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Old 14th September 2010, 08:41   #136
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The pic "The straight road through the sand dunes" is awsome. My initial feeling was that this was a narrow river.

Nice pics
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Old 14th September 2010, 10:21   #137
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Default Day 15 (24rth June): Leh - Tanglang La - Pang - Sarchu - Baralacha La - Part 2 of 2

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Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
You are referred to this thread (Dangerous part of Off-Roading) to look for reasons why! Fortuner, Safari, Scorpio, Pajero or Land Rover, they all do it. Turn turtle oh-so-easily in the wrong hands.
Some of them are really scary! I knew that these vehicles turn turtle easily due to their higher center of gravity, but never imagined so easily.

By the way, i learnt it practically not to take up an incline at an angle (one of the morals of that thread). It had happened on this trip itself and i was trying to get back on the road at an angle, i got a sinking feeling that the vehicle might just roll over and vowed never to pull off that stunt again. Also, that is partly the reason Marsimik was scary at times, one had to go perpendicular to an incline. The chances of rolling over increases.

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Originally Posted by MohsinRoadster View Post
The pic "The straight road through the sand dunes" is awsome. My initial feeling was that this was a narrow river.

Nice pics
Thanks Mohsin.

It was about 4 pm when we left Sarchu for Baralacha La. The day was progressing as per plan, and according to us, pretty soon we would cross the treacherous Baralacha La and stay the night at Jispa. This would give us plenty of time the next day, and we thought of doing the trek till Guru Ghantal Gompa at Tupchilling, and even then we would be able to cross Rohtang at a reasonable time and reach Manali. Of course, plans on such trips often go haywire.

As we proceeded towards Baralacha La, we spotted a red Hyundai Accent parked on the road side with a missing rear bumper! We thought it was pretty strange... anyway, we moved on. Soon we came to a rather bad water-crossing, and we found the missing rear bumper of the poor Accent there! Apparentely the guy was not able to negotiate the water-crossing properly, and ended up losing his bumper. This was the condition of a nullah pretty close to Bharatpur.

The climb to Baralacha La began soon, the whole place was a freaking snow show. Kudos to the BRO guys to have opened the road at all this year. A bend later we found ourselves looking at a beeline of cars and trucks waiting for something. Oblivious of the peril ahead, we marched on only to find a section of the road missing up ahead.

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Frozen

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Frozen

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Cars & oil tankers (a littler further away) waiting for the road to clear

Since we still had a couple of vehicles ahead of us, we could not really see the cause of the jam. So we went ahead, on foot, to gauge the situation. The first hurdle seemed pretty bad. A section of the road had been washed away by a raging, cold stream, but a part of it was still there, making a big bump partially hidden beneath the stream. One would have to carefully maneuver the vehicle at low RPM, yet high torque to gently avoid the bump and at the same time climb to the next "resting point". I moved up to the resting point to get a better view of the hurdle.

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The first hurdle

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Looking back towards where we were from the first "resting" point

The second hurdle was not exactly a hurdle as such. It required simply wading through knee deep water on a relatively flat patch with stones and pebbles underneath. After that one would have to cross a bridge, which was fine, and wait at the "second resting point".

4500 km, Two Idiots & a Wild Safari in Ladakh-541_damaged-road-before-baralacha-la.jpg
Essentially that was the view up ahead from the first "resting" point, towards the next (where the gypsy is)

4500 km, Two Idiots & a Wild Safari in Ladakh-542_climbing-baralacha-la.jpg
The relatively easy second hurdle, as you see it's much flatter

The final hurdle was UGLY. The ice on the road had melted and ice chunks had been crushed by crossing vehicles which had formed a knee deep slush in the middle of the road. It was bound by snow on both the sides, thus the slush was essentially unavoidable. Further up, a part of the road was still covered by ice and was thus not able to give traction; the other part was covered in slush. So a vechile which was able to gather momentum to clear this stretch, would essentailly tilt to the hilt until its right tires stop getting any traction from the surface and the left get stuck in icy slush.

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The icy slush on the road

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The left side of the road (as you see it) is icy while the right side slushy

I saw a vehicle (Tata Sumo) getting stuck in the slush, and 5 people on either side of the vehicle had to rock it sideways, untill it could get out of the rut. They freed 3 vehicles this way, and spent 30 min on each vehicle. I was confident that Kiyang could do this stretch, since I'd seen a Gypsy and a Bolero (camper) doing it. Owning a 4x4 gives you some luxuries, but the vehicles up ahead would not let us pass and attempt it. Slowly people started to turn back to Sarchu, and we got closer to the bridge, awaiting our opportunity to try the stretch. That's when an Innova, which was some three cars ahead of us, tried the stretch and made a complete mess of it! It was quite obvious that the guy had no clue on what he was supposed to do. It was already getting dark, and most of the rescue people had gone back. With the Innova stuck and no one to help, it was pretty much the end of the day. We waited for a while after which a bull dozer helped the poor Innova out of the rut, crushing its bumper completely. But at least the occupants of the Innova did not have to spend the night in that freezing cold.

It was 8 pm when the BRO guy told us to go back to Sarchu as he would not allow any other vehicle to attempt the stretch now. We trudged back, hoping to find a place to spend the night. We had befriended a trio from Faridabad at Baralacha La, and they came along with us back to Sarchu since it could've been difficult for them to cross the nullah we spoke about earlier in their car (a Swift) at that time.

We reached the Bharatpur tents by about 9:00 pm and managed to get tented accommodation there. It was too cold and dark for us to pitch our own tent. A quick dinner and socializing with new friends later, we hit the sack to start early the next day. What a day it had been!

The next day gets even better, we descent Baralacha La with a partially working braking system with brake fluid leakage happening without our knowledge. Since the low brake fluid warning lights were not working!

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Old 15th September 2010, 14:37   #138
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Default Day 16 (25th June): Sarchu - Baralacha La - Keylong - Manali - Kullu: 260km - 17 hrs

The tent at Bharatpur was surprisingly quite cosy and comfortable, and we slept nicely. We were up the next day at 5:30 am, and intended to leave as soon as possible for the roadblock. The IMD weather prediction was bang on target, and we could see dark clouds circling the mountains up ahead towards Baralacha La. Realizing that it may be snowing there, we quickly departed, fearing that the road condition may get worse. .

We skipped breakfast, and managed to leave for Baralacha La by 6:30 am. The drive to the roadblock was filled with anticipation. We hoped that the blockade would've been cleared and that we could get to roll before anyone else took a shot at it. When we reached the place, it was quite disheartening. The line of vehicles was much longer, and we were behind 10 oil tankers, a bus and a couple of jeeps. To add to our woes, it started to snow! Although it was our first snowfall experience ever, we were not able to enjoy it at all, given the bleak situation we were in. It was cold and windy, we were hungry, and there was no sign of us getting any food anytime soon. On top of that, one question kept worrying us - what if the roadblock was not cleared in time and snowfall led to closure of the highway? Scary thoughts of returning all the way via the Kargil - Srinagar route were running through our heads.

We also a couple of tents pitched at the blockade... some brave souls had decided to spend the night at this cold deserted place. I started walking ahead to gauge the situation to take a call. The queue of vehicles was longer, the puddles colder and the stream nastier than yesterday. I could feel the pinch of cold water inside my shoes and I realized what bikers have to go through constantly on this route. Up ahead the situation was worse than last night, an oil tanker was stuck with all its 4 tyres in icy slush almost till the top of its wheels. Apparently it was stuck the night before and now the icy slush had solidified a bit. There was no bull-dozer in sight. However, there was a slight possibility that our Safari could manage through on the snow-field next to the "road" since it was early morning and the snow was quite hard and not too deep.

I trudged back to the car and then started requesting the vehicles ahead of us to let us pass. I used the 4x4 trump card and the offer to pull them through in case they got stuck. The jeeps let us pass happily. However, our slow progress was put to an end by a bus ahead of us.

4500 km, Two Idiots & a Wild Safari in Ladakh-546_damaged-road-before-baralacha-la.jpg
The weather turned for the worse the next day

4500 km, Two Idiots & a Wild Safari in Ladakh-547_damaged-road-before-baralacha-la.jpg
A bus stopped our steady progress to the beginning of the queue

Rumours began to spread at about 9:00 am that a bulldozer was working on the roadblock and would be able to clear it in a couple of hours. I thought of trudging up again to have a look, since there was absolutely nothing else to do. This time I took my cellphone to capture a video of the roadblock. This might give you an idea of what the situation was like:





The roadblock was being cleared steadily and I hoped that in an hour or so it should be completely cleared. I could see that we had no option but to drive through the slush and there were little chances of the Swift behind us to be able to manage it all by itself. I rushed back to the car and started putting on the snow chains we had purchased for the trip. Since it was my first experiece of putting them on, I was quite clueless. The first attempt was a disaster as the snow chain slipped and came off! We needed some rope to tie the snow chain towards the center. Since we had none, we took out some rope from our tent. It worked like a charm and before long we were good to go with the snow chains on.

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Putting the snow chains on

At 11:30 am the roadblock was cleared for us to proceed. The slush was quite deep, but Kiyang did it fairly easily, and the Swift also managed without needing any help. The road was choc-a-bloc with traffic waiting to be released to move towards Leh. There was no place to park, and thus the bus in front of us stopped in the middle of the road to remove its snow chains, and we stopped too. The removal had to be quick since the drivers behind the Swift started to get impatient and began honking like maniacs. (I do not understand the Indian mentality here, they were waiting for 5 hours patiently for the road block to clear, and now could not wait for 5 more minutes!). The hurried removal must've caused some damage to the braking system which we discovered a short while later.

The road was narrow and there was a lot of snow on either side of it. We were a part of a caravan now, and there was no place to park to allow other vehicles to pass us, so that we could amble along at our own leisurely pace. The snowfall had us scared as well, so we let the photo-ops pass and zoomed towards Zingzing bar on the surprisingly smooth tarred road. However, photography on the move was possible, and since Aarti was driving, I was free with the camera, and took several shots hanging out of the car. The cold air cut through my wind-cheater like a hot knife on butter, but it was good fun.

4500 km, Two Idiots & a Wild Safari in Ladakh-549_flyway-baralacha-la-descent.jpg
Narrow roads leading up to Baralacha La

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The tarmac was lovely despite the prevalent snow

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It was really narrow at places

4500 km, Two Idiots & a Wild Safari in Ladakh-565_flyway-baralacha-la-descent.jpg
I had never seen this much snow anywhere, even at Baralacha La the last time we were there

4500 km, Two Idiots & a Wild Safari in Ladakh-568_flyway-baralacha-la-descent.jpg
Lucky enough to capture a shot of the board at the top

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A bulldozer waiting for its turn for action

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Surprisingly, Suraj tal was not completely frozen

4500 km, Two Idiots & a Wild Safari in Ladakh-574_flyway-baralacha-la-descent.jpg
The caravan continued at break neck speeds

Immediately after Baralacha La, Aarti mentioned that the brakes seemed a bit loose. We thought it might be due to the slush crossing that the braking capacity had been considerably reduced. Also, our cluster meter was malfunctioning and the 'hand brake on' indicator was always "on" even before the trip. Thus, the low brake fluid indicator, which is the same as the 'hand brake on' indicator, was useless. We decided to let the other vehicles pass us and slowed down our descent considerably, trying to rely mostly on engine braking.

4500 km, Two Idiots & a Wild Safari in Ladakh-577_flyway-baralacha-la-descent.jpg
The clouds began to scatter post Baralacha La

We stopped to review the situation at Zingzing bar. I got down to add a little bit more brake fluid and when Aarti depressed the brake pedal, I could see the brake fluid oozing out near the front right tyre. This was scary, with no one to repair it for miles and limited supply of brake fluid. I got down underneath trying to figure out on how to fix the situation. I guess with all the good karma we had collected so far on the trip, a helpful sardarji (from delhi) came along offering his help. He got to the bottom of the situation, asked me for a wrench, spanners (which I was thankfully carrying) and started his work. He figured out the source of the problem, which was essentially a broken washer. The solution (or the jugaad) was simple, to tie a piece of string around the nut and screw it back again. After doing that, he checked the brakes a couple of times and it was working fine. After topping up the brake fluid with the spare, we resumed our journey towards Keylong, going slow and maximizing on engine braking, and stopping every now & then to check the brake fluid level. Thankfully, there were no further troubles of leakage. What a relief! However, the drive till Manali was tense because of this, as we were not able to find spares at Keylong, and got the broken washer fixed the next day at Mandi.

The descent was spent worrying about the brakes and we missed out on enjoying the vistas. The landscape had turned green from brown and it was cloudy. Stopping time was kept at a minimum and the tension converted into limited photography. The drive to Keylong was uneventful. Lunch happened at our usual place at Keylong, a dhaba which serves awesome mutton thupka and momos near the bus stand. After refuelling at Tandi, and also enquiring about road conditions at Sach Pass (our tentative target for the next trip), we move towards Koksar.

The climb to Rohtang was muddy and slushy, but nothing was as challenging as before. The top was littered as usual, and it was so dirty that we did not even stop for customary shots and proceeded towards Manali. It took us 4 hours to reach Manali, of which an hour and a half was spent between the petrol pump at the Vashisht cut and the bridge over Beas that leads to the mall road. I think the entire Delhi and Punjab was in Manali, and that being a Friday just made matters worse. As soon as we reached Manali, we went to one of our favorite haunts - The Johnson's Cafe - for a nice dinner.

4500 km, Two Idiots & a Wild Safari in Ladakh-578_patseo.jpg
Approaching Patseo

4500 km, Two Idiots & a Wild Safari in Ladakh-579_patseo.jpg
The camp at Patseo

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Deepak Tal

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Confluence at Tandi

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A bad stretch while climbing Rohtang

We finished dinner at about 11:30 pm, and then ventured out looking for a place to stay the night. Since it was Manali, we assumed getting an accommodation for the night should not be difficult. We were so so wrong! To make the task easy, we went straight to the Manali - Naggar road which has a lot of hotels, but is not preferred by tourists since it is a bit far from the mall road. We stopped at a lot of hotels, but each one was booked, without even a single vacant room! Soon we ran out of hotels on that stretch and decided to head out to Kullu to spend the night. It was only by 2 am that we found an overpriced hotel in the Kullu main market area. It had been a long day, starting at 5:30 am and ending finally at 2:30 am, and we both were dead tired by the end of it.

The ride next day would be a long, uneventful haul to Delhi. We were looking forward to going back home after 17 days of being on the road, but our plans of returning next year to the alluring land of high passes had already been made.
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Old 15th September 2010, 15:20   #139
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Boy oh boy!!! i continue to be amazed at the views..
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Old 15th September 2010, 18:22   #140
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Quote:
Rumours began to spread at about 9:00 am that a bulldozer was working on the roadblock and would be able to clear it in a couple of hours...

Hey Harsh! absolutely smitten by your photos. We were stuck on the same roadblock but on the other side of it. The dozer was pulling off the truck as if it was a toy. That was quite a site. Spotted the same red accent near sarchu. It seemed the owners had deserted the car.

Last edited by Zappo : 15th September 2010 at 18:56. Reason: Just quote a reasonable amount of text as necessary. Quoting a full post unless needed brings in readability issues.
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Old 16th September 2010, 17:03   #141
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Default [B]Day 17 (26th June): Kullu - Delhi: 530 km - 16 hrs[/B]

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Originally Posted by MohsinRoadster View Post
Boy oh boy!!! i continue to be amazed at the views..
Thanks Mohsin.

Quote:
Originally Posted by A M View Post
Hey Harsh! absolutely smitten by your photos. We were stuck on the same roadblock but on the other side of it. The dozer was pulling off the truck as if it was a toy. That was quite a site. Spotted the same red accent near sarchu. It seemed the owners had deserted the car.
Thanks A M. Small world eh ? When we reached at the blockade the next day, saw some guys camped at the blockade and had pitched tents there itself. Must've been a really cold night for them.
----------------
Day 17 (26th June): Kullu - Delhi: 530 km - 16 hrs
----------------
The drive to Delhi was uneventful. A late start from Kullu (at 11:00 am) was followed by an hour's halt at Mandi to get Kiyang's brakes repaired and a huge traffic jam near Sundernagar where a bulldozer was clearing a landslide.

4500 km, Two Idiots & a Wild Safari in Ladakh-586_work-road-post-mandi.jpg
The only snap on the Kullu - Delhi stretch

We reached Chandigarh by 8:30 pm or so. Had an eventful dinner, and proceeded towards Delhi by 10:00 pm. We had reached South delhi by about 2:30 am or so when our friend pestered us to join a party happening at his place. We were dead tired but somehow he convinced us to join for a couple of beers. It was a good decision in the end, since we spent some more time in the "trip mode" and were surrounded by travel enthusiasts discussing the trip.

The next day was allocated to recuperate and recover from "APS" or "Acute Plain Sickness". . It was back to mundane life again, but only till the next trip, for which the excel sheet has already been made!

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Old 17th September 2010, 16:33   #142
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Many congratulations to both of you for completing a great trip. The photos were treat to watch and hats off to your patience and time. Every Leh thread on this forum has been different and I really appreciate you both for keeping the coverage different.

Thank you for sharing your experiences with us and showing us some wonderful locations.

At the end, it really feels nice to see every one reaching back home safe. Happy that you completed the trip safe.

Will look forward to further posts of yours.

My 5* rating for this thread.(not sure whether i have done it earlier or not but do not want to miss this time)

Take care

Manjunath
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Old 17th September 2010, 16:45   #143
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Harsh, I've been keenly following this Travelogue & keeping my mouth firmly shut though it was difficult to keep the jaw from dropping open at times

Now that its over, just want to say "WELL DONE"! I really loved the pics & the simple no-nonsense style of narration. And its great to see another feather in the cap of the Safari 4x4

PS: Rated 5 stars!
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Old 18th September 2010, 09:25   #144
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At the end, it really feels nice to see every one reaching back home safe. Happy that you completed the trip safe.

Will look forward to further posts of yours.

Manjunath
Thanks Manjunath. Yes it does feel nice to come back home safely after such a long time outside. It was fun narrating the experience on this forum and would continue to do so in the future as well

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Originally Posted by suman View Post
Harsh, I've been keenly following this Travelogue & keeping my mouth firmly shut though it was difficult to keep the jaw from dropping open at times

Now that its over, just want to say "WELL DONE"! I really loved the pics & the simple no-nonsense style of narration. And its great to see another feather in the cap of the Safari 4x4

PS: Rated 5 stars!
Thank you suman for your kinds words.
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Old 18th September 2010, 19:23   #145
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Originally Posted by vardhan.harsh View Post

The next day was allocated to recuperate and recover from "APS" or "Acute Plain Sickness". . It was back to mundane life again, but only till the next trip, for which the excel sheet has already been made!
Harsh- Just the Question I have been thinking of asking you.
I might have missed it out on reading it as I was mesmerized watching the pictures.


Can you please give some details on how AMS impacted. Or the tabs and the beauty of the place were effective enough not to let AMS creep in?
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Old 18th September 2010, 19:28   #146
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Can you please give some details on how AMS impacted. Or the tabs and the beauty of the place were effective enough not to let AMS creep in?
Rastapopoulos, thankfully we were not hit by AMS since our ascent was quite gradual. Day 1 : Manali (about 2200m) was not at too high an altitude. and neither were Patnitop or Srinagar or Kargil. We were in Leh on the 5th day, which was way too much for acclimatization.
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Old 18th September 2010, 19:37   #147
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Originally Posted by vardhan.harsh View Post
Rastapopoulos, thankfully we were not hit by AMS since our ascent was quite gradual. Day 1 : Manali (about 2200m) was not at too high an altitude. and neither were Patnitop or Srinagar or Kargil. We were in Leh on the 5th day, which was way too much for acclimatization.

That's great. So medications required.
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Old 20th September 2010, 18:57   #148
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Hi harsh, a fantastic trip indeed. Now that you are all well from the flu and done posting the log of your entire trip, I guess you are free to answer a few questions.

My main question revolves around getting permits. On your trip the main places you vistied were Tso Moriri, Chumurm Hanle, Marsimik la, Panamik, and Turtuk. These are really far flung places where the average ladakh visitor will not venture to. But you seemed to have gotten the required permits to do so. my question is

1) How easy /hard was it to get those mouth watering permits?

2) Did u have any contacts (eg. army contacts etc etc) to help you out?

3) Did anything about you and your life ( eg your occupation, fact that u were travelling with your female spouse) favor u into getting those permits?

4) What advice would u give to us mere mortals in getting the required permits to see all that u saw on your mind blowing trip?

Thanking you in advance

Happy motoring
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Old 20th September 2010, 19:17   #149
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Hi harsh, a fantastic trip indeed. Now that you are all well from the flu and done posting the log of your entire trip, I guess you are free to answer a few questions.
I will answer the question about permits till harsh chimes in. this dicussion happened earlier also I think

Quote:
1) How easy /hard was it to get those mouth watering permits?

2) Did u have any contacts (eg. army contacts etc etc) to help you out?

3) Did anything about you and your life ( eg your occupation, fact that u were travelling with your female spouse) favor u into getting those permits?

4) What advice would u give to us mere mortals in getting the required permits to see all that u saw on your mind blowing trip?

Thanking you in advance

Happy motoring
[/quote]
1. Only Chumur is an issue. they may say why chumur etc., but insist that you are an Indian citizen, and persist. You will get the permits. This is how we got those.
2. No contacts needed
3. No life history required
4. Go to the DC office yourself. If you send travel agent, forget it.

To do the full changthang circuit along with nubra turtuk write the following
Nubra, Turtuk, Pangong, Man, MErak, Chushul, Tsaga, Loma, Nyoma, Hanle, Chumur, Tso moriri, Tso Kar

Thats about it!
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Old 20th September 2010, 19:35   #150
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I will answer the question about permits till harsh chimes in. this dicussion happened earlier also I think

1. Only Chumur is an issue. they may say why chumur etc., but insist that you are an Indian citizen, and persist. You will get the permits. This is how we got those.
2. No contacts needed
3. No life history required
4. Go to the DC office yourself. If you send travel agent, forget it.

To do the full changthang circuit along with nubra turtuk write the following
Nubra, Turtuk, Pangong, Man, MErak, Chushul, Tsaga, Loma, Nyoma, Hanle, Chumur, Tso moriri, Tso Kar

Thats about it!
thanks Tanveer for pitching in.
amrisharm,
I think Tanveer has summarized it quite aptly. Apart from knowing where to go, it would help to "know" these places before applying for the permit. Generally it is not required, but if someone asks you the reason for visiting, you have a more specific answer rather than "general touristing". For Chushul, the war memorial becomes the excuse, for Hanle, the observatory & for Chumur the monastery. Wildlife photography is also a useful & universally acceptable excuse. .

Chumur is quite close to the international border and they might be particular about that. But if you persist, they should relent. We did not have to persist at all. Marsimik La is another place where getting permits might be a problem. And off-roading enthusiast might be the only excuse for that place.

Although do keep in mind that the ITBP people can actually stop you from going, giving the local conditions whether it be weather or anything related to army at the final checkpost. And it would not matter even if you have the permits.

And lastly, as tanveer has already mentioned, Go personally, a travel agent would not be able to get these for you.
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