From Pangong to Chushul - Around the towns of Man and Merak
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-man-merak.jpg
Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-man-merak-3.jpg
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Bangalore to Ladakh - A drive as great as the destination-just-before-entering-srinagar.jpg  

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