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Old 22nd December 2010, 21:56   #106
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Default Re: Jeeplogue : A JEEP Journey to Ladakh with Self Drive Expedition Group

Pangong Tso To Leh
-------------------
--
After spending some more time, it was time for the return journey. Almost all the vehicles left Pangong by that time and with Chang la to pass again, there was not much of time to waste. Rahul as before sat with me in the jeep and we started the journey back to leh. Things were ok till we were in the vicinity of Chang la. There were some short cuts which few scorpio taxis were taking. Unable to resist, we also took one such path and the moment we started the climb suddenly the jeep felt like losing power enormously. Rahul came to the driver's seat and also tried his hands on, but not much of result. It was moving only in 1st and 2nd gear with a huge complaint in terms of roaring sound! We decided to carry on like that till we met Mandeep in the Cedia just before the final ascent to the Chang la top. It was a task to open the bonnet and check stuffs inside in the rarefied air. There was no visible fault and the culprit had to be extremely low level of oxygen, worse than what we had faced during the onward journey. It was even more clearer when even the Cedia and Gypsy was struggling really hard to clear the final stretch. The only thing going perfecctly strong was the LC.
Without taking any risk it was decided to tow the jeep with the LC for the rest half a km or so till the top. My newly bought tow rope came into use, though fixing the same with the shackle was again no easy task with breathings becoming really heavy. Chanting Chang la Baba's name and with tears in the eyes (because of the diesel smoke from the LC..!!!) we reached the top in few minutes and the moment we reached the top, everything was back to normal again! The jeep started moving smoothly in its characteristic style without any hitch!
The weather this time was sunny all around at the top and it was a much better sight than the gloomy atmosphere in the morning. Though there had been a major landslide or better to say avalanche kind of stuff in between and the road was just getting cleared by the dozer. We stopped for a few minutes, though didn't have the energy to move up the steps to the Changla Baba's temple. Few clicks and started the descent.

The towing, captured by Amar:

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Vistas at the top:

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This one taken again in Rahul's FZ

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A group photo:

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Rahul insisted to drive the jeep. There were two local fellows who asked for lift and we agreed without any hesitation. The descent was uneventful. Roads were in better shape compared to what it was in the morning. The villagers got down near Shakti and we stopped after completion of the descent. Rahul was totally exhausted and switched to LC.
It was already dark by then:

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Nothing to write much about the rest of the journey back to Leh except the water crossing point i mentioned in the beginning. The flow of water was really fast and it was bit scary in full darkness. Coming back to the hotel, almost everyone was dead tired. In fact at times we were thinking whether to carry on with the plan for the next day's journey or take a complete rest. But since bookings were already done, it was finally decided to carry on; only thing we would start late for the next day's destination- the Nubra Valley. With the visuals of Pangong very much vivid i retired to bed after one of the most memorable and eventful days with the jeep finally coming to an end.
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Old 27th December 2010, 21:01   #107
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Default Re: Jeeplogue : A JEEP Journey to Ladakh with Self Drive Expedition Group

Leh- Nubra Valley
------------------

The journey to Pangong was really strenuous the previous day. This, coupled with the already carried forward exhaustion in the Manali-Leh route, reduced my energy level. I was in a fix whether to take the jeep along for the Nubra Valley because of the physical condition. This was so far the most grueling experience for me and there was the return journey awaiting. A day of added rest would have done wonders but we were tightly occupied. Finally it was decided not to take the jeep rather to travel in Sanjay's LC. Surely some jeeping experience was to be missed but more important was the physical comfort and completion of the trip. In hindsight,this was actually a very wise decision as the return journey was much more tiring than what it was thought to be.

So, we got ready, had the breakfast and finally started for Nubra after 8.30 in the morning. It felt really nice to stretch the legs and laying back on the comfortable seats of the Landcruiser after some rigorous jeeping actions for the last few days. Soon after, the ascent started towards Khardung La. The views of the Stoke range was magnificent. The usual play of light and shadow on the huge mountains and the dark azure sky was omnipresent. Here are few snaps of the initial part of the ascent.

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First proper halt was at the South Pullu checkpost, though nobody was there to check the permits. There was a Qualis just before us and it was loaded with mountain bikes on the roof. The roads, surprisingly was not that bad as experienced in Chang La or Tanglang la. In fact the ascent was also comfortable than those two passes. As correctly felt by many other travellers also, probably the Khardung La thing is bit hyped than what it is in reality. Undoubtedly the Chang La or Tanglang la ascent was more difficult than this. Here are few pics.

Glimpses of the road further up:

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Interplay of light and shadow:

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Roads we came through

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Tower at khardung la top was visible from a good distance and it was snowed out. Attempts to keep the road in shape was visible from the presence of good number of workers in regular intervals. Through the gateway of Nubra, we finally reached the top, the 'supposedly' highest motorable road in the world.

Approaching 'India Gate':

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And the K-top finally:

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Sanjay's LC posing

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Old 28th December 2010, 07:38   #108
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Default Re: Jeeplogue : A JEEP Journey to Ladakh with Self Drive Expedition Group

Leh- Nubra Valley continued...
-----------------------------
---
Glimpse of the K-top:

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People were visibly excited all around probably with the sense of achievement of reaching the place. While we could clearly feel the lack of oxygen, there were people who were sliding up and down the snow walls in sheer joy and enjoyment!

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It was a different feeling indeed to stand and look around the surrounding vistas.Though the proportion of snow was more, the views were bit different than what we saw at Chang la the previous day. What immediately caught attention was this:

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And the milestone at a distance

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The last name at the milestone definitely gives an immediate feeling of excitement

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There were few army gypsies, probably some high level officials came to the K-top enroute Leh. In fact the presence of army vehicles were much more in this regios because of the obvious reason of LOC being in close proximity. Few clicks, a loo break and then i headed towards the souvenir shop. Though the stock of items were very limited, bought few caps. We were willing to have a cup of hot tea, but the canteen was highly crowded and it would have taken good amount of time.

The shop:

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One of the various memorable photos kept inside:

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Me and Travelaholic for a joint pose:

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And the other members in the group:

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The 'darker' side of K top:

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Nearly after half an hour we started the downhill journey. But there was a long queue of vehicles ahead because of the road clearance process. First time in the Ladakh journey, the fresh snow walls were visible on the side of the road. It took around 20 minutes to get the road fit for movement.

Start of descent from K top:

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The snow walls:

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The road left behind as seen from LC's side view mirror:

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Was there a rainbow?

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Another glimpse of the sky and the mountain snow wall

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The machine which was doing the job of clearing the road

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K top left behind:

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Old 21st January 2011, 16:17   #109
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Default The Remaining Part

Leh to Nubra continued....
---------------------------
Just couple of turns down from the K top and suddenly near a bend we came across this by the side of the road:
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Yes there were two mermots and if the above snap gives some apprehension about their 'romantic' encounter, think again and have a look at this.
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No they were not smooching, rather fighting with each other in the worst possible manner. A video of the whole incidence, listen out for the hilarious comments of Sanjay!



I was amazed to see the swiftness with which these two moved up the steep mountain wall in no time! This was undoubtedly one of the most memorable experiences of the trip.

Anyways, we were feeling bit hungry and decided to have the lunch first. So found a nice patch of green land by the side of the road and out came the cooking utensils and foodstuffs. Apart from the ready to eat ashirbad packs there were some cooked items packed from the Hotel at Leh. Cans of coke, fanta and thums up were anyways there. Having lunch in the open meadow in close vicinity of khardungla top was indeed a memorable experience. Since time was not a problem today we did have a prolonged lunch break.

The spot:
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An attempt to make a panorama:
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Some lighter moment captured in auto shooting mode:
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Lunch in progress:
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Once done, we proceeded towards north pullu checkpost. This time there were people to check the permits. Here we got a new companion in the LC, an aged Lama. He came to some nearby place for some work and was waiting to go back to his place, the khardung monastry at khardung village. We were happy to accommodate him by reshuffling the baggages. He told that HH Dalai Lama came to Nubra just few days back to inaugurate a huge statue of Buddha placed atop Diskit monastry.
Road conditions were decent now, there was not much change in the vistas around. Around half an hour later we reached the small and beautiful village of khardung and took a diversion from the main road to drop Lama ji at the monastery. He was not ready to let us go without a cup of tea. But since other vehicles had already gone forward, we could not keep his request and continued the journey. Here is a snap of the old man with Sanjay:
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A look at the surroundings:

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The next mentionable thing was the view of the Shyok river and riverbed from the top and it indeed was looking so different. Came to this diversion and proceeded towards Khalsar.

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Heard a lot about the Agham route in BCMT, but our destination was Nubra for the day. Soon after this diversion came a patch which was really stunning to describe at the first look. A newly led black tarmac running through sandy field with huge mountains surrounding the area. I am sure sooner or later, this part is going to be used for film shootings, if it hasn't been already! The place deserved halt for some time.

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And before we proceeded further Travelaholic took pain to stand through the sunroof of the LC to shoot a video:



Immediately after this patch, there was good incline and again this part of the road also felt so different with rocky mountain patches hovering just above the road. Army trucks and gypsies were frequent as usual. Moving through up and downward slopes soon we reached Diskit. There was diversion going upward leading to the Diskit monastery.

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Here we saw an Indica coming from the opposite direction and it turned out to be a BCMTouring member Gaurav's vehicle. I was in touch with him before when initially the trip was planned much earlier. Got to hear the stories of the car going blank after a supposedly harmless washing. Few minutes of conversation and we moved on. The sand dunes became visible after some time and we realized we had arrived at Hunder.

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We had bookings in Nubra Organic Retreat camp and it took some time to figure out the exact location. Anyways finally we managed to find the place, parked the vehicles, took the baggages out and came inside the camp. The only reaction came immediately in our mind after seeing the inside of the camp was 'simply awesome'.

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Old 21st January 2011, 16:39   #110
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Nubra Valley

Hunder, being in the tourism focus for last few years, has a good number of accommodations and most of these are camp stays. organic retreat was one such place with a huge area inside. There were around 10 tents for twin sharing accommodation with flower and fruit orchards all around namely green apple and apricot. It also has an impressive kitchen garden full with cauliflowers, different varieties of green vegetables and few other saags etc. Slightly at a distance from the tents were the toilets and wash basins housed in a concrete structure. Overall it was a really nice setting for a night stay. In fact if one can afford, this is a place where one can spend two three days just for relaxation. Few pics:

The tents
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The sitting area
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The kitchen garden
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The surroundings
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Freshly plucked fruits from the trees (only the ones in the bowl!)
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We kept our baggages in the tent and sat in the sitting area which was another bigger and open tent with sofas. A cup of hot tea proved to be really refreshing after the journey. Small nallas were routed through the camp all around and the water becomes pretty cold at night. We used this as natural freezer and put the soft drink cans in the water to get chilled. Soon after chairs were arranged in front of our tent area and some snacks were ordered. Temperature started dropping down all on a sudden after the daylight was gone. Rest of the evening was spent in chit chatting along with the snacks. The sound of the wind blowing in full flow made a different impact. Sitting under the stars in one of the last villages of the country indeed was a different experience. The sky was clear and the various formation of the stars were clearly visible. Travelaholic attempted some night shots with the limited capacity of our Sony P&S camera.

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Around 8.30, dinner was announced and we went to the dining tent. The menu was short and simple: soup, rice/ local rotis, daal, aloo-gobi sabji, a chinese preparation with cheese ball and a sweet dish. Considering the fact that except vegetables almost all the ingredients are transported here from Leh after crossing khardung la, it was a more-than-expected kind of menu. After the dinner was over, roamed around for some times, had a can of naturally chilled coke and finally retired to bed rather early.
Next day, woke up early morning, got freshned up, packed the luggages and had the breakfast with bread toast, omlette and hot tea. Early morning vistas:
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The toilet 'complex'
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After bidding goodbye to the courteous stuffs of the camp we proceeded towards the sand dunes in the vehicles. Seeing the 'cold desert' was really unique. Sand dunes surrounded by huge mountains, few of which were snow-capped at a distance, was a different setting than the common desert we are used to.

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We were among the first few visitors to the sand dunes in the morning. The small waterbody flowing along side the dune was looking spectacular. After hearing the term 'cold desert' a good number of times, it was time to experience it. Soon after the bactrian twin humped camels had their entry in the dune area along with their handlers. It was interesting to have a close watch on this animals seen only this part of India. Rahul and his family opted for a camel safari whereas me and Suranjana preferred to stay back and enjoy the beauty of the surroundings.

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The camels
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Meanwhile the vehicles were having god fun in the sand area adjacent to the dunes. Amar and Sanjay were testing their 4x4 capabilities on the sands. Mandeep with the Cedia also had his own share of fun.

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A short video


The sun was very bright even in the early hours of the day. The J&K tourism board does say about development of this area as a proper tourist place. No doubt, the number of visitors to Nubra will be increasing manifolds in near future. This place is so different and amazing. After experiencing the dunes for around an hour it was time for the return journey to Leh. Actually this was exactly the mid point of the trip. So far we had travelled to the destinations and this point onwards it was time for the return journey. Going back to Diskit we went to visit the monstery. The statue on the top was indeed huge and incredibly beautiful with sunshine in full glory!

The green and yellow combo of few patches of land by the side of the road was a really good contrast

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View of the statue from a distance

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View from the parking lot of the monastery was really pleasant

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Old 21st January 2011, 17:00   #111
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Default Re: Jeeplogue : A JEEP Journey to Ladakh with Self Drive Expedition Group

Nubra To Leh
----------------
Though we didn't climb to the top, clicked few pictures from the parking area itself. Once done we progressed in our path, travelling through the same route again, crossing the khardung village once more. Last couple of pics of the Nubra experience:

That fabulous stretch
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Nubra desert
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Both taken by Rahul in FZ35.


Just before khardung la, we stopped at the same spot where we had lunch during the ongoing journey to Nubra. This time also we had the packed chapatis and alu-gobi sabji from the camp. Few photos on the route:

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Post lunch, the ascent to K-La was delayed again due to a road clearance session just before the final turn.

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A video of the snow clearance process



This time the road clearance process took more than half an hour. Forgot to mention that post-lunch session we were sitting in the Cedia with Mandeep in the driver's seat. And he once again showed some superb skills of driving in descending down from the K-top through rest of the journey to Leh. Vistas after descending from K-La

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Hats off to their spirit
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It was around 4 in the afternoon and we decided to go to the Thiksey monastery as this was the last day at Leh.

Thiksey
---------

The monastery building at the top of the hillock was looking beautiful in the afternoon sunlight. Went inside, clicked pics and sat in the prayer area where some afternoon rituals were taking place. Though it may sound cliche, but can't help to say that the statue of Buddha in the monastery is the best i have seen so far in my limited exposure. Not to mention the various murals and paintings on the walls just behind. Truely exceptional piece of art.

The Thiksey monastery
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An amazing play of light and shadow seen from the monastery building
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Old 21st January 2011, 17:01   #112
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Default Re: Jeeplogue : A JEEP Journey to Ladakh with Self Drive Expedition Group

Welcome back mate! Visiting Nubra is an awesome experience IMO. The terrain and vistas, coupled with the smooth tarmac, are so cool. So any dune bashing at Hunder with the Jeep?
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Old 21st January 2011, 17:12   #113
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Default Re: Jeeplogue : A JEEP Journey to Ladakh with Self Drive Expedition Group

Thiksey continued...
----------------------
The prayer wheels
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The mesmerizing face
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Interesting collection of stuffs kept in front of the statue
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One of the most favourite pics of the trip, the 'Maitreya'
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Finally came back to Lha Ri sa around 6 in the evening. We two had to go to the market once for taking the T-shirts we ordered 3 days back. So me and my better half Travelaholic went in the jeep to the market and also fixed up few nut-bolts of the exhaust system. The folks at the garage were damn lazy to even do a minimum job! Anyways, after taking the T-shirts, while coming back we messed up with the route to the hotel in the darkness and it took us around half an hour to figure out the correct route! Finally came back around 8.30 had dinner and shared the photos among ourselves. This was our last night at Leh. The return journey was going to commence the next day and this time via the Kargil-Srinagar route.
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Old 21st January 2011, 20:23   #114
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Welcome back mate! Visiting Nubra is an awesome experience IMO. The terrain and vistas, coupled with the smooth tarmac, are so cool.
Thanks buddy. Absolutely agree with you, Nubra is like a wonderland. And there are much more to explore in the surrounding areas. Some people may not like this place and few consider it as a wastage of time to go ahead from K-top. But i could spend days in this place.

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So any dune bashing at Hunder with the Jeep?
Oh no, the jeep was definitely missed. Go through one previous post. It was indeed a good decision as i feel now.
Quote:
The journey to Pangong was really strenuous the previous day. This, coupled with the already carried forward exhaustion in the Manali-Leh route, reduced my energy level. I was in a fix whether to take the jeep along for the Nubra Valley because of the physical condition. This was so far the most grueling experience for me and there was the return journey awaiting. A day of added rest would have done wonders but we were tightly occupied. Finally it was decided not to take the jeep rather to travel in Sanjay's LC. Surely some jeeping experience was to be missed but more important was the physical comfort and completion of the trip. In hindsight,this was actually a very wise decision as the return journey was much more tiring than what it was thought to be.
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Old 21st January 2011, 21:11   #115
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Default Re: Jeeplogue : A JEEP Journey to Ladakh with Self Drive Expedition Group

The places and their scenic beauty!! These are places where ones heart brims with the love for life, to be simply alive and experience being here and now!!

A sure cure to rejuvenate the spirit of anybody feeling low down, depressed or unhappy about ones life.

Cheers
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Old 24th January 2011, 09:44   #116
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Default Re: Jeeplogue : A JEEP Journey to Ladakh with Self Drive Expedition Group

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The places and their scenic beauty!! These are places where ones heart brims with the love for life, to be simply alive and experience being here and now!!
A sure cure to rejuvenate the spirit of anybody feeling low down, depressed or unhappy about ones life.
Cheers
You couldn't have put it in better words. Just a small glimpse of the 'Incredible India'...and there are so much more to see and absorb .
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Old 24th January 2011, 11:41   #117
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Default Re: Jeeplogue : A JEEP Journey to Ladakh with Self Drive Expedition Group

Leh to Kargil
-------------------
So the days in Leh came to an end and it was time to head back through the Kargil Srinagar route. Here i should mention that apart from the thorough washing job after reaching Leh and fixing one nut bolt from the silencer, the only thing done to the jeep was to add some engine oil as the last time we checked it was bit lower. Rahul and family decided the previous day that they were not going back by road to Delhi and then to Mumbai, in stead would stay at Leh for one or two days more and fly back directly to Mumbai from Leh itself. Sanjay arranged their accommodation in another nearby hotel which was equally good as Lha-Ri-Sa. It took us some time to pack and load everything back to the Jeep as it was gearing up for another memorable journey. Finally around 9.30 we were ready to hit the road after bidding adieu to the courteous stuffs at the hotel.
While rest of the vehicles went forward, we had to tank up the jeep first as the fuel level was low. Post fuel top-up session, we started our journey through the lovely 'tarmac' going out of the Leh city towards the Gurudwara Patthar Sahib. This stretch was one of the most clicked areas in the Leh-Srinagar route and indeed there were reasons for the same. Such a piece of road in the middle of the mountains felt just like heaven. A dream jeep ride indeed.

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We caught with the rest of the group at the Gurudwara. Went inside this historic place and all the stories heard about its origin and backgrund felt lively after seeing the worship stone. Though the langar was going to take place after half an hour, we didn't wait and proceeded towards the next obvious stop, the Magnetic Hill. Few pics at the Patthar Sahib.

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Moving on...

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By the time we reached there, Sanjay was already on his way up to the hill alongside the road. He finally stopped almost near the end of the track, beyond which it seemed almost impossible to go. The Wagon R also did a good job in climbing to a reasonably good distance up the ascent. With a 4x4 Jeep in hand, me too also didn't let this opportunity go and started moving up.
However i forgot to engage the 4 wheel drive and realized that when i was almost close to Sanjay's LC! So time to engage the reverse, switch to 4wd and climb again the rest of the patch. Here is the video taken from Mandeep's Cedia waiting below.



Later on Mandeep also drove the Cedia to a good distance and joined us. Another video taken from the moving Cedia.



The surrounding was looking great from the top. It seemed to me that the main road going further ahead is actually not looking like an incline from the top. Don't know whether it itself was an illusion or not but the portion where the magnetic hill phenomenon takes place, is probably not an upward incline part as it seems to be while on the road itself! Few pics from the top.

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Old 24th January 2011, 13:24   #118
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@Kandisa: You warned us not to expect good quality pics and to my surprise, the pics and the details are awesome. Especially the way how you explained everything, through out the journey. I like the way how you explained the importance of the Gurudwara and later the pics of the same. Without the explanation the rock would have not made any meaning to me.

Way to go, glued to this thread and rated 5* did not find 7* as a option.

Also, wonderful jeep it is.
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Old 24th January 2011, 14:45   #119
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@Kandisa: You warned us not to expect good quality pics and to my surprise, the pics and the details are awesome. Especially the way how you explained everything, through out the journey. I like the way how you explained the importance of the Gurudwara and later the pics of the same. Without the explanation the rock would have not made any meaning to me.

Way to go, glued to this thread and rated 5* did not find 7* as a option.

Also, wonderful jeep it is.
Thanks a lot for the whole hearted praise of the pics and narration. Credits for the photos go to my fellow jeep accompanion and better half 'Travelaholic' . Those who are familiar with the ride quality of a Jeep would know how difficult it is to take a pic from a moving jeep! And thats what she did almost althroughout the journey.
Oh and thank you for appreciation of the jeep also, that is one vehicle really close to our heart, built with lot of patience and passion.
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Old 25th January 2011, 07:45   #120
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Leh to Kargil....continued
-------------------------------
Few more pics at the Magnetic hill top.

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After spending around 15 minutes and taking good number of photos, we finally started desecending down. Here is a video of the same. For some moments, the Jeep, Gypsy and the Landcruiser have been captured in the same frame, great combo of 4x4 vehicles i would say.



Coming back to the main road, it was time to check the 'magnetic hill' effect by keeping the jeep in neutral. And for the next couple of minutes, indeed the jeep started picking up good speed gradually until gear and brake came to action! So, the 'uphill' road might be an illusion but the effect was pronounced at least in the vehicle.

Next break was taken in the beautiful village of Nimmu as we stopped at a roadside eatery to have a bowl of hot soup. Due to the varities of order, it took quite sometime to get back on the road.

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Barring a small jam in between, the journey was going on in a more or less smooth manner.

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Glimpses of the surroundings, barren mountain and rivers.

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It was something around 12 at noon and i was just visualizing a lunch break a bit ahead. Just around that time we suddenly saw a queue of vehicles ahead from some distance. On getting down it was revealed that two trucks broke down just before the small bridge ahead and because of that, vehicles were stranded on either side. The bridge, like most of the typical bridges in this route, was narrow and the location of the truck breakdown was so perfect that it was close to impossible for any bigger vehicle to pass through! Worse, there was a huge convoy of army trucks coming from the opposite side, so obviously they would go first after managing the narrow patch! It was evident that it would take good amount of time for us to move on from here. After close to an hour, the army people somehow made some way to navigate their trucks through the mess. Each truck was taking approximately 5-10 minutes to pass the bridge and to our horror the convoy turned out to be pretty big consisting of not less than 50 vehicles!! The congestion point, the actual bridge was further ahead after the turn:

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The hope of a lunch was gone and the only hope was the dry snacks we were carrying. So we trekked down to the rivulet flowing below and was having the snacks along with the cans of soft drink, chilled in the naturally flowing water! Then all on a sudden, i remember that there were some cuppa noodle packets left. So the portable stove, drinking water and cuppa noodles were brought down from the car and prepared by the stream. Though i should have chosen a different flavour while buying as this particular flavour was bit too spicy! Few pics of the outing:

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After spending some good time we went up and the situation was not encouraging at all. The line of army trucks seemed everlasting and we already knew that we wouldn't be able to reach kargil in daylight. While trying to take some nap in the jeep, finally the army convoy was totally clear and we started moving after getting stuck for around four hours or so. A small event to mention in between is to park the jeep in an odd position on the side of the mountain by putting 4wd low to make movement easier. It was a big relief to be on the move again...

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