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Old 10th December 2015, 12:25   #1
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Default 23 days, 7 friends, 9300 kms - Bangalore to Kashmir

Twenty years of friendship and a Road Trip – Getting Leh’ed

- from the blog of James Jerry

This is a dangerous and addictive trip. Once you have done this trip, you will never be the same and the mountains will haunt you till you visit again. The sheer magnitude, beauty and silence of these majestic mountains and their simple inhabitants will either make you feel one with everything in nature, bringing you face to face with your own insignificance or you will go back disturbed at its barrenness and the harshness of life. Either ways, it will be a memory etched in your soul for eternity.

The Team :

Manoj Thelakkat - (Mannubhai)
Major James Jerry
Capt George Varghese
Abhilash Gopinath
Sunil Kumar
Thripthi Rajan
Krishna Kumar

And we started

A day in the life of commoners involves, riding zombie like to their offices through unending traffic, cloistered inside air conditioned vehicles, trying unsuccessfully to avoid the noise and the pollution outside, and end up working listlessly in their cubbyholes. Most look out longingly from their windows and dream of adventures inside their head and think ‘Someday maybe…..’
“Today we were not to be part of them. For once we will not look longingly out of the window, but bring the adventures in our head to fruition and for the next 23 days commune with nature”. These were the thoughts running through my mind as I revved up my engine and started on this trip.

Twenty years and counting - The team
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We came together by providence twenty years ago and in this period, we have seen each other grow and have partaken in each other’s joys and sorrows. Through the years we have kept in touch through letters, phones and now, through Social network. We have made it a point to meet every year and spend time together. This trip was planned to celebrate 20 years of our friendship, a relationship thicker than blood (actually we just needed a reason to get away from our work life). It was in 2014, while on our yearly trip to Goa, that a drive to Leh was first mooted to celebrate two decades of friendship. It was an instant Aye by everyone.
During the coming months, the dates were decided and leaves applied. Due to the duration of the trip, it was known that probably all of us would not be able to make it. Finally seven of us made it and we met two others on the way. The planning started in full earnest 6 months before the trip. I had been on this road in 2007 and had some basic idea of what to expect. Responsibilities for various activities were given to each one.
I came up with a very exhaustive list of all items to be taken along; vehicle check list, food, medicines, and precautions to be taken. Everyone also read up on the land and its culture. About a fortnight before the trip, continuous monitoring of the road conditions was undertaken by CT, GV, TN and KS. It was decided to take two vehs. An XUV 500 and an Ecosport.

The trip involved friends travelling from, Trivandrum, Calicut, Bangalore, Mumbai, Dubai, Bahrain and Seoul. One vehicle was to start from Bangalore and another from Mumbai. Everyone was to join in at one of these places.

The route decided was – Bangalore` – Mumbai – Jaipur – Udhampur – Srinagar – Kargil – leh – Keylong – Gramphoo – Kaza – Rampur – Jaipur – Mumbai – Blore.

As the day of reckoning closed on us, as if on cue, Landslides and cloudbursts hit the Srinagar Leh Highway taking parts of the road with it. As if that was not enough,a couple of days before the trip, the Mumbai-Pune Expressway closed down due to a landslide, but not for a moment did we think of abandoning our plans. We had made alternate plans and were ready for a change of plans at short notice. As news of landslides and cloud bursts started pouring in, we kept coming up with alternate route options and planning for it. Our families were a bit worried, but since we were determined to go, they started praying for our safety instead

We started from Banglore on D-day and had to hit Nashik through bad roads as the Mumbai – Pune expressway was temporarily closed. The drive from Nashik towards Gujrat till we hit the GQ was again very bad and it took us 21 hours to reach Jaipur.(At the same time the second car started from Mumbai and was in Jaipur well within time to set up accommodation for the night).The trip had just started and we had already done 21 hour drives each on the first two days. In retrospect, we learnt that the first two days of drive is the most important as we cover maximum distances on good roads, leaving us with enough leeway to spend more time when the roads turn to gravel paths. We started late the next day and planned to hit Udhampur by night, but as we neared Chandigarh, our friend in Drass passed on a message that the road had again been washed away somewhere before Zoji La. We got into a huddle and decided on plan B, which was, to go in from the Lahaul & Spiti route.

Now this was a route none of us had travelled and our estimates of travelling time through this road, taken mostly from Google maps, put it at 2 days to hit Gramphoo/ Keylong and get into the Manali – Leh road..

Plan B – Bangalore – Mumbai – Jaipur – Chandigarh – Kasauli – Theog – Rampur – Kaza – Keylong – Sarchu – Leh – Drass – Srinagar – Behror – Jaipur – Mumbai – Bangalore.

Well, with full confidence in our ability, the kind which comes from having read more and traveled less, we turned our vehicles towards Chandigarh and Kasauli. We hoped to sleep at Rampur tonight.

From day one we have been encountering Murphy’s Law and now as we climbed towards Kasauli, little did we know that from now on Murphy’s Law would be the norm rather than the exception. It is funny how the best made plans don’t work once you start driving. At one point it looked like the formula from the book ‘The Secret’ was working on us inversely – “When friends go on a long road trip, the whole world conspires to derail it”

The exhaustive research and alternate plans that we had made before we started, as also keeping the basic fabric of the plan flexible stood us in good stead, as we were forced to keep changing our plans every now and then. The original plan was to hit Rampur from Jaipur. However, we could only manage to hit Kasauli and thankfully AG had taken his responsibility of coming up with a list of hotels and home stays all along the route with phone numbers seriously. We had a good night’s rest and planned to start early and reach somewhere between Rampur and Kaza next day. High hopes. We were to find out soon.

For one, we decided not to take the crowded Shimla route and took the Kufri - Theog route. The mountains had started and with that the frequent photography breaks (we had not accounted for the photography breaks in our time plan). The route was breathtakingly beautiful, winding through picturesque valleys and villages. It gave us our first glimpse of highland life. No wonder we couldn’t find a single pot bellied person in these areas. The one thing we found throughout our drive through Kinnaur, lahaul and Spiti was the simplicity of the people, their simple natures untarnished by the consumerism of the city. We were surprised to find bottled water being sold at MRP in those remote villages as if the dirt cheap rate of food was not enough. At one of the pit stops for breakfast we were so taken aback at the quoted price of the food that we offered him a couple of hundred bucks extra. We were humbled.

The drive from Kasauli was unremarkable but for the breathtaking scenery all around. Having driven on smooth highways till now, we were cursing the potholes and broken down stretches of the road. Little did we know of what awaited us in the coming days. We reached Rampur at 2200 hrs and checked into the comfortable Hotel ‘Bushahr Residency’. Our bodies by now were getting used to the continuous driving, averaging 16 hours a day.

Somewhere after Kasauli/ Rampur
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The roads till Rampur were good, in retrospect. We left Rampur at 0530 hrs the next morning after tanking up on fuel and hoping to reach Kaza. Within a short time we got into a gravel path and with speeds limited to 30 kmph, we were literally crawling.

Sutlej - An inch away to a few hundred meters drop
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Our offroading dreams were about to come true and our estimates of time and distance was to be shattered again. It took us approximately 17 hours to traverse the next 190 kilometers. The only thing that kept us going was the company of friends and the breathtakingly rugged scenery.

Roads ? Are you Joking !!!
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Road ? River ? Both
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Water fall
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As we entered Spiti, the trees and the greenery started to vanish and bare, brown mountains started to appear and the first effects of altitude began to manifest with mild headaches in a couple of us. Drank enough water and it was back to normal. In the evening they were put on ‘Diamox’ to prevent any further mountain sickness.

The Most Treacherous Road !! True That
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It was evening and we had just about done slightly over 100 kms since morning and by now were sure that we would not be able to make it to kaza by night. We planned to rest wherever we reach by late evening. The gravel path was treacherous to say the least and the vehicles were taking a good hit. The XUV had its sump guard in tatters. The Ecosport had taken a hit from a flying stone ending up with a cracked wind shield. There also was a perceptible loss of power, though nothing alarming.

At one place, along the route we heard a loud noise and came face to face with a fresh landslide blocking the road immediately in front of us. We were saved by just about a couple of hundred meters. We waited for about 4 hours for the landslide to be cleared. The next viable place to spend the night seemed to be Nako. We had not even considered this place in our original plan.

The Landslide - We missed it by 2 minutes
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Waiting for the landslide to be cleared.
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First view of a snow clad mountain
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We drove into Nako village square at around 2230 hrs, through a small track which could barely accommodate one vehicle. We were pleasantly surprised to find a couple of Foreigners and two hardened old Indian roadsters in a small restaurant. We were also surprised to find a more than decent Hotel and an amazingly helpful staff.

Nako was a quaint little village where life had a pace of its own and we loved this small place. We were already planning to be in Nako again.
In the morning we took a short walk to Nako Lake. It was more like a Pond but was beautiful, like all sacred lakes un-desecrated by humans are. We sat on its bank watching the unhurried life of the village folks unfolding around us and marveled at their utter simplicity of living. There’s not much you need to be peaceful and happy, we thought, as these cheerful natives went about their business. Later we walked to Nako Monastery inside the village and paid our respects. As we returned to the hotel, we were happy to see our dust laden vehs washed and gleaming in the morning sun. We thanked God for small mercies and started our onward journey.

Nako Village
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The whole landscape from here was surreal, in a very harsh kind of way. Barren, windswept, wind chiseled mountains on all sides with small tracks winding through them, around them and with them. Border Roads organization does a good job in keeping these roads serviceable. Tarmac roads? That’s too much to expect. With frequent landslides, cloud bursts and flying stones, it’s a blessing that BRO is able to keep the route drive worthy. Our hearts went out to all those workmen who sweat round the clock so that travelers like us can experience God. On second thoughts, in this pristine and beautiful land, even a road is an eyesore.

As the sun rose, the play of shadows and sunlight put forth a show of colors and hues nowhere seen. It captivates you, enthralls you and nudges you to slow down, to sit still and contemplate the beauty and unhurried life that is our birthright. By now we had given up all plans of reaching Leh as per our original timeline. We gave in to the beauty and lure of the mountains and decided to stop wherever we reached by evening. We would stop frequently for photography and playful banter. There was camaraderie and a feeling of oneness between us which only comes when you have been friends for more than half your lifetime till now. With the dust in our hair and eyes, we were figuratively one with the mountains too.

High altitude can have a disastrous effect on the human body if care is not taken to acclimatize properly. We found that many of us were not drinking enough water. That’s when we decided to ration water every day with instructions to finish a certain amount by the end of day. GV was in charge of ensuring it and he did his job with a single minded dedication. Anyway, by now all illusions of our infallibility was beginning to wear thin and we were much more receptive to the road sign put up by BRO – “ Don’t be a Gama in the land of Lama”.

We often wondered how people survive in these altitudes and barrenness. There is a Ladhaki saying – “…A land so barren and passes so high, that only our fiercest enemies or our best friends would want to visit us”. We couldn’t agree more. With the roads closed for the major part of the year, it’s a harsh life. Either you move to a more hospitable terrain or stock up for winter or perish.

The villages and places to eat are far and between and it is advisable to carry some eatables, nuts etc with you. Basic Indian food was available at all the places at very reasonable rates though.

We moved on from Nako and planned to spend the night at Key (Ki) Monastery, based on the recommendation of the old roadster we met in Nako, and if possible attend the morning prayers too. Key monastery, established in the 11th century, is approximately 12 kms from Kaza, perched on top of a hill.

Ki (Key) Monastery

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We tanked up on fuel and also took some spare fuel from the Indian oil pump in Kaza, the district headquarters of Spiti, A sign proclaiming the pump to be the highest retail outlet at 12270 ft stood there for everyone to see.

Highest Fuel Pump in the world
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We reached the monastery only to find that there were no spare rooms due to a function next day. We decided to head for Kibber, which at 14200ft, was once claimed to be the the highest inhabited village, a title which now has been taken over by Komic village, situated nearby. It was cold with the wind accentuating the cold even more. We were somehow able to find an accommodation, which was decent, and served basic food. Cell phones had long since stopped working except BSNL postpaid which would come on randomly.

Kibber Village
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Steads @ Kibber
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We woke up late next morning and by the time we started it was already 10 AM. We had by now started making much more practical estimates of stopovers and had ditched the printed Google map directions that we were carrying for the good old physical maps of Himachal Tourism. We now aimed to reach Chandrataal. The drive from Kibber was awesome especially the Batal - Chandratal road, which is just about the breadth of a car. The road bifurcates from Batal towards Chandratal (approx 10 km) after crossing Kunzum La.

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Surrounded by snow capped peaks and inviting grasslands, this deep blue lake with a circumferences of 2.5 km is nothing but surreal. Legend has it that God Indra’s chariot picked up Yudhishthira, the eldest of the Pandava brothers from this lake. We did a parikrama of the lake and as the mountain peaks showed itself towards the end of the lake with the setting sun bathing the peaks in a golden hue, some of us couldn’t stop the tears of pure joy flowing down our cheeks. That’s what the surreal beauty of Chandratal does to you and we were immensely grateful to have made a stop here. As darkness set in, we walked back in silence to our vehicles and started back to the camping grounds and put up our tents with help from fellow campers. We cooked a basic meal and went to sleep dreaming of the pristine beauty that we all had the good fortune to experience.

Mystic Chandrataal.
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Sunset at Chandratal - Magic of colors

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At close to 14500ft Chandratal is not a place you would want to spend the night in the open unless you are well acclimatized. Even though we were moderately acclimatized and also had spent a night at Kibber, a couple of us still felt dizzy with headaches and tiredness. Thankfully things did not turn bad. It is not recommended to sleep at high altitudes without acclimatization. This was turning out to be a crash course in high altitude acclimatization for us and we were enjoying this ‘on the job training’. We were also learning that on these roads distances did not matter and was rather measured in hours.

Tenting at 14500 feet - With a view
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Next stop was Keylong, but before that we had to pass through some treacherous water crossings. We left Chandratal at 0630 AM, so as to be able to negotiate the water crossings before noon when the snow melts and water level increases. Inspite of that our vehicles got stuck crossing the stream at Pagal Nullah, between Chota dhara and Chhatru and had to be pushed out. Having a high ground clearance helps as it is difficult to gauge the depth due to the flowing water. Anyway, it added to our bucket of learning’s. By late noon we said goodbye to the route and joined the Manali – Leh highway at Gramphoo.

The roads were better and after 5 days we saw a tarmac road. Nearing Sissu, the roads become really nice and we could gain some speed. The scenery also changed from the desolate brown deserts to the green of poplars and willows as we neared Keylong. We were struck with the contrast between the two valleys. Spiti was barren with towering mountains and treacherous roads snaking through the valleys. Landslides and kilometers of roads washed away were common sights. The fury of Spiti and Sutlej River complimented the starkness and harshness of the terrain with an average elevation of approximately 14000ft. In contrast, lahaul valley was more subdued and green and looked like it had a higher density of population. The simplicity, customs and myths of these simple unsophisticated people touched a chord in our hearts.

We Refueled at Tandi, the last Fuel bunk this side of Leh and booked ourselves into Hotel Chandrabhaga in Keylong by 1730 hrs. The roads were comparatively good with fair amount of traffic on the highway, with motorcyclists, bicyclists and a hoard of tourists driving towards Leh. Being the district headquarters of Lahaul, Keylong is the last town (if we can call it that) before Leh.


Last edited by mannubhai : 8th January 2016 at 13:20.
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Old 8th January 2016, 11:30   #2
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...continued ..

We decided to hit Leh next day and started at 0430 am. Locals put the ride to Leh at 14 hrs. Enlightened by our previous experiences, we gave ourselves 18 hours and decided to give it a shot. The road was decent compared to what we had gone through till now. The scenery was back to being barren with the road snaking through wind chiseled, majestic mountains. This drive is what has made the drive to Leh so sought after (though we think that the drive through Lahaul and Spiti is as wonderful, if not better) for travellers. We wondered what it is with Mountains and treacherous roads that beckon travelers on this pilgrimage. It was the call of the wild, of doing something out of our daily rut, of communing with the windswept mountains in its raw beauty and harshness, of dusty tracks, of pushing ourselves and our machines, of beautiful Monasteries and hamlets perched high up on impossible mountains, of photographs and last but not the least, of Bragging rights and the satisfaction of having completed this treacherous ride. This stretch of the road was travelled quietly, with occasional waves and cheerful bucking up of the various cyclists on the road. The scenery is much more mesmerizing than the various photographs will have you believe. It leaves you speechless most of the time. Now as we climbed Barlachala, we could see amazing snow clad mountains on all sides. By now we had reduced our photography craze and were drinking in the surroundings’ with our eyes and heart. As we were just about to reach Barlachala top, KM noticed a strange noise coming from the car, fearing the worst we stopped and climbed outside to find a punctured front tyre. The outside temp showed 0* Celsius and the height was 14500 ft. Well, we did what everybody does in such a situation. Get to work and change the tyre, our hands and eyes stinging from the cold wind. “Highest tyre puncture and highest tyre change in the coldest temperature in our life” declared KM as we sat back inside our car. We laughed and thanked the mountain Gods. It could have been worse. Barlacha la is one of the most beautiful passes with a smooth tarmac road and it would be difficult not to stop here and contemplate the mountains around. We encountered a few Nullas before Barlachla and also immediately after it with moderately high waterflow.

The Highest Type Puncture in the World
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We hit Sarchu and then Pang, after driving through some treacherous stretches. Crossing ‘Killing Sarai’ was really killing where we had to spend an hour waiting while the BRO bulldozers cleared the last remnants of a recent landslide from the road.

We crossed the famous Gata Loops just before Nakee-la pass. The 21 hair pin bends of Gata loops look mesmerizing from far and is one of the most photographed part of the route. We were intrigued by a curious dump of water bottles at one place. Later we came to know that it’s a memorial for the Ghost of Gata loops. He was a truck cleaner who had stayed back with his broken down truck while the driver went to get help and died of thirst and cold. It is believed that the Ghost asks for water from passersby and this memorial is for passersby to give water to the Ghost of Gata loops. By now our photography breaks and the road condition had slowed us down and we were already contemplating probable places to spend the night. We hit Pang and took a break. As we crossed Pang the treacherous mountains separated into a verdant, huge, plain valley. The immensity of the flat valley makes you look minuscule.

We were on the famed ‘More Plains’, a flat valley with a stretch of awesome tarmac road for more than 40 kms. We floored the accelerator hoping to cover up for lost time. As we crossed ‘More plains’ the second highest motorable pass ( Tanglang La) became visible in the distance. Before that we crossed Debring from where there is a track going towards Tso kar and Tso Moriri lakes. We had half a mind to divert to Tso Moriri but the lure of a warm bed and rest kept us on the road to leh. The climb was arduous and a couple of us were down with headaches and breathlessness. The wind goes crazy and dry at Tanglang La top. You can literally feel it sucking out the water from your body, dehydrating you. The path was lonely with our two vehicles being the only specs of movement on the whole huge landscape. Look back from Tanglang la and you can see the beautiful and immense expanse of the valley below, bathed in the various shades of Brown. These are sights one will never forget in an entire lifetime, sights that will call out to us to visit again and again. We didn’t stay for more than 15 minutes here as the wind was killing us and commenced the last stage of our drive for the day.

We hit Upshi by 2030 hrs and entered our details with the J&K police check post. The last 15 or so kilometers before reaching Upshi was treacherous, owing to the recent cloud burst and we really had to use all our concentration to drive through nonexistent roads. We reached Leh at 2200 hrs and booked ourselves into ‘The Himalayan retreat’. It was 9 days since we started from home, driving through some of the most treacherous and mind boggling terrain anywhere in the world. Our bodies were tired, the vehicles were battered but our spirits were still high.

Chilling in Leh. We fell in love with the town.

At 11500ft Leh didn’t look like much of an altitude, especially after what we had gone through in the last 8 days. It’s a quaint little town on the outside but as you start walking the small by lanes of the town, you find that it is bustling with tourist activity. There is a steady traffic of tourists and a constant thump of Royal Enfield motorcycles flowing in and out of the town. It’s a traveller’s town and has a life of its own with small cafes and restaurants tucked inside back alleys and corners, under apple and apricot trees, Tibetan refugees selling souvenirs and trinkets, Monks and Nuns visiting the town jostling with tourists and travelers. The people greet you with a smile and ‘Juley’, the local greeting.

From lay men seeking adventures to serious researchers to monks and nuns, everyone came together here in a mish mash of amazing diversity and openness. It also smelled of commercialization which put us off to some degree but on the whole we found it to be a town with good energy. Some good restaurants that we recommend are ‘Penguin’, ‘Bon appétit’ (you will have to book a seat in advance though) and ‘Gesmo’,

Next day after sending our vehicles for servicing at the local M&M workshop, we booked a taxi and visited Hemis Monastery, located 45kms from Leh. It is one of the richest Monasteries and some accounts put its origin to be before 11th century. It is also the Monastery where Nicolas Notovitch claimed to have seen a manuscript which talks about Jesus’s lost years being spent here.

@ Hemis
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While returning we stopped over at Thiksey Monastery and Shey palace. Thiksey Monastery is a beautiful place which resembles the Potala palace of Lhasa in Tibet. Shey palace, situated about 15 kilometers from Leh was the summer palace of the Ladakhi kings. These monasteries and other religious institutions are the centre of Ladhakhi society around which all life revolves. The Chortens, Mani stones and fluttering prayer flags scattered all across the land gives us a short glimpse into their way of life.

Thiksey Monastery
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We reached Leh by late evening and went for a walk through the town. The best way to see leh town is on foot, through the small alleys and talking to the local population over butter tea. We made it a point to check out as many cafes, German Bakeries (there are scores of them but we found ‘Gesmo’ really good) and restaurants as we could in our short stay and loved every moment of it.

The 20 year celebration
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Next up was a trip to Khardungla and Nubra. For many it’s a childhood dream to drive up to Khardungla. At 18380 ft, it is proclaimed to be the highest motorable pass in the world, (though i have my doubts on that). It is crowded, touristy and Commercialized like Rohtang La pass above Manali.

@ Khardungla
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Khardungla _ the mandatory one
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With people vying with each other to get a photo op beneath the signboard, it is a sight for sore eyes. We had a cup of tea and drove towards Nubra but halfway down into Nubra valley one of our friends felt unwell and started to vomit. Since our plan was to drive straight from Nubra to Pangong tso, it would be a long time before he gets any medical attention. We decided to go back to Leh and turned back from somewhere just after Khalser.

Back in leh, we spoke to local taxi drivers on the state of roads to Pangong tso and Tsomoriri and found to our disappointment that the road to Tsomoriri from Chumatang were washed away and we would have to take a roundabout road from Debring ahead of Tanglangla, on the Leh Manali route.

We decided to go to Pangong Tso the next morning and see how things unfold.

We started from leh at 4 AM towards the lake, passing through amazingly scenic surroundings’ and not so good roads. The drive generally takes about 5 hours to complete and crosses the Chang la pass which has small canteen and Tangtse where we were offered warm tea at the Army post.

Minus 8 at Chang la
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The first look at Pangong Tso Lake is spectacular. The desolate mountains in multiple shades of Brown sandwiched between the deep blue of the sky and the lake is mesmerizing. No wonder it’s a high point of every trip to Leh. We didn’t find many people around and thanked our stars to have the lake all to ourselves. We stayed on the shore contemplating the lake and its various hues for more than a couple of hours. It’s a sacred salt water lake and it is not recommended to take a dip or wash your vehicles in the lake. We turned back towards Leh as two of our friends had to take a flight out of Leh the next morning..

The Lovely Pangong Tso
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Posing @ Pangong

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Another GoPro moment - Blue skies like never before
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The Mamba taking a breathtaking breather
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It looked like Leh town was pulling us back to it inspite of all our plans to get out. Now it was clear that we would not be able to travel to Tsomoriri or Hanle due to landslides, so we decided to stay back in Leh for another day and move to Drass.
The last day in leh was spent shopping, vehicle preparations, refueling and generally resting. After a good night’s sleep, we said good bye to leh, with a promise to return, and took the highway towards Drass stopping at Gurdwara Pathar Sahib to pay our respects.

23 days, 7 friends, 9300 kms - Bangalore to Kashmir-patharsahib.jpg

The Confluence - Indus and Zanskar Rivers

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The road was very good and wide with almost no traffic.
We stopped over at Lamayuru for our lunch, loving the moonscape scenery around us. We were surprised to find a Malayali running a restaurant in far away Lamayuru. Over a chat with him we found that he takes the restaurant on lease for four months.

Lamayuru - Moonscape hills
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The drive from leh to drass is about 5 hrs long if you take out the numerous photography breaks that we took. We reached the town of Kargil to find a big sprawling township almost as big as Leh. The drive from Kargil to Drass is very picturesque, with sprawling fields all along the road.

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We reached Drass by 1830hrs and enjoyed the hospitality of the Indian Army for the next two days as we stayed with our friend in Drass and caught up on old memories with him during the evening. Next day morning we visited the Kargil War Memorial and listened to the briefing. We looked at Tololing, the famous Tiger Hill and Rhino top and were amazed at the way our brave soldiers fought in those inhospitable terrains. You can’t help but respect the sentinels who guard these places at sub zero temperatures. We placed a wreath at the memorial on behalf of all our friends. We stayed for another night and left Drass early next morning.

Homage @ Kargil war Memorial.

23 days, 7 friends, 9300 kms - Bangalore to Kashmir-p1150833.jpg

The route from Drass till the mouth of Zojila is smooth as butter and the scenery now was changing to green, though the trees were still missing. As we entered the famous Zojila pass, the road became treacherous. This pass was a treacherous tread and we shuddered to think of the state of road during rains. The scenery had suddenly changed as we hit Sonamarg to a beautiful green with pine trees dotting the mountainsides and houses with slanting roofs coloured in green, the types you see in Switzerland, coming into view. The whole valley was nothing short of heavenly. We understood why it was called a ‘paradise on earth’.

As we went along we decided to visit another of our friend in Naushera which was on a different axis than our planned route altogether.
We hit Srinagar and took the road to Shopian, from where we turned right onto Mughal road crossing the Pir Panjal ranges towards Poonch. The mountains all around us were a bit different from the ones we had been seeing till now. These were steeper and denser.

We reached Naushera at 2230 hrs and met our friend . As is wont when old friends meet, a whole download of the trip was shared with SK and memories refreshed with laughter stretching well into the wee hours of the morning. It was turning out to be a very fulfilling trip.

Some planned itineraries could not be completed but we ended up having some amazing unplanned diversions. We left for Behrur after two days of fun with friends. The journey now was coming to an end and we hit Behrur at 2330hrs. After a good night’s sleep we started the unremarkable drive towards Mumbai and Bangalore.

The travelogue or the photographs does not do Justice to what we have felt in our souls and seen with our eyes. It is inexplicable. Neither did we try looking for an explanation. It’s a soul thing. This is a trip which has etched itself in our souls and we will travel these roads again and the next time we will do it at a much slower pace, stopping over at the many places where we gave our heart away to the natural awesomeness, and savor the place. The journey for us has just begun.

Juley !

The final trip looked something like this –

Banglore – Nashik (Veh 1) – Mumbai (Veh 2) - Jaipur – Kasauli – Narkanda - Rampur – Sangla – Nako – Sumdo – Tabo – kaza – Kibber – Rangrik – Losar – Kunzum La – Battal – Chandratal – Gramphoo – Sissoo – Tandi – Keylong - - Jispa – Barlachala – Sarchu – Tanglangla – karu – Leh – Khardungla – Nubra – Leh – Pangong tso – Leh – Drass – Srinagar – Naushera – Behroor – Mumbai – Banglore.

Preparations –

Two Vehicles – Fully serviced. Extra tyre & tube, emergency kits, Tow ropes, Extra Fuzes, Oils, Filters, bulbs. Steel wires, electric wires, jump start cables, tyre inflator, Nuts and bolts, shovel, wodden planks, wheel stoppers, car inverter, additional tyre etc

Fuel – 40 ltr plastic cans per vehicle , as back up. Mandatory.

Water – 20 ltr water cans per veh to be kept filled up at all times. 5 ltr normal water cans per veh for washing and topping up wiper water.

Food & cooking – 4 days of emergency food (rice, Meals ready to eat, tea mix). Biscuits and nuts. Chocolates and candies to distribute among the children. Gas stove with an extra cylinder. Couple of basic cooking utensils.

Medical – ORS packets. Diamox, Dispirin, lomotil, Crocin, Brufuen , Band aids, bandages, dettol, Portable Oxygen cylinder, savalon, Ciprofloxacin, Clotrimazole cream and powder, Cetirizine, Syringes, Cotton swabs, scissors, thermometer, etc

Stay – 2 x tents, tarpoline, self inflating mattresses, Tent lamps, torches, toilet papers, tissue papers, wet wipes.

Misc – Extra batteries, hand sanitizers, cold cream, sunscreen, body lotion, swiss military knife, BSNL Postpaid connections x 3, maps, poly bags to put in the waste to be disposed later, camera, Photostats of ID & address proof ( 20 each), passport size photographs (15 each), adequate cash (no ATMs for long stretches and cards are not accepted at most places enroute), phone numbers, emergency contacts details, blood group and allergy details of everyone in a diary ( to be kept with everyone). Toiletries. Basic personal luggage.... and much more.

... And more photographs coming up soon

Last edited by GTO : 9th January 2016 at 11:21. Reason: PM'ing
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Old 9th January 2016, 11:23   #3
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Default Re: 23 days, 7 friends, 9300 kms - Bangalore to Kashmir

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 9th January 2016, 13:14   #4
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Default Re: 23 days, 7 friends, 9300 kms - Bangalore to Kashmir


Quite a trip. Congratulations. Lets get to see more and more pictures.

Leh is a destination - you can do at any time of the year and the pictures will always come out lovely. Of course, the May - Oct driving time allows one to explore more.


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Old 9th January 2016, 20:55   #5
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Default Re: 23 days, 7 friends, 9300 kms - Bangalore to Kashmir

Great travelogue. The whole route you took was really fascinating. Can you please tell on how did the vehicles performed on the whole route?
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Old 11th January 2016, 13:00   #6
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Default Re: 23 days, 7 friends, 9300 kms - Bangalore to Kashmir

Great travelogue and idea of having back-up route for the entire stretch is really cool. Preparation part is just a amazing checklist that will help others who plan to do the same. Awesome. Waiting for more photos.
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Old 11th January 2016, 14:22   #7
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Default Re: 23 days, 7 friends, 9300 kms - Bangalore to Kashmir

Mannubhai, Fantastic clicks and a very nice narrative of your trip. Hats off for completing the trip successfully, and celebrating 20 Years of Friendship in a novel manner.

All the best to all of you.
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Old 11th January 2016, 21:15   #8
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Default Re: 23 days, 7 friends, 9300 kms - Bangalore to Kashmir

Wow! What a way to celebrate 20 years of friendship. A true team - bhp style. Driving and doing what we all like the most. Enjoyed reading your post.
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Old 11th January 2016, 23:02   #9
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Breathtaking pics you, a true dream come come true... Its my dream to do this on my own, until then, i am hooked on to these pics.
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Old 11th January 2016, 23:19   #10
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Default Re: 23 days, 7 friends, 9300 kms - Bangalore to Kashmir

Nice one guys! I am thinking of doing one in my Aspire. But there is always a fear and hesitation at the back of my mind! The landscape just overwhelms. Have driven a fair bit on the mountains in Uttarakhand but that place is different beast altogether. But it keeps calling!!!
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Old 14th January 2016, 00:41   #11
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Default Re: 23 days, 7 friends, 9300 kms - Bangalore to Kashmir

The name of the thread itself demand 5 stars. The subsequent details and snaps only justify it. The numbers - days of journey, friends, years of friendship, km travelled together. Take a bow
I bet there will be very few (will there be any?), who wouldn't want to achieve this journey.
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Old 31st January 2016, 21:35   #12
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Default Re: 23 days, 7 friends, 9300 kms - Bangalore to Kashmir

I too was travelling all the way with you guys as I read this travelogue.....I could smell the fresh pristine air of the mountains sitting in Hyderabad

Great job! Cherish this trip !

- Krishnan
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Old 3rd February 2016, 09:36   #13
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Default Re: 23 days, 7 friends, 9300 kms - Bangalore to Kashmir

Thanks all for the kind words . Been completely tied up with work and travel. Ill post more snaps soon.. Apologies
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