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Old 4th September 2015, 09:17   #1
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Default Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1043.jpg

This is one of the many road signs installed by BRO (Border Roads Organisation), we had spotted during our trip to Ladakh. But this one really touched my heart - I thought I should share it in the opening post.

On the Independence Day this year, my good friend and colleague Krishnamoorthy (fondly referred to as Moorthy/Kichy) and I, set out on a road trip to Ladakh in my Polo GT TDI. We drove through 8 states covering 5543 km over 13 days and we had an A-M-A-Z-I-N-G time! We returned home with a lot of memories - something we are going to cherish for a lifetime.

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-coll.jpg

I am not sure if this travelogue will meet the expectations of the readers and do justice to what we experienced up there but Iíll try my best regardless.

Prelude:

I donít exactly recall when was the first time I had heard of Ladakh. Perhaps it was during the '99 Kargil war when I was in my 8th grade. Not too sure about that but not much was known of this place to me until I read through the many travelogues documented on the forum and from a couple of my former colleagues, who had visited the place during their graduation days. I had registered on T-BHP during April 2013 and used to read the travelogues with great interest. And every time a travelogue on Ladakh popped up on the forum, the urge to visit this place intensified! The roads laden with snow, the notorious high passes with almost no roads, the spectacular Pangong Tso lake with the calm waters and the blue sky above it with the scattered clouds, the dreaded water crossings, the historic Buddhist monasteries perched atop a hill with the murals, prayer wheels and the colorful prayer flags faintly waving in the subtle breeze, the Kargil War Memorial en route to Leh, the Magnetic Hill and the theories that surround it among several others. One colleague flew to Ladakh during winter last year and witnessed a completely frozen Pangong Tso! But the inspiration to take up this trip in the own car definitely was Team BHP and the travelogues posted here - I can pretty much say that.

And Ladakh is one of those places one cannot plan and visit in haste. The geographical location, the harsh road conditions, the unforgiving weather at the high altitudes, the fatigue that sets in while driving the long distances, limited mobile network coverage, unknown lands, unknown people, the fear of our car breaking down in the middle of nowhere and a whole lot of other factors made us think twice before attempting to plan. As a result, we ended up shelving the plans year after year. Come October 2013, I bought my first car - a monster of a diesel engine in a hatchback perfect for those long highway drives. But will it be able to tame the high passes in Ladakh? Will the underbody scrape every time it crossed a water stream laden with rocks and boulders? Only time would tell.

Last year, I was craving for a long road trip in the car (who wouldnít!) and the wedding was scheduled for September 2014. I drove to my hometown Palakkad, Kerala from Surat, Gujarat. It was one heck of a trip! We drove through Maharashtra, Karnataka and across Kerala and Tamilnadu, visited Munnar, Thekkady, Alleppey, Guruvayur, Cochin, Malappuram, Calicut, Palani and Madurai. I loved the trip to bits! After all, it was my first long drive in the car and had my wife in tow. Hereís the short travelogue in case you missed it. This year, we wanted to do another one but not down south. There were several options - Sikkim? The seven sisters? A GQ drive? Leh-Ladakh?! Ladakh sounds fun and was in the cards for long. About time we did it this year and be done with it for a while. So well, Ladakh it was. But there were several roadblocks that lay ahead of us!

Last edited by Gannu_1 : 23rd September 2015 at 11:40.
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Old 4th September 2015, 09:17   #2
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Default re: VW Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 kms, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!

How it all started:

The trip to Ladakh was in the cards for sometime as far as I can recall. Ever since I got my car (Oct. '13), I wanted to do this trip with some of my close friends. On the 2013 New Year's Eve, I had shared this status update on Facebook:

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So I suppose that's where it all started. Unfortunately, it didn't happen during the 2014 summer (neither did I learn swimming but Dark Souls 2 was wrapped up and I got married that year.)

Towards the end of the wedding trip travelogue (posted in the link above), I had mentioned this in the concluding section:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gannu_1 View Post
Before I conclude, my heartfelt thanks to:

6. My parents - for the love, care and support shown by you guys and for allowing me to embark on this trip. One more permission remains to be taken (for the Leh trip next year). All in due time I guess!
My parents already knew that this trip was inevitable and we were planning to visit Ladakh sooner or later. My father knew of the kind of terrain that we would drive on (since he was posted at Srinagar during his banking tenure) and he was the most worried of the lot! My mother OTOH, kept her cool and upon our return, she told me how tensed my father was when we were up there and would keep telling her, "My son has gone to those terror infested areas with Moorthy! I pray and hope they come back soon."

Indeed, my wife also knew that I wanted to visit Ladakh and the trip was shelved last year when the wedding happened. She wasn’t entirely privy to our discussions and I used to discuss about the trip with her from time to time. As luck would have it, she cleared the SRF (Senior Research Fellow) examination this year with top honours, resigned from work and got enrolled into a university for pursuing her PhD. She moved to the campus hostel as mandated by the rules. The original plan was to not leave her alone at home while we went for the trip so she chose to go to our hometown at Kerala, spend a few days there and return back when we arrived. But the university admissions happened and she was at the hostel which left me as a bachelor!

In the meantime, the three of us - Moorthy, Arvind and I, began discussing of the trip to Ladakh often. While Arvind got relocated to our Chennai campus, Moorthy and I were located in the same building here at Hazira, Surat. It used to be a part of discussions at work, during lunch, office commutes, WhatsApp chats etc. Things began to get serious as the days passed by. We also get notified about the annual holidays at the start of the calendar year. 15th August is Independence Day and happens to be a Saturday. 29th August is Rakshabandhan, it was a holiday and it falls on a Saturday again! Bingo! If we were to schedule our trip between these two holidays, we would effectively lose only 12 days of leave. Just the perfect leave plan we’ve been waiting for! We decided to take it up with our respective bosses and my superior immediately agreed since this was my first long leave for the current year and there wasn’t any pending work nor anything important coming up. Applied the leave in the system and got it approved in an instant.

Unfortunately, Arvind’s boss did not approve his leave citing work pressure so he was out of the trip leaving just the two of us now. Moorthy’s case wasn’t any different. He had to fight it out with his boss and worse, the department head! They were being unreasonable with him and were not open for any justifications. This was also his first long leave this year but they wouldn’t budge. Irrespective of that, he applied for the leave in the system. Fast forward to a week before we depart for the trip, we decided to take this up with the head of our shipyard. Imagine such a petty issue being discussed with a top management guy when he has a 100 other things to be worried of! He was a nice guy basically so we had some hope. We apprised this issue with him and he gave us the initial nod of approval! Smiling, we left his cabin and got back to our respective desks. But that wasn’t the end of it. On the day before the scheduled departure, his boss and department head weren’t willing to spare him and his leaves weren’t approved! Furious, we approached the shipyard head a second time (aargh!), he spoke to the concerned folks and requested them to let him go. Finally! But why all this drama?!

So, consent from our parents? Check! Consent from my wife? Check! Approvals from work? Double check!

So what next? Go through Tanveer’s immensely helpful sticky thread, the recent travelogues posted here and on the other travel forums, check the road conditions, permit requirements, stay options, stuff to be lugged etc. BHPian etchemkay (Himanshu) had been to Ladakh last year in his GT with his friends and he had an awesome trip. I contacted him as suggested by friendly moderator moralfibre and he turned out to be a gem of a guy! He gave us a lot of tips and suggestions for the trip and had recommended that we opt for the Ladakh 951 package offered by HV Kumar. It’s something like a tour package which includes a route plan and custom itinerary as per our schedule, hotel bookings on-the-go and support using WhatsApp and phone. Seemed pretty nice and for Rs. 951, it was a no-brainer. We opted for it. More on Ladakh 951 towards the end of the travelogue.

Last edited by Gannu_1 : 24th September 2015 at 09:08.
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Old 4th September 2015, 09:17   #3
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Default re: VW Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 kms, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!

Itinerary:

This was the proposed breakup of our itinerary we had finalised before the trip:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-proposed-schedule.png

Hotel bookings were not done beforehand as we weren't sure if we would reach the proposed destination by the end of the day. It might be possible that we were stuck in traffic so we could face unforeseen delays or cross the proposed destination earlier in the evening with time to spare, so we could push further ahead. The plan was to leave early as much as possible (4-5 AM) and avoid night driving after the sun sets.

Shopping time!

A trip to Ladakh meant a laundry list of things we had to carry along. We had most of the things with us at home and just had to dump them in a box. For the rest, we bought a few off online stores which were running discounts or cashback offers and the rest from brick and mortar stores.

Let me list down everything we carried on this trip:
  • Dashcam - time was running out and we wanted a cheap dashcam which could record with decent clarity and would support a 32 mSD card. The Blaupunkt 2.0 FHD dashcam popped up on the Online Shopping Thread and was cheap at Rs. 1800 retailing on Snapdeal. Bit the deal in an instant!

  • 12 V charger for dashcam - instead of having a cable dangling all the time, we decided to buy a 12V USB charger and hardwired it by tapping 12 V from the cabin light.

  • Battery jump start cables - bit a deal on PayTM for a pair of heavy duty jump-start cables with crocodile clamps. It was priced under Rs. 500.

  • Safety vests with reflective stripes - this was a must when the car breaks down in the middle of nowhere with no lighting around so ordered a pair from Amazon and was delivered in less than 2 days. It was priced under Rs. 400.

  • Jerrycan, 20 L - we were told that fuel availability between certain areas at Ladakh were limited and vehicles could potentially run out of fuel if we were to take some specific routes. We decided to carry a 20 L plastic jerrycan with us and bought one from a neighbourhood plastic shop. The can was cleaned thoroughly and dried.

  • Funnel - we wanted one for pouring fuel from the jerrycan into the inlet. Instead of buying one, we cut a 500 mL Coke PET bottle at the mouth and washed it thoroughly.

  • First aid kit - I always keep a basic first aid kit in the car with the essential meds, cotton, bandages and a small bottle of Savlon but we missed the Diamox tablets and the local chemist wasn’t willing to give Diamox without a prescription so we visited our go-to general physician, he gave us a prescription and also advised us to remain hydrated as much as possible as high altitudes are unforgiving when it comes to low oxygen levels. We were about to realize how hard it was going to hit us! So Diamox was in, along with some others. Here’s the complete list of meds we had carried during the trip:

    • Dolo 650, paracetamol tablets - one strip (for pain reliever, reducing fever)
    • Avomine 25 mg tablets - one strip (for reducing nausea and motion sickness)
    • Lopamide 2 mg tablets - one strip (for countering diarrhea)
    • Cetzine 10 mg tablets - one strip (for countering allergies)
    • Diamox - 1 strip (for countering altitude sickness)
    • Soframycin - one tube (for treating burns, skin infections)
    • Betadine - one tube (for treating wounds and cuts)
    • Volini - one tube (for swelling, inflammation and muscle pains)
    • Relispray 40g - one spray can (for instant pain relief from joint pains)
    • Gelusil 200 mL - one bottle (antacid)
    • Iso-propyl alcohol 200 mL - one bottle (antiseptic for disinfecting wounds)
    • Eno - 10 sachets (for instant relief from acidity and gastric discomfort)
    • ORS - 10 sachets
    • Otrivin nasal spray
    • Bandages - 1 roll (for tying up wounds)
    • Cotton - 1 roll
    • Savlon - 1 bottle
    • Scissors
    • Tweezers
    • Vicks VapoRub balm

  • Tool kit - In addition to the 1 kg dry powder fire extinguisher, screw jack, wrench, portable inflator and 1 L engine oil bottle which is already present in the car, we carried a box which had some basic tools. Here’s the complete list of tools we had carried along:

    • Screw driver kit with the magnetic chuck
    • Pincer plier
    • Needle nose plier
    • Combination plier
    • Towing rope
    • WD 40 spray can
    • Duct tape
    • Mini hacksaw
    • Hex key set
    • Ring spanners (10x11, 12x13)
    • M seal
    • OBD scanner
    • LED torch
    • Spare Duracell AA batteries (2 nos.)
    • LED spotlight
    • Fevikwik sachets
    • Puncture repair kit
    • Utility knife
    • Zip ties
    • Pair of cloth gloves
    • Wheel locking nut adapter

    Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2146.jpg

    All stored in this box:

    Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2151.jpg

  • Non-perishable food - we were told that we might have to spend a long time by the roadside waiting for the oncoming traffic to clear out. Worse, spend a whole night in a tent if the water crossing makes it impossible for the car to pass. Thus, we decided to carry some non-perishable food with us such as khakras, biscuits, wafers, trail mix of dry fruits (almonds, cashews, raisins, walnut, pistachios etc) and 2 boxes of Perk chocolate bars for that quick boost of energy while driving. Sufficient for the two of us for a night or two.

    Everything went into this box:

    Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2136.jpg

  • Tent - my friend wanted to buy a tent just in case we have to camp somewhere outside. So he bought one off Amazon for under Rs. 1500. The tent was shipped in a neat pouch with the rods required to assemble it. We also did a mockup assembly at home before the trip:

  • Drinking water - Instead of carrying a large 20 L carboy for the drinking water, we decided to buy crates of 1 L bottles instead since they can be squeezed and fit into the available space of the car whereas a 20 L carboy will occupy a considerable space in the boot while being cumbersome to be poured into smaller bottles for day-to-day consumption. BHPian chintu91 who stays near my apartment helped me out with the source who supplied us with 3 crates (4 x 3) of 1 L bottles which were then loaded into the car. Two of them went into the boot and the other on the passenger footwell.

  • Camera gear - we carried our DSLRs, lenses, memory cards, spare battery, chargers and a tripod in the respective bags.

  • Clothes and woolens - all the clothes and woolen warmers were loaded into two trolley cases. We carried enough clothes considering there may not be an option to get them washed. Personal care items were packed in a separate pouch and went into a separate backpack.

  • Laptop - the initial plan was to not carry a laptop since we read mixed reviews of the hard drive failing at high altitudes. But the dashcam’s memory card was quickly getting filled so we had to dump these clips and clear the memory cards. Thus we decided to take the laptop along but use it only at lower altitudes. Loaded the laptop into my backpack along with the charger.

  • Battery bank - my friend carried his Anker 10000 mAh battery bank in his backpack as a backup charger along with the micro USB cables just in case we faced power outages at the hotels and homestays.

  • BSNL postpaid SIM - we were told that mobile network connectivity at Ladakh and the places nearby were limited to BSNL and Aircel postpaid. We got a postpaid SIM from BSNL and got it activated a couple of weeks before the trip. The SIM was used in a basic Nokia 101 cellphone with a keypad which served as our backup phone.

  • Power strip - we were told that some homestays and hotels had fewer charging outlets and we were carrying our cameras, smartphones, laptop, battery bank etc. so took a power strip along. Excellent decision I must say - we ended up using the strip 10 out of 13 days!

  • Umbrella - I make it a point to carry a long umbrella in the car’s boot during monsoons. Didn’t want to ditch it since it was pouring here in Gujarat before we left.

  • File folder - we had taken multiple copies of our ID proofs (DL, election ID card), car’s documents (RC, PUC, insurance) and the self-declaration form which was filled. The folder was tucked behind the driver seatback pocket.

  • Shoes - 2 pairs of shoes for the two of us, stored in their respective boxes. We didn't want to wear them from the start of the journey.

  • Miscellaneous - a bunch of old newspapers, microfiber clothes for cleaning/wiping the car, a box of wet-wipes and a bottle of handwash.

  • Money - we withdrew 60k INR from the ATM a day before the trip.

So that was the whole list of the items we had lugged for the trip. On the evening before the day of departure, we spread out some newspapers in the boot floor and loaded everything into the car. Here’s what it looked like when everything went in:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-wp_20150814_19_08_04_pro.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-wp_20150814_19_08_18_pro.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-wp_20150814_19_08_34_pro.jpg
(Sorry for the poor clicks. It was getting dark + smartphone cam with a puny LED flash!)

I had also prepared a long checklist on my pocket notepad (I prefer that to the one on the smartphone) just to ensure that we do not miss out on any of the important bits and leave anything at home at the 11th hour:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-wp_20150920_23_19_33_pro.jpg

Preparations for the car:

A lot of folks have visited Ladakh in their personal vehicles, right from the humble Nano (scaled the mighty Khardung La!) to the brute Fortuner but a low GC hatchback and no authorized service centers up top, meant we were looking at several challenges. Initially, I was asked to ditch the Polo and hire a self-drive SUV but I haven't driven an SUV before, not a self-drive car either and was remotely interested in driving another vehicle in the first place. If I ever did a Ladakh trip, it had to be in my car - no second thoughts there. The fact that BHPian etchemkay drove to Ladakh in his GT TDI last year further reinforced the plans.

But that meant, we had to do a few changes before we set out:
  • Tires - the car was running on the stock Apollo Aceleres until then (19 months and 39k km on the odo) and there were still some treads left on them. They were however punctured quite a few times and I had them patched. Yet we were advised to change them to a new set as old worn out tires were bound to take a huge hit at these brutal terrains. We swapped them to the Michelin Primacy 3 ST tires a week before the trip (link). The next few days until the trip helped the tires break in properly (if there ever was such a thing as break-in).

  • Air filter - the air filter was changed at the 30k km periodic service and it was 39k km now. Air filters were dirt cheap anyway (Rs. 385) and we decided to get it changed. A clogged air filter would make the car struggle at the high altitudes. We were also advised to get the filter cleaned or changed once we reach Ladakh and set out to other places. We didn’t carry a spare filter with us - decided to get the current one cleaned using a HP pneumatic line at a local garage there.

  • Brakes - the brake pads for the front tires had some life left on them and I have been a sedate driver over the last 20k km without any instances of sudden braking that I can recall of, so the SA advised us to go ahead without a replacement. The surface of the rotors didn't require any machining either. The rear drum brake assembly was removed and cleaned. The shoes were in good shape so as far as brakes were concerned, we were good to go.

  • Fluid levels - all the fluids viz. engine oil, brake fluid, windshield washer fluid etc. were checked for adequate levels.

  • Wipers - the Hella Dynaedge wipers had already lasted 2 monsoons and it was streaking at times. Decided to switch to the cheaper frameless wipers and sourced a pair for Rs. 350. Glad that we did. It was pouring when we left Gujarat and the wipers helped immensely!

  • Engine sump guard - a skid plate was considered for protecting the engine sump and VW even retails one made of ABS plastic but we were running out of time and the local service center were suggesting us to head to the Surat service center as the installation process requires drilling and welding on the framework. I thought of getting one fabricated out of Aluminium checkered plate and MS frames from a local garage but we were running out of time. We ditched the plan and decided to drive safe instead. If that meant we had to wait it out at a bad water crossing, we will wait.

  • Miscellaneous - I had also requested the service advisor to check for any loose nuts or bolts anywhere in the car - on the inside, on the engine bay, under-body etc. and have them tightened if there are any.

And so the car was in ship-shape condition before the trip and we were counting the days.

Anxiety, fear and sleeplessness!

I have a weird problem - I tend to lose my sleep and have eerie thoughts when a long trip is on the cards. Especially on the last 2 nights before the drive. Perhaps our Accidents thread is to blame when images of wrecked vehicles keep popping up once in a while. Sometimes I can’t seem to get those images out of my mind! This time it wasn’t any different - I did not get a good sleep on the last 2 nights while my partner slept ever gracefully! A feeling of worry crept in gradually and I was thinking what if the car broke down, what if we hit a stray animal, what if we meet with an accident, what if our health goes bad and several other what ifs. On the day of departure, we were to leave at 3:30 AM (gotta admit though, I love early morning drives; feels fresh after a nice shower, beat the traffic, less stops for tea breaks, excellent average speed) and hit the bed at 9:30 PM but I couldn’t sleep well. But the smartphone promptly woke us up at 2:45 AM, a quick shower and a cup of tea later, we locked the apartment and headed towards the parking lot.

Before stepping into the car, I stood in front of her and offered my prayers. I had not done anything like this before and did not know what was in store for us. But we had hope that things can go well and the faith that the car will not let us down. And with this hope, we got in, fired her up and drove out. In no time, we had hit the beautiful 6-laned NH-8.

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_5448.jpg

Last edited by Gannu_1 : 23rd September 2015 at 14:40.
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Old 4th September 2015, 09:17   #4
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Default re: VW Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 kms, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!

Day 1:

Navsari, GJ to Bagru, RJ

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-day-1-navsari-bagru.png

We departed Navsari at 3:30 AM sharp and were cruising comfortably when it began to pour heavily. Visibility was reduced to some extent. Traffic was limited to some heavy trucks and a few personal vehicles but otherwise the high speed lane was empty. The time was 5:15 AM and we were about to reach the infamous Bharuch-Ankleshwar section where the NH8 bypass road is renowned for the long traffic pileups. I have experienced it in person beforehand and was stuck for 3 hours between 50-60 crawling trucks! It was a painful experience. We were obviously not planning to take this bypass and decided to go through the Golden Bridge instead. There’s another problem with this one! The bridge is very old, very narrow and 2 cars could pass each other leaving very little space between each other. We were crossing the bridge early in the morning and save for a few bikes and some cars, the bridge was nearly empty. We folded the ORVMs and crossed the bridge as soon as we could but pausing and gradually proceeding when we had to cross a car.

We reached Baroda around 6:00 AM and took the 4-laned Halol road towards Godhra, Modasa and Shamlaji. Going by the route feedbacks here, this 4-laned stretch was in good shape and going through the NE-1 expressway to Ahmedabad and towards Himmatnagar would only prolong the time. This was a good decision - the 4-laned roads were in excellent condition, no potholes, minimal trucks and bypassed most of the towns quickly.

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2168.jpg

It was also our 65th Independence Day that day and some of the digital signboards on the tolled roads were indicating the message:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2169.jpg

A sense of patriotism was sinking in as we were crossing this. I wish we had made it to the Kargil War Memorial on this day - the flag hoisting on this day at a special place would have been a sight to behold!

In the meantime, the car hit another milestone - 40000 km was up (after 22 months of ownership):

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2172.jpg

We took a break in between and stretched our legs. Felt really good! My partner had his camera with him and was clicking some of the curious stuff like this:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2175.jpg

The roads on this stretch were just fantastic:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2182.jpg

We had breakfast from a roadside dhaba (Hotel Sarvottam; located before the Modasa toll booth) around 8:45 AM, reached Udaipur before noon and took the Udaipur bypass road - TERRIBLE decision! This was the stretch:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-udaipur-bypass.png

The bypass road is in an extremely pathetic state and we lost close to an hour on this 11 km single-laned stretch ridden with deep potholes and crawling trucks! Sights like these in Rajasthan weren’t uncommon:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2194.jpg

The roads showed some improvement but there were some bad patches:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2193.jpg

We spotted a convoy of trucks hauling parts of wind turbines. Here’s the part of the tower:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2199.jpg

After crossing Udaipur, somewhere between Udaipur and Chittorgarh around 2:30 PM, we paused at a dhaba for lunch. The car had to be parked under the hot sun as there was no covered parking. After the lunch, I decided to take a short power nap for 15 minutes by reclining the seat and opening the windows to let go off the heat built up inside the glasshouse. Woke up, washed the face, had a Perk and left the dhaba. We still had more than 300 km to cover and we wanted to get it done before sundown. The roads at some stretches were bad and due to the rains, water had pooled in the pits.

At one point, we had to cross a huge pit filled with water and not knowing the depth of those, we were a bit scared and decided to follow a truck ahead of us. We waded the water carefully:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2211.jpg

We bypassed Ajmer and took the 6-laned Kishangarh-Jaipur expressway towards Bagru:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2217.jpg

The low fuel warning chimed and we pulled into a fuel pump to refuel. In the meantime, HVK had relayed the co-ordinates of the Hotel to us and the hotel was located just besides the expressway (GMaps - Location). We reached the hotel at Bagru around 7 PM. This was the longest drive I had ever undertaken so far - 882 km in 15 hours. We checked in at the hotel and a nice room with fresh clean linen awaited us:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-wp_20150815_19_13_01_pro.jpg

We had a shower, ate a heavy dinner (prefer light meals during the day and a heavy one for the night) and called it a day. We had to wake up at 4 AM the next day - a long drive awaited us.

Day 2:

Bagru, RJ to Pathankot, PB

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-day-2-bagru-pathankot.png

The alarm woke us up at 4 AM, after a quick shower and packing the bags (we had only taken our backpacks with us to the hotel), checked out from the hotel, tipped the security and hit the road. We had chai (hard to start the day without one!) at a roadside shop just before the Jaipur bypass road and resumed the drive. HVK had advised us that the roads may be bad at certain stretches and cautioned us about the stray cattle being present on the roads and medians.

As soon as we hit the Jaipur bypass road, there was fog all around and visibility was limited to 20-30 m!

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2221.jpg

Spotted this tank being hauled by an army trailer:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2225.jpg

The 4-laned roads were excellent:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2230.jpg

Or so we thought until it converged into a single lane! What a bummer! Oh wait, it didn’t stop there! We drove for a while and there was a detour - some stretches were under expansion and had muddy unfinished roads like this one:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2239.jpg
(Toll! Seriously bro?!)

Fortunately, the condition improved later on although it was a single-laned road:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2241.jpg

There was a level crossing en route and the gates were closed. We took a break as well and caught a glimpse of the diesel loco in the blue-white livery hauling a passenger train:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2269.jpg

Breakfast time! We stopped at the RTDC at Ratangarh but they weren’t exactly open but upon our request, served us some cold sandwiches and tea:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2274.jpg

In the meantime, some random spider is about to have its breakfast as well:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2278.jpg

We resumed our trip and caught the Rajasthan Mega Highway towards Sardarsahar-Hanumangarh. The single-laned road seemed good save for some unmarked speed breakers and bad patches in between:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2291.jpg

But, there was one small area before Rawatsar which was in absolute shambles! There were two 1-foot deep craters on the either side of the road and they were filled with water thanks to the downpour, which masked them completely from the road users. Someone had kept the barriers inside the pits and they were partially submerged:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2294.jpg

We had an Elite i20 ahead of us which well, I’ll let this dashcam capture do the honours:



After this happened, we parked the car by the side of the road (from where the snap above was clicked) and chose to warn some of the vehicles. Left the scene after 10 minutes.

Overloaded seems to be an understatement!

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2283.jpg

We were about to cross the Rajasthan-Punjab border. My car was about to enter a new state - Punjab! Instead of taking the Bathinda-Moga-Jalandhar route, we opted for Abohar-Fazilka-Ferozepur route:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2298.jpg

We had lunch at a dhaba at Abohar (tandoori roti and shahi paneer), I took a power nap in one of the charpoys laid outside the dhaba while Moorthy went to the lush green paddy fields situated behind the dhaba. There was a pump driven by a diesel engine (creating a racket!) pumping water from a nallah nearby. Reminiscing the good memories from his childhood for a while, he washed his face, got freshened up and we left.

At Fazilka, we were driving on a road located less than 10 km from the India-Pakistan border. The route to Abohar was scenic with the trees creating a natural tunnel:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2305.jpg

The Ferozepur-Zira-Taran Taran-Amritsar single-laned stretch was ridiculously busy and we lost out on the average speed badly. Ever since we left Jaipur, we were on a single-laned road for the entire day and man, I hate these single-laned roads! We finally bypassed Amritsar to Pathankot via Gurdaspur and this was a kickass 4-laned toll road! Felt really relieved, we paused by the side of the road for a stretch-break:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2317.jpg

We refueled at a pump located besides the toll road, cruised comfortably at 80-85 kmph, reached Pathankot around 7:30 PM and checked in at Hotel Venice Republic Resort (Gmaps Location). We had covered 825 km in 15 hours - it sure was a hectic day! The AC room was decent (bathroom was clean/hygienic), we ate dinner (was bad) and crashed. We had to wake up at 4 AM the next day.

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Default re: VW Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 kms, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!

Day 3:

Pathankot, PB to Srinagar, JK

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-day-3-pathankot-srinagar.png

We woke up at 4 AM and checked out at 4:30 AM. We had already entered into J&K, another new state (for my car and I, both!). We had tea by a roadside shop just before the Lakhanpur toll booth:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2319.jpg

We were told that from Udhampur until Anantnag, we could expect some traffic due to the Amarnath pilgrimage trips and on some of the days, the roads were temporarily blocked permitting one way traffic. But the roads until Udhampur were fantastic - a 4-laned toll road with beautiful smooth tarmac and minimal traffic during the early morn:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2334.jpg

We had begun the ascend towards Srinagar gradually. There were a few tunnels en route:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2342.jpg

We had reached Udhampur around 7 AM and fortunately, the roads have been good so far and so was the traffic. Our destination was a good 220 km away:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2356.jpg

We paused for a stretch break somewhere en route and spotted a dried up river down below:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2361.jpg

At a checkpost, a gentleman from 52 RCC of BRO requested for a lift until Patnitop. We obliged despite the rear bench being packed. Pushed the luggage to a corner to make space for him and we drove towards Patnitop. He turned out to be a very nice guy - originally from WB but posted in several parts of India over the years. He shared a lot of stories with us. We had breakfast (aloo parathas and curd) at a local dhaba at Kud and pushed forth.

He also showed us the entrance of the Patnitop tunnel whose construction is underway and this 9 km tunnel supposedly reduces the total distance by 31 km bypassing Patnitop entirely while avoiding the avalanche prone areas:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2385.jpg

We dropped the gentleman at BRO’s office at Batote and pushed ahead. The next pitstop was Banihal. I was experiencing a slight headache and driving under the harsh sunlight was worsening it. We paused by a dhaba for a cup of tea, I popped in half a tablet of paracetamol from our first aid kit and we pushed. I felt a lot better! Unforunately, Banihal’s JKTDC did not have any restaurant, we saw that a few rooms had caught fire and were in shambles. We decided to try our luck at Qazigund and pushed forward.

We were approaching Jawahar Tunnel in sometime and there was a J&K police check-post ahead of us and 2 cops guarding the checkpost requested us to pull over. We park the car after the check-post and the conversation goes like this:

[Cop 1]: Where are you guys going to?
[Me]: Srinagar Sir. We are headed to Leh.

[Cop 1]: Please open the boot. We need to check your car and the contents inside.
[Me]: Sure Sir. (Opens the boot.)

[Cop 1]: What’s inside this trolley bag? Please open it. And these boxes? (pointing at the food, tool and first-aid boxes)
[Me]: Sir, those boxes have food items and tools for our journey, just in case there’s an emergency during the trip. The trolleys have our clothes. (Takes out the trolley bag from the boot, lays it on the ground and opens it)

In the meantime, another cop comes to the scene. Appears to be his superior.

[Cop 2]: Who are these guys? What’s your name? Where are you coming from? (Curiously looks at the GJ 05 registration of the car.)
[Me]: Sir, Ganesh and Moorthy. We are from Surat, Gujarat. Basically from Kerala and Tamilnadu but working in Surat for the last 7 years.

[Cop 2]: Oh nice! Where do you work?
[Me]: Sir, L&T - Larsen & Toubro.

[Cop 2]: (Pleasantly surprised! Looking at the other cop who had asked us to get the things out) Why have you stopped them? Let them go. Sir, extremely sorry for this. Regret the inconvenience. You may go. You should have told us you were working for L&T before.
[Me]: Not at all a problem Sir. It’s your duty and we are bound to respect that and comply.

[Cop 2]: Really sorry for the inconvenience Sir.
[Me]: No problem Sir. Have a good day!

We bid them bye and left the check-post wondering what the hell just happened!

The Jawahar tunnel came up shortly:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2398.jpg

The 2.85 km tunnel dates back to 1956 when it was opened for regular traffic. Ventilated and artificially lit:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2403.jpg

The Titanic view point came up and we paused for a break. We decided to skip lunch and ate some Perk bars and drank water instead (not a substitute for a proper lunch but decided to make do with this for now).

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0743.jpg

The view of the Kashmir valley was breathtaking!

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0740.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2422.jpg

Spotted this armored personnel carrier from the Indian Army:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0749.jpg

We crossed Anantnag and reached Awantipora. Srinagar was 32 km away and the road condition deteriorated. And so did the traffic - reckless taxi drivers and trucks:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0751.jpg

We reached Hotel Malik Palace (Gmaps Location) by 4 PM:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0762.jpg

Fantastic location for a hotel - there’s a Cafť Coffee Day outlet inside the compound, the Dal Lake is in the front and there were shikaras berthed:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0766.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2428.jpg

There were some house boats berthed on the opposite shore:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0769.jpg

We were damn hungry since we had skipped lunch so decided to have a sumptuous meal from a restaurant nearby (tandoori rotis, chicken curry). We took a nap after that.

We woke up around 7 PM. We decided to get a few shawls as souvenirs for our bosses (who had let us go on the trip) and a few embroidered salwar materials for my wife, mum and sister from Srinagar. We were told that Srinagar had some really good stuff in the offing. We had no clue where to go - Google was throwing up different results. I WhatsApp'd D-BHPian Parag and he referred to a friend of his from J&K who in turn, had referred to another friend of his who stays in Srinagar. He had passed on the contact details. His name was Mohsin and he introduced himself as a cop working with J&K police. We called him up and after half an hour, he had come in a car with his friend Adil, who had us picked up from a location close to the hotel. They took us to a shop that retails authentic shawls, stoles, Kashmiri salwars etc. We selected a few within 30 mins (I dread to think how long the ladies would take!), they bargained the final price with the shopkeeper, had some chai in the meantime and we left. Since we ate a late lunch, we didn't feel like having a dinner but our hosts insisted and took us to a restaurant which served some amazing Rohu fish fry, tandoori roti and spicy chicken curry. I must admit, we felt bad we had a late lunch for we couldn't have much for the dinner as our tummies were full. I would have devoured the whole thing otherwise - tasted lip-smackin' good! We then spoke for a while and they dropped us at our hotel. We clicked a customary snap:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0760.jpg
(L to R - Adil, Moorthy, me and Mohsin)

Really nice guys. Warm, extremely friendly and amazing hospitality extended - something we never expected from complete strangers! We thanked them profusely for the help extended, went to our room and called it a day. The next day was when the first test of terrain awaited us - the Zoji La!

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Default re: VW Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 kms, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!

Day 4:

Srinagar to Kargil

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-day-4-srinagar-kargil.png

We woke up at 6 AM, had a quick shower and just when we were about to leave, we figured out we didn't have any change to pay the watchman for washing the car. We wandered around in search of any ATMs, found none and wasted close to half-an-hour. In the meantime, the watchman woke up some acquaintance of his from a nearby hotel, got the change, we paid him and left the hotel.

At the outskirts of Srinagar, we filled fuel from a pump (luckily they were accepting credit cards!) and we stopped at a dhaba just before the first river crossing for our breakfast - aloo paratha and curd. Unlike the parathas we've had before, this one tasted a lot better but we were getting bored of having the parathas over and over! We also met a Dutch couple who were riding a Bullet towards Leh, spoke for a while, popped in our first Diamox tablet (keeping our fingers crossed!), drank water and left the dhaba. The bridge permitted only one vehicle at a time and had metal sheets laid on the framework:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0770.jpg

Our destination for the day was a good 175 km away. The single-laned road was in good shape and the view of the mountains adorned with the pine trees, the clear blue skies and the valleys below plastered a picturesque view:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0778.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0780.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0790.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0791.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0792.jpg

We reached Sonamarg around 10:15 AM. And were pleasantly surprised to find the road towards Kargil empty and there was no blockage due to the oncoming army vehicles! We pushed forth. The roads were good, we were enjoying the drive and the scenic beauty of the valleys nearby when suddenly a hairpin bend towards the left arrived and the tarmac road ended for good! The ascend to the dreaded Zoji La had begun:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0793.jpg

There were no roads to speak of - just a path carved out of the mountain filled with rocks of various sizes and the water streams. The slopes became steeper as we progressed and the path became harder to navigate with potholes everywhere. Vehicles constantly passing through this route had made a trail and we were following it. Fortunately for us, the weather was dry and there were no rains over the last few days so there was no slush anywhere on the route. Therefore, traction was not an issue. We would however encounter an army truck or a JKSTC bus from the other side so we had to wait to let them pass as the path was very narrow. Riders on Bullets, SUVs and Innova taxis were happily cruising their way through this route - it was only the poor hatchback users such as us who had to slow down and navigate.

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0796.jpg

This clip (4x playback speed; removed unwanted bits) should give you a rough idea of the whole Zoji La stretch:



Finally after an hour and a half of a gruelling slow-paced drive, we had finally crossed the treacherous Zoji La! We were really tensed from the start of the day not knowing what were the things that lay ahead of us - road blocks, landslides, water crossings, slushy stretches and what not. It felt really good knowing that one hardship finally lay behind us. There were several more in store but we'll get to them eventually. For now, we stopped the car by the side of the road before the famous BRO sign welcoming the travelers on this route, clicked a few snaps:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2444.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0809.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0807.jpg

We were steadily ascending the mountain:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0811.jpg

The roads thereafter improved although some bad stretches could still be encountered. At some areas, it was paved with interlocking tiles whereas at some stretches there was smooth tarmac which appeared to have been freshly laid.

Shepherds with their herds could often be found in these areas:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0820.jpg

We had a pleasant drive and the XUV 5OO Zoom car with whom we had waved hands before, overtook us and requested us to pull over for a cup of tea at Cafe Gumri, an army operated cafe. The cafe served hot tea, momos and samosas.

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0816.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0815.jpg

The Zojila War Memorial - a small memorial dedicated to some of our fallen soldiers during the 1947-48 war, was located bang opposite to this cafe.

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0818.jpg

At some of the areas, BRO was at work improving the roads:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0824.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0822.jpg

Further ahead, we came across the first checkpost on this route courtesy Kargil Development Authority:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0827.jpg

A J&K cop who was in charge noted down our details. We didn't have to submit any forms here. We pushed forth. The valley of Drass lay ahead and the imposing Tololing mountains overlooking the valley could be seen.

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2449.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2450.jpg

We reached the Drass War Memorial located at the foothills of the Tololing mountains and stopped by:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2456.jpg

The War Memorial was built by the Indian Army to pay homage to the martyrs who had laid down their lives during the Kargil War of 1999 while protecting our country against the Pakistani intruders and to commemorate our victory of Operation Vijay. The memorial made of sandstone in the backdrop of the Tololing Range has the names of all the martyrs inscribed on a golden metallic plate and a HUGE Indian flag gently fluttering in the breeze. We paid our homage for the fallen soldiers. Had it not been for them, perhaps we would not be alive today.

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2459.jpg

The MiG-21 (as per articles from the internet) which was installed in the year 2014:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2454.jpg

The memorial ground Vir Bhumi with the symbolic cemeteries for the fallen soldiers can be seen in the background:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0843.jpg

The Memorial also houses a gallery - Manoj Pandey Gallery named after Capt. Manoj Pandey who was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra, India's highest military honour for his valour and dedication during the war while sacrificing his life in the line of duty. The gallery showcases the photographs of the operation during the war, the weapons used by our infantry, the ones we had also captured from the Pakistani troupes etc.

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2480.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0846.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0841.jpg

There was a cafeteria attached to the war memorial and we had a couple of veg. rolls as a substitute for lunch. It was scorching hot as well and we gulped down a lot of water to avoid getting dehydrated. Our car had become a greenhouse with the hot air trapped inside! We rolled down the windows, reduced the climatronic's temperature, increased the blower speed to the maximum and left for Kargil - our stop for the day.

We reached Hotel D'Zojila (GMaps Location) around 5 PM. The hotel had a small parking lot and we managed to find a place for parking our car. It has a good restaurant that offers buffet as well as a la carte meals (both veg and non-veg). After a short nap, we had our dinner from the restaurant while Moorthy headed to the terrace to click some shots of the star-studded sky and the Milky Way:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2493.jpg
(Don't miss the shooting star!)

We had a very peaceful sleep having done Zoji La and the roads ahead were told to be a lot better. Next day, our destination awaits - Leh!

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Default re: VW Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 kms, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!

Day 5:

Kargil to Leh

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-day-5-kargil-leh.png

We woke up around 7 AM, had a shower, packed our bags, stored them in the car and headed to the restaurant for the breakfast. We settled the bill and was about to leave when one of the bellboys hurriedly came towards us and handed over my DSLR bag! Oh boy! Note to myself - double check all the belongings before leaving the room. We tipped the bellboy generously and left the hotel.

There were several attractions on the route from Kargil to Leh and we had plenty of time at our disposal so we drove at a very leisurely pace.

The varying terrains looked beautiful from a distance:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0853.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0854.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2516.jpg

We began ascending once again and there were a few high passes on this route as well.

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2520.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2521.jpg

We came across the Mulbekh Monastery, a km from Mulbekh which had the Maitreya Buddha carved into a rock:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0857.jpg

As per the information provided on the board there, the carving dates back to the 8th century. The monastery at the base was built much recently (1970) along with a prayer wheel:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0858.jpg

We pushed forth. Although the car was not in its best shape owing to the drive yesterday over the rocky and dusty terrains, I couldn't help but click a snap with our trusty ride for the trip:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0860.jpg

In less than 90 minutes from our start, we had reached Namika La:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0865.jpg

Located at an altitude of 12198 ft (I am beginning to doubt BRO's claims about the altitudes; there is a lot of disparity from what they claim and what is the reality), this is one of the two high passes in the Srinagar-Leh highway:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0866.jpg

The prayer flags fluttering in the subtle breeze and the silence is something that needs to be experienced. It's a one-of-a-kind feeling:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0867.jpg

We pushed forth. The roads were fantastic - no complaints. In the meantime, we spot a few cyclists on this route and one gentleman waved his hands which seemed like he wanted some help. The poor guy had ran out of water and we poured some from our bottle into his. Despite asking him to take a few more bottles, he denied since there was no way he could store them in his bike nor did he want to lug additional weight. He was from Patan, Gujarat and noticed the GJ registration of our car.

An hour later, we arrive at Fotu La. The highest point in the Srinagar-Leh highway, it is located at an altitude of 13,479 ft:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0876.jpg

There is a Prasar Bharti television relay station located here:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0879.jpg

Looking back at the roads we had traveled through:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0881.jpg

Somehow my watch reports a different altitude (operates on the atmospheric pressure at that region) at Fotu La:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0884.jpg

After Fotu La, the highway descends towards Lamayuru and we reached there in less than 30 minutes:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2528.jpg

This is one of the largest and the oldest monasteries in the Ladakh region and dates back to the 11th century:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0887.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2531.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0892.jpg

The famous moonland of Lamayuru as viewed from the monastery:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0889.jpg

The monastery entrance is a slight detour from the main path. We had an early lunch at the restaurant here and had some delicious veg. momos - our first in this trip! Then we started to Leh.

We reach a point where the confluence of the Indus and Zanskar rivers are seen from a great height:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2536.jpg

The rafting equipment can be seen at the building below.

Oh and here's how I navigate the bad stretches :

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0849.jpg

We push ahead and came across this empty straight stretch of road:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0893.jpg

Further ahead, we stopped at the Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, a gurudwara sahib contructed in memory of Guru Nanak and possibly the one to be located at the highest altitude. The story behind the pathar (rock) is quite interesting:

Quote:
In the late 1970s, during the construction of the Leh-Nimu road, a large boulder was found by Lamas in the middle of the road bed covered with Buddhists prayer flags. The boulder was covered with Buddhist prayer flags, the type of flags that are often found, strung by Buddhist Lamas, along mountain ridges and peaks high in the Himalayas to bless the surrounding countryside.

The bulldozer driver tried to push the huge stone to the side, but it refused to move. Gunning the engine he pushed the powerful machine to its limits, but the boulder refused to give way. Suddenly, with a large snap, the blade broke and the work stopped. That night the driver had a dream in which a voice told him not to move the stone.

In the morning he narrated his dream to one of the army officers who guard the mountain passes of Ladakh. The soldier told him, not to give any importance to the dream. When all efforts to remove the boulder had failed, it was decided to blow it apart with dynamite the next day. That night the army officer also had a dream not to remove the stone. He too decided the dream should be ignored, but early that morning, being Sunday, he and the workers were visited by several Lamas and other Ladhakhis who came to tell them the story of a Holy Saint they called Nanak Lama and the unyielding boulder.
Source: Sikhiwiki

We clicked a snap from the entrance:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0899.jpg

The person guarding the innards gave us some sweet which was kept warm inside an electric cooker - tasted really nice! We wanted to visit the Golden Temple (I've been there twice but my partner hasn't) during our trip but gave up due to the schedule. At least, we had to visit this one given the fact that it was located on the main route without any detours.

Unfortunately, we crossed Magnetic Hill and did not notice the board which was present before informing the tourists of the spot. We were told that the army had it removed since many people were blocking the road with the vehicles impairing the traffic movement. But the only clue we got was some Magneto Cafe located by the side of the road and the carving on the mountain to the right. We didn't personally bother hunting for the spot and testing the magnetic abilities. We pushed towards Leh and finally, the much awaited sign!

Welcome to Leh!

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0903.jpg

Our destination had finally arrived after 5 days of travel and almost 2500 km! HVK's team had relayed the co-ordinates of our hotel along with the contact details. We reached the Shanti Stupa road and called the concerned person. Mr. Dorjay, the owner of the hotel had come to the entry of the by-lane in his Bullet and helped us with the way to the hotel. Turns out, it was located in the interior and there was no way we could have figured it out ourselves! And it turned out to be a homestay (GMaps Location) to our surprise and we were given a very warm reception and he quickly served us with tea and biscuits at the outhouse located outside the main building. We were chatting about the place and a whole lot of other things. He turned out to be a very nice guy.

After almost an hour, we moved our luggage inside the room alloted to us. The room was pretty basic - no TV (who needs a TV here of all places!), limited electric sockets (the spike protector to the rescue!) and had 24x7 hot water (we're set!).

Food was prepared by his wife who is a teacher in a primary school nearby while he attends to the travelers who stay here during the day. We took a short nap and decided to get a glimpse of the Shanti Stupa in the night:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0911.jpg

The Shanti Stupa was looking magnificent in the night lit up from all the directions and there was some crowd here. Mr Dorjay was kind enough to send his son along with us to the Stupa.

Leh at night from atop the Shanti Stupa:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0916.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0920.jpg

We left for the homestay after spending some time here, ate a nice homely dinner after a long time (roti, dal, rice, cabbage fry, curd, pappad, salad), kept our devices for charging and called it a day! Boy, we haven't had a more peaceful sleep in ages!

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Day 6:

In and around Leh

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-day-6-leh-around.png

After a sound sleep, we woke up late around 8 AM, had a hot shower, ate the breakfast (served in our room) and got ready to leave. The car was parked in the compound and the ambient temperature at 9 AM read 7 ‘C!

Inserted the key and cranked for a few seconds - the engine refused to start! Yikes, that was a first for me! For one, the ambient temperature has never got to this low a value ever and two, the car has always cranked within a second of turning the key. But the second time I turned the key, the engine fired up with a rattle leaving a thick cloud of white smoke through the exhaust and the tachometer needle was hovering around the 1200 rpm mark when the norm was 800 rpm! Nervous, I called up D-BHPian Parag and he confirmed this was quite normal for diesel vehicles due to low oxygen levels at these high altitudes and it is best to let the glow plugs remain ON for a couple of minutes before starting the engine. Anyways, off we go.

The first POI was Shey Monastery. The monastery and the attached palace (now in ruins) was built during the 17th century.

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0928.jpg

The monastery houses a Buddha statue made out of copper, which is 12 m tall (as per internet reports) and occupies 3 floors of the monastery with the top-most floor (where the head is seen) accessible to the tourists.

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0933.jpg

The monastery also has a library located in the lower storey of the gompa. The walls inside the monastery complex are decorated with colorful murals of the Buddha depicting various stages of his life. Here’s another view of the monastery from afar:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0937.jpg

The ‘Wheel of Life’ or Bhavacakra depicted as a mural:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2578.jpg

A view of Leh from atop the Shey monastery:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2569.jpg

After spending close to an hour within the Shey Monastery, we pushed to Thiksey Monastery. We were doing monastery-hopping for the day.

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0946.jpg

Thiksey Monastery was built during the 15th century and houses a 15 m statue of Maitreya Buddha which was built during 1970 to commemorate the visit of the Dalai Lama to this monastery:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0944.jpg

Here’s another view of the Thiksey monastery from the approach road:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0948.jpg

The monastery houses a souvenir shop at the bottom along with a cafť. We spent more than an hour here and left for the next POI - Hemis Monastery.

Now this was the disaster-of-the-day! Read on. Unlike the Shey and Thiksey monasteries which are located besides the main highway on the Leh-Manali road, the Hemis Monastery OTOH is located 7 km to the interior of the Leh-Manali highway:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-hemis-map.png

The road isn’t the best and it’s a narrow one. We managed to reach Hemis after almost half an hour since we took the diversion, parked the car and we start climbing the stairs missing out on the board which directs to the monastery! We had a bottle of water with us and our respective cameras. We keep walking and noticed a bunch of foreign tourists further ahead. The stairs now come to an end with the path ahead being a rocky one on a steep incline and those foreign tourists vanished! We walked for another 600 m scratching our heads and without a sight of the monastery anywhere we decided to stop this trek! We were too tired and exhausted completely. The issue is, on a high altitude due to the lack of oxygen, we quickly get exhausted when we climb an incline or a flight of stairs. We decided to walk back and have some lunch from the restaurant near the parking space. And as we walked back, we noticed a board kept at an unusual location which pointed towards the monastery - what a bummer! But where does that path lead to?

Quote:
A pleasant 3 Km walk, on the side of the mountain above the monastery, there is a sacred hermitage founded by the great Gyalwa Kotsang where in the cave, his foot-print and hand-print on the rock is available for visit. This Kotsang is an old hermitage, which was founded many years before the Hemis Monastery.
Source - LAHDC

Either way, we were too tired and headed to the restaurant for lunch. To make matters worse, they took 45 minutes to serve our order. A bunch of tables were occupied by a large group of foreign tourists and they were getting preferential treatment (quite naturally; their bill was bound to be a lot more than ours!). Infuriated, we were about to leave the place when the waiter got our food. We ate the lunch and left Hemis for our homestay. Here's a parting click while we were climbing the incline:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2596.jpg

We reached Leh within an hour and were hunting for a garage that could wash our car and clean the air filter as we were to leave for Nubra Valley the next day. But Leh was facing an acute power outage over the last few days owing to sand entering the turbines (as told to us by the localites). Everyone were running on backup power from generators. Most garages were closed. We approached the authorized Maruti Suzuki service center and they denied touching the car since it wasn’t a Maruti. The Hyundai service center was closed with only the watchman guarding the gate. We went to our homestay and requested help from the owner.

He dialed a few contacts and found one operational, located far off at Choglamsar village. We drove to the garage and there were a few Innovas getting washed. He had a compressor operating off a generator and was doing a pressure wash. We got the air filter cleaned in the meantime. By the time our car went above the ramp, it was beyond 8 PM. We took the LED torch from our toolkit while the owner of the garage and the helper washed the car. They did a thorough wash - the wheel wells were shining, all the dirt and loose grime had come off. We handed them the microfiber towels we had carried along, they wiped the car dry and we paid them Rs. 300 although they had asked for Rs. 200. We felt they did a good effort cleaning the car despite being dark.

We drove back home, ate our dinner, packed the bags, loaded the car with the luggage and called it a day. We had an even treacherous route awaiting us tomorrow - Khardung La towards Diskit and Nubra Valley! *fingers and toes crossed*

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Day 7:

Leh to Nubra Valley

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-day-7-leh-nubra-valley.png

We woke up at 6 AM, had a shower and we set off for Nubra Valley at 7 AM sharp. Just as expected, the engine failed to start on the first crank. A second turn of the key and she fired up! Once we left Leh, the road began ascending gradually. The Shanti Stupa visible from a great deal of distance started becoming a miniscule object when viewed from the roads. The first pitstop was at the South Pullu checkpost wherein we handed over the self-declaration form and had our breakfast from the WET Canteen slightly ahead of the checkpost.

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_20150821_091811.jpg

We had some Yipee noodles (ever since Maggi was banned, there were very few places that stocked it) and tea, and began the climb towards Khardung La. The climb was grueling as the roads began deteriorating, there were occasional water crossings filled with huge boulders, tourist taxis were being driven extremely rashly without caring for other private vehicles (they seldom bother giving way or stopping at a narrow pathway) and sometimes, trucks crawling.

Somewhere en route, we were able to catch a glimpse of the mighty Karakoram range:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2602.jpg

Here’s how the route looks from a distance:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0951.jpg

(The Karakoram range can be seen to the right)

After 3 hours and 30 minutes from Leh, we finally scaled Khardung La:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0956.jpg

Man, it felt out of the world having driven my car all the way up here with the help of my buddy. We badly wanted to click a snap with the car in front of the famous BRO sign but the whole place was thronging with people and we patiently waited for almost 20 minutes to get a decent click.

Here’s Moorthy posing in front of the sign:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0958.jpg

A 12 minute dashcam capture of the ascend (playback speed 4x, unwanted bits edited out):



This was the highest altitude we had climbed so far and we didn’t want to risk our health (altitude sickness) so we began the descend from Khardung La towards the North Pullu checkpost. The frost clad mountains and water dripping from the icicles could be observed as we left Khardung La.

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0960.jpg

We crossed the North Pullu checkpost within an hour and submitted the self-declaration form at the checkpost. Further ahead, we reached the Khardung village and took a stretch break near a cafeteria. We noticed an Innova taxi with a fake LTD sticker on the boot:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0962.jpg
(Should be the other way round rather - Drive to Live!)

After the North Pullu checkpost, the roads had become significantly better. There was one stretch as we approached Diskit which was affected by the floods which had happened during early-July and the small stretch was filled with sand. I was worried if my car tires would get sufficient traction to move forward but fortunately there were no issues and we pulled through.

Further ahead as we were approaching the Panamik/Turtuk junction, we were stopped at a checkpost and asked to pay a nominal fee for the entry into Karakoram Wildlife Sanctuary. Moving further from the checkpost, we reached the junction and had lunch from the lone canteen here. It was egg paratha and tasted pretty good. The person who was guarding the checkpost insisted us to have this delicacy from here and I must say, he was spot on! Both of us loved the parathas.

A short drive later, we reached Sand Dune Hotel (GMaps Location) and checked in. We had some tea and took a short nap. We had plenty of time in the evening so decided to check out the Diskit Gompa and the sand dunes further ahead.

Oh and here's the Aquafina bottle after descending Khardung La:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0970.jpg
(You would have noticed something similar when you descend a flight)

We woke up around 5 PM, freshened up and drove towards the Diskit Gompa. Nope, we weren’t done with the monasteries yet! The monastery is located atop a hill overlooking the lush green Nubra valley:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0993.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0976.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2616.jpg

Adjacent to the monastery is the statue of Maitreya Buddha:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0986.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0988.jpg

The giant colorful Buddha statue, built atop a separate hill faces down the Shyok river. The car can be driven to the base of statue through a winding road:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0972.jpg

The hill-top offers a magnificent view of the Nubra valley:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2625.jpg

Once we were done with the monastery, we drove towards the sand dunes of Hunder. It’s a straight road with no diversions and located 10 km from the monastery:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2628.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2630.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2631.jpg

The double-humped Bactrian camel can also be spotted in these areas. Wiki classifies them as a critically endangered species.

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1006.jpg

The double-humped camel also happens to be one of the three distinct animal species we were spotting for the first time during this trip. The other two will follow in due course.

We also came across the now defunct fuel pump (possibly washed out due to the floods that happened in this area):

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_0997.jpg

We had more than half a tank of fuel remaining so there was no need to worry. We drove back to our hotel, ate a nice dinner and called it a day. We had a long drive for the next day covering 2 high passes - the Pangong Tso lake through Khardung La to Leh and Tangtse via Chang La. This was about to get challenging!

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Day 8:

Nubra Valley to Pangong Tso

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-day-8-nubra-valley-pangong-tso.png

While the original plan was to reach Leh by afternoon, do some shopping from the local market, call it a day and leave for Pangong Tso the next day, we decided to head to Pangong Tso directly from Nubra Valley after a refuel pit-stop from Leh. We will have to scale Khardung La, descend to South Pullu, reach Leh, take the Leh-Manali route, take a detour at Karu and scale Chang La, (thatís two high mountain passes in a day!) and then descend towards Tangtse. We woke up at 6 AM, had a shower and a cup of tea, met Mr. Dinesh - the owner of the hotel, thanked him for the courtesy extended and left.

A parting shot of the Nubra Valley:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1012.jpg

There was no traffic until we reached Khardung village quickly cruising through without much hassles. Navigating the road was also simpler this time since we knew where we had faced the hassles. We reached the North Pullu checkpost within 90 minutes and had our breakfast - a bowl of hot Maggi noodles and tea. We didnít have to submit the self-declaration form at the N. Pullu checkpost - the cop noted down the details in the register.

We began the climb to Khardung La:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1022.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1023.jpg

Whilst climbing the ascend, we came across a KL registered Fortuner with a 4-member Infosys team from Trivandrum. Exchanged pleasantries and clicked a couple of snaps:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1024.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1027.jpg

And while we were climbing towards Khardung La, the temperatures dropped and the MID of my carís instrument cluster threw a low ambient temperature warning and the elusive snowflake symbol:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1028.jpg

We crossed Khardung La and began the descend towards Leh. The return journey was very pleasant compared to our onward trip and save for a few tourist taxis, there wasnít much traffic on the route. Perhaps we got lucky! We reached the South Pullu checkpost by 10:30 AM and had a cup of tea from the WET Canteen. The entry in the register was made and we left for Leh.

We reached Leh at 12 PM, refueled at the IOCL fuel pump at the main roundabout and caught the Leh-Manali highway for Tangtse. By the time we reached Karu for lunch, Leh was getting covered in dark clouds, it was pouring and we were losing our hopes of catching a good glimpse of the Pangong lake. What concerned us more was slush formation on the route which would affect our journey. We pushed forth regardless and fortunately, the rains receded after a while.

We began to ascend Chang La and paused somewhere in between for some snaps:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1030.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1036.jpg

With the help of a zoom lens, we captured some snaps of the snowcapped mountains as well:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2639.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2640.jpg

The route to Chang La was in bad shape - similar to that of the Khardung La route but less treacherous in terms of the boulders on the dry water crossings, inclines to be climbed etc. We reached Chang La around 3:30 PM, it was very cold and we paused for a short break near the cafeteria:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1038.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1039.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1040.jpg

We were about to reach Tangtse and the roads improved. Spotted this sign from BRO en route:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1043.jpg
(Life is indeed a beautiful journey and we hold the map to it.)

The time was 5 PM and instead of checking in at the hotel, we decided to go to Pangong lake directly. There were no clouds luckily and by the time we reach the lake, it would take another hour and the sun would begin to set. The forecast for the next day indicated cloudy and chances of rain so we didnít want to risk it.

We spotted the marmot, a species of large squirrels native to the mountainous regions:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1045.jpg

Such a cute and adorable little thing! We wanted to play with them and take some more snaps but there were signs installed by the roadside which insisted the tourists and travelers not to feed them. And besides, time was running short! This was the second creature on this trip we were spotting for the first time! The third and last one would come up shortly.

We crossed the Pagal Nullah, what used to be a nightmare for the travelers once upon a time. Thereís a bridge over the water crossing now. There is one bad stretch across this route and we had to maneuver carefully avoiding the boulders. And finally, we come across the famous BRO signboard:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1049.jpg

4 km still remain and after 20 minutes, we finally reach the Pangong Lake:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1054.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_2661.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1072.jpg

It was 6:30 PM and it was gradually getting dark. Hereís a panorama shot I managed from my smartphone:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-wp_20150822_18_30_21_panorama.jpg

I must say, the snaps do not do any justice to the beauty of the lake and the landscape. The tranquil, azure blue waters of the lake must be experienced in person. A vast majority of the lake lies in Tibet whereas a small portion is in India. During the winters, the lake freezes completely. A colleague-friend of mine was lucky to have walked across the frozen river when he had visited Leh during the winter. We also noticed a route besides the lake deliberately cut off from the main route to discourage tourists from taking their rides close to the lake.

We had tea from one of the cafeterias near the lake and noticed private tents owned by these cafeterias which are rented out to the tourists. By the time we packed up from the lake, it was dark and began pouring. It was just us on the lonely road back to Tangtse. We reached Hotel Pangong Residency (GMaps Location) around 8 PM, checked in, had our dinner and crashed. We were tired from what was arguably the most tiring drive weíve had so far!

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Default re: VW Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 kms, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!

Day 9:

Tangtse to Leh

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-day-9-tangtse-leh.png

I woke up around 7:00 AM (damn it was freaking cold when I stepped out of the bed!), walked to the restaurant and requested for a cup of tea. They obliged and prepared one quickly. Had a quick shower later, breakfast (bread toasts and omelets for a change!), settled the bill, thanked the hotel owner for the hospitality he and his 3-men team had shown towards us and departed for Leh. But before we left, while we were having breakfast at the restaurant, I happened to notice the images on the walls and pillars of the restaurant:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-wp_20150823_07_39_21_pro.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-wp_20150823_07_39_44_pro.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-wp_20150823_07_40_10_pro.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-wp_20150823_07_40_37_pro.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-wp_20150823_07_40_52_pro.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-wp_20150823_07_49_57_pro.jpg

Turns out, these were painstakingly done by an individual! The owner confirmed, he took approximately one month to complete the entire restaurant which had more than a dozen of these paintings depicting Buddhist folklores. Hard to believe they were paintings - looked surreal! Btw this was the hotel from the outside:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_20150823_081101.jpg

We assumed this was going to be an uneventful drive since most of the locations we wanted to visit in Leh were over but we were pleasantly surprised when it snowed heavily during our return and the mountains were filled with snow. Loads of it! And we were witnessing snowfall for our first time in our life so it made us all the more glad. We stopped the car and went click-happy with the cameras:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1090.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1092.jpg

Temperatures started to drop as we were climbing Chang La:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1089.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1091.jpg
0 degree C pretty please?

There was little to no traffic on the route and we were taking it real slow to enjoy the drive back. Not sure if being a Sunday, it was any different for the tourists or the people here. But we sure took our time, stopping frequently and clicking away:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1094.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1095.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1097.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1098.jpg

And finally, we came across a Yak on the road:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1099.jpg
(Click is a bit out of focus. Had clicked it from inside the car through the windshield)

Just look at that dense coat of hair! This was the last of the three new animals we had spotted during this trip.

And finally, the MID of the cluster showed 0 'C!
Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1104.jpg

We reached Leh for lunch and we wanted to taste Tibetan food one last time before we left Leh for good. There was an authentic Tibetan restaurant at the junction close to our homestay at Changspa Road (the name is Rice Bowl IIRC) and we decided to walk to the restaurant after parking the car at our homestay. We had some Thukpa (Tibetan soup) and chicken momos.

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-wp_20150823_13_13_35_pro.jpg

We got back to our homestay, had a nap and did some shopping - embroidered tees, some bracelets for the wife from the refugee camps etc. Got back to the room before it was dark, settled the bills, had our dinner, loaded the car with a crate of water bottles and our luggage, and clicked a snap with the owner of the homestay Mr Dorjay, his wife and their son for the amazing hospitality they had shown towards us during our stay:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1106.jpg

We called it a day. Had to wake up at 3 AM for a 4 AM start towards Keylong the next day! It sure was going to be the most testing terrain for the car tomorrow with the water crossings at Sarchu and Killing Sarai being reported as hard hitting. Hard to believe our trip had officially come to an end and we were about to head back home. :(

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Default re: VW Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 kms, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!

Day 10:

Leh, J&K to Keylong, HP

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-day-10-leh-keylong.png

We woke up at 3 AM, had a quick hot shower and started our return journey at 4:00 AM sharp and crawled until we reached the highway so as to get the engine heated up. The roads were good until we reached Upshi but got bad after that. Then it eventually got better as we began the ascend towards Taglang La. By better, I mean it was a completely paved tarmac! And it started snowing:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1108.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1110.jpg

The temperatures dropped and the MID recorded - 2.0 ĎC:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1111.jpg

We reached Taglang La (altitiude 17480 ft) around 6:30 AM after a slow and steady climb:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1112.jpg

Hard to believe that was one among the highest passes we had scaled! Sometime later, we paused for a stretch break and parked the car by the side of the road:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1113.jpg

After the descend from Taglang La towards Debring, the tarmac gave way to unfinished muddy roads and worse, they were covered in snow and the trucks had left a trail behind which we were following.

We reached the Moore plains and spotted tea stalls and dhabas being setup. We were up since 3 AM and with no tea for almost 4 hours, it was beginning to get frustrating! Parked the car by a tea stall and we were having tea when suddenly I spot a familiar Ford Endeavour with yellow-green decals coming from a distance at great speeds. It sped past us and I immediately recognized the KL number plate and told my partner - this had to be the Endeavour that did the Cochin-London expedition! We were done with the tea and decided to give the Endeavour a chase!

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1117.jpg

After a while, we caught up with the SUV and requested him to park the car by the side of the road. He did, we introduced ourselves, exchanged pleasantries, wished him luck (he was doing a solo trans-Himalayan expedition) and moved forth. Clicked a few snaps:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1118.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1119.jpg

He wanted to click a selfie as well and shared the news on Facebook:

Name:  sj1.PNG
Views: 19027
Size:  573.1 KB

It was a pleasant drive from the Moore Plains towards Pang and we reached Pang for breakfast. Had aloo paratha and curd (for the last time I swear!).

And just when we were about to leave, a gentleman walks up to us (having heard us converse in Malayalam) and asks us if we were South Indians. Turns out he was a part of a 7-member team from TN driving a Mitsubishi Pajero and two of the tires had been punctured near Sarchu (further ahead from Pang towards the Manali side)! He had come to Pang along with another guy in a Sumo in search of the puncture repair shop here but the shop was closed that day! We had a puncture repair kit with us in the tool kit and helped him fix the tire. We couldn't believe these guys traveled without the basic tools for such a long road trip! He wanted us to convey the message to the rest of his team who were stuck at Sarchu.

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-wp_20150824_08_44_11_pro.jpg
(The tire is at the far right of the image)

Spotted some interesting rock formations near Pang:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1120.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1123.jpg
(This is an archway we come across near Pang and seems like a POI to the travelers. Everyone has clicked it!)

We crossed Lachung La (altitude - 16600 ft) shortly:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1124.jpg

The roads were constantly being repaired by BRO and their team. Landslides were frequent in this area and whenever it happens, their team is dispatched to quickly clear the roads. We noticed one being cleared:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1126.jpg

The mountains on this route were a lot different than the ones we had spotted elsewhere en route Nubra Valley or Tangtse:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1128.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1129.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1130.jpg

We reached Sarchu around 12 PM, had a cup of tea and started on the Manali-Sarchu route:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1131.jpg

We found the Pajero team in one of the tent camps at Sarchu and informed them of the tire fix. They thanked us profusely, we wished them luck and left.

We were aware of the water crossings at Sarchu and the photographs doing rounds in the internet. Fortunately for us, the water crossing at Sarchu immediately after taking the turn wasn't too bad as we had thought and we were able to crawl without letting any of the stones hit the underbody. The key to get out of this is to maneuver slowly while paying attention to the stones that lay on the path ahead. If need be, let the co-driver get down, assess the situation and guide the driver suitably.

The next major water crossing was at a place referred to as Killing Sarai, a place 15 km from Sarchu and supposedly, the most deadliest of all the water crossings, we were told! Some folks have had to wait it out until the water receded in order to cross this section. With every km reducing, our nervousness increased! We met a couple on a Bullet who were taking a break and asked them how the crossing was and they showed a indicating it was quite normal! We were relieved until we reached the place and saw it for ourselves:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1133.jpg

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1135.jpg

Bone dry crossing with just stones and boulders! This was completely unexpected. We breathed a huge sigh of relief. The Gods have been very kind to us, I told Moorthy! Throughout the entire trip, there has not been a single instance when we faced trouble - the road, the routes, the car, our health, everything was in top shape.

Next was the climb to Bara-lacha La which was a hard one solely due to the bad roads - more like a dirt track with stones and to make matters worse, defence OFC work was in progress so one side of the roads were dug up reducing the usable path.

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1141.jpg

I insisted Moorthy that we take a short break somewhere and take a short nap for about 10-15 minutes - I was getting exhausted! We took a nap, woke up, washed our faces, had a bar of Perk and left. We climbed Bara-lacha La quickly! The nap had indeed helped:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1137.jpg

Although accidents and breakdowns on this route are not uncommon, we spotted this tanker truck somewhere after descending the pass before the Ghata loops:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1140.jpg

The Ghata loops is a series of 21 hairpin bends which looks like the Indian version of the Stelvio Pass. Descending the loops was more fun than climbing it and we were behind a tanker truck which was clearing the path ahead for us. There were times we had to wait for the vehicle on the oncoming lane to pass. Unfortunately, we didn't click a snap of the loops - perhaps next time! But check out the image from the Google Maps:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-ghata-loops-google-earth.png

We reached Zing Zing Bar shortly and had tea here. We had crossed into Himachal Pradesh. Keylong was less than 2 hours from here and we drove sedately, knowing that the bad stretches were behind us. We reached Keylong around 5:30 PM and checked in at Hotel Valley View (GMaps Location).

I wanted to get the car washed and cleaned as it was laden in a coat of dust. The door sills were soiled badly. The hotel bellboys requested if they could do it and I was fine with that. They cleaned the exteriors while I cleaned the door sills and the interiors with the microfiber clothes I had carried along. We had dinner from the attached restaurant and called it a day. We had a long drive the next day to Rupnagar, Punjab crossing Kullu, Manali and the Rohtang Pass!

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Default re: VW Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 kms, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!

Day 11:

Keylong, HP to Rupnagar, PB

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-day-11-keylong-rupnagar.png

We woke up at 6:00 AM and the view from our room balcony was amazing:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-pano_20150824_180333.jpg

We had a shower, settled the bills, had a cup of tea and started our journey at 7:00 AM. The plan was to cover as much distance as we could without rushing it so as to space out the journey and distance for the next 4 days. Our original target was Bilaspur, HP. As we left Keylong, we pulled over at the famous fuel pump at Tandi:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-wp_20150825_07_03_26_pro.jpg

Looks like there’s no real estate left on the signboard for any more stickers! Used to be clean once upon a time:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-tandifuelpump.jpg
(Source: Google Images)

The roads were in bad shape until Khoksar and then it improved thereafter. There’s a checkpost at Khoksar and we had to enter the details in the register. Having paused there, we had our breakfast as well - *sigh* aloo parathas and curd. Man, we were craving to have something other than parathas! We’ve had enough parathas for another decade now!

After breakfast, we began our climb towards Rohtang Pass - the roads were bad. There’s no road to speak of; stones, boulders and lot of dirt. We reached Rohtang Pass sooner than we had thought! 10:30 AM and we were on top:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1143.jpg

The fascinating view from atop Rohtang:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1145.jpg

We should be thanking our lucky stars! A HUGE Army convoy arrived after 5 minutes and parked their vehicles by the side of the road just when we were about to leave:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1144.jpg

There were at least 50-60 vehicles in 3 convoys led by a CO. The descend from Rohtang towards Manali was on a narrow stretch of road and we had to reverse back on a couple of occasions to let a truck and a bus pass. We reached Manali around 12 PM and Kulu for lunch. We had our lunch at Bhuntar and left for Bilaspur. There’s a bridge here that permits traffic in only one direction and builds up traffic as a result. We had to wait for about 10-15 minutes to clear this section. The Kullu airport comes after this bridge. After that, we were hopping mountains, one after the other. It was getting tiring at one point and equally frustrating, knowing that you can see the road from afar which you would eventually be taking but in about half an hour or so since you have to take the turn at the end of this mountain! We reached Mandi around 4 PM. From Mandi to Bilaspur, the roads were in bad shape - construction work was happening on one stretch and we lost out on the average speed. Proceeding further, we reached Bilaspur around 6:00 PM. We decided to cross HP and reach Rupnagar whatever be the case - if that meant we did a lot of night driving!

And we ended up doing a lot of driving in the night! Contrary to my expectations I loved this drive - a mix of good and bad single-laned ghat roads, ascending and descending slopes, crawling trucks from both the directions, limited cars and it was dark. Most truckers dipped their beam when we flashed but some didn’t. For the first time, I realized the significance of the Morimoto HID projectors - they worked flawlessly highlighting the route ahead much to our satisfaction. As a driver, I loved driving through this stretch in the night! We reached Kiratpur Sahib and caught a 4-laned road towards Rupnagar. We stopped at a dhaba somewhere in between for dinner and reached the hotel around 10:15 PM. Immediately crashed after we got into our rooms - we were very tired!

Day 12:

Rupnagar, PB to Bagru, RJ

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-day-12-rupnagar-bagru.png

We woke up late (thanks to the drive the previous day), freshened up, packed the bags and headed to the restaurant for a quick breakfast - toasts, chole bhatoora and tea. After breakfast, we settled the bill and caught the Chandigarh highway. 4 laned roads finally! After an entire day of driving through twisty ghat single laned roads, the 4 laned roads were a much welcome change. And that’s when we came to know of the unrest in Gujarat! While we faced no issues throughout the trip, we couldn’t return to our home state?! :(

We decided to stay at Bagru, which was our first halt for the trip, wait and watch how the situation eases and then proceed to Navsari. The plans of taking the Abu Road-Mehsana diversion before Udaipur - a beautiful 4-laned road as suggested by D-BHPian Paragbhai, had to be dropped. I had to pick up my wife from her university in Anand as well - we had to cancel that as well. We were pretty much disappointed at how this had turned out.

Rreached the Delhi-Jaipur highway for lunch and had our lunch at Subway from the food court at Hans Resort, NH-8, Rewari. This seems to be an excellent food court - located just besides the NH-8, plenty of parking space, Haldiram’s restaurant, Subway and a Cafť Coffee Day outlet (Location: GMaps). We had a filling meal, refueled at a pump close by and drove leisurely as we reached the hotel at Bagru in the evening around 5 PM. We were blessed to be back on 4-laned and 6-laned roads for the entire journey on this day:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_1149.jpg

We were catching up with the news channels on the updates regarding the situation and turns out, it had gotten worse by the evening! After some deliberation and a discussion with HVK, we decided to enter Gujarat from Bardoli via Dhule, MH through MP. Total distance for the whole stretch worked out in excess of 1000 km and we thought of taking a halt at Dhule. We had dinner (from the attached restaurant) and hit the bed. Home was still afar!

Day 13:

Bagru, RJ to Navsari, GJ

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-day-13-bagru-navsari.png

Let me wrap up the last day quickly! We woke up around 6:30 AM, had breakfast from the attached restaurant and set off. We had to enter Gujarat via a longer route through MP and MH and the overall distance got extended by another 150 km. En route, we decided not to stay at another hotel that evening and instead, reach home regardless of how late we were going to get. I was a bit worried since the longest we had driven so far was 890 km (during our onward journey) and we had departed around 3:30 AM that day so we had an added advantage but not on this day. Regardless, we pushed forth. I had the confidence I could do it and so did my partner.

We reached the MPTDC hotel at Mandasaur for lunch but the restaurant was completely occupied and we had to wait. Waited for 10 minutes outside but no go. We decided to push forth and try out luck at some dhaba. Luckily, we found one in the vicinity and ordered tandoori roti and a paneer curry - surprisingly the crisp rotis and curry tasted lip-smackin’ good and was cheap. Tolled roads in MP were okay - there were potholes in some stretches whereas some roads were good. We were crossing through several towns and there were several bikers on the roads. We had a tough time getting a good average speed. I was feeling a bit drowsy after the lunch so decided to take a 20 minute power nap. Woke up, splashed some cold water on the face and left.

We then joined the Agra-Bangalore highway and the 4-laned roads descending down the ghats were fabulous! It was getting dark gradually and the low-fuel warning showed up. Pulled into a fuel pump for one last tankful and left. We had entered MH in the meantime and about 20 km before Dhule, we stopped for dinner by a dhaba. Roti and dal tadka it was. By God, I swear I haven’t tasted a better dal tadka in my life before! We took the Dhule bypass and caught the Dhule-Surat highway. We had about 220 km to cover and it was a terrible single-laned road filled with trucks and refusing to lower the high beams. To make matters worse, there were speed breakers without signs or markers on the road and Moorthy kept an eye out for those. As we were nearing the GJ-MH border, the average speeds got much lower around the 40 kmph mark. It was around 11:30 PM and I badly wanted a hot tea to keep the fatigue away - we paused at a dhaba, had tea, freshened up and left.

We crossed Gujarat and there were cops checking the entry of cars. They stopped our car, checked it inside-out and left us. I was expecting the roads to be better than the dilapidated ones in MH. We were greeted with a sign that said Toll road begins. Lo and behold - a 4-laned beautiful tarmac, medians with bushes and wait for it, 100 kmph max permissible speed!

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-img_20150828_002538.jpg

A first for me anywhere in the country! We were smiling our way back home. We reached Bardoli around 12:45 AM and the 30 km was all that was left to complete the dream road trip. We drove leisurely and reached home around 1:30 AM covering 1035 km, the longest I had done so far. This wouldn’t have been possible if Moorthy wasn’t in the co-driver’s seat.

As I parked the car in the apartment’s parking lot, our emotions were running high - when we left the same spot about 13 days back, we were tensed and anxious but we came back glad, excited and feeling accomplished. After I parked the car, I couldn’t help but stand in front of her for a while, as I touched the bonnet and thanked her for getting us back home safely without any troubles.

In the end, this was the actual schedule that worked out:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-actual-schedule.png

And this was our overall route map:

Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!-overall-trip.png

Last edited by Gannu_1 : 24th September 2015 at 15:18.
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Default re: VW Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 kms, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!

The trip in numbers:
  • Total distance traveled - 5543 km

  • Total time taken for traveling - 6 days, 7 h, 25 m

  • No. of states covered - 8 (GJ, RJ, PB, JK, HP, HR, MP, MH)

  • Fuel filled for the whole trip - 317.65 L

  • Fuel efficiency (tankful-to-tankful) - 17.45 km/L

  • Most economic fuel fill - Rs. 45.63/L @ Jaipur Highway, Rajasthan

  • Most expensive fuel fill - Rs. 51.4/L @ Leh, J&K

  • Most distance covered in a day - 1035 km (Day 13, Bagru to Navsari)

  • Least distance covered in a day - 116 km (Day 9, Tangtse to Leh)

  • Highest ambient temperature - 39 'C (Rajasthan)

  • Lowest ambient temperature - - 2.0 'C (Taglang La, Leh-Manali highway)

  • Total amount spent for tolls - Rs 3181

  • Total no. of toll booths in the route - 52

  • Highest toll amount - Rs. 125 (RJ)

  • Lowest toll amount - Rs. 19 (MP)

  • State which levied the most toll charges - Rajasthan

  • State which levied the least toll charges - J&K (2)

  • No of passes crossed - 10 (Zoji La, Namika La, Fotu La, Khardung La, Chang La, Taglang La, Lachulung La, Nakee La, Baralacha La, Rohtang La)

  • Total amount spent for fuel - Rs 15433

  • Total amount spent for accommodation - Rs. 19112

  • Total amount spent for food - Rs 11316

  • Miscellaneous expenses (souvenirs, tips, entry fees, car wash etc) - Rs 12240

  • Total amount spent per individual for the whole trip - ~Rs. 30641

Permit and related info:

Other than Leh, we had visited Nubra Valley (drove till the sand dunes at Hundar) and the Pangong Tso lake. We did not have to submit any permits en route any of these locations. However, we had to submit the filled self-declaration form filled at the South Pullu checkpost and the North Pullu checkpost while going to Nubra Valley. During the return trip, we did not have to submit the forms again - our entries were recorded in the register by the cop at the checkposts. From what our homestay owner told us, the self-declaration forms are being asked to be submitted so as to enable them trace our vehicle and whereabouts quickly in the event of a mishap.

You can download the self-declaration form here - Self Declaration Form.pdf. Take a printout, fill up the details and take multiple copies of the filled up form. Store it in a folder along with the copies of other relevant documents (ID proofs of the travelers, car’s RC, PUC etc).

Hotel and stay details:

Posting the details of the hotels and homestay where we were put up. Please note that the pros and cons are stated based on our experience. YMMV!
  1. Bagru, Rajasthan:

    Hotel Highway King
    Location: Google Maps
    Contact Nos: 9828879333, 9828086158

    Pros: Clean rooms, hygienic washrooms (with hot water facility), covered car parking, attached veg/non-veg restaurant, reasonable room tariff, located on the NH-8, accepts payment by credit card/debit card.
    Cons: Nil

  2. Pathankot, Punjab:

    Venice Republic Resort
    Location: Google Maps
    Contact Nos: 9216021676, 01862254107, 01862247450

    Pros: Clean room, attached veg/non-veg restaurant, reasonable room tariff, open car parking.
    Cons: Food tasted pretty bad, cramped washroom and no hot water facility.

  3. Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir:

    Hotel Malik Palace
    Location: Google Maps
    Contact Nos: 09622414850

    Pros: Clean room, hygienic washroom with hot water facility, reasonable room tariff, located besides the Dal lake, open car parking.
    Cons: No attached restaurant.

  4. Kargil, Jammu & Kashmir:

    Hotel D’Zojila
    Location: Google Maps
    Contact Nos: 01985232360, 01985232671

    Pros: Clean well-insulated room, hygienic washroom with hot water facility, reasonable room tariff, attached veg/non-veg restaurant.
    Cons: Limited car parking space

  5. Leh:

    Lings Homestay
    Location: Google Maps
    Contact No: Mr. Dorjay, 9906986664

    Pros: Clean well-insulated rooms, hygienic washroom with hot water facility, very reasonable room tariff, excellent hospitality, homely vegetarian meals.
    Cons: Nil.

  6. Nubra Valley:

    Sand Dunes Hotel
    Location: Google Maps
    Contact No: Mr Dinesh, 9419568202

    Pros: Clean well-insulated rooms, washroom with hot water facility, extremely reasonable room tariff, attached veg/non-veg restaurant.
    Cons: Limited car parking space.

  7. Tangtse:

    Pangong Residency
    Location: Google Maps
    Contact No: Mr. Phuntsog, 9419243495

    Pros: Clean well-insulated rooms, washroom with hot water facility, reasonable room tariff, attached veg restaurant, open car parking space.
    Cons: Nil.

  8. Keylong, Himachal Pradesh:

    Hotel Valley View
    Location: Google Maps
    Contact No: 01900-222666

    Pros: Well-insulated rooms, washroom with hot water facility, reasonable room tariff, attached veg/non-veg restaurant, open car parking space.
    Cons: Food tasted ok’ish.

  9. Roopnagar, Punjab:

    Hotel Sahil Palace
    Location: Google Maps
    Contact No: 01881222033, 01881222633

    Pros: Clean rooms, hygienic washroom with hot water facility, reasonable room tariff, attached veg/non-veg restaurant.
    Cons: Limited car parking space, located next to a railway track (can get annoying for some).

Tips for the trip:

We are no experts having done this trip only once compared to others who’ve been to Leh multiple times. Yet I felt it was important that we share a few important tips which helped us immensely during this trip:
  1. Drink PLENTY of water while ascending towards Sonamarg from Srinagar until you descend Rohtang La! I cannot emphasize this enough. This will help you keep your bodies hydrated and greatly reduce the chances of getting altitude sickness during the trip.

  2. It is wise to get acclimatized before making the ascend towards Leh as it will reduce the chances of altitude sickness. If it’s a trip by road, undoubtedly the Srinagar - Leh route makes a lot more sense than the Manali - Leh route. If it’s by flight, it is best to land at the Srinagar airport instead of Leh airport and hire a cab from Srinagar to Leh.

  3. Assemble a first-aid kit with all the essential medicines in it (including the Diamox) and carry it in the car. I have given a list of what we carried. Although it isn’t the most comprehensive list, it should be sufficient for a trip to Leh.

  4. Diamox - a tablet every day in the morn after breakfast may help keep AMS at bay. There is however no assurance that a Diamox tablet will prevent altitude sickness entirely. The best method is to let the body acclimatize with the terrain. The chemists may deny giving the tablets without a prescription from the doctor.

  5. Assemble a tool kit with the essential tools. I have listed down whatever we had lugged for the trip. Most important - puncture repair kits and a portable tire inflator! We were able to help a team who was stranded at Sarchu with the puncture repair kit we had carried. You never know - sometimes you may come across as a Godsent to a stranded tourist!

  6. Drive patiently and carefully - any car can do the Leh circuit if it is driven properly and maneuvered through the boulder-filled water crossings slowly. Indeed, there are some places only a high GC 4x4 SUV can go; I am talking about the most popular ones - Leh via Zoji La, Nubra Valley via Khardung La, Pangong Tso via Chang La etc. The routes on these areas are constantly being improved thanks to the efforts by BRO and their team of hardworking workmen. A deadly water crossing you may have come across few years back may be history today - a bridge may have come up. Case in point - the Pagal nallah which comes en route Pangong Tso.

  7. Clean the stock air filter from a local garage or a tire repair shop at Leh. The filter would have sucked in a lot of dust, smoke, leaves and other debris during the trip and it is wise to have it cleaned using a high pressure pneumatic line - most local garages and tire repair shops will have one.

  8. Carry some microfiber towels and a small bottle containing the car wash concentrate along. A homestay might let you wash the car with a hose and a bucket, if you don’t wish to get it done from a car wash outlet. On one of the days, thanks to the power outage, all the wash outlets and local garages were closed, Maruti’s service center denied touching our car and the Hyundai authorized service center had no service personnel. We cleaned it ourselves.

  9. Leave early in the morning as much as possible - feels fresh, beat the traffic and maintain a constant average speed = munching more miles, as opposed to a late departure. During the first 3 days of the journey until we reached Srinagar, we departed from the respective locations around 3:30 AM to 4:30 AM. Hit the bed early and get a good sleep of at least 7-8 hours.

  10. Get the car inspected and serviced at the authorized service center before the trip. Top up the fluids (if required), get the air filter replaced, get the brakes checked and replace the pads if necessary. If time and the wallet permits, get an engine sump guard fabricated and installed. Installing a sump guard using an Aluminium checkered plate won’t cost beyond 3-4k and will give that extra peace of mind during the trip.

  11. Before the trip, check the condition of the tires and replace them if the treads have worn out or will wear out soon enough. If your car is running stock tires and there were puncture repairs carried out, it is advisable to get them renewed. A set of new tires will make a remarkable difference when the car is running on the Ladakh terrains. Needless to say, some of them have sharp stones and huge boulders sticking out of the dry water crossings.

  12. While laptops equipped with SSDs (solid state drives) will work flawlessly (SSD = no moving parts) anywhere, it is advisable to not turn on those equipped with mechanical hard drives at high altitudes. We had used our laptop at Leh and Nubra valley but not at Tangtse. We didn't want to risk it with the data inside.

  13. While planning the itinerary, keep a few days aside as a buffer or reserve. In the unfortunate case you meet a road block en route, you can extend the schedule suitably without worrying about the return. We had planned for 2 days of reserve and a third day got added to it since we covered a lot of distance during the return leg than we had actually planned!

  14. Carry a spike guard (in simpler terms, extension cord) along. Some hotel rooms and homestays may not have sufficient sockets for charging the mobile phone, camera batteries, laptops, battery banks etc.

  15. Take a power nap if you feel drowsy behind the wheel after a lunch. A brief 15-20 minute nap can greatly improve alertness, combats fatigue and restores the mental alertness like no other. You may not have done this before but believe me when I say this, it works GREATLY! I never used to take power naps during long drives but realized what I missed all this while. Park the car by a tree shade, pull the parking brake, turn off the engine, keep the windows open with a slight gap (for the fresh air to let inside the cabin), recline the seat and take a nap. Ask your partner to wake you up after 20 minutes. After you wake up, splash your face with cold water and freshen up before driving. See the difference it makes!

  16. Stretch breaks for every 2 hours are equally important! It breaks the monotony of sitting in the same posture for 10-12 hours and relaxes the muscles greatly. We took a short 5-10 minute break every 2 hours - get out of the car, stretch, go to the loo (if required), drink water, crunch on a bar of Perk (occasionally) and leave. During a 275 km drive from Munnar to Calicut last year, I broke my back and shoulders - it hurt pretty badly for the next 2 days. Reason - we didn’t take a break anywhere in between save for a lunch stop. During this 5543 km drive to Ladakh with a continuous 1035 km drive on the concluding day, my body was in the best shape - never experienced a pain anywhere!

  17. Food and water - Carry some dry fruits and snacks for the trip. You never know when and where you’ll get stuck but it is best to have some food reserves at all times. As far as drinking water goes, carry 1 L bottles instead of the 30 L carboy. A carboy occupies a large volume in the boot and is cumbersome to be poured into smaller bottles for immediate consumption. Smaller bottles OTOH can be squeezed into any of the available space (footwells, boot, door cards etc) in the car. The downside? Disposal issues. Best to dispose them at the end of the day wherever your stay is arranged. Please do not dispose the plastic bottles out in the open - it's a sacrilege!

  18. While visiting the monasteries at Leh, carry a bottle of water along. You may have to climb several stairways and will get exhausted quickly! On a related note, you have to remove your footwear outside the entrance so it might be a good idea to wear slippers on the day when you plan for monastery hopping.

  19. Keep a 10L/20L jerry can with you throughout the trip. Depending on the routes you would take and the vehicle you travel in, you might need to carry extra fuel with you. Fortunately for us, none of the routes warranted extra fuel so we didn't bother filling our jerry can.

  20. Lastly, if you can, please extend your help to someone who's in distress. Even if its a simple tire swap or a puncture repair, it doesn't hurt to stop by and ask, "Need some help?". You never know, when your ride might break down! In these harsh terrains and the bone chilling winds, even a simple tire swap can be very daunting!

Tying up loose ends:

We were absolutely thrilled to have done this trip in the GT, driving through several states over 13 days. We left our homes with a lot of anxiety and fear but a wee bit of hope, everything would go well. We are glad it ended that way. Ladakh is one of the most beautiful places I have visited - the ancient monasteries and Gompas, the snowcapped mountains, the Azure blue skies, the lush green valleys, the good roads and the terrible ones, the tranquil blue lakes, the sand dunes on the deserts, the people of Ladakh, the efforts from the Indian Army; the beauty of this majestic place has to be seen to be believed! Driving to Ladakh was on top of my bucket list ever since I knew of the place and read through the travelogues posted on T-BHP and several other travel forums. I did it with my best friend in tow but we missed out on some of the places. God willing, I wish to do it again with my parents and my wife sometime in the future and cover all those places which we had missed out. I would be doing great injustice to my car, if I did not mention a thing or two about her - the GT TDI is a very capable car and can easily do the Ladakh circuits just like any other car but some careful maneuvering and adequate precautions before the trip, will go a long way in ensuring a hassle-free drive all along. She brought us home safely without breaking down anywhere.

Before and during the trip, a lot of people extended their help to us:
  1. Our work superiors - Praveen Bhatt and Dinesh Siddhpura. Had it not been for them, we would not have gone for the trip. Period. We owe a lot to them for the understanding.

  2. Team BHP - Had I not read the travelogues on Ladakh posted here, I would have never had the enthusiasm to visit the place. I can safely say, T-BHP was the sole reason I chose to drive to Ladakh.

  3. Our parents - for the faith in us when we chose to drive to Ladakh and for the love and support at all times.

  4. Soumya - my wife, for the love, support and understanding. You have been of immense support during the trip. We will drive to Sikkim and the North-East as I had promised before.

  5. The Support Team - for the invaluable suggestions and inputs on the trip. Tanveer’s guide on Ladakh is a bible! Thanks a lot guys! I owe you guys one.

  6. BHPian etchemkay - for the immensely helpful and prompt suggestions over WhatsApp and PMs. Thanks a lot buddy!

  7. HV Kumar - for helping us finalise the route plan for the entire trip, the hotel bookings on the go and the suggestions. Thank you so much Sir.

  8. D-BHPian paragsachania - for the suggestions, keeping in touch with us during the course of the trip and helping us with the tidbits. Thank you so much Paragbhai!

  9. BHPians schakravarthy and mpksuhas - for the suggestions and inputs. Thanks a lot guys!

  10. Indian Army for their love towards our motherland, safeguarding our borders round the clock, their relief and rescue operations during floods, landslides and other calamities, and sacrifices during wartimes. I can never thank them enough. And BRO, for developing and maintaining roads in the high altitude regions in the harsh climatic conditions.

  11. Moorthy - for being one heck of a co-driver! You totally rock dude. Perfect navigation, helping with lane driving and overtaking, spotting speed breakers and undulations on the road, selection of music, helping with the toll expenses, clicking snaps en route, helping with the drinking water, the dry humour that kept me awake among others. But please please learn driving soon!

  12. My car - for taking us to Ladakh and beyond, and safely bringing us back home without breaking a sweat or throwing any tantrums en route. You have been an absolutely lovely companion for all the trips I’ve undertaken so far. You've become a part of my life! Thank you so much (and thank you VW)!

  13. The Almighty.

Next on the cards? A trip to Sikkim and the land of the Seven Sisters.

Last edited by Gannu_1 : 5th November 2015 at 14:01. Reason: Missed one pass (Taglang La) in the list. :p
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Old 23rd September 2015, 11:09   #15
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Default re: VW Polo GT TDI Chronicles: Ladakh and beyond! 5543 km, 13 days, 8 states, 2 souls & 1 car!

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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