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Old 23rd October 2009, 21:05   #496
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This is the most beautiful part of the entire trip. And any cameras would not do the complete justice. But still let me put up the log

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Old 23rd October 2009, 21:22   #497
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Day 14, September 25th, 2009

Sangla - Chitkul - Sangla - Karchham -Tapri -Jeori - Rampur - Narkhanda - Kufri - Simla Byepass -Dharampur - Panchkula - Chandigargh Byepass - Ambala


I was bothering the team with Chandertaal and Chitkul from the beginning of the trip. Chandertaal defeated us. So I was like pressing the visit to Chitkul like a child.

HVK granted my wish and we were going to Chitkul .

That also helps us to reach Delhi very late, and thus avoiding the mad Delhi traffic. By the earlier plan we would reach Delhi by 21:00PM, and with Chitkul added we would reach Delhi only by 03:00Am the next day, which also means Glenn could join us early in the morning from Delhi after a good nights sleep.

The flipside was for HVK, who had to do two continuous night outs to reach Bombay as planned by 02:30Am on 27/09/09. He eventually reached Bombay by 04:30 AM. More of this later.

Sangla - Chitkul

After some good hot tea, we started from Sangla(8885 ft) by 06:30Am.

Some view down on to the valley enroute Sangla - Chitkul. Some Banjara camp is in there somewhere.
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Chitkul

We reached Chitkul by 07:30AM. Chitkul is at a height of 11250ft.
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Wooden houses in Chitkul. This could soon be a thing of the past, since the various Dam constructions in Baspa and Sutlej river has started to pump in a lot of money, and these wooden houses could soon give way to concrete ones. You can already see some.
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What was supposed to be a small break in Chitkul, became a break of 4 hours, the maximum we would have spent at any location this trip. Chitkul by all means is beautiful. Beautiful Chitkul - it rhymes too.




continued...
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Old 23rd October 2009, 21:24   #498
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Day 14, September 25th, 2009 Continued.

Chitkul



Chitkul was the reward for all of us, pristine landscapes all around, with Baspa river flowing beautifully.

After a very good hot breakfast of parathas and omlettes we all went trekking into the mountains and valleys there.

See a concrete Guest house.
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View of the village from a little up the mountains.
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The trek path we started on.
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Fields everywhere. Paddy??
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Learning photography. For this I don't need a DSLR.
It only needs time and a good location, both we had at Chitkul
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Old 23rd October 2009, 21:25   #499
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Day 14, September 25th, 2009 Continued.

Chitkul


GK took me and Saji near the Baspa river and we spent quite a lot of time there. There was a small bridge across the river and we did some photo shootouts there.

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Learning photography. Macros this time.
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Old 23rd October 2009, 21:26   #500
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Day 14, September 25th, 2009 Continued.

Chitkul


After the Baspa river shootout we went trekking in the direction of the Tibetan border, which was 3K from Chitkul. Since we also had to return the same day, we cut short that trek after a while.

GK leading the trail.
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Gk jumped over some fences and said we would get the trail back to Chitkul from the otherside. We ran through some potato and radish fields. Lucky no farmers chased us.

GK asking us to jump the fence.
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Potatoes
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Radish
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Well GK is an experienced trekker who had even been to the Everest base camp. He was climbing the mountains like nobody's business and me and Saji struggling to catch up. After a while we saw him way up in the mountains saying he has found the trail. It was a scary climb through lose stones. I was shell shocked, but followed GK. At times the lose rocks falling down the valley scared me. Saji almost tripped at a place, and was lucky that both him and his camera were not hurt.

The rock climb
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The fun was after going forward in that trail we found out that it was a trail made by mountain goats and not a walking trail. GK sheepishly told us the trail is down and we have to get down. Oh my god, that is steep. But some how catching the thorny bushes and sliding down on our butts, we some how made it to the actual trail. GK, go hide, I am coming for you!!

By the time we reached Chitkul, we found a very worried HVK. His relief on seeing us was immense. He was looking all these time toward the mountains to see any movements and to spot us. He was worried that due to the terrain if we had a fall, and the likes. But thank god, though scary and adventorous, we had a nice trek.

Saji drinking water from the stream. Yes we needed it badly. I was busy drinking the entire stream. The water was so fresh, cold and tasty. Lucky I was not photographed here.
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Some berries
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Some very green bush
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Some fungus on the rocks.
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School of Chitkul.
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The last look at Chitkul for this trip before we started back to our sweet home.
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The holiday has come to an end sadly, and now on its just the mad run back to our homes. But we do have some more hills till Kalka.



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Old 23rd October 2009, 22:25   #501
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Day 14, September 25th, 2009 Continued.

Chitkul - Sangla - Karchham -Tapri -Jeori - Rampur - Narkhanda - Kufri - Simla Byepass -Dharampur - Panchkula - Chandigargh Byepass - Ambala



We left Chitkul by 11:30AM and reached Sangla by 12:15PM.

The last look into Sangla valley for this time. See the beauty of Baspa flowing between the mountains.
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We took a little detour on to one of the hydroelectric project site to see the water falling down forcefully.
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See the height. Massive.
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We tried to get HVK's car a bath. But unfortunately the flow was less and less spray around
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The entire valley from now on is a big mess, thanks to the hydro electric projects in these areas. Free flowing streams are changed to pipes to bring the water down.

At one place they had even dammed both Sutlej and Baspa together. It was a sad sight to see the rivers being tamed, but Sutlej I guess had to be. It is a raging one. But poor Baspa, I felt so sad when I saw the bluish clean Baspa, joining the muddy raging Sutlej and getting diluted in to the rage.

The sign board shows Rampur 79Km away.
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We drove on and on till we reached Rampur for a fuel stop. GK was peeping out of the car windows . No one could control him, his excuse was he is finding a petrol pump for us. Well guys - the clue is it was 3.30PM, and was colourful.

Rampur
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See how happy GK is. Panditji huh?
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The fuel pump fellow gave us only Rs500/- worth of diesel, some rationing it seems.

We drove on monotonously and silently. The dream holidays over. Took us a while to sync with that thought.

On the way we saw apple boxes for sale. Golden apples were available at a last price of Rs600/- for a box of 30Kg, and Red ones at Rs 1000/-. But since we did not have enough space in the car, we decided not to bargain too hard and left it. Don't know what one must pay for them.

We stopped at a place called Mathiana for a good tea and to clean the headlamps, windscreens etc, for a comfortable night drive.

Sun setting on the Himalayas. The last sunset in the Himalayas for this trip.
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We started at 17:45Pm after tea and drove continuously till Ambala. We reached Kalka by 22:00PM and Ambala, where we stopped for dinner around midnight.



Immediately after dinner we started the drive, and since its past midnight it have to be logged as the next day. Wait till tomorrow guys!!.
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Old 23rd October 2009, 22:55   #502
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MY TAKE ON Days 14-15, September 25-26, 2009, Sangla-Chitkul-Bombay, 1,164 kms, Non-Stop

Sangla nestles inside a small valley at 10,000 feet, but the best of the Baspa Valley lies beyond this small town, which has a SBI ATM but no petrol pump. For a hill station, the water tasted awful and the Bengali food strange (the cook was from Kolkata) in this place so far away from the Hooghly, but the apples in the tree inside the hotel compound were large and juicy and kept the Himachali flavor alive.

We checked out of the hotel and left at 630 am and headed for Chitkul 25 kms away, and 1,000 feet higher. The narrow road hugs the cliffs overlooking the raging Baspa River – a tributary of the Sutlej – and the paddy and red maize fields, along with the dense green conifers provide a colourful contrast to the bright blue skies and the aqua green hue of the water. Several luxury tent camps crowd the river banks in the Valley deep below, and the Scorpio crosses gurgling streams along the way. Within less than an hour, we are at the end of the road at Chitkul, probably the first of the day tourists that day.

We fell in love with Chitkul immediately, and we were all scampering off all over the place exploring the water’s edge, the narrow trekking path that leads to some of the best mountain trails and quaffing some wonderful ginger tea. Would you imagine, Gangotri is just 2 days around the peaks that overlook Chitkul, once your permits (issued at Recong Peo) have been shown at the ITBF checkpost 3 kms down the path? But that is reserved for another trip. After the barren terrain of Ladakh and Spiti, the burst of colours – trees, meadows, flowers, butterflies, birds – was a great relief to our sore eyes, and we just did not want to leave this enchanting place. We did discuss the prospects of taking a break here in Chitkul, but eventually decided to stick to our original schedule. All of us walked around, panicked sliding down steep slopes leading to the river and stored away local hotel telephone numbers for a future visit. Next month onwards, Chitkul will be enveloped in deep snow, but the road remains open, or so they say, although I am unsure whether the hotels will welcome visitors. Even as the flood of day tourists started coming in (it was Kali Puja time it looked like half of Kolkata was in Chitkul!), we scrambled out of the place at 1130 am.

Where do we go from here? I had counted on an early morning start from Sangla for Delhi/Rajasthan – Chitkul was an after-thought – and the delay caused by the detour into Chitkul called for some tough decisions: We decided to drive back non-stop to Bombay without any stop-overs, and surprisingly, the Famous 5 arrived at a consensus! As we drive down the narrow road back to Karchcham (to rejoin NH22), we marvel at the engineering of many hydel dams, largest of them the Baspa Dam, in the Valley. From Karchcham (100 pm) onwards, the dam construction has wrecked the road which is rutted and messy, but I am sure when the dams over the River Sutlej at Karchcham and Wangtoo are over, the tranquility of the Kinnaur Valley will be restored. Since I last drove here in 2004, the roads have been widened and are in very top-class condition once you cross Bawanagar. The Sutlej River dominates the landscape and the apples hang down heavily from the trees. Apples all over the place now – ripening in the trees, stacked up by the road side and packed into trucks. We bargained, hammered the price for a crate of golden apples (300 pieces to a crate) down to Rs 400, and a crate of red apples to Rs 1000, but our team was still dissatisfied with the price and could not clinch a deal!

The height dipped down to the 3000s near Rampur before we started ascending again. Watch out for sudden fuel shortages in these places – the petrol pump refused to sell us more than Rs 500 worth of diesel under the pretext that the tanker had not arrived and they were conserving stocks, never make the mistake of driving till the last E in your fuel gauge. At Jeori, we looked up wistfully at the road to Sarahan, another lovely hill station in the Kinnaur Valley, but the Scorpio was impatient to continue on the lovely mountain road under the overhanging rock cliff face one moment and beautiful tree-lined avenues the other. At Kumarsain, we finally bid good bye to the River Sutlej as it disappeared north to its fate at the Bhakra-Nangal Dam, and after the rapid climb to Narkhanda (8,800 feet), we reached the outskirts of Shimla at 700 pm (Chitkul-Shimla, 250 kms, 7.30 hours). Happily, it was slack season for tourists and the drive from Kufri to Dalli was peaceful without any traffic jams. After refueling at Dalli, we took the Shimla bypass to avoid the urban jungle of Shimla. The bright lights of the Christ Church in the Mall at Shimla were very tempting, but we resolutely promised ourselves a break in the dhaabas of Punjab ahead and pressed on. The light fog was hardly a deterrent and we made good speed to the plains of Punjab-Haryana, crossing Kalka at 1000 pm, even the Ramlila revelry did not delay us.

The road is being widened around Panchkula but traffic was sparse and our quest for some tender butter chicken by the road side was in vain. The GMR expressway from Chandigarh to Ambala – we joined it at Zarakpur – was super-fast and we sat down to dinner near Ambala at 1130 pm, which unfortunately turned out to be a pure veg dhaaba! Entered Delhi at 230 am, whizzed past the Azadpur interchange and via Red Fort, we reached our rendezvous at Maharani Bagh at 320 am – Glenn joined us at the end of the DND Flyway from Noida at 350 am – and the 2 cars were reunited for the Delhi-Bombay drive.

The NH8 roads which were rutted between Gurgaon and Dareuhera (towards Delhi) were surprisingly in great form on the Jaipur side, and we drove steadily till the tea halt after crossing into Rajasthan at 630 am, to stretch our legs, check the cars and savour some of the prohibited salty oily foods like Frito-lays. RTDC Behror where we stopped awhile is a great motel with clean toilets for motorists – and a SBI ATM in the complex – but the restaurant did not have any food to offer.

We were driving an easy pace and as the sun rose high in the sky, we drove past the Rajasthani towns that day – Jaipur (930 am), Kishnagarh (1100 am), Bhilwara (100 pm), Chittorgarh (145 pm) and Udaipur (245 pm). Glenn was shuffling his reserve drivers as he took a few winks, but the 2 Scorpios indomitably kept going. Rajasthan highways are safe and empty, but once you enter Gujarat, there is never a dull moment – overloaded Mahindra Maxxes, super-small sedans trying to edge you out of the road, camels munching grass as they trundle along and pedestrians oblivious to the screeching of brakes and the smell of burning pads – we almost knocked off an octogenarian couple nearing Ahmedabad, but we held our nerves and halted awhile at the Ranasan Circle outside Ahmedabad – Ramky not only drove a long way to meet us there, but also brought us some tasty dhoklas, and we chit-chatted with him in the constant company of flies buzzing around the fiery green chillies and the sugary tea that the road-side shops had to offer us. It was a welcome break for 1 hour, and we resolved to reach Bombay that night, however late it may be. And it was my second continuous night drive.

The Baroda expressway was choked with dense traffic when we entered it at 705 pm and we came out onto NH8 before Baroda 1.35 minutes later, the slowest I have driven on this road (best time 40 minutes), so you can imagine how crowded it was. Even the 6-lane highway to Surat did not appear to be broad anymore, we were weaving in and out, alternating between extreme right and extreme left lanes, as we dodged obdurate truckers, each one trying to overtake the other. It was surely one of my slowest Ahmedabad-Bombay drives, and we could reach Surat by only 11 pm (from Ahmedabad 280 kms, 4 hours vs 3 hours on our onward journey). At Navsari, a little ahead at 1150 pm, Glenn and his 3 musketeers decided to take a nap, while Sudhir and I decided to go on, and we eventually reached Bombay Thane at 345 am.

When I entered my home at 415 am, I had remained awake for 46 hours, driven 2164 kms across 7 State borders and come down from 11,300 feet to sea level. It was also a very long Delhi-Bombay drive, interrupted as it was by breaks at Behror and Ahmedabad, and slower than my best time by 7 hours and our onward journey had been 3 hours faster. But we were not complaining, we had been to Ladakh and back, all of 7,301 kms, in 15 days, and climbed up and down all the Valleys – Kashmir, Drass, Suru, Zanskar, Indus, Nubra, Shayok, Chumathang, Sarchu, Lahaul, Spiti and Kinnaur. We braved the sub-zero temperatures, wetted our jackets in snowfall, panted up the slopes of the highest roads in the world, photographed wildlife the Nat Geo way, lived off Maggis and omlettes, repaired car springs and fuel pumps and enjoyed the great team spirit that enlivened the trip.
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Old 23rd October 2009, 23:14   #503
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Quote:
we were going to Chitkul
Yes, Chitkul was quite a bonus for us. Our original plan was to halt overnight at Sangla and leave early next morning, heading for Behror on the HR-RJ border beyond Delhi. But having come so far, the Baspa Valley entranced us and we said, let us go to Chitkul, whatever it takes.

Quote:
Banjara camp is in there somewhere.
Batseri has the Banjara tent camp. Batseri is 7 kms from Sangla on the road to Chitkul. The tents are at the water's edge.

The road to Chitkul is prone to landslides and we crossed one such point.


Quote:
Trekking in the direction of the Tibetan border, which was 3K from Chitkul
Actually, the Tibetan border is farther. The ITBP Check Post is 3 kms from Chitkul. One of the most popular treks from Chitkul is the path to Gangotri.

Quote:
It was a scary climb through lose stones. trail made by mountain goats and not a walking trail. GK sheepishly told us the trail is down and we have to get down. Oh my god, that is steep. But some how catching the thorny bushes and sliding down on our butts, we some how made it to the actual trail.
Of the team of 5, Sudhir enjoyed himself sunning out in the tea shop listening to some old numbers of Lata Mangeshkar and Mukesh. Saji, GK and Lalu went off down to the water's edge. I decided to take a small trek myself and found myself hopelessly sliding down a steep slope, clutching on for dear life to the thorny bushes and praying hard! Lucky that I got away cheaply that day.



Quote:
By the time we reached Chitkul, we found a very worried HVK. His relief on seeing us was immense. He was looking all these time toward the mountains to see any movements and to spot us. He was worried that due to the terrain if we had a fall, and the likes. But thank god, though scary and adventorous, we had a nice trek.
That was a tense hour or so when Sudhir and I could not locate the 3 Musketeers. No mobile connectivity. Looking up the mountain slopes (knowing GK's propensity to climb hills, we were squinting our eyes at the top-most hills around) and looking down at the raging river, wondering where they had disappeared. In the meantime, hordes of tourists were swarming all over the place.
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Old 24th October 2009, 04:21   #504
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When we went there during the August 15th weekend, we stayed at the resport at Chitkul. They said, the ITBP post is 3 kms, and the actual border is 27 KM's further. I don't think they allow beyond hte check post, but he trak route to Gangotri is said to be popular, there's a full guide team available from Panchali Resorts, Chitkul.

===

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Old 24th October 2009, 05:33   #505
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Quote:
Originally Posted by laluks View Post
Day 14, September 25th, 2009

Sangla - Chitkul - Sangla - Karchham -Tapri -Jeori - Rampur - Narkhanda - Kufri - Simla Byepass -Dharampur - Panchkula - Chandigargh Byepass - Ambala

I was bothering the team with Chandertaal and Chitkul from the beginning of the trip. Chandertaal defeated us. So I was like pressing the visit to Chitkul like a child.

HVK granted my wish and we were going to Chitkul .

That also helps us to reach Delhi very late, and thus avoiding the mad Delhi traffic. By the earlier plan we would reach Delhi by 21:00PM, and with Chitkul added we would reach Delhi only by 03:00Am the next day, which also means Glenn could join us early in the morning from Delhi after a good nights sleep.

The flipside was for HVK, who had to do two continuous night outs to reach Bombay as planned by 02:30Am on 27/09/09. He eventually reached Bombay by 04:30 AM. More of this later.

Sangla - Chitkul

After some good hot tea, we started from Sangla(8885 ft) by 06:30Am.

Some view down on to the valley enroute Sangla - Chitkul. Some Banjara camp is in there somewhere.
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Chitkul

We reached Chitkul by 07:30AM. Chitkul is at a height of 11250ft.
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Wooden houses in Chitkul. This could soon be a thing of the past, since the various Dam constructions in Baspa and Sutlej river has started to pump in a lot of money, and these wooden houses could soon give way to concrete ones. You can already see some.
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What was supposed to be a small break in Chitkul, became a break of 4 hours, the maximum we would have spent at any location this trip. Chitkul by all means is beautiful. Beautiful Chitkul - it rhymes too.




continued...
Beautiful photographs.
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Old 24th October 2009, 07:09   #506
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
Lets all go! Apr 10, here we come!
Chief, please keep space for me in the convoy. Yours and Tanveer's pics of Chandertaal, Kunzum - La & Lahaul - Spiti make me want to do the circuit if nothing else is planned for next year.
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Old 24th October 2009, 17:19   #507
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Day 15, September 26th, 2009
Ambala - Karnal - Sonepat - Azadpur - Delhi - Behror- Jaipur - udaipur - Ahmedabad - Vadodara - Surat


After a good dinner, we started from Ambala at 12:00AM for the non stop drive to Mumbai. You might recall that we had started the return trip at 11:30AM from Chitkul the previous day, to be on the record infact from Sangla at 06:30AM.

We reached Panipat by 01:30AM and Azadpur by 02:50AM. We reached the Noida Toll bridge around 03:10AM. We waited for Glenn here, and he joined the convoy at 3:45AM, and the convoy started the drive to Bombay by 04:00AM.

Road Runner's acceleration sensor had been changed under warranty and he was happy to get back to the roads. The three musketers joined Glenn, and that was one happy reunion, chatting and chatting about the three musketeer's adventures, and listening to Glenn's adventure crossing Rohtang pass and the beauty of Manali, Beas river and on. By the time we realised that we were left with nothing to discuss, we had already reached Behror, and we stopped for tea at 06:30AM.

See the contrast. HVK,s Scorpio after the full run, and Glenn's RoadRunner after his rest.
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A little later we stopped at RTDC Behror and freshened up a bit. There was no food available at that place, and hence we moved on to a dhabha nearby. After a heavy breakfast and the decision to skip lunch we continued onwards on our journey by 08:30AM.

As usual madness everywhere!!
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A little after Jaipur, Glenn gave the Scorpio to Saji. Me and Glenn was too sleepy, for me I had the previous day full night out giving an extra pair of eyes to HVK. But Saji insisted one me giving him company, and I tried a while. A little later I decided to take over the wheels from Saji, so that I am engaged and do not sleep. Somehow the sense of responsibility behind the wheel always takes my sleep away.

I drove the Scorpio through the Aravalli ranges, always keeping HVK in the front and drove through the beautiful Aravalli ranges. Some hours and few 100Kms later we stopped for refuell.

A quick statement about Scorpio would be, what an engine!! Though the drivers seat did not inspire me confidence - may be due to the fact that I drive mostly sedans and the body roll I was not much used to. But I was comfortable within the first few minutes, and drove it like a sedan. Only to be told later that this was the same place where the second GQ run ended in a disaster .

While I was driving, Glenn called up his contacts in Mumbai and booked us a service apartment with complimentary breakfast and airport drop for an amazing price.

After the refuell, Glenn took the drivers seat and we were heading towards Ahmedabad. A swift was giving a hell of a time to HVK, by his irritating driving skills and ever overtaking philosophy. It also created a blind spot, and a two wheeler jumped right in front dangerously, and HVK quickly avoided any mishaps. Well, it was time to cut the swift off for a safe drive and Glenn tactfully overtook the swift, cut him off and stayed behind HVK and everything was safe once again.

We reached Ahmedabad by 18:00PM, and the team was happy to see Ramky again. For me it was the first meeting with him. We had nice tea from the nearby dhabhas while we munched on to the dhoklas Ramky brought us. After the conventional non stop chat of the adventures we were ready to go by 19:15PM.

A pleasant gentleman, and I will praise Ramky again because of the heavenly sandwich he got us. I had been munching into quite a lot of those during the drive and frankly I do not know whether Saji, GK and Glenn got any. Well I am a big man you know, and the only possession I have are my memories and my tummy .

We were driving monotonously, the heavy sandwich dinner and the previous day's night out was taking the toll on me. Gave Saji the navigation controls and I switched off, only to be waking up every passing hour and giving some directions for 10 minutes before dozing again. This continued till 23:00Pm, and while we stopped for refuelling Glenn suggested that we park somewhere and sleep for an hour before continuing. We readily agreed, but HVK wanted to keep going.

Hence we parted here and a little further we stopped in front of some roadside dhabha near Surat by 12:00AM among some trucks and slept.


We were later informed that HVK reached home by 04:30AM. Well that was only 2hrs schedule difference for such a long drive of 15days and 7000Kms. He also has done a nonstop drive from sangla till Bombay with two night outs and 41+ hours of drive.
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Old 24th October 2009, 19:08   #508
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Saji, where are you and the wonderful pictures from Chitkul??
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Old 24th October 2009, 22:27   #509
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Oh.yes. I was out all day. Here you go.
As Lalu said. This was the best part of the trip. Chief allowed us to go for a walk at Chitkul and we freaked out for 3 hours. Went for a walk towards the the China border through the unexplored trails led by our Panditji.
My photos will do the rest of the talk.

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Old 24th October 2009, 22:30   #510
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Finally, there you are!!
We need more!!

Last edited by laluks : 24th October 2009 at 22:34.
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