The Plan and Day 1
The original plan was to drive two 4x4ís to Ladakh, enjoy lots of off-roading, take the difficult routes, avoid the mainstream tourist circuits/routes (wherever we can), enjoy the solitude.
Few months prior to the trip the plan was hatched in our small Gurgaon Team-BHP friends circle. We planned to drive Fortuner (Rohitís car, tbhp id: AceF355) and XUV-500 AWD (my car), trip duration was planned for 2 weeks, with open to discussion itinerary and dates.
Unfortunately, 2 of the guys had to drop out of the plan later on, so we had to change the plan for just two of us in Fortuner. Incidentally just a week before the trip, Rahul (tbhp id: rhandle) was also headed to Ladakh, with his friends in his friendís Storme 4x4, so we made the plan to do the initial few days together and then would continue with the mainstream tourist circuit as his friends were first time visitors to the place.
Sach pass is one of the routes I always wanted to do, but could never accommodate in any of my earlier plans, there was no better route than Sach pass for starting this trip as Kashmir route was closed due to unrest and Manali route is a bad start to the trip because of the hassle of getting permits, and the tourist rush. So we planned to reach either Dalhousie or Chamba before Sunset on first day, even though the time required to reach these places is shorter in comparison to first night halts on the other two routes, we still pushed for an early morning start to avoid the monsoon traffic chaos, it was just the previous day when the Gurgaon was choked in the famous jam.
All the shopping and preparations were completed a day earlier, with the packing done later in the night, the check list checked over and over again just make sure nothing is forgotten at home. And only being two guys in fairly roomy vehicle (Fortuner), we had the luxury of carrying as much luggage as we wished. The packing list anyways over the years has grown through the trips, usually items that were missed in the earlier trips are added. Although we did not wish to do camping, we included stuff like Camping chairs, Stove, easy to cook instant food for day breaks, and a lot of packaged food, beverages, Icebox, emergency kit, rescue kit, tow ropes, blankets, pillows, camera bag and Ö.what not.
The end result was the car was full till the roof, we even had to fold the larger portion of the middle row seat to squeeze in stuff. Actually the usable space in Fortuner in noticeably less than my XUV due to high floor in boot and hanging type last row seats occupy a lot of space, more so because last row seats in my car are removed, then we also had a subwoofer in the boot and Icebox also has its permanent place there. The only issue was the car filled till the roof in the boot and IRVM was no longer usable.
We were able to start from Gurgaon as per the planned time, even the other team (Rahulís car) started the same time from Noida. The assembly point was planned at Murthal dhabas, we reached there first and waited for Noida team to arrive. We had a heavy breakfast, planned our lunch break somewhere in Punjab, even though after the heavy breakfast we were not sure if we would require Lunch anymore. We were on the road by 8 am.
Even with the rains, the traffic was light and we were cruising at a steady pace all throughout, no long breaks just a few refreshment breaks. The drive was comfortable, and for a change after ages sitting on the passenger seat was relaxing. The drone from the super loud M/T tyres is annoying, clearly M/T tyres make little sense for highway touring, especially during rains the loss in grip is too big a compromise. For current standards, the D4-D engine sounds harsh but we had the awesome audio setup in the car to cancel all this annoying drone.
We took the lunch break at McDonaldís between Jalandhar and Pathankot. By 0230pm we were already in Pathankot, pretty early compared to the our planned time, so Rahul suggested we take the slower but more scenic alternate riverside route to Chamba since we already had lots of extra time and Chamba was nothing but a night stay for us. A few kilometres on the road, we spotted some trails going down to river bank and there we were at the river side for a break.