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Old 22nd September 2016, 12:38   #1
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Default Travelogue

The route we took and places we covered.
Overlanding in Ladakh: Exploring the less explored routes in a Toyota Fortuner-route.jpg

Last edited by .anshuman : 14th November 2016 at 13:33.
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Old 22nd September 2016, 12:38   #2
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Default Overlanding in Ladakh: Exploring the less explored routes in a Toyota Fortuner

The Plan and Day 1

The original plan was to drive two 4x4ís to Ladakh, enjoy lots of off-roading, take the difficult routes, avoid the mainstream tourist circuits/routes (wherever we can), enjoy the solitude.

Few months prior to the trip the plan was hatched in our small Gurgaon Team-BHP friends circle. We planned to drive Fortuner (Rohitís car, tbhp id: AceF355) and XUV-500 AWD (my car), trip duration was planned for 2 weeks, with open to discussion itinerary and dates.

Unfortunately, 2 of the guys had to drop out of the plan later on, so we had to change the plan for just two of us in Fortuner. Incidentally just a week before the trip, Rahul (tbhp id: rhandle) was also headed to Ladakh, with his friends in his friendís Storme 4x4, so we made the plan to do the initial few days together and then would continue with the mainstream tourist circuit as his friends were first time visitors to the place.

Sach pass is one of the routes I always wanted to do, but could never accommodate in any of my earlier plans, there was no better route than Sach pass for starting this trip as Kashmir route was closed due to unrest and Manali route is a bad start to the trip because of the hassle of getting permits, and the tourist rush. So we planned to reach either Dalhousie or Chamba before Sunset on first day, even though the time required to reach these places is shorter in comparison to first night halts on the other two routes, we still pushed for an early morning start to avoid the monsoon traffic chaos, it was just the previous day when the Gurgaon was choked in the famous jam.

All the shopping and preparations were completed a day earlier, with the packing done later in the night, the check list checked over and over again just make sure nothing is forgotten at home. And only being two guys in fairly roomy vehicle (Fortuner), we had the luxury of carrying as much luggage as we wished. The packing list anyways over the years has grown through the trips, usually items that were missed in the earlier trips are added. Although we did not wish to do camping, we included stuff like Camping chairs, Stove, easy to cook instant food for day breaks, and a lot of packaged food, beverages, Icebox, emergency kit, rescue kit, tow ropes, blankets, pillows, camera bag and Ö.what not.

The end result was the car was full till the roof, we even had to fold the larger portion of the middle row seat to squeeze in stuff. Actually the usable space in Fortuner in noticeably less than my XUV due to high floor in boot and hanging type last row seats occupy a lot of space, more so because last row seats in my car are removed, then we also had a subwoofer in the boot and Icebox also has its permanent place there. The only issue was the car filled till the roof in the boot and IRVM was no longer usable.

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We were able to start from Gurgaon as per the planned time, even the other team (Rahulís car) started the same time from Noida. The assembly point was planned at Murthal dhabas, we reached there first and waited for Noida team to arrive. We had a heavy breakfast, planned our lunch break somewhere in Punjab, even though after the heavy breakfast we were not sure if we would require Lunch anymore. We were on the road by 8 am.


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Even with the rains, the traffic was light and we were cruising at a steady pace all throughout, no long breaks just a few refreshment breaks. The drive was comfortable, and for a change after ages sitting on the passenger seat was relaxing. The drone from the super loud M/T tyres is annoying, clearly M/T tyres make little sense for highway touring, especially during rains the loss in grip is too big a compromise. For current standards, the D4-D engine sounds harsh but we had the awesome audio setup in the car to cancel all this annoying drone.

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We took the lunch break at McDonaldís between Jalandhar and Pathankot. By 0230pm we were already in Pathankot, pretty early compared to the our planned time, so Rahul suggested we take the slower but more scenic alternate riverside route to Chamba since we already had lots of extra time and Chamba was nothing but a night stay for us. A few kilometres on the road, we spotted some trails going down to river bank and there we were at the river side for a break.

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Last edited by .anshuman : 15th November 2016 at 15:54.
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Old 22nd September 2016, 12:58   #3
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Default re: Overlanding in Ladakh: Exploring the less explored routes in a Toyota Fortuner

Day 1 Continued..

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The cars could not go all the way till the river bank here, so we decided to try another place to get to riverside. The river was shallow, not too deep, we even got Rohit to cross the river on foot to check the depth. Now was the time to get the SUV’s across, in the process Storme went through the wrong place, the only place which was sandy, without momentum it was stuck in no time.

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Time to rescue the Storme, the winch in Fortuner was not working, so the only way was to use tow straps, but the issue was the surface below the Fortuner was loose, so jerks was the only way out. We got the Storme out easily but one of the tow ropes was damaged in the process. We had wasted enough time already and sun was too harsh, after some time on the river bed we were back on the road.

Storme recovery video:


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This road was a narrow 2 lane road but there was not much traffic, we were moving at relaxed pace. After a while we noticed the Storme was losing air on front driver side tyre, we filled air with our compressor and decided to drive to next puncture shop. But it was losing air real fast, so tried to find the puncture, poured lots of soap water on tyre but no luck, we tried again, no luck again. I was surprised, why were not able to find the puncture even though tyre was losing pressure so fast, it was getting dark and light rains had already started, so we decided to keep moving and keep filling air frequently.

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On the way we found a dhaba, we were not sure if we would find any eateries open when we reach Chamba, as it’s not a tourist place and it was already 8 pm, we had dinner and topped up air and we were back on road to Chamba.
Upon reaching Chamba we realised there were no hotel rooms vacant in Chamba for the night, there was a local very popular festival called Minjar on that day, and possibly the whole region had come to Chamba to attend it. No rooms at all, no walk in’s, not even on internet. Even by 1130pm we were running around town looking for rooms, at last some hotel owner referred us to another and he referred us to another and we somehow found a resort that had rooms available and it was on the way towards Sach pass, good because we wouldn’t have to cross the town again in the morning. So we tanked up the SUV’s from a fuel bunk and we were off to a good night’s sleep.

Some photo from DSLR:
Attached Thumbnails
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Last edited by .anshuman : 15th November 2016 at 15:45.
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Old 22nd September 2016, 14:18   #4
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Default re: Overlanding in Ladakh: Exploring the less explored routes in a Toyota Fortuner

Day 2 Chamba- Sach Pass- Killar

Plan was to wake up not too early, get the Safari’s puncture fixed and move towards Sach pass. Even though we planned to wake up late, anxiety of driving to Sach Pass and beyond woke up pretty early, Storme team was still sleeping so we decided to utilise the free time by getting the Storme’s puncture fixed.

The tyre was flat by morning. We made one more attempt to locate the leak, we were again unsuccessful, by now the puncture had become a big mystery. Locals told us the puncture shop is a kilometre away, so we replaced the tyre with the spare and drove for the puncture shop.


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Safari has a much higher seating compared to Fortuner, not sure if I like it but the roomy cabin felt like a good change. I am not a fan of the loose suspension, sways like a Mini bus compared to the Fortuner and Handling is scary, leans like a loaded minibus even at moderate speeds, I would hate to drive this thing spiritedly.

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At the puncture shop, the puncture was located to the rim. Yes, you read it right, the leak was in rim, possibly some pebble from last day’s off-roading attempt got lodged between brake caliper and the rim and bruised it. The puncture guy had no idea on how to fix the air leak, I got an idea why not try M-seal sealant. Fortunately we had M-seal in our emergency kit, it was in Fortuner so we had to get back to Hotel to fetch it. The puncture was temporarily fixed, we did not get air filled as to help the M-seal settle down and this tyre was moved to spare.




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Got back to the hotel, took a shower and had aloo parathas for breakfast and we were out on road towards Sach pass by 1130am.
The initial drive was smooth with good tarmac and very little traffic, later on the road disappeared and traffic on road was close to zero with occasional Spacio or Bolero taxis. The real steep climb starts beyond the HP Police check post where details about passengers and vehicles were noted down and we were video graphed.


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Old 22nd September 2016, 15:26   #5
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Default re: Overlanding in Ladakh: Exploring the less explored routes in a Toyota Fortuner

Day 2 Chamba- Sach Pass- Killar Continued...



Although the turbocharged CRDI Diesel engines adapt really well to altitude, but the pep before turbo spool up completely disappears, and cars with taller gearing struggle a lot more. Both these cars had reasonably tall first gears, and finding it difficult starting again from standstill without clutch abuse. Fortunately both cars had 4 Low to rescue, if stopped on an incline shift to 4 Low, get to a level surface move to high range back. This was a straight forward job in mechanical shifter in Fortuner, Storme on the other end took its own sweet time getting in and out of low range with the light blinking.

Video of our Sach Pass climb:


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We had reached Sach pass by 0430pm. There is a temple at the Sach pass top, there is no signage on the place and altitude unlike most other high passes. My phone was displaying altitude as 4398 metres. Not being properly acclimatized yet, we did not spend much time on the pass, just filled our icebox with some snow to replace the previous day’s Ice which had melted by now.
Roads on the other side of the Sach pass are much worse, not surprising since this pass opens very late and there is not much traffic on this route. The road ahead was closed for some clearance work, I had to take about an hour’s break. The altitude was still pretty high and wind outside was chilly, so we spent most of time in our cars relaxing.


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Old 22nd September 2016, 15:29   #6
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Default re: Overlanding in Ladakh: Exploring the less explored routes in a Toyota Fortuner

Day 2 Chamba- Sach Pass- Killar Continued...

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Even though road was still rough, this Fortuner’s upgraded Ironman suspension is just made for this stuff, the car was composed at all speeds and slowly I started enjoying the full time 4wd grip in corners, throwing it around even on loose surface was fun with predictable handling, excellent steering feedback and almost flat ride. Just in this process of having fun, we got down real fast, Storme guys could only see us from a distance, and Rahul being the ex-owner of this vehicle was not enjoying the ride in Storme.
Just before the river crossing we found a nice river facing spot, good enough for our evening picnic, we setup our chairs and waited for the other car which was at least 20 minutes away. Later we cooked some good frozen Parathas for dinner, and started for Killar which was another 15 minutes away.


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Killar is a small town, with just two hotels, we checked out both, and checked in to Hotel Raj. Bare basic hotel, but running hot water and a kitchen with a basic menu are luxuries at such places.

Just one DSLR photo for the day:
Attached Thumbnails
Overlanding in Ladakh: Exploring the less explored routes in a Toyota Fortuner-aaa_5537g.jpg  


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Old 23rd September 2016, 12:51   #7
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Default re: Overlanding in Ladakh: Exploring the less explored routes in a Toyota Fortuner

Day 3 Killar-Udaipur-Tandi-Jispa

Our plan for Day 3 was to drive till Jispa, while Storme guys Rahul and Amit planned to go beyond it as their friends were arriving Leh the next day through a flight. We started pretty late after a decent breakfast by 1115am as our drive was not long and we were in no hurry. There is no metalled road surface on this route, it’s a bumpy bouncy extremely dusty gravel road, we were glad we had just the right car for this road. The road continues along the river Chandrabhaga all the way till Tandi, the road surface all throughout the drive was bumpy

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Morning bonnet quick check revealed a minor coolant leak in Storme. Electrical insulation tape took care of it, for time being.

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Our hotel room.

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Old 23rd September 2016, 12:59   #8
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Default re: Overlanding in Ladakh: Exploring the less explored routes in a Toyota Fortuner

Day 3 Killar-Udaipur-Tandi-Jispa Continued...

We had already started enjoying the upgraded Ironman suspension in our Fortuner, while the Storme guys with their vehicle’s loose suspension and poor body control had to keep their speed very slow to keep pitching in control and nose pointed straight, we were literally floating flat. Despite the poor surface we sure had lots of fun driving, Full time 4wd, excellent steering and petrol head co driver meant we enjoyed even the worst of the sections.

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While we took two half an hour breaks, first to enjoy the location and other for lunch, the Storme guys kept moving as they were in hurry to reach Leh, their friends were arriving next morning in a flight.

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The time we hit Manali-Leh highway, it was already evening, we decided to tank up Tandi before heading for Jispa- our halt for the night. Coincidentally we see a familiar Brown Storme approaching, our friends also took a detour to the fuel bunk, but even without the breaks they could not save much time, or maybe we were driving much faster than they were.

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After a quick top up of Diesel tank and we caught up Storme team, who planned to continue beyond Jipsa, but we had to stay as we had the Shinkhu La trip planned for next day. Topic for the snacking break- what to upgrade the Storme with.

Storme guys moved on, we found a table at a roadside restaurant with good view, later we found lodging in the same place.

Last edited by .anshuman : 15th November 2016 at 15:48.
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Old 23rd September 2016, 13:16   #9
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Default re: Overlanding in Ladakh: Exploring the less explored routes in a Toyota Fortuner

Day 4 Jispa-Darcha-Shingo La-Darcha-Sarchu-Pang

Day 4 started at 5:30 AM, by 6:15 AM we were ready to go. I was adapted well for the night at Altitude, Rohit not so much, he had a heavy head. We start for the Shinkhu La pass, this pass got opened for traffic late last season, and itís the part of an alternate route for Leh via Padum - Nimmu which is under development. As per BRO road is only open for 4x4 vehicles.

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Within a few kilometres the road completely disappeared and all of sudden it was completely non-existent, huge boulders were everywhere on the road, the car required careful manoeuvring. In some time we started gaining altitude real fast, some steep climbs started, to avoid hitting the stones we had to move to 4 Low every now and then. I did most of the driving, Rohit was not really comfortable with his headache. On the way, we took a stop for Rohit to take a nap, while I used the time to go a nearby stream with a camping chair and camera and spend some time at this amazing place.

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Half an hour later, we were back climbing the pass, most in first and second gears, some times in 4 low. There is absolutely zero traffic on this route, except for local pony traffic or trekker doing the Darcha-Padum-Lamayuru trek on foot. On the way there were a few BRO camps, the BRO labour and staff were surprised at a tourist vehicle travelling on this route. Even when it was cloudy all throughout this place was amazing, easily one of the nicest places we visited in this trip.

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We reached all the way near the top of the pass, but the main route was damaged due melting Snow, we wanted to reach all the way to the top. After some trekking and planning a new approach after checking the depth of the stream, we were able to take the Fortuner to the top.

Last edited by .anshuman : 15th November 2016 at 15:30.
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Old 23rd September 2016, 13:42   #10
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Default re: Overlanding in Ladakh: Exploring the less explored routes in a Toyota Fortuner

Day 4 Jispa-Darcha-Shingo La-Darcha-Sarchu-Pang continued...


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On the way back we tried some climbing in 4 Low, just for fun sake!

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The stream we had to cross to get to pass top, not too deep.

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Getting down was easier than the climb, no need for 4 Low just a lot of careful manoeuvring. We were back to Darcha on Manali Leh highway by afternoon.

Last edited by .anshuman : 15th November 2016 at 16:26.
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Old 23rd September 2016, 13:56   #11
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Default re: Overlanding in Ladakh: Exploring the less explored routes in a Toyota Fortuner

Day 4 Jispa-Darcha-Shingo La-Darcha-Sarchu-Pang continued...


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We went back towards Jispa till Darcha check post, had Lunch at a Dhaba and lazed for a while and started towards Leh, with no fixed target for the day, just to cover as much ground as possible till the daylight stays with us.

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Rohit was sleepy due to the headache, I took the wheel while dozed with a pillow under his head. The Manali Leh highway at most places is super smooth compared to my trips in the past, and in comparison to the most non-existent roads we travelled on in last few days this was a like a express highway, smoothly paved, wide enough, good visibility, well weighted steering, nice composed handling… it was awesome. Some hours of spirited driving and we covered ground real fast and we reached Sarchu check post in no time

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Old 23rd September 2016, 14:15   #12
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Default re: Overlanding in Ladakh: Exploring the less explored routes in a Toyota Fortuner

Day 4 Jispa-Darcha-Shingo La-Darcha-Sarchu-Pang continued...

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after that we slowed down and road was not good at places but then started taking the uphill shortcuts on Gata Loops, we took each and every one of them, with the raised Suspension and good grunt in 4 Low, it was easy for the Fortuner. I had done most of them in 2013 in my XUV-500 AWD except the steepest ones because my car did not have low range gearing reduction. In high range, XUV has more grunt than Fortuner and adapts to Altitude better than the Toyota.



This one was easy:


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We reached Pang before Sunset, found an accommodation for us, a makeshift room with tin top, much better than a tent considering the strong chilly winds outside.

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Old 28th October 2016, 10:47   #13
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Default re: Overlanding in Ladakh: Exploring the less explored routes in a Toyota Fortuner

Day 5 Pang-Leh

We started early from Pang, plan was to Leh on time, catch up with Storme team and get permits on time. While the mainstream places do not require the permits for Indian citizens anymore, we planned to little beyond that to the farthest we can managed, we had loads of time for it.

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Tanglang La Pass.

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It was freezing outside with strong winds, this place is always windy.

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Whole of Manali Leh route and even Leh was a familiar place to me, I have driven to this place 3 times earlier, and it was my 4th visit and Rohitís 2nd visit. We had breakfast at restaurant just opposite Thiksay Gompa, I had been here once, why risk it at a new place.

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The Storme team had already left for Khardung La and Nubra valley but they had booked a room for us in their Guest house. We took shower and changed clothes. Went to DC office, managed the permits, and got photocopies done. What do now? Fortuner had got dirty, how about getting it washed. On all my earlier trips finding a car wash was time wasting exercise, not this time we found a newly opened proper car wash which was cheap as well.

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Default re: Overlanding in Ladakh: Exploring the less explored routes in a Toyota Fortuner

Day 5 Pang-Leh continued...

Rest of the afternoon was spent lazing at a rooftop restaurant in main market followed by a visit to Shanti Stupa. Went to bed early as we had early morning start planned for the next day.

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To be continued... Stay tuned!

Last edited by .anshuman : 15th November 2016 at 16:41.
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Old 15th November 2016, 18:09   #15
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Default re: Overlanding in Ladakh: Exploring the less explored routes in a Toyota Fortuner

Thank you for sharing this much awaited travelogue, Anshuman!

It was indeed an amazing journey with like-minded petrolheads, pity the Storme could accompany us for just so little time. I must applaud you for impeccable planning for the trip. Our choice of places for stay and overall plan for acclimatization was so perfect that we never needed any Diamox course or anything. People will discover this later in our journey we went to places where we were above 5000 meter altitude without even realizing by ourselves!

For rest of the BHPians, like you rightly mentioned the other day about this trip during one of our local meets, the hero of this journey was our car! Good times indeed!

Quote:
Originally Posted by .anshuman View Post
I was adapted well for the night at Altitude, Rohit not so much, he had a heavy head
Not to mention that the day before was my birthday and I enjoyed a little extra! hehe. First half of that day was the toughest time of the tour for me, however I was feeling better by the time we got to the top of Shinku La.

You had your little share of altitude laziness after our night halt at Pang. But all in all, thanks to your planning, we acclimatized very well for this trip.

Quote:
Originally Posted by .anshuman View Post
the BRO labour and staff were surprised at a tourist vehicle travelling on this route.
That's the beauty of visiting the untouched places! We did get a lot of stares on this route, even for unintended reasons, didn't we! Remember the reaction of that Polish trekker after seeing a full size axe in our truck!

Quote:
Originally Posted by .anshuman View Post
this place was amazing, easily one of the nicest places we visited in this trip.
I wholeheartedly agree! This was one of the best places we visited in this trip. Calm, soothing and most natural place we visited in this journey. The route to Shinku La itself was excellent, followed by the beauty of the place itself. It's really hard to believe that this place will lose a lot of that charm once this route gets commercialized.

Eagerly waiting for rest of the posts to come in! And what pics man! Kudos.

Quote:
Originally Posted by .anshuman View Post
Video of our Sach Pass climb:
EDIT: I think I need to mention this... please don't miss this video fellas. This a full video of our journey to Sach Pass (which by the way is the mountain pass in Himalayas to remain open for shortest duration in any year). Amazing road and scenery. Shot with GoPro mounted on top of our Fortuner.

Last edited by ampere : 16th November 2016 at 07:42. Reason: Removed video link from quoted post
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