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Old 25th January 2011, 10:43   #121
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Default Re: Jeeplogue : A JEEP Journey to Ladakh with Self Drive Expedition Group

Nice pics as usual. One thing about Leh, the more i see the more i want.
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Old 1st February 2011, 15:14   #122
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Leh to Kargil.....continued
--------------------------------
The journey this time was not smooth at all due to the road construction activities in this part of the Kargil - Leh highway. At few parts, it was just a layer of crushed stones/rocks! Various snips of the journey:

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A brief pause at a village in between:

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Loops and loops:

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It was late afternoon when we were near Lamayuru. The characteristic 'moonrock' formations were distinctly visible all around.

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And the famous monastery was seen away at the top of a hillock, an out of focus pic

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We did hear a lot about this particular monastery but again thanks to that unforeseen congestion, we just couldn't afford to stop over there to visit the monastery. One more place to see in leisure for the future journey. Road condition was really great now and we were climbing up towards Fotu la. The surrounding was really windy and the soft top doors of the jeep were trying their best to battle the same! Sunlight was almost gone when we reached Fotu La, the highest point of this highway. A stop for few minutes, few quick photos and we restarted the journey. Pics in between:

Light and shadow

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An interesting structure

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LC & Cedia at Fotu La, daylight still remaining

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Jeep at Fotu La, almost dark

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Sanjay advised some caution regarding the route ahead towards Mulbek and volunteered to go behind me. Good roads vanished soon after and complete darkness roped in. It was another jeep ride through the mountains in darkness as me and wife were chatting about how we were going to remember this jeep journey forever. Continuing like this suddenly we noticed that we had again started climbing through loops and realized some pass was gonna come next. It was Namik La, the 2nd highest pass after Fotu La. Descending from here we reached a small town like place which had to be Mulbek. Though since it was complete dark, we couldn't spot the famous statue of Maitreaya Buddha by the side of the road!
While Sanjay and Mandeep stopped to have a break, we continued after getting to know Hotel D'Zojila is going to be our destination for the night. Sanjay also told us to keep check of a milestone reading "Kargil: 15 kms" (Not too sure now though) and there was a diversion from the main road leading finally to Hotel D'Zojila. So me and wife were keeping a sharp look on the milestones at regular interval. There were no other vehicle on road and in between both the LC & Cedia crossed me. Around more than half an hour later we spotted the '20 km' milestone and gradually the figure was going down to 19,18,17 and so on. And here came the twist, the next milestone spotted was 14 km one! We got panicked. Did we miss it? But it was highly unlikely that both of us had missed it. Also, we couldn't remember any diversion from the main road in between. We paused for few minutes, reversed a bit to see whether there was any unnoticed branch-off, but there was none.
In complete darkness, except the lights from the jeep, we were standing with no signs of any other vehicle or human beings. Needless to mention the cell was not working. Just then a yellow number plate Xylo came and stopped in front of us. Few people got down from the vehicle and went inside an adjacent area which we didn't notice so far. It turned out to be a small mosque! I finally decided to go ahead and ask the driver about the route to the hotel and he told that he was also going to the same hotel so i could follow him. There was not much of option anyways and at least we were sticking to the main road, so even in the worst case we would reach Kargil town. The road ahead was not smooth at all and the ride in the jeep was pretty bumpy as usual. But the local driver was like a rally pro in comparison to me and i was having a really tough time to keep up with him. Still i was trying my best with sounds coming from all corners of the jeep while we were speeding up through the dismal roads ready with all 'facilities' for sure shot tyre puncture. After around 20 minutes we could finally spot cluster of lights in distance and that surely was the Kargil town. And soon after we could see tail lights of Sanjay's LC standing by the side of the road! It was such a huge relief. The Xylo taxi meanwhile vanished much ahead in the dark. Anyways it turned out that even Sanjay also couldn't spot the said diversion and followed the same route as us! After around 10 minutes or so, we crossed the narrow river bridge to enter Kargil city. The loud noise of waterflow in darkness was scary. The feeling of reaching the much heard about place was great. We could find the Gypsy and the Cedia and it turned out that the folks at D'Zojila hotel refused the accommodation saying it was full! That was really strange though as prior bookings were already made. Anyways the only other good option was Hotel Siachen and thankfully we got rooms booked for some unarrived guests. Took out only the essential one or two bags and went to the rooms. It was around 9.30 and we had some okish dinner after a quick facewash. Like the onward journey, the return journey also was turning out to be unexpectadly long and adventurous! Little did we know that the adventure and twist part was still remaining!!
During the dinner we got the news that agitation at Srinagar had taken a violent form and few people died in police firing. It was a bad news to say the least. Our next day's destination was Srinagar only and a night accommodation at house boat was something we were really looking forward. But the existing condition was not at all encouraging and after much discussion the hotel manager advised us not to stop at Srinagar and stay somewhere after that though he also warned it wouldn't be too easy to pass through the Srinagar route anyways. So the planning was to start very early next morning so that Zojila can be crossed in the morning half itself. Now unlike the Manali Leh route, i was not carrying any spare fuel in the jerrycans for the jeep as there was not any need. But in existing condition it was offcourse advisable to have at least the tank full as the fuel reserve of the jeep was pretty low. The nearest petrol pump was after the river bridge only but we had no choice. So Sanjay accompanied me to the petrol pump which was officially shut by that time. But since there was police gypsy fueling up we also got our share after requesting the folks. Finally it was around 11.30 when i was able to hit the bed and was desperately longing for a good sleep after a hectic day. But with the early start next day that was not to be.
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Old 22nd February 2011, 15:35   #123
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Default Re: Jeeplogue : A JEEP Journey to Ladakh with Self Drive Expedition Group

Really nice work
This is one of the best posts i have gone through.
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Old 24th February 2011, 17:47   #124
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kandisa View Post
Leh to Kargil.....continued
--------------------------------
The journey this time was not smooth at all due to the road construction activities in this part of the Kargil - Leh highway. At few parts, it was just a layer of crushed stones/rocks!
Totally empathize with you bro. The poor state of the road takes away most of the pleasure of traversing through that area.

Sad to hear about facing trouble cause of the mess in Srinagar but what happened next? Waiting for the story to unfold.
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Old 8th March 2011, 05:18   #125
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Default Re: Jeeplogue : A JEEP Journey to Ladakh with Self Drive Expedition Group

Hi Kandisa
Wow! What an adventurous ride! That too in a Jeep! You and traveloholic are awesome people. I came upon this travelogue by chance and read all 9 pages in one go!
You have revived my spirit and thirst for adventure which has fallen on the wayside as i plod along looking for my daily bread! Where could I get more information on the Expedition on wheels?
Your jeep is awesome too!
Regards
Ashok
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Old 8th March 2011, 11:56   #126
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Default Re: Jeeplogue : A JEEP Journey to Ladakh with Self Drive Expedition Group

Hi Kandisa,
I became your fan after reading your both threads, your "440" restoration and Leh ride. Very nice. Kudos to you guys.

Thanks,
Vishal.
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Old 8th March 2011, 13:50   #127
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Default Re: Jeeplogue : A JEEP Journey to Ladakh with Self Drive Expedition Group

The suspense still left, good, bring it on. Yes the river noise is awesome to say the least. The entire town goes into complete darkness after 2100 hrs and its only you, the stars above, the mighty mountains all around and of course the Zanskar. However the noise gets amplified at the bridge. A few meters up towards Leh there is hardly any noise.
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Old 8th March 2011, 16:47   #128
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I myself got disconnected from the thread and just saw it popped up in the Travelogue section again!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Maverick0584 View Post
Really nice work
This is one of the best posts i have gone through.
Thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by lordofgondor View Post
Totally empathize with you bro. The poor state of the road takes away most of the pleasure of traversing through that area.
Sad to hear about facing trouble cause of the mess in Srinagar but what happened next? Waiting for the story to unfold.
Sincere apologies, will complete the rest of the log by today!

Quote:
Originally Posted by ashphil View Post
Hi Kandisa
Wow! What an adventurous ride! That too in a Jeep! You and traveloholic are awesome people. I came upon this travelogue by chance and read all 9 pages in one go!
You have revived my spirit and thirst for adventure which has fallen on the wayside as i plod along looking for my daily bread!
Thanks a ton. Yes Travelaholic has been a perfect jeep companion for me and i am really fortunate in that sense.

Quote:
Where could I get more information on the Expedition on wheels?
Your jeep is awesome too!..
Will send you the info via PM.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thar4x4 View Post
Hi Kandisa,
I became your fan after reading your both threads, your "440" restoration and Leh ride. Very nice. Kudos to you guys.
Thanks,
Vishal.
Thanks a lot Vishal. Yes the restoration of the 440 and the Leh trip in the same are two of the major and memorable events of our lives till date.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wanderernomad View Post
The suspense still left, good, bring it on. Yes the river noise is awesome to say the least. The entire town goes into complete darkness after 2100 hrs and its only you, the stars above, the mighty mountains all around and of course the Zanskar. However the noise gets amplified at the bridge. A few meters up towards Leh there is hardly any noise.
Very well said. We couldn't locate the noise till we took the final right turn to take the road leading upto the bridge. And did it sound scary in the dark with occasional glimpse of the gushing water! In fact it was an eerie kind of feeling crossing the bridge to the Kargil town at night amidst the deafening sound!
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Old 8th March 2011, 17:35   #129
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Kargil to......The 'D' Day
---------------------------
When the alarm in the mobile phone started ringing at 4.30 in the morning i thought i had just slept a few minutes ago! Totally against the wills, i had to drag myself up to go to the toilets to get fresh and ready for the journey. By 5.30 we were prepared to start after sipping the morning tea at the hotel. No breakfast was packed as we decided to have brunch at Sonamarg after crossing Zojila. Though the usual stocks of water, juice, biscuits etc were taken from Sanjay's vehicle.

So we started the early morning jeep drive from kargil. The river was accompanying us all the way on the side of the drop. Few minutes after,we saw those much talked about signs "You are under enemy observation". As usual thanks to my low speed driving in the hills, i was the last in the convoy with all the vehicle proceeding ahead. Things were going good till we reached a turn where few trucks ahead were standstill. It was a bit narrow turn and those trucks stopped to enable the trucks from the other side pass. And there was not much of space to go through with my jeep, so had to stand in the queue. It took around 20 minutes to clear up and this made my distance with the rest of the vehicles even more as they were not caught in the jam. Anyways i tried to keep the pace up and overtook quite a good number of trucks. The route was following a similar pattern with small villages appearing 15-20 minutes. It was after passing one such village, i suddenly realised that the jeep was losing power and pushing the accelerator pedal was not improving the situation. Slowly the jeep stalled in the middle of the road! I restarted and the jeep started in single crank, but the moment the clutch was released after putting in gear, the jeep was getting stalled.

The same sequence was getting repeated after multiple tries and even revving bit higher also couldn't help. Somehow we sidelined the vehicle and got down. There was no visible unusuality sign after opening the bonnet. I tried the very limited 'tricks' i knew but nothing worked. It looked bit confusing for me as the jeep was running perfectly prior to this. It was around 6.45 in the morning and thankfully the problem took place early in the morning.

One or two villagers passed by and on enquiring about any garage or mechanic the reply was firm negative! All the trucks we overtook passed one by one and we were on a fix as to what to do. Finally i told my wife to be with the jeep while i went to check forward. There was a river bridge visible at a distance and i could see two army checkposts on either side. I proceeded towards the one at the beginning of the bridge where a young army jawan was on duty. He turned out to be a very nice gentleman from Moradabad. Upon telling about my problem he told that there is a GREF office around 5-6 km from the km from the place and i could get some help there. He even stopped one truck coming from the Kargil side and told the driver to drop me ahead. I was bit hesitant as to whether 1st go and tell my wife. But i had already walked for around 10 minutes and thought to come back soon. So told the jawan about the jeep and my wife and boarded the truck. The road was really bad and the truck driver was cursing the prolonged road repairing process..! He was coming back alone with the empty truck. He asked me about the problem and told me that a village further ahead from the GREF office would be a better bet to get a mechanic. Don't know why but i trusted him and didn't get down at the GREF site. But the village turned out to be at a longer distance than thought. It was at least 6-8 kms further. After getting down and having a look at the village i had a feeling that i did the wrong thing and should have got down at the GREF site itself. And indeed there was no mechanic or anything there and the people also were not looking very friendly! So there was no other option but to head back. And that time i realized that i was not carrying the purse! I started walking back through the main road hoping some truckie will again give me lift. But somehow the frequency of truck was not that high and the few handfuls didn't oblige me. The sun was getting brighter and without any morning dose of food things were not very comfortable for me. Anyways i carried on looking at the vistas on both sides of the road. Sky, as usual was crystal clear and blue. Occasionally army helicopters were flying over. The very fact that i was walking in the Kargil- Srinagar highway was making me bit amazed at times. But the situation was not at all good for me.

After walking for around 45 minutes or so, i finally stopped in front of an Army camp, a huge one. While i was catching breath, an army person came out from the camp entrance and stood beside me by the side of the main road. I started some conversation and got to know that he was going to Kargil for booking train ticket to go home. I had a glance on his uniform and was pleasantly surprised to see his name, it was a Bengali title! The conversation got immediately shifted to our native language and he happened to be from a place 4 hours form Kolkata. Anyways after knowing about my situation he told not to worry, some army truck must be giving lift to us. That particular day, outward vehicular movement was closed for his camp so he was also in search of transportation. He also told that if the situation of my jeep did not change till afternoon, we were most welcome to take night halt in the army camp and he would take care of it while coming back from the Kargil side.

Finally we got lift in one of the army trucks coming from Jammu side and that was my first journey in a Shaktiman. Around 15 minutes into the journey and i could see an army gypsy coming from opposite side. But there was something similar behind the Gypsy and it turned out to be my Jeep....!!! I was really excited and in closer vicnity could see the gypsy towing my jeep and my wife in the driver's position with an army man sitting beside. I signalled frantically to make them stop and got down from the truck after thanking the driver and the Bengali Jawan. My wife was more than happy to see me back and here is what happened in my wife's version after i left the jeep in the morning:

"....After my husband went towards the bridge i was expecting him to be back by 15-20 minutes. But time passed by and he didn't come back. In between couple of villagers were passing by the jeep once in a while and were giving a curious look by seeing a sole woman standing by a jeep by the side of the road. Finally after around half an hour i proceeded forward to check and the army man guarding the checkpost came forward after seeing me. I just started to ask him about my husband and he immediately replied that he (the Jawan) had arranged a lift in one truck to go further ahead in search of a mechanic. I was bit assured and came back to the jeep. While walking back i could spot an army Gypsy coming from the opposite side and it was bit decorated implying some high level army officer's vehicle. I signalled and waved hands and thankfully the driver stopped. Indeed a middle aged Army officer with good number of badges in his uniform was sitting in the front and he enquired about what had happened. I told the entire story and he assured not to worry, he would take care as far as he could. But since he himself was in hurry he told that he would be informing his camp people after reaching there and some help would be coming soon. I was really relieved. About 15 minutes later another army gypsy came and stopped just in front of the Jeep. And came out a group of around 3-4 army folks with toolboxes in hand. No doubt they were sent by the kind hearted Officer i just met a while ago. They came and started inspecting after opening the bonnet and did few tricks here and there but nothing was successful. Finally the seniormost of them all told that the jeep needed to be towed to their camp for inspection by some head mechanic. They were more than happy to see the 5 ton tow rope we bought just before the trip. With me in the driver's position the gypsy started towing. After going for around 20 minutes suddenly i saw someone waving from inside an army truck and it was my husband!....";

Back to my version (after we re-unite ):
The camp was around 10 minutes further and it was different than the one where i was standing while walking back after the failed attempt to trace a mechanic. Once we were inside few army men came to have a curious look into the situation. The army gypsy however took a toll after towing the jeep as the clutch of the gypsy was almost gone probably due to some inappropriate driving while towing. The Subedar Major of the unit meanwhile came out from his office. He was a nice gentleman from Chennai and got to know that this particular unit belonged to the medium artillery division. He also assured us not to worry at all and some other mechanic was about to arrive. The VIP treatment we got in the next two hour or so was amazing! It started with glasses of hot water and continued to juice, coffee, biscuits, Maggi noodles....we were offered plethora of stuffs! He told us to take rest in the sofas of his office and make ourselves comfortable. As such we were ashamed to make them busy for our breakdown and on top of that this level of courtesy! Truely we were overwhelmed and re-realized the fact that in these zones, the Army is indeed the sole hope for the tourists. Subedar Major Saab shared various experiences ranging from climatic conditions in these areas during winter, how tough the life at army was, to the present situation post Kargil war and all that. It was another eye-opener kind of experience to listen to the real life happenings about the sacrifices army people make for the nation's sake. Even today while penning down this experience i feel like standing up and giving a salute to all these sons of the soil.

The head mechanic in between arrived and after inspecting few things he opened up the plugs of the engines one by one and the major culprit was found to be oil in the plugs! The reason could be traced down to the filling of engine oil at Leh. Probably the level of oil wasn't that low as shown during the cold weather. Temperature at these parts were much higher and the additional oil must had made its way to the plugs! So not much went wrong with the jeep, it was more due to our stupidity or lack of experience on my side! Apart from that there were some associated tuning issues also and it took around 45 minutes more to set the things more or less to an acceptable standard. They told that had i been travelling in a petrol Gypsy or a diesel Jeep they would have replaced everything with brand new parts. But my vehicle was in between..a Petrol Jeep, something they were not very experienced about and no question of any spare parts or so. They assured that the jeep should keep on moving but its better to show it to some mechanic once we were in Jammu.
I took a short test drive and things seemed ok. So it was finally time to resume the journey. I just didn't have any reservoir of words or gestures to thank those people enough for their help. Requested them for a pose and started our journey towards Drass.

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We were happy to give lift to an army person from the camp; he was going to Drass and turned out to be a resident of Kolkata, though originally from Bihar. While chatting he told us that even his elder brother was in the army, 1 Bihar Regiment to be precise, and was one of the martyrs in the Kargil War. He also shared quite a few things about the interaction of army with the localites and how the pattern was changing in recent times. Roads towards Drass was becoming bad to worse. The army jawan got down in between and soon we reached the Kargil War memorial. After starting from the camp we were expecting someone from the group to be waiting somewhere in between seeing so much delay form our side. But so far we didn't find anyone, the cell anyways was not receiving any signal! The schedule of crossing Zojila in the morning half was gone anyways and we thought not to miss the war memorial as we wouldn't be coming back here pretty often! Being to the Kargil war memorial in the jeep indeed was another experience to cherish. The guards at the entrance became curious after seeing the jeep and came forward asking where from we were coming etc. In the visitors' book we could find entry of our fellow convoy members at about 8 in the morning. We would have been here within 30-40 minutes of their arrival if the episode in between wouldn't had happened!
The Jeep with the Kargil battlefield in the background:

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Anyways it was time to go inside the memorial of the most talked about war in recent times and indeed the experience was truely great. The memorial structure, names of the martyrs and detailed information and real life photos inside the Manoj Pandey gallery are something worth millions for an Indian to see. After sending around half an hour and buying some souveniers it was time to move forward. Few snaps excluding the detailed photos inside the gallery:

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A photoshop experiment

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It was around 2 and the army men informed that try to be at Zojila before 4. They also informed that the route ahead was horrible to say the least so the progress would be slow. And how true they were. The less to be said about the road conditions, the better. We were having the biscuits and cakes in betweens to fill the tummies. My better half was tired and tried to take nam as much as she could in a jeep moving over worst of the rod patches. Soon came the places names of which were very familiar during the Kargil war...Tiger Hill, Mushko Valley and finally Drass.

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Old 8th March 2011, 23:43   #130
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Kargil to.......The 'D' Day continued....
---------------------------------------
Moving on through the inhospitable terrains we finally reached the Zojila war memorial after crossing Dropadi kund in between. The surrounding vistas in between got changed and signs of Kashmir valley were visible all around. Lush green meadows on the slopes, herds of sheeps, small flowing waterbodies...it was lovely altogether. Lots of tempting places to halt and have a leisurely break! Yes in some other journey in future for sure. Few pics in between:

One of the numerous war memorials

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Various shots of nature

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Spent some time in the historic memorial:

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While getting back in the jeep another army person wanted lift till 'Captain Mor'. Needless to mention we took him on board. After going for around 5-10 minutes, another aged Kashmiri man waved us to stop. He told that he was going to some doctor and in between his chappals had gave up so whether we could drop him near Baltal. Though the rear was already packed with luggage with a person already sitting somehow on the side, we decided to help the aged man. The army guy got down just before a crossing near Zojila top. Here onwards one road was going straight towards the right and the other one was going straight down with no visible end. He told us to take the 2nd route. I was bit tensed looking at the road, nevertheless engaged 4wd and started descending down with extreme caution.

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Soon after taking the turn we reached the Captain Mor bearing the memorial of one Army captain who was the pioneer in making Zojila stretch vehicle worthy. We got down, offered prayers and started moving towards the check-post.

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The very 1st view of the open roads ahead shook my nerve to a good extent. Though height wise this pass was not at all that great, but what roads!! The series of kaccha roads winding up in hairpin bends up ahead was indeed scary, at least for me. Thankfully we were to descend down since we were going towards Sonamarg. So life was much easier except the cautious turns.

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The aged man got down in between and thanked us zillion times for the lift. Midway down we could spot huge number of tents in the valley below and later on got to know those were for the Amarnath pilgrims as the yatra came to a halt due to the situation at Srinagar and surrounding areas of Kashmir. After descending down to the checkpost at the Sonamarg side, i was dumbstruck to see couple of longer trucks carrying few JCBs on board, and they were going to climb through Zojila to proceed towards Kargil!! Anyways we entered Sonamarg and could see the Govt Cafe where we were supposed to have brunch before noon! And it was around 5 o'clock by then. The Market area was all shut understandably due to the violence and unrests. Just after crossing the market we could spot a beautiful hotel at a distance and also could spot Sanjay's LC and other vehicles of the convoy in the enclosure! They told us that though they were worried about our massive delay but still decided to cross Zojila as traffics were allowed and since some fresh violence was happening soon after Sonamarg, temporarily stopped at that hotel (Snow View or so if i am not wrong) since the morning after checking in around 10.30. If cells were working this communication gap could have been avoided but it is rather common in these areas that they don't receive proper signals most of the times! Thank god the army people came to our rescue else probably we would have been stranded all alone near some non-descript village in between Kargil & Drass!

None of me and wifey had any proper meal since morning. So we took some sandwiches and coffee after getting fresh in one of the rooms taken temporarily. After settling down a bit, tried to gather more info on the latest situation. The entire stretch from Sonamarg till Srinagar was having violent agitation at numerous places and most of the people who were coming from Kargil had stopped at the adjacent hotels at Sonamarg as going further was risky! The hotel owner told us to park the jeep towards the inner side of the complex. TV news footages were not at all encouraging and things were really serious. Visiting Srinagar and staying at Houseboat were anyways out of question, the only thing coming to our mind was to cross the Kashmir valley safely. Got to know that very few vehicles were allowed from the opposite side also in the entire day. Tourists were indeed tensed and nobody was sure how to return back in a safe manner.

Finally some of the people went to the nearby Army camp and informed us that some army convoy would be starting towards Srinagar at night and tourist vehicles could tag with them in between for a safer passage out of the valley. But the exact timing of the convoy was not known. I took few photographs in the fading sunlight. Sonamarg is one of those must-see type of beautiful places in the Kashmir zone and too bad we were stuck here in a situation like this. Sitting in the balcony of the hotels we two were recollecting the series of events that had taken place from the morning. One hotel staff in between got friendly with us and was chitchatting about the place and its beauty, offcourse he told us to visit here at least once during the summers. Hell yes, sometime down the line we were going to be back there. Some snaps taken in hurry at Sonamarg:

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Old 9th March 2011, 00:31   #131
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Default Re: Jeeplogue : A JEEP Journey to Ladakh with Self Drive Expedition Group

The Final stretch: Sonamarg To Noida
--------------------------------------------
Though we were thoroughly exhausted, somehow the situation was not comfortable enough to catch some sleep. Since the timing of the convoy was not known we thought to have the dinner and getting ready from our side. Kashmiri food is one those varieties of Indian food which i didn't experience much and needless to mention i was looking forward to have some authentic kashmiri cuisine. But this was not the time to savour food and the dinner was also okish type, not something extraordinary. It was around 9 when we were done with the dinner. I took a candle and waxed the zippers of the soft doors of the jeep as they were not closing in properly. A night journey was inevitable and god knows for how many hours, so the doors must do a job of decent insulation. The petrol reserve of the jeep was slightly below half tank and since we were not sure exactly how many kms later we would be getting a petrol pump, this was also a matter of concern. In between a group of tourists came and informed that the driver of their vehicle (a local Force Traveller) was refusing to go ahead, so if they could get some places in the empty seats of the vehicles of our convoy. Sanjay and Mandeep did oblige them. I checked and rechecked the few minor things in the jeep including starting it a few times and things were appering ok. There were around 20-25 vehicles in our hotel. I sat in the reception and closed my eyes to reserve some energy for the coming journey. There was this hidden tension all over my mind. Didn't remember when i fell asleep but it was disrupted due to some shouting outside the reception and i woke up. It was around 11.30 at night and the reason for the excitement was that the convoy had started and was visible at a longer distance towards the Zojila side. Quickly we got into the Jeep and came to the main road. We were instructed to wait by the side of the road and sneak in between when few vehicles of the convoy had passed.

On close view, the convoy seemed to be Massive to say the least. From the headlights of the vehicles it appeared that there were at least around 200+ vehicles already coming. And apart from few army trucks, there were CRPF escort vehicles and HUGE number of tourist vehicles. Once the first 10-15 vehicles passed i moved into the line with the jeep along with other vehicles of our group.

It was a scene to watch. At close to midnight, somewhere in the disturbed Kashmir region, kilometers long convoy of army and civilian vehicles were passing through the deserted route. This was my first experience to drive in a such a huge convoy of vehicles and surprisingly things were very systematic as most of the people were under the fear of any disruption. We passed through the various talked about places like Kangan, Qazigund etc where the protests were violent during the day. I would never forget this journey in my life. There were huge trees uprooted and brought into the roads, big rocks and stones were all around, at many places the lamp posts were demolished to the ground and what not. The CRPF and J&K Police were patrolling in the sensitive areas standing at both the sides of the roads and were instructing to move forward and not to stop for any reason. If ever i could see the term 'run for life' in action, this was it. At few places the convoy was stopped and once there were confirmations from the patrolling groups ahead about the road being fit to go, we were moving. My constant watch was on the fuel gauge of the jeep and thankfully it was going decently good as per as mileage was concerned. Moving like this for around two hours or so we finally reached Srinagar and was driving by the Dal Lake.

Driving along side the Dal lake in our Jeep was thought to be another memory to be cherished in this tour but the timing and the situation was not in favour at all. We thought the main Srinagar area might had been spared but was surprised to see signs of violence even in the core tourist areas. It was feeling surreal to pass by this massive waterbody dead at night and we were repenting to miss seeing it in daylight. Around half an hour after we came to the outskirts of the Srinagar town and finally saw a petrol pump open! All the vehicles in our group topped up fuel. We were much relieved now as the main problematic areas had been crossed safely and thanked the almighty for the safe passage.

Post fuel filling session we started towards Jammu and the next couple of hours were one of the toughest highway driving i had done so far. There were huge queue of trucks on both the sides, the road was not wide enough at many places to overtake the truck in front and safely avoid the oncoming truck from the opposite side. As the indicator assembly of the jeep was broken somewhere before Tanglang la, i was not able to dip the lights. So was using the auxiliary Hella lamps for the dipper by switching on and off. During one such maneuver suddenly realized that the push pull switch had come out in my hand! I kept on driving with left hand and was trying to fix the switch with the right hand! Surely it was a jeep thing!!!

Continuing like this we came to a point from where Jawahar tunnel was around 20-25 kms. There was a flyover in front and the traffic came to a complete halt. Reason being movement of army convoy from the opposite side. It was around 3.30 at night and almost everyone was dead tired.

But we were still not sure where to stop finally for the day/night..! The movement of the army convoy stopped us for around two hours and we were trying to take as much rest as possible reclining the jeep seats. Finally when we started moving it almost the dawn time. The route ahead was all like stop and go type of traffic till we came near the toll booth for the Banihal tunnel. Initially i was not sure what was the procedure, finally my wife got down, inquired and took the receipt after paying the fees. Being a female standing in the queue of the drivers, she was given priority and we got the permit in a rather quick manner. The entrance of the tunnel looked like a heavily guarded area full with fully equipped army men. Driving through the tunnel was indeed another mind boggling experience. What an engineering marvel made such a long time ago! We stopped at one or two points for loo breaks and also to have a look in the vast valleys below. After crossing the tunnel finally we stopped at a tea stall for a break. Don't know why but after having the hot tea i felt more tired and dizzy. How i wish to stop there itself and stretch myself somewhere and catch a quick nap!

But Sanjay informed that we would be finally staying at Patnitop and that was still a good distance away. The rest of the journey to Patnitop was made at snail's pace as i just didn't have any energy left to drive. On top of that there were frequent congestion due to army movement at couple of places in between. Most of the army people were giving a curious and sometime smiley look at the Jeep and us. Finally around 10 o' clock we reached Patnitop and checked into Hotel Green Top, the best accommodation of the entire journey with really huge and well furnished rooms. Right from starting the previous day at Kargil to the eventful journey till Drass & Zojila and even more eventful escapade through Srinagar, the last 30 hours or so was really like a rapid fire session.

I was not able to even keep my eyes open properly and sat in a couch in the balcony and immediately fell asleep! After around an hour, somehow got up, took bath, had some sandwiches and again dozed off. Finally around 2 o'clock woke up again in difficulty to have the lunch. Food was good and the ambience of the hotel was spectacular. Post lunch session the nap continued till 7 o'clock at evening followed by some heavy snacks in the adjacent room with rest of the people. Rest of the time was spent in chitchatting. In between Rahul called us and told that he had reached Mumbai after some fight with the booking of air tickets. Needless to mention he was amazed to hear our experiences! The dinner was light as we didn't have much of apetite. The sleep at night was one of the best i had ever recovering the body from the extreme fatigue!

Posting few pics of the place at Patnitop:

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The 'perfect' look of a Touring Jeep!

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Next day morning it was time for the final journey back to the plains. We finally started around 10.30 and took the breakfast break at Kud. Bought some famous 'patisa'. The return journey was through Udhampur, Pathankot, Ludhiana and back to Noida.

Some pics while passing through Jammu:

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The temperature was pretty high once we hit the plains. We took bit extended breaks in between including a prolonged one at the Haveli just before Ludhiana. Another highlight was to have the very delicious Amritsari naan and chole in a newly opened branch of 'Sagar Ratna' somewhere in Punjab after Ludhiana.

Driving the entire night in a rather gentle way, sometimes in a bit sleepy mode even, we finally reached home around 7 in the morning. The jeep held good without any hitch and was looking like what it should after covering a long and difficult journey for the last 13 days. Once again i thanked those army people in my mind. Here are two snaps after stopping at the parking lot of our apartment:

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Driving own Jeep (which was built and not bought) to Leh and back and that too through such a series of remarkable events...well the experience was too much to assimilate for the newly seasoned travellers in the two of us. Took out the few essential baggage from the jeep and straightway went to take a long and much awaited bath. Got ready and started for the Office; after all one needs to work to make sure funds should replenish for more trips rather i should say jeeplogues in future.....

Thanks a lot folks who have been following the log and i can't conclude before thanking 'hvkumar' and 'lordofgondor' for the encouragements and answering to numerous queries before the trip. Last but not the least, clicking pictures with a P&S camera from a moving jeep is a herculean task and people who have the experience of the ride quality of a jeep or gypsy will realize that better. 'Travelaholic' exactly did this most of the times. So i owe her big time for clicking most of the snaps posted in this thread. And if someone is interested to go through the detailed rebuild process of the jeep, just type 'jeep MM 440' in google; the 1st result is my jeep build thread in teambhp.

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Old 9th March 2011, 02:26   #132
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Default Re: Jeeplogue : A JEEP Journey to Ladakh with Self Drive Expedition Group

@ Kandisa - Excellent log and amazing photos. Kudos to both you and your wife. And yes, Indian Army is like a life line in the valley if you do get stuck somewhere. Our soldiers do a fantastic job professionally and otherwise

Btw, on your way back did you bypass Jammu city ?
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Old 9th March 2011, 12:57   #133
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Default Re: Jeeplogue : A JEEP Journey to Ladakh with Self Drive Expedition Group

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dragonov View Post
@ Kandisa - Excellent log and amazing photos. Kudos to both you and your wife. And yes, Indian Army is like a life line in the valley if you do get stuck somewhere. Our soldiers do a fantastic job professionally and otherwise

Btw, on your way back did you bypass Jammu city ?
Thanks a lot. Yes, the hands on experience of the Army is definitely one integral aspect of a trip to any remote region. And considering the kind of difficulties/ restrictions faced due to politics, bureaucracy and things like that, the Indian Army does a fabulous job; they are the BEST.
Yes, we bypassed the Jammu city and thankfully the traffic pressure was much lesser on the roads we took.
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Old 9th March 2011, 16:06   #134
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Default Re: Jeeplogue : A JEEP Journey to Ladakh with Self Drive Expedition Group

Post Deleted by the Team-BHP Support : SMS / Slang is STRICTLY prohibited on this community. We would much appreciate your using full & proper English in posts, for the benefit of other forum users.

Please view our board rules carefully before proceeding any further.

Last edited by GTO : 11th March 2011 at 15:50.
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Old 10th March 2011, 07:56   #135
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Default Re: Jeeplogue : A JEEP Journey to Ladakh with Self Drive Expedition Group

Thanks for appreciating the travelogue. If you are dreaming about it then definitely you are going to make it as well. People from all over India have been driving down to this region for quite some time now. Wish you will be able to make the trip at the earliest.
By the way,kindly avoid the short forms of the words, things would be more legible that way.

Last edited by GTO : 11th March 2011 at 15:50. Reason: Removing quoted post which is on its way to deletion
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