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Old 2nd December 2010, 21:47   #1
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Default Jeeplogue : A JEEP Journey to Ladakh with Self Drive Expedition Group

Folks, this is my first travelogue on Teambhp, about my experiences of travelling to Ladakh in July this year with the 'Self Drive Expedition Group' along with my better half. And if you are bored of going through good number of travelogues on Leh, this has a bit difference because we did this journey in our beloved soft top Petrol Jeep which was bought as an auctioned vehicle and restored by fellow Tbhp member 'renegade' (Mandeep). Before proceeding i think i should issue a warning that if you are expecting pics of quality even remotely close to those of the experts, you will be highly disappointed.
Around two years ago, somehow i was bitten by the Jeep bug and finally took a plunge to get hold of a Petrol MM 440 Jeep which is the petrol version of the commonly seen 540/550 series of Jeep. Here is a snap of the jeep when it was picked up.

Jeeplogue : A JEEP Journey to Ladakh with Self Drive Expedition Group-4401.jpg

Jeeplogue : A JEEP Journey to Ladakh with Self Drive Expedition Group-4402.jpg

I always wanted this vehicle to be more of a 4x4 tourer for going to off beat places rather than just a weekend recreational/OTR vehicle. The restoration and modification of the jeep was done in this line of thought. For practical purpose the original Hurricane engine and KMT90 gearbox combo was replaced with 1.8 Isuzu carb engine along with 5 speed Isuzu gearbox and transfer case having high and low gear ratios. Thankfully,the jeep turned out to be a reliable machine once done up and we started taking it out for some long distance tours to places like Corbett, Chakrata etc.
Like many, we also wanted to travel to Ladakh to have a feel of the natural beauty the place is renowned for. Going by air off-course was the easiest option; but as they say more than half of the experience of Leh is the journey itself, so travelling by road was not something to be missed. Though one needs to be 200% sure about the reliability of his vehicle to drive in this road because of the reasons well-known. And going there in a soft-top old Jeep probably is the last thing someone might think of! But then this was exactly our dream from the day the jeep was acquired and getting restored.

Embarking on a long journey in a stretch like Manali-Leh-Srinagar through varying terrains & weather conditions is a completely different situation altogether. Initially when me & wife was planning about the trip, i sent a good number of PMs to none other than hvkumar and 'lordofgondor' and they gave loads of inputs to plan the journey in a proper manner. Incidentally when we were toying with the idea of going to Leh, a similar planning was unveiled by my jeep mentor Mandeep. He along with Mr. Sanjay Madan, who 've been to Leh early in the season in his 'tough toddler' Tata Nano, came up with a venture called 'Expedition On Wheels' (EOW) and Ladakh trip was the 1st of the organized destinations. 'Self Drive Expedition' as the tag goes is for people who want to drive down to places in own vehicles with the accommodation, logistics & other supports being taken care of by them. Though frequent travellers probably don’t really need much of support, as 1st timers to Leh and as inexperienced drivers, logically me and wife ('Travelaholic' in Tbhp) finally decided to go with this group even if it was amounting to some additional expenditure.
Now the big question was whether to travel in the comforts of Sanjay's Landcruiser which was going to be the lead vehicle of the group or to bear the uncomforts and take the Jeep along. Though there were many uncertainty factors, finally we decided not to lose this opportunity to travel to Leh in the jeep.Not to mention that very very few have done it in a Jeep.

Fixing this in mind, some major upgrades were done in the Jeep to make it more equipped to handle the journey. These were anyways scheduled to be done sooner or later. Many of these are standard fitments in any modern car but then with a Jeep, you are always in for a surprise..!! In a gist the list was something like this:
1. Fabrication of soft doors (keeping the rainy season and cold in mind)
2. Upgrades to front disk brake & installation of hand brake
3. Installing wipers (heck it even didn't 've functional wipers!!)
4. Changing front differential to a wider Bolero set-up (to stabilize the steering, getting rid of the occasional wobbling jeeps are notorious for and improving the turning radius)
5. Upgradation to 31" Maxxis Bighorn M/T tyres
6. Fabricating a full fledged internal roll cage as an extension to existing one as the jeep hardly has any safety feature!
7. In addition, to boost up the power, custom Automech header & Magnaflow muffler were added to the overhauled 1.8 Isuzu engine

Also procured a heavy duty hi-lift jack and it was fixed at the rear. With all these upgrades the jeep turned into its present avatar like this:

Jeeplogue : A JEEP Journey to Ladakh with Self Drive Expedition Group-dsc06512.jpg

Jeeplogue : A JEEP Journey to Ladakh with Self Drive Expedition Group-dsc06598.jpg

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It was more mechanically capable now than the stock form and our confidence for a successful jeep journey to Leh was building up. Days were passing by; itinerary was already finalized by EOW and finalization of vehicles were on. The 13 day journey was scheduled to start on July 24th and the plan was finalized as Delhi – Nalagarh – Manali- Jispa – Leh – Pangong Tso – Leh – Kargil – Srinagar – Pathankot – Delhi. Just a week before the departure, one of the key vehicles, a Landcruiser Prado (belonging to Tbhp member Rahul or 'rhandle' from Mumbai) betrayed as there were some major problems with its engine. Finally it was decided to take a Mitsubishi Cedia in its place by leaving our Alto at the owner's place.

Just one day before the journey, during an innocent 40 km/hr drive through DND toll road, the toughened glass windshield of my jeep got smashed in pieces without any visible reason!! Thankfully except few cuts, I was safe and a new safety glass windshield was installed the next day. Friday evening I took the jeep back and the final packing for the long-planned journey was started.

Last edited by Kandisa : 2nd December 2010 at 21:52. Reason: addition
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Old 2nd December 2010, 22:16   #2
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Firstly, Thank god that you escaped with bruises from the glass break and no major injuries.

Secondly, would love see Ladakh in the Jeeplogue. Its a favourite destination of the BHPians.

Thirdly, most importantly, I really love the way you have done up the vehicle and trust me it would be worth putting up a thread on doing it up. Mind sharing costs of the job and purchase, although that would be off topic. The vehicle looks great! Well done.
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Old 3rd December 2010, 09:19   #3
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Your jeep is transformed into a beautiful beast..Gud stuff
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Old 3rd December 2010, 09:27   #4
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Your soft door setup looks very interesting. I'd love to check out close ups and see how you've managed to insulate the cabin from hot/cold drafts, especially considering that you didn't fit a HVAC in it .

Looking forward to this log as well.
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Old 3rd December 2010, 10:25   #5
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The Self-Drive Expedition organised drive sounds interesting - tell us more about the way it was done, and the costs?
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Old 3rd December 2010, 11:44   #6
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The Jeep looks awesome man and doing the Leh trip in it must have been fantastic! I guess this is gonna be the first Leh Jeeplogue.

Great to see all your planning paying off and awaiting updates.
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Old 3rd December 2010, 12:03   #7
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Nice start Kandisa. Your Jeep rocks! Waiting for the action series to come.

Sorry to hear the incident, thank god you're safe.
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Old 4th December 2010, 21:28   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TaureanBull View Post
Firstly, Thank god that you escaped with bruises from the glass break and no major injuries.
....Thirdly, most importantly, I really love the way you have done up the vehicle and trust me it would be worth putting up a thread on doing it up. Mind sharing costs of the job and purchase, although that would be off topic. The vehicle looks great! Well done.
Thanks a lot. I will give all the details of the jeep build up in due course of time, promise.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MohsinRoadster View Post
Your jeep is transformed into a beautiful beast..Gud stuff
Quote:
Originally Posted by jacs View Post
Nice start Kandisa. Your Jeep rocks! Waiting for the action series to come.
Sorry to hear the incident, thank god you're safe.
Thanks for the appreciation of the jeep. Yes the windshield incidence was really scary, a first for me!

Quote:
Originally Posted by absynthguzzler View Post
Your soft door setup looks very interesting. I'd love to check out close ups and see how you've managed to insulate the cabin from hot/cold drafts, especially considering that you didn't fit a HVAC in it .
Looking forward to this log as well.
HVAC, hot n cold draft, insulation......oh my god, come on we are talking about a soft top jeep here Actually the metal doors in jeeps anyways rattle quite a lot. So i have gone for the soft top with a metal frame inside. And this is just for bare basic protection from rain/cold as expected in this route. You will have some closer visuals in future pics.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
The Self-Drive Expedition organised drive sounds interesting - tell us more about the way it was done, and the costs?
In a gist, EOW takes care of the accommodation (booked in advance), fooding (apart from the usual lunch/dinner/breakfasts things like mineral water, soft drinks cans, dry fruits, chocolates, snacks kind of things required in this route etc etc) and on-road support/guidance. I will send you details on the cost and stuffs via PM. And let me take this opportunity to thank you once more for replying to my PMs.
Mods, hope i am not putting any commercial interest here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lordofgondor View Post
The Jeep looks awesome man and doing the Leh trip in it must have been fantastic! I guess this is gonna be the first Leh Jeeplogue.
Great to see all your planning paying off and awaiting updates.
Thanks mate and thanks again for the info provided. Yeah it was an experience of a lifetime. Though this is probably the 1st Leh travelogue done in a jeep, couple of Tbhp members did this earlier in jeeps e.g. Gaurav Prabhakar (RedMM340) & an offroad enthusiast or i should call a guru Abhimanyu ('Alfa_Kilo'), who sadly passed away after the Leh trip in his own rebuilt Jeep.
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Old 4th December 2010, 22:08   #9
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Default Day 1

Noida to Nalagarh
-----------------

The plan was to meet up near Indraprasth metro station around 6.30 in the morning. Rahul & family (wife & kid) reached Delhi two days before and three vehicles were to start the journey from Delhi, rest to join afterwards. After going through the checklist numerous times, finally we settled with the packing around 11 o'clock at night. The excitement was understandable and as usual we could hardly sleep properly that night. Woke up by the cell alarm at 4.30 and got ready. The 1st official message of the journey came from Mandeep around 6 reminding us of the meeting point. Getting everything packed up we finally started from our Noida apartment.

The support tools procured for the trip. Apart from these there was a bag full of few essential spares for the jeep:

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The Jeep before starting the journey

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The packed up rear bay. Notable are two jerrycans and i got two straps made to hold them in place

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Met with Sanjay, driving his 80 series Toyota Landcruiser and Mandeep along with Rahul & family in the Mitsubishi Cedia at the designated place and started our journey towards GT Karnal road with the breakfast stop as Haveli in mind.

The mighty LC

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And the Cedia

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The LC was the lead vehicle. The display of stickers at the rear windshield is incredible!

Jeeplogue : A JEEP Journey to Ladakh with Self Drive Expedition Group-dsc06728.jpg

It was uneventful journey except at one point where a bunch of cows appeared on the road from nowhere and put us in a sudden braking situation! Had a full fledged breakfast at Haveli and got the stickers for the Jeep. Got to see Rahul's newly acquired Panasonic FZ 35 and was really impressed to see the video quality.

Stopping at Haveli

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Stickering work in progress. Sanjay was well equipped with cleaner, cloth, scissor and anything that was required!

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Post breakfast the journey was resumed towards Nalagarh fort, our destination for the day. Thankfully weather was better than what we expected and it was not much of problem cruising in the jeep in the highways. This was the major run for the jeep after the upgrades and engine overhauling and we were pleasantly surprised at its smooth cruising maintaining 90-100 constantly. Here is a video taken by Rahul in his FZ from the Cedia. Btw, Rahul's Tbhp handle is 'rahultomahawk' , i wrote something else in the 1st post.




A brief loo break near pipli

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Near Zirakpur it suddenly started raining for some time and we realized that the doors of the jeep are actually not comparable to a proper car But anyways it was still better than a without-door situation! Lunch stop was taken around 3 o' clock & finally we reached Nalagarh fort around 4-4.30 in the afternoon. The approach route is a nice uphill with the parking lot having a surprise short elevation.

At the parking lot of Nalagarh

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Old 5th December 2010, 08:47   #10
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Kandisa,
How are you doing? its been a long time.
A dream journey you have embarked upon, though I caught up late on this thread but will be a regular visitor for more. Looking forward to a first and a comprehensive Jeep-Ladakh travelogue.
The Jeep looks like a practical and smart one, how did these tyres perform on-road?
Regards,

Last edited by fazalaliadil : 5th December 2010 at 08:48.
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Old 5th December 2010, 12:33   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fazalaliadil View Post
Kandisa,
How are you doing? its been a long time.
A dream journey you have embarked upon, though I caught up late on this thread but will be a regular visitor for more. Looking forward to a first and a comprehensive Jeep-Ladakh travelogue.
The Jeep looks like a practical and smart one, how did these tyres perform on-road?
Regards,
Thank you sir for remembering me and the jeep. I am absolutely fine and yes it was really a long cherished dream to do a Ladakh trip in the jeep. I actually posted some snaps in the 4x4 section but thought to post a detailed travelogue here. The tyres, Maxxis Bighorn MT762, are a good compromise for on+off road usage. On road these are much less noisy compared to other M/T tyres, slightly more than the H/T tyres offcourse, though i have never attempted to go beyond 100-110. Braking takes slightly more effort and time, but with the disk brake upgrade those are nominal.
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Old 5th December 2010, 13:20   #12
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Nalagarh
Being within a small distance from NCR, Nalagarh is a more or less common destination for spending a leisurely weekend for people of Delhi. But for us it was just a halt to break the journey to Manali. Glimpses of the fort hotel

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The surrounding was soothing and the rooms and setting of the fort hotel was really good. Each room is designated as some specific 'mahal'. After freshening up and having some short nap, we sat in the terrace chitchatting with tea & sandwiches. There were some clouds scattered in the sky though though we were praying desperately that it shouldn't rain! The journey to Manali and then Rohtang would be in a mess in that case! In between the 4th vehicle joined us from Ludhiana, Amar in his newly acquired Gypsy King. The evening was leisurely and Suranjana a.k.a. Travelaholic used this opportunity for some experimentation with the camera.

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Few attempts on the night shots of the city of nalagarh.

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The terrace at night

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We had an early dinner around 8.30 with a nice buffet meal at the fort's dining hall and called it a day rather early.
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Old 5th December 2010, 18:41   #13
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Excellent one. Was it sponsored? Please provide some details about the costs involved and the other logistics managed. EOW is what I think it means? Economic...
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Old 5th December 2010, 23:36   #14
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Exellent writeup, waiting for the rest of the trip, any ideas why a short distance in the first day? usually i have read people pushing it to Manali?
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Old 6th December 2010, 07:38   #15
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Excellent one. Was it sponsored? Please provide some details about the costs involved and the other logistics managed. EOW is what I think it means? Economic...
Well EOW stands for Expedition On Wheels, a venture pioneered by Sanjay Madan (who had been to Leh in a Nano this year) and his friend Mandeep ('renegade' in Tbhp). No there was not any industrial sponsorship except contribution from the participating vehicles' owners and occupants As per logistics managed, as i have mentioned, those were accommodation and fooding, on-road assistance ranging from technical help for vehicles, medication in case of any discomfort in the higher altitude areas, route guidance etc. In a gist, it is like, taking the journey being a part of the convoy and rest of things taken care of by them. Cost this year was 55k for two persons for a 13 day trip! The detailed itinerary was there in their website expeditiononwheels.com but its seems its not functioning properly now.

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Exellent writeup, waiting for the rest of the trip, any ideas why a short distance in the first day? usually i have read people pushing it to Manali?
Yes, usually people go to manali on the 1st day from Delhi. In our case the halt at Nalagarh was to have a easy drive on the 1st and 2nd day so that 3rd day onwards the actual journey enroute Rohtang could be taken in a comfortable manner. Reaching Manali on the 1st day and then starting for Rohtang immediately the day after and that too early morning is bit hectic at least for the first timers.
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