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Old 26th November 2014, 00:10   #1
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Default The Northern Expedition - Mumbai to Ladakh

That is at bottom after close to two weeks on the road the only thought to keep moving ahead, when carefully prepared plans are hanging like a stack of dominos swaying with every burst of wind from circumstances. Ladakh, the gateway to many a imagination, the harbinger of joy and struggle, of peace and tranquility .This is an account of a journey to reach the Roof of this country, to exist amongst the simplicity of the high mountains and immerse oneself in the ever-changing landscape of the Northern Frontier

For long I have yearned for the magical land of Ladakh “Land of high passes “, that mystical place nestled near the foothills of the mighty Himalayas. One of those places that finds itself in the list of elusive places in this country even today. There have been many who have trudged out there and have come back with tales galore but for me, it was yet to be done .The tale was yet to be written, the wonders were yet to be gazed upon, the cold wind on the face coming afar from the Karakoram up in the north and from across the pangong was yet to be felt.

The preparation for the trip had commenced more than a year ago but then midway most of it was converted to the Spiti Expedition and the remaining was put on backburner to wait for the day when the urge would overpower everything else..

As days went by and 2014 dawned it was clear that this was the year when the Northern Expedition would fructify, this was the year when I would feel the Tibetan culture interspersed with Ladakhi hospitality upclose.This was the year when the INDOMITABLE would cross into the Land of the High Passes.
The preparation went on at a steady pace all through the year though in the end it did get a bit sticky yet somehow everything was managed well right from the administrative requirements of the job to the diktats of the DC office at Leh.The INDOMITABLE underwent one of the most intensive and serious maintenance routines of all times, anything that was a suspect was replaced, anything loose was tightened up, anything that gave a hint that it was not up to the effort required was replaced.

I was a novice when it came to the Himalaya and so was the INDOMITABLE , we both just had one sojourn in these areas and that was the entire Spiti circuit undertaken during the Spiti Expedition , however both of us knew that this had to be done , Ladakh had to be felt firsthand moving away from the comfortableness of the chair in front of the internet , the fine dust had to be beared with , the cold had to be endured with , the vibrations had to be handled with and the feeling of being out there had to be experienced with !!!


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Old 26th November 2014, 00:15   #2
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#Day 1: Mumbai – Udaipur sector

#1. For me Ladakh could not begin from Day 1 , Ladakh would come when I reach up to it but to do that I had to make a separate journey in itself and that journey began from Mumbai on Day 1 . The target was the capital of the Mewar Kings, the Lake City Udaipur. The journey involved close to 800 kms of travelling using the wide array of National Highways including the National Expressway 1 between Vadodra and Ahmedabad. The start from south Mumbai was planned at around 5 in morning as I had a journey time of close to 12 hours however final start time was close to 0700 hrs.

#2. The INDOMITABLE had been loaded up the night before with almost everything that could be thought to have a role to play in the days to come and it indeed was packed to the hilt. Many generally prefer a start up time of night so that they cover a major distance in the night however I believe in starting early and pushing through the afternoon hours through the wide network of the National Highways. The major way points on the way included Vapi , Surat , Ankleswar,Barauch,Vadodra, Ahmedabad,Himmatnagar, Udaipr.The road details included the famed NH 8 right from Mumbai till Ankleswar where I exited the same in order to avoid crossing the Narmada over the congested bridge on NH 8 but rather take the historically significant Golden Gate Bridge built in the year 1881 connecting Ankleswar and Barauch. The bridge has seen numerous floods and earthquakes but has stood his ground even after 132 years.This also was the first view of the grand Narmada , fifth largest in the Indian Subcontinent flowing sedately as she moved on towards the Gulf of Khambhat where she would meet the Arabian Sea.

#3. Off late I have become closely connected with the rivers that run in our country and she is considered to be one of the five holy rivers older than even the Ganga. The Narmada Parikrama undertaken by many is something to think about as one covers close to 2600 kms walking along the banks from the Arabian Sea till Amarkantank; let’s see what the future holds !!!.

#4. Post baruch I rejoined the NH 8 till Vadodra bypass where I entered upon the super fast and super smooth NE 1 expressway right till Ahmedabad . After Ahmedabad we rejoined the meandering NH8 which would then take me right till Udaipur. The entire stretch of road network is rated above average to excellent in portions. The vehicles can cruise consistently at good speeds other than the connecting road near Ahmedabad bypass , a stretch of around 14 kms which is a single road .

#5. The other significant passing note is that one can hold the significance of crossing the Tropic of Cancer near Himmatnagar, for those like me I can now proudly say that I have crossed four of most significant imaginary lines running across the surface of the earth with the other three being the Tropic of Capricorn , the Equator and the Arctic Circle.

#6. Udaipur was reached without much of a fuss by around 2230 hrs and the stay was booked at RTDC Kajri , this was my second time stay and I definitely recommend it to others and by the end of the day the ODO stood at 73074.

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ALL SET

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ALL LOADED UP

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CURVACEOUS NE 1

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PRETTY VIEWS

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THE NAME SAYS IT ALL

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THE INDOMITABLE

Last edited by swsumit : 26th November 2014 at 22:48.
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Old 26th November 2014, 22:53   #3
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#Day 2: Udaipur– Behror sector

#7. The thought process this time was to see the Lake city as well prior to proceeding towards Behror which was at a distance of 567 Kms. Accordingly we were by 0800 hrs embarked on our impromptu Udaipur sojourn. Enroute we were fortunate to meet Mr Prakash who was as much a part of Udaipur as the lakes themselves. He literally waved my vehicle down and introduced himself. The deal was quickly worked out and soon we were following him through the winding streets of the city. Our sightseeing included the famed Lake Pichola , Dudh Talai Lake , Karni Mata Mandir and finally we requested that we would like to sample some culinary delights instead of the standard sightseeing monuments to which he readily agreed.

#8. Dudh Talai is a dainty little lake on the southern tip of Lake Pichola and if one visits the same in the morning it definitely leaves a mark for its delicate beauty. Lake Pichola , one of the more famous pearls of Udaipur definitely was worth visiting especially when viewed from the Karni Mata Mandir situated on the nearby hill top. The Lake has a rich history and is presently maintained by Taj Group .The Jag Mandir in the middle of the lake definitely adds to the charm of the picture frame as the sunlight gets reflected from the pristine white architecture of Lake Palace and the Jag Mandir. Btw as a noting, Lake Palace a part of the Taj Group has been voted as the most romantic hotel in India and the world for those willing to shell out the big bucks needed to enjoy the romance that is generated out there 

#9. After a sumptuous fare of parathas sitting on plastic stools outside the Vintage Car Museum which was thereafter smoothened with a sharp chai in those thick glasses of yesteryears we were ready to say good bye to our guide and philosopher Mr Prakash with whom we indeed did have a wonderful morning. Noon time saw us ready to roll from Udaipur towards Behror. The route involved way points of Chittorgarh , Bhilwara,Nasirabad,Kisangarh,Jaipur bypass and finally Behror. The network of highways involved the NH 76 followed by the NH 79 and finally we meet up the faithful NH 8 again at Jaipur bypass. The going was slow and somehow as much as I tried to speed up the schedule kept falling behind. Lunch was definitely in that segment which will remain etched in memory for having being done in one of those places that are a part of the landscape that we were crossing , even now as I close my eyes I can picture the INDOMITABLE standing outside a small open single roof structure with us sitting cross legged on coir charpoys ( u reading it right , I said charpoys and that too coir matted) and with hot rotis being served direct from the wooden tandoor in the background as the hot Rajasthani sun ensured that we kept downing the delicious chaas served. Ahh what to would do if one does not have memories, life would definitely be so bland!!!!
#10. A note on the traffic on these routes, originally these highways were the Trucker Highways; on my last visit I hardly crossed any light vehicles but this time the number had definitely gone up. But still these roads are a pleasure to drive upon as they meander through the core of Rajasthan state. Tea was served in a road side stall and the guy out there decided to offer fresh tea hence the entire cutlery including the tea jug was first cleaned and the detergent used was brick finely grounded to a fine powder and then put to use as a cleaning agent. Definitely took me back to my childhood days of enacting the children games that we all used to play!!!

#11. The NH 76 and 79 both run on the outskirts of the cities that have been mentioned bypassing them thereby ensuring that one is not caught in the local traffic that builds up as a town/city approaches. RTDC Behror was reached while the clock struck midnight and as we had telephoned ahead of our late arrival so there was not much of a hassle. A lot was accomplished on Day II with a visit of Udaipur city also thrown in, things were definitely picking up. Tomorrow is another long day as I had to reach Mandi in Himachal and that was supposed to start in a few hours of time; but more on that in the next post, for the moment let the visual effects follow . Odometer at the end of the day stood at 73650.

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CITY PALACE

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CLOSER VIEW

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DUDH TALAI

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JAG MANDIR

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LAKE PICHOLA

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UDAIPUR

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CITY SPREAD OUT
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Old 30th November 2014, 14:06   #4
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# DAY III: Behror-Anandpur sahib sector

#12. It is important to be flexible on road trips, one has to keep this aspect always in mind for disruptions can occur anytime and in any manner .This sector was one on which I had no clarity even while I was planning the trip hence the poor homework showed up when the time came to deliver. To cover a route like Behror-Mandi which is close to 700 km , involves a journey time of over nine hours.One has to be begin real early to do this and moreover there is also NH 21 to deal with which behaves like an errant driver who delivers though on his own terms ,once one crosses Anandpur Sahib and enters Himachal NH 21 begins dictating the terms with no negotiations in the bargain. Anyways sitting on a computer and working with line diagrams everything looks hunky dory but reality is a class apart and I was going to find it soon enough.

#13. However probably the tiredness of the previous day ensured that we could begin only by 0830 hours and in such a situation instead of fretting about the huge delay in starting , the next best thing to do is to enjoy the journey. Hence this time I had decided instead of going via Murthal would rather go via Rohtak and join the Grand Trunk Road at Panipat.

#14. The section from Rohtak to Panipat is super smooth , and when I say that I mean it really looks like a brand new highway (NH 709)that has been constructed which cuts through the heart of rural Haryana and powers through to meet the GT road near Panipat. However I really was delayed reaching till Rohtak and m not sure as to why, the roads were not that difficult but maybe I was taking it somewhat easy. Breakfast was a leisurely affair sitting underneath the shade of a tree a short distance from the highway having hot parathas with butter and curd as the vehicles could be seen zipping by in the distance and if one looked around open vistas of green fields beckoned , really a place worth coming back to time n again. We live in cities or towns and our idea of eating out is either the swanky restaurant with cutlery or it is the dimly lit interior of a fast food joint where the objective is just to eat , but the feeling of sitting and eating out in the open in the most natural of surroundings without the recreation of any theme based environment with the shade of a tree providing all the coolness is am sure cherished by all at some point in their life.

#15. A few words about the Grand Trunk road that we were travelling upon is I feel most essential for it is one of South Asia’s most oldest and longest major roads. It has linked the Eastern and Western region of the subcontinent for over four centuries originating from Chittagong in Bangladesh, entering India through Howrah and then cutting across North India reaching the Wagah Border where it enters Pakistan towards Lahore and Gurjanwala and then entering Afghanistan through the Khyber pass and finally culminating at Kabul, a single continuum of over 2500 kms.As Rudyard Kipling has put it “such a river of life as nowhere else exists in the world”.

#16. As one travels through the length of this country one realizes how much there is to see and assimilate. Every small town has a history and a story to tell , there is a place waiting to be explored and spoken about .Ambala Cantt had the army look written all over it and it houses the “2 Corps” one of the three strike corps of the Indian Army. Ambala Air Base is one of the oldest in the country.

#17. A small look into the route taken till now , this would involve the start from Behror , then the turn towards Rohtak away from NH 8 , one does this at Rewari .Thereafter comes Panipat , Karnal,Ambala Cantt. After Ambala Cantt we pushed on towards Kiratpur Sahib and thereafter Anandpur Sahib via Mohali.Mohali is like filled with club houses , apartments and townships and this is so contrasting to the image of the Punjab heartland which consists of lush fields ,rows of eucalyptus trees and tractors in the distance.I was amazed with the amount of housing societies out here. The best moments of travelling on the National Highways is in my opinion are the evening twilight and the early morning. The sights that sometimes unfold are too spectacular, sometimes it is a lonely curvy bridge in the evening setting sun and then again there could be the long arrow straight road stretching in to the distance as the sun sets. These sights truly spur the traveler to undertake many more journeys. By the t me I reached Ananadpur Sahib which is – km from Kiraptpur Sahib I was truly way off the schedule. But then as I had already let go the schedule in the morning itsefl I was not fretting too much, we decided to visit the Gurudwara at Anandpur Sahib which maybe in the other scenario would not have been possible and I am really thankful that I did so.

#18. A few words on the Gurudwara Anandpur Sahib which was founded by the ninth guru , Guru Teg Bahadur in the year 1665. The Takht Sri Kesh Garh Sahib is located here, this is one of the 5 temporal authorities of Sikhism. These 5 takhts are gurudwaras which are regarded as having special significance to Sikhism. Sri Darbar Sahib Keshgarh is regarded as the birthplace of the Khalsa.The order of the Khalsa was founded here in 1669 and one is fortunate to see the weapons used by Guru Gobind Singh ji out here.

#19. After the visit got completed the clock read 2000 hours , we decided to have an early dinner as the mountain roads were scheduled to start after this , the route that had been planned after this was Nangal, Una , Bhota , Ner Chowk , Mandi. At a road side dhaba some distance after crossing Anandpur Sahib towards Nangal which was occupied by few truckers I casually entered into a discussion on the route ahead and was emphatically instructed that I should not take the route ahead considering the state of the recent rainfall that had occurred and more so in the night; rather they advised me to take the standard route of the NH 21 via Swar Ghat , Bilaspur , Mandi .

#20. I think at this point I should have disregarded their opinion but then would that have been a correct thing to do considering that I had no real time info on the route ahead and the time was close to 2100 hours , well I will never know , what I did do was cancel the route planned and decided to take the route that everyone does but somehow when we started we were not convinced on the journey . I believe that if one is not convinced about the journey that one has to undertake better is not to go ahead itself and that is what we did, aborted the destination for the day and modified it to Anandpur Sahib itself. As soon as we did that I really felt quite good from within, found a great hotel on the Highway where the room was available and with a spring in the step took a break for the day. Tomorrow we would see what lies ahead. For the moment it was memories of the Gurudwara in the peaceful and holy town of Anandpur Sahib. ODO for the day stood at 74176.

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GREEN FIELDS OF PUNJAB

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TAKTH KESHGARH SAHIB

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GURUDWARA ANANDPUR SAHIB

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SOFT EVENING GLOW

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MEMORIES OF THE INDIAN HIGHWAYS

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THE SUPER HIGHWAY
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Old 1st December 2014, 11:51   #5
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Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 1st December 2014, 17:18   #6
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Default Re: The Northern Expedition - Mumbai to Ladakh

Looking forward to what happens next and how the land of Leh-Ladakh welcomes you. Indeed, the journey to Leh all through the beautiful Udaipur and green fields of Punjab is mesmerizing and a nice travelogue befits it.

A great experience well told. Waiting for more!
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Old 1st December 2014, 19:34   #7
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# DAY IV: Anandpur sahib –Manali sector

#21. We woke up to a great new day which was supposed to see us through to Manali , anyways we did not have a very early start as envisaged but eventually by 0630 hrs we were on our way and soon we were welcomed into Dev Bhoomi Himachal . The border between Punjab and Himachal comes immediately as one crosses Anandpur Sahib and soon we were crossing Swarghat followed by Bilaspur in quick succession.

#22. The NH 21; a 323 KM long highway which connects Chandigarh with Manali ,has deteriorated since the last time that I had travelled on this route and I don’t see any immediate repair action or plan in sight, the vehicles trudge as per their capability suffering the abuse that the deteriorated road heaps on them and in return the road deteriorates even further , it is a vicious cycle .Progress was slow but we continued on for we wanted to reach Manali as early as possible to look around the city which was a part of the initial agenda. Sundarnagar was passed at around 1135 hrs and Mandi was reached by around noon covering a distance of just 124 km sincle morning. We payed our respects to Hanogi Mata Mandir and then we were on our way towards the Aut tunnel , a three km long road tunnel built right through the mountain ranges , definitely a feat of engineering. The Buntur airport is just 15 km after Aut. The Beas River which by now had become our constant companion gurgled and flowed merrily all the while and is synomonous with NH 21. I could not have a look at the Pandoh Dam properly as by now we were more interested in reaching our final destination for the road conditions had somehow eroded our patience and we wanted to just relax a bit after completing the drive for the day.

#23. Soon we crossed the bypass of Kullu town and finally decided to stop for lunch rather than try to push for Manali. I am not sure but I found almost all the restaurants were shut in the afternoon , is it that they close for some hours after around two , am not sure but the coincidence was too much to miss. We reached Naggar by 1540 after covering a distance of 221 Kms and Manali was reached by 1630 hours.

#24. Our stay was booked at Ride Inn which was on the outskirts of Manali Town on the way to Rohtang , but we were not in a hurry to reach there and instead decided to spend some time in Mall Road soaking up the ambience after the ride of the day . The next couple of hours were spent just drifting in Mall road; the car had already been parked in the common car parking. We did sample some Momos at Chopsticks And also visited few of the underground markets, stocked up the famous apple pickle and basically chilled the time away.

#25. By around seven thirty in the evening we were ready to leave for Ride Inn which is located in Shenang Village and it is a cozy set up which has been lovingly put up by Godwin d’cruz who incidentally is from Mumbai . The ambience of the place deserves thumbs up but the approach to his place is quite narrow for four wheelers.ODO for the day stood at 74444.

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BEAS FLOWS MERRILY

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PRISTINE BEAUTY

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STAY AT ANANDPUR SAHIB

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BEAS AGAIN

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HANOGI MATA MANDIR

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DESTINATION AHEAD

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Old 1st December 2014, 22:11   #8
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# DAY V: Manali –Jispa sector

#26. This day marked the beginning of the Ladakh sector . Today onwards we would be embarking on the critically acclaimed Manali-Leh Highway. The theoretical literature that I had read would be sampled in all of its technicolour . I had woken up early as I wanted to witness the glorious blaze of sunrise erupting over the peaks of Rohtang and the Solang Valley courtesy the wonderful location of Ride Inn where we were put up for the night. The cold was biting into me and I wondered what lay up ahead . The sun rise did gladden my heart and infuse me with warmth and vigour as I prepared for the day ahead. The ride was supposed to be a short one indeed as I was hoping to reach Jispa by around lunch .

#27. The path involved Manali , Palchan, Kothi,Gulaba,Marhi,Rohtang,Koksar,Sissu,Tandi and finally Jispa. A total distance of 137 km which included the very first pass of the Expedition, Rohtang. The weather was brilliant and there was definitely no hiccups expected on the route By around 0700 we were on our way, the excitement was palpable as we were at the edge of the beginning. Soon we were moving towards Marhi and the scenic beauty was simply marvelous. The rows of tall pines and conifers interspersed with flowering plants gave a very pretty picture to the whole place. The traffic was not very heavy with a trickling of taxis on the way up towards Rohtang. Our progress was slow as we indulged in numerous photography breaks and thereafter soon stopped for breakfast at a roadside tent just before Gulaba. The location was really great and we had a simple breakfast but delicious breakfast of eggs and bread along with some great hot tea. The guy at the tea stall requested us for some medication for his painful gums which we obliged and soon we were on our way .

#28. The road to Rohtang keeps twisting and turning and it was a continuous play of sunshine and shade. The spirits were up as we kept going higher and higher and soon we reached Rohtang Top. What a contrast to the last time when I had crossed Rohtang on my way down from the Spiti Valley gone was the slush and fog replaced with blue skies brown earth and white snow. Rohtang was all dry and hardly any tourists. We spent some time there and then soon we were on our way towards the truck town of Koksar. The road was narrow and the snow covered peaks could be seen in the near distance , the heat of the sun kept increasing as the day progressed and the number of army convoys too slowly kept increasing. I realized that the road to Koksar during the rains is one messy affair as I could see the dried out marks of great mounds of slush piled by the heavy trucks in their passage.

#29. We reached Koksar noon time and joined an ever increasing pile up of stopped vehicles. The word going around was that the bridge after the town was under emergency repairs by GREF who were laying wodden planks at places where the original had given way. Well this was the best time for some hot rajma chawal and then to relax in the afternoon sun in the shade of a nearby tree.

#30. Eventually the go ahead was given by GREF to move ahaead and the vehicles came to life , each in its own way with the trucks belching and sputtering into life. By 1400 hrs we were at Sissu and thereafter we kept moving ahead steadily. Jispa was reached by 1700 hrs and our destination for the night was Hotel Ibex jispa.

#31. The hotel was practically empty barring us and after relaxing with a cup of tea we spent the late evening hours on the banks of the Syok river which was flowing merrily some distance away shimmering in a shade of turquoise blue inviting and provocative . A walk in the village in the gathering dusk was extremely relaxing. It had been a good day and we were all set for the next which promised to be long , tiring and definitely challenging. ODO for the day stood at 74560.

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MORNING SUNRISE SOLANG VALLEY

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MORNING SUNRISE TOWARDS ROHTANG TOP

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GOLD STRUCK

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PLAY OF SUNSHINE

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ENROUTE

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BEAUTY

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THE PIONEER SUNRAY

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ROHTANG PEAK

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SNOW PEAKS

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INDOMITABLE ON TANDI BRIDGE

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PRAYER FLAGS AT ROHTANG TOP

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THEY FLUTTER THE HYMNS

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THE ROAD AHEAD

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THE ICONIC IOC

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BRO : ALL THE WAY

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THE HIMALAYA

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TRIBUTE
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Old 2nd December 2014, 14:23   #9
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When your journey up to ladakh is so fascinating, then we can just imagine that how mesmerizing will be the rest of the expedition in your Indomitable. Just couldn’t stop myself from reading till the end in one go and now I’m eagerly looking forward for the rest of your expedition.
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Old 2nd December 2014, 18:35   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by justwheels View Post
Looking forward to what happens next and how the land of Leh-Ladakh welcomes you. Indeed, the journey to Leh all through the beautiful Udaipur and green fields of Punjab is mesmerizing and a nice travelogue befits it.

A great experience well told. Waiting for more!
hope the following posts enthrall ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by luvtandon View Post
When your journey up to ladakh is so fascinating, then we can just imagine that how mesmerizing will be the rest of the expedition in your Indomitable. Just couldn’t stop myself from reading till the end in one go and now I’m eagerly looking forward for the rest of your expedition.
will be posting soon
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Old 3rd December 2014, 19:03   #11
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Default Re: The Northern Expedition - Mumbai to Ladakh

All Leh TLs have a story, an experience and above all a feel. The Leh circuit is something of a cult status. There are two kinds of men (and women) in this world - one those who have done the Leh circuit and those who have not! Congratulations on crossing over to the other side.

Having done the Leh circuit a few times (most recently in July 2014) I can say every single person who braves the mountain roads and reaches there will have that extra air of confidence whenever he/she sits behind the wheel again.

Your opening is lovely, the pictures nice and the narration gives us all a lovely feel of the journey. Keep it going. I am glued.

Cheers

Rajain
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Old 4th December 2014, 07:20   #12
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# DAY VI: Jispa-Leh sector

#32. What do one say about this most famous of all sections , where the average elevation is 4000 mts and one crosses five mighty passes in a single day , where the vehicle struggles and the driver clutches the steering wheel with utmost dedication all the way , where there is something known as the More plains which is not called as a Highway but rather a Runway and at the same time there is the mountain , tones of it all over which ensure that the steering wheel is never steady but rather moving at all times to keep the tires of the vehicle on the centre of a road that snakes its way through the terrain climbing , falling but moving ahead all the time .This is the land of the BRO and GREF who keep the paths open for people like us to traverse the passes and the lakes .

#33. We started from Jispa just as the sun was coming up . The clock read 0600 hours and the light was just perfect to start the journey. After a quick good bye we were off passing through the sleepy town of Jispa. Soon we were speeding up as I wanted to cover as much as possible as early as possible . The first target of the day was Deepak Taal which as per my notings was supposed to come after 32 kms . Darcha was reached by 0630 and we could see a sprinkling of Taxis and a bus standing , I guess there is some place to spend the night even at Darcha. Deepak Taal was our first stop of the day and I was getting worried when I was unable to see it and eventually we spotted a guy in shorts on his morning run on the Leh Manali Highway , now this is something I was really envious for I could imagine his stamina for this , anyways we asked him about Deepak Taal and he said that it is just a few minutes ahead near to the ITBP camp.

#34. Deepak Taal in the early morning cold, well my fingers were abusing me for subjecting them to the cold body of the camera as I went about clicking some early morning snaps, there were two tents and a cycle which suggested that some cyclists had camped for the night next to the lake, personally I feel a lot of cold so somehow am unable to relate to the concept of camping unless it is absolutely mandatory.

#35. After Deepak Taal we were on our way to the Lake of the Sun , Suraaj Taal. As we were still in Himachal , the lakes were called Taal instead of the Tibetan word Tso. The road went on and on twisting and turning as we climbed higher and higher into the Pir Panjal, a red Logan in a world of brown mountains and white snow beneath the electric blue sky. The vistas were spectacular desolate and often breathtaking. Zing Zing bar was reached by 0730 and we decided that this was a good enough place to have a cuppa of hot chai . The pleasure of having tea on lonely mountain roads , now this is a different altogether , it gives a totally different perspective to the moment as one holdsa hot cup of tea in the hand and gazes upon the mountains of snow spread across the entire vision of the eyes.

#36. Suraaj Taal was reached by 0830 and I found it much more inspiring than Deepak taal , the lake has its own unique long sharp features and was shimmering in the morning sunlight. Soon after we were at Baralacha La , our second pass of the trip situated at a height of 16040 ft. Baralacha La was totally empty, devoid of any human presence other than us and the Indomitable. It shimmered in the morning sunlight as the sunrays reflected off it and the towering peaks of snow all around. A extremely lonely and lovely place it definitely leaves its mark on all those who visit.

#37. Post Baralacha we started descending and were continued onwards, the road conditions were satisfactory, at par with the terrain that we were crossing and I was deliberately not subjecting the Indomitable to any kind of a undue stress . We crossed the much read about Killing Sarai Bridge by 1000 hrs and thereafter reached Sarchu as the clock struck eleven. Prior to reaching Sarchu we came upon numerous camps, neatly arranged and erected for the weary traveler who stops at Sarchu for the night . Sarchu was our breakfast break and we had a well deserved stop after covering a distance of 88 Kms.

#38. The heat had built up by the time we reached Sarchu and after a sumptuous breakfast we were ready to move ahead . The Tsarap river by this time was giving us company as she had come flowing from the Zanskar all the way. She radiated a seductive emerald blue shimmer off the falling sun rays and each pebble in her rocky bed was visible to the naked eye . If only we had time, a most fruitful effort could have been spent walking along her banks and indulging in some great photographic clicks. But alas that was not be and we marveled at her brilliance and beauty from the splendid Leh Manali Highway itself.

#39. After around eight km from Sarchu we came to the next famous landmark well acquainted to all those who have read about this region or travelled out here – the TWING TWING BRIDGE on the Tsarap. We soon moved along and were bombarded with anecdotes and proverbs by BRO all the way, they kept appearing with regular alacrity and I did wonder which department within the BRO looks after slogan inventing or do they have a monthly contest of sorts going on within for selecting the best slogans. The roadside humor in slogans really kept the spirits up .The landscape were truly inspiring now with the wind eroded mountains forming eerie shapes and giving company to the Tsarap as well as us . The traffic was light and we kept speeding up stopping in between for the photographic clicks. I was behind the schedule by around an hour which I hoped to make up soon. The Brandy and whisky nullahs were crossed soon enough, a mere shadow of their former formidable glory I am sure.

#40. Soon we were at the Gata Loops and here we bid goodbye to the Tsarap as she turned northwards towards the distant mountains and we turned eastwards to ascend on the Gata Loops, a series of 21 hair pin that gain altitude. Some one had said that there were numerous shortcuts and people offroading do use them . So I was eager to have a look at them, not that I was going to attempt any . I was trying to see how many loops can be seen at once and I think not more than 4-5 can be captured in a single frame, though I tried to find the best possible vantage point but then with the traffic that we encountered out here it was not ethical to stop frequently to inconvenience the truckers for whom momentum up slope was the most important factor of all .

#41. The loops continued for the next hour as the steering wheel kept turning from clockwise to anticlockwise and back again without any respite in between .The scenery was spectacular as we kept climbing. Soon we reached our third Pass of the trip, by now we were ready to enter the State of Jammu & Kashmir. Nakee la (4750 mt above sea level) .The pass was neither windy nor crowded, so we spent some time just soaking in the feeling and looking around. Thereafter we started descending and soon we were ascending yet again and reached our fourth pass Lachung La.(16000 ft ) situated around 8 kms from Nakee La .The heat had picked up by now and the pass was definitely dusty yet pretty . The pass offered great views of the Ladakh plateau and the Zanskar range of the Himalaya. The camera went just click click all the while .
#42. The clock read 1430 and I knew that I was late , for Pang was supposed to be reached by lunch time but then what does one do when he is a first timer on the Leh Manali Highway and it is a clear day with breathtaking views all around , to fall behind in the schedule is the only natural thing to do 

#43. Anyways soon we entered the canyons of the Ladakh plateau which formed the gateway to Pang, the Tar road had long disappeared and we were confronted with awe inspiring rock formations acting as guardians of the highway which snaked through the foothills of these mountain blocks. The play of shadow and light was excellent .Kangla Jal was approached soon and I was so happy to see in reality what I used to read about or see in photographs. Soon after Kangla Jaal we met a few old friends and it was such a great feeling to meet someone whom you know this way and in this place of all the places.

#44. Pang was reached by 1600 hrs and we decided to have a late lunch. The road condition was really deteriorated all the way after Gata Loops till Pang. I was told that the road was excellent post pang once we had ascended the mountains. The butter smooth roads awaited us at More Plains and with that thought in mind which gave a real good feeling we hogged onto the Maggi and the hot tea.

#45. At pang my friends came back to have a tete-a-tete and it was such a touching moment that they turned back to spend some more time with me , really felt very happy from within . Soon we started from Pang and ascended the climb towards More Plains , it was evening and the sun was on its descent for the end of a lovely day over Ladakh plateau . The scenic beauty was incomparable and the black tarmac of More plains stood out boldly in the evening sun rays. We were soon either speeding onward else stopping or clicking photographs as we continued towards Taglang La.

#46. Diebrieng was soon crossed by which was the route towards Tso Kar and the Chumangthang Plains, but that was for later .For today it was Leh that was our focus. Taglangla the highest pass of my life and also for the Indomitable, the pass which stood at 17000 plus feet above sea level gazing down mightily at all those who attempted it. Taglang la was super windy and cold . It required an effort to stand outside the vehicle at the summit, but the views were super awesum. Tanglang la proved to be the coldest and the windiest till now as it reminded us of the power of the Himalaya and nature. Soon we were on our way, the time by now was 1830 hrs and the evening light was fading as we continued our descent towards Rumtse , soon we were crossing villages of Gya , rumtse in the gathering darkenss and Karu came in view which was the turn off for the route to Pangong Tso.

#47. Night had fallen and there was absolutely no traffic lights nor any sort of a light as we continued our journey onwards.In the darkness concentrating on the road I was unable to keep a trace of the places that went by .Eventually reached Chogmalsar by 2000 hrs and Leh by 2030 hrs.Our stay was booked at Asia GH and it took some time trying to get the bearings right and find the road to Changspa where the hotel was located. Eventually was able to find the hotel and thus ended our day, with us reaching the city of Leh nestled deep within the high passes and mountains.

The Northern Expedition - Mumbai to Ladakh-deepak-taal-1.jpg

DEEPAK TAAL

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SURAAJ TAAL IN GLORY

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The Northern Expedition - Mumbai to Ladakh-ladakhi-landscapes-zing-zing-bar.jpg

LADAKH AT ZING ZING BAR

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ON THE ROAD TO BARALACHA LA

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BARALACHA LA

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MORNING GLORY AT BARALACHA LA

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The Northern Expedition - Mumbai to Ladakh-indomitable-baralachala.jpg

INDOMITABLE AT BARALACHA LA

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ON THE ROAD

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TOWERING PEAKS

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SARCHU BECKONS

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GLORY OF GATA LOOPS

The Northern Expedition - Mumbai to Ladakh-gata-loops.jpg

TSU CHARTAP DEPARTS IN THE DISTANCE


The Northern Expedition - Mumbai to Ladakh-indomitable-nakee-la.jpg

NAKEE LA APPROACHES

The Northern Expedition - Mumbai to Ladakh-indomitable-near-whisky-nullah.jpg

THE ICONIC WHISKY NULLAH AND THE INDOMITABLE

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DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE

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CROSS TALK ON THE HIGH ROAD

The Northern Expedition - Mumbai to Ladakh-bw-still-before-pang.jpg

B&W STILL
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Old 4th December 2014, 07:31   #13
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Default Re: The Northern Expedition - Mumbai to Ladakh

# DAY VI: Jispa-Leh sector

THE VISUALS CONTINUE

The Northern Expedition - Mumbai to Ladakh-after-lachung-la-towards-pang.jpg

AFTER LACHUNGLA TOWARDS PANG

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B&W STILLS

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ON THE ROAD TO PANG

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BLUE RIVER

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CONTRAST OF COLOURS

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SEDUCTIVE AND PROVOCATIVE BLUE SHIMMERS

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EMPTY LACHUNG LA

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FACE OFF

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The Northern Expedition - Mumbai to Ladakh-indomitable-more-plains.jpg

AT THE MORE PLAINS

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INDOMITABLE AT TANGHLANG LA

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MORE PLAINS

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TWIN TWIN BRIDGE : ICONIC

The Northern Expedition - Mumbai to Ladakh-indomitable-bro.jpg

WITH BRO

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THE FAMOUS KANGLA JAAL

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PRETTY LADAKH
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The Northern Expedition - Mumbai to Ladakh-bw-stills-near-pang.jpg  

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Old 4th December 2014, 07:41   #14
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Default Re: The Northern Expedition - Mumbai to Ladakh

# DAY VI: Jispa-Leh sector

I am not sure if am going overboard with the visuals but then how do we compress something as iconic as the Leh Manali Highway and i feel they convey my feeling

The Northern Expedition - Mumbai to Ladakh-landscapes-ladakh.jpg

LANDSCAPES OF LADAKH

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AWE INSPIRING

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ON THE MORE PLAINS

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THE ICONIC RUNWAY

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NEAR NAKEE LA

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ENROUTE TO TAGLANG LA

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PANG BECKONS

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POST PANG

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PRAYER FLAGS AT THE EVENING AT TAGLANG LA

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SPECTACULAR VIEW

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MIGHTY TAGLANG LA

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The Northern Expedition - Mumbai to Ladakh-talallangla-2.jpg

INDOMITABLE AT TAGLANG LA


The Northern Expedition - Mumbai to Ladakh-tsa-chatrap-chu-river.jpg

PRETTY TSU CHARTAP

The Northern Expedition - Mumbai to Ladakh-tsu-chartap-river.jpg

The Northern Expedition - Mumbai to Ladakh-twing-twing.jpg

HELLO SAYS TWING TWING
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Old 4th December 2014, 11:16   #15
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Default Re: The Northern Expedition - Mumbai to Ladakh

Nope, you've not gone overboard with the visuals. The more the better. The snaps from Udaipur were excellent and the ones from Ladakh added more beauty to the post. By the way, what camera and lens are you using?
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