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Old 12th October 2009, 19:46   #331
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Default The Drive in the dark

after a long day's journey from diskit to tangtze, me and MC were wondering how we can ease the next day's drive. from kumar, we'd learned that there was some accomodation in the village near tso kar which was a few hours short of korzok-tso moriri. we thought we can sleep in a little late and drive upto tso kar, spend the nite, and then the next morning we'd get an additional couple of hours while the team left tsoM and drove upto tsoK.

we got up aaramse, got ready and left for tso kar. crossed changla went past sakti and karu [where we refuelled]. at karu the pertrol pump attendant gave us an idea of when 'aapke jaisa 4 aur gaadi' had tanked up before us [car stickers, my dear friends ]. from there we went on to upshi. at upshi, we deviated from kumar's route to go on the manali road.

from here, we crossed taglangla- thus we had conquered all the three highest motorable roads in the world [yes kumar, i'm purposely forgetting marismik la].
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while we were taking fotos at taglangla, we were passed by a huge convoy of army Stallions- whom we caught up with on the way down. as we turned a bend on the road, we suddenly saw the whole line of trucks stopped in front of us. as the road is just wider than one truck, there was no way to go. we got down and asked the army driver- 'kya hua hai aage, kuch problem hai kya?' in reply, we got a cool 'nahin, hamara break chalu hai'!!!!! it was so funny! they get a 10 min break every x no. of hours of driving and when it's break time, the lead driver just stops his truck whereever he is- without really bothering about where he is, and all trucks park behind him. the rest of the convoy catches up, they take their 10 min break and then as easily as they'd stopped, they get back on the road! all other lowly mortals just have to stop and patiently wait for them to finish their break.
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we reached tsoK around 4pm and there's this tented accomodation where you also have a restauran-tent. tanked up our stomachs with some noodles, and MC's recipe of egg rolls [he actually taught the owner how to make egg rolls].

it was there we learned that the tents were full, and the village that was supposed to be there, wasn't! we still decided to go and check it out anyway and what we saw was looking like the harrappa civilisation had resurfaced there. all ruins and nothing else. since we didn't know the road to tsoM and it would've reached quite late there, we were on the verge of contemplating travelling back to manali road and staying at pang instead. but we found a taxi scorpio travelling towards tsoM with some passengers, and he said we'd reach in 1.5 hrs. we asked him if we could follow him. time now was about 530 & we thought we'd reach by 7-715. now MC, who normally drives quite fast, suddenly decided to drive slow respecting the terrain. the road going to tsoM is being built and it's still at the stage where they put the first layer of huge rocks and flatten them. so for most part you're driving beside the actual road on a dirt track, that's winding around bushes and boulders. so i am trying to keep up with the taxi driver [who was driving like he was on the expressway], while trying to keep AB in my rearview. finally at one point i decided to stick to AB, and hope the taxi driver would halt for us somewhere ahead.
as we progressed [as fast as we could], it started turning dark and we had absolutely no inkling of where we were. we couldn't see absolutely anything around. a little ahead into the night we saw headlights, which we thought were of the scorpio taxi, but were actually of a jcb. he wasn't very good at communication and over the sound of the jcb, we could figure out that we were headed in the right direction and kind of got the idea that we were supposed to go straight and left over 'that hill over there'. so we headed off. now even that dirt track was almost gone... and it was like make your own road. we headed towards the direction of the hill and as we were climbing we were wondering "there's no road here and we know we're supposed to go up this hill, where do we go from there? what if there's no road again ahead? which direction?"

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these are fotos taken of that hill the next day on our way back- no imagine this terrain in pitch black

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with not a soul to ask, we were really getting worried. i have never squealed at the sight of blinkers before, but today this was a completely amazing feeling! the good samaritan that he was, when the taxi driver realized that it had got really dark, and with no road we'd get lost, he stopped on top of the hill for us with his blinkers on, so we could locate him. we reached the top of the hill and decided to follow him no matter what speed he takes. from there on was the typical ladakhi road, mountain on one side, and deep valley on the other and we're driving down that road at break-neck and break-whatever speed seeing- and homing in on- the tail lights of the car in front only, not even thinking what is to the left or right [which was a good thing, because when the next day we were driving back that road, we realized how it would've been impossible for us to do those speeds had we been able to see what lay around us].

finally we reached the tsoM resort around 730-8 i think. we bargained hard with the owner tried to get him down to 1200, but he wouldn't budge below 1500. he had 3 spare rooms, so we decided to take only 2 and sleep 4-in-a-room. cars were parked protected from the cold wind from the wind and radiators were jacketed.
the nights sleep was particularly disturbed- thanks to the subzero temperatures and the difficult breathing at high altitude.
we got up the next day and decided to go into town to look for 4 scorpios parked outside some hotel. as we were getting out of the hotel- the MH43 zooms out of the village and hits the road! we happily 'ghussaoed' into the convoy! kumar later remarked... "mirror mein dekha to nikalte time, vishal ka white scorpio peeche tha... thodi der baad dekha to suddenly bolero! yeh kahan se aaya?!"

that night's drive was one of the scariest, and now in retrospect, one of the most thrilling drives i've ever been on. no fotos, as we were busy getting terrified, but i did manage one of the TsoMoriri lake at twillight. and it happened to be ramzan eid that day... the moon's never looked more beautiful!
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Old 12th October 2009, 20:25   #332
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kaiserketkar View Post
i have never squealed at the sight of blinkers before, but today this was a completely amazing feeling! the good samaritan that he was, when the taxi driver realized that it had got really dark, and with no road we'd get lost, he stopped on top of the hill for us with his blinkers on, so we could locate him.
Seriously. If it was not for that taxi, you'd been in some serious trouble.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kaiserketkar View Post
we realized how it would've been impossible for us to do those speeds had we been able to see what lay around us.
Oh man!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by kaiserketkar View Post
"mirror mein dekha to nikalte time, vishal ka white scorpio peeche tha... thodi der baad dekha to suddenly bolero! yeh kahan se aaya?!"
Hilarious.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kaiserketkar View Post
that night's drive was one of the scariest, and now in retrospect, one of the most thrilling drives i've ever been on.
But everything ended up well. Thank God.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kaiserketkar View Post
no fotos, as we were busy getting terrified, but i did manage one of the TsoMoriri lake at twillight. and it happened to be ramzan eid that day... the moon's never looked more beautiful!
Hey that's a nice one.

Last edited by laluks : 12th October 2009 at 20:26.
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Old 12th October 2009, 20:29   #333
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Luckily, I had read Shakir's account of his drive to Tso Moriri and surmised that unless we are early at Sumdo, we also would have trouble driving the dirt tracks too after dark. Happily, thanks to our early morning start, we could reach Karzok - enjoying the dirt tracks - early in the evening.
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Old 12th October 2009, 20:59   #334
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Luckily, I had read Shakir's account of his drive to Tso Moriri and surmised that unless we are early at Sumdo, we also would have trouble driving the dirt tracks too after dark. Happily, thanks to our early morning start, we could reach Karzok - enjoying the dirt tracks - early in the evening.
Very true. For the hills, the rule is start with the first rays of the sun and stop before the last rays of the sun. Thanks to HVK for this, experience matters a lot in such decisions.
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Old 12th October 2009, 22:24   #335
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Day 11, September 22nd, 2009

Tso Morriri - Tso Kiagar - Namshang La - Sumdo - Puga - Tso Kar - Moore Plains - Pang - Lachung La - Nakee La - Gata Loops - Whisky Nallah - Brandy Nallah - Sarchu - Killing Sarai - Baralacha La - Jispa - Stingri - Keylong.



After the trying subzero night on the tents we woke up around 5Am. We just wanted to get inside the Scorpios and switch on the heater. Did a quick brushing of the teeth. On putting water to the mouth the gums froze, and pained like hell. Waited for the much awaited tea. Had a few cups.

For the record Tso Morriri was at 4500m. The breeze from the lake chills the place during the night. Some one told me it was -2 degrees inside the tents. I don't want to imagine what was outside.

Got in the Scorpios by 6:00 AM. Since the scorpios were sweatered previous night, it cranked in the second try.

Today we were supposed to stay at Sarchu(4200m) again in the tents. Sarchu will be more difficult as it is a very much open plain and temperatures dip much further with strong winds. The entire gang pleaded, no more of this madness. Let us get down to low altitudes and decent temperatures - Please.

So the destination was changed to Keylong(3100m) in Himachal, which had proper hotels , and the drive started.

Tso Morriri in the morning.
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We were joined by MC and Doc from here for todays run. The convoy again became six cars for the day.

The sand track and the metalled track from Tso Morriri till Tso Kiagar
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The views from Tso Morriri till Moore Plains. The white colour on the ground is not snow, but some salt deposits. Tso kar is also known as the White lake.

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Saji walking on the golden meadows near Tso Kar lake
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The Scorpios parked somewhere near to Tso Kar lake
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During the drive we pass through a wildlife sanctuary kinds, nearer to Tso Kar. We saw wild asses, some cranes etc. HVK and MC did some national geographic style drives chasing the wild asses.





HVK was quite lucky to have sighted Ibex there. He has a nice video of them.

After the relaxed drive we reached Moore Plains by 10:30AM




continued...

Last edited by laluks : 12th October 2009 at 22:26.
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Old 12th October 2009, 22:45   #336
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MY TAKE ON Day 11, September 22, 2009, Karzok-Pang-Sarchu-Keylong, 359 kms

2,4,6,8,10,12,14,
That was approximately the number of attempts to crank up the engine that cold morning in Karzok, the coldest of the trip. All our cars had been parked nose away from the open, sweatered with newspaper and gunny bags, and yet we had quite a task on our hand starting some of the cars. Luckily, all of us had robust batteries that could take the long cranking session. No brushing my teeth this morning, my teeth were chattering too much in the cold already, can’t gargle the colder water. Nonetheless, it was commendable that 4 Scorpios set off from Karzok into the rising sun at 610 am, even the hotel guys were amazed at our tenacity and determination. There was the white Scorpio tailing me when I left the tent camp, but suddenly I saw a black Bolero come in between – hey, that is Anirudh, what is he doing here, he is supposed to be in Tso Kar. AB it was, he and Doc M Scorpio had come late last evening to Tso Moriri after failing to get accommodation in Tso Kar. So it was indeed a happy reunion of the 6 cars and a round of group photographs of several woolen caps – with owner’s faces also somewhere hidden down! And it was a loud happy birthday for Bidisha Basu.

The dirt tracks were great and we all zig-zagged the cars creating huge dust storms, but then there was one section where they were relaying the roads using some big nasty boulders – and we had to go off road in the loose sand, caused lots of misery to the cars, some got stuck, but happily we all survived. Once we returned to Sumdo, we rejoined the Mahe-Tso Kar road which was in a miserable condition. White salt residues lined the road. Our misery increased when the tar road began, it was bumpier than the dirt road. A few steep climbs and river crossings later, the valley widened out as we approached Tso Kar Lake. This is wild *** country, and there were packs of them. AB and I chased one large pack – Nat Geo style – and we all got some great shots. Not forgetting the black-necked cranes too. Tso Kar village looked quite uninspiring, and would not recommend anyone even pause there.

We joined the main Leh-Upshi-Pang-Manali road at around 910 am – 87 kms from Karzok – near Debring which is a tea shop without any signages. Tanglang la loomed ahead towards Leh, this was one of the highest passes we 4 Scorpios had to miss during this trip. We plunged into the More Plains where driving off the road in the dirt tracks was faster and more fun than taking the pot-holed tar road that shied away towards the hill side. However, take care, the dirt tracks have loose sand in some places and you can easily misjudge the size of some of the craters and scrape your bottom. I guess we were all airborne in some sections, and thus reached Pang at 1120 am, where we had what could be termed as brunch for the next 1 hour. Pang is an army camp with a few tea shops strewn around. No hotels here, but the tea shops here have dormitories where they hire out beds for Rs 50 apiece. Surprisingly, the tea shop where we stopped over had an attached toilet. “Black” diesel is also available here.

The road from Pang to Sarchu has some of the most spectacular terrain, typical McKenna’s country, the road cutting through steep escarpments and some rare sights – a frozen waterfall, stalactites, multi-coloured rocks. The Kanglajal, 9 kms from Pang, which was the cause of many a shudder earlier in the season (2-3 feet of water crossing in the latter part of the day with snow melt), was a simple rocky bed with hardly any water. We were in Lachulung la (16,665 feet) before we knew it within 15 minutes we were 1,000 feet down, only to climb up again to the Nakila (16,216 feet). The Gata Loops – 21 levels of road descending 1,500 feet in 10 kms – were great to drive down, but don’t forget to stop and look at the beautiful Tsarap chu river (also a tributary to the Zanskar/Indus) blasting its way through the mountain ranges. I am quite a risk-averse guy, don’t fancy taking any of the OTR steep short-cuts down which are very steep, rough and can cause a nasty topple-over if you are not careful. We ran into a large herd of Ibex, the shy mountain goats that are native to this region. Whisky and Brandy – the names of 2 of the bridges that you cross once you come down the Gata Loops, ostensibly named by army jawans who manned the camps at these places.

Sarchu, 14,155 feet high, 315 pm, is a windswept valley, bitterly cold, and ringed by some beautiful ravines. The army camp and the attendant tea shops, Pang-style, offer little solace, and it is better to head further up the road (9 kms) and stay at the luxury tent camps there. The season having already ended, only one of the tent camps was open – the Adventure Camp – the other two having already wound up. Sarchu is so cold in winter that no one dares stay in these parts. We had originally planned to stay at Sarchu for the night, but no one was keen on spending one more night shivering in tents and we all yearned to get back to the lower hills of the Lahaul Valley. So we moved on, climbing now towards the Baralacha la (16,133 feet) , which we reached at 450 pm. Did we see the Suraj Tal – don’t know whether the small tear of a pool was that one? Baralacha la had heavy snowfall a few days ago and the hill sides were all-white, although the roads were in great form. We were all in a hurry to get to Keylong and in no mood to pose for any more photographs, since we had heard that there were some bad roads up ahead and were anxious to cross them before dark. Outstanding – that is the state of the roads, they had been widened and freshly laid, and I could whiz down at 80-100 kmph without any fear, as the army camps of Zing Zing bar, Karo and Patseo flashed by. I was way ahead of the rest of the pack since we had already decided to form 2 teams – one heading for Kaza the next day, the rest returning to Delhi.

At Darcha, the bridge across the Bhaga River was washed away and one has to wade across the wide river bed (luckily, water flow was low, although it has been known to be 2-3 feet high at times especially in May and June), and we were lucky that it was just 555 pm and there was a lot of light to pick out the sharp large boulders and gingerly climb up the steep embankment back to the road. Darcha has some small guest houses, but you get better lodgings in Jispa 6 kms away. However, with the end of the season, the Padma Lodge had already shuttered its windows and the Hotel Jispa/Ibex (an expensive joint) was bursting at its seams with tourists on their way to Leh (this is a popular Day 1 halt in the Manali-Leh drive).

We reached Keylong, the district headquarter town of the Lahaul Valley, at 645 pm, and managed to snag the last 2 rooms in the excellent Hotel Chanderbhaga run by the HPTDC. Our friends who followed half an hour later were disappointed and had to search for rooms in other hotels in the Keylong market. After many days, it was a relief to be back to the lower altitudes (only 10,000 feet!), seeing so much greenery all around and we sunk into the soft mattresses of the palatial rooms that HPTDC had to offer, partake of the excellent food (Room + Food for 2 Rs 1,500 per room) and talk on mobile phones after 2 days. It was also one of the longest drives in many days, all of 360 kms, and we were deeply satisfied that we were ahead of schedule. We had crossed 3 high passes – Lachulung la, Nakila and Baralacha la, all 5000 metres or higher, and reached Himachal Pradesh.

Kumar
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Old 12th October 2009, 23:07   #337
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Day 11, September 22nd, 2009 Continued

Moore Plains


We reached Moore plains at 10:30AM. At a height of 4200m, the vast flatlands offer some fun driving. All the Scorpios were belting here, kicking up dust all along.



The Scorpios at Moore plains
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Some views of the Moore plains
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Since the road is still under construction, there was a board to take deviation to the sandy plains.
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At the end of Moore plains we found this board. But this was one inconvenience we enjoyed like hell.
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We reached Pang by 11:00AM. We halted there till 12:00PM. Had a good brunch, filled up diesel from the cans and filled up water for the next leg of our run.

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Men at work in Pang. Filling Diesel and water.
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continued...

Last edited by laluks : 12th October 2009 at 23:14.
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Old 12th October 2009, 23:08   #338
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Day 11 Pics

Tso Morriri - Tso Kiagar - Namshang La - Sumdo - Puga - Tso Kar

Pics taken near Tso Kar (white lake)
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Old 12th October 2009, 23:16   #339
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Day 11, September 22nd, 2009 Continued

Moore Plains


Some videos of Moore plains









continued...
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Old 12th October 2009, 23:19   #340
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Day 11 Pics
Moore plains and Pang

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There goes Vishal's white Scorpio
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Through the vastness of moore plains
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Old 13th October 2009, 00:21   #341
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Day 11, September 22nd, 2009 Continued

Pang - Kangla Jal


Some views from Pang till Kangla Jal.
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Stalactites.
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We reached Kangla Jal by 12:45PM. Since there was less water it was tame and easy to cross.
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continued...
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Old 13th October 2009, 00:34   #342
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Day 11, September 22nd, 2009 Continued

Kangla Jal - Lachlung La - Nakee La


Some views from Kangla Jal till Lachlung La. We reached Lachlung La by 13:15PM.

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Some views from Lachlung La till Nakee La. We reached Nakee La by 13:45PM.
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continued...
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Old 13th October 2009, 01:01   #343
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Default My take on the drive from Tso - Kar to Tso - Moriri

Quote:
Originally Posted by kaiserketkar View Post
while we were taking fotos at taglangla, we were passed by a huge convoy of army Stallions- whom we caught up with on the way down. as we turned a bend on the road, we suddenly saw the whole line of trucks stopped in front of us. as the road is just wider than one truck, there was no way to go. we got down and asked the army driver- 'kya hua hai aage, kuch problem hai kya?' in reply, we got a cool 'nahin, hamara break chalu hai'!!!!! it was so funny! they get a 10 min break every x no. of hours of driving and when it's break time, the lead driver just stops his truck whereever he is- without really bothering about where he is, and all trucks park behind him. the rest of the convoy catches up, they take their 10 min break and then as easily as they'd stopped, they get back on the road! all other lowly mortals just have to stop and patiently wait for them to finish their break.
The Army Convoy was quite a scene. There was also a convoy of Jeeps that were coming from the other end with Jodhpur regsitration that had Enduro Himalaya Rally stickers

Quote:
Originally Posted by kaiserketkar View Post
we reached tsoK around 4pm and there's this tented accomodation where you also have a restauran-tent. tanked up our stomachs with some noodles, and MC's recipe of egg rolls [he actually taught the owner how to make egg rolls].
Teaching those guys about Egg Rolls was good fun!
[quote=kaiserketkar;1528450]
now MC, who normally drives quite fast, suddenly decided to drive slow respecting the terrain.
The terrain was continuously throwing luggage from the rear and had already injured Smitha. So I after a lot of screaming by Naveen and Bidisha decided to drive really slow. But alas, that slow drive was not to last for long!
Quote:
Originally Posted by kaiserketkar View Post
the road going to tsoM is being built and it's still at the stage where they put the first layer of huge rocks and flatten them. so for most part you're driving beside the actual road on a dirt track, that's winding around bushes and boulders. so i am trying to keep up with the taxi driver [who was driving like he was on the expressway], while trying to keep AB in my rearview. finally at one point i decided to stick to AB, and hope the taxi driver would halt for us somewhere ahead.
as we progressed [as fast as we could], it started turning dark and we had absolutely no inkling of where we were. we couldn't see absolutely anything around. a little ahead into the night we saw headlights, which we thought were of the scorpio taxi, but were actually of a jcb. he wasn't very good at communication and over the sound of the jcb, we could figure out that we were headed in the right direction and kind of got the idea that we were supposed to go straight and left over 'that hill over there'. so we headed off. now even that dirt track was almost gone... and it was like make your own road. we headed towards the direction of the hill and as we were climbing we were wondering "there's no road here and we know we're supposed to go up this hill, where do we go from there? what if there's no road again ahead? which direction?"

Attachment 208498

these are fotos taken of that hill the next day on our way back- no imagine this terrain in pitch black

Attachment 208497

with not a soul to ask, we were really getting worried. i have never squealed at the sight of blinkers before, but today this was a completely amazing feeling! the good samaritan that he was, when the taxi driver realized that it had got really dark, and with no road we'd get lost, he stopped on top of the hill for us with his blinkers on, so we could locate him. we reached the top of the hill and decided to follow him no matter what speed he takes. from there on was the typical ladakhi road, mountain on one side, and deep valley on the other and we're driving down that road at break-neck and break-whatever speed seeing- and homing in on- the tail lights of the car in front only, not even thinking what is to the left or right [which was a good thing, because when the next day we were driving back that road, we realized how it would've been impossible for us to do those speeds had we been able to see what lay around us].

finally we reached the tsoM resort around 730-8 i think.
Doc considering the distance and terrain from the point we met the Taxi to the TsoM , we did a fair clip thru the conditions to reach TsoM check post in 2 hours. Our morning drive was more leisurely comparitively
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Old 13th October 2009, 01:05   #344
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Day 11, September 22nd, 2009 Continued

Nakee La -Gata Loops - Whisky Nalla


Lachlung La was 5000m and Nakee La was 4500m.

Some views from Nakee La till Gata loops.
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We reached Gata Loops (4600m) by 14:10PM. Ghata loops have 21 loops and fondly called jileby roads. The descend is rapid to 4100m. Too lazy, shot from the car, the loops doesn't look as it needs to be.
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Tsarap Chu river
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View from Ghata Loops till Whisky Nallah
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continued...

Last edited by laluks : 13th October 2009 at 01:11.
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Old 13th October 2009, 01:24   #345
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Day 11, September 22nd, 2009 Continued

Whisky Nallah - Brandy Nallah - Sarchu


Some views from Whisky Nalla (4200m)- Brandy Nallah (4200m)
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Some views from Brandy Nallah till Sarchu. Tsarap Chu river.
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Sarchu finally!! We reached Sarchu at 15:10PM.
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We met a few guys from the Army preparing for Raid de Himalayas. They were shocked to see Raid de Leh.



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