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Old 23rd June 2014, 20:27   #1
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Default Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode

Well! The Challenge with penning down a Ladakh Travelogue is not only in the enormity of it, but the fact that, despite the remoteness, vastness and desolateness of the region, it also, ironically, remains as the single most documented items on this forum and similar forums elsewhere. Each story has an individual twist in isolation but when viewed from the perspective of contributing information, Ladakh, is covered in great detail. From that perspective, trying to iron out repeat of items already covered by many others, will be quite a tough ask.

To start it all. The credit for being the stepping stone for planning our Ladakh trip goes to this treasure trove that masquerades as a thread on team-bhp :-

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/route-...ate-guide.html (Leh, Ladakh and Zanskar - The Ultimate Guide)

Outside the forum also, Tanveer (Tsk1979) has been extremely informative. So has been Ajay Wali and ofcourse the unquestionable Legend, HVK (who also became my only outside contact during a certain phase of the trip).

But beyond this, I guess, I probably have never irritated anyone more with countless questions and he took time to answer all of that, some with a signature sense of sarcasm/humor. Speaking about the extremely knowledgable Dr Shamindra Sengupta (SS-Traveller). His information was so accurate that he predicted that my trip will be around 8000kms and I just fell 175 kms short.

So for folks who are looking to plan a trip to Ladakh, through this thread, look no further, I am no expert, the experts have already been named. But once one gets advice from them, it would be a crime to have overlooked any of it.

That was precisely the thought going through my mind at about Eighteen and a half thousand feet above sea level. There was a strict instruction to keep the portable oxygen cylinder within fast reach and here I was sitting all alone on a rock, gasping for breath, with the O2 cylinder safely stacked inside Marengo (Our 2010 Mahindra Scorpio mHAWK VLX 4WD) with my other family members, 2kms down. The mistake, on my end, was to limit the planning of precautions to my wife, daughter and car.

Now the pertinent question would be, what was I doing 2 kms away from my vehicle at 18.5 thousand feet above sea level on a rock?

The answer to that can be found in the pic below.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3878.jpg

This was after having almost covered 2kms beyond the point that was shown by the offline navigator "OpenStreetMaps" as the "Marsimik-La". The point looked so non-descript, that it was hard to beleive that it was a pass, despite knowing upfront that MarsimikLa isn't one of those hard-to-miss locations. I decided to drive on, till the track rose. Around half a KM of those 2kms was traversed on light ice, in some places it was difficult to tell which way did the track went. However there was no one to ask, not a soul in sight, neither tyre tracks of vehicles to assure that I was probably going somewhere important.

But at this point, given the amount of snow on the ground and its slope, I was not too keen to risk my vehicle and family into an effort in vain to find MarsimikLa. Besides, what if I had come the wrong way?

So I had taken the decision to park Marengo here and walk uphill a bit, to get a feel or even have a spatial understanding. There was a landmark (a board kind of thing) that I could spot, on top of the hill I was walking on and it did not look far.

Kept walking and the landmark got further away, after about a kilometer of walking I realised that the Landmark that was guiding me, was nothing but a pile of rocks!

But there was indeed a trail, a steep one, rising from the pile of snow and vanishing near the top of the hill. Took the trail, but thoughts kept on accumulating at the back of the mind, that in the effort of being guided by the rock pile, I did not realise the time that I had spent away from my family. Then the thought also hit the mind that even after the trail reaches the top, I might not find anything, it could just be an effort akin to chasing one's own shadow. Soon the realisation, that breathing is becoming progressively difficult.Very difficult, all of a sudden.

From an absolutely fine state to almost being restricted at the chest within a few seconds. Limbs going numb, floaters in the eye, I knew it wont be possible to keep consciousness and continuing to be on the feet was definitely a risk. The nearest decent rock to rest on must have been 10 feet away, but that distance seemed long, very very long.

Somehow I managed.

But that was half the story. Managing to sit was one thing, breathing another. Pretty soon, I was resigned to accepting what was coming. Kind of laughing to myself, having taken all precautions, here I was, with having overlooked even the wind-cheater jacket, let alone the portable Oxygen cylinder, which is stacked safely at a convenient place inside Marengo. I had set outside from the vehicle only to check out a little and little by little, I had come this far. Then thought to myself, that I had safely parked myself on the rock with a good back and headrest, so will not fall off in any event (unless there is an earthquake)! My last photograph wouldn't look bad either!! Then started to comfort myself, that my family is parked at a safer place, they will find help a km or two down, so it was good that I stopped the vehicle. With those thoughts and a depleting breathing rate, I thought to have a good look around the world that I am in and I so love.

(Picture was taken later)

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1631.jpg

After a brief pause, I could sense my breath coming back, albeit very slowly. Two three attempts later, there was an urgency given to self "got a few additional breaths, lets take the opportunity to see if there is anything at the top, besides its much more glamorous to have a last breath at the top!"

Got up from the rock, started walking up again with almost no control on directions, realised it to be a mistake, the breathlessness was catching faster this time. Thankfully, within a few yards, there was another set of rock formation just like the one I was already on.

Sat there for almost a few minutes. Wasn't sure if I was going to be able to walk back, but since my breathing had stabilised a bit again, decided to walk up rather than down. Soon across the bend was the board for MarsimikLa, just below the pile of rocks that were luring me.

The whole sense of being alone, on top of the world, no camera's, no mobiles, no nothing, was, out of this world and cannot be explained. Did not matter if the last breath went away at that point!

Anyway, I slowly, calmly walked down, now that I had seen the place.

When I reached back to Marengo, I realised how long I was away and what went through my little daughter all this time.

Now the biggest decision to make was, whether to take Marengo forward to the top, alongwith its passengers. I had seen the top, but I had taken shortcuts to go up, but the track on which Marengo has to tread is under snow, some of it pretty thick.

So decided to walk up to verify the only part of the track that bothered me, because I wasn't sure, which was the track, because it was ice everywhere.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3880.jpg

came back to the car, decided that if it can safely go upto the first turn, I will attempt it, otherwise, this is a good point to reverse back.

Slotted first and started to move. There wasn't any drama, just plain grip, probably thanks to Maxxis Bravo 771 A/T. Took a steep hairpin without much of a fuss and then it was a go-go-go!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3877.jpg

(Shot on the way back)

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3895.jpg

Soon we were at the top, Here!!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_16261.jpg

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1625.jpg

The Shiv temple and deserted post on the M-La top

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1630.jpg

A last parting view

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1632.jpg

The descent seemed more challenging with gravity inducing unwanted motions. But soon we got the hang of it. It was time for a video, atleast this will stay in the memory for ever!



So here is a very happy and accomplished Marengo bringing you his Ladakh story!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_39051.jpg

Last edited by 1100D : 10th July 2014 at 20:07.
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Old 26th June 2014, 00:35   #2
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Default re: Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode

From the first post above, it might be pertinent to ask, what was I doing at Marsimik-La? Being a relatively attraction-free location, apart from the height, its not natural for anyone with a sane mind, to spend time going to Marsimik-La only.

The answer, as with the previous post, is again in a picture, the one below

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1635.jpg

We crossed this gate to go to Marsimik-la and also on our way back from it. The small water body seen in the picture is infact quite a huge one!

One that looks like this (see pic below) and goes for around 30 kilometers as one enters Lukung village and drives past village of Merak.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1619.jpg

Yes, its the Pangong Tso. The famed lake first showed itself to us on the day before our expedition to conquer the not-so-famed "M-La"!

The first view was infact pretty sweet!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1523.jpg

But as we entered the village of Lukung, the magnificence revealed itself.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3918.jpg

The view that people live to see for themselves, was right in front of us

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3837.jpg

Although everyone knows by now, but the above mentioned fame, especially the new found one, in recent time, was due to the 3-Idiots movie having being partly shot here. What they left behind is a legacy of these stalls, almost every alternate one of them is named after the movie.

Something like this! We could not resist, thankfully and coincidentally the Tea here was good.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1644.jpg

While we were engrossed in the aroma of the brew, Marengo, however was hard to distract from savouring the beauty of the majestic Lake called Pangong Tso!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1641.jpg

We drove further east for another 10kms or so, to another settlement called Spangmik, in search of a proper brick-concrete accomodation (not a camp with tents, because of certain bad experience a few days earlier with the capability of the tents to shelter from cold). To our dismay, the Pangong Resort at Spangmik did not have any rooms vacant. But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Because, a few yards upwards on the hill was a brand-new hotel which is yet to be named and that became our nest for the two nights we spent there. The service hadn't yet been upto hospitality standards, but what was really heartening was that, there was a genuine effort. But beyond all that, the best thing was not only the fact that we were the first guests in the room we stayed in, but also, the fact that the room had a clear glass window that offered view like this!!


Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1713.jpg

The rest of the evening was spent near the lake shooting my 8-yr old Daughter Anoushka with these birds that can be found near the lake

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3931.jpg

I am told these are brown headed gulls by another bhpian who doubles as an Ornithologist. But the heads really look straight out of an animation movie!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3864.jpg

Shot by the 8 Yr old

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3862.jpg

Shot by the 8 yr old's dad

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1573.jpg

So after we were done with shooting birds and not hurting them too. It was time to retire for the day.

The next day was our episode at Marsimik-la, the permits to which we had already secured at Leh a few days earlier.

Since we had already covered the M-La portion of the journey will skip it! The rest of the afternoon after return from the La, was spent driving on the shores of the famed Tso. Now it was turn to click Marengo at various points.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1668.jpg

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1678.jpg

Besides the photo-session, Marengo found another way to keep itself amused. By rescuing, the very 2wd vehicles that it managed to tempt into the loose soil near the water surface. In total 4 vehicles were recovered over time. Two of which can be found in this video



All-in-All the Pangong part of the Ladakh trip, turned out to be quite happening for Marengo. But even before that, it had seen a lot of action, more of that coming later.

Till then, Marengo requests for a little patience as it stares at you from the Pangong Tso!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-untitled21.jpg

Last edited by 1100D : 10th July 2014 at 20:17.
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Old 26th June 2014, 23:53   #3
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Default re: Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode

Now! Going by the strategy I have taken so far in this thread, it would probably be predictable, that I would begin with how I got to Pangong in the first place, then mention a story about Leh and then continue on to how I got Leh'd.

That would again turn this thread into some anticipatibility as it is really difficult to find a person on this forum, who wouldn't want to get Leh'd. So rather than going that route, lets take a diversion and look at the preface to this trip.

Well, since its a Ladakh trip, the reasons would again be quite similar to most of the automotive enthusiasts from these parts.

Apart from the plethora of travelogues on this forum and the wonderful snaps posted by a lot of members, I guess the seeds of interest to come to Ladakh, once in a lifetime, atleast, driving my own car, were sown long back. Not really sure when. But probably, it was induced, in the mid 90's, when, we used to travel a lot on the hills of (what is now) Uttarakhand and HP. Or was it the Kargil conflict? I am not sure but those days, images that used to flash in the media, had actually sold Ladakh to me.

To top it all, like many others will agree with me, this very commercial was very very instrumental in increasing interest in driving to Ladakh one day.

The Kancha Ad from Maruti



Infact the need to come to Ladakh was so profound, that when we (our batchmates) were on our way to join our job after college in 1999, whilst all the others had dreams of a "settled" life, I was probably the only one who said, that the only dream I have is "Ladakh in my Gypsy King!" I am also sure, the person I said this to, will be reading these lines!!!

The Gypsy King lifestyle did not happen, as my demographic/psychographic turned out a little less adventurous. But nevertheless, I am happy that the window of opportunity opened up for me finally this year and would be thankful to my wife for pushing me to make it this year.

But the best time to visit Ladakh was said to be from early-Mid June, but that is a luxury I could not afford due to my daughters vacation window, from school, being from Mid-May to Mid-June.

So Mid-May it was, not the best of time, but still something rather than nothing.

There were posts on the Ladakh thread and the plan finally took shape, we were to start on May-17th.

But less than 2 days from the trip, I had a pickpocket and my license went with it. So the start was pushed back. Suggestions, discussions Opinions, intervening weekend all resulted in me getting a receipt of a duplicate applied for after 4 days from the scheduled start. So here was the altered trip plan.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-untitled2.jpg

Then simultaneously, there were preparations! List of items to carry as part of contingency planning was long (can be found in the Ladakh planning thread mentioned in the opening post, hence not repeating), infact irritatingly so. As it also turned out, it went useless as well. But then cannot be ignored. Here's some being progressively shoved into Marengo.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-dpp_032.jpg

But after the incident on our initial scheduled start, I had my fingers crossed till we finally rolled from home on May 22 at about 6am.

Day 1 - Drive to Allahabad

Since this is a thread for the Ladakh expedition, where there is so much to write and that the art of travelling between Kolkata and Delhi is copyrighted mostly by SS-Traveller and Predatorwheelz, would limit my inputs here to say, it was an incident free drive. Just hours spent behind the wheel.

Took 13.5 hours end-to-end, including about 1 hour hold-up very near to the start of the journey (4kms precisely). That brings us to a point, which I feel like bringing up. The 200 odd kms from our home to the WB border took around 5 hours to cross, a measly 40kmph average on what was, at one time, one of India's best maintained GQ section (according to an Autocar report published a few years earlier). Traffic hold-ups, too many trucks (that vanish after the border), Panagarh, traffic lights on expressway, civic traffic volunteers blocking highway traffic to allow cross directional local traffic, shopping Mall beside the highway, slow moving traffic on the expressway, you name it and the hazard has cropped up on the highways of WB. Infact by the time we had reached Asansol, by the going rate thus far, I was probably anticipating a very late arrival at Allahabad (if at all), or a night halt at Varanasi.

But thankfully, the average speeds increased right after the Border and within minutes Dhanbad, Topchanchi were dispatched and we were at Barhi (about 90 kms from the border) within the next hour.

Had a lunch stop at Barhi, as was recommended, but forgot the name of the recommended restaurant, instead we were lucky enough to taste "Chicken Chowmein Jharkhand style" (not to my daughters liking though)

We were soon flying again, till we reached the opposite end of the Dehri (on Sone) road bridge, from where the road surface deteriorated (thankfully it appeared much better on the way back) all the way to the Ganga bridge outside Varanasi. However the Average speeds did not take any further dip.

By 7:30pm we were at Hotel Ilawart at Allahabad. Did have the energy to carry on more, but then, was mostly fighting boredom behind the wheel. The next day would be long, because we were not only targeting beyond Delhi but reaching as close as possible to the hills. So it was time to hit the bed early. But where was sleep?!

Day 2 - Drive to Chandigarh

If there was a day, in the entire planned trip, that I was worried about, it was this one. It was always going to be long, boring, straight and unlike the excitement of starting on a new voyage of the first day, this day was a day to be endured with full alertness. To top that, the distance was very close to a 1000 clicks (falling short by about 50).

And it also turned out to be just that and also very very hot outside. The new portable DVD player bought specifically to minimize boredom in my Daughter refused to work.

We started around 7am ish from Ilawart after our breakfast (and we realised it was a good decision to move after having the breakfast) as the food options enroute was basic, very basic. Guided by the MapmyIndia navigation, we endured around 50kms of the old NH2 with horrible surface (on the way back we took the Allahabad byepass partially which was way more convenient). After reaching the 4-laning life was smoother till the other end of Kanpur flyover (A 23km flyover that runs over Kanpur).

From Kanpur, all the way till the start of Yamuna Expressway (near Agra) there were countless diversions, some within 1km of each other.

We reached the Eastern end of the YEW at about 2:30pm.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_29991.jpg

Before 4pm we were around 150kms away, stopped at the last rest stop, being ready to handle Delhi traffic, while we go across it. This 150km was also an opportunity for in-car refreshments and with the cruise control being on, it was the "Neel-Gai's" that were keeping us entertained.

Soon we were hurtling down Noida-Greater Noida expressway towards Akshardham Temple. From Akshardham it was a quick left turn and a subsequent right after crossing the bridge. Somehow time flew as we drove under the red-fort, beside Rajghat. Delhi traffic was seemingly being kind to us as we soon reached Sonepat.

From Sonepat, MapmyIndia suggested that Chandigarh will be 4hours away and at 6pm it wasn't quite comfortable, given that we did not have any reservations at Chandigarh. A quick call to the tourism hotel at Chandigarh, although they reserved us in but they also informed us that they take dinner orders till about 9:30pm or a little later.

Thankfully, we did manage Sonepat to Chandigarh, Parkview Palace within 3.5 hours (and within their Dinner order time, which we learnt later was not totally true) . 14.5 hours from Start at Hotel Ilawart in Allahabad 943kms away.

The facilities and services at Parkview was very good.

But the forecast for the next days drive was not at all looking good, with some even suggesting, to break the drive to Srinagar at Patnitop/Batote given the road conditions and the heavy truck traffic that has been prevalent on the Jammu-Srinagar highway. One even suggesting that Chandigarh to Srinagar is downright unthinkable in these times.

Not really good words to hit the bed after two long days at the wheel, but yet, made up my mind, won't do an early morning start. I will start after I have had a good breakfast, a good shower and I am generally comfortable! 6am start suggestion to be highly ignored!

Last edited by 1100D : 10th July 2014 at 20:28.
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Old 30th June 2014, 00:52   #4
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Default re: Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode

Day 3 - Chandigarh to Srinagar

As I mentioned, The drive forecast from members of HVK forum was not looking good. But somehow, since some of the same people had said, that I would probably only make it to Varanasi on Day 1, I reasoned with myself, to estimate what will actually be possible by us, with respect to those forecasts. We were suggested a night-halt of Patnitop or Batote.

On the otherhand, MapmyIndia Navigator was showing a drive time of under 10 hours, so far in the plains, it was more or less close enough and I have been able to undercut those times. So there was a confidence that, we will be at Srinagar with good time to spare. We will also find our way to the Dal Lake and find a hotel there.

So based on those thoughts, we made a casual start at 7:30am after breakfast at Parkview Chandigarh.

The going was also good, as per expectations. Hoshiarpur, Pathankot were all despatched in the allotted times and soon we were at the J&K border at around 12:20pm.


Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3103.jpg

We almost flew the first stretch from the border to Samba, to take the Samba byepass on right, within the next 40 mins.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3113.jpg

But this is where we encountered both the thrill of entering the mountains and taste of things to come later in the day.

Firstly the topography changed and we were well and truly in the mountains, after 2.5 days of enduring the plains. But more than that, the road surface started to deteriorate and in some parts were reduced to a crawl.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3122.jpg

But hills! Here we are!!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3131.jpg

22kms from the start of the Samba-Udhampur road, which bypasses Jammu, is the "Manesar lake". It took us around 45 minutes to reach it, including a J&K police interrogation stop.

But the Manesar Lake was like a breath of fresh air, with its beautiful location. Took the opportunity to stop for lunch here.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3134.jpg

These fellows looking at us, when we told them that, we have been driving from Bengal and intend to halt at Srinagar for the night

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3136.jpg

Lunch done, we set out for Udhampur, the road condition thankfully improved post the Manesar Lake. We reached Udhampur within the next half hour.

Following the arrows to Srinagar, we started driving towards Patnitop. This is where it hit us, that the cell, that was Navigating, had just switched off due to lack of charge in the battery.

Realised, that the 12v sockets in Marengo, are not working and so the cell was actually running on its own battery and has now exhausted itself. Worst still, my wife's phone, it turned out, was not charged the previous night and had also switched itself off!

It did not hit us as a problem then, but later it did.

However after merging onto Jammu-Srinagar highway, the first thing that hit me was the speed of J&K vehicles, especially trucks coming downhill from the opposite side, some of them, even drifting (oversteering) on the turns. Even the Buses.

It will extremely please some people, who know me, that I was honked and flashed behind on this stretch on this day!

Soon we crossed Patnitop and even Batote, by about 4:45pm and I was thinking, this is where they asked me to stop for the night. Srinagar wasn't too far!

But soon we slowed down, considerably. The NH1 was so narrow at points that any broken-down vehicle on this stretch, there would be traffic holdups, backed up upto half a km on each side. Add to that, potholes, quite big.

We must have encountered, 4-5 such holdups, but the biggest was waiting for us near Banihal. Took us around 1.5 hours to cross Banihal.

By the time we emerged out of the Jawahar Tunnel it was already 9pm. Made sense to stop somewhere nearby, but decided to carry on, atleast keep driving to the directions of Srinagar. It was during these times, the lack of cellphone connect was telling on us. If we had them, we could have called someone back home and get us checked into some good hotel with someone to contact there for both directions and dinner.

There were diversions on the road, the last few kms were actually in shambles at places and reduced to a crawl, with trucks everywhere. But we still managed to reach Srinagar by 10:40pm ish.

Somehow, I managed to drive on and still find Dal Lake from memory of it from my last visit around 29 years back. But the problem was that we did not have a reservation and we did not intend to leave Marengo far away and stay in a Houseboat. So the search for a Hotel began at that time. Most Hotels we saw did not have vacancy, and the ones that had, were not upto the expectation I had from the capital of Kashmir valley.

Thankfully and coincidentally we traced our route back and on a casual asking, found a vacancy at Hotel Akbar residency. It not only had a decent compound for parking, but the rooms were old British era in decor with fireplace and all. So it was time to dive right in.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3160.jpg

The best thing was, they not only managed some dinner for us at that hour (about 11:30pm), but they gave us a very tasty one with a chicken preparation that lingers on till date.

The Building, Parking and compound at Akbar Residency

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_0469.jpg

The next few days, were kind of a pause to the fast paced progress from home. A few days spent at Kashmir valley itself. The predominant reason being the fact that, we wanted to ensure that in the rush to reach the "Land of high passes", we did not end up hurting the sentiments of the queenly Kashmir valley. Besides it's not everyday that some of us (from our part of the world) get to drive through Kashmir. My wife and daughter had never been there before, I had been there a shade under 3 decades back. So naturally we took the excuse of acclimatization to spend a few days on this very heaven. Yes, there was the excitement of the "Ladakh" part of the journey, but that was anyway going to happen in a few days.

Now, what Kasmir showed us, could safely be described as phenomenal, to such an extent that we almost forgot the journey yet to come, a distraction, that took us by surprise. So much, that for the sake of this travelogue, to maintain its theme, of being one for Ladakh, I think, it will be best to fast forward to our entry into Ladakh. We will come to the Kashmir leg later!

In a nutshell :-

Day 4 was spent around Srinagar, with the first one hour spent behind analysing the non functioning of the 12v sockets (It was the car inverter, that was shorting it out)

Day 5 to Gulmarg, but instead of a planned night halt there, came back to Srinagar

Day 6 - to Sonamarg :- Although in my plans, I had assigned Sonamarg as a night halt, in reality, I had kept it open ended to see if they allow traffic on that very day itself to cross Zojila to Kargil. However, it turned out, that they had alternate day traffic enforced (one day it was Sonamarg to Kargil, next day it was the otherway round) given that a few days back the region was unstable weather/snow wise and this day was for traffic to come from Kargil. So checked in at a nearby, new hotel called "Tranquil retreat".

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_4143.jpg

As an added benefit, "Tranquil Retreat" also arranged for a convoy of a few vehicles to be allowed before other/commercial vehicles. Besides, the evening at Sonamarg was wonderful, so we were happy that we had to make the stop. But I will come to all that towards the end (since we had to come back to Kashmir again as the Manali-Leh highway, our intended return route hadn't opened in time for us)

The next day would see us finally in Ladakh!

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Default re: Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode

Day 7 - Drive to, well, "The Ladakh"!

As mentioned in the previous post, the kind owner of the hotel, that we were staying in at Sonamarg, thanks to her connections with the Police and Army, had requested for a convoy of designated vehicles to be allowed through to Zojila first, ahead of the prevalent chaos that was sign of the times when trucks, rented vehicles and everything fought for right of way up on Zojila. They also said that they will wake us up and send us out.

I probably do not remember, if I had ever been shown the door from a hotel, that too, being happy about it!

Since they took that ownership and got us out, we did not even bother to see the time it was! All we knew, is that, they had given us a packed breakfast to have on the way. So nice of them.

Soon we were past the checkpost and gaining height rapidly. The mist formation on the glasses slowly went off to reveal what we were ascending up against.

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The more we climbed after every turn, the scenery started to change. The Sun was making its presence felt, and how, so early in the day, a sign of what to expect from it in the next few days.
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The valley below!
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Within minutes, Marengo was making its way through snow walls on both sides being higher than it (though not in pic).
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Water on road is snow melt, dazzling in the new Sun of a new day!
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Paved road with whiteness all around!
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"Dear Ladakh, here we are, finally!"

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Ecstatic with the joy of reaching Ladakh so early on in her life! Whilst her Dad had to wait it out for years, to make it happen!

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A white Zojila! What a welcome to the region by the Zojila, while, we were thinking, after what Kashmir had shown us, Ladakh will have a difficult time to beat it, and here we were, at the first corner of Ladakh!

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Just off Zojila on the Drass side

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Vanilla with Chocolate Sauce!

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Although the same region above (Zojila) was lot darker with the snow being a lot dirty on the way back, just goes to show, how much pollution affects us.

On the way to Pandrass

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This is also where, this creature came to say Hello to us, yes we were sold on the welcome Ladakh greeted us with!

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The journey continues to Drass, albeit slow, very slow, interrupted by stops to take pictures and there were so many to take!

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We soon reached Drass and seeing that many of the passengers from other vehicles and also some bikers are taking the opportunity to have a breakfast here, we also decided to do the same (despite having a packed breakfast with us).

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And we did not regret it, the shop we went into, served us some superb local baked breads.

After leaving Drass, I did not need help identifying the peaks that intrigued some of us, during the 99 crisis. Only they looked more intriguing in real. I shot this picture entirely from memory of newspaper pictures of the Tiger hill (mainly, the highest peak over the red building), Rhino horn (seen just a little bit) and the point 4875 (directly over Marengo's bonnet). Later I came to know I was completely right.

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It wasn't long before Marengo was galloping by the War Memorial

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I am not sure if people who lived through those times in 99, can drive beside this memorial and not pay atleast a small visit here, but we decided to halt here not only to pay respects but to breathe in the same atmosphere.

Seen here, is the main memorial with the flame that keeps alive the memory and pays respect to the priceless sacrifices that this region has witnessed.

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The atmosphere cannot be explained, its one that can change the way we look at things in general. It can even change the expression on this 8 yr old from a casual smile in the pic below to something more serious a few moments later.

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The mighty Tololing, overlooking the 100 ft flag pole with the huge flag.

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The three peaks as seen before, left to right, the Point 4875 (Of Capt Batra fame), the Rhino Horn (Look closely in the middle, looks like a Rhino with its nose up) and the Majestic Tiger hill.

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After hearing the briefing from the Major and having seen the countless names on the golden plate, this is the transformation in her expression

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She later wrote this, inside the museum, completely from her own initiative and her own. That's what this place does to you.

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She now perceives the Army a lot differently after this, I am glad I made this stop

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Next up, we were hollering down the NH1 and the section from the War memorial to Kargil was absolutely brilliant. I think, of all the roads I have driven on, anywhere in the world (including a stint at north of Scotland), this stretch beats all that in its present form, ups, downs, curves left-right with good signage, proper banking fantastic scenery. All the while, I was wondering, if only I had a vehicle with better dynamics!

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After reaching Kargil, it was time for a quick lunch, also took the opportunity to check out the two main accomodation points, the D-Zojila Hotel and the Zojila residency, however, since our stop for the night was going to be up the road towards Zanskar valley for the night, either of Panikhar or Parakchik (as written on the forum, later realised that the name is Parkachik), we were soon on our way out. The problem here, though, was that there was no GPS reception near Kargil town, so had to go back and forth, only to realise, that the way to Zanskar was indeed to carry on straight on the road the two above hotels are situated on.

Besides this, there were a couple of forks on which, one did need help, as to which road to follow and that help wasn't immediately available. In one case, it came up after driving half a km on the wrong flank.

Nevertheless, we were on our way, the road to Panikhar looked, like nothing I had seen before, the freshly laid tarmac was, surprisingly so clean that it looked blue.

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Panikhar came up and it was like an Oasis of "bright" green amongst brown and white

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Beyond Panikhar, the road vanished, what took its place was a trail, a little rough, but sights to keep your mind away from all that!

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The desolate lonely trail to Parkachik (on the way back though, we accidentally took a different route that was paved but had landslide and truck-overturn blockage requiring offroading through the drop side)

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No one to ask from and no reference from anything, but thankfully the GPS started working and the Openstreetmaps showed us which way to head. We had no other option but to trust it, and it did not let us down.

At about 7 we were at Parkachik, but not before having to wonder, whether any accomodation at all exists there. We had driven past a marker that said that, the Alpine hut at Parkachik will be 1 km ahead. But even after driving for about 2 kms from the aforesaid marker, there was no sign of any hotel or accomodation. Thankfully we drove on and the building showed up after 2.5kms and a few yards later, even the road leading to it.

So Parkachik, here we are!

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But the story started then!

We were at Parkachik right, the drive was desolate right, we have had a long day after an early start right, we had also reached our destination right, we needed to check in and settle down right, someone will check us in right? Wrong. There was abolutely no soul in sight!

There were a couple of houses beside the "Alpine hut" but the J&K tourism run "Alpine hut" was showing us a locked gate. The view inside was clean, , there was even a clean Maruti Omni inside, so definitely it wasn't abandoned, but honking too (which I do not prefer) wasn't inciting any curiosity from anywhere.

We were almost at the point of giving up, thinking that we will probably have to drive all the way back to Panikhar, given the roads we had seen, we were not too keen on that. This is when, one character came out, of one of the homes besides the "Alpine hut". He said something to me in a cryptic, which I did not understand, but his hands brought out a key and he opened the gates to the Alpine hut. I drove in.

He again said something and vanished, I had no idea what he said and where he vanished. But the building door of the Alpine hut was locked and although now we were in the Alpine hut compound, we were still no better off, we were still outside.

The breeze was strong and the temperature was quite chilly, this is when the above snap was taken.

Our gate opener must have left us for 15 minutes and one walk to the gate revealed that he had locked the gate when Marengo drove in! So now, we were locked in! No way to drive back to Panikhar. We were also Locked out (of the Alpine hut).

Another 5 minutes passed when another Phantom emerged, this one spoke hindi, although I was only able to spot him when he smiled to greet me.

He asked me if I needed a room, an offer, I could not resist.

He showed us their best VIP room, that has a red carpet, two single sofa's with red velvet an attached Bath/Toilet. Though on enquiring about the "room with a view" on the 1st floor,he said that was his "office"!

He allowed us to sit in the Dormitory beside his "office with a view" that also had the same view.

However, apart from this person, there was no other soul in the facility. He said he was the Manager, cook, cleaner, plumber everything. He obliged us with 4 jugs of lukewarm water (the only water we got there in about the 12hr stay there).

Within the first hour itself, we were looking to just fastforward to the next day and out of this place. Naturally, we reset our expectation of dinner at this place for the night and thankfully he met the expectation to the tee.

The night was getting cold, too cold for us, Anoushka wasn't feeling well, with a strong headache and nausea (She did vomit on having dinner). But the Manager-turned-everything told us that its normal for kids here for the first time, it will go away in the morning. Which it did.

What we got from the Alpine Hut were 9 blankets, 3 for each, and even that wasn't sufficient at one point!

The night somehow lead into the morning. The day had given us a variety that we had never even imagined, highs, lows and pristine natural beauty!

Last edited by 1100D : 10th July 2014 at 21:13.
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Old 2nd July 2014, 22:48   #6
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Default re: Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode

Well, after the ordeal of the last night and the bone chilling cold at around 12k ft (straight from Sonamarg) the break of dawn was indeed a welcome one. Infact, I do not remember in recent times, how eagerly I was checking out of the window, for rays of daylight! Finally here it was!

The Eighth Day - Our drive to PenziLa and beyond to say hi to the Zanskar Valley.

Parkachik in the morning revealed a beautiful picture, silent and serene with the Suru river quietly meandering through (picture taken later)

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Here is a snap of the Alpine Hut that was our home last night, if J&K tourism decides to be a little more serious about these, the potential is tremendous, but thankfully our stay was over.

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On the trip planning thread there was a nice suggestion from Tsk1979, since I was not too keen on spending a whole day at Padum for the monasteries, maybe some other time, when I have a less busy schedule.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tsk1979 View Post
2. Why are you going to Padum. You do not have a day there to see monasteries. Better? Stay at Rangdum and then make a day trip to Pensi LA and enjoy the sights. One night in Padum makes no sense. Heck, Panikhar-Rangdum-Pensi La - Sight seeing - Parakchik(Village at the glacier) makes good sense. So we are talking about 6 hours going and about 4-5 hours coming back.
Even with a late start from Parakchik you can make it to leh easily in 10 hours. There, you have gained a day.

Padum would have made sense if you were 2 nights there and using 1 day to see PAdum monasteries and around.

I would say
1. Sonmarg - Parakchik - 7 hours max
2. Parakchik-Rangdum-Pensi La - Parakchik - 10 hours including a 2 hour picnic at PEnsi La lakes
3. PArakchik - Leh - max 9-10 hours.

Bonus - When I went in 2009 road was there till Sankoo
When I was there in 2012 - Road was there beyond PAnikhar
Now I am sure the road has reached Parakchik, so driving times can be shaved off!

For this day, our plan was to head to Penzi-La, see the two lakes there, Stat-Tso and Lang-Tso (For some reason, this name became my daughters favourite), drive a little further to the Durang Durung if possible, spend some time at Rangdum and head back to Panikhar, or if time permits, to a nighthalt with better amenities at Kargil, given the ordeal we faced last night.

After bidding the Manager/Cook/Cleaner goodbye, after all, he tried his best, we hit the trail. There was a word of caution from the Manager that if we intend to come back this route, we will have to be wary of the time. Infact, it was for that caution alone, that we started very early this day. There is snow all around, he said, which is melting quite fast as the sun has been harsh on the last few days. So there would be water on road on the way back, the level of which, could turn out on the higher side for LMV's.

Anyways, with that, we left and within 6 rough Kilometers, we were at this place with a Glacier and that has been very creatively named as, well, "Glacier".

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Drove through snow enclosed trail, some with Black ice, infact while I shot the pic above, what looked like normal ground to the naked eye, turned out extremely slippery at points, realised that its snow-melt re-frozen into black ice.

We drove on. The scenery kept changing with every turn and taking photographs were being pointless as it was impossible to fit everything in!

Yet, these guys kept us company, with amazing ability to find a hole the moment Marengo got close! But fooled this guy by waiting silently with the engine shut off, for him to reappear.

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Cattle is also a problem on Indian highways, but here on the Indian "High"-Way this Dzo looked pleasing! (But it vanished out of view before I could take a better pic)

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But getting the eyes off the scenery was easier said than done! It was a constant tussle within, to stop myself from getting down and shooting, we had a long way ahead to cover and here we were, trudging along, at not even an average speed of 15kmph!

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Rangdum finally came up, about 2 hours (or a bit more) from the start at Parkachik

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The scenery here in the middle was quite unexplainable. Flat lands surrounded by white hills and blue sky and its like that on a full 360 degree view.

It was breakfast time. This hotel in the center of Rangdum was a preferred stop for many!

Also an indicator of the kind of buildings prevalent in the entire Ladakh region, flat roof with a characteristic decor.

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Breakfast menu was limited to Maggi, but in these settings, its nothing to complain about!

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The section after Rangdum was kind of an entension of the section before it, only apart from the fact, that we drove beside the Rangdum Monastery and after a few KM's the snow was more, at one point quite severe, making it difficult to identify the flow of the trail. Infact I had a local Scorpio tailing me at this point, with no sign of any tyremarks from the morning ahead of me. But this section posed a challenge on the way back, will come to that later.

We were soon near PenziLa and this shrine looked eerie.

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It was a welcome from the Zanskar Valley

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The twin lakes came up first, contrary to what we were expecting them to be, beyond Penzi-la. According to Tsk1979's post, we could do a 2hr picnic here at the lakes!

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But the problem being, the lakes been shutdown! Here is the Stat-Tso
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And my daughters favourite, the LangTso!

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Neither, nor the ground between them being Picnic-able! We head forward.

Soon we were at the Penzi-La

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The view from Penzi-La!

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We were told that the Durang Durung would be a Glacier to watch out for, a few kms on the otherside of Penzi-la. But the problem was that, everything being white, we were not sure what or where to look out for. Neither was there anyone to ask. Yet we kept driving.

We stopped just by looking at it, we knew this was it. Not only was it clearly visible, it was almost upto the road here. Thankfully a local vehicle crossed us on its way to Padum and we could manage to confirm that we were correct about this.

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The downstream flow of the Glacier. Somehow it did not strike me, that I could have easily done a panorama shot here, depicting the full curve. Because in my mind the return leg was what was bothering me.

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Marmots in Love at Penzi-La

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Some fun with an ice-column, it was really cold to hold long and an absolutely clear colourless structure.
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Marengo savours the whiteness

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Some more stalactite fun!

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A last shot on the return at Penzi-la.

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However, since I mentioned something about the way back bothering me, this was the first of the two. The picture was taken after the worst section was over and we were almost out of it, so does not represent the situation, but one can still gauge. This 200 meter stretch was under ice, some of which had re-solidified after a melt and compaction. On the way to Penzila, this was a down-slope, but on the way back, it was a climb, on a curve. Was quite tricky both regarding traction as well as steering. To top it all, there were some rocks in the middle. Even if I found some traction to move up, the steering wouldnt respond as the slope of the snow was on the outside of the curve. In the end, what helped was a little support taken on the right side from a largish rock on the right side, to get a spin on the left side. Infact, I am clueless! Marengo was not able to obey my inputs, and tyres that already had 40k+ of treadwear through treacherous terrain, were also pretty helpless! Somehow we managed. If nothing worked, I still had the momentum trick to deploy, but that wasn't needed.


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The drive down to Rangdum was graced by the lovely views of the Suru river weaving its way through the valley.

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We were back at Rangdum now, monastery in the distance.

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Since we did not go upto Padum, we wanted to ensure that we did not end up upsetting the "powers-that-be" up there, so Rangdum Monastery was given a visit with an intent to apologize and make up.

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Since God teaches forgiveness, we were forgiven, or so I assume, as to my surprise, the scenery on the way back looked different from how it appeared on the way up and I was not on a wrong road, not until, I crossed Parkachik later.

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Thats the beauty of the region, it looks different from different angles, like this simple serpentine way through rocks near Parkachik.
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No its not the camera thats tilted, the road is!

This brought us to the second point that was bothering me, infact more than the first one. Between Parkachik and Glacier, there is a section of road, about 400 meters long, that actually runs at the level of the Suru river. While going up, there wasn't much icemelt, but on the way down, all through the road, there were water streams running from the ice everywhere. Infact the snow-clad mountain tops, distinctly looked sweaty and one could see the water rushing down from everywhere. I was sure this section is going to be trouble and completely under water.

So was watching out for vehicles coming from the opposite side. There wasn't comfort in not finding a vehicle of equal size coming from the other side, we did see some army Stallions cross a few Kms up. The only hint I got, was from a passing local truck, it had wet tyres, the the driver mentioned "chala jayega", and while it passed, I took a look down its chassis and it didn't look having gone completely underwater anytime soon.

My assumption was correct, it was under water, I judged the depth, looking at the rocks peeping out from under the water, so drove across. But the feeling was almost similar to driving through a real river and all its water current, which it was!

Parkachik despatched, we were heading towards Panikhar according to the GPS suggested route. At one point there was a fork on which there was a suggestion to take the road on right. We knew on our way up, we came from the other road, yet, took the GPS suggestion. Within a few meters, we were surprised to find a once-paved road. Continued on it, the road condition started improving, but soon we realised why there was no traffic on this route, rock slides. The loose rocks had slid onto the road in many places, still did not think of heading back, drove on the rocks with two wheels on them to cross 3 such zones. Then there was another shocker, a Truck had partially overturned on the road, as the road it was travelling on had caved in due to its weight, blocking the road completely. However with the help of the trucker and his helper, we were able to chart a route down the drop side to a field down below and a 4L climb to the road surface again from the field. The mountain side being slippery, passengers were requested to de-board and join us after Marengo emerged back on road.

Thankfully the road surface from this point on was good and soon we were at Panikhar

The bright green Oasis!
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Kargil came up within the next hour and at first we tried to check in to Hotel-Dzojila, because it came up first, on asking about the facilities, they nodded in affirmative to everything, only to be told very soon (even before the luggages were out) that some of them were not working (like the wi-fi). We got back into the car, drove a couple of meters down to Zojila Residency and was happy about the change. Although service at this one too isn't too forthcoming, but they were atleast honest and helpful about it.

The evening was spent in catching up on friends/relatives on the net and phone and mainly reminding ourselves of the previous night and ofcourse the fabulous two days since leaving Sonamarg.

Last edited by 1100D : 10th July 2014 at 22:08.
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Old 3rd July 2014, 13:56   #7
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Default re: Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode

Day 9 Drive to "Ladakh" (Well you cant have gone to Ladakh if you havn't been Leh'd!)

In the 9th day since the start of the trip, we experienced visuals that could potentially be a sensory overload hazard. The time spent in Kashmir valley, which is yet to be featured on the travelogue, the welcome to the Ladakh region, the stunning landscapes of the Suru-Zanskar valley, it was good enough to start a return journey back home quite satisfied. But, the million rupee question was, could we claim having been to Ladakh, despite all that we saw before this, without making a visit to Leh?!

To the man on the street, Ladakh and Leh is almost used interchangably, you cannot have visited one without having visited the other!!

So naturally, any interim plans of pruning the trip was given the boot, we had to go to Leh, besides, that was the plan as well, for the rest of the trip to happen.

So Marengo was loaded again at the Zojila Residency where we were hosted for the night.

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The first step to Leh, was this small pass, the Namika-La

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The scenery was starting to give an indication of whats coming later in the day.

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We were soon at the next step, the funny named "Fotu-La". Those unfamiliar with colloqual hindi would benefit from the fact that "Fotu" is akin to "Photo" and "La" is "Bring".

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Seen here, Anoushka and Marengo is probably singing together " E Raju, chal fotu La" (Raju, please bring the photo!)

After the days of constant snow exposure at Gulmarg, Sonamarg, Zojila, Penzi-La, we were actually happy to see just the little bit of snow in this snap, but the landscape was turning into nothing we had seen before or prepared for.

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It wasn't long before Marengo was paying its respects to the Lamayuru Monastery.

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Lamayuru is kind of mid-way between Kargil and Leh.

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Right after crossing Lamayuru was this mystical piece of hill formation, very rightly called as Moon-Land, the surface looks Lunar

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We have seen nothing like it before, and this was not the first thing we were seeing for the first time!!

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Multicolored rocks/stones formation on the hillsides, it was ethereal that all the colours that we see on Ladakh pictures are actually rocks, not vegetation that imparts those hues.

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Lovely road through colourful rocky hills, unbelievable.

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Seen here Green vegetation on Purple rocks, absolutely mesmerising. But wait, take a second look at the river water below all that!

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Its the Indus river flowing in a brilliant blue through the scenery!

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The Indus in one of its many bends!

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But there was no time to rest thinking that we have seen it all, after the Moonscape, the Multicoloured hill slopes and the Blue Indus,
the story continued, the road below is Purple!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3583.jpg

Marengo on a purple road (with blue potholes), this is where we realised that we had also driven on a blue section before!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-untitled3.jpg

Next step is the Illusional Magnetic hill, there is a box marked where the person is crossing

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1072.jpg

As instructed on the board, one needs to park one's vehicle in that box, leave in neutral and see for oneself. But that box isn't the point, you need to drive down further towards the middle!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1074.jpg

A video of me experiencing it!



The hill adjacent to this point has a Magnetic Hill logo and of interest to us bhpians, is the fact that, Tsk1979 has made it customary to see how one fares against the slope.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1075.jpg

Here was my first and only attempt, a very casual one though.



After hill climb, we were flying towards Leh and the Landscape is hard to describe

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3636.jpg

Marengo basking in the beauty of the landscape and ofcourse the sky.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-untitled112.jpg

Our stay for the night was the Hotel Jorchung arranged with help from HVK, it had a decent parking space, rooms were good too but more than all that the atmosphere was very homely. We would be staying here for two nights, to arrange for permits and an opportunity for Marengo checkup.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3644.jpg

As the day drew to a close, there was a rainbow on a very dark sky!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_10771.jpg

Infact, people are right, you have not been to Ladakh, if you have not driven to Leh. The sights were not only mesmerising but they were intriguing.

We spent the evening mystified by the sights of this from just outside the hotel.
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-untitled2.jpg

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Day 10 - Yeh Leh!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1163.jpg

Rolling into the 10th day, we are at Leh, but today we wont be doing much!

As already mentioned before, our intent for a days halt here was two fold

1> To get Marengo a check, to accomodate any repairs if needed at the Mahindra workshop
2> Permits - Although the permit process has been eased, two parts of our planned trip would still need permits

Ownership for the second item was proactively taken up by the owner of the Hotel Jorchung where we were put up. He took copies from us of all relevant documents. Since the permit office is across the street from where he works and he knows the permit officer, he said it would be easy for him to get the permit for us, he also took some background information regarding us, our vehicle and the fact that we drive to high altitudes for the sake of it!

The first item, though was also a breeze, a quick underbody check for leaks/seepage and an air-filter replacement later, Marengo was back on road within 30 mins.

So first up, our plan was the Shey palace, but getting there wasn't as smooth as planned, the usual road to Karu was blocked for repairs so had to take a long detour from the airport side.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1500.jpg

Shey Palace

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1501.jpg

Next up, was back, to the side of our hotel, the Shanti Stupa

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1129.jpg

The Shanti Stupa and its pristine whiteness

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1119.jpg

The dome top

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1121.jpg

The Buddha on the Stupa!

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Tsemgo Monastery seen at a distance from the Shanti Stupa

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1107.jpg

Next up was the Leh Palace
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Courtyard inside the Leh Palace
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1138.jpg

Corridors inside the Leh Palace, felt spooky
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1142.jpg

Thats the Tsemgo Monastery again, this time seen from the Leh Palace
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3667.jpg

Since we had seen this from two places, the Shanti Stupa and the Leh Palace (we would also see if from a third point later), it became imperative that we give a visit to this Monastery, the Tsemgo Gompa
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1151.jpg

Inside the Tsemgo Gompa
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1158.jpg

Now its the turn of sighting the Shanti Stupa from the Tsemgo Gompa
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1156.jpg

We walked a few steps upwards in the Gompa, but things were locked out.
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1175.jpg

Time for Lunch, "Pizza de hut", good pizza's but bad attitude.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1185.jpg

The Leh Palace and Tsemgo Gompa from the Pizza-de-hut!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1187.jpg

After lunch religiousness at Samkar Monastery
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1195.jpg

Thankfully everyone were busy in their Siesta
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Next up was the Zorawar Fort
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1199.jpg

The height of the "fort" was interesting, look at the pic with 8yr old for reference.
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1209.jpg

The museum inside, full of old war outfits and fashion
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1212.jpg

Interesting were these two guns

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1213.jpg

The lion head, is actually on the butt side.
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1219.jpg

On coming back to the hotel, there was a surprise.

First of all, its not very commonplace for a Scorpio 4x4 to cross another, here, there was another Scorpio 4x4 parked beside Marengo!

As if that coincidence is not enough, of the two scorpio 4x4's parked beside each other, neither of them were of the usual colour in which the Scorpio mHawk 4x4's are offered till date (Black or white). Marengo being Rocky Beige, the second one was Java brown!

To even add on to that both the cars belonged to T-bhpians!!!! And the Brown scorpio being none other than the one that was referred by me right at the start of the Marengo ownership thread!

Quote:
Originally Posted by 1100D View Post
The Gentle Giant made its mark on us. We decided to call it Marengo

We took delivery of this "4WD mHawk BSIV Scorpio VLX in Rocky Beige " on 2nd Dec 2010.

As of now Marengo is

1> The only mHawk 4WD in Kolkata area. I am also told, though don't really beleive, it is the only 4wd mHawk in Eastern India.

2> The only mHawk 4wd in Rocky beige paint theme in India. As told to me by a top Mahindra sales official, usually mHawk 4wd's are only made in white or black these days. Java brown used to be the third option till a few months back. However, I see a new Java Brown 4wd in t-bhp.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 1100D View Post

You see my vehicle in Rocky Beige. See this other one in Java Brown, that too bought recently

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/test-d...ived-home.html (Scorpio VLX 4WD finally arrived home !!!!)
Yes, that very Java brown Scorpio 4x4 that also has its ownership report on team-bhp!

Here it is.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1224.jpg

Both the cars would also have a plan, made independently, to visit Nubra valley, Turtuk, the next day!!!

Speak about coincidences!

So with that, this day draws to a close and the plan for the next day is mentioned on the 2nd last sentence above.

Oh! The owner of the hotel handed over to us, the permits for us to visit Marsimik-la (opening post), Chusul, TsagaLa and Hanle! Yahoo!

A view of the Market area of Leh, taken from Leh Palace to end the post pertaining to Leh. There was not a single moment of boredom even on this day of, well, rest!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1147.jpg

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Day 11 - Nubra valley beckons!

The plan for the next 2 days were to explore the Nubra valley, upto Turtuk, a borderly village known to offer a village walk that would have our mind blown. For this trip, we were not alone, we were accompanied by a bhpian/hvkian/scorpio 4x4ian and his family.

Firstly refueling at Leh, fuel availability was a problem on this leg. So we filled one of the extra cans with 30 liters of extra fuel. This was the only irritating part of the whole trip, as the can stopper (inside the main cap) had interestingly gone missing! The result, as we found later was a fuel seepage and an irritating smell once Marengo hit the bad stretches. But as it turned out, Marengo did not need a single unit of Diesel in addition to what it already got fed in its main 45 liter tank. On the contrary, it had a few liters still left to burn in it.

Our first stop on the way was the Khardung-La top, which we reached without any traffic or holdups. However, there was no hope of picking up some souvenirs there, as the shop was closed, so was the canteen. The toilets, lesser said the better, but it was fine, as we had driven only for an hour from start.

We were not too interested in the "Highest Motorable Road" board, the main board was scraped off paint, and we also knew, we had Marsimik-la on our plans later.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1240.jpg

The view from the Khardung-La top. The snap was taken by 8yr old Anoushka. Now I am mentioning this, as it is quite expected on t-bhp to give credit for borrowed snaps and since travelogues will remain on t-bhp for long, she might grow up and infract me for not giving her a credit!

The song "Yeh haseen waadian" anyone?

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3688.jpg

We hadn't crossed KhardungLa long enough, when both the pirate ships were found stopped!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1254.jpg

The moment the pirates found weapons, all signs of politeness were thrown out of the Icy slopes, it was war time with the "cool" swords!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1253.jpg

We had stopped at Khardung for some breakfast, first it was very chilly, second it started snowing

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3692.jpg

The flakes were quite big
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3697.jpg

As we drove through this snow fall, we started to get worried, what if this gets worse for us to cross back the next day? Thankfully, it wasn't bad.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3712.jpg

Marengo's brother, tailing it.
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3713.jpg

We will cover the road to Turtuk in the next post on the return leg. As of now, we had an uneventful run to Turtuk.

The Holiday camp at Turtuk
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1275.jpg

Marengo, Anoushka and tent at Turtuk
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Relaxing time in front of tent at Turtuk
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1267.jpg

The decor inside the tent
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1270.jpg

Dining area overlooked by Marengo, so you could have your food while still looking at your ride!
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1285.jpg

Lunch done, it was time to explore if it would be possible to get Marengo down to the water surface nearby. I did not find a way soon, although could trace a trail with sharp rocks, but decided against risking the tyres, as we had a long trip ahead.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1292.jpg

Now was time for the famed "Village walk", that was about to intoxicate us with its "wow factor"

First up, aerial views of the Turtuk village
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3728.jpg

The other side, indeed a brush of bright green amongst the large barren.
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3727.jpg

The walkways meandering through the Turtuk village (Snap by Anoushka)

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3732.jpg

At some points it got interesting as this loner gave up, but the cable turned its "knight in black flexible armor"
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1314.jpg

The walk and the participants
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1320.jpg

Fantastic scenery, I must say.

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A small water way with a dab of different colours
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The green ground just gave away at points, presenting an interesting picture
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1313.jpg

The curiosity was mutual, they were as curious about us, as we were about them

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1323.jpg

And the curiousity transcended the barriers of Age! (Snap by Anoushka)

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3741.jpg

Some green - (Snap by Anoushka)

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3733.jpg

(Snap by Anoushka)
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3744.jpg

Anoushka and her new friends

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1335.jpg

Bridge across the river at Turtuk

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1340.jpg

All in all, the village walk was refreshing indeed and some very interesting study of using water-power for a few things that we have moved on to use electricity for.

But we still had our mind intact (not blown), this was a good place to visit but a little over-hyped I must say

However, we were told, Turtuk is one of the temperate places in Ladakh, where its not cold at all, but contrary to that expectation, there was quite a breeze in the evening and by dinner time, it was absolutely bone chilling cold, something that even surprised the local camp owner.

A picture of the tents at night to end this post.


Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-untitled.jpg

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Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1947.jpg

Please dont be shocked, the structure in the picture above is not in Ladakh. However, rather than continuing the monotony of rolling with the pictures from the next day, the Day 12, wanted to distract, break away to what was not planned initially in the trip but was added later, as an extra!

On our return journey from Ladakh, our route entailed us to come via Agra.

So took the opportunity to, not just drive past, but to have a night halt here on Day 21, extending the trip by 1 day, which was anyway part of our buffer.

First up, was a drive straight from Yamuna expressway to Fatehpur Sikri

The Buland Darwaza
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1928.jpg

The Jama Masjid and the tomb of Salim Chisti seen from inside the Buland Darwaza
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1916.jpg

Our accomodation for the night was decided on the factor that this night was a full moon night and we were told that this was the only hotel that has a direct view to the Taj from it, so the idea of catching the Taj on a full moon was not something to be missed.

However the night turned out very cloudy and this is the best we could manage in the subdued moon-light
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1932.jpg

The hotel in question is the "Taj Khema" and it offers a direct view of the Taj, see below.

This brings us to the Day 22!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1971.jpg

The night showed us, what temperatures to expect during the day time at Agra, so we decided to start early to beat the heat. So we thought!

The first point of attack being the Taj Mahal, just a few meters away.

The entry gate

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1938.jpg

And voila, the Taj!!
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1959.jpg

Intricate and fascinating work of Marble and in-laid stone work. A panel, shot as a sample.
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1965.jpg

We got a very descriptive briefing for the Taj by our Guide for the monument, so we employed him for our next stop for the day as well. But before that, it was time for a relaxing breakfast in a very soothing breeze overseeing the Taj

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1975.jpg

We checked out right after breakfast and although our destination for the day was Allahabad, the next stop was at the Agra Fort.

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The main entrance to the Agra fort

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1981.jpg

Although, this was a welcome zone with musicians welcoming the royal guests, we were not royal enough!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1983.jpg

Jahanara Begums Palace in Agra fort
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1993.jpg

The fifth Mughal emperor's (Shah Jahan) final confinement was here, from where he is said to have watched the Taj Mahal

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1995.jpg

View from the Dewan-e-aam at the Agra Fort

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_2000.jpg

Our next stop was at the lesser visited, Itmad-ud-daula,the baby Taj, or for that matter, one that preceded the Taj and inspired it

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_2004.jpg

Not many people shoot the baby Taj this way!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_2009.jpg

The Itmad-ud-daula or the baby Taj!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_2007.jpg

Intricate ceiling work inside the Baby Taj

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_2011.jpg

That concluded what would have been the end portion of the whole trip, but here we have the whole middle overs to go through, and we have just covered until Day 11.

In comes Day 12 - Exploration of Nubra valley continues!

An early morning drive through the village of Turtuk reveals the colour range on offer, in this village.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_13581.jpg

But to show a glimpse of the diversity of terrain at Nubra valley, one needed to wish the village of Turtuk a goodbye!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_13531.jpg

But the previous day, we did not risk out driving down to the river bed, today we did.
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1373.jpg

The topography is barren, but variations unthinkable
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3781.jpg

The road meanders up through the Nubra valley on the way to Hunder
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3774.jpg

The road surrounded by big boulders in some regions (I had to remove one rock that had slid across to the road center and it was tough)
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1360.jpg

Large stones in some other, the variety that continues sliding down all the time
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1362.jpg

On an unnecessary, but "just for the sake of it" shortcut or detour on Sand! Yes, Nubra valley is full of fine off-white sand (a welcome change from the white snow that we had been seeing all the time)
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1364.jpg

One of those pointless but scenic shortcuts, that enable you to byepass going back and forth on a paved road through a hairpin, but if you stop to take pics, the whole idea of the shortcut is actually defunct!
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_13691.jpg

The Sandy topography that's the signature of the Nubra valley
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3793.jpg

Sand amongst the mountains
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3799.jpg

With that, I guess we have covered the "feel" of the area, will go across to the other attractions of the day in the next post, the village of Hunder and beyond.

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Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-untitled41.jpg

Continuing on the exploration of the Nubra valley.

Ofcourse, we were on the way to Agra from Turtuk and rather than concentrating on the way back, we had been distracted by topography, terrain and what not. But geography being a reality, we did need to go through certain touchpoints before we reached the Taj Mahal. Unless, that is, we were planning to utilise the services of this airstrip enroute to take us directly, but wasn't sure of the flight schedules and with the limited communications on offer, it wasn't a possibility either.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3784.jpg

So we drove on till we reached landscapes like this, with white sand on the bottom, we were entering the scenic village of Hunder.
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3796.jpg

Infact it's just a personal opinion formed, out of my own experience and judgement, that Hunder appealed to me much more as a destination, than did Turtuk and that too, without the need to drive down the additional 80-90 kms to Turtuk. Hunder has better and varied accommodation options as well.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1372.jpg

But the main attraction at Hunder, despite the super scenery, are these things.
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1383.jpg

The Bactrian camels and a ride on them through the White sand, is definitely an attraction that's hard to resist. My wife and daughter decided to have the ride and the pair that was brought for them was actually, coincidentally this Mother-Daughter duo as well.
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1393.jpg

Doesn't the Man look like Tintin in shades? The bigger camel had this thing for the camera! Watch on!
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1394.jpg


Catching my daughters expression while she is about to on-board is not something that can be resisted by even the camel!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1400.jpg

All three of them successful (3 because the junior camel hardly had any work to do)

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1408.jpg

And they ride on to the scenery (With the background number form "The Good the bad and the ugly" missing from the scene)

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1414.jpg

After the Camel ride it was time to head downwards, this time towards Diskit, but instead of the main road a few meters above us, we stuck to the sand route, as long as there was tyremarks from other vehicles, we should be fine.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1436.jpg

A little bit of dune riding as well! It isn't everyday that a Mahindra Scorpio roof gets photographed from a position lower than it!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1435.jpg

And no! The vehicle ain't stuck! We turned back a little, having lost the tyre tracks and were probably heading down the valley away from the Diskit-Hunder road. After turning back we were able to find a trail leading to the main road. Besides, it was just turning into an academic exercise driving on the sand, given the main road was quite smooth and inviting to drive on!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3797.jpg

Soon this statue appeared on the Horizon, as we crossed the town of Diskit. It is the Diskit Gompa we planned to visit.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1441.jpg

The Monastery is spread across the Mountain overlooking the Nubra valley and Diskit town. The statue in the center is part of a new complex, the original temple is where the picture has been taken from
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1451.jpg

It was quite a bit of walk up the stairs to reach the original old temple.
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1447.jpg

The oversized Buddha statue from the old temple as a Gypsy ascends to it.
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1450.jpg

The Buddha idol inside the main temple, shot from outside, hence did not see any protest while I shot this. (Although photography from inside the door is prohibited). The brass object hanging from the monk's shoulder is the Lock to the temple gate, quite an interesting one.
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1456.jpg

The only way to turn this is clockwise.
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1459.jpg

The monks quarters and the prayer hall under the large Buddha.
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1486.jpg

Size reference! Just the enormity of the statue with respect to normal humans. Kind of watching over the entire Nubra valley. Simply ecstatic.
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1490.jpg

However, it was time-up for our sojourn at the Nubra and we head back to Leh. But not before crossing Khardungla again, the road to Khardungla had turned a litte more slushy and slippery on the way back because of the snowfall the last day, but nothing to worry about.

But since we were crossing Khardungla anyway, we decided to give this board and Marengo a shot anyway. Marsimik-La or no, but the K-top atleast deserves a proper photograph, for what it has been all these years and continue to be. Probably a few years down the line, it would loose its importance, once the alternate route to Nubra valley comes up. But the thin air up there, was something that many will never forget.
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1497.jpg

So its goodbye to Nubra, a beautiful pair of days, new friends, good memories, will see you again!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-untitled11.jpg

But before ending the post! Doesn't the thing below look like the M of McDonalds?

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1392.jpg

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Day 13


Being Back to Leh, the plan for the next day was Pangong, interestingly it was same for the passengers of the other car, but unlike us, they were planning a return back the same day to Leh, our plan was to stick around Pangong, attempt Marsimik-la the next day and then move on with the next parts of our Ladakh trip, which did not require a comeback to Leh.

Thus, the 13th day of the trip started, firstly with refueling at Karu, fuel availability was not a problem on this leg at various points, but not assured either. Besides, we had an additional 30 liters in one of the Jerrycans.

Once out of Karu, the road starts to rise to Sarkti and the barren landscape returns to our view

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3818.jpg

Rocky inclines as the road rises to Changla

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3820.jpg

Changla here we are!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1505.jpg

A mandatory photoshoot with this setup!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1508.jpg

The Mandir of the "Changla Baba"

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1509.jpg

Inside the temple, it was a conference of Gods

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1511.jpg

View from the Changla-Baba temple

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1512.jpg

But! Wait a sec! Is that an old 800cc cutie Matiz at one of the highest passes!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1518.jpg

View from Changla top

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1521.jpg

After an uneventful drive from Chang-La through scenery that looked, no less breathtaking, but probably a repeat of the Hunder-Turtuk section the previous day (hence it was pointless to post pictures again) and after crossing the village of Tangste, we reached this particular signpost

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1522.jpg

Now if one recalls, this is the same signpost that appears in the third photograph of the second post of this travelogue. So the story at Pangong for the rest of the day is already known. What is also known is the wherabouts of the Day 14 that we spent in Marsimik-La, the first post of this boring travelogue.

But what is interesting at this point is that, this travelogue is finally out of the "flashback" mode. Phew! In hindsight, I should have posted all the pics from the post number 3 onwards in B&W, would have brought the "past" theme much better. Opportunity lost, I must say.

With renewed vigor, we will take the travelogue forward now, to Day 15, according to the spreadsheet, our instruction for the day, is to go to Hanle from Spangmik through the Man-Merak-Chusul-Tsaga-la-Loma route. We already had secured permits for this route at Leh. We also had extra fuel in a Jerrycan, spilling some, entertaining our olfactory nerves, as well as, giving the peace of mind, that should there be a fuel crisis on the rest of the route, we should be happily cruising to a fuel station at either side.

Day 15 - Spangmik-Hanle

Right from the start of the journey, the Tarmac vanished, but we had no idea what was coming up within a few minutes, one of the most interesting drives I have ever had.

Seen in this pic is the Pangong lake, right off Spangmik and the soil track that looks like tar, as wet wheels have made it darker.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3947.jpg

As we cross the village of Man, the road keeps grazing the circumference of the lake with sceneries like this, till Merak

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3949.jpg

One of the last views of the fabulous Pangong lake as we exit the Merak village towards Chusul, another 20 kms away.
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1716.jpg

Kiyangs on the way and the desert scenery begins
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3951.jpg

The Road to Chusul is not limited to one road, its multiple tracks, as long as there is one, "all roads lead to Chusul"
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_39551.jpg

On this day, we needed the GPS navigation to work, it did. We were using "Openstreetmaps" as it supports the offline mode. Infact, coming to a point I have not covered on this travelogue so far, that we were out of Mobile connectivity from the moment we left Sonamarg. We had a BSNL postpaid sim as well, but for some unknown reason, it did not work. To make matters worse, even GPS wasn't consistent at places searching for satellites for extended periods. So we were lucky that the navigation worked on this leg of the journey, without it, we would have had a very hard time, or even gotten into unwanted trouble, veering into the LOC or territory of a neighboring country.

However, the GPS took us right into the heart of Chusul, where we encountered a police post. The policeman on duty told us that if we have to go to Hanle, the route that we are on, the Army is sure to stop us (despite the permits). However, he suggested an alternate way through the valley, for which we have to trace back the direction we came from and then take a right turn at a fork (from which we had earlier taken a right and made it into the Chusul town) which will take us down into the valley.

If we follow the valley route, we will byepass the Army post which is on the hill-side track. We did just that and soon we were driving on an infinite open field in front of us, contained by hills on both sides. With tyre-marks going everywhere. Additionally, we were warned not to stray on any of the tyre tracks that turn left, especially the ones that get into the hills on the left side, they can potentially lead into the territory of the neighboring country and they are not kind to civilian infiltration from India.

Those are the retaining hills on the right side!
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3958.jpg

The retaining hills on the left side and the open valley in the middle to drive on, with many confusing tyremarks going everywhere!
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3959.jpg

Few of the craziest moments were, when you were following one set of tyre marks and all of a sudden the GPS says "Rerouting". Or, you keep driving without noticing the phone screen, when all of a sudden you hear, "please make a U turn"! One wonders, this is an open field why would one need to make a u-turn? Well, the fact is that, there is a designated way amongst the far and wide plains, if you veer from the way, say on either side, you get farther and father away from that designated track (which might not even have a tyre mark or be noticable), which is when the GPS asks you to trace your route back till you coincide with the designated track.

In our case, what happened was, that I continued on a track despite warnings that I am "off track". I could see the designated track around 100 meters on the right side, so kept going, when suddenly the track I was on, turned left sharply.
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3965.jpg

We stopped, the designated track was on the right side about 150meters or so, but the soil in between got looser (sandy) as we progressed, I decided not to chance it, but to drive back the track I came from. Had to drive back about half a km, to a point where the distance, between the designated track and the track I was on, was reduced to about 50 meters.

Without GPS, I would not have had the faintest Idea which one was the track to follow. Besides, there was not a soul in sight (not even a Kiyang)to ask for directions.

Soon we crossed this wonderful scenic lake in the middle of the deserty Chusul-Tsaga-La Section


Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3963.jpg

Finally we reached Tsaga-La or as they call it "Chagga La" (Has become my favourite name! )
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1717.jpg

A proper Trail emerged after Chagga La and one made up of Purple rocks, soon there was a tarmac road as well. We were headed towards Loma.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3968.jpg

Accompanied by the Kiyangs

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3971.jpg

The lovely scenery
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3972.jpg

A lone horse amongst lovely scenery

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3974.jpg

Confirmation indeed that it is a horse!
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3977.jpg

Some more, not so lonely horses, amongst the Lovely scenery towards Loma
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3979.jpg

Beyond Loma, there was a monotonous route, through, what was indeed a brown desert and clear blue skies, we will cover part of that when we speak about the return from Hanle in a later post.

For now, about an hour from leaving the checkpost at Loma we were near this mile marker with the Hanle Monastery in the backdrop (Picture taken on the way back next day)
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1797.jpg

Our accomodation for the night was at Sonam Dorjee's homestay arranged by HVK. We were taken aback by their hospitality despite the hardships they face.

Seen here Anoushka with Mrs Dorjee.
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1723.jpg

And Mrs Dorjee's cat

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1728.jpg

With that we come to the end of this rather long post that started on Day 13 and went on till Day 15, covered a staggering diversity from the heights of Chang-La to the picturesque Pangong, the Desert drive between Chusul and Chagga La to finally reaching Hanle. In the process, saw an assortment of Gods and amazing Animal life from Kiyangs, horses, a duck and a not-so-wild cat. The story rolls on!

Last edited by 1100D : 10th July 2014 at 23:31.
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We reached Hanle in the previous post, but we were yet to explore around it. At first, it did not look like there was a lot to see, given the size of the town being hardly anything. So after a lunch, we, alongwith Mr Sonam, started on our sightseeing tour of Hanle.

The first attraction was the Observatory at Hanle, once claimed to be the highest installation of its kind and one in the clearest atmosphere (at Hanle).

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1750.jpg

Anoushka and Marengo at the Observatory with the remotely operated telescope housing in the background

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1733.jpg

He stays on guard and enjoys the scenery from the watch room.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1735.jpg

Shot with permission from the person who was briefing us. The remotely operated Chandra telescope.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_17381.jpg

View from the observatory down below, the National Flag proudly drawn on the Hill slope.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1747.jpg

We soon descended from the observatory and was driving on the other side of the hill (on which the observatory is located). Firstly the wetlands presented an awesome view, with some greenery to the otherwise drab scenes. But look closer, you'll see some interesting birds in the pic.
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1751.jpg

The Black Necked Crane, that comes to this part for breeding

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_3998.jpg

The picture above was hazy but it brought out an eye of the bird. Some more pics.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_40011.jpg

This was cropped from a bigger picture taken by a basic powershot, so pardon the quality, but the red hood is clearly visible in this

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_40021.jpg

A monastery/temple on the otherside of Hanle

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1754.jpg

Next up was the Meghnad Saha Astronomical Archives, this also has the base office for the observatory up there. The place offers the opportunity for making a satellite phonecall.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1756.jpg

We still had daylight left, to make a last dash to the Hanle Monastery, located on another elevated hill, on the otherside of the Hanle town (from the side the Observatory hill is on).

(Picture taken morning next day)
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1794.jpg

The weaving Hanle river and the Hanle village
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1758.jpg

The Hanle river, the Loma-Hanle highway being overlooked by scenic hills all around
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1759.jpg

The Hanle Observatory shot from the Hanle Monastery
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1760.jpg

A closer view
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_17601.jpg

However, photographs cannot do justice to the actual all round panoramic, that the eyes were experiencing, plus, apart from the sound of a cold chilly breeze, an absolute silence and the bluest skies we had ever seen.

So we head back to the homestay, this light was around 8pm!
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1764.jpg

The absolutely chilling night showed us, what must be the highest number of stars we had seen anywhere. My camera did not have a remote shutter, so had to stand literally in the cold, holding the shutter down in bulb exposure mode, something that was making the only exposed finger go numb.
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1787.jpg

Another attempt to capture the Stars. We had seen similar skies at Sillery Gaon last year, but the sky wasn't clear like this, it had clouds, and in this, what appears as clouds are actually concentration of stars at some points.
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1788.jpg


Before we hit the bed that night, an attempt to capture Marengo, lit by the half moon only, but there was a CFL glowing towards the back of the building that added some of its effects.
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1786.jpg

So that brought us to the end of exploring Hanle, but my Daughter wants to be back some day! So will I. The next day will see us drive from Hanle to Karzok (in otherwords the Tso Moriri)

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We finally come to

Day 16 -Hanle to Karzok (Tso Moriri)

The distance from Hanle to Karzok as the crow flies would probably not be much, but the difference in terrain, topography and the views were stark.

We would first have to get back to Mahe and then drive onto Sumdo and Karzok. To get to Mahe, there are two routes, one that will go through Kyun Tso and Thit Zharbo La and the second one back through the same route we came from, Loma.

The first route was out of bounds, so we were told right at Hanle, even knowing that I have a 4x4, they said that we can attempt, but they are sure, it will just be a waste of our time. Time, is what we were not willing to waste anymore, because, with every passing day, the hopes of the Manali-Leh route opening up was becoming more grim. So we were sure, we would have to spend an additional day or two on the way back and a return by June 15 was mandatory for us. So any time lost here would probably throw that into a risk.

So we decided to play it safe and return by the Loma route.

First up, a parting shot where Marengo wishes a goodbye to the observatory at Hanle.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1793.jpg

Now, as I said before, the Hanle Loma section was to be covered on this return part.
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1798.jpg

The route was a light brown desert and a black serpent (the road) through it. For miles, its the same scenery.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1801.jpg

The variety of Colours on the hills on left

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1802.jpg

The more consistent sandy shades on right

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_4025.jpg

A Kiyang, we were told that these originated in China, so ideally they are infiltrators and should be prosecuted.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_4023.jpg

This guy was so busy smelling the road that he did not notice Marengo coming, we had to bring Marengo to a halt, yet he was busy smelling the road. Must be onto some clues and was concentrating real hard.
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_4029.jpg

Probably that's why he did not appear happy when we finally honked to ask for his attention
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_4028.jpg

The bridge at Loma
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_4032.jpg

A few kms from Loma is Muth

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1803.jpg

The scenery turns into a complete fantasy-land of sorts between Muth and Nyoma
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1804.jpg

Overlooked by snow capped mountains and a drab foreground that soon changes
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1806.jpg

To something like this, just look at the sheer variation of Purple-green-yellow-blue everything and this is a road. Some say that the Journey is as important as the destination, they are so right. Though, some friends, prefer sleeping in the car while travelling!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1808.jpg

The variation of the colour of sand (on the road to Leh, it was muticoloured rocks, but these are much finer, almost sand-like)

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1809.jpg

From Mahe we take a Left turn and soon we are heading towards Sumdo on a rocky dirt track but full of colours and leafless bushes.
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_4046.jpg

Soon after Sumdo, we see this on our windscreen
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_4050.jpg

The Haze lifts to reveal a lovely small Lake
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_4052.jpg

Behold the Tso Kiagar
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1810.jpg

Driving on from Tso Kiagar, we endure the rocky track to come to this bridge and a very crude welcome to Tso Moriri, its the nomadic way!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1811.jpg

The lake appears as we head towards it
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_4059.jpg

And, Surprise Surprise, we caught up with an Old friend making us "Eat his dust"

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_4065.jpg

As we enter the Karzok village, the road goes through the level of the lake and the majestic view shows itself
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_4067.jpg

We enter Karzok and the two 4-"paw"-ers catch up with each other for another round of Chit chat at the camp.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1812.jpg

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Our stay at the Tso Moriri was in the camp arranged with assistance from HVK. Besides, all the other hotels/camps in the area are purely vegetarian (dont even offer eggs)

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1850.jpg

Though the camp had both, tents and cottages, we opted for the later, though a little old. But by the morning, we knew it was a wise decision.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1852.jpg

In the Evening, we went out exploring, there is a Monastery that did not appeal much, given the short stay we had, so we drove on further beyond the Karzok village on the Sumdo-Karzok road.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1817.jpg

There is a high-perched view point, with an averagely steep slope, 2wd's with adequate momentum can do it, but at the risk of allowing rocks/stones to hit the underbody at a speed that might not be healthy for the vehicle.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1824.jpg

From the high pedestal, looking back at the Tso-Moriri and Karzok village

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1834.jpg

Marengo poses with the Karzok village and Tso Moriri in the background
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1826.jpg

Soon we drove on, from the hill we were on, to the next one adjacent to it, that was higher.

Revealed the otherside of Tso-Moriri.
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_4075.jpg

A full view of the other side of Tso-Moriri.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1854.jpg

Marengo watching the scenery!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1821.jpg

With a scene like this from the windscreen, wouldn't even non-automotive enthusiast want to "Live to Drive"!
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1863.jpg

It was time for us to come down to ground level and the water looked different and clear.
Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1873.jpg

Anoushka with Ice that was still left on the bank of the lake

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1872.jpg

Marengo doing some "Ice-breaking"

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1847.jpg

On our way back, note the bottom of the culvert is still frozen

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1849.jpg

Marengo and its brother parked together for one last time!

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1875.jpg

However, a change of plans were made at this point. We had been keeping track of the status of the Manali-Leh highway opening. The next day was supposed to be our day to drive down to Sarchu. But enroute to Tso-moriri and asking the cab drivers at Tso-moriri, who were also keeping a tab on the opening of the highway, it was certain that no vehicle had emerged from the Manali side yet. The same was also the feedback gotten by bhpian ankaps (The other 4x4 mHawk scorpio owner) from the checkpost Upshi. So the plan to drive back via Manali had to be shelved. Besides this, there was another important piece of news, that was for the Zojila crossing, one needed to cross the gate at Kargil by about 4am or earliest. The police (Kargil - Sonamarg) were observing a routine where vehicles were allowed to go down hill from Kargil in the morning and uphill from Sonamarg in the afternoon. So we planned to drive to Kargil straight from Tso-Moriri the next day, which will enable us to do an early morning start from Kargil, the day after.

So there it was, for the first time in the entire trip, a plan had to be altered. The plan for the next day this was to drive to Kargil. While ankaps decided that he will do a very early morning start from Karzok at about 4am, I, as usual, decided to play it cool, will start after breakfast at 6:30 am ish.


Now as the evening approached, so did the chill, it was the coldest evening we faced. It was so cold that the camp folks served dinner at 7:30pm with some ambient light still left, to retire early under the blankets. They had a buffet arranged and the atmosphere inside the dining tent was terrific with a multi-cultural, multi nationality crowd. But the elements were so strong, that hot soup served at the buffet counter would turn cold by the time the bowl would reach the dining table. It was that cold, probably accentuated by the fact that it was a tent. Thankfully our cottage was warm.

But Marengo had to endure the cold and the one thing I forgot to carry, was a car cover. So started it up at night for a few minutes, would have made sense to drive around a bit (to get the engine temperature up), but with the whole parking area being chock-a-block with cars, it would not be wise to drive it out and forego the parking space.

One last picture before the end of the day! Tso-Moriri and the snow capped hill opposite to it at night.

Marengo conquers the Marsimik La - The Ladakh episode-img_1877.jpg

We will start for Kargil the next day.

Last edited by 1100D : 11th July 2014 at 00:03.
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