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Old 12th June 2015, 22:07   #1
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Default Catharsis of the soul: Ladakh!

It's said that a Project Manager begins Project Closing activities the day before the Project starts.

And so , here I am , with nothing to hide, nothing to give, nothing to take. As I start looking at the Close of that One Journey which I have been DREAMING about for several years, the evening before it Starts.

Rather than talking of my itinerary right away, or the route I plan to take... it may help to tarry a while and look at the trip from my perspective. A trip that almost did NOT happen. And then it did!

So first , what is my perspective about? It's that of a simple Project Manager. With one simple mantra. Reach back to Delhi after a whale of a time!
Notice, how I keep putting the End before the Beginning. Well, it's not without a reason. And to delve into reasons one has to go back to what was the first inspiration.
For those of us who spend more time and energy on team-bhp than anywhere else, one would have thought that the inspiration would be on the site. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The first time my brain registered the word Ladakh, was probably in passing conversation - unremarkable and forgettable. The word stayed in memory. The word was brought to life when I saw the place through the lens of Romesh Bhattacharji and read his account of motorbiking there decades before it was fashionable to be seen preparing for such a trip. Ladakh stuck in memory.

Time passed... I joined TBHP. Many stalwarts of the forum had gone there, each one had returned with splendid views , and their accounts just made me long to see this unique region .

Then 3 Idiots happened. The deluge of travelogues on TBHP made Ladakh seem the most traveled to destination. But, try as I might, it was difficult for me to go. For various reasons - the most remarkable of which were:
  • Losing my mum in 2010.
  • Dads declining health.
  • Daughter's admission to primary school in Delhi.
  • Work Pressures.
  • Better half's fears of traveling that deep into the himalayas in our car
  • Daughter's ear operation in 2014
If ever there was a reason to not go, I had probably come across it. And so, while other people had been there, and done that, I continued to Dream.

And so, dear reader over the course of 6 years the memory , turned into a longing. The longing into a dream.
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Old 25th June 2015, 20:38   #2
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Default Re: Catharsis of the soul: Ladakh!

Originally Posted by joybhowmik View Post
It's said that a Project Manager begins Project Closing activities the day before the Project starts.
And so here I am at the end of my Journey to Ladakh!

Thoughts, images and memories rush through my head , as I write this down.

Let me start at the end.

My feet are still aching from the last 450 km leg of non-stop driving. My head spins at the thought that less than 60 hours ago, I was quietly sipping my morning coffee at the breakfast table of our hotel in Leh, and pondering over what was undoubtedly the most important decision of my one DREAM trip.

Most importantly, there's a continued longing for what I glimpsed albeit for a few days. And the sense of unfulfilled desire, a sadness, a wistfulness, for all that I missed.

Naturally , there's an urge to return maybe later, with better equipment and with people who naturally share my passion.

And there you have it. The most important learning of all. Ladakh is NOT for everyone. Let me explain.

There's a natural tendency for many TBHPians planning a trip to Ladakh by car, to take Family along. Just remember that when you are driving to Ladakh, Family is Your Project Ladakh team. The success of any Project depends on the Team. At the end of the day, any team is a set of individuals, with their own strengths, weaknesses, abilities and foibles. All individuals are affected by the environment they are exposed to in different ways. So too in Ladakh - Sometimes, it's hard to predict just how a certain individual will react to what Ladakh has to offer!

What Ladakh has to offer?
... surely one is thinking of picturesque brown mountains capped with snow , in front of endless plains?
Monasteries, Chortens, Gompas, Llamas....?
Cute little marmots, gracious Kiangs, pondering Yaks, bactrian camel, exotic birds from the steppes of central asia?
There's no denying that all of Ladakh is wild and beautiful. But that's not all what Ladakh is! There's also a flip side- that not many speak of.

Originally Posted by joybhowmik View Post
And so , here I am , with nothing to hide, nothing to give, nothing to take.
  • It's the feeling of breathlessness and suffocation when stuck between walls of Ice for hours on end at 18000+ feet.
  • It's the loneliness, of being the only human beings for miles and miles.
  • It's the anxiety of what-if something were to go wrong here, would help reach in time?
  • It's about having to make do without information on demand (mobiles & data) for most of the time you are there.
  • It's about dealing with the anxiety of relatives at the end of most days, whom you have left behind at home or wherever.
  • It's about trying to succeed with Project team members who have had enough of bleak brown mountains with snow on the top, and long for home cooked food, and the security of the plains.
  • It's about coming to terms with your limitations as a driver, and you equipment (your ride).
And now that I have laid bare my soul to you dear reader... perhaps you will begin to appreciate why I chose the rather enigmatic title "Catharsis of the soul: Ladakh!" - the day before my Journey began.

Last edited by joybhowmik : 26th June 2015 at 09:42.
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Old 26th June 2015, 13:59   #3
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Default Re: Catharsis of the soul: Ladakh!

The Project Management Book Of Knowledge describes Five phases - Initiation ; Planning ; Execution ; Monitoring & Control & ; Closing that are applicable to every project.

For me, Project Ladakh's Initiation happenned perhaps a little over 6 years ago in 2009. At the back of my mind , I wanted to buy a replacement for my unreliable Palio, which could take me there and back. I did not specifically know , when exactly, I would make the pilgrimage. But the destination was always a distant milestone - out there, just out of reach - tantalizingly different from the humdrum of Kumaon and Himachal.

The Innova arrived in November 2009, a workhorse of sorts, and with oodles of space. I was apprehensive about taking the car to Ladakh straight away. I needed to get used to driving it in the mountains. For that there were innumerable trips to Kumaon and to the Himachal - each short but etched in memory.

The memories were of tranquility in the midst of the awesome Himalayas, a way of life - as far removed from city life in New Delhi - as imagination would allow. And yet, these memories were not what I pined for. Far from it.

What was missing?
I wanted to immerse myself in a place, that had , decidedly walked away from "progress". I wanted to understand the reasons for fealty to an unforgiving land , when Western succor was on hand, and yet not allowed to pervade beyond a point. This was the way of life, that had been accepted for centuries. And will continue for millennia. Kumaon/Himachal and Ladakh are vastly different. The differences are not only in average heights of the places one visits, but importantly in the sociological-cultural mileau. Whilst Kumaon/Himachal are primarily of Hindu denomination, not so in Ladakh. There's a unique mix of Islam & Buddhism - apparent first in Kargil and later in Leh-Ladakh. The migration of peoples over eons - from the central asian steppes and Tibet and the consequential overlaying of the traditional tribal societal mores & religion has led to what is perceived as the average Ladakhi. Gentle yet fierce. Hardy yet vulnerable. More Indian than the heartland can ever conceive far less achieve. And yet least understood by mainstream India.
I also wanted to explore my own boundaries. Kumaon and Himachal did not allow me that. Their closeness to New Delhi, work, home and family has bred familiarity . Ladakh was at least 4 days away from New Delhi. And as they say, out of sight is out of mind. With New Delhi being so far away, I wanted to figure out how I would fare if, I left it all behind - work, family, a cocooned life. "You Only Live Once" - is how I characterized the lack of visible opportunity to do something different in a land that was completely different.

And yet, there was this unforgivable practical side of me. That streak made me latch on to known faces, known personas in the quest for the land that was completely different. The Project team selection was the least thought out , as the quest gathered momentum.

Dear reader: Ladakh is different. If like me, you are wont to explore - be very very sure of the team you are taking with you. Once you are out in the wilderness, there's not much you can do about changing the team.

Last edited by joybhowmik : 15th August 2015 at 09:44.
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Old 27th June 2015, 20:26   #4
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Default Re: Catharsis of the soul: Ladakh!

I made mention about the team you are taking. That's probably the most overlooked part of the Project Ladakh planning process. The remainder of the planning process deals with tangibles - that's the easy part.

For me, the tangible part of the planning started way back in February 2015. I had just then returned from my Dilli-Kolkata-Dilli run.The first item on the agenda was to decide the tentative timeline and hotel bookings.

Itinerary & Hotel Bookings
Here's how the plan looked by the end of May, when all bookings were done. As is evident from the hotel bookings we planned to go via Kashmir Valley and return via Manali.
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Note: the planning included hotel bookings in pretty hard to reach places. That's the first fundamental error that I made. Don't commit money to hotel bookings that far in advance of the trip. Weather and local conditions can dictate a change - and the resultant hassle of negotiating changes to pre-booked hotels is a nightmare one can do without.

Car preparations
This was one area where I did not go overboard, unlike some other trip preparations. I was relatively confident about zero-break downs before I started.

1) 60000 km service including all fluid checks was done on 3rd June.
2) Took along the socket set, pliers, a set of screwdrivers, a tow-rope
3) Jerry Cans 20Lx2 , 10Lx1 and a funnel. I knew all the cans would not be needed , but I took an extra can along just in case one failed.
4) Rubber balloons to seal the Jerry Can caps - this was not required ultimately
5) As there would be 4 adults and 2 kids crammed into the first two seating rows of the car, therefore got a custom made seat done which fitted between the 2 captain seats of the Innova.
6) A pair of vehicle escaper tracks.. that I had brought down from Dubai for this expedition - but it did not help one bit when it needed to
7) Limi Air Inflator but I forgot to take the all important puncture repair kit.

  1. Oxy Care O2 10 Litre disposable packs
  2. Diamox Tabs (250 mg)
  3. Ondem MD 4mg
  4. Crocin 650 mg tab
  5. Cetrizine 10 mg tab
  6. ORS
  7. Soframycin cream
  8. Band-Aid.
  9. Coca 30
  10. Coca Mother tincture
  1. Crocin DS Syrup
  2. Solvin syrup
  3. Allegra syrup
  4. Metrogyl Syrup
Important items in the Rest of our luggage
  1. All weather Jackets
  2. Shoes for all
  3. Warm Socks, vests, and hats - all woolen
  4. Detergent
Camera equipment
  1. Tripods
  2. Camera bodies
  3. Lenses
  4. Cleaning supplies
The night before we left, here's how the back of the Innova looked fully loaded.
Catharsis of the soul: Ladakh!-dsc_0816.jpg

The planned departure was for 5 AM morning of June 13, 2015.

Last edited by joybhowmik : 15th August 2015 at 09:52. Reason: continuing the narrative!
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Old 10th July 2015, 11:41   #5
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The day finally dawned. Cloudy. Not a star was visible in the skies above. The weather forecast predicted rain for most of the way.
But that was not a dampener. We were all up bright eyed at 4 AM. Pandemonium ensued, as last minute decisions to take or leave stuff behind were made. Eventually at 4:30 AM we made it downstairs and clambered on. In the hurry to get in , I forgot to pack in the all important puncture repair kit! A mistake that would cause some anguish later!

The route we would take.
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The pins indicate spots we had stopped for breaks or other points of interest en-route.

The route out of Delhi was the usual one.
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Home to Josip Broz Tito Marg , on to Mathura Road, Right to Bhairon Marg, left on Outer ring road, and follow that all the way to GT Road at Shalimar Bagh. Everything rarely goes as planned.

MMI saves us time-yet again!
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Even at that early hour , there was a long backup of trucks at the Mukarba Chowk, which forced us to abandon Outer Ring road and detour which costed a little over a kilometer. Map My India's avoid next 5 km feature rescued us early from the log jam - and how!

As we exited Delhi, the clock read 5:20 AM. Traffic at that hour was sparse. Drizzle started, a bit early for the monsoons. But very welcome. The temperature dropped to the late twenties. Windows were rolled down, and we waved to a group of bikers as we passed them by. Obviously they were headed for Ladakh too! How do I know? Well -at that time of the year, if 3 or more bikers, all sooted-booted in the biker tradition, heavily laded with camping gear , and small but empty jerry cans, are found heading north on GT road - you can pretty much bet they are headed for Ladakh!

By 6 AM , we were at Murthal (approximately 36 km from Mukarba Chowk) at what would be our first stop. I wanted to take it a little easy. Did I mention, that 3 days before my trip started , I had been diagnosed with a frozen shoulder? Years of plugging away at laptops, had taken their toll. Holding my arm at a certain position for extended periods of time, caused numbness in the fingers. I knew the shoulder exercises, recommended by my orthopaedic doctor would alleviate the problem, but for that I needed to stop - tarry a while.

So the first rest stop of the day happened. Murthal it would be. And for me and family - where else in Murthal but:
the famous Gulshan Dhaba (29.032759, 77.071638, 092155 82139)
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As we settled ourselves in, it started to pour, and that probably persuaded the bikers we had waved to earlier - to pull in.

Bikes parked just by the entrance.
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Bikes, in formation at the forecourt
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Food choices at Gulshan Dhaba abound, from Indian to Continental to Chinese, but all strictly vegetarian (note the word Vaishno in the name). But when at Gulshan's , stick to what they know best - the Paranthas, and the Lassi. A full Parantha, is stuffed with your choice of filling , chargrilled in a tandoor, and served with dollops of home-made butter. The Lassi is sweet, with a layer of Malai, and frothy. Very fresh.

The spread!
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Someone's very excited after demolishing a full plate!
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The interiors are spic and span. The bathrooms, fairly clean, and small outlets offer everything that the average Indian family needs on a long road trip, and then some.

One of several shops at Gulshan Dhaba
Catharsis of the soul: Ladakh!-dsc_0821.jpg

Last edited by joybhowmik : 15th August 2015 at 09:57. Reason: continuing the narrative.
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Old 10th July 2015, 17:41   #6
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Default Re: Catharsis of the soul: Ladakh!

Breakfast done, and arm suitably rested, our journey continued at 6:30 AM.

It was pouring by now.
Soon after, near Karnal , a speeding convoy of police vehicles escorting the Lahore-Delhi-Lahore bus sped past us. We kept them company in the blinding rain , marveling at the uncommon sight.

The Lahore-Delhi-Lahore Bus
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We made good time, running behind them , when at 8:20 AM the bus made a sharp left, almost ramming into a car about to pass it from the left. We looked left, and the bus had already halted at the official breakfast stop - Pipli. This was obviously one set of drivers who cared less for life and limb , and more about protocol. I recalled, the Pipli complex turns into a fortress whilst the bus stops.

The Pipli Complex
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Our journey continued, and we continued making good time. The road to Ambala were not just good - it was great. The few diversions en-route were dispatched with ease. And then we were in Punjab just shy of 9:00 AM. The road to Ludhiana was good, but had several diversions, that slowed us down. These continued on the road to Jalandhar. For the average yuppy family driving through Punjab - is no problem. There are plenty of American fast food chain restaurants dotting the highway.

We bypassed Ludhiana - this was one area where MMI kept telling us to go through the center of town. At first we believed it, but then, shortly after realized it would slow us down further.

We retraced our way back to the highway.

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The Ludhiana - Jalandhar road is narrower at many stretches, and diversions needed to be negotiated, whereever construction was afoot. About 10 ~ 11 km after Phagwara , we decided to get lunch at the famous themed Dhaba - Haveli (29.756116, 76.969014 , +91-1824-501011 ). Attached to the Rangla Punjab , themed village scene, it's really pretty , and harks back to the Punjab that was.

The exterior is interesting , with Munshi ji in the background.

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The interior is surprised , by a huge truck barging in just where the cashier is at.
Catharsis of the soul: Ladakh!-dsc_0857.jpg

The food , is all vegetarian fare.

We tried the Parathas,and Lassi - but the taste was nothing to remember.
Catharsis of the soul: Ladakh!-dsc_0863.jpg

And after the meal - a happy family, relaxes.

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Onwards after the meal. Our next milestone was the Lakhanpur Toll Plaza , J&K (32.38248, 75.59884)

At around 3 PM we approached the toll plaza - crossing over from Pathankot.
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The welcome sign-boards were there to greet us at Lakhanpur!
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and then we went through the toll - plaza itself.
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As advised by many before me, I went ahead and asked for the Rs 130 ticket , that would be valid in Qazigund. As time would tell, thereafter, I could have saved myself the trouble, and my breath!

Nevertheless, the route onwards from Lakhanpur was devoid of traffic and entirely a pleasure to drive.

In an hour (3 PM) we came up to a branch on 1A , and after a short tea-break ,
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we decided to take the shortcut to Udhampur at Samba (Samba - Mansar - Dhar- Udhampur)
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This road was nothing short of a lunar landscape. Gingerly treading on eggs (in a manner of speaking) we made our way upwards and onwards. Completely devoid of traffic and human habitation, the only thing that kept us sane was MMI showing the distance to Kud gradually reducing - ever so slowly!

Eventually we were out of this mess, and by 5 PM had made it to Mansar lake (32.693990, 75.150111) ...

stopping by to stretch our legs.

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As lakes go, it did not appear to be anything more than the spot for a nice picnic, and boat-ride. We would have spent time here, the environs were nearly as delightful as the Tals of Kumaon - but we decided to push on - too many tourists for our liking!

The Mansar Lake
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5:30 PM found us on NH-1A again crossing the Tawi River
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From here the road follows the Tawi for some distance before climbing the ghats towards Udhampur.

The railway line to Srinagar passed over us
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A couple of tubes on the road to Kud:
Catharsis of the soul: Ladakh!-2015061317h41m52dsc_0898.jpg

We reached Kud at 6:30 PM. As we had reservations at the JKTDC, we stopped by at the first one - only to be told, there's another one , right at the city-center.
What follows is our route to the place we would rest for the night. Hotel Alpine JKTDC 2 was reached at exactly 6:45 PM. A little over 14 hours after we started from Delhi.

JKTDCs at Kud
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For those not in the know, Kud is famous for its Patisa - a sweet not unlike Sohn Papri - deep fried in ghee and sold by weight. The most famous purveyors of this and other delectable savories are Prem Sweets ( 33.077289, 75.292940) at the city centre.

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For those who must have their fair share of non-vegetarian food , head to Kailash Bar and Restaurant ( 33.077464, 75.292917) . It's the only non-vegetarian dhaba in town. I lay emphasis on "must". If you can do without the non-vegetarian - you could. And your taste-buds would have missed nothing!

The Hotel Alpine (JKTDC) near the city centre has a few refurbished rooms, and a huge garden in front.
The rooms have a sit-out in front. Plastic tables and chairs. Very neat and clean.
We did not have occasion to taste the quality of food available, but as government hotels go, it would probably have about below average scores. There's one cook, one helper - and probably about 25 rooms.

Last edited by joybhowmik : 15th August 2015 at 10:17. Reason: continuing the narrrative
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Old 28th July 2015, 12:40   #7
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The next day (June 14) dawned very early for us. I was up at 6 AM.

On the agenda was a day of relaxed driving to JKTDC at Sonamarg.

Tea was served at 6 AM, and I contemplated the route plan for the day.

The route plan

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It would be 270 km overall, though we would break for lunch at Srinagar (190 km).

The route would be mainly over the himalayan foothills. The milestones would be Jawahar Tunnel, the Titanic View point , Qazigund toll plaza, Srinagar, Sonamarg.

Importantly , we would rendezvous with our relatives en-route. They would join us in our car for the onward trip to Leh, and then fly back to Kolkata after doing the usual sights.

Here's how the youngest member of the troop felt at 7:00 AM
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We started off from Kud at 8:15 AM , and soon enough stopped for a quick breakfast at a roadside Vaishno dhaba just after Patnitop. Aloo-parathas and some syrupy tea were all that was on offer.

The Vaishno Dhaba
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Repast done, here's how the youngest member now looked.
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A troop of bikers on way to Ladakh , had also stopped by for breakfast. They were on their way to Ladakh from Uttarakhand (Dehradun) , and had riden continuously for 48 hours to get here. Their plan was to cross over Zojila if possible in the evening.
Sagely, I gave them the information about Zojila timings - but little did I know (and as I was to discover much later), that I was wrong. In India, despite published timings, everything goes.

Intrepid Bikers
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The roads from that point on were mostly in good repair - though narrow and twisty on most stretches. Here is a rare example of a relatively straight stretch.

Good Roads
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The Chenab was constantly our companion. Verdant greenery on the mountains, with a gurgling Chenab - and we felt on top of the world.

The beautiful Chenab

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We reached Jawahar Tunnel South portal (33.49741, 75.2011) at 11:35 AM. There was very little traffic going in. We marveled at the engineering feat.

Jawahar Tunnel

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The tunnel itself was pitch dark, and it took us sometime to get adjusted to the darkness here. It was mostly slow going.

Soon after we emerged on the North side (33.51797, 75.21557), we were stopped by a J&K police constable. He politely asked us a few questions - destination, dates of travel, where we are from, where we work etc. , asked to see our vehicle papers, and then waved us on.

Our next stop was the famous Titanic View Point (33.53848, 75.23063).

Titanic View Point
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There's actually a spot shaped much like a ship's bow. We finally managed a spot on it after allowing others their photo opportunities.

The Ship's Bow
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The vastness of the Kashmir valley stretches out for miles and miles.
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Not an inch is left without cultivation of some sort.
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For a person just arriving from the plains in the middle of June - this spot must seem so soothing

Soothing for the eyes
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Blue sky, flecks of white, verdant greenery, and pure alpine air!
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I was reminded of the immortal words of Mughal Emperor Jahangir:
"Gar firdaus bar-rue zamin ast, hami asto, hamin asto, hamin ast"
"If there is a heaven on earth, it's here, it's here, it's here"

We carried on. With warm thoughts - of the days ahead, of the beauty surrounding us , when we were rudely jolted back to reality.

A long line of trucks in both directions greeted us , at Verinag , about 4.7 km before the Qazigund toll plaza. The truckers opined they had been waiting in the queue since 3 AM. The traffic was backed up , all the way till Khanabal ! (obviously this was an exaggeration!) .
A quick glance at the watch showed 12:15 PM. We were planning lunch at Srinagar, but with this long line, all seemed lost.
When suddenly, one of the truckers told us to try our luck via the Verinag-Anantnag route. This involved a minor diversion. We decided to chance it.

Backed up the Innova , and took an interior road to reach the Verinag Anantnag road.

Interior Road
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That was mostly a mud track, through villages. MMI gave up, and we relied entirely on a couple of vehicles in front of us. This obviously meant foregoing the discount at Qazigund toll, but I was taken aback, when a village boy, steps up to the car and gives me a receipt for Rs 50/- toll!
I asked him - what gives? And he blithely says - this is the municipality tax on all out of state cars. I did not argue the point. It was enough I had solid ground under the tyres!

The diversion added perhaps an additional four or five kilometers to the overall plan. In any case route 1A was rejoined at Khanabal. The route plan in blue shows the planned route for this segment , the one in red, shows the actual route taken.

The diversion in perspective
Catharsis of the soul: Ladakh!-bypassing-qaziguund-toll.jpg

Past Khanabal, the route to Srinagar is mostly under construction. One can do 80 kmph for a few minutes, and then chug along at 30 kmph or even worse in intervening stretches.

We gamely carried on till we reached Ahdoo's hotel (34.07273, 74.81900) on Residency Road , Srinagar. The time was 3:30 PM

The way to Ahdoos
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We had eaten here earlier in 2013. I still remembered the delectable Wazwan, and the really amazing bakery treats. Proper Non-Veg fare was long overdue in our journey to Ladakh. Now, that we were at the Mecca of royal wazwan cuisine, and Sonamarg was not too far away - we thought - why not order a magnificent spread?

A long overdue non-vegetarian meal
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So we splurged on the calories - Gushtaba, Rishta, Kebabs, Pulao - if there was a name on the menu that had not been tried before, it had to be on the table.
The bill (for a bengali family of four eating to their heart's content) was a little over Rs 2000. Entirely reasonable.

Lunch over, at 4:30 PM saw us heading out of the city center, past Nigeen lake, on Hazratbal road and then on to Srinagar Leh highway.

Our next milestone was at the dhaba (34.27509, 74.80896) near the bridge over the Indus (Wayul) where we would join up with our relatives for the Leh segment. Incidentally , they had almost not made the trip , owing to peer pressure , at their workplace. The reason was this newsarticle. The lady who met her end , was the colleague of my relative. Naturally "well-wishers" had been trying their damnedest to discourage our relative from making the trip.

Nevertheless, we did know that they had left the previous day from Kolkata, and were due to tour Pahalgam before meeting up with us enroute to Sonamarg. For added security, I had connected them with our taxi driver friend (Wasim). Wasim had chauffeured them on their Srinagar-Pahalgam-Sonamarg stretch.

When we finally rolled in to the dhaba, we found them waiting for us. Their trip had been marred by rain. So understandably they were a bit peeved. Here's my relative (husband of my sister in law - but I like to refer to him as my brother-in-law)

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Wasim and I. We reconnected after 2 years. I was so overjoyed to see that even after so many months and umpteen tourists he had remembered all our names!

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My SIL was grinning from ear to ear, because despite the bad weather, she had managed to do what she loved best- shopping !

Wasim and my SIL.
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The Indus flowing South
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A quick cup of tea,and then we were on our way.

The bridge on the Indus
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The ~ 80 km road from Srinagar to Sonamarg is broken in patches, it was raining and nearly 6 PM. All this made for rather slow going.

Making our way through rain
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We stopped for a photo break at Island Retreat Park (34.29242, 75.2385). This place has an entry fee (Rs 10)- which allows access to the nearby glacier, besides a free walk on a rickety wooden bridge over a roaring Indus. There's snack stalls and a nice garden laid out next to the Indus.
We did not enter - mostly because we did not have a whole lot of time on our hands.

Instead a few photographs remain - etched in memory.

The family
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My BIL and I
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The roaring Indus
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Finally at 7:24 PM we reached the JKTDC , Sonamarg (34.30153, 75.29293)

JKTDC Sonamarg
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We parked the car, I stretched my legs , wifey and sis-in-law broke out in smiles, the kids chased each other on the lawn. It certainly looked as if we were done for the day!

Or so we thought! Unknown to us , and quite like Kud, there are actually two JKTDC properties in Sonamarg. The one where we had landed up on (in the Sonamarg market) was the one that had the Regular rooms. As the manager was quick to point out - for the fare we were paying (Rs 3K/night) - we were entitled to the Deluxe rooms.The catch was that we had to backtrack our way on the highway, and take a left up towards the Thajiwas glacier.

JKTDC confusion-again!
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There was another minor matter. I had to fill up. Although the next day we would be traveling another 120 km, I was already down to the last quarter tank of diesel. Imminent consultations followed with Wasim and the manager of the JKTDC - and I was told the nearest bunk was around 20 km at Gagangeer towards Srinagar.

So we dropped the luggage off at our "real" hotel (34.30035, 75.27532) and headed out to fill-up. I kept wringing my hands at passing by the petrol bunk on the way up whilst there was still light. But that would not solve anything. I had a mind to go fill up next morning - but the plan for the next day was not finalized yet. I still did not know if anyone wanted to do the trek to Thajiiwas glacier.

In retrospect I'm glad I did the drive at night - driving on the srinagar leh highway, with the indus roaring below me, cool breeze blowing, and the few stars showing the way - was an experience to last a lifetime!

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Old 28th July 2015, 18:38   #8
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So this was our hotel - our stop for the night.
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Another view of our hotel
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The view- from the sit-out in the balcony.
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The Thajiwas glacier
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The beauty of the surroundings made my heart ache. This was beauty of a different kind. A feminine beauty. Rolling green meadows, topped by serene peaks encased in ice. A very far cry, from the rugged beauty of Ladakh - which we were yet to discover.
It was as-if , this were a destination in itself. Not just a rest stop enroute Ladakh.

Back in the hotel, the gup-shup was enlivened by soft rabindrasangeet as we drank in more than the views.

Eventually it was time for dinner - and then bed.

The next morning, we woke up to the first rays of dawn breaking through the windows. Scrambling outside - we were greeted by views that were simply out of this world!

The Thajiwas Glacier at around 6 AM.
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In the foreground is the hotel parking.

A closeup!
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The clubhouse - a little distance away.

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And in the distance - those little specks of white are actually sheep grazing.

Another close-up of Thajiwas.
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My SIL , with Sonamarg town in the background.
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One of the nearby peaks overlooking the Indus.
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My better half in front of the glacier.
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We just lazed around - soaking in the views. A trek to Thajiwas would have overdone it. We were perfectly happy sipping tea on the sit-out , and lazily packing and repacking stuff.

By 8:45 AM the clouds started to make their presence felt.

All hopes of a clear day were dashed!
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Indus valley in the background
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As we finished loading up Innova for the run to Kargil. The clock read 10:45 AM.

Our only plan for the day was to go into Sonamarg town for a quick round of shopping before spending time waiting in the queue for the convoy movement towards Zojila.

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Old 28th July 2015, 21:53   #9
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The time was 10:45 AM. Innova was all set to go. The plan was to stop by at Sonamarg market for the last few knicks and knacks that the Valley had to offer.
After that we would join the line, and await our turn to drive up the dreaded Zojila!
The convoy movement was to start at 1 PM , after the inbound vehicles arrived from Drass.

The route from Sonamarg to Kargil.
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I had in fact made inquiries about the condition of the 120 km route to Kargil - and was told that it was mostly broken tarmac till Drass and after that it improved considerably.
I was also told to expect a "mad rush" of local taxis all the way to Zero Point- which would make the journey up to Zoji La an exercise in untold misery.
How true that advise was to prove to be, was evident a few hours later.

At 11:15 , after partaking a light lunch at the Sonamarg market, we enqueued for Zoji La pass. We had more than an hour and half to kill - so decided to have some tea and gup-shup at the shops where the line starts.

Last in Line
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Gup-Shup in full swing while waiting for tea to be served
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My son - sharpening his skills on the D-90
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My daughter - can't quite reconcile to the fact of waiting pointlessly in the middle of nowhere.
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That's me and my candid D810!
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A caravan belonging to the Dard tribe saunters by.
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A flock of sheep follows the caravan - two particularly frisky young males stare into the camera
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The shepherdess - keeping a keen eye on her flock.
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The pilot car of the army convoy from Drass arrives at 11:30 AM
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A jawan of Assam Rifles who escorted the convoy, poses for a photo-opp after we make our introductions
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Ahead of us a minor glacier emptied into the Indus.
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At 12:10 PM , we started rolling.

The touristy hammock of Baltal - small tents , white water sports and cabs dot the valley.
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Incidentally this is one of the important way points of the Amarnath Yatra.

The final stretch during the ascent to Zoji La
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The going became very slow at this point. We were just about 10 km away from Zojila - and all that remained between us and Zero Point (Zoji La) were a couple of switchbacks.

And the reason for this was - utter chaos!
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Bikers contribute to the problem!
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At 2 PM. Complete Standstill!
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We wondered what was the reason for such moronic behaviour? Nowhere in the hills in India - with the sad exception of the Kashmir Valley , have I seen such disregard for traffic rules. The cabbies pounce on every inch of space -even if it's on the wrong side, making headway till not even a sheet of paper can be pressed between vehicles.

I had originally planned to reach Zoji La latest by 2 PM, (it's after all only 21 km from Sonamarg) and probably reach the Kargil War Memorial which is about 40 km further by 4 PM - giving me an hour before it shuts.

Unravelling this mess would take ages - that much was evident. I resigned myself to waiting it out. As we waited, we even had a quick round of "Bluff" - at least that kept the spirits up! It started raining!!

At 4:30 PM, and as we inched along, we noticed Indian Army Jawans, at the perimeter - standing on watch.

The solitary soldier
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As we cornered the first switchback, we were motioned to proceed straight. This route was not on our GPS -evidently a slightly longer detour being pressed into service to ease the traffic jam.

A longer detour
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It's at this point that the going became tough. There was no tarmac to speak of. We were at least at 10000 feet, and stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. And that's when, Innova started having problems. On the slightest of inclines while engaging first gear, as soon as clutch was released the engine was dying. The engine was not developing sufficient torque to overcome rolling resistance. Losing momentum on the inclines was causing this problem - but that could not be helped due to the unruly cabbies - cutting in at speed!
I asked my SIL , wifey and BIL to get off, and with the reduced load - Innova surged forward for a few meters to reach level ground. When they came back in - I announced the need for 4WD or at least AWD in conditions such as these. In my view, squeezing every bit of traction from each corner is key, when the engine does not produce enough torque.

Interestingly Mustysekhon following behind me noticed this issue, and offered to help.

Here's my Innova enroute as observed by him.
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I did not know this Good Samaritan was a TBHPian, and had I known, I would have stopped to chat! I had also managed to get around this issue - by allowing considerable space between me and the car ahead, staying in 1st gear and keeping revs high.

The snowbound Zoji La in the distance.
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Fog, Rain, High Altitude, Broken Roads - a deadly combination
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Driving through walls of ice.
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Near the top a cobbled path.
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At the top there was utter mayhem again! The reason, was the same cabbies - jostling for space to park their vehicles in order to let their passengers out.
A local came up to me (obviously one of the guys who offers rides at the Zero Point) , and asks me to make space for cabbies who were preparing to go back. I graciously obliged, but could not resist the urge to ask him - why he waited to ask me to do so - when he could easily have asked the 10 different cabbies coming uphill before me. His tongue in cheek reply - "that's because they are locals"

Then suddenly we were at the top!
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We had finally conquered Zoji La! It was just after 5 PM, and we had covered the 20 kilometers to the pass in 5 hours.

Last edited by joybhowmik : 15th August 2015 at 11:24. Reason: continuing the narrative
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Old 29th July 2015, 12:30   #10
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It was time to celebrate! The dreaded Zoji La lay behind us. My daughter had been looking forward to touching snow - not manufactured in a refrigerator!
And this celebration provided ample opportunity!

Daughter and SIL

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Complete glee!
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Kids with my better half!

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BIL and self!
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Innova - finally catching up with a well deserved rest!
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We had left the crowds behind.
The road ahead from Zoji La does not exist! Wait let me back up a bit! A route exists - but not a road. Whatever was the semblance of a road has been eroded away. All that's left are huge craters - not unlike the ones enroute to Zoji La - but only worse - because of their gigantic proportions.

We crawled forward - the last thing I wanted to do was get a rock to puncture the skin of the fuel tank. So it was slow going , and I got to sharpen my fledgling softroading skills: Approach a crater - observe rocks around it - Decide the line to take - Crawl - Approach next crater. Cycle Ad Infinitum.
What also helped was the relatively low pressure in the tyres - an unintended consequence of not having filled air since we had reached cooler climes. With the declining light I was praying hard to avoid a puncture. I did not want to stop to top up air. By this time, the road ahead was completely deserted - just the one car making its way ahead of us. In situations like these, having even that much of human company, is a great relief.

Just the one car ahead.
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We moved on.

A memorial to the brave jawans of the Indian Army.

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This was probably one of the biggest enroute. It's interesting to see comrades-in-arms have eulogized their mates for posterity!

A small nulla is born from a minor glacier.
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A rainbow! Signs of better weather?
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The small hamlet of Gumri (34.29604, 75.48649).
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Gumri boasts of a small cafe - most travelers stop by for a quick snack.
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But in the failing light , we moved on.

Two glaciers form a necklace - an interesting feature
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Close up of the necklace
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High peaks accompany us all the way
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Gateway to Ladakh region at Minamarg
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We stopped at this gate to record our vehicle details and contact information in the police register.

The foundation stone for the Gateway
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A surprising change from the cloud soaked peaks at Sonamarg and Zojila - note the relatively clearer skies
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Even a bit of sunshine lighting up the peak
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Note the complete absence of any vegetation - the terrain is a changing
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Craggy peaks
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Yet another glacier...

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A commemorative signpost ... lives lost keeping the highway open against the forces of nature
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Interplay of light and shadows
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Interplay of light and shadows
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Drass town
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It was almost 7 PM by the time we reached Drass (34.43046, 75.74925). This small town was one of the centers of action in the Kargil war.
Welcome to Drass - the second coldest inhabited place on Earth. The coldest is Oymyakon, Russia (63.464243, 142.773716)

As we looked back , the massif of Tiger Hill loomed over the town.
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Innova parked on the NH 1-D at Drass
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It was 7 PM, we stopped at one of the small eateries in Drass that lined the highway , and ordered some food. And I also ordered the special namkeen chai (salty tea) - which is typical of this region. It's pink! One must try this - if only for the novelty - but I assure you - it's quite tasty in its own right.

Around 7:15 PM, we continued our journey towards Kargil. I had given up all hope of seeing and experiencing the Kargil war memorial given the lateness of the hour. It was around 6 km away from Drass town - and I thought to myself , that even if the gates are closed - I will try to peek in from the boundary wall to see what I can.

In half an hour - we were at the gates of the Kargil War Memorial. It was with some surprise that I noticed a large number of cars parked opposite the memorial, and all lights one. As we disembarked, I asked a sergeant standing close by if the facility was open - to which he replied it was, even though it was well past closing time! It seems the new time slots for Zoji La, has meant inevitable delays for traffic going towards Leh. As a consequence, on that specific day - people kept streaming in well past 5 PM, thus forcing the authorities to keep the facility open! After all , who would deny us civvies the right to pay our respects to the brave souls of the Motherland!

Us - gathered at the entry of the War Memorial
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Old 29th July 2015, 23:07   #11
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As we walked in, crowds were milling about. But quite unlike the unruly crowds at ASI monuments. There was stocism in their gait, a tear in many an eye, and subdued voices choked by emotion.

Catharsis of the soul: Ladakh!-2015061519h48m41dsc_1329.jpg
A light combat aircraft on display at the gate - perhaps implying the equally stellar role that the IAF had played in the war.

A close-up
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The Vijay Path - or the Avenue of Victory leading up to the memorial.
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For the rest of the images that I am sharing - I have nothing to add.
I recall tears welled in my eyes as I reflected on what our Men in uniform had achieved - in the face of insurmountable odds.

Supreme sacrifice-for a cause!
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These were the real National heroes - not those insufferable Cricketers or the equally insufferable Bollywood actors or even the self-important Politicians!

As we retraced our steps back to the Innova my daughter made a promise to me - she would serve - when she grew up! I hope she makes it!

In retrospect , I think the Gods had willed it - that we got to see the memorial and talk with the soldiers whose job is to protect India at all cost. They were very ordinary men, but the pride in what they were tasked to do - made them extraordinary!

We still had 60 km to go before we reached our hotel in Kargil. It was a fast drive , 60 km was covered in less than an hour and half. The tarmac was in great shape, the signage was just-so , however as expected in mountainous terrain - the route had it's fair share of switchbacks, not to mention several Army camps that enforced strict speed limits.

The only other notable mentions of this section of the drive are the HP petrol bunk (34.57502, 76.12449) , and the proximity to the Line of Control (LOC) - the basis for the famous Bollywood blockbuster.

And the fact that getting to the hotel meant taking a slight detouir around town - due to one-way travel being imposed on the town's main thoroughfare.

The detour to our hotel in Kargil
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We arrived at Hotel Greenland, Kargil (34.55759, 76.12722) at 9:45 PM. As we had pre-booked our rooms in advance , the check-in process was a breeze, despite a motley crowd of late travelers who had preceded us demanding rooms in a packed hotel.
As hotels go, in this region of the world, the facilities are pretty decent. Nice big rooms, with attached baths, phones that work, efficient & pro-active room service, and a big parking (important for us). Where it lacked , was the non-availability of anything more non-vegetarian than eggs.

It was quite late by the time we had freshened up, dined, rounded out the gup shup , and turned in for the night!

And once we hit the sack - all of us went out like a light! - so tired were we.

The next morning saw us out of our beds at 7 AM!. This was the day when we would finally get Leh'd!
After the travails of the previous day, everyone was just happy to laze around. Here's us - waiting for tea to be served.

Relaxing in the corridoor
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A partial view of the hotel's main building
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The view of the nearby mountain - from the hotel Greenland

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Topographically, Kargil town center (where all the hotels are) is very close to a mountain - so the views are not as beautiful.

As a local recounted to me - Ladakh has broadly two divisions.

In the areas roughly between Kargil to Zoji La ,as well as between Hunder to Turtuk, the people are predominantly of Dard ethnicity, and follow Islam. Interestingly they have adopted Buddhist traditions in their day to day lives - a facet that has come about over centuries of intermingling; because these areas were once at the cross-roads of the great trade routes stretching from Europe, Persia and the Middle East into the heart of China.

The area from Lamayuru to Leh, and in the south from Leh to Jispa on the other hand has more Buddhist influence and Tibetan culture.

Thus Kargil marks the eastern boundary, where Islamic traditions are more pre-dominant than the Buddhist ones.

As we would proceed to the east , the difference between the two cultures would become more stark.

We targeted departure at 9:30 AM - our goal was to reach Leh by sundown. The day's journey had a lot of promise - at least in the photography department!

Last edited by joybhowmik : 15th August 2015 at 11:58. Reason: continuing the narrative!
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Old 30th July 2015, 11:06   #12
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Our route plan
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The day I got Leh'd - a memorable day. We rolled out from our hotel at 9:30 AM. We would drive east on NH-1D all the way till we hit Leh. That was the plan. And we would do this slowly - stop when we wanted to , drink in the views , leave with nothing but memories.

Kargil to Leh is 225 kilometers, the midway point is Lamayuru - a small town or a big village. En route Kargil to Lamayuru, are three main points of interest - Mulbekh , Namika La and Fotu La. From Lamayuru to Leh, there are several points of interest - but the main ones are the Alchi monastery, Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, Magnetic Hill, and the first view of the Karakorams.

There's also many many others - such as the confluence of the Indus and Zanskar, the Phey monastery, the awesome view of Karakoram range etc.... but I did say main.

Dear reader - allow me to also caution you - if one has a passion for the mountains, and has come to Leh / Ladakh - the very first day of driving through Ladakh is bound to be a spellbinding experience.
As someone has rightly said on this forum - in Leh/Ladakh - there's no such thing as a bad photograph - every angle of every vista is photogenic.
The real question always is do you have the time?

The signpost as we exit Kargil. Leh's 225 km away, Lamayuru is 99.
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The Kargil valley beside the Suru river.
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Kudos to the BRO
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About 10 km out of Kargil, and the road suddenly narrowed. Earth moving machinery (kudos to BRO) as they work on expanding the width.

These guys really work fast!
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This road widening project affects approximately 20 km of the road. By the time this is published, there's probably a wide road already.

Was it only me that hummed the song "The long and winding road"?
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Interesting rock face.
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Note the entire facade is pockmarked. Wind at play here.

The two thousand year old Maitreyi Buddha at Mulbekh (34.37975, 76.36255).
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Most of the facade is invisible due to a hideous encroachment. We had to point our cameras just so to capture the torso.
It's not just another stone carving. Owing to the fact that this is carved from a single stone, I found a striking resemblance to the (now destroyed) Bamiyan Buddhas.

The road is superb.
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If you have a low GC performance sedan, which can somehow make its way here , you'll love stretching its legs on the tarmac!

Did the Gompa's architect have a death wish?
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A wide-angle view, at one of our stops.
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The Lungma river (tributary of the Indus)
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Better half - Enjoying the fantastic day!
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My son - and my other son!
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The soft sedimentary rocks of the Ladakh Range.
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In fact , the Ladakh range - characterized by light brown mountains is so distinct from the geologically active black Karakoram range. Karakoram's colour is characteristic of the hard igneous granite that it's comprised of.

Interesting rock formations - a result of eons of erosion
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Ladakh range in the foreground, Karakorams in the background.
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Namika La (34.38423, 76.45886) at 12198 ft
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It's the second highest pass on the Srinagar Leh road.The third being Zoji La

A storm brews in the distance
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Another view of Ladakh and Karakoram ranges.
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A straight stretch
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Words were not enough!
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And I really , really envied the bikers for their wind in the hair experience!

Interesting columns - the Ladakh range throws up surprises at every corner!
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Drift a little?
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Eyes-closed. Picture yourself here. And that my friend, is the magic of Ladakh!
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Truly the road , less traveled!
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Presenting Fotu la (34.2896, 76.70128).
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In case you were wondering where the highest point on the road was- look no further. At 13479 feet - the highest point on the Srinagar Leh Road

Prayer flags @ Fotu La - Scores and scores of them!
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Last edited by joybhowmik : 15th August 2015 at 12:06. Reason: continuiing the narrative
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Old 31st July 2015, 07:51   #13
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Innova - also resting at a rest stop.
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Hotel Moonland
, Lamayuru (34.28377, 76.76791) where we stopped for lunch.
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A basic meal of chicken thukpa, and coke. All in 30 minutes.

Kids horse around with this stuffed Yak.
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Lamayuru Gompa.
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Sadly we did not have enough time to go in and experience it. Maybe some other day, I'll just stay here for a couple of nights.

The famous lunar landscape of Lamayuru. Incredible structures in stone, a product of wind and water erosion over eons.
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Another view of the Lamayuru Gompa
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We had just about covered half the distance to Leh and it was past 2:30 PM already. This little fact was pointed out by my BIL - well there was nothing to be done but pick up the pace.

So I decided to stop the car not every 100 meters as I was doing, but probably after every kilometer.

As we exited the moonscape, this gorge caught my attention
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And a little way further, this exquisitely beautiful monastery.
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The highway snakes its way by the Indus.
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The second intersection of NH-1D and the road to Batalik (34.32371, 76.86016).
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There's a police checkpost here, where one has to provide details of the vehicle and the driver.

Did I use the word picturesque yet?
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The family.
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Chortens dot the road.
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The brown waters of the Zanskar mix with the green waters of the Indus. (34.1657, 77.3322). There's a small cafe at this point, where one can park and enjoy the view of the Zanskar and Indus valleys.

We start the climb towards Leh
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The awesome Karakorams - Awestruck!
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Magnetic Hill. In the distance , the Army has put up a sign.
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Ok. So yes we did do the mandatory, engine off, car running forward routine. But like it or not, there's a slope here - and gravity takes over , where BHP leaves off. No one in the car believed me! They all thought it was a giant magnet!!

SIL striking a pose at magnetic hill
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What really appealed to me, was the view.
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We passed by Gurdwara Pathar Sahib, but did not stop. Maybe some other day.

The Indus valley as we approach Leh
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At the outskirts of Leh. The clock read 6:15 PM.
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We were booked at Hotel Asia, Leh (34.17082, 77.57788).
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This is near the Shanti Stupa - which is just outside the town. So we skirted the town.

The final few meters to the hotel
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The check-in experience was not without its own share of hiccups. As is so often the case in small tourist towns, and Leh is no exception, most hotels are privately owned, and less than professionally managed. Whilst my booking had been paid for, and receipt obtained from the owner, he had not informed the staff of my arrival, and inconveniently at the time of my arrival, was away in a signal - free zone. Much confusion. Luckily I had the email printouts with me, so in the end, they relented, and we could move into the rooms.

The rooms were good. We ordered the snacks and settled down for some relaxation in the evening. My BIL is infamous in certain circles for his "capacity" for ingesting a certain beverage. And true to his reputation, the evening was no exception. I had in fact carried something with me as a gift (specially wrapped from Dubai duty free). So we relaxed , we had dinner, and retired.

At around 2 AM in the morning, there was a knock on my door. My SIL asked us to come see our BIL. He was propped up in bed but gasping for breath. He had headache, was nauseous, and was not at all feeling well.

Beverages of a certain kind and altitude do not mix. Well in moderation - one can still get away - as I had. But this was classic AMS brought on by severe dehydration - an effect of immoderate ingestion. We opened up all the windows, moved him to a sofa by the window, and gave him the small oxygen cylinder to breathe from. A dose of Coca mother tincture followed by two litres of Bisleri. He felt a little better. We went back to bed and conked out.

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Old 31st July 2015, 11:29   #14
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The next day was crystal clear. But there was a problem. A few of us had not slept well -> my BIL and to a lesser extent my wife , both had breathing difficulty in the night.

The day was supposed to be a rest day - with moderate activity planned i.e. sight seeing and some great Tibetan food.

Sadly but understandably my BIL excused himself from the sight seeing agenda. He also had to catch up with some phone calls at work.

Next came up the question of transport. We had Innova, but wifey strongly suggested to leave it parked at the hotel - considering I had been driving since the last 3 days. I thought about it , and despite misgivings , for once agreed.

So what next? Taxi?. We had deky's taxi union rates and contact details as a print out. So no problemo!
A quick call to the taxi union and a innova was called in to ferry us. The itinerary would include - Shanti Stupa, Leh Palace, Tse Gompa Castle, Hall of Fame and Leh market. And we had to release the taxi at 5 PM, otherwise extra charges would apply. The union passed on the mobile number of the driver. The rate was Rs 2500/- . Expensive you say? I call it extortion!

Well, anyway half an hour after ordering the taxi, the taxi guy gives me a call. He is apologetic. He has just gotten himself a more lucrative contract and is on his way to Pangong. He says he will send his other Innova. Little do I know , who he will send. A few minutes later the driver of the other Innova calls and asks for directions to the hotel.

I mean it's a small town , and Changspa road is the Champs Elysees of Leh. Or the Marine Drive of Mumbai. Or... you get the point?
Well anyway, somehow I manage to direct him, and he reaches. Young chap.

He is in a tearing hurry to get going. We board the taxi. He snaps at us to hurry up.
I gulp down a few breaths of fresh air - and reiterate the specifics of the deal. He does not say anything, continues driving. I think he may have a problem with language. I decide to speak to him slowly again, maybe after we alight.
We drive through Leh market , most shops are opening up. A short distance away is Leh Palace. We reach, and I try again to confirm the spots he will go to.

He says he will only do Leh Palace , Leh Market, and Shanti Stupa - nothing else. I get a rude surprise. I try calling the original guy who fixed up this guy. He is unreachable. I call the taxi union - they try reasoning with him - but to no avail. He just won't do it.
I get frustrated. I tell the union to send another more experienced guy. I let this guy go, with zero compunctions! I start taking out all our paraphernalia from the car. By this time my family is way ahead of me, at the ticket counter.

Trying to manage five jackets, two tripods, three bisleri bottles and a horribly expensive camera , calls for some special skills - which I don't have.
I start dropping the least expensive and least breakable items - till someone in my family sees the debris, and they all hurry up.
We are now faced with a dilemma. We have this sudden problem of so many things to be managed. We could wait for the car to arrive - but we won't have a lot of time left to explore the palace, or, we could carry it in ourselves - but there would be steep flights of stairs. That's when I remind my better half - that this would not have happened had we used our own car.

A Good Samaritan, in the form of the ticket seller at the Leh Palace, smiles, and says he would be happy to watch our things for us. Gratefully we dump the jackets and the water bottles in his cabin. Thank God - there still are good people in this world!

The Leh Palace
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Old 31st July 2015, 18:23   #15
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A description of Leh Palace
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The stone walkway
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A view of Leh town and surrounding countryside
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Red Maitreyi temple
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My better half and SIL at the walkway
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A distant gompa stands witness over the town
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A wooden column supporting the arch over the main door.
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One of the main exhibition rooms at the museum - sadly the paintings had not yet been put up.
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The courtyard.. one of several
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Enjoying the views
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Leh town
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A view of the Leh main market.
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Castle Tsemo (from Leh Palace)
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Getting in closer
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Extreme closeup
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The Karakorams on the perimeter of the Leh valley
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Another view of the Karakorams - with a dust bowl (of the Ladakh range)
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The Kids and I pose on the steps of Leh Palace
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Leh Palace from the Castle Tsemo
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Leh Palace from Shanti Stupa
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