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Old 20th July 2014, 08:25   #31
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Default Re: Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective

Hello there nik.agr....
Goodmorning......!!!!!

Thank you for that file. Now I have a very clear idea of the expenses. It is very exhaustive.Thanks again and God Bless.

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Old 20th July 2014, 19:16   #32
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Default Re: Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective

14 June 2014 (Saturday)
Drive: Leh to Pangong Tso
Start time: 7.15 am
Average Speed: 31 kmph (including breaks); 35 kmph (only driving time)
Odo reading: 3,850 kms

We left for Pangong at about 7.15 am (again after waiting for more than half hour for the bikes to be moved to take out our car): our plan was to stop at a monastery on the way to Pangong. Fuelled up first thing on the way out, and reached Hemis monastery in about an hour. It is a deviation of about 20 minutes from the road to Pangong Tso, and is a simple enough drive. Reaching at such an early hour meant that there were hardly any tourists and the monks were still doing their morning cleaning and rituals.

Most of the rooms were opened for us to enter and see; unfortunately Tantrik Buddhism followed here is something wife and I had little understanding of, but we were welcomed very warmly by all the monks. One even sang ‘Bombay se aaya mera dost’ for our benefit. It was wonderful chatting with these people, they explained that the monasteries around Leh are of two broad sects and therefore HH Dalai Lama features prominently in some and is absent in some others. Wife identified one of the larger statues in the monastery as Guru Padmasambhava (which she learnt in Sikkim many years back) and the monks positively beamed at us.

We spent about 2 hours at the monastery, had breakfast in the cafeteria there and hit the road to the Tso. The only check post on the route is close to the monastery at Upshi, where we submitted the self-declaration, along with the car and license details.

The road to Chang La top is good till about Sarkti, and it gradually worsens till the top. The road conditions were much better from Khardung La though, but the ascent was much steeper. Since we were on the road to the La in late morning, the onward traffic kept increasing as we kept moving towards the lake. It took us about 1.5 hours to reach the top. The top was less snow covered than Khardung La, and probably dirtier. We took a few pictures, used the bathrooms (after waiting in a long queue) and took off.

The road conditions alternated between good and rough for another hour or so, although the scenery will continue to blow the mind. After Turtuk sky high mountains seemed more familiar; we also saw some amazing picnic spots – and truck drivers using them so. They’d lie down in grass, next to a gurgling stream or a semi-frozen lake, taking a break from the steering and watching the world go by. I guess one cannot be unmoved by the beauty of these lands even when driving for livelihood and not out of interest.

Many many army trucks slowed us down, and we got the first glimpse of the Tso around 2.45 pm. One word about the drive till here: be careful; the local taxi drivers are extremely rash. Also, lookout for the ‘Deep Ahead’ sign boards as there are a number of large ditches (created to act as speed breakers), many of them even without the sign boards.

Now Pangong – it takes our breath away. The brilliant blue water, sparkles like diamonds in the sun, turns into a shade of green as it runs towards the bank, and a deeper violet as the sun sets.

The lake is amongst the most beautiful places we had been to, and we wanted to ‘experience’ it as much as we could. A quick lunch in one of the dhabas at the beginning of the lake, we drove ahead to Spangmik, where the tourist density reduced considerably. Looked like most day tourists in taxis are driven till Lukung, and staying options improve steadily as we go towards Spangmik. We quickly checked into a camp – ironically I got the car stuck in a rocky patch towards the camp (wife reminds me of a Telugu saying about someone who lived a grand life but died in the backyard) – on seeing us stuck, a local taxi driver came to rescue and got it out in a few seconds. We could smell burnt rubber and got slightly worried, but the car worked fine and the smell was gone in sometime.

After checking into a camp by the lake (Rs. 1,700 for the night, including breakfast and dinner), we decided to walk by the lake. What a good decision. We bumped into people from various places, stopped many times for a chat, and generally revelled in some sort of heady liberation that set in. Some uncles had set up small tables on the lake banks and were having a daru session, and were kind enough to invite rank strangers like me, much to wife’s extreme disapproval.

After spending may be 2-3 hours gazing at the lake and generally walking / lying around in the grass, we went to the dinner tent when it was still getting dark. By the time we were out, it was a full moon, out in full glory. It was a gorgeous setting; I don’t think we could have scripted it any better – yellow hued full moon, dark rippling water reflecting it, a bonfire to fight the cold, and lots of friendly banter and laughter shared with people in other tents. Most of the others were from Delhi, but there was this other newly married couple from Mumbai with whom we decided to go to Tso Moriri. (Osama bhai, if you are reading this, let’s connect?)

The bonfire kept us warm till we sat there; and the moment we got to the tents, it was biting cold. Wife buried herself under the ‘rajais’ and slept fitfully.

15 June 2014 (Sunday)
Drive: Pangong Tso to Leh
Start time: 6.45 am
Average Speed: 29 kmph (including breaks); 33 kmph (only driving time)
Odo reading: 4,050 kms

We set an alarm to get up in time to watch the sunrise, and it is definitely something one must do when at Pangong Tso.

Since the hot water allocation was one bucket for each tent, which we used up for basic ablutions and skipped bath. Then we took off towards Mann and Merak, just to drive by the lake. The path was a dirt track, but nothing to worry about if one sticks close to the visible tracks.

We spent about 2 hours driving by here; towards Mann, and then back towards Lukung; stopped at multiple points to click pictures and generally amble around. Amongst the famous ‘points’ is the 3-idiots location, where we saw a Bolero getting stuck in sand; and it looked like it was parked there only for a few minutes. This was the second such incident we heard of: someone staying in our camp had their Fortuner stuck at the same spot last evening. Both the vehicles had to be pulled out using a rope by another vehicle.

The ride back to Chang La was pretty much the same as yesterday; we had the company of two local ladies till Sarkti.

We reached Chemrey monastery around 1 pm, spent some time looking around then went to Thicksey. Lunch at a hotel right at the foot of the monastery, and we drove up by around 3pm. Thicksey is definitely amongst the largest monasteries here and definitely worth a visit, for both the grandeur of the inner sanctums and the imposing 3-floor tall Buddha. We spent about an hour here, and then drove to Shey Palace and monastery, which is just a few kms away. There is a huge Buddha statue here too, although much else of the palace is in some sort of a shamble.

Our last stop for the day was the Stok palace, which is the current residence of the Leh royal family. Again we realised how different was the architecture here compared to the other places in India we have been too. There is a small café at the palace, with seating on the veranda and pretty views.

On the way back to the hotel, we tanked up the car and also got some fuel in cans (since the plan was to go to Tso Moriri, and then directly to Jispa).

The excursion to Pangong Tso, in pictures...

Near Chusul
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140614_081436.jpg

Hemis Monastery
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140614_083526.jpg
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140614_091414.jpg

The ascent to Chang La
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140614_112910.jpg

Approaching the Chang La top
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140614_120416.jpg

The Chang La top
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140614_120856.jpg

A BRO boulder clearing snow, just after the top
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140614_124048.jpg

On the way down
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140614_131122.jpg

Beautiful views and excellent roads once you cross Chang La
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140614_133322.jpg

A grazing Yak
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140614_142606.jpg

The first view of the Pangong Tso
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140614_144722.jpg

Pangong Tso - Simply breathtaking
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140614_151336.jpg
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140614_153056.jpg

The Tso from our tent
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140614_162532.jpg

No picture can do justice to the beauty of this place
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140614_165340.jpg
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140614_170630.jpg
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140614_175116.jpg

Lucky to witness this stunning full moon reflection off the lake
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140614_210852.jpg

The shiny sunrise
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140615_054046.jpg
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140615_054402.jpg

We spotted the same MH biker group that were staying in the same hotel as us, in Leh
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140615_074112.jpg

Speechless
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140615_080652.jpg
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140615_084752.jpg

The Lukung army camp, off the Pangong Tso
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140615_090238.jpg

Chemrey Monastery
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140615_130320.jpg

Thicksey Monastery
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140615_151950.jpg
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140615_153738.jpg
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140615_160732.jpg

Shey Palace
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140615_162554.jpg
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140615_162910.jpg
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Old 20th July 2014, 19:40   #33
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Default Re: Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective

16 June 2014 (Monday)
Drive: Leh local

Today was a rest day, before we started to Tso Moriri tomorrow. But some unforeseen developments in Mumbai needed us to be back earlier than we planned and we decided to skip Tso Moriri and go straight towards Manali tomorrow.

So we spent the day shopping; we walked up to the main market and back, and discovered that doing this early in the day (like we did, around 10.30-11.00 am) meant that many shops are just opening are more willing to slash the prices than otherwise. Nevertheless we got prettily ripped in the street-side stores around the main market, and realised that we can never bargain enough. We got some really good warm clothes from a Punjabi lady’s store in the main market though.

Spent the rest of the day indoors; went out for dinner at a restaurant on Changspa Road, which also had a hookah thing going. The waiter turned out to be from Punjab, and told us stories about Leh, which was great.

17 June 2014 (Tuesday)
Drive: Leh to Keylong
Start time: 5.45 am
Average Speed: 30 kmph (including breaks); 32 kmph (only driving time)
Odo reading: 4,410 kms

We were most tense about this leg of our trip, and wanted to cover as much distance as possible today. That meant starting as early as possible; and we were on the road before 6 am. The drive out of Leh was easy, and we were on route to the first pass of the day in less than 2 hours. The skies were a brilliant bright blue, and the moon stayed on the skies long after the sunrise too.

We reached Tanglang La by around 8 am, and the road was bad only towards the top of the pass. Even after the pass it was dusty and rough but nothing majorly worrying. We talked to a couple of cars coming from the opposite direction and they all gave us the same advice: keep driving. They were coming from a bad traffic situation in Barlachala La, and told us that we should aim to get as close to Manali as we can today.

We cruised through Moore plains: it was a gorgeous drive. Reached Pang around 9.15 am, got increasing traffic till Lachunglang La (reached at about 10.30 am). There were some roadside dhabas around Pang, but we decided to skip stopping for some more time. Nakee La quickly followed (around 11 am), and then we kept driving on.

Then came the Gata loops. The roads weren’t bad, but the number of turnings and onward traffic make this one of a kind. Somewhere on these roads we heard some dragging sound, and on checking found that the engine cover had come off from one side and was dragging on the roads. With nothing in sight, we just kept driving on and decided to get it checked at the first mechanic shop we see.

The terrain between Pang and Sarchu was very different from the other parts of Ladakh, it was drier, dustier and harsher in heat.

We reached Sarchu by about 12.30 pm. Given that our worst case scenario included staying at Sarchu for the night, we definitely felt good about reaching here by mid-day. We had lunch at one of the roadside stalls; two ladies were manning it and they served us hot rotis, along with sabji and dal for less than Rs.150.

Just ahead of Sarchu was a check post where we had to submit our car details – it was here we realised that there must have a check post at Upshi which either was not open or we missed in the morning. The road ahead was good for about half hour or so: we were driving at the feet of huge mountains, and we took guesses about which would be the peak to scale.

Baralacha La must have been the tallest of the mountains around. Even before the ascent really started, the roads started getting bad with deep puddles on the way. While we saw 2 swifts drive through, they did so with some effort. We got a lot of traffic on the way to the top, but mostly in the same direction as us, so it just meant extremely slow movement.

The traffic and the roads, while scary were not frustrating at all though. The pass’ beauty makes it up – the sun shining on the great white mounds of snow is a treat to the eyes. The lakes on the way (including Suraj Tal), semi-frozen of course, with blue-green water showing in translucent patches is all just too beautiful for one to feel bad about getting stuck in traffic.

We spent about 2 hours crossing the pass. And an hour was spent in a traffic jam at Zingzing bar, where a hatchback was stuck at a ‘water fall’ or as many people call it – ‘nullah’. While I was slightly worried because of the hanging engine cover and the rocky road, the XUV went through without the slightest groan. The roads alternated between good and rough till about Jispa – although they were extremely dusty in patches. Driving behind a truck meant clouds of dust and severely hampered visibility for a few minutes at a time.

Since we reached Jispa by early evening, we decided to drive ahead to Keylong – the drive to Keylong felt surprisingly long, despite the roads being quite good. Wife was stunned at the beauty of the drive, and decided that we should plan a trip to Himachal Pradesh soon. Reached Keylong at 6 pm. We first drove to a small garage, where the hanging engine cover was easily fixed (Rs.50). Since there was daylight still, we decided to drive around and find a hotel close to the exit towards Manali. The lanes in the town were ridiculously thin, and we got a couple of scares about putting the car in a couple of places.

On talking to the locals, we were told that we should either leave right then (at 6.00-6.30 pm in the evening) for Manali or very early (3 am kind) tomorrow morning to avoid the tourist traffic on Rohtang. Neither of us wanted to drive further tonight, and so we settled into a place close to the exit, and decided to leave by 3 am in the morning.

18 June 2014 (Wednesday)
Drive: Keylong to Chandigarh
Start time: 3.15 am
Roads / NHs / SHs taken: NH 21
Average Speed: 25 kmph (including breaks); 28 kmph (only driving time)
Odo reading: 4,845 kms

This was a mammoth day. We left for Rohtang at 3.15 am, it was still quite dark and we relied on the map to get a sense on turns ahead. Even at that hour there were cars coming towards Keylong, one every half hour or so may be. It got lighter by around 5 am, after which driving became easier.

The drive up Rohtang was tough, with many small puddles, extremely bad road conditions and more onward traffic towards the top. Whatever the bumpiness of the drive may be, it was more than compensated for by the great sites, the sun rising over the snow clad mountains was a sight! We couldn’t resist stopping briefly for a quick photo-op, it practically feels like we are driving over the clouds here.

We reached Rohtang top by 6 am, and we felt good for about 10 minutes or so after that, seeing that there were already a lot of people and taxis on the top and realised why people in Keylong insisted that we leave early. It literally and figuratively went downhill from there. There was a narrow turn on the road where traffic from both sides was stalled, the road was very narrow and only one side could move at a time. The onward vehicles line extended as far as we could see, and was mostly local taxis from Manali coming for a day trip.

After being stuck at a spot for over an hour, the taxis behind us managed to stop the oncoming vehicles and we moved head slowly. The next 2 hours or so were insane – there were easily about 5,000 taxis standing in a queue, waiting to reach the Rohtang top, and every time one car tries to overtake the other in this queue people descending the pass would be stuck for any amount of time. There were police men at various points, but this was hardly controllable in the true sense.

The descent road was jagged on the edges and the traffic meant driving on the absolute brim of the road, with some adventures locals shouting out to us ‘Mumbai se aane ka daring kiya hai, aur thoda risk leke left se chala lo’. The chaos of this road must be the biggest reason why people should reconsider coming via Manali. The drivers here are easily the rashest we’ve encountered on our trip, multiple times I’ve had to swerve sharply on turnings because the oncoming car would drive in the middle of the road.

We reached Manali by about 9.30 am, and had breakfast there. We had heard horror stories of people taking 12 hours+ on Rohtang, and knew our 6 hours+ was still easy. While our initial plan was to stay over in Manali for the day, we decided to push on and see where we get. Our next planned stop was Delhi, although we didn’t think we could get there today.

After breakfast and fuelling up we drove towards Delhi via Kullu. The drive is very picturesque once we passed through the Manali town. It also started to rain heavily, we stopped under a thick tree cover and gave the car a quick rub over so the rain would wash off some of the mud and grime.

The roads were good, the traffic was not too bad and we cruised on at a decent speed till about Mandi. We had lunch around there, at about 2 pm, and then promptly got stuck in a jam again. A tree had fallen and there was some short circuited lines on the road ahead, and traffic was held up for more than an hour.

Even after we moved again, the speed was severely impaired because of the sudden increase in traffic. We went via Sundernagar, Bilaspur and Baddi and entered Punjab around Hoshiarpur. We got a lot of truck traffic till we exited Himachal Pradesh, it was so bad at stretches, we were reduced to covering less than 10 kms in an hour – we would keep looking at milestones for Chandigarh and the kms would just not go down!

Once we entered Punjab the traffic improved slightly, and the roads improved very much once we hit the expressway to Chandigarh. I took a break for the first time today, leaving the wife to drive till Chandigarh. It was an easy enough drive, although it was dark by the time we got onto the expressway.

We reached Chandigarh around 9 pm; since wife hadn’t been here before I took her to Sukhna lake front right away. We didn’t really stay there for long (since we were both quite hungry and tired), drove to a hotel I stayed at in the past and checked in (Rs. 2,000 per night, most expensive in the whole trip). Had dinner at a nearby eatery and called it a night.

The journey from Leh to Manali, in pictures...

After Upshi
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140617_065000.jpg

Approaching the Tanglang La top
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140617_075452.jpg

The Tanglang La top
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140617_080342.jpg

Moore Plains
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140617_090750.jpg

View of Pang
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140617_091146.jpg

Roads between Pang and Lachunglang La
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140617_095830.jpg

Lachunglang La Top
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140617_102558.jpg

Hats off to this cyclist on the top of Lachunglang La
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140617_102640.jpg

Nakee La
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140617_110310.jpg

Approaching the Gata Loops
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140617_111618.jpg

Perspective of the Gata Loops
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140617_113658.jpg

Approaching Sarchu
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140617_114516.jpg

At Sarchu
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140617_123106.jpg

Near Killing Sarai
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140617_130142.jpg

Baralacha La and its frozen lakes
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140617_141146.jpg
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140617_141408.jpg
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140617_141420.jpg
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140617_143246.jpg
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140617_143636.jpg
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140617_143848.jpg
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140617_144440.jpg
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140617_144506.jpg
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140617_145416.jpg

Near Zingzing Bar
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140617_163450.jpg

Beautiful and smooth drive around Keylong
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140617_175350.jpg

Rohtang Pass
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140618_053546.jpg
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140618_054540.jpg
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140618_054830.jpg
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140618_055808.jpg
Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-img_20140618_061356.jpg
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Old 20th July 2014, 19:44   #34
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Default Re: Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective

A short summary of the passes that we crossed

Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective-passes-summary.jpg

19 June 2014 (Thursday)
Drive: Chandigarh to Faridabad
Start time: 12.00 pm
Roads / NHs / SHs taken: Grand Trunk Road
Average Speed: 52 kmph (including breaks); 60 kmph (only driving time)
Odo reading: 5,130 kms

This was planned to be an easy day. We left the hotel around 9 am, had breakfast in one of the popular joints in Chandigarh and drove around the city, for the wife’s benefit. After a leisurely breakfast, we went to the ISCKON temple, and spent a few minutes there.

Left for Delhi around noon, and soon I gave the steering over to the wife and took a long nap. There was traffic, but given where we were coming from, it was all a breeze. Stopped at Haldiram’s near Sonepat for a late lunch, and reached our friends’ place at Faridabad by about 5.30 pm.

20 June 2014 (Friday)
Drive: Faridabad local

Stayed in Faridabad at a friend’s place, shopped in the local market, ate kachoris there and generally had a great time catching up. Only fly in the ointment – there was no power from 11 am to 7.30 pm!!

21 June 2014 (Saturday)
Drive: Faridabad to Beawer
Start time: 7.30 am
Roads / NHs / SHs taken: NH8
Average Speed: 53 kmph (including breaks); 60 kmph (only driving time)
Odo reading: 5,640 kms

After a quick breakfast, we left for Rajasthan at about 7.30 am. Drove towards Sohna, joining the beloved NH8 through Bhiwadi. We didn’t have a firm plan on where to stay, we wanted to get atleast till Ajmer, so that the drive tomorrow will be lesser. We did get some early morning traffic, but I am sure it was lesser than weekday levels.

Our first unplanned stop was near Kotputli; the same place where I got stuck on my way to Amritsar, a bridge under construction here which cause huge jams. To avoid being held up, we followed the directions a local guy was giving, diverting traffic away from the junction towards an inside village road. It was a village road, the kind seen in movies where the hero drives his bike or cycle. The GPS was gone here and we relied on asking the people we saw on the way about how to get to the highway. They directed us to go via Thana (name of a place, not a police station like we first thought) and then Sirohi, which then connected back to the highway.

It worked out well, while we had to slowdown considerably, we avoided getting stuck in the jam and reached Jaipur by around 1.30 pm. We went straight to the Amer fort, since this was also the wife’s first time to Jaipur. After spending something like an hour here, we drove by the Jal Mahal and Hawa Mahal and the main market in Jaipur, shopped for some eatables to get back home and had lunch too. I had been to Jaipur about 6 years back and was completely taken aback by the level of improvement (read development) since then.

The wife took over till Ajmer, where we reached by about 6 pm. We visited the Dargah – it made us think of Haji Ali. The most interesting thing in Ajmer was the various parking slots on the road to the Dargah, any number of people wave at you while you are driving offering you parking space. While I was slightly worried (as we had to leave the keys behind as well), there was nothing to do but park in one of those places since cars are not allowed beyond a point on the road. Ajmer was almost the same as it was 6 years back.

We left Ajmer by around 7 pm. We decided to go another 100 kms or till 9 pm, whichever happens first. The roads were great, and driving in the night here shouldn’t be an issue if we were both not tired. We stopped at the first nice looking hotel (Rs. 1,300 per night) we saw by the highway: it was at Beawer and the hotel is seen from the highway, on the right hand side. Dinner at the hotel and called it a night soon.

22 June 2014 (Sunday)
Drive: Beawer to Vadodara
Start time: 7.15 am
Roads / NHs / SHs taken: NH8
Average Speed: 57 kmph (including breaks); 68 kmph (only driving time)
Odo reading: 6,200 kms

It was drive we were comfortable with. We had visited these roads in the recent past, and the confidence was not ill-placed. We took two stops (in Rajsamand for breakfast and just ahead of Ahmedabad for lunch), and reached Vadodara by 5.00 pm.

23 June 2014 (Monday)
Drive: Vadodara to Mumbai
Start time: 7.00 am
Roads / NHs / SHs taken: NH 8
Average Speed: 62 kmph (including breaks); 69 kmph (only driving time)
Odo reading: 6,630 kms

Home sweet home, and it was a sweet enough drive too. A couple of stops around Bharuch and Valsad, and we reached Chembur around 3 pm.

Much to the chagrin of the wife, the first thing I did (after getting the luggage home) was to bring out the dusting cloth and clean the car as much as I could. After all, it had been a great companion on the trip!
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Old 20th July 2014, 19:59   #35
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Default Re: Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective

A note on preparation
I did the following things to prepare for the trip apart from reading a lot about the region (not making an exhaustive list here, as many other veterans have compiled great lists in their posts):
  • Got my car serviced 2 weeks before the trip (topped up all the fluids required)
  • To be prepared for unforeseen events, I ordered a hydraulic jack, towing cables, automatic tyre inflator, jump start cables, puncture repair kit, swiss knife, 2 x 20 ltr jars (for fuel), plier, cutter
  • Tested the above items on the car myself to make sure they are working and I am able to use them, if required
  • Some other items that we took along were trash bags, screw driver kit, hammer, scissors, rope, empty cold drink bottles, neck rest, car mobile charger, first aid box (with general medicines and Diamox)
  • Packed as many warm clothes as we had and could additionally arrange including a couple of blankets (just in case)
  • Went for a 300 km drive to Malshej Ghat to test the car, on the weekend before the trip started
  • Some cycling, swimming, etc to try and build some stamina

Certain things that I hadn’t read anywhere about Ladakh
  • The drive now is ‘adventurous’ more because of the extremely bad road conditions than because of difficult terrains, turns, elevation and snow/water
  • Most of the local taxi drivers drive very rashly on passes, to say the least
  • The above two pose risk to your car and its well-being. I am one whose heart bleeds at every scratch, and when the turning light on the side view mirror was shattered by a racing taxi, it hurt terribly!
  • Most of the roads (including lanes inside towns) are significantly polluted with vehicular smoke (and sand/dust which was expected)
  • If you are driving yourself, start as early in the morning as possible so as to avoid heavy traffic and significantly easing your drive
  • One can get proper food almost everywhere on the regular routes / destinations, in some cases, even on mountain passes
  • Having a satellite GPS is very advantageous on such terrains as it gives you an idea about the upcoming sharp curves
  • You can get a serious tan in the Ladakh region (so use a very good sunscreen as much as you can)
  • Getting access to proper toilets is a challenge in the region and sometimes becomes difficult for females

Some takeaways
  • It was the most beautiful place I have ever visited. The locals are ever smiling and extremely helpful
  • I would definitely go back at least a couple more times – one for a more relaxing holiday and the other to explore some other places in Ladakh which I did not this time
  • Despite a difficult life in this region, all the local people looked happy, this was very inspirational
  • For a first timer, I would rather do the trip in a chauffer-driven car to enjoy, relax, relish and explore the beauty of the place. In you are short on time, this would help in allocating more time in Ladakh, than in travelling
  • Unless, you are a hard core biker and don’t go anywhere without a bike, do not take a bike, it may turn out to be more ‘polluted’ than an ‘adventurous’ holiday now
  • I would avoid the Leh-Manali route not because of the extremely bad roads, but because of the local traffic chaos on the Manali side of Rohtang pass and a lot of pollution
  • It is a very good idea to socialize with fellow travellers and know their experiences. In regions like these, where the road conditions are uncertain, it could be very helpful too
  • If you are clicking a local’s picture, ask for their permission before you click them, in most cases they would happily oblige
  • Share your experiences on public forums, consider it a part of the trip / holiday. Even if one person finds it useful, the objective is achieved. I planned and executed my whole trip on the basis of other people’s experiences that I read online
  • A post-paid Mumbai MTNL connection worked absolutely fine at all of the places where there is cell phone coverage (even 3G worked in Leh at least). Airtel too, to our surprise, worked at most places
  • It is very unlikely that one could be stranded on the more popular circuits (like the ones we covered). There is a lot of vehicular traffic across these places, and help will be available in a couple of hours at max
  • Diesel is the cheapest in Punjab (as much as Rs. 10 per litre cheaper than in Mumbai)
  • And I think, the most important is do not litter and destroy any tourist place. Please go through this news article listing the pollution problem in Ladakh (don’t be misguided by the heading of the article) -

A note on trip cost
Overall we found that Ladakh is cheap in comparison to many other destinations in India, and contrary to popular perception. Our total trip expense came to around Rs. 1,10,000 including fuel, food, accommodation, shopping, flight cost for my wife, etc. The fuel cost was around Rs. 34,000 (average of Rs. 5.4 / km); food & accommodation was around Rs. 36,000 (average of Rs. 1,600 per day).

On the highways, almost throughout our trip we found that hotels were available at Rs. 700 to Rs. 1,500 per night depending on the quality of the hotel and guest’s preference. Kashmir was a bit expensive given that this is a more developed tourist destination. Even here, one can find hotels / guest houses starting from Rs. 1,000 per night; the quality increases with the price but not in direct proportion. In the Ladakh region, one could get a decent place to stay say between Rs. 1,500-2,500 per night. There are more expensive options too, going upto Rs. 5,000 per night. The biggest cost saver in this trip was the bargains that we got at almost all hotels as we hadn’t booked anything in advance. This was my third such trip (without any bookings). Booking on the spot gives many advantages (only if you are not hung up on some specific place) – great bargains, check out the place before checking in, flexibility in your travel plan, ability to stay in different places even in the same location, etc.

On the food front, we went very light this time as we had to drive a lot and did not want to take any chances; so to that extent the food cost may be a bit deflated. In any case, nowhere the food was as expensive as in cities – even in the most exotic looking standalone restaurants in Srinagar.

Shopping in Leh can prove to be expensive if one buys from the ‘Tibetan’ markets and is not able to bargain. If anyone wants to buy here, try to bargain for 25% of the quoted price and most times the shopkeeper will come to around 50% of the quoted price. To avoid bargaining, try and look for shops (and not stalls) where locals generally buy stuff from. We tried both places and found that the prices at the ‘shops’ much lesser than bargained prices at ‘stalls’. One can get good woollen stuff (yak and sheep wool), blankets, jackets, shawls here.

On taking a car, take your own car only if you can’t do away with that. I took it, because I wanted to test my driving capabilities, had a lot of time and it actually was working out to be the cheapest way to do it. If you love your car (as much as I do), it is almost a punishment for the car. I had compared the costing of taking car from home, hiring a self-drive car from Srinagar till Manali, hiring a chauffer driven car from Sirnagar till Manali / Delhi. The next best option in terms of cost is hiring a chauffer driven car from Sirnagar to Manali. Believe me, this is a very good way of doing a Ladakh trip, especially if you are going for the first time and are more than 2 people. If you go for this option, you can even pre-agree with the driver to allow you to drive during the trip / on some patches. The most expensive option is to hire car in Leh for excursions to Nubra Valley, Pangong, Tso Moriri, etc. Try and avoid that if you are alone / couple and do not want to spend a lot of money. Even for people flying directly to Leh and back, hiring a local taxi in Leh is very expensive even for local sightseeing. In such cases, I would suggest going in for a package trip which many small and big travel operators provide. I you must take your car, do it through the Srinagar side and save some pain for your car.

Special Thanks
I would like to thank all the people who have shared their experiences on various portals including team-bhp (especially to @tsk1979’s guide and maps). I am also attaching a compilation of @tsk1979’s guides and posts for ease of use of other fellow travellers, hope @tsk1979 doesn't mind.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tsk1979 View Post
Leh, Ladakh and Zanskar - The Ultimate Guide
Leh Guide - TBHP.pdf

We were able to make up our minds to drive ourselves all the way to Ladakh from Mumbai and back based on these materials and advice. All the material that we read online with experiences / suggestions from travellers helped us prepare and plan better for the trip and also in completing the trip successfully. Thanks to these people, even we now feel responsible and are sharing our experience / views, which may come in handy to other travellers.

Eagerly waiting for my next trip now!
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Old 20th July 2014, 21:09   #36
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Default Re: Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective

Quote:
  • And I think, the most important is do not litter and destroy any tourist place. Please go through this news article listing the pollution problem in Ladakh (don’t be misguided by the heading of the article) -
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/i...w/38284454.cms

The link got missed in the post.
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Old 20th July 2014, 21:51   #37
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Default Re: Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective

A great TL Nik. I along with my family to visited Ladakh between June 7- 19. However, unlike you I decided to go back via Srinagar as the information available suggested that it would not be a good thing to risk going thru Manali with my family along.

My elder son had a bout of AMS during our trip to Pangong Tso and my wife suffered from nausea and headaches .I did not want a situation on may hands with sick family members stuck in a high altitude traffic jam without access to food, medical aid and toilet facilities.

I was really touched by the nature of people in Ladakh. The are so helpful and polite to absolute strangers. I will definitely be back.

Kashmir was a bit of a letdown with touts hounding you at every step. However, I had the opportunity to visit Kashmir in Feb 2013 and Kashmir in winters is too beautiful to describe in words.
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Old 25th July 2014, 18:02   #38
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Default Re: Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective

Quote:
Originally Posted by nik.agr View Post
...

I would like to thank all the people who have shared their experiences on various portals including team-bhp (especially to @tsk1979’s guide and maps). I am also attaching a compilation of @tsk1979’s guides and posts for ease of use of other fellow travellers, hope @tsk1979 doesn't mind.



Attachment 1263985
Thank you nik for an excellent travelogue. Very well written. I am lapping up all Ladakh travelogues once again now in preparation for my planned trip in October.

Special thanks to you for converting Tanveer's "Ultimate Guide" to a PDF format - now I can print that and take it with me and refer to it for the finer details. Hope Tanveer won't mind that too
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Old 27th July 2014, 19:18   #39
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Default Re: Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective

Nik agr,

Good travelogue. I read this atleast twice to get an insight to the routes you took. I notice that you missed Tso Moriri due to urgency back in Mumbai.

(a) Did you carry any extra fuel Jerry cans for XUV.

(b) I notice a photo Chushul. Was permission required to go to Chushul.

(c) why you didn't take Chushul route to Tso Moriri from Pangong Tso (if you would not have skipped Tso Moriri).
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Old 30th July 2014, 21:33   #40
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Default Re: Ladakh Roadtrip in the XUV500 – A Beginner’s perspective

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Originally Posted by vittal View Post
(a) Did you carry any extra fuel Jerry cans for XUV.
Yes i did carry two 20L cans, but did not have to actually use them as we skipped Tso Moriri

Quote:
(b) I notice a photo Chushul. Was permission required to go to Chushul.
We did not go to Chusul. We returned to Leh from Pangong Tso

Quote:
(c) why you didn't take Chushul route to Tso Moriri from Pangong Tso (if you would not have skipped Tso Moriri).
We came to know about the emergency to leave for Mumbai asap only on the next day after we reached Leh from Pangong Tso
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