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Old 28th September 2015, 17:51   #31
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Default Re: 16 'Las' and some 'Tsos' - Two men and a Black Scorpio 4x4 on a Ladakh expedition

Hi Mr. Sinha,

Firstly that Ghost part was scary.

Yeah Naveen....i think you might be correct with your interpretation.

Simply loved your write-up and the pics....amazing. Seeing so many kol-ladakh travelogues now makes my blood tickle with varying intensities. I have been dreaming about such a trip for god knows how many years however never came to a point of ever planning one. Now even before i start planning what i want to assess is the costing bit.

Could you please shed some light into the cost factor that is involved in such a trip. Even if you cannot give me an exact breakup, at-least try and provide major category breakup like hotels, food (approx) and fuel.

Reason being am also from kolkata and do wish to do a road trip someday.

Hoping you hear from you soon.
Cheers.
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Old 4th October 2015, 20:07   #32
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Default Re: 16 'Las' and some 'Tsos' - Two men and a Black Scorpio 4x4 on a Ladakh expedition

Quote:
Originally Posted by veritoman View Post
Could you please shed some light into the cost factor that is involved in such a trip. Even if you cannot give me an exact breakup, at-least try and provide major category breakup like hotels, food (approx) and fuel.
I am planning to give the major cost details towards the end of the travelogue. Hang on till then please.
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Old 4th October 2015, 21:26   #33
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Default Re: 17 'Las' and some 'Tsos' - Two men and a Black Scorpio 4x4 on a Ladakh expedition

Day 10: Hanle - surrounding areas - Kyu Tso - Hanle

My first thought after waking up was whether the BB would start. Went out and removed the tarp first. The sun had come up, and I opened the hood to let the engine soak in the sun for about 10-15 minutes. Then I cranked the key. I was hoping the anti-freeze would do it's job.

Luckily it did. After about 5-6 cranks, the engine sluggishly jumped to life.

The plan for the day was to hang around Hanle, visit the observatory and take a stab at Kyu Tso. After breakfast, our host Sonam invited us to attend a Ladakhi village wedding, and he would take us as our guests. We readily agreed.

Sonam also has a job at the observatory, so he called ahead to some person there to expect us and take us around. We had a fantastic tour of the observatory, including the inside where the Chandra telescope is mounted. The operations is controlled from Bangalore, and the skeleton staff here do minor observations and take readings etc.

16 'Las' and some 'Tsos' - Two men and a Black Scorpio 4x4 on a Ladakh expedition-imgp0124.jpg

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On the other side of these mountains is Chinese territory.

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Then we came back and went with Sonam to the wedding. It was quite an experience. This was the groom's part of the pre-wedding ceremony, before the groom goes over to the bride's village for the actual wedding. The whole community gathers at such events. A few tents were pitched up. The cooking of lunch was being done outside in the open. In one of the tents, sits the groom. All guests line up to give gifts to the groom. Gifts are primarily currency notes held together in the shape of a garland which they place around the groom's neck.

16 'Las' and some 'Tsos' - Two men and a Black Scorpio 4x4 on a Ladakh expedition-imgp0138.jpg

Outside it was quite chilly but not enough to dampen the "spirits".

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Thats the groom with his head down - probably weighed down by the money garlands around his neck.

16 'Las' and some 'Tsos' - Two men and a Black Scorpio 4x4 on a Ladakh expedition-imgp0150.jpg

We soon took leave after asking Sonam the directions to Kyu Tso. He told us to go to the next village and take the road (if at all you can call it a road) from there. We arrived at the village but couldn't find which way to proceed. There wasn't a soul around to ask, so we called Sonam. BSNL was working here. He said to look for a fence, find the gate, open the gate, drive through and close the gate. Apparently the fence is to keep off the kiangs or wild-asses/horses from entering the village.
This was deep kiang country.

16 'Las' and some 'Tsos' - Two men and a Black Scorpio 4x4 on a Ladakh expedition-imgp0151.jpg

After crossing the fence and closing the gate, we figured out a trail on which to drive. The trail here is actually a dried-up river bed. We followed that. It was a tough road, not meant for sedans/low GC vehicles, but we didn't need 4WD. The whole trail was extremely dusty.

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Last edited by Aditya : 11th October 2015 at 07:26. Reason: Rule #11
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Old 9th October 2015, 16:01   #34
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Default Re: 16 'Las' and some 'Tsos' - Two men and a Black Scorpio 4x4 on a Ladakh expedition

Excellent Write up Mr. Sinha. I just came back from a trip to ladakh and missed all the places visited by you Sir. Wanted to visit Hanle and see the Observatory but had to cancel due to shortage of time. Now I know where to go during the next trip to Ladakh. I am hooked to the post.
It is really true, you cannot get bored by Ladakh Travelogues at all, each one is different and the interest just builds up as you read.
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Old 10th October 2015, 13:30   #35
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Default Re: 16 'Las' and some 'Tsos' - Two men and a Black Scorpio 4x4 on a Ladakh expedition

Sure will wait for the costing details. Hanle and Pangong Lake are just awesome.
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Old 15th October 2015, 13:53   #36
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Default Re: 16 'Las' and some 'Tsos' - Two men and a Black Scorpio 4x4 on a Ladakh expedition

Excellent travelogue Mr. Sinha.. Voted 5 stars!! The write up is super engaging and the pictures are amazing, all of them. Sigh, all the Leh-Ladakh travelogues make me so restless and distracted sitting here in office and gaping at each story.
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Old 15th October 2015, 19:21   #37
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Default Re: 16 'Las' and some 'Tsos' - Two men and a Black Scorpio 4x4 on a Ladakh expedition

Lots of kiang herds on the way.

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Another wild-ass :-)

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Finally reached Kyu Tso. Ice had already started forming on the shores. It was beautiful, and worth the drive.

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As we were getting late (due to time spent at the wedding), we dropped the idea of going further along to see Kyu Tso II, and started our drive back to Hanle.

On the way back approaching Hanle village.

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Back at the homestay. Look at the dust.

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After a hearty dinner of mutton(sheep) and rice, we called it a day.





Day 11: Hanle- Karzok


We were running low on fuel and had already emptied one of the 20L cans. With that, we had less than a quarter tank left, plus one more 20L can. We were worried whether we could make it to Karzok, and then go to Leh before refueling. More so because of the off-season. Many days into the journey so far, we didn't see another vehicle on the roads for very long periods.

Luckily Sonam, our host, came to the rescue. He had fuel reserves in his house which he said he got from the BRO. He offered us 20 liters. The price was lower than what we paid for at petrol pumps, and it was clean diesel. Now we were set for the next 2 days before we got back to Leh.

So, for people wishing to make this circuit the exact way we did: I would recommend carrying 50L extra over and above your topped-up 50L fuel tank to get you comfortably through.

The plan for today was to go to Karzok to see Tso Moriri, stay overnight and then take the road to Leh.

I am reproducing this fantastic map again (with the Harsh and Aarti watermark - ALL credits to them). This was our best navigation reference for the whole trip. We would take the Hanle-Loma-Nyoma-Mahe-Sumdo route to go to Karzok.

16 'Las' and some 'Tsos' - Two men and a Black Scorpio 4x4 on a Ladakh expedition-ladhakh-changthang-nubra-valley.jpg

When we had come into Hanle 2 days ago, it was in the dark. Now in daylight, we could enjoy the true beauty of the landscape around us.

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One baby La - our 13th - Namashang La

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And the next Tso - Tso Kiagar on the way.

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Continuing towards Karzok.

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Approaching Tso Moriri.

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16 'Las' and some 'Tsos' - Two men and a Black Scorpio 4x4 on a Ladakh expedition-imgp0231.jpg
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Old 15th October 2015, 19:43   #38
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Default Re: 17 'Las' and some 'Tsos' - Two men and a Black Scorpio 4x4 on a Ladakh expedition

Tso Moriri in all it's glorious beauty.

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We found a small hotel where the caretaker was reluctant to take us in. It seems there were two families (as it turned out, Bong families) scheduled to arrive at the hotel later, and the hotel was apparently open just for them. The caretaker didn't want to take the trouble of making more food for us. After a bit of convincing though, he agreed.

This is when he made the remark that at this time of the year, only a few foreigners and some crazy Bengalis come to Ladakh :-)

After a bit of rest, we drove around a bit along the shore.

16 'Las' and some 'Tsos' - Two men and a Black Scorpio 4x4 on a Ladakh expedition-imgp0236.jpg

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The night again turned out to be bitingly cold, more than it was Hanle. Used up my 2nd bottle of anti-freeze, did the tarpaulin stuff and retired for the night.



Day 12: Karzok - Leh

The return journey begins today. We completed the Changthang loop, well at least all of it except Fukche/Demchok/Chumur.

We drove back to Sumdo and proceeded along the Polokong La route to meet the highway at Moreh Plains (see map above).

Some wild mountain dogs. The only living things we met till we hit the Manali-Leh highway.

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It was a overcast and foggy day with light snow and rain.

Last La on this circuit and 14th of our trip: Polokong La.

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Leading on to a beginning-to-freeze lake: Startspuk Tso, and then Tso Kar.

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Two dots on the road are oil-tankers.

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Tanglang La on the way back. Last time we crossed it, it was in the dark around 9pm

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Nearing Leh.

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It was with a sense of accomplishment that we treated ourselves to a sumptuous dinner tonight at Leh.
And the best news of all: my Smart Card had arrived by Speed Post from Kolkata. So, all set now for the return trip.



Day 13: Leh - Sonamarg

Beginning of beautiful tarmac on the Leh-Srinagar highway. After 10 days on some super rough terrain, this was almost boring. However the vista was beautiful.

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15th La of the trip: Fotu La.

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16th La of the trip: Namika La.

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16 'Las' and some 'Tsos' - Two men and a Black Scorpio 4x4 on a Ladakh expedition-imgp0304.jpg
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Old 15th October 2015, 20:02   #39
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Approaching Kargil town.

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The Kargil war memorial near Dras was a memorable time spent. In the background is marked the famous Tololing ridge.

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Back on the road. It was getting cloudy as we approached our LAST and 17th La of this trip - the notorious Zoji La.

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As usual, Zoji La top was a mess of mud and slush caused by the falling snow. We were stuck here for 3 hours as it was getting dark. A truck blocked the way as it was unable to negotiate a climb in this mud. Unruly vehicles (yellow taxis) trying to squeeze in through gaps added further to the mayhem. Everyone got royally stuck. When will the people of this country understand the meaning of order and discipline? The same chaos happens at each and every level crossing in the country every time the barrier is down.

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The fog was coming down real heavy.

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Finally a narrow gap was cleared up and vehicles started descending. It was already dark. The heavy fog with near zero visibility was not helping.

16 'Las' and some 'Tsos' - Two men and a Black Scorpio 4x4 on a Ladakh expedition-dsc04482.jpg

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Finally, we reached Sonamarg around 8pm, looked for a hotel, negotiated down to one-third the regular rate (due to the Kashmir floods, 90% hotel bookings were cancelled at that time), and settled down for the night.


Day 14 (October 16): Sonamarg - Srinagar - somewhere in Punjab/Haryana (or so we thought).

The day started out beautiful only to end up in a nightmare. The plan was to go to Srinagar, then Udhampur and then push as much as possible into Punjab and rest for the night. We were targeting to reach Kolkata on the 16th day (i.e Oct 18th night), i.e. 3rd day from today - as my friend had his flight back to Bombay on Oct 20th.

16 'Las' and some 'Tsos' - Two men and a Black Scorpio 4x4 on a Ladakh expedition-dsc04488.jpg

16 'Las' and some 'Tsos' - Two men and a Black Scorpio 4x4 on a Ladakh expedition-imgp0337.jpg

The journey to Srinagar was uneventful. We reached around 10am. Stopped and purchased apples and dry fruits. The signs of devastation caused by the flood was all there to see. We tsk-ed, tsk-ed and drove along outside Srinagar, aiming for Udhampur in the next 6-7 hours.

Somewhere between Pampore and Anantnag, the nightmare started.

It seems until two days ago, traffic along Jawahar tunnel into/out of Srinagar was regulated as 1-way every alternative day. Only the previous day, the administration opened up two-way traffic and then all hell broke loose. Frustrated non-truck drivers (truck drivers are always much more disciplined) who were waiting 1 extra day started going on the opposite lane and blocked oncoming vehicles on that lane. There was nowhere to go. This snowballed all along the highway. Result: a massive traffic jam from Anantnag to Udhampur.

By the time we realized this, we were stuck. There was not an inch of road to turn around for us to take the Mughal Road.
Hours passed, evening came, night fell. We were stopping and intermittently crawling along.

16 'Las' and some 'Tsos' - Two men and a Black Scorpio 4x4 on a Ladakh expedition-dsc04494.jpg

16 'Las' and some 'Tsos' - Two men and a Black Scorpio 4x4 on a Ladakh expedition-dsc04499.jpg

The whole night passed almost that way with bits and pieces of sections where the speed touched double digits.
We were not eating much to save ourselves from unscheduled nature's calls.

And the morning came and we were still crawling. In some sections, J&K police were swinging into action and errant drivers who tried to drive in the opposite lane were asked to park by the side of the road as penalty. We felt real pity for the vehicles with women and children in them. Some truck drivers mentioned they were on the road for 3 days already.

Long story short, a journey which was supposed to take 7 hrs max (Srinagar to Udhampur) took us 36 hours. We reached Udhampur around 5pm the next day. This was Day 15 evening - Oct 17th.

Given that we had lost an entire day and so much behind schedule, even though we were exhausted, we decided to drive through non-stop to Kolkata.

We drove through the night of October 17 taking small breaks for tea, and taking turns at the wheel while the other slept for 2 hours.

On October 18 mid-day, we stopped at the Food Plaza on Yamuna Expressway and refreshed ourselves. And continued driving.

We hit the UP-Bihar border after midnight. By that time, we were sleeping and driving alternately 1 hour at a time. Two hours was proving to be too long to stay awake.

In the UP-Bihar border crossing, while trying to go around the huge line of trucks, BB got stuck on the side of the road in an area of knee-deep mud. 4WD L again came to the rescue. Its amazing to have that option when you need it.

On October 19 around 5pm, after 83 hours of driving, we rolled into Kolkata.


EPILOGUE

Barring the last 4 days, it was a fantastic and mind-boggling trip of epic proportions for my friend and me. Ladakh had been on our bucket-list for many years, and this trip was the culmination of that desire. The Scorpio performed like a champ taking us though some of the most inhospitable terrain thrown at her without a whimper. Real value for money.

We received the best hospitality at the several homestays that we stayed in. We saw the incredible beauty of Ladakh. We travelled to places where 99% of tourists do not go. We were lucky to get invited to a Ladakhi village wedding. We got the best weather that one could expect. And our desire to come back has increased manifold.

Here are some statistics and numbers for the trip:

Total distance covered door-to-door: 7,200 kms

Total trip cost for 2 of us: Rs.76,265 (not including items purchased as preparation for the trip)

Diesel used: 573 Ltrs
Total cost of diesel: Rs.35,515 (part of total trip cost)

Tolls paid: Rs.3,813 (part of total trip cost)
Bribe paid to UP police: Rs.2,500 (not part of total trip cost)

Total cost of items purchased as preparation or the trip: Rs.31,591 (most can be re-used for subsequent trips).

That all, folks. Hope it was an enjoyable read.
mr.sinha is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 15th October 2015, 20:04   #40
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Default Re: 17 'Las' and some 'Tsos' - Two men and a Black Scorpio 4x4 on a Ladakh expedition

Ah!!!

Finally, I completed the travelogue 1 year and 15 days after the trip.

What a relief !!!
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Old 16th February 2016, 16:45   #41
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Default Re: 16 'Las' and some 'Tsos' - Two men and a Black Scorpio 4x4 on a Ladakh expedition

What an epic journey! Hats off to you and the machine. It really takes nerves of steel to go to places where you have so small room for adversities. I would love to do such an amazing journey but don't have the machine to support it as of now. May be a few years down the line! Great inspiring journey!
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