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Old 16th October 2016, 20:26   #1
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Default Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4

After years & years of planning and drooling at various travelogues, I finally completed a road trip to Ladakh...

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-ladakh-2016.jpg
a preview picture

It was a 3 weeks of pure fun: driving – exploring – helping – getting lost – meeting new people and FUN..!!

The planning started more than year back. It was decided that home minister won’t join this time and I will go along with few of my friends. There were quite few who expressed their willingness to join, but as the D-Day arrived, all of them backed out. However, I was adamant and was planning to do the trip alone ….
Fortunately, I ran into good friend Jaichand Johnson, who was planning a similar trip from Trivandrum in his Scorpio.
So it was decided to join forces and travel in my more capable 4WD Scorpio. I christened my Scorpio as Kariya (means blacky in kannada. My mom fondly calls the Scorpio as Kariya). There were few other SUVs who wanted to join as a convoy, but nothing happened and in the end, it was only my Scorpio with 5 people (3 adults and 2 kids)

Vehicle Preparation:
Got the vehicle checked at FNG and MASS. Got the following replaced:
  • All oils
  • Vacuum modulator (under warranty)
  • Brake pads
  • Engine fan belt
  • Removed the sun film (although 40% transparent), removed roof carrier, removed 8j alloys and put on stock steel rims
Carried the following:
  • 50% engine oil, brake oil, clutch oil, concentrated coolant, and engine fan belt
  • Tow rope, heavy lift jack, spade, wooden planks, 55 liter barrel for diesel,
  • Toolkit
  • Spare bulbs
  • Cooking stuff:
  • Gas stove, utensils and food for 4-5 days
All in all we had almost everything required for our road trip.

Here goes my travelogue...

Day 1: Bangalore to Navi Mumbai – 1000 Kms: 13 h: 6 m: 4 s

I started from my house in HSR Layout at 4:30 am and reached Ejipura around 5 am to pick up Jai and his family. I had the rooftop carrier which was to be removed to avoid RTO hassles. It took almost 40 mins to pack all the stuff into the Scorpio. Around 5:45 am we moved out of Bangalore towards Mumbai.
At one of the toll booths after Tumkur, something fell of the top of the truck. We stopped the truck and went looking for it and found that the spanner used to remove the rooftop carrier had travelled on top until Tumkur. Amazing it held on till there...!
After this we had breakfast at Chitradurga and moved on. That’s when we realized that copies of my DL, RC, Insurance and PUC were left at home. I had originals of these except the PUC, so we were ok for now, but decided to look for a PUC in the next town. Went inside Chitradurga only to find the only Emission test center still not open at 10 am. So decided to check in Hubli. Got the PUC certificate done and then drove on.
Had lunch near Belgaum and reached Bhelapur, Navi Mumbai around 8 pm. Jai’s cousin had invited us to stay for the night. We freshened up, had good mutton Biryani and chicken and then retired for the night.

Day 2: Navi Mumbai – Chittorgarh: 870 KMs: 13 h: 13 m: 51 s

The plan was to start early from Mumbai, meet HVK collect a tow rope and head to Chittorgarh. We started the day at 5:45 am. We got pulled up by a lone constable on NH4 in Navi Mumbai, he looked to be targeting out of state vehicles as ours was the only vehicle pulled up. Nevertheless we, were ready… He said it was a routine check and asked us the papers. We showed copies of RC, DL, Insurance, and PUC. He then asked for originals. We showed him the originals and we were on our way. This was the only check we had in the entire trip.
We met HVK, took the tow rope, chatted with him and then started towards Nashik. We had breakfast in fake Udupi hotel in Dhule and lunch at Hotel Taste of India, Julwania.

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dsc_4589.jpg
Somewhere in Madhya Pradesh

It was mango season, so stopped at a village, bought some juicy mangoes and had them through the day and next.
Reached Chittorgarh around 8 pm. Tanked up the truck, checked in to hotel, refreshed and then had dinner and slept. Tomorrow we were planning to leave around 4 am and reach Jammu for the night.

Day 3: Chittorgarh – Jammu: 1200 KMs: 16 h: 13 m: 30 s

This was supposed to be one of the longest drive in the trip. We had set an ambitious target and were able to achieve it. Started from Chittorgarh at 4:50 and reached outskirts of Jaipur by 9:30. Pulled up by a roadside dhaba for breakfast, got delayed there as they started lighting up all stoves to cook food for us.
We came across a sandstorm and drove through it. Noted a point in my mind the air filter needs to be cleaned once we reach Srinagar.

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An evening on Indian highway

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We continued from there and had lunch at KFC in Karnal. This was supposed to be our destination for the day. But, as we had ample time, we decided to continue and reached Hotel Vivek in Jammu at 10pm.
Ordered dinner as room service, freshened up and retired for the day.

Day 4: Jammu – Srinagar: 300 KMs: 11 h: 6 m: 45 s

We expected lot of traffic between Jammu and Srinagar, so had kept a moderate target for the day. The weather was still warmer in Jammu. We had tanked up the truck previous night and had got it cleaned by the security guard.

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our stay in Jammu

We started taking Diamox for acclamitazation.
Off we started at 6:30 am from Jammu. We had breakfast near Patnitop and then started the first climb of the Himalayas, encountered few traffic jams due to truck break down which stretched for KMs.

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on the way to Srinagar

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an avalanche shelter on NH 1

We entered the Kashmir valley at Qazigund around 2 and had good lunch of roti, mutton and chicken curry and finishing off with Kashmiri Kawa.

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Lunch break a Qazigund, entry to Kashmir valley

We passed the 2.6 KM long Jawahar tunnel, which itself was quite an experience.
The amount of Indian military presence increased drastically in this area. Hats off to our armed forces...
4 laning is being done from here to Srinagar, we made slow progress and reached Srinagar by 6 pm.

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on the way to Srinagar

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approaching Srinagar

Our hotel booking contract had expired now and we were planning to search for stay options. Saw a Mahindra showroom near highly secured Badami Bagh cantonment, thought of returning there after getting accomodation. We then got pulled up by two locals in a M800. Turns out they were brokers, on seeing KA-51 Scorpio they offered us hotel accommodation. Took us to a hotel near Dal Lake with decent prices which was good enough for us.

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our stay at Srinagar

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colourfull shikaras at Dal lake

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Refreshed ourselves and headed to get the filter changed/cleaned. Mahindra was closed, so asked Google which took us into some narrow lanes and deserted us.
With local help, we were able to get to a garage and got the filter cleaned, which was full of dust, leaves, twigs and what not...!!
Tanked up again and filled our 55 liter barrel here. Had nice kebabs and rotis for dinner, some shopping and then hit the bed early.
Next day it was the mighty Zoji la and ladakh... our target for the trip

Last edited by gypsyFreak : 23rd December 2016 at 16:45. Reason: reduced smileys
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Old 16th October 2016, 21:15   #2
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Day 5: Srinagar – Kargil: 200 KMs: 14 hours (with blockades)

We left Srinagar early, expecting to be in front of the queue towards Zoji La. Had breakfast at a Dhaba by the river. We got delayed here as these chaps were still waking up.

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Towards Sonamarg

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breakfast stop

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river behind the dhaba

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panaromic shot

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on the way to Sonamarg

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reached Sonamarg

We reached Sonamarg around 10 and headed straight to police check post.
There were quite few vehicles already there. There we came to know that the road had been closed for the day due to repairs going on 3-4 places.

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in the queue at Sonamarg

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me and my drive

The J&K police had a tough time controlling the crowd, finally they asked everyone to go back. We too went back and booked ourselves a Hotel for the stay. We did some shopping and took some much required sleep. Had lunch at a veg dhaba and were scouting around Sonamarg for things to do.

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our stay at Sonamarg, it was quite good

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back at the police checkpost

I started a chat with hotel owner, who was well connected with local police and he informed that the road should be open by 4 pm or 5 pm. True to his word the road was opened for uphill traffic by 5 pm.
We had all gear (extra diesel, gas stove, food and mighty 4x4). Moreover there were a lots of other vehicles who were starting at the same time and hence we had ample company.
We had a quick conference and decided to go ahead with crossing Zoji La in the night as it would save us one day (time is one luxury we did not have). So checked out from the hotel, the staff were courteous and told if the road is blocked ahead, we can come back in 3-4 hours and stay the night without additional cost. Nice...
It was crazy rush in the initial KMs and things slowed down when the climb started. There were few vehicles still coming down which created additional traffic. First time I felt loss of power here, which was evident when moving uphill from a complete stop. (Maybe we had put too much load: 4 people + luggage + 110 liters of fuel ...). Water was flowing on the road(dirt track) due to melting snow, which made conditions slippery. I switched to 4H for safety and ease. We encountered few traffic blocks as pickups with overloaded cargo were stuck with front wheels dangling in the air.
Met quite a few truckers while waiting. Some were friendly, but some kept inquiring. Some offered food for us in case we got delayed. Politely refused those saying we had everything we wanted and kept some distance from such truckers as we had a family.

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starting climb towards Zoji la

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Slush, flowing water, snow

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Jai and his family

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Loose gravel, flowing water in between walls of snow

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concrete road between snow walls

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Zoji la peak

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Road cuts through 10+ feet of snow walls

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Finally..


Finally we crossed Zoji La around 9 pm amidst flowing water, 15 feet snow walls on a road with cobbles, pits, and snow in an indomitable truck running in 4H. What an awesome experience...!!!
Reached Drass around 10:30 pm, had a quick look around and underneath the Scorpio with a work light. Everything was fine. Had a quick bite of rice, dal and non veg curry.
We had booked a guest house in Kargil, thanks to Jai’s friend Qasim. The road from Drass to Kargil was awesome with smooth curvy roads lined with reflectors and clear markings. With the Bosch 90/100 lighting up the road well ahead and with good company enjoyed the drive…
We passed the War memorial at night and decided to visit it on our way back. Reached Kargil around 12, had some difficulty in locating the guest house. We checked in, parked Kariya in a parking which was 500M away and finally hit the bed at 1.

Finally, one dream was accomplished...

Last edited by gypsyFreak : 23rd December 2016 at 13:12.
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Old 16th October 2016, 21:41   #3
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Day 6: Kargil – Leh: 214 KMs: 12 hours (with sightseeing).

Got Kariya cleaned from the guest house staff, who did it as though they were cleaning a car for the first time. Wasted lots of water and still Kariya was not fully clean

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our stay at Kargil

Thanks to this we could leave Kargil only by 7 am. The first order of the day was to visit Qasim.

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Kargil city view

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Kargil panaromic view

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kargil valley

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getting tanked up at IOC Kargil

We tanked up in IOC at Kargil and met Qasim. It was supposed to be just as Hi and Bye, but we were forced to have breakfast and we loved it. We really cherished their hospitality. Got to meet his father and hear from them about their experiences during Kargil war. We had nice breakfast with bread, omelet, Ladakhi bread, freshly prepared sweet butter and lots of tea. This was an unplanned enjoyment and one of the highs of the trip.

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Breakfast with Qasim and his family

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me tasting kashmiri bread with freshly prepared curd...yummy.!!

We left with a satisfied heart and stomach from Kargil, passed an army souvenir shop nearby…reversed 500mts at once, much to the surprise of the soldiers sitting in front of the shop. Did some shopping there and started towards Leh.

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We encountered few road work and lots of birding stops.

Again, the roads were awesome. Smooth curvy roads, very less traffic. Really enjoyed my drive…

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn0090.jpg

With Kishore Kumar singing his best in JVC, smooth roads, bright sunlight and awesome scenery it was a mesmerizing drive. This is what I wanted and the toil of driving hard in the plains payed off...

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We stopped for few photo ops at various places and passes and reached Lamyuru.

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Old 16th October 2016, 22:06   #4
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Visited Lamyuru monastery and came down for lunch at a restaurant. Met a kannadiga couple from Pune who were touring on a rented Bullet. Felt happy talking in Kannada after a long time... Had chicken thukpa which was yummy and fulfilling. Then passed Lamyuru moonscape and carried on.

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn0119.jpg
Lamayuru monastery

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brothers ...

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that's me ..!!

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Lamayuru view from the monastery

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my drive at the parking

Drove on with a lot of photo stops and reached magnetic hill. There was no sign of the place, just a fallen sign board. Looks like people have realized it’s just an illusion. There were also boards indicating not to go off-roading. We did our experiments and moved on.

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a piece of art by the army

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a closer look

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confluence of Indus & Zanskar

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Reached Leh around 5 pm and met another of Jai’s WWF contacts. He helped us get a new air filter for Kariya and took us to already booked accommodation. Nice to have such contacts…
We checked in, showered, ate, planned for tomorrow (Turtuk) and changed air filter at night. After this went to sleep.
This was one night which was bit difficult, woke up in the middle of night slept again at 4am and woke up at 6am.


Day 7: Leh – Turtuk: 247 KMS: 10 hours

The destination for the day was Turtuk which is 10 KMs from LoC.

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn2310.jpg
We started the day at 7 am from Leh.

We reached South Pullu at around 8 am and registered at the army check post. Had breakfast at a small canteen. Bread omelet, Maggi and tea sufficed us. As we climbed up towards Khardung La, it started snowing and road was slippery with water running everywhere. It seems the road is being widened, not sure if they are planning a double road. But, no need of going to 4H as the Michelin LTX AT2 were quite grippy. We reached K-top around 9 am, took photos, met few kannadigas and moved on.

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn2328.jpg

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We climbed down Khardung La and entered Nubra valley and moved on to Diskit.

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its straight roads towards Diskit after Khardung

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Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn0160.jpg

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Old 18th December 2016, 19:38   #5
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Nice straight roads to Diskit with less traffic
We went to Diskit Gompa and climbed to the Buddha statue. The view from here is amazing. One can see the entire Diskit village, river and mountains beyond.


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Diskit Gompa..

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Nubra valley

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Diskit Panaroma from Buddha statue. Extreme left is the Diskit Gompa on the hill, town huts in the valley floor surrounded with greenery and then the river followed by mountains again. This is what Ladakh is more or less...

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My Scorpio at parking alongside local stalwarts.


Next was Hunder, home of Bactrian camels. We entered Hunder and found a lot of tourists. Just before the camel Safari place, we decided to do some dune bashing.
Jai’s kids asked for it and the kid inside me wanted it… so, I obliged. I put it 4 Low and climbed few dunes, much to the surprise of other tourists. Then came a big dune, I did not have enough momentum, so stopped almost at the top and then slowly released the brakes, it started rolling backwards. I thought I will reverse up the previous dune. I was wrong, there was small trench, and the back wheels dug in ... royally.
So, I was stuck, front or back I was just spinning and going deeper.
Time to dig.
We removed some luggage, took out the shovel and wooden planks, dug out some sand, put the board and Kariya moved with ease. It was fun, next we loaded everything again and off we went to see the camels.



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Old 18th December 2016, 20:01   #6
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At the Safari, took few pics, did not bother for a Safari, as they themselves were quarrelling as to who would take the tourists. ..

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn0184.jpg
Bactrian camels

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Sparkling stream with clear water.

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would be nice to see this place during rainy season, covered with greenery

We moved on towards Turtuk. From Hunder onwards it was desolate. I guess all tourists only go up to Hunder and only the crazy ones go beyond, we were crazy, but we were prepared.
From here onwards there were quite a few defense bases and roads were mostly straight very less traffic…
We entered a tiny hamlet called Bogdang, found a photo copy shop and stopped to take copies of our permits. Just looking at the faces, we felt was if were in Central Asia…wow, what contrasting cultures our country has.

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We took some snaps and gave out chocolates which were brought for this purpose.
After Bogdang, Turtuk was not far off, just 10-15 KMS. Nearing Turtuk, we saw a tea shop and lady waved at us, we thought she was asking us to come in. But it seems she was asking a lift to Turtuk. Anyways, we had tea during which an army truck came and she got into it. The tea shop owner told that this area was part of Pakistan before 1971. Pakistan was driven out by our army and since then it is with India. After tea, we moved on, there was a final bridge where we showed the permit and entered Turtuk. This part of the valley is lush with greenery, as it is at a lower altitude when compared to Leh.

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water springing out from rocks

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traditional means of transport .. horse

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modern transport .. with power of 120 horses

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We found a cheap and good accommodation in the middle of the town. Checked in and refreshed. The owner was quite a jovial person. He invited us for a virtual tour of Turtuk. Explained Turtuk from a bird’s eye view and told us to visit it in the morning. We wanted to but did not have time.
This is one place i would want to visit again and explore in detail.

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn2541.jpg
our stay at Turtuk

It seems the LoC is just 10 KM from here and Pakistan is 2 KMs in a crow’s path. No mobile signal except for BSNL, which gets switched off in the night.
Power supply is also limited, but there is a new Hydel power project being built, which is supposed to bring power to Turtuk and surrounding areas.
A road is also being planned to Kargil directly which will avoid Leh, but this will still take couple of years.
They even have a cricket ground where a local tournament was going on and a Polo ground. It seems in July quite few tournaments are organized. So, we had good food and slept well.
Nice little hamlet, would love visit this again and explore more.


Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn2547.jpg
Early morning return from Turtuk

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Day 8: Turtuk – Merak (Pangong): 271 KMS: 12-13 hours

This was going be a long day. Good that we had come in May which meant we had sunlight till 7:30 pm.
So after bidding goodbye to Turtuk, we headed to Pangong, the route decided was via Shyok, more adventurous than Leh route. We wanted to have breakfast at the tea shop from the day before, but it was still closed, so we moved on and came to Mighty Bombers Dosa stall. Met few mallus there had nice dosas and tea, took some snaps outside started to Pangong.

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn2550.jpg
Road in the valley

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Scenic drive

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Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn0209.jpg
Breakfast stop at Mighty Bombers Dosa stall

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn0210.jpg
A welcome break for yummy dosas

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Shyok river valley

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn2561.jpg
one and only petrol pump in Diskit .. hand operated


We reached Khalsar around noon and took the left towards Shyok/Wari La. Road goes along the Shyok river for the first few KMs which is nice and scenic.

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn0211.jpg

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The initial few KMs of this route was awesome, wide river to the left, smooth tarmac and nice curves. After 15 KMs all hell broke loose. Tarmac turned into gravel and then into pile of stones. There are a lots of dirt tracks here and there. We took a short cut and ended up have to use 4 Low. There was lot of construction activity going on, so in a couple of years this should be a good alternative to Leh route.


Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn2567.jpg
Panorama of Shyok river

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn0215.jpg
A pitstop of explorations and photo ops

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Shyok river basin

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Road turns into gravel track

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Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn2597.jpg
more loose gravel

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Old 23rd December 2016, 14:07   #8
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Road is nothing but a dirt track..

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn2598.jpg

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn2602.jpg

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn0231.jpg

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn2608.jpg

Soon, we reached a fork, one went to Wari la – Sakti – Chang La and Pangong and the other one Shyok – Durbuk and Pangong. We were set to return via Chang La, so decided to explore Shyok route. Progress was slow as the road was not good. It was already 2:30 pm, so we decided to put camp and cook lunch. Found a small stream cutting across the road and parked in a nice spot to shield the gas stove from wind. Cooked up Maggi and some hot coffee.
At this time couple of taxis came and stopped near the stream. They seeing KA – 51 number started chatting in Kannada. It seems they had flown from Bangalore to Leh and hired taxi. They were going from Pangong to Diskit. They asked still how long for the next hotel, we said 3 hours minimum. We offered them food, they declined and went on their way. Good that we had planned and bought food instead of waiting for the mercy of the taxi drivers.
After lunch, we cleaned up the spot and ensured that there was no trash left behind. We then moved on and reached Durbuk and Pangong by 5 pm.

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn2613.jpg
Jai cooking lunch for us

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Children play while elders cook..

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We reached Morey plains which looked nice and serene.

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On reaching Pangong, saw few vehicles near the water, at first we thought it is not worth going there, but then decided to go near to take snaps as the sun direction was favorable for photography.

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn2670.jpg
Pangong panorma

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Pangong beautifull

There was a dirt track and we took Kariya to it. As we approached the lake we saw people pushing an Innova. On getting closer we realized that it was stuck. Decided to check if they needed any help. As we reached them, they waved at us. (we were already in 4 Low). On seeing us come so easily, they asked if we had some rope to pull them out. We said we will help them. Carefully surveyed the area and pulled in front of them. Unloaded some luggage and pulled out the new tow rope, backed up enough to tie the 5M rope to Innova. Then it was tugging time, put it in 1Low and then started slowly, as soon as the rope tightened, raised the RPM. Kariya went off like a tiger pulling the Innova like dead meat. Innova was now clear, removed the tow rope. It was congrats and thanks all around. Turns out the folks in Innova were from Pune and rented the Innova from Leh. They were a full family with 3 generations: Grandfather, father and son. I particularly liked it when the grand father called his grandson and showed me and told “yeh log Bangalore se aiye hain. Yeh hame janthe nahin, phir bi hamari madath kar rahe hain. Yehi hai Hindustani jo ek doosre ke madath karthe hain”. Felt happy and satisfied.
We cleared a path out of the sand and Innova followed us out of it. Then we stopped to come out of 4Low. They thanked us and moved on.





Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn2671.jpg
Innova stuck in sand


We reached Spangmik only to find the place crowded and atrociously expensive (3k – 4k for a night). Still it was around 6 pm and we know there would be sunlight for another 1.5 hours, decided to carry on to Merak. The Sygic GPS I was using showed another 20 KMs to Merak, but problem was there was no road. We were confused and asked locals who pointed us to a dirt track. We took it and Kariya was happy. He was cruising in 4H, as there were few water crossings. After 10 KMs reached Mann, which is just a collection of mud huts, we crossed it and came across a Bolero pickup. Stopped them and checked directions, they said we were on the right path(following the GPS was correct decision). They even gave us name and number of a home stay in Merak. We reached Merak around 7 pm with still some daylight to spare. We hunted for the homestay “Pangong Peacefull”, but could not locate it. There was a lady who was waving us to come to her homestay. We ignored her and went on, realized we did not have the correct address and came back to the lady. Asked her to get in the vehicle and went to her home stay. Turns out it was “Pangong Peacfull”, the bolero pickup guy was her son who owned a restaurant in Spangmik. So all settled now, we checked in (I mean, just went inside the mud hut … ).


Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn0254.jpg
Road goes along the lake shore, crossing few streams

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Home stay was quite basic, mud house with rooms and a common bathroom which had ice cold water to wash. Very less furniture, one big sleeping cum dining room with centralized heater - a simple metal box serving as a stove and an exhaust. The fuel was dried cow dung. Simple yet effective. We washed ourselves somehow with ice cold water. Food was Rajma curry, rice, sabzi and omelet. Simple, tasty and fulfilling. I had a full meal that night and decided to make a call to my folks 1000s of KMs away informing about our halt. Only one public booth and that too crowded with locals. Told the operator, I will come at 10 and left. Again went at 10 called and informed home.
We asked about heating for the night, the lady bought more dried dung and put into the heater, which burned out in some time. We bought our gas stove and kept it running for some time and then switched off and slept. We were under heavy blankets, so it was warm and had a nice sleep.
All this reminds me of my childhood days spent in dad’s village. The house, the cold, the blankets, the fuel, the telephone booth all the same. Seems we had gone back in time. Felt nostalgic..!!

This was another high in the trip…!!



Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn0260.jpg
our stay at pangong

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dinner time

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group photo

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn2777.jpg
our host

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kariya soaking in the morning sun

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dining cum bedroom

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn0267.jpg
kitchen

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn0275.jpg
Spangmik tents

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn0276.jpg

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn2906.jpg
tents with modern amenities at Spangmik

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Old 23rd December 2016, 15:14   #9
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Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn2911.jpg
spangmik panorama

Day 9: Merak – Leh: 178 KMs: 5 hours

Morning we got up and the lady gave us hot water to clean up. She told that she would prepare roti with yesterday’s sabzi and few maggiies for the kids. We had nice breakfast and we got ready. This being Sunday, the lady wanted to go to Spangmik for temple/prayer. We offered her a lift and she agreed.
The previous night, I had parked Kariya facing a wall, expecting the night temperature to hover around 0’c. Kariya started in a single crank. Moved him to direct sunlight and opened the hood for him to warm up.
After warming up, we set off to Spangmik and then to Leh. Reached Spangmik around 10, dropped the lady there and pulled up near the lake for some few parting snaps with Pangong.


Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn0277.jpg
returning from the lake

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn0280.jpg
commercial hub, especially after 3 idiots

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn2951.jpg

Drove towards Leh, experienced moderate snowfall at Chang La, continued climbing in 2H was enough as there was sufficient grip with AT tires. Took few shortcuts and enjoyed the drive. There were sign-boards mentioning that this is a avalanche area, we did see some mangled army trucks in the valley below, but we carried on safely.


Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn0283.jpg
back to Leh through Chang La

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn2955.jpg
climbing up towards Chang La

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn2956.jpg
it was snowing here

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn2958.jpg
Avalanche zone..keep moving

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn2965.jpg
Chang La top

Reached Leh around 4 pm with a leisure pace and lots of birding stops.
Now, to go to our next destination we had arranged for permits to be created. But last three days it was holiday at Leh, so it was still not ready. We were told that it would be ready by 11 am tomorrow.
So we checked in to the same guest house, had a hot shower then slept for some time. Woke up again at 7:30 pm purchased few things and had dinner. Then called it a night.


Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn0285.jpg
our stay at Leh - Chow guest house

Day 10: Leh – Hanle: 254 KMs: 8 hours

We reached Leh DC office at 10 am. Got the permits around 10:45 and left Leh at 11 am towards Hanle. It was Leh – Manali highway till Upshi, where we entered the permit at the check post. Enquired with them on the opening of Manali route and came to know it will need another week. Moved towards Nyoma, the first 15-20 KMs were awesome, the roads were just widened and neatly tarred. Then we encountered construction for another 40-50 KMs. BRO stopped us, where one worker wanted a drop till the next village. We took him onboard and started.
He told that the old single lane road was stripped off, the road digged and widened and ribbed across. Some part of the road was washed away during floods and hence a new road was being built at a higher level.
Driving was tough, even in Kariya. I raised the speed to 60 KMPH which eased the vibrations a bit and was drivable. We stopped at Kiari for a lunch of bread and maggi. Came to know from people on a bullet that the road was still bad for a couple of KMs
We reached Chumathang from there we were on the old road which was quite good. We made entries at subsequent army check posts moved on towards Hanle. There was a marked change in scenery, more greenery, wide open areas, more livestock and dry winds. Tourists were absolutely ZERO. We infact were the first ones to move beyond Tso Moriri and towards Hanle. We had army battalions everywhere and they were the only trucks using the desolate road. The road surface was quite good except for the occasional troughs which were created to let the streams flow across. Kariya was airborne in few of them, only to land on all four wheels. Thanks to the stiffened suspension in 4WD Scorpio alliswell...
It was literally like driving in another world. There were strong winds which were blowing sand on to the road and head on into us. Barely troubled by such things we continued on. Taking a loo break itself was difficult.... It was thrilling to drive this route. We did sight some wild assess here, but they were too shy.
We reached Hanle around 6:30 pm. Hunted for homestay, there were only two homestays there. One was a premium one as we saw lot of stickers from online forums…knew this guy will ask for a premium.
Checked the other one, which was decent enough. Only on seeing the interiors we realized how early in the season we had come. There was a thick coating for sand everywhere in the bathroom due to the winds. The living rooms were however clean.
The owner told as we were the first tourists of the season, the homestay was not ready. Anyways they cleaned it up real well and gave us hot water to freshen up. After freshening, we had nice tea...  and decided to visit the observatory. We stepped out and saw that it was cloudy and no single heavenly body in sight. Decided to skip the observatory and again had rice, dal and omelet for dinner.
This room too had a centralized heater. Only difference was the fuel here was kerosene which kept us warm through the night. But we ended up stopping the heater as it felt quite warm.


Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn0287.jpg
Leh - Manali highway

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn0288.jpg
Road to Nyoma

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a vulture just by the road

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close up shot

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dsc_5376.jpg
wild horses or kiyangs

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Road clearing work...

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn0294.jpg
troubles of coming early in the season, we get to see lot of these

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn2981.jpg
the landscape totally changes here..this is AMAZING

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn0296.jpg
Beautiful meadows, would be nice during rains with greenery

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn0299.jpg
Road to Hanle is full of such meadows

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn3020.jpg
then comes dry desert

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn3021.jpg
smooth winding roads...

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overcast..will it rain..?

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn0303.jpg
Not a soul in sight..

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn3027.jpg
except for kiyangs

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hordes of kiyangs

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kariya basking in morning sun

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our accomodation at Hanle


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Day 11: Hanle – Kargil: 600 KMs: 19 hrs.

This was the longest and most adventurous route of the trip. The initial plan was to visit Tso – Moriri, Tso – Kar and reach Leh – Manali highway and head towards Manali.

With above plan, we enquired the route to Tso – Moriri. We were asked to take the same route to Chumathang and then to the lake. On querying about the Chumur route, they told it was not good lots of bumps and not flat as the Nyoma route and nobody uses it, but the road won’t be blocked as there are no passes.
We still had enough fuel (55 liter in the barrel) and almost 35 liters in fuel tank, plus recovery gear and cooking and heating equipment, we decided to take the off-road route to the blue lake. This was the most thrilling drive till now.

We left Hanle by 7 and reached Punguk which is nothing but a collection of houses. We looked around for something for breakfast and found nothing. Even our route was not clear. GPS took us to a school whereas the main road went elsewhere. We stopped and enquired a local who told GPS is right, the Tso-Moriri route is through the school compound and we have to open and close the gate. He told that the road is OK and a vehicle had come 2-3 days back..!!! That was a reassuring...
But no hotels for breakfast there. Finally, we asked if they can prepare some maggi for us, as it would take time to setup camp and prepare food. They readily agreed, we gave them Maggi packets, they asked us to go to another house which was in fact a homestay. We waited there, while they cooked and bought us our Maggi. Since this was still early in the season, they had still not opened the homestay, again we were the first here also.
We thanked them for their hospitality and gratitude and went towards the school compound. Later, we realized that we paid twice to the guy. Jai had paid first which I did not know and I paid again...!!

The school compound gate was already opened, so we just passed through. This was the end of the tar road. Beyond the gate it was pure dirt track.
After crossing the compound, we were purely into off-roading. Roads seemed as lines, we were fully dependent on GPS. There were quite a number of tracks going here, there, everywhere, but Navimaps helped us to get the right track and we kept following it. Just couple of KMs outside of Punguk, we were welcomed by hordes of Kiyang, which kept company till Tso-Moriri. The route is supposed to be 135 KMs of dirt track. Although it was mentioned in Google maps and others, but they were of no use, as we did not have data connection. I had Navimaps which helped me navigate better with its offline maps. Even this was way off the track, or maybe the track had changed owing to the weather conditions. But still we continued in 2H itself.

There were some stretches where the road took a series of hair pin bends, but we decided to cut straight through. This is where I shifted to 4L as the cutting straight down meant it was a steep descent. Exactly same as in the Mountain Dew ad – “Darr ke age jeet hai”, but without Dew .. he he.
Kariya managed this easily crawling in 4Low and with sufficient grip from AT tires.
For most part, the track follows a dry river bed on an elevated bank. Maybe, during rainy season, the river might be filled with water (would like to do this route in Sept/Oct). There were short cuts going through the river bed which involved crossing ice and snow. We crossed such few river beds and came out on the opposite bank. We encountered some shy marmots who just enough posed for a couple of snaps.

Pretty soon, we came across a big lake, was this Tso-Moriri? GPS said otherwise. There was a shepherd with his sheep who seemed amused on seeing lonely vehicle. We went near the lake, it was partly frozen. Later google told us that it is Ryul Lake.
From there, we continued on a few KMs and reached a signboard, straight to Chumur and right to Tso-Moriri. GPS was telling us to go straight and take a right before Chumur, but the sign board said otherwise. We decided to trust the sign-board and took the right turn. This took us to Chumur - Tso-Moriri, which was a well metaled and tarred road. At this point this what GPS showed.

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-hanle.jpg
blue is the road, black is our route..

From here it was smooth sailing up to Tso-Moriri. We decided to skip Karzok and directly hit the Leh – Manali highway via Tso-Kar. But we needed some snaps near the lake, so we made our own road to the lake in 4L. The lake was just 5-10% frozen, we got some snaps and climbed back up to the road.
From here headed towards Tso-Kar, which was also quite good, we did not stop though, just drove on beside it.

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn0317.jpg
Exit through school compound

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more kiyangs

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few markings for the track

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crossing some river beds

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through ice and snow

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birdie

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ryul lake

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn0319.jpg

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half frozen ryul lake panorama

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sheep & sheep dog

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sheperds...wonder where they came from, did not see any villages at all

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a soft nice & tempting hillock

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would have loved to take the Scorpio on top, just for the view

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just plain dirt tracks

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emptiness ... open wide plains

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn0323.jpg
tracks here, there ..everywhere

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn0324.jpg

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a signboard in middle of nowhere

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this was quite confusing..thought Hanle was behind us

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road inside a dry river bed

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first view of Tso Moriri

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn3177.jpg

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn0331.jpg

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blue color stands out

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn3182.jpg

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Last edited by gypsyFreak : 18th January 2017 at 14:34.
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Old 7th January 2017, 23:56   #11
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Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn3241.jpg
that's me by the lake

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn3260.jpg
some local wildlife..

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn0343.jpg
Tso-kar

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From after Tso-Moriri, it was mix of dirt, stone and sand tracks which reduced our speed. Finally we broke into Leh – Manali highway at Debring. We headed to the nearest BRO camp to enquire about the opening. The camp was mostly empty and care takers said that it is still not open. We started our drive to Leh. On the way we decided to push on to Kargil the same day, as reaching Kargil the next afternoon meant that we will be able to cross Zoji-la the day after. So, we pushed forward. The 55 liter barrel was still full and Kariya had almost emptied his fuel tank. Stopped for tea and poured the barrel to the tank which gave us range to reach Srinagar.

Then began our long journey to Kargil. We reached Leh at 10 pm, had food at a dhaba just outside Leh. Called up the same guest house as during the onward stay to book accommodation. But he increased the prices from 700 to 1500 telling that the tourist season had started. This one long drive during which I slept for some time (probably the first time in the trip). Jai drove till Kargil and we checked in at 1:30 am and slept.


Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn3282.jpg
Tanglang La

Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn3285.jpg
Snow clearing..

Day 12: Kargil – Banihal: 306 KMs: 12 hours
This was the day we would cross Zoji-la in day light. Got to see what we missed earlier.
Started from Kargil around 6:30, reached Drass in an hour and drove straight through the open police check post. There was truck traffic towards Zoji-la and we progressed slowly, soon reached Gumri check post were we made the entry and we were into Zoji-la. We experienced what we missed earlier, driving amidst 10-15 feet high snow walls and cobbled surface with running water was a unique experience. Soon, we reached Commercial Street at Zoji-la, stopped for tea. The kids wanted to do snowboarding, we made the enquires. As usual, they advertised low rates and then quoted 10 times more. We gave them a piece of our mind and moved on. Just as we were starting our descent, go stuck in massive jam. Spent around 1 hour in the jam, which was due to a broken army truck.
Finally we got moving and reached Sonamarg around 10:30 am. Here we met fellow traveler Dr. Bhushan, who had come from Bangalore in his XUV along with his doc friends. Gave some guidelines and advice based on our experience and moved on. As soon as we entered Sonamarg, we were hit by a mad rush of tourists of all shapes and sizes and in all sorts of vehicles. Don’t know what they were flocking to see in Sonamarg, maybe a pony ride or walk down on the green slopes. No idea. Hope they stay there and don’t ruin the natural beauty beyond Zoji-la
From Sonamarg, it was mundane highway traffic to Srinagar and beyond. Stopped for lunch just after Srinagar. Ordered some white rice and cup of curds and had nice and fulfilling curd rice.
We continued forward and reached Banihal around 6, decided to halt there for the night, as we had very less sleep the previous night.
Found a decent hotel on the highway and checked in. Took Kariya for a much deserved wash and got the air filter cleaned as well.
Dinner was at a nearby hotel and called it a night.
Next three days would be non-stop travel across India to Bengaluru.


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Day 13: Banihal – Noida: 755 KMs – 13 hours

It was the first day of three days of long drives. We started from Banihal at 6:30 am targeting our national capital which was 750 KMs away. We had to cross 3 states and enter NCR.
We decided not take Jammu, but try the Udhampur – Samba route. The road was quite ok except for the construction work going on. This Dhar route which deviates around Mansar Lake seemed newly laid. Maybe this was a better option. Beyond the deviation some part of the road is broken and some under construction. Once completed this would be a better alternative to Jammu route.
We soon left J&K and entered Punjab. As the roads were good, we were just cruising at 120 and soon entered Haryana. Somehow we did not feel like eating, so drove nonstop except for fuel and reached New Delhi around 6 pm. This was my first visit to New Delhi and entry was really cool, driving my own vehicle and returning from a ladakh, felt nice. Decided to cross Delhi and halt near YEW. Found a hotel through OYO and booked it. We reached Noida around 8 and checked in. had dinner at KFC and slept after a small chit chat.

Day 14: Noida – Chindwara: 910 KMs – 13.5 hours

On day 2, we started from Noida, planning to halt at Nagpur which was 1000+ KMs. The start was good, we exited Noida, maintained decent speeds in Noida expressway and unleashed all the horses in YEW.
Traffic was quite less, so we made good progress through YEW. Still remembered the bewildered look of the attendant at the YEW exit. It seems there is a time limit for crossing YEW, we were much faster. We exited YEW and got stuck peak hour traffic in Agra. This city needs a bypass or a flyover, pathetic people, chaotic traffic and lawless roads (not a cop in sight). It took more than 1.5 hours to cross Agra. We pulled up at dhaba on outskirts of Agra and had parathas for breakfast.
From then on it was just cruising down south. The roads between Gwalior and Jhansi is not good (single lane, construction and patched roads). Rest of it was fine. We had lunch at BPCL outlet near Lalitpur.
Reached Chindwara around 5:30 pm and decided to halt there and carry on the next day.

Day 15: Chindwara – Bengaluru: 1223 KMs – 15 hours

Final day of the trip, this supposed to be a long highway run. Started from Chindwara around 6:30, exited MP and entered MH. We were in Nagpur around 7:30, somehow we missed the main flyover above the city center, but it was a good thing as we got to see the city and had breakfast at a typical Maharashtrian hotel.
We moved on and kept cruising, roads were patched around MH – AP border and improved from Adilabad onwards. Kept a steady speed of around 120 and reached Hyderabad for lunch. Took the long and boring Hyderabad ORR and stopped for hyderabadi biryani at Bhawarchi Hotel near Mahbubnagar. The guy took long time to bring the food which is prepared yesterday... 
After a heavy lunch it was final driving session to Bangalore. Had 1-2 tea stops in between and entered KA around 6, from here it was home run? Reached Bangalore around 8pm, went straight to collect Jai’s Scorpio. Vehicle was ready picked, had a final dinner and took final snaps with both Scorpios and then we were on our way with a heavy heart.


Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4-dscn0363.jpg
Final pic with two Scorpios

Learnings from the trip:
  1. 15 days is not at all sufficient for Ladakh if starting from South India. This short duration creates more stress during driving and is very tiring unless you are passionate about it.
  2. Don’t stop at small villages/tea shops in badlands of central India
  3. If going in the early season, then there is no need to book hotels in advance
  4. Prepare your vehicle well. Another Tata Safari which did this trip in July faced loss of power in high altitudes and had to be towed and repaired in Leh.
  5. Clean your air filter at least twice.
  6. Carry sufficient food, water, fuel for warmth to sustain for 4-5 days
  7. Attitude of people in J &K is contrasting on either side of Zoji La.
  8. Having just plain rice and curd once a few days is pretty fulfilling..!!
  9. Driving to Ladakh from south India is not an impossible task if we have the interest and with right preparations.

Last edited by gypsyFreak : 9th January 2017 at 13:24.
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Old 19th January 2017, 08:56   #12
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Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 19th January 2017, 13:12   #13
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Congratulations on your envious achievement. You did an amazing job. A big salute from my heart for you sir. The travelogue also deserves 5 stars. I am also chasing the same dream that you already fulfilled.Hope that you will guide me with your experience when I am ready on my mission.
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Old 19th January 2017, 13:36   #14
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Hi gypsyFreak,
Firstly, I would like to extend my hear felt Congratulations to You & Your family upon completion of this wonderful journey !

Your description about the trip is pretty straight forward. Very nice pictures taken at the right locations.
Even the mention about the use of 4-wheel drive at certain points is valuable.

I agree that 15 days is not at all sufficient for Ladakh if starting from South India. But, You have done it & this shows Your passion for driving ! I am from Bangalore too & am wondering what You would have gone through with all this driving.
Great stuff !

Just a few questions:
So, do You think a 4-wheel drive vehicle is a must for this trip or if a hatchback or sedan can make this trip ? Or do You think if there's an alternative route if the vehicle is a hatchback or sedan ?
And how would we decide on the month of travel considering the weather ?

Finally, I'm sure You would have truly enjoyed such a drive in Your vehicle (considering the trip times You've mentioned).

Enjoy many more trips & miles !

Regards,
Arun
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Old 19th January 2017, 14:32   #15
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Default re: Driving holiday : Bangalore to Ladakh in a Scorpio 4x4

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeevan Sukumar View Post
Congratulations on your envious achievement. You did an amazing job. A big salute from my heart for you sir. The travelogue also deserves 5 stars. I am also chasing the same dream that you already fulfilled.Hope that you will guide me with your experience when I am ready on my mission.
Thanks Jeevan. Chasing or realising your dreams is in your hands. Definitely will guide as will other members on the forum

Quote:
Originally Posted by arun_747 View Post
Hi gypsyFreak,
Firstly, I would like to extend my hear felt Congratulations to You & Your family upon completion of this wonderful journey !

Your description about the trip is pretty straight forward. Very nice pictures taken at the right locations.
Even the mention about the use of 4-wheel drive at certain points is valuable.

I agree that 15 days is not at all sufficient for Ladakh if starting from South India. But, You have done it & this shows Your passion for driving ! I am from Bangalore too & am wondering what You would have gone through with all this driving.
Great stuff !

Just a few questions:
So, do You think a 4-wheel drive vehicle is a must for this trip or if a hatchback or sedan can make this trip ? Or do You think if there's an alternative route if the vehicle is a hatchback or sedan ?
And how would we decide on the month of travel considering the weather ?

Finally, I'm sure You would have truly enjoyed such a drive in Your vehicle (considering the trip times You've mentioned).

Enjoy many more trips & miles !

Regards,
Arun
9945866330
Thanks Arun.
4WD is not a necessity if you are doing the regular roads. It definitely is an advantage in such terrain and lets you do more.
Any hatch/sedan with good GC and tyres can do the trip. No alternatives roads, but people are friendly, so you will get all the help.

Couple of reasons to decide on month of travel:
Weather - it rains in July - August, so either go before or after. Cold is there throughout and chill factor increases with the wind.
Rates - peak tourist season is June to Sep, so hotels are cheaper out of this window
Crowd - again more during peak tourist season.

Yes, i did enjoy the drive, but if i look back now, i think i should have stretched trip by a few days.
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