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Old 20th August 2014, 11:05   #1
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Default Pune to Pune via Ladakh - The White Beast conquers everything in between

There are places and there are other places. And there are places like Leh and there are regions like Ladakh.

The more you try to explore such natural marvels, the more the number of surprises it throws up; each time and every time.

Fascinated by the sheer barren beauty of the region and tons of Ladakh travelogues being dished out on Team-BHP, left-right-and-center, Ladakh had to be on the itinerary of a petrol head like me. And this pretty much would be the case with everyone who loves mountains and of course loooong drives. After all, only the beauty of a region may not necessarily propel you to voyage out on 7000Km round trip on the highways.

Now you may ask – why drive for donkey’s days to reach there? Can’t we just fly there and be done with our humdrum visits to the popular passes and lakes and get the hell out of there? Answer is, yes you can do; in fact many follow that routine. But to be honest, Leh is not a place to land there on air and roam around on those local Taxis that believe, flying off a cliff on a tight turn in a car could be fun too. Leh is a place that demands your patience and gill to grind it out and drive in at your own sweet way. For it, the entire region, including the approach and exit of Leh offers in equal handsomeness to the quality of landscaping that the famous passes or the lakes of the region promise. So by flying there you will miss things which otherwise you would enjoy, had you decide to drive through it.

So, a yearlong plan culminated into a memorable and adventurous trip from Pune to Leh and back. Assured by a reliable companion like my Tata Safari, aka white beast, two souls drove from the far west of the country to the far north and back alive to narrate the experience and excitement of the trip. We made friends and companions and perhaps few foes in the form of Leh police officers, who were once found extremely worried and irritated seeing a Maharashtra vehicle parked at an entirely wrong place, blocking the traffic right from the middle. Mistake was that of mine but my lack of parking knowledge at Leh must also be blamed equally. We will get to the facts finding of that incident in the upcoming detailed travelogue.

In the course of this travelogue we will together relive the beautiful experience and will also ponder in to at least three instances on the highway where we had our heart up in our mouth because of the brilliance and superstars that we routinely find on our highways.

But before that, how about some teasers before we plunge into the detailed travelogue with day wise narration?

Live To Drive - Couldn't have a better caption to describe the beast
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Yours' Truly
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Yours' Truly Again
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To Be Continued....

Last edited by GTO : 15th September 2014 at 14:39. Reason: Removing FONT tag at the end :)
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Old 21st August 2014, 19:08   #2
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Default re: Pune to Pune via Ladakh - The White Beast conquers everything in between

Warm Up

I always had this plan of driving to Leh. But then plans are one thing and successfully executing them is an entirely different ball game. Every time I came up with a plan, destiny flashed it's skewed smile from the corner and brought on eventualities that invariably always threw all my plans out of the window. Every year I would plan and prepare an XL sheet with day wise itinerary, only to see it getting dumped into the cupboard later.

Finally, I vowed to complete this long pending drive during Aug-Sep 2013. In fact, I had the vehicle serviced for the upcoming drive. But as luck would have it, I got the SoS from Japan, just 12 days before my planned trip that, I may seek divorce from my wife if that is required but I have to rush to Tokyo for an assignment, that even the big bosses out there had no clue about.

Though divorce from my wife was never required, I had to drop my Leh drive quite broodingly. When I was supposed to enjoy a hot bowl of Maggie atop Chang-La, I was instead busy negotiating and cajoling my taste buds over a plate of tasteless Susi. Irony of working for someone, I must say.

After the setback of 2013, I was double determined to complete the pending drive in 2014. And I would say - the said plan was almost got screwed up, had there been no mercy shown from the almighty. Finally destiny acknowledged the harassment that I had to go through under her supervision time-and-again and relented to abstain from her regular fury and let this mortal complete the drive which is nothing short of a dream; albeit with a severely truncated itinerary

I am not sure but I presume this drive of mine could easily be the shortest drive to Leh carried out by anyone and that too from a far off place like Pune. The initial plan was of 15 days but the leaves granted were far less than what I had planned. After running around every possible bush, all that I got were a meager 10 days off. I know, it is criminal for some one to expect one to complete a 6.5K round trip on the highways in just 10 days; but then managers are equipped with many such criminal intents. Initial impression were that of frustration and dejection and lot of anger towards my manager for being such a mean spoilsport. In fact I even contemplated dropping the plan for this year as well. But before I call it quit for 2014 I thought to do some last minute mathematics to see if I can fit the plan somehow to the leaves that I had.

Voila, I found it to be a possibility, provided I am ready to slash the days people keep as reserve days in Leh for acclimatization and of course throw out Turtuk from the plan. To top it, there won't even be a window of 6 hours for any kind of delay or casual driving. But, I was ready to take the chance because pushing the plan to 2015 was not quite acceptable for me.

So after much deliberation, this is how the plan stand and pretty much executed as per schedule.

09/08/2014 - Day 1 - Pune To Near Udaipur
10/08/2014 - Day 2 - Udaipur To Sardasahar
11/08/2014 - Day 3 - Sardasahar To Ramban
12/08/2014 - Day 4 - Ramban To Sonmarg
13/08/2014 - Day 5 - Sonmarg To Leh
14/08/2014 - Day 6 - Leh To Hunder And Back
15/08/2014 - Day 7 - Leh To Pangong And Back
16/08/2014 - Day 8 - Leh To Manali
17/08/2014 - Day 9 - Manali To Delhi
18/08/2014 - Day 10 - Delhi To Vadodra
19/08/2014 - Day 11 - Vadodra To Pune

Stats

Total Distance Covered - 6382 Km
Total Toll Gates Encountered - 52
Total Toll Paid - Rs 3250/-
Total Diesel Smoked - 516 Ltr
Total Diesel Cost - Rs 32000/-
Total Cost Of The Trip (Including Everything) - Rs 61582/-
Memories Won & Preserved - Priceless

To Be Continued...

Last edited by BeingCynical : 22nd August 2014 at 07:10.
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Old 21st August 2014, 20:07   #3
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Default re: Pune to Pune via Ladakh - The White Beast conquers everything in between

Day - 1

The preparation for the trip started when I was in Japan. In fact I started the journey exactly after 4 days I landed in India. While I was in Japan, I asked my brother-in-law to take the beast for a tough spin and do the servicing. The task was promptly accomplished a week before the trip started.

Since long trips with no fuel bunks in sight were dropped from the plan, it never necessitated the urge to buy spare fuel cans. Other sundry items including tow cable, jump start cable, Manual pump set and puncture kits were procured from online shopping sites and got them delivered on time.

Loaded the beast on 8th evening though the luggage that was being carried were quite less than the average.

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This is how it looked while mildly loaded

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And loaded with everything we need. Look at the small number of luggage we were carrying

After loading the minimal luggage on the beast, I had my dinner little early and went o bed around 10 PM. Idea was to wake up early around 3:15 and leave the parking lot by 4AM. Clocked the alarm at 3 AM and went to sleep. But sleep was the last thing that was coming to me naturally as excitement has taken over everything else. I would have barely slept for couple of hours when the alarm cried full throat to wake me up. Took a bath and got ready by 4 AM to slot the ignition key to start the drive of my life.

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Trusted companion all ready to roll out

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The Odo that read when we kick started

We hit the Pune-Mumbai expressway in no time and greeted by mild drizzle. Even before we could realize we hit the first toll booth of our journey.

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Talegaon Toll Booth on Expressway

To Be Continued...

Last edited by BeingCynical : 21st August 2014 at 20:33.
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Old 21st August 2014, 20:47   #4
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Default re: Pune to Pune via Ladakh - The White Beast conquers everything in between

Day - 1 Continued

We reached Panvel just about when Sun was desperately trying to make its presence felt through the thick cloud cover.

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It was around 6:45 in the morning when we reached Thane and made our move towards Godbandar road.

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After negotiating a small traffic jam because of a broke down vehicle, we managed to hit NH-8 around 8 AM. Along with mild rain we had to make mild traffic as our companion.

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Some small port en-route

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By the time we reached Godbandar the rain has increased its intensity by some margin. Water droplets scattering out of running tyres were making the rain even look more ominous.

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Look how hazy has it become

An early wake up call and driving through irritating rain called for the first break of our trip. And yes, it has to be for a hot cup of Tea.

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The much awaited cup of tea

To Be Continued...

Last edited by BeingCynical : 22nd August 2014 at 07:19.
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Old 21st August 2014, 21:21   #5
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Day - 1 Continued

Along with rain, the fresh mansoon greenery made its entry. Rain relented a bit and we picked up some speed and started munching miles faster than we did till now.

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Live To Drive

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Inviting Roads But The Clouds Looked Threatening

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By that time early morning hunger had crept in. We started searching for a place to have our breakfast. Out of nowhere we saw the board mentioning the presence of a Kamat Upchar in next 8 kilometers. Floored the paddle a bit more to reach the place a little quicker and hugged onto some South Indian - Marathi breakfast combo

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Was Tasty and Yummy

After a stumpetous fill and good 30 minutes later we moved ahead towards Baruch. And it was around 9:45 AM when we reached the Charoti toll booth

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Inviting Roads Continued

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So As The Greenery

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The Rain Never Gave Us Any Relief

Somewhere near Vapi my sister who stays in Airforce Station in Vadodra called up to inquire about our progress and asked if we are stopping by her place on our way. Initial plan was to pass by Vavodra without stopping and make a stop at her place on our way back. But plans are there to be changed when sisterly affection makes the hoot. The plan of stopping over at her place for lunch made the cut when she informed that the highway that we would travel through is barely 1 KM from the Airforce base. Asked her to prepare some yummy chicken for us and moved ahead towards Vadodra.

Rain continued to accompany us till we reached Surat

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Some Temple

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Finally Some Sun

To Be Continued...

Last edited by BeingCynical : 22nd August 2014 at 07:22.
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Old 21st August 2014, 22:12   #6
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Day - 1 Continued

After some more rain and some more greenery we stopped for our first fuel break since we left Pune.

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Tanking Up

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Now the dilemma of the day erupted - whether to keep on driving on the highway to cross Narmada or take the routine detour via Golden bridge to avoid the notorious traffic. A quick search on the road condition reveled that the bridge on the opposite direction on Narmada has started functioning and the traffic no more remains that chronic as it used to be. Though the approach to the bridge is still at snails pace the traffic jam has eroded to great extent. So took the chance and continued driving on the highway, only to be greeted by a medium-to-mild traffic before the bridge.

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Still The Traffic Jam Continues

Crawled onto a shaking Narmada bridge after good 25 minutes of 1st gear drive.

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After that the drive to Vadodra was a breeze. Reached Sister's place at around 2:30. Had some yummy chicken for lunch accompanied by my nephew and niece, who had just returned from school. Over lunch sister proposed if we would like to stay at Leh Airbase guest house. Could we refuse that? Hell not. Gave our nod to my sister and moved out of airforce station around 4:30 PM.

Some traffic kept us irritating for 1/2 an hour before we hit the butter of a road called Vadodra - Ahemaddabad Expressway.

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Driving on Vavdodra - Ahmdbad expressway was a joy. Smooth and well leveled roads with lots of scenes thrown in

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Beautiful Road

Covered 96 Km of this expressway in just about 45 minutes and entered Ahmeddabad bypass soon.

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We crossed over to Rajasthan sometime in the late evening

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It was around 9:30 and we were nearing Udaipur when I noticed this Kigfisher hotel on the highway. Looked perfectly OK from outside and we decided to call it a day

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Now I must mention a bit about this hotel and how looks could be deceptive. This hotel in one line - is a pathetic hotel. Just avoid it at any cost, even if that means sleeping inside your car. Rooms are smelly and nasty. The bedsheets are such as if never been washed from the day it is purchased. Least we talk about the bathroom is better. Just avoid it at any cost.

Room Charges - Rs 1300/-
Experience Gained - Horrendous

But we were too tired to complain much and ordered some equally pathetic food for dinner and crashed to the pathetic bed in no time. So that concludes the Day -1 drive

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Stats For The Day

Total Distance Covered - 901 Km
Total Driving Time - 18 Hours

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Route For The Day

To Be Continued...

Last edited by BeingCynical : 22nd August 2014 at 07:30.
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Old 22nd August 2014, 19:06   #7
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Day - 2

Woke up around 5 in the morning. In fact we never could sleep on those filthy beds. Looking at the bathroom we decided against a bath and checked out. It had rained whole night and it was evident from the courtyard of the hotel. Though the rooms were horrible, the outer view of the hotel was still good. Took couple of snaps before we moved out of the hotel's parking lot.

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The poor doggy never showed any interest towards us

It tookus good hour of driving in twilight before sun broke out. The first thing that hit us was the amount of greenery that Rajasthan offered us. Never thought Rajasthan could be so green.

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We moved ahead and hit our first toll booth of the day after 2 hours of driving.

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Took first bio break

After a bio break and quick cup of tea we are back on the highway again. It started raining.

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To Be Continued...

Last edited by BeingCynical : 22nd August 2014 at 19:20.
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Old 22nd August 2014, 19:24   #8
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Default re: Pune to Pune via Ladakh - The White Beast conquers everything in between

Day - 2 Continued

We came across many interesting creatures on Rajasthan roads.

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Look at the daredevil acrobat

With so many daredevils on the roadour first heart-in-mouth was bound to come here. Just after we crossed Udaipur the rain relented a bit. Time was to floor the pedal to cover some lost ground. After few minutes of breezing through on open roads we hit a small highway side town. Though I slowed down, we still were around 100Km/hour when I noticed an old woman some 200 meters ahead. As precaution I honked couple of times to alert the woman who was getting ready to cross the highway. The woman promptly looked at us and took her umbrella in her right hand and started walking across the road. I applied the break and the horn at the same time and the beast dragged on for some time and came to a screeching halt just about when the woman managed to jump on the road divider. We would have barely missed the old woman by half a foot at the maximum. And the icing on the cake was the look the woman offered at us as if it was all our mistake for driving on Rajasthan highways.

After well shaken up we moved ahead. The greenery continued to accompany us.

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Live To Drive Break

Rain started to pour in again

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The roads were extremely inviting and we were munching miles at quite ease.

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To Be Continued...

Last edited by BeingCynical : 22nd August 2014 at 19:51.
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Old 23rd August 2014, 12:25   #9
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Default Re: Pune to Pune via Ladakh - The White Beast conquers everything in between

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 23rd August 2014, 13:41   #10
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Originally Posted by BeingCynical View Post
But sleep was the last thing that was coming to me naturally as excitement has taken over everything else. I would have barely slept for couple of hours when the alarm cried full throat to wake me up. Took a bath and got ready by 4 AM to slot the ignition key to start the drive of my
As I am writing this l am at the Service Station getting Simba serviced for the upcoming dream drive to Leh on 30th August.

I can relate to excitement you mention. While there is still a week for the drive, it is becoming difficult for me to concentrate on anything else.

Look forward to more pictures and that parking incident you mentioned!
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Old 23rd August 2014, 15:41   #11
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Default Re: Pune to Pune via Ladakh - The White Beast conquers everything in between

Wonderful wonderful log. Reignited the fire in me.

Looking forward to quick updates for the entire trip
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Old 24th August 2014, 12:03   #12
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Default Re: Pune to Pune via Ladakh - The White Beast conquers everything in between

Day - 2 Continued

Driving from Udaipur to Chttorgarh was complete bliss. Each kilometer made me wonder how Rajasthan could be so green. What happened to all those Bollywood movies which show only sand when it comes to Rajasthan?

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Look at the daredevils

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Some temple

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We came across a bodyguard as well though his own body was in some desperate need of guarding than anyone else's.

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Bodyguard - Salman Khan must be proud of this

We moved ahead and thankfully, we never had any rain for some time though the sky always looked ominous.

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To Be Continued...
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Old 24th August 2014, 12:17   #13
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Default Re: Pune to Pune via Ladakh - The White Beast conquers everything in between

BC, looks can be deceptive!! Creepy hotel there.
But the travelogue is amazing, filled with a lot of photos.
And a nice ride you got there.
Looking forward for more updates on the trip!!
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Old 24th August 2014, 12:30   #14
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Default Re: Pune to Pune via Ladakh - The White Beast conquers everything in between

Day - 2 Continued

We reached Chittorgarh bypass by 10:45 and decided to take a tea break.

Pune to Pune via Ladakh - The White Beast conquers everything in between-dsc_0237.jpg
A bunch of daredevils

Pune to Pune via Ladakh - The White Beast conquers everything in between-dsc_0239.jpg

Pune to Pune via Ladakh - The White Beast conquers everything in between-dsc_0240.jpg
Met a Baba type character. Perhaps walking his way to Nirvana

Pune to Pune via Ladakh - The White Beast conquers everything in between-dsc_0244.jpg

Pune to Pune via Ladakh - The White Beast conquers everything in between-dsc_0253.jpg

Now the above photograph reminds me of the trucks in our highways. A truck would be going at a breakneck speed of 30.7 Km/Hr when suddenly a Michel Schumacher wanna be in another truck will die to overtake him at a better breakneck speed of 30.9 Km/Hr. Just when he is about half in his daring overtaking act, the veteran on the left will suddenly get a bamboo in his back and will decide not to take any such onslaught lying down. So the veteran will paddle further and would hit an unbelievable speed of 30.92 Km/Hr. Now the veteran and Michel Schumacher will run parallel for eternity with such consistency that they virtually will brush each others teeth as a show of affection. You hanking at the back of them as if your life is at stake would not relent these brave drivers to alter their course. Just when you think the available 3rd lane on the extreme left or right is your route to freedom, a third Schumacher in another truck would appear no where from the woodwork and would try to overtake the earlier two at a unheard speed of 30.96 Km/Hr.

Rest as they say would be history with you waiting with batted breath for a year to overtake all three of these fine gentlemen.

Pune to Pune via Ladakh - The White Beast conquers everything in between-dsc_0265.jpg

Pune to Pune via Ladakh - The White Beast conquers everything in between-dsc_0270.jpg
Some break for the beast

Here at the Dhaba we met two wonders of the world. One, the tea maker because he could easily be the happiest person on earth and second is the fridge which I am sure was used at one point of time by Shahazahan to keep his beers cool. Wonder how Archeological Survey Of India haven't yet raided the place to take this vintage stuff in their custody.

Pune to Pune via Ladakh - The White Beast conquers everything in between-dsc_0276.jpg

Pune to Pune via Ladakh - The White Beast conquers everything in between-dsc_0296.jpg
Looked like a fridge but not sure if I'm correct with my assessment

After a hot cup, we moved on along with the greenery and decided to have first fuel break of the day after covering 200Km from Udaipur.

Pune to Pune via Ladakh - The White Beast conquers everything in between-dsc_0301.jpg

Pune to Pune via Ladakh - The White Beast conquers everything in between-dsc_0305.jpg

Pune to Pune via Ladakh - The White Beast conquers everything in between-dsc_0307.jpg
Beast getting its belly full

To Be Continued...
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Last edited by BeingCynical : 24th August 2014 at 12:32.
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Old 24th August 2014, 12:39   #15
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Default Re: Pune to Pune via Ladakh - The White Beast conquers everything in between

Following closely on your trail and waiting for the unfurling of the experience of the remaining days spent on the road.. Amazing beginning of the excellent narration.
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