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Old 13th July 2010, 19:58   #1
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Default No SUV but don't want to miss Ladakh.

There have been many threads on Ladakh travel but I understand their are many member's who do not own a Scorpio or Sumo but still want to see ladakh. At times lack of experience to drive at that altitude would keep many.This travelogue would help all such people with updated information on this travel from Mumbai-Srinagar-Ladakh-Mumbai (3 weeks apprx.).Though it's possible to go with travel companies but one has to keep up as per their schedules, which I am sure, like me, is annoying to many. Moreover doing thing's own way and experience's gained, excites many.


With so much heard of and seen so many beautiful pictures of the place, I had to go their one day.I started reading about Ladakh from all sources including Team-BHP and plan stuff accordingly.First and foremost was to plan to reach Srinagar. As always, " www.travelocity.co.in " came to my rescue and I managed to book my return flights MUMBAI-SRINAGAR at 6000 INR.each for both (me and wife) {6th June-23rd June} Only requirement is to plan at-least 2-3 months in advance.2 stopovers at Delhi and Jammu for about 15-20 minutes each didn't bother me so much.So flights were sorted.Rest was to be taken care when we reach there.

We had enough days (17 precisely), since I read, we had to stay overnight at kargil on the way to Leh and way back to Srinagar as well.I shall keep posting as and when work permits.

Photos of this travel have been clicked using Canon 450D 17-55 mm and 75-300 mm lenses.

On 6th June,we reached heavily guarded Srinagar airport and Hired a prepaid taxi to Boulevard Road. (450 INR), checked into a houseboat (1500 INR/night EP) at Dal Lake.Few pictures taken from a shikara are uploaded. Loads to follow with each day's details.

Since I am newbie, moderater's, please guide me through my very first thread in-case things are not done, as required.

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Old 14th July 2010, 11:59   #2
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Good begining. J&K ( leh- srinagar) pics are always a treat to the eyes. Also interested to know how did you manage with the Taxis and stuff. Please carry on

Regards
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Old 14th July 2010, 14:16   #3
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We were informed by the taxi driver about the 'bandh' on the following day (7th June) and that the whole of Srinagar would be closed since our PM had decided to visit the capital and separatists wanted to protest.We didn't pay heed, thinking it would be a general trick used on tourist spots (played in Bangkok, Phuket) to take you elsewhere, than the desired destination.But, to our surprise the general people do as instructed by the sepratists and even the restaurants failed to up their shutters the following day.Moreover the CRPF closed the main Boulevard road to general traffic.Barbed wires thrown at each end of the road.Well, so be it.We decided to move to Pahalgam (80 kms from srinagar apprx.) the very next day.But, taxis wanted even more money since it's dangerous to drive on the given day (they pitched). 3k is the general quote.I walked out of the area towards 'Dal Gate' and waited for more taxis but couldn't find any for Pahalgam. A rickshaw driver who was keeping an eye on me keenly approached me to ask where I wanted to go and said 'hop in and I'll show you'. 'Vamos chico' what else would I want. He drove me to Lal Chowk and we met a private owner who was willing to move us, since his shop was closed as well and we negotiated to 1500k for his Santro (just drop off).Now the task of moving the luggage from house boat to the place where the CRPF blocked the road towards Dal lake as they won't let the 'taxi' in the restricted area. Moreover the signals from mobile towers were blocked (security reasons). Finally we managed with help to get the luggage on board the santro and we moved.

The whole place get's tensed with all the gun trotting CRPF are seen every 100 metres.So Pahalgam, here we come, passing through fields and bat producing factories on the way.One can see, bat sized wood cut and piled up in thousands on either side of the roads and also shops selling finished bats. Any way's we didn't stop on the way.


On reaching Pahalgam, we needed to satisfy our growling tummies before we could search a nice place to stay.So we checked out a kashmiri place and settled for Rogan Josh and Ristae and rice served hot.The food was extremly tasty or we were too hungry and it seemed tasty,, either way we were full.Burrrp, let's look for a hotel now. Being cloudy, temperature was about 13 C.We were still looking for the hotel and there were 'pony wala's following us, already trying to take us for some fabulous rides.

Once you reach Pahalgam, On the main road itself, where the road is parallel to the river Lidder, one can see rows of hotels which aren't very posh but have nice views towards the road and river.I quickly checked 4-5 of them and finally managed to get a river facing room with large windows for about 1200 INR. In the whole trip the only setback I faced was that credit cards are not accepted in majority of the places/establishments. Mainly due to lack of Telecom infrastructure and power problems.Though most of the hotels have noisy generators but then also the diesel smoke comes 'gratis'. So far so good. Sleeping for two hours refreshed us and 'lets check out the place' thing woke me up and off we went down to check out the market place.The single road which has mainly all the shops and hotel's was crowded with people from all over.I saw the ponywalla was still keeping an eye and approached us again.He kept following us all through the evening till he had a word from us that he is the one, we go out with, in case we decide to. He bid us 'adios' and left,only to be watched by his friend who will keep following us from a distance.



Pahalgam hotel,further down the road seemed to be the best place around with big compounds and flashy interiors with rooms ranging from 3500 - 7500 INR (suites).These prices are after 40 percent off from the regular tariff and is given instantly since 'you' seem to be a nice tourist.Well suited Kashmiri executives with not so good accent but they manage well.(some how the locals can't say 'six',they always manage with 'sekis')The 'pitch' was that the only time to make money is 6 months, since the hotel is closed for the rest of the year and tourism hasn't been very good bla bla bla. Except for the thicker carpet and bigger flat LCD, I didn't find much difference between 'my hotel room' and this one or at least so I thought. Yes, the lobby was grander and gardens nice, but who wanted to be in Pahalgam and enjoy their lobby and watch television .

Another thing to be appreciated and noted is that plastic is banned is the state of J&K all over.shopkeepers expect you to carry your own 'jhola' cloth bags or wrap you 'goodies' in newspapers but "NO PLASTIC".Users can be fined 250 INR and shopkeepers 5000 INR, should they be caught. At least it's working as a deterrent. Not one shopkeeper I asked, had any plastic bags, forget the '50 microns' as in Maharashtra or more or less. Are you listening 'dear CM'.

Very close to the 'main square' where the taxi stand is, stands a JK tourist office next to the JKTDC bus office. It was closed on 7th June on account of 'bandh' but we shall be back and check it out later. Next day (8th June) first thing in the morning after quickie breakfast, I went to the tourist office to find the locks still intact. "They might come sir" said a local, since they were closed yesterday they might open late today.

Finally we left with the promised 'ponywala' to the mountains.This trek riding on top of a pony takes about 4-5 hours depending on the speed and how much time you spend at each place.Pictures would do more justice that words.
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Old 14th July 2010, 17:08   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deky View Post
Good begining. J&K ( leh- srinagar) pics are always a treat to the eyes. Also interested to know how did you manage with the Taxis and stuff. Please carry on

Regards
Thanks deky, hope to give as much details as possible. Our destination is Ladakh actually, isn't it ? soon would come up with how we started for Leh, meanwhile some more pictures.
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Old 14th July 2010, 17:47   #5
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Good one keep it flowing, no wonder Jammu Kashmir is called "heaven on Earth", have visit this place at any cost.
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Old 14th July 2010, 20:48   #6
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Wow! Neat Photos! Especially the flying birds
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Old 15th July 2010, 13:32   #7
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nice photos.

How easy/comfortable is it using small cars ? Did you use Santro till Khardung la ?
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Old 15th July 2010, 13:48   #8
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The mountains are a bliss, especially for those who stay in crowded cities and have forgotten the chirping of birds, as all they hear is honking, day in and day out. Smoke to inhale, concrete to see, lives revolve around posh restaurants and more noise pollution, in case it's clubbing. Off lately with private insurance companies, even the sirens from ambulances are getting louder by the day.
So in the woods it's a strange feeling when you can hear crickets and frogs. Rest all's so quiet.You can't see anything in dark but hear a river flowing, and sound of trees with mercury falling to 5 C, add drizzling to it. Well that's what happens when the power plays truant in Pahalgam.

In the morning I decided to go for a solo walk.Clicked a few pictures.In all we stayed three nights at pahalgam and thoroughly enjoyed. Our aim wasn't to go see all existing places there but just walk in the woods and experience the 'feel good factor'.

The tourist office finally opened and with no power/lights no one seemed to run those 12 counters,all vacant. I saw a JK police officer and a couple of his colleagues just sitting in the middle of the office,chatting. They asked if I wanted any help and decided to play the tourist officers role in their absence. Showed me all the places to visit,maps,brochures and prevailing rates for ponies and taxis for local sight seeing with phone numbers, in case we needed any help.

Unlike many Europeans, 'we' happen to be a spoilt lot. Trekking is meant for very few of us. 'We' are so used to servants and being served, so much so, that even Mc Donalds has been forced to deliver at our doorstep unlike anywhere else in the world. But some where inside,some of us, want to experience a couple of nights stay in the woods. No hot showers, no meals served, no formal loo's, just nature. I also wanted to and to fulfil this dream, I came across a licensed guide at the tourist office who asked if we wanted to go for a 3 night trek to a lake (20kms) nearby. 'Yes', I replied, and started with all details. Two people, one pony accompanied as standby, food, tents and rest of the equipment all paid would cost 16000 INR. Negotiated him to about 12000, finally to 10000, since he didn't have any foreigners/business. Alas ! at the last moment the lady ditched me. "No way, 3 nights in a bloody jungle" she said. dreams crashed ! But for those few lucky one's who travel without families, or ladies oblige, this piece of info might come handy.

I had to plan the next course from here and the question was, can we go to Sonmarg directly from here or not. No we can't, at least not before we are willing to spend 4000 INR.That's what taxi's wanted. And I didn't want to go back 80-85 kms back to Srinagar. But then that's how it worked. After enquiring many locals, I was told that all you need to do is hop in any sumo from taxi stand that go to Anantnag every 5 minutes.From Anatnag this sumo will transfer your luggage to another sumo,that goes to Srinagar, every 5 minutes,all for 50 rupees per head per journey and quiet comfortably.so we checked in a sumo with luggage transfers and it worked just like that.We were back in Srinagar for 200 INR. and about 90 minutes.cool.There is no direct connection from Pahalgam to Srinagar unless you hire a taxi 1500-2000 INR or wait till evening for the JKTDC bus which is a bit 'iffy', might or might not come from Srinagar, before it goes back.

We got down at Dal gate from the sumo and approached another taxi stand nearby just opposite the JK Bank's building from where the Sumo's and Scorpio's leave for Leh.The official window quoted 1673/- per head to Leh for next day early morning departure. Within 10 minutes I was talking to a ladakhi driver who owned a scorpio at 1200 INR for the front seat and one middle seat 1300 for wife since he had another 2 'English' ladies having booked rest 2 middle seats. Important thing that ladakhi cars with registration JK-10 can not only take you to Leh but also show you around Ladakh, but a JK-01 registered vehicle or in short a Kashmiri vehicle can show you around Srinagar or drop you to Leh. This bloke agreed at 2500 INR to leave at 0700 HRS the next day 11th JUNE for Leh. Important, that these vehicles reach Leh by 2200 HRS the same day, with stopover's for lunch, chai, and photo sessions. Do not travel this journey at rear of the vehicle. Though the seats are fitted same as in the middle but your back will not excuse you for the next day or two. These seats go cheaper 1000 or 1100, mostly locals travel in them. So in all we have a driver and one passenger in front. Three in the middle, three at rear, totalling seven. Alternatively you can buy an extra seat for 1300 in the middle and travel more comfortably. Which we did on the way back. Let's see some more pictures and will continue from there.

Also to add, those who haven't, do try 'girdha' (rounded baked bread) with loads of butter on it with 'chai', you will love it. somehow all that butter we consume, doesn't make you feel heavy.

10th June, we checked in a hotel at the infamous Lalchowk for wife to go on a shopping spree. shawls,suits, dryfruits and what not.On the boulevard road , approx. one km from Dal gate is Lhasa restaurant ( Chinese/Tibetan/continental ), in a lane right opp. Dal lake. Nice dinner place and pretty famous and accepts visa/master cards.impressive !

We start moving from Srinagar on the way to Leh on 11th June morning 0700 hrs.
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Old 15th July 2010, 13:53   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tanwaramit View Post
nice photos.

How easy/comfortable is it using small cars ? Did you use Santro till Khardung la ?
Hi, yup,I did see santros and i10's as well including the dear alto, but trust me small cars are not meant to be on these harsh tracks, it's like punishing your baby. I wouldn't do it, though these small cars do make it there. No I didn't use a Santro. We travelled in a hired Scorpio.

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Old 15th July 2010, 14:50   #10
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This is the different way to travel to Leh and Ladakh. I have not read any one in this forum doing the travel this way in this stretch. Thanks for sharing this information in this forum which will definitely be helpful. I am looking forward to your posts.

Thanks
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Old 15th July 2010, 15:14   #11
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This is indeed a different Leh Thread. Every thread has people driving there, you are going in a Hired vehicle. Waiting for the rest of the travelogue.
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Old 15th July 2010, 15:56   #12
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This is the different way to travel to Leh and Ladakh. I have not read any one in this forum doing the travel this way in this stretch. Thanks for sharing this information in this forum which will definitely be helpful. I am looking forward to your posts.

Thanks
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This is indeed a different Leh Thread. Every thread has people driving there, you are going in a Hired vehicle. Waiting for the rest of the travelogue.
Exactly, hence the 'title'. hope this info helps quiet a few and thanks for the appreciation. I shall keep posting with more photos, as and when work permits.
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Old 16th July 2010, 12:45   #13
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We started rolling from Srinagar towards Dal lake and the lake didn't seem to end.We saw a no. of dredging machines clearing weeds from the lake but as per locals two of whom were travelling at rear with one ladakhi, this was a never ending process. Weeds multiply at a much faster pace than the dredging operation, given the area Dal occupies.

We had been driving through Srinagar and out of it for about hour or so till we reached 'Kangan'. Stopover for 'chai' and 'girdha'. Tea in and around Srinagar is made with extra milk and access sugar, or so we felt. we had to ask, for us to be prepared more conservatively, every place we stopped. Ginger goes with it without asking, given the weather, and we loved it. Meanwhile, driver wanted to check air pressure in tires. In all, hour's drive followed by another half hour's break. Go man go, we can't afford to be late, don't know where to stay in Leh . Moreover we had to quickly reach Sonmarg and register for Zoji la pass, since we also had two foreigners amongst us. Another stop over for a couple of photos and we were close to starting for the Zoji la pass ('la' actually means pass). On the way up, we were stopped by the army personnel. An army convoy had left from the other side of this pass, till it crosses, we were to wait on the picturesque location overlooking the Amarnath yatra camp (still being done. yatra to commence 1st July 10). For us every halt was an opportunity to click. Such is the location and I knew we shall miss the greens not long time from now. Even shrubs would be scarce. Finally the Motorola radio hanging around the soldier's neck started crackling. " On the way, please make way for the convoy, over and out."

Meanwhile the little boy inside me convinced the soldier to part with his automatic rifle and let me use as a prop for the camera, he obliged. Politeness and 'Please' never let you down, do they ? "boys will be boys, no matter how much they grow " commented Chima in black cardigan, eating on her apple. She is half Iranian half English. The one in red jacket is Tracy. She had been travelling for eight months now and is fascinated by Buddhism. My wife Ritu is with me in pictures,not to forget Issah the Ladakhi driver. Introductions should have been done long back. Never mind, Shakespeare has taken care of that already. So quick photo session and we rolled again, climbing the curves, left then right and left again.

Greens are out in a few minutes, speed reduced and temperatures dropping. Evidence, the cold window glasses tightly rolled up. We just wanted the weather to be on our side and the skies remained clear throughout. Soon we reached the top passing the 'goatees' negotiating the craters on NH 1. Yes indeed, this is NH 1 by all means. One way traffic only on this pass. hours divided among two sides and under control of the defence personnel. Foreigners had to get down and go to each check post with passports for an entry in registers.

Apologies for being a 'critique' but than I call black 'black' and white 'white', that's the way I am. BRO (Border Roads Organisation) maintains and makes the roads here. It also hires talented poets or officials who can write rhymes and hilarious quotes to restrain drivers from speeding and bungee jumping with vehicles. How far this is correct/effective is a topic of debate. Internationally, road safety signs are just symbols in red blue or bk/white. Drivers are not expected to read quotes while driving, especially on the given tracks, where one wrong move might take you down, perhaps half a kilometre. It's as good as planting billboards to distract drivers attention, but again these are only my personal views, always debatable. After all, building roads at this altitude and maintaining them is a commendable job.

It was also very delightful to see our adventurous fellow country men/women on their 100/150 cc bikes daring to go on the same tracks and reach far flung areas of the country. Only if they used right gear, used professionally for bikers, would make their own journey even more safer and comfortable.


Lunchtime, and we were already reading signs 'Drass the coldest inhabited place in the world'. Amongst the bunch of 'dhabas', we settled for one which offered better sitting place. Quick rotis and veggies, I avoided non veg as the place didn't look very promising, so anything veg, served piping hot should be safe. Hand sanitizer my wife carries was a blessing given the water temperature. A saying 'Never loose an opportunity to make money' made the owner charge customers rupees 5 for using the toilet. "Does he have a complaint form ? he can be taken to the consumer court for this act " Tracy argued. She could have paid to 'pee' or gone to the nearest police station without us, made her quickly pick the former.

Half hour past, we moved again. Browns was the theme this side. dark browns, light browns, chocolate and a river to accompany. Before kargil, the police check post again made the foreigners sign the register with passport details. Moreover the driver has to enter no. of passengers being ferried. In case of an accident, they have the data of people travelling in a particular vehicle.

IMG_0480 will give a birds eye view of Kargil. We didn't stop here, just drove past and out already climbing the Chang la. On the way we stopped at Chamba statue and temple. The priest praying inside stopped prayers and asked Tracy and Chima to shell out 20 rupees each (with receipts) being foreigners to enter the 'sanctum', further bugged Tracy to her limits. We had another tea session consoling Tracy and moved towards the top of Chang la. The scenery on the way is enchanting.

The place where you see those colourful flags flying with the wind are religious. This is the top of Chang la. These flags in attractive colours are tied to bring in good luck, welfare and happiness.They have Buddhist periods printed on them. You will find them at all places in Ladakh or Buddhist territories. These are generally not removed even if the colours fade away. New ones are added with prayers. In case of need to dispose them off, they can be burned in a clean place. I have brought them for myself and for a couple of folks.Can be tied vertically or horizontally.

Enough, will let you guys see some pictures followed by even more as only 20 can be uploaded with each post. Later after dark we pass Lamayuru Manstery but no halt. Anyone wanting to know more of this place can check Lamayuru Monastery - Lamayuru Buddhist Monastery Ladakh - Lamayuru Gompa Ladakh India
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Old 16th July 2010, 13:47   #14
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Great going so far. Very informative coupled with very nice pics. Actually one doesnt mind paying Rs 5/- to pee till the toilets are neat and clean. Hope they were neat.

On a lighter note hope that Jawaan did not loose his job for letting you carry his SLR. They are not suppose to part with their weapons at any cost.

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Old 16th July 2010, 14:04   #15
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We halted at another place, whose name I can't recall for dinner, punjabi dhaba. After the fill we were racing to Leh as the road seemed all tarred and newly done. Passing the Leh airport, we dropped our first passenger, Elderly ladakhi at his place. Pitch dark out there, Torch is mandatory for every passenger to carry when you visit LEH. If you can get hold of one's that are worn on the forehead, nothing like it.LF 100 Hiking Headlamps - Decathlon India
We checked in a guest house for tonight ( courtesy Issah the driver ). (more later)
Pending pictures attached.
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