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Old 17th August 2016, 18:49   #1
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Default Eat, Drive, Sleep (Repeat) - Chennai to Leh in a Ford Endeavour

Prologue: Chennai - Leh - Chennai

Leh / Ladakh road trip is something that was on my mind and heart since 2011, seeing few threads in T-BHP mentioning about the beauty of hidden India and also those challenges to reach it, while testing the rides and the riders. But, what ride and when to start was always a grey area. I owned a Manza then. Was always a little skeptical about its pick up in steep inclines and average G.C as well.

Come Apr’12, I switched jobs and moved to Chennai from Pune. Settling down in a new place and a new job pushed the dates further. Even if it was to piggy back in someone else’s ride if not mine.

But in Sep’14, while discussing about buying a Car inverter from Amazon in a casual chat in the office gangway, I shared my final objective of using it in so long planned and pending Ladakh trip.

That was when “CHORD” struck and my work pal was like, “Wow! When are you planning this? Let’s do it together. We can do it in my Endy”.

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So that was the actual trigger point for firming up the plan and quickly we arrived at a tentative date in July’15. Thanks to Tanveer’s (tsk1979) thread which already became a bible for any trips to Leh circuit.

All the reservations were made for four of us (two others too joined our plan later) by Feb’15. Slowly our discussions after office hours gained pace.

Come June, I was given a new additional role to meet Business requirements. So was a little skeptical about planning my vacation during this critical juncture. They always say - “Duty Comes First”. Sometimes Brain wins over Heart very easily. (Read – Logic)

So the entire plan was postponed to 2016. Luckily we didn’t lose much in the cancellations as most of them were ‘Pay at hotel’ except at Leh.

Come Sep/Oct’15, things started firming again for July’16 trip. By Jan’16 the detailed plan was finalized and we booked our accommodation by end Feb for staying from 22nd July to 6th Aug. Our other two colleagues dropped out due to personal commitments. Hence we were again back to two. Still no change in plans and we were committed to go ahead.

A picture is worth a thousand words as they say. Now let the pictures do some talking as well….

The Ride.

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The Dynamic Duo ( Arvind and Your's Truly on the right)

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The preparations/plans.

Prep 2016 - Version 3 on 5th July 2016.xlsx

Loaded Vehicle.

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Disclaimer:
Pls excuse about the quality of some pics. Most of them were taken from the front passenger seat while the vehicle was in motion .
Only place where we used the tripod was on the bank of Pangong So lake.


continued.

Last edited by .anshuman : 22nd September 2016 at 12:29. Reason: Changes to photo order as per request. Thanks
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Old 17th August 2016, 19:05   #2
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Default Eat DRIVE Sleep (Repeat) …. And we reached Ladakh!

22nd July 2016 – The Mad Dash to Bangalore

Started off from work at 4:15 PM, determined to make it to Bangalore by at least 10:00 PM. We had booked Venus Comforts at Bommasandra, specifically to avoid going into the city.

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The reason was that the next day we had to take NICE Road to catch Tumkur onward to Pune. Quick pit-stop at my house in Rajakilpakkam to pick up supplies and luggage. After a customary prayer, we finally left at 5:20 PM. The odo read 69763 kms.

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We took about 1 hour to get out of the city and finally crossed Sriperambudur by 6:30 PM. There was light rainfall on the way up to Bargur. We stopped at Krishnagiri for dinner. Had a quick bite and started our journey towards Bangalore.
Finally managed to cross the border and get into Karnataka at 10:15 PM. We then made a couple of phone calls to locate the hotel and finally managed to get directions from the Hotel Manager.
Room was very comfortable and spacious. Crashed by 11 PM, keeping in mind we had a long day ahead. Our first real day of travel towards Leh was going to dawn upon us tomorrow.

The RIDE performed as if nothing happened last night though my partner was a little heavy on his right foot to catch up the timing.

23rd July 2016 – The Smooth Cruise to Pune

Up at 5 AM to get ready quickly. Managed to check out by 6:30 AM and start our cruise to Pune. We knew the roads were fully laid out and there would be no obstruction.

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Started the early morning ride on NICE Road and managed to avoid all the Nelamangala traffic as well. Plus it was a Saturday anyway, so not much of an issue. Stopped at Sri Rathnam Veg Café just before Tumkur for a hearty breakfast. Food was very good and served hot. Had piping hot filter coffee as well.

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We then continued our journey onward through the heart of Karnataka.
Crossed many towns on the way and finally made a pit-stop at Ranebannur Bypass, Haveri District for our first Fuel stop. It was a Reliance Fuel station. Tanked up and started the journey. Roads were silky smooth and we never had any issues.

The Hubli by-pass was a single lane road. We continued onward until Belgaum, where we stopped for lunch finally at 3 PM. Hotel Nisarga served us good rotis and mix veg kadai.
Had a portion of Fried rice as well and tasted good paan. With our tummies full, we proceeded towards Pune.

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Seems, I need to send this snap to our Hero Motors Engineers for any revolutionary design.
A load carrier for Splendor.

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Got into Kolhapur and where the rain gods started smiling. They continued their smile all the way up to Katraj by-pass, when they finally eased. Trundled through Pune and located our hotel in Baner.
Hotel Sheetal Palace was on Baner Road. Checked in quickly, dropped our luggage and went out to get a bite to eat. Found a very nice restaurant – Falaahar right on Baner Road. They served some very creative sandwiches and milkshakes. Had a hearty meal and then retired for the day.

In the whole journey today, the RIDE was very responsive both to steering and the accelerator pedal.
The refurbished suspension was doing a really good job.
Yes. we were a little cautious on the humps as the boot was having an extra spare tire under our baggage.

Continued..

Last edited by Maverick79 : 20th September 2016 at 17:46.
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Old 17th August 2016, 19:28   #3
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Default Eat DRIVE Sleep (Repeat) …. And we reached Ladakh!

24th July 2016 – The Great Rush to Udaipur

As again, up at 5 AM and checked out by 6:15. We wanted to hit the Mumbai Expressway quickly, knowing that it is a Sunday and there should be some holiday traffic onward to Lonavala and other spots. Finally crossed the toll gate and then let the vehicle loose. There were some light showers on the way, but not as much as the ones we would see on our way back ( that’s another story to write about!!).
Stopped at Thane to tank up. The second fill-up of our trip.
Since we tanked up the car, we decided to tank up ourselves. Had breakfast at Mahavir’s at Thane junction at Eastern Expressway.
We then started the drive from Eastern Expressway to Airoli – Mulund and onwards to Western Expressway and finally onto the border with Gujarat. Rains continued for a bit and then eased up. We caught up with some traffic, primarily truckers, knowing that this is a key route for truckers going up north from the port. Crossed into the border through the check-posts, no major drama there.
Cruised up to Surat and had lunch at Honest Restaurant Food Plaza. Tried the traditional Gujarathi Thali. Was very good. Downed a glass of 'chaach' as well. With lunch out of the way, we then proceeded towards Udaipur, knowing we will cross Ahmedabad. Caught-up the Baroda- Ahmedabad Expressway after a short detour. The road is well laid out and clear from traffic.
Again by-passed Ahmedabad through the ring road and joined the Udaipur highway. Time to tank up as we had covered 650 kms. We filled up just at the Rajasthan border and drove towards Udaipur.
Rains caught up with us this time and they were not in a forgiving mood. Lashing down heavily, visibility reduced to a mere 20 meters and we were taking it a bit steady.
Finally managed to locate Udaipur and made some phone calls to locate the hotel – Jagat Niwas Palace.

The RIDE was pretty complacent. So were the roads. So again we were a little heavy on our right foot when ever possible.
The torque available at right from 1750 rpm is really awesome.
It seems to be an automatic in 3rd gear right from 20 kmph till 80 kmph. Very smooth and refined delivery of torque. No sudden bursts unlike its real Autobox variant.

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Interior of the hotel.

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It was on the shores of Lake Pichola, however the approach roads were very winding and narrow.

Hotel Lake Palace Udaipur was bright in the Lake.

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A ride to the hotel.

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GPS also could not point to the correct direction and it took us some skills to finally reach the location. It was pouring cats and dogs the entire time. The hotel staff were commenting that they had not seen such rains in Udaipur in a long time.
We then checked in, put our bags in the room and managed to get to the restaurant in the hotel. It was located in the upper deck of the hotel. The hotel being a heritage property had a very nice architecture layout. The restaurant was also overlooking the lake. We managed to get a table by the window and ate dinner looking over the lake. There was a candle lit on the table.
My friend and I were joking about the unlikely pair that we were, to have candle light dinner on the shores of Lake Pichola. They made very good tawa rotis and dal makhani. Wonderful food at the end of a long day and it was worth the while.

Now coming to the RIDE,

Without its high G.C (200 mm at least, if not 210 mm, I guess), it would have been definitely tough to negotiate the water filled narrow roads, rather 'rivulets' that night at 9.30 pm in Udaipur.


25th July 2016 – The Slow Ramble to Amritsar

As always, up at 5 AM. Went up to the hotel’s upper deck to take some pictures of Lake Pichola. The sun was playing hide and seek with the clouds. Drove out by 6:45 AM with the aim of making it to Amritsar quickly.
Jalebis and lassis were all that was in our minds, as we started our drive. Stopped at Rajsamand for a quick breakfast of aloo paranthas with curd. What was supposed to be a quick breakfast turned out to be a late breakfast as they took 25 mins to bring out the food.
Quickly downed whatever we got our hands on, followed by some masala chai. We started the drive towards Amritsar.

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The GPS was doing a splendid job of guiding us through the good routes. We crossed Beawar, Ajmer, Kishangarh, Jaipur and finally started the trek north. Stopped again to tank up at another Reliance Fuel Pump.

Entering a tunnel on the way.

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Well lit tunnel.

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Right after that, we stopped at Vanchara Dhaba on the highway. They served us a delicious thali – Butter Rotis with Paneer, Dhal, veg kadai and raitha with Peas pulao. We also ordered a nice thick lassi to go with it. Food was wonderful and tasty. We continued our journey and finally crossed Rohtak at 5:30 PM.
What happened after this defines why I call it the slow ramble to Amritsar.
There were 2 possible routes to Amritsar – The highway to Panipat, Jalandhar and Amritsar. The GPS however showed us the other route via Rohtak, Palampur, Sangrur, Moga. And these routes were directed to be taken through these towns and not through by-passes.

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Trusting the GPS, we continued on and the roads started becoming worse. Apparently, they were being four-laned at this time and the entire stretch was unpaved and dusty. Nor could we maintain good speeds. Eager to get to Amritsar at the earliest, we continued on the direction said by the GPS. It was just never ending. In pitch dark conditions, we were driving along canal banks, around herds of cows and buffaloes.

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On the way, we stopped to make inquiries just to make sure we were going in the right direction.
Made a quick stop outside Moga for a cup of piping hot tea at 1 AM.
It was 2 AM finally when we made it to Amritsar, after crossing through many towns. Managed to locate the hotel on Queens Road – Hotel Shiraz Regency. We just crashed finally after having been on the road for almost 20 hours.

About the RIDE again,

I love the hydraulic power steering response. It really gives a correct connectivity of the wheel. I would like to rate the Electronic ones at 90 ~ 95 responsive against the Hydraulic. IMHO.

Yes. I am missing my old ride - All New Ford Fiesta. EcoSport is not bad either with its EPAS.


Continued..

Last edited by Maverick79 : 20th September 2016 at 17:47.
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Old 18th August 2016, 17:34   #4
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Default Eat DRIVE Sleep (Repeat) ….... And we reached Ladakh!

26th July 2016 – Kulcha, Paratha and Lassi….The gourmet experience in Amritsar.

Today being a rest day, we got up late….really late at 9 AM. Got ready and went downstairs to check out the breakfast spread. Realizing it was 10:30 AM already, we thought we will aim for Brunch. Stepped out of the hotel and managed to down the first of many lassis for the day.

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Took an auto-rickshaw ride to the Golden Temple and found some renovation happening on the outside perimeter where the shops are located.
The main temple complex is pristine, with sparkling white marble surrounding the pool of nectar.

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Very orderly and disciplined crowd as well. Waited in the queue for about 1.5 hours and completed the visit of the Sanctum. Came out and had prasad offered.
We were trying to make up our minds whether to go and have lunch at the Langar serving or go out. Difficult choice, but our hearts made us go for the lunch at the restaurant. Walked out of the temple complex, after offering one last prayer to the Lord.
Quickly, we were then on to the Jallianwala Bagh complex, going through 100 year old history. I recollect reading about Jallianwala Bagh in our history books and now had the chance to be there in person. There is a very nice gallery with photo artifacts and collections of various letters written by our nation’s forefathers during the Independence struggle. We also strolled through the park examining the walls that bore the bullet wounds. Chilling reminder of the suffering, pain and struggle that our forefathers had gone through to offer us our independence that we now take for granted.

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Finally after spending some quality time, we headed to our first gourmet meal of the day. The restaurant was near the main road from the Golden Temple complex. We tried traditional rajma chawal, kulcha and chole. Topped it off with another lassi. At the end of the meal, we were so full that we could not get up from our seats for about 10 mins.

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Resting after a big meal, we finally managed to get up and get back to our hotel.

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Inquired about the time taken to get to the 'Wagah' border, we decided to leave at around 2:45 PM. The drive to the border took us about 30 mins. Located a parking spot and started the trek to the security check area and then onward to the viewing gallery. Cleared security and managed to get a spot to sit. It was a hot and dusty day. The crowds were swelling up by the minute. Finally the crowd settled down and squeezed through every possible inch of space available to sit. We waited patiently for the program to start. There was music being played. There was a commandant from the BSF who conducted the entire program.

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There were groups of children who were invited by the BSF to dance to the tunes being played. The Tri-Colour was brought out and handed over to groups of women and children to parade with it up to the border gates.

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It must have felt great for sure, having been accorded that honor. Slowly by around 5:30 the parade started. Excellent display of nationalistic pride. The BSF personnel put up a very spirited show. The Tri Color was fluttering high. We did manage to get a good glimpse of the other side. The crowd started trickling down slowly on the other side, but finally filled up the entire gallery. All pleasantries exchanged and the flags brought down, after the Beating Retreat Bugle sound.

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We then drove back to Amritsar.
Tanked up again to prep for the day tomorrow. The ascent towards Sonmarg was upon us. Wanted to sleep early. That led us to have early dinner. Early by no means earlier than 8 PM though. Drove straight to the hotel. Parked the car there and inquired about a good vegetarian restaurant.

The suggestion given was Inderpuri Dhaba, on the parallel Cooper Road. It was a worthy suggestion. The lachcha parathas along with Palak paneer were drenched in ghee. Worthy opponent to our lunch menu. Again downed another lassi to top off the wonderful meal. Topped it off with a nice sweet paan ( 2 of them actually!!) and walked back to the hotel, talking about how good the food was. Quickly crashed with our minds, hearts and stomachs full.

It was really tough to choose what pic to upload here. Some how, tried to restrict 30 pics per post as per our guidelines.

Continued..

Last edited by Rehaan : 26th September 2016 at 13:34. Reason: Removing some dead image links
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Old 23rd August 2016, 13:54   #5
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Default Eat DRIVE Sleep (Repeat) …. And we reached Ladakh!

27th July 2016 – The snail paced crawl to Sonmarg

The day started with no drama, as always at 5 AM. Check out was at 6:30 AM. As a precautionary measure, We checked and filled up air in our tires and started driving towards Jammu/Srinagar/Sonmarg.

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With the GPS experience fresh in our minds, we decided to use our heads and adopt old fashioned method of travelling (Asking the friendly people on the road for directions…if lost).
That really paid dividends. The road signs were clear and the roads smooth. The Green Revolution was a sight to behold. Lush green fields and rolling rivers were of the order on the way. They had laid out the green carpet for us.

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Stopping for breakfast before Pathankot, at a quirky restaurant called Chennai Express. We decided to have one last masala dosa and vada, before our trek to Leh. It was not a bad decision, as the food was good there.
Once we had our fill, we continued on our journey.
The rains caught up with us this time from the J&K border. Started raining heavily once we got closer to Jammu.

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It was after Jammu that the fun really started. The heavy rains started impromptu waterfalls on the road side, which also brought with them a lot of mud and rocks.

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We were extremely lucky to escape some major landslides in that area. Managed to escape the rains finally at Patnitop.
Stopped there for a quick lunch of rotis and dhal. Delicious meal there.
We then started driving towards Srinagar, where we finally caught up with our luck….or the lack of it, figuratively spoken.

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There was a landslide about 5 kms ahead and all vehicles were stopped. We were trying hard to find out the reason initially, but of no avail.
Finally the local police shared some pictures to make us believe the gravity of the issue.

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Waited for about 2.5 hours and were finally let through an alternate route. That road was narrow and was navigable only by passenger cars and jeeps. The width of the road was not much anyway. We crossed the Jhelum river, which was in full spate.

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Managed to get to Banihal at around 8 PM, where we were stopped again from entering Srinagar, due to the curfew imposed. Army had given us directions to wait until they get the all-clear from High Command.
They were very helpful to us and requested our patience, only for our own safety.

During the time we waited, we were served dinner by the Amarnath Pilgrim Seva Samithi. Hot rotis, dhal and pulav. Langar style food at Banihal. Tasted like heaven.
Bade our time, caught a quick nap till 11 PM.
Finally the go ahead came. There was a mad rush on the road. We stopped a toll point, got down stood in the queue and bought the toll ticket at 12:30 AM finally, for no one to check that piece of paper.
Crossed Srinagar at around 1:30 AM. Made some quick inquiries with the Armed Forces personnel stationed at various check-posts for the direction to Sonmarg.
Got on to the right road finally. Passed through the Dal lake at night. Peaceful and calm with just the shikharas floating around. Very unlike of what happened in the days earlier.
It was a wonderful drive from Srinagar to Sonmarg, driving along rambling rivers and streams. Was a pity that it was the middle of the night. Else it would be a sight to behold.
Passed through wonderful roads in the thick of the night and reached Sonmarg finally by 4 :30 AM.
Initially had some difficulty locating the hotel and finally with the help of some directions, managed to find it. Hotel Glacier Heights had a great view of the meadows.
Checked in quickly and managed to catch some sleep finally at 5 AM. This was one long day again – 24 hours straight.

Coming to the RIDE's performance today,

It simply never let us down.

Irrespective of the road / no road conditions.
Irrespective of the climate.

Just because of the shear presence of this vehicle, We felt secure in most of the 'sensitive' areas as well.

PS: Pls do excuse me for the quality of most of the pics. It was a mix of bad roads and poor weather conditions, was not able to get even some decent shots.

Continued ...
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Last edited by Maverick79 : 20th September 2016 at 17:48.
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Old 23rd August 2016, 15:13   #6
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Default Eat DRIVE Sleep (Repeat) …. And we reached Ladakh!

28th July 2016 – The grand trek up Zoji La to Leh via Kargil

We had to coax ourselves out of bed by 9 AM.
Quickly got ready by 10 AM and munched on some breakfast at the hotel. Tasty bread jam butter sandwiches followed by Kashmiri Kahwa.

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Wonderful combination and truly made us feel like in heaven.
We started our drive by 10:30 AM and managed to get up the starting point to ZojiLa.

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I did not realize the pass would just come up so quickly. That drive was epic.

It was drizzling initially and then fog enveloped the entire pass.
There was barely 5-10 meters of visibility and we were doing only 10 kmph due to the road conditions. There was also maintenance work being carried out by the BRO.

Oncoming traffic was very disciplined and everyone stuck to their bit of road to make sure the other had enough room. But that was one real driving experience.
Took about 1 hour to finally make it past ZojiLa and we reached the War memorial there at ZojiLa. Quick stop to visit the memorial and read through the history.
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As usual the RIDE was responding as if it was really enjoying along with us. Every Blind corner, steep incline. All were like a piece of cake walk to it.

One the way,
Wow! A Hyundai made Alto?

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Last edited by Maverick79 : 20th September 2016 at 17:48.
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Old 24th August 2016, 15:51   #7
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Default Eat DRIVE Sleep (Repeat) …. And we reached Ladakh!

At Kargil:.

Post the customary photo-shoot, we then proceeded towards Kargil War Memorial. Reached there by 12:45 PM and the first sight was the Tri-colour proudly fluttering high with the Tololing Peak / Tiger Hill in the background.

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Just moved us to tears. The proudest moment for every Indian. It was majestic, spell-binding and mesmerizing.

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In all my life, I had been patriotic, but this took me to a whole new level. Little did I realize there was more in store, and that this flag is just the tip of the iceberg.
There were detailed photos and artifacts that were maintained in immaculately condition.

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There was a detailed media briefing by the Army personnel, who were managing this fantastic memorial.

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There was an officer who took us through the photo display and the history of war.

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He had 80,000 + likes on Facebook and huge fan following.

The vigor and fervor with which he explained everything there, made me realize how much more of a patriot he is.

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The immaculate details that he shared with us made us really proud of the efforts and sacrifices our army had made to secure our sovereignty.

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Spending almost an hour there, we then proceeded onward to Leh.

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Stopped on the way for lunch at a very beautiful restaurant – Seleme Restaurant on the banks of the Zanskar.

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The river was in its full splendor, with crisp glacier fed water rumbling and tumbling down the valley. Nice rapids worthy of rafting built up on the river surface. They served us some amazing mutter paneer and chapathis.

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The water given to drink was so fresh and crisp, we could actually bite into it.

After a hearty meal, we drove down to Leh.

Managed to reach around 8:30 PM and took some time to locate the hotel. Indus Home stay was near the Spituk monastery next to the Airport. Located it finally by 9:15. The home stay prepared some simple but delicious dinner of tawa chapatis and saag. Managed to finish them all and crashed for the day.

We started feeling like, this trip was new only to both of us and not to our RIDE. The way it performed till now was just nothing to every penny of money we spent on it.

Last edited by Maverick79 : 20th September 2016 at 17:49.
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Old 24th August 2016, 15:55   #8
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Default Eat DRIVE Sleep (Repeat) …. And we reached Ladakh!

29th July 2016 – Cruising in Leh


Today was a light day, as we decided to check out the sights and sounds of Leh city.

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First stop – Shanti Stupa. On our drive towards the Stupa, we realized that our hotel for the remainder of the stay in Leh – Hotel Sangto Green, was on the way.

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Finished the visit at the Stupa and checked into our hotel.

Nice homely property with a beautiful garden. Had poplar and apple trees as well. They grow their own vegetables too.

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The landlady was very helpful in giving us tips and directions. Decided to take some rest in the afternoon after lunch there. Good dal chawal along with vegetables and curd was served. Managed to hook up to the internet finally after 3 days and connected to the outside world.

While I was having a power nap to cover up my lost sleep, my partner struck up a conversation with the land lady again, inquiring about Leh. She had a background in Fashion Designing and worked in Gurgaon, until she decided to come back and run this property. She had her daughter to assist her in the management of the hotel. Rahul – the one man show, ran the kitchen, took care of all errands and did the shopping as well.

We then went out in the afternoon to the Leh Palace and Hall of Fame.

Topped up fuel for our big drive tomorrow to the Top of the World. Came back by 7 PM and had an early dinner before calling it a day.
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Last edited by Maverick79 : 20th September 2016 at 17:49.
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Old 1st September 2016, 17:57   #9
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Default Eat DRIVE Sleep (Repeat) …. And we reached Ladakh!

30th July 2016 – We are on Top of the world!!


Woke up with a splitting headache and realized that it is because of the altitude and oxygen levels. Managed to get ready armed with sandwiches packed by Rahul.

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Managed to start the climb slowly but steadily when we had our first scare of the trip.
The engine check light started flashing.

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We scratched our heads as to what could be the reason. Coolant, oil and everything were between min and max.
Maybe we thought we had used up more engine oil than anticipated even though we had just finished servicing the vehicle before the trip. Hence topped up a little engine oil.
As a precautionary measure, we decided to top-up some more engine oil from our reserve store Jerry can with us hoping the engine check-light to go away.

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Took a short break after that, finished the sandwiches for breakfast and started driving.
To our dismay, the light did not go off.
Frantic browsing of the vehicle manual brought us a wide smile and relief. The engine performance above 16,000 ft gets reduced as a precautionary measure and the engine check light just goes on as a warning.
There is no special service required to correct this. This was the verbatim instruction in the manual. Quickly confirming that we did cross 16,000 ft, we had a hearty laugh about the entire episode.
Just goes to show that no matter how much you had gone through the manual before leaving for the trip, there is always one tiny detail that you can miss and that can take you by surprise.
Later, we realized that we were on an slight incline which cheated our Engine oil dip stick measurement.
The flip side to the whole episode is that we now have topped up too much engine oil and this was showing up in the vehicle performance.
The pick-up was very sluggish and the vehicle was belching quite some amount of smoke. Nevertheless, it was not too much of a show stopper for us to stop the trek up.

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Seems few glaciers already melted. Could see the last layer of ice.

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We finally reach Khardung La, stopped for the customary photo-shoot. Quite some number of people were there in many forms of transport.

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Left Khardung La after about 15 mins adhering to the warning to not to stay more than 20 mins at that level (18,380 ft = 5.6 kms above Chennai/ Mean Sea Level).
Now I realized how well the BSF / BRO team were trained to camp there and guide everyone. Hats off !

Resumed our journey towards the Nubra Valley going along the non-existent roads but compensated by mesmerizing landscape whose beauty cannot be described in words.

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Saw the glaciers for the first time in life, so closely.

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The different hues, shades and colors of the terrain.
The rivers meandering through the valley along with small villages lining up the mountains.
We are just not aware of our real untouched beautiful landscapes/ terrain which is way far splendid than Switzerland and other parts of the world.
We stopped by the town of Khalsar for lunch.

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Had a delicious meal of Egg Fried Rice and Lemon rice along with one buttermilk. Decided we have had enough of for one day, we started on return journey.
After restarting, the Engine check light had gone off, now that we descended 16000 ft.
Once we drove up to Khardungla, the light came back again.

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No reason to worry and we continued to travel towards Leh. Reached Leh at 5 PM and decided to rest.
Made plans for tomorrow’s drive to Pangong Tso. Had a quick debate whether we should do the drive ourselves or hire a car, given the terrain and road conditions, however, finally settled in favor of driving by ourselves. After all, WE LIVE TO DRIVE! Isn’t it..?

Now coming to the RIDE's performance,
Yes. May be we were able to exploit to most of its capability.
Except a little sluggish performance due to excess oil filling, it gave us immense confidence where and when ever we needed. Say while negotiating a blind curve or while overtaking in the no / narrow roads.

May be due to the Power to Weight ratio, the Scorpio and Innova cabbies were always faster than us. Also, they know the local terrain as well.
We were never in race anyways with anyone there.

Last edited by Maverick79 : 20th September 2016 at 16:44.
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Old 9th September 2016, 17:14   #10
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Default Eat DRIVE Sleep (Repeat)..…. And we reached Ladakh!

31st July 2016 – We are still on Top of the world….well almost!!

The day started at 6:30 and we headed out armed with sandwiches again. Headaches were still ruling the morning, but that did not stop us from our journey.
We had made up our mind that it was Pangong or nothing for the day and we started our journey.
Drove through Khargi and took the diversion to Pangong via Durbuk. The roads up to 6 kms before Chang La were good.

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Then the rough patch started.

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It was manageable though, given the size of our vehicle. Some very narrow stretches needed very careful maneuvering.

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Yes. We reached the 3rd highest Motarable pass now! Changla - At 17688 ft.

I believe Mahindra had organized a ride for Mojo owners, as we had seen some Mojo riders in Leh. They were also part of a guided tour at the Hall of Fame in Leh. Probably, the ride is very similar to what Royal Enfield organizes for the Bullet and Thunderbird owners.

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After passing through many army facilities on the way and we finally were able to get the first view of the lake. It was just breathtaking!

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It's in justice if I close this post with only 30 pics while meeting the guideline. Hence the snaps will follow in next post.

Continued....

Last edited by Maverick79 : 20th September 2016 at 16:57.
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Old 9th September 2016, 17:52   #11
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Default Eat DRIVE Sleep (Repeat) …. And we reached Ladakh!

Crystal clear, azure blue waters shimmering under the shining sky.
Surrounded by majestic mountains, these waters of the lake bore reflections of mountains and the clouds above.
The colors kept changing based on the incidence of the sunlight and the cloud cover.
We used this opportunity to take many pictures and the tripod was brought out to action.

Now, let these pics do the talking! I don't have words anyways to describe this part of our India..

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The last scene from "3 Idiots movie"

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The owner is making good money with this Scooter. Lot of female posers with this.

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The parting shot. Only to return back!

This post editing was the toughest to me as deciding which photograph to post here was more tedious than anything else in the entire Journey. First restricting to the size of 3Mb per pic and then to the limit of 30 snaps per post.
Anything to maintain the Forum's quality, at the end of the day!

Coming to our RIDE's experience,
We now got the confidence that any road is just a game for us with this machine. The responsiveness to brake release and the required acceleration to move inch by inch is too accurate. We were able to cut within two inches with many vehicles in tight turns. Of-course at very low speeds.

Continued..

Last edited by Maverick79 : 20th September 2016 at 17:51.
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Old 9th September 2016, 18:12   #12
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Default Eat DRIVE Sleep (Repeat) …. And we reached Ladakh!

Spending some time on the lake shore, we finally decided to get a bite to eat.
A nice restaurant by the lake shore – 100 Oceans Café served some good egg fried rice and vegetable fried rice. Seemed like the best meal of the whole trip, primarily due to the fact that we were famished since the morning and it was already 2 PM.

Some Camping options over the lake side are shown below. They were charging a mere 200 bucks per night in the below facilities.
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The prices go up to INR 2000 per night, with more comfortable tents and a little far away from the lake as well.


Another restaurant based on "3 Idiots movie".
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Walked back to the lake shore to enjoy clear waters for some more time. I even took the opportunity to lie down flat on the shore and enjoy the view. What a pleasant experience…
Need this kind of a peace to body and soul at least once a while, if not every year. (Eagerly awaiting my toddler to grow up. Family trip for sure next time.)
The other interesting fact about this Leh sojourn was that we had the opportunity to meet people using different modes of transport. We saw enthusiastic out of townees and locals in Maruti 800s, Altos, Wagon Rs, Hyundai i10, i20.
We saw the usual Scorpios, Fortuners and Pajeros and even Beemers.
What we were really surprised to see was a Rajasthan registered Tata Nano on our way to Pangong Tso. (Couldn’t take a snap though.) Takes guts and conviction to make that journey all the way there. The other side of it, proves our INDIAN DESIGN talent as well!
We were also surprised to see the variety of bikes coming up to Leh.
Yes.we were always told that we would see bikers in Bullets. Little did we know that we were also going to see Splendors, Pulsars, Unicorns, Activas and even a Kerala registered Vespa 125 LX.
Most of them were from Maharashtra, Karnataka and Delhi. Shows that most, if not all were road trippers with a lot of guts.

Coming to Royal Enfield, there are innumerable bike rentals around Leh city that give you good rental options.
The rental seemed very popular as we could see lot of tourists renting those bikes and riding up to the passes. It was even a big draw for the foreigners, who had come to visit Leh. One gentleman who was staying in our home-stay was raving about his Classic 350 and how he had been having fun riding in Leh for around 2 weeks.
In comparison to what they did on their bikes, ours was like Travelling in Business Class. We were cocooned in the comfort of our Endy, protected from the elements, downing juice packets, nuts, cookies, chocolates and lassis at will.
Hats off to the bikers for their spirit of adventure.
Really takes it to another level of physical and mental toughness. Inspiring… HEART already started negotiating with MIND!

Now my buddy is already guessing my expressions and feelings!
Ummm.. Started thinking about a biking adventure as well.( Just acquired a pre worshiped TB 500).
Well. Hope, that’s going to be another travelogue….another time and day!!

Fully content with the day’s progress, we decided to start our journey back to Leh. The drive back was uneventful and we reached the Hotel by 6:30 PM.
Struck up a good conversation with our fellow hotel mates over dinner, on our adventures so far. Some of them were pleasantly surprised to hear that we had driven all the way from Chennai.
They were curious about the route we took and whether we did not feel tiring to have done this all the way.
We just looked at each other and chuckled, for being this crazy.
But as the saying goes from Bon Jovi – It’s my life and it is now or never….I ain’t gonna live for ever!!
So better do it now or never.

Had a hearty meal to end the proceedings, thanked the landlady for hosting us for 3 days, settled the bills and called it a day.
We were now leaving Leh for getting back to our old lives. How much are we going to miss Leh? That was the big question on our minds.

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Old 9th September 2016, 18:37   #13
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Default Eat DRIVE Sleep (Repeat) …. And we reached Ladakh!

1st August 2016 – The Journey to Keylong


Packing Aloo parathas for breakfast, we started at 7 :30 AM to Keylong. We were told that the road to Keylong would be pretty scarred and bad. Our first stretch of driving was not so actually and the roads were pretty good.

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We got up to Tanglang La (the second Highest motorable pass) and started the downward trek to Sarchu.

Stopped by lunch by a quaint restaurant in Sarchu village. Had a nice hot plate of dal and chawal, with some aloo subzi.

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We then continued our drive towards Keylong.

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The roads then started revealing themselves. It started getting worse by the minute and finally the road gave way completely. It was a dusty, stone filled, bumpy stretch for a long time.

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Few foreigners, as our company for an instance..
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Plus, the roads started getting narrow too!! We did have some very close calls, maneuvering around trucks from the opposite direction. We finally crossed over into Himachal Pradesh and were greeted by smooth roads.

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It was like an ultimate test for our Perseverance and patience to use mind only, which is still have a little ache due to low Oxygen levels. True test to the driving skills as well and vehicle too.
Drove for about an hour to Keylong and located the hotel very easily. Hotel Chanderbagha is run by HP Tourism and is a good hotel. We had a hearty meal there – mushroom mutter, chapathis, rice, aloo gobi along with a nice fruit custard, which was very delectable. Happy that we reached Keylong without any drama, we called it a day.

Now coming to the RIDE's performance,
I was always a little light on the right foot. Tuned to Economical driving. Hence right foot and left foot are trained for releasing the clutch only and not being heavy on the accelerator pedal in general, while picking up from stand still.
However, I was forced to go the other way. Use Acc. pedal generously to get the necessary torque to climb those steep inclines. Yes. the tail pipe was already emitting thick smoke already.
Attached Thumbnails
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Old 13th September 2016, 18:12   #14
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Default Eat DRIVE Sleep (Repeat) …. And we reached Ladakh!

2nd August 2016 – The tumble down to Shimla via Rohtang, Manali, Kullu, Mandi, Sundarnagar Bilaspur…..Just went on and on!!

The morning started early as usual. We came down to the lobby at 6:30 and they had piping hot breakfast ready to be served at the hotel.

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We were really surprised to see that HPTDC was serving breakfast at 6:30 AM. Speaks volumes about their dramatic shift in preparedness and attention to detail that the customers were looking for.

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There was poori and bhaji, along with butter and jam sandwiches available with hot masala tea. Realizing that it was too early to eat something oily, we decided to settle for sandwiches and tea though they felt a bit English at 6:30 am.
Started driving to Shimla at 7:00 AM and found the initial patch of road was bad, with some widening and paving work in progress by the BRO.

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As it got closer to Rohtang pass, the fun really started. It was raining and foggy at the same time. The roads completely gave way to broken stretches and we had impromptu streams of water running down from melting ice sheets.

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Managed to cross Rohtang finally after about 2 hours.

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Did some quick calculations on average speeds….we had covered 4 kms in 20 mins at one point…Excruciatingly slow and painful for both us and Endy. After the customary photo-op at Rohtang, we then drove down towards to Manali.

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Roads had become much better by then and it was a cruise. Once we got down to valley level, the views become splendid.

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Felt like driving through pristine Alpine countryside with pine trees dotting the entire landscape.

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We had a small traffic snarl for some two hrs where a truck was stuck.
Luckily, the Army convoy coming on the opposite side got down to quickly fill some rocks in a pit to make the way for traffic.

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Beas River was winding its way through the valley with great gusto.
Rafting was near impossible at that ferocity.

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Found many such rocks which were shinning and shimmering in the sun light. Seems they have some heavy amounts of mineral/ metal content.

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We crossed Manali and inquired our way to Mandi, as we were told that the Mandi route to Shimla was good.
Crossed many apple orchards on the way to Kullu – Bhunter. Stopped in a wholesale market in Kullu to pick up some apple cases.

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We then proceeded to stop after Bhunter to get a bit to eat. Good lunch with Tawa rotis and dal fry at a nice and clean vaishno dhaba.
Following the lunch stop we continued on our mission to Shimla. Towns and villages passed by.
We were not in sight of Shimla for quite a while.
Managed to cross Mandi, Sundarnagar (which by the way is quite a big town with all amenities available), took the Bilaspur bye-pass and joined the Shimla road. It then started raining followed by fog, which brought down our speeds considerably.
Managed to reach Shimla city by only around 9:30 PM. Our accommodation for the night was in Nalderah and we had to take another road from Shimla.
Our luck was to get stranded for about 1 hour on the road to Nalderah, due to a landslide. We decided to cancel our accommodation there and head back into the city and find a place to stay.
Lucky us, we found a place in Mall Road – Hotel Shingar, with a room available. Took sometime find the hotel, and very importantly find a parking spot.
It had been 15 years since my pal had last visited Shimla. He found the city has changed so drastically that there is construction everywhere and the whole town has become a huge parking lot. Cars parked in every possible place on every side and in every angle.
My buddy was very surprised to see dedicated multi storied parking lots for this purpose in Shimla. Is the parking problem become so acute? Or is it just prosperity leading to the desecration of nature? I wonder if both could be the reason.
Managed to finally locate the hotel, park the car, do a quick hike up the stairs from the parking lot to Mall Road and check into the hotel.

Crashed at 11:30 deciding to not get up early tomorrow. The day would not be long as we would only be driving to Delhi.

RIDE's performance today:
No matter how slow we were moving and how harsh we were on the accelerator pedal, not even once did the Engine temp indication turned red in the entire stretch. I was frequently checking the display for any other malfunction lights glowing.
Though the ambient temp is low around 10 Deg.Celsius, the kind of load the engine was taking is very well cooled and balanced.

Last edited by Maverick79 : 20th September 2016 at 17:52.
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Old 13th September 2016, 18:24   #15
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Default Eat DRIVE Sleep (Repeat) …. And we reached Ladakh!

3rd August 2016 – The dawdle to Mall City

Got up a bit later than usual. Got ready and drove out of Shimla. The roads were choked with morning traffic, as it was a working day. We saw the town during the daylight and were heartbroken to see nature in a very bad state.
It used to be the Queen of hill stations in the North and now is reduced to a huge concrete jungle cum parking lot. Traffic snaked through the roads all the way down until Kalka.
We stopped for a quick bite in Shoghi. Buddy had delicious masala bread omlette toast and onion parathas with curd was my choice followed by a nice masala chai and started the drive to Delhi.
Hit some traffic again due to road widening work. Managed to cross Chandigarh finally by 12:30. After that it was smooth cruising on the way. Wide roads all along.
Ambala cantonment area was huge and we had the opportunity to see Tatra multi axle trucks from the Army.
Stopped for lunch before Panipat at a nice dhaba. Had a good Thali with lassi. Continued our drive to Gurgaon, where our hotel was actually located.
Took the NH8 by-pass and got off at the Medanta Hospital Exit to Sector 48. Hotel Signature Leaf was conveniently located of the by-pass, which we would need to take on our journey to Ahmedabad tomorrow.
Checked in by 5:30 PM and decided to rest for some time.

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Meanwhile, partner decided to make some plans for a fancy dinner. Checked out nearby restaurants in the area and after reading some good reviews, decided to go to Big Wong’s at Banni Mall in Sector 50. It had been a while since we had some good Chinese food. Plus, the place was 10 mins from where we stayed.
Drove down to the restaurant by 8:15 PM and was lucky to get a table immediately.

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Dimsums were really good there and they had quite a spread. Ordered 3 different varieties and downed them quickly as well. We then had some pan fried noodles and pad thai noodles for main course. The dinner was primarily to celebrate our successful trip to Ladakh and back without a scratch on us or on Endy. We were remembering all the things that we had done in the past 12 days, reminiscing all the food that we ate, all the roads we drove on and all the places we saw.
Today’s dinner also brought us back to civilization, where we were eating Thai food for dinner at a fancy restaurant in a mall!!
Having had a sumptuous meal, we called it a day and looked forward to tomorrow’s journey to Ahmedabad.

4th August 2016 – The quick burst to Ahmedabad

Got up at 6:30 and checked out by 8:00 AM. Decided to have breakfast on the way. Just when we merged on to the NH8 bypass, we were greeted by Gurgaon traffic. The road under the flyover had literally people coming in 8 directions.
It took about 20 mins just to get past that. Finally having negotiated our way past this jam, we managed to locate Haldiram’s outlet near Hero Chowk. Had a tasty Dilli style breakfast with poori-bhaji, kachori and sandwiches, followed by tea.

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We got past Gurgaon and Neemrana as well. Tanked up again at another Reliance outlet in Rajasthan. We continued our drive past Jaipur through the bypass, Kishangarh and reached Ajmer town for a good meal.
Had some vegetable pulao and lassi in a restaurant in the main circle. Good food there.
Finishing up the meal, we started to drive back out to the highway. Heavy rains started in Ajmer and continued until we reached Beawar.
Once we crossed Beawar, we were left with two choices. Either take the route via Udaipur to Ahmedabad, which we had done in our onward journey.
Or take the route via Mount Abu to Ahmedabad. The Mount Abu road is a 4 laned highway and it proved to be a wise choice. Smooth roads led us all the way to Ahmedabad.
Managed to locate the hotel in the city by around 10:30 PM. Checked in quickly and ordered some room service dinner – Rotis and vegetable kadai, along with butter milk. Finished it quickly and crashed finally. Our next day was going to be fun, as we were planning to be driving in the dreaded monsoon rains in Maharashtra, which had been creating quite a bit of havoc there. Praying that no bridge should collapse, we finally called it a day.

5th August 2016 – The Great Escape to Kolhapur


The morning drive started out with a small drizzle. Little did we know that it had rained cats and dogs the previous night. When we checked out of the hotel, our parked ride had been almost washed neat to our surprise.
Understood it was the act of Rain Gods!! Thanking them profusely for saving us some work and time, we moved on to tank up for the drive.
We passed through the heart of the old city and waded through 2~3 feet deep water.

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Being in an Endeavour helped us big time to get past such hurdles(Recent flood driving experience in Chennai last Dec was still fresh in my mind).
About 30 mins after we started, we managed to join the Baroda expressway.
Stopped on the way for breakfast at A1 Plaza. Quickly finished it and continued our drive. Smooth sailing past Baroda, until we hit a major traffic jam at Bharuch.
Under construction flyover held up 3 lanes of traffic and squeezed it to one lane. Made it past the flyover after about 35 mins and proceeded further.
Crossed into Surat and drove past Vapi and Valsad as well. Rains kept chasing us all along till the border and continued even past it.

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Finally into Maharashtra, we were reminded that our tummies needed to tank up. While we were debating about food, a McDonald’s advertisement passed us. Thinking about all the food we have had so far, we figured we should check our McDonald’s as it had been a long time since we had some burgers and fries.
Stopping at the Food Plaza in Manor for lunch, and ordered burgers, fries and wraps along with some coke. Post lunch resumed driving around 3:00 PM and managed to cross Thane via Western Expressway and merged onto Eastern Expressway in pursuit of reaching the Pune expressway.
It continued to rain all the way through Thane and Navi Mumbai, and all the way through the Pune expressway. Managed to get through to Pune by 6:00 PM and crossed into Katraj bypass by 7:00 PM in peak traffic on Friday evening. Read Hijewadi IT crowd going back homes.
Managed to stop briefly to tank up again at a HP petrol pump. Rains did not easy up and became worse as we got closer to Satara. Little did we realize that it was raining so heavily in places all over Maharashtra that were leading to closure of roads in Amboli Ghat, Lonavala, Khandala, Mahabaleshwar. Santa Cruz airport was already shut down due to heavy rains yesterday.
Holding a very steady nerve ( Read fast driving)in the torrential downpour, we managed to get to the hotel in Kolhapur by 10:40 PM. Had called in on the way and ordered dinner in anticipation of the restaurant getting closed.
Checked in and quickly finished our dinner – vegetable fried rice and vegetable pulav. Food was hot and very well prepared. Was pleasantly surprised to see a very spacious and comfortable comfortable room. Good amount of storage for our luggage along with a nice working table and chair. Two single seater sofas with a center table. Felt bad that we could not enjoy the comforts of this room, as we were to check out the very next day. My partner joked that we still have a buffer day and we could extend our stay by another day in Kolhapur, just to relax in this room.
With the final goal of reaching home on time, any thoughts of extending our stay were banished immediately.
Understood from the video calls (almost every alternate day) that my toddler Son is missing me badly. But he was not expressing it explicitly. Afterall this was my longest tenure after he started realizing.
Felt a little guilty for a while, but later appreciated him for his acceptance about the reality of life, slowly.
Determined to get some good sleep after the long and stressful drive to Kolhapur, we finally crashed.


6th August 2016 – The Mad Dash back home!!


Up by 6:30 and ready by 7:45, we headed down to check out. Breakfast was ready and we decided to finish it in the hotel, rather than making a stop on the way. Proper Maharashtra delicious poha and missal poori, along with idlis and masala chai.
Immediately we started the mad dash……And a mad dash it was. Excited about the prospect of going home finally, we maintained a good pace throughout. Roads were also in top condition and rains stayed away. Stopped just before Tumkur to tank up again at a HP outlet followed by lunch break at 3 PM.
Had a traditional Uttara Kannada thali – Jowar roti with pachdi and pallya.(My first time) Very good choice as it turned out. Ate as many rotis as we could and then topped it off with butter milk. Closed it with some rice and rasam.

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After a hearty meal, we continued the drive. Merged onto NICE road by 4 PM and hit Hosur road by 5 PM. No major drama there as far as traffic was concerned. 5:55 PM – we were at Krishnagiri toll gate and made the left turn to Chennai at 6:00 PM. Roads being 6 laned and wide open led to some very smooth and fast cruising.
Reached home by 9:30 at Rajakilpakkam. Took the customary selfie, upon Mission Accomplishment. Tanked up again to complete our trip fuel gauge.

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Last edited by Maverick79 : 20th September 2016 at 17:53.
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