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Old 8th July 2019, 19:17   #1
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Default Jammu & Kashmir road trip in an Audi Q5 - 24 days, 7 snow clad mountain passes and 3600 km

Folks we came back, last month (June 19), from a once in a life time road trip through J&K.
I am posting below a fairly detailed travelogue with information about the places we visited, condition of roads (as in June this year), good time to visit and also a review of sort for the car (Audi Q5) that we used for this trip, from the view point of its suitability for such terrain, features that stood out and disadvantages. I love road trips and so does my wife and son. This was our 11th long distance trip (over 1000 kms) in 10 years. This was also the longest (in terms of days) and most challenging trip we have ever undertaken. Preparations started over 6 months ago and needed meticulous planning. The major places visited were Chandigarh (night halt and two nights on the return journey), Nurpur, Himachal (night halt), Batote in south Kashmir, Srinagar, Gulmarg, Kargil, Leh, Nubra Valley, Pangong lake, Lato (night halt), Gumer, district Lahaul, Himachal (night halt) and finally Manali (two nights). The time and distance chart that I prepared based on Google Maps is posted below. I'm going to focus mainly on the J&K part of the trip and little bit on the Himachal part (District Lahaul) as the rest (Nurpur, Manali & Chandigarh) are nothing new.

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Preparations included putting together a comprehensive medical kit (we took advise from a doctor friend) and buying items which will make the travel experience more pleasant. These included a fold-able boot organizer (for quick access stuff), micro fiber cleaning gloves and cloth, disposable vomit bags, tire puncture repair kit, a flexible dust bin for inside the car, sun screen etc. Of course arrangements for night stay for the entire 24 days was booked and confirmed months in advance. The Kashmir part of the stay was in army guest houses (as I'm a veteran and wanted to be careful with family along) and the rest were all through online travel portals.

About the Car. Audi Q5 is not really a SUV. Its more like a large hatchback - crossover if you will.

What inspired confidence :
1) The build quality and the feeling of safety inside is exemplary.
2) The slightly above average ground clearance (200 mm or 8 inches). But there's a caveat which I discovered during the trip.
3) Excellent engine mated to the Quattro AWD system which makes superb use of the available power and torque in most road conditions.
4) Audi quality and reliability.

What caused apprehensions :
1) The spare wheel is not a full sized one. So a through-cut in one of the tires would leave us vulnerable in remote and hostile terrain.
2) Any kind of mechanical failure would be hard to address with no Audi outlets in Kashmir and Ladakh.
3) The car was almost four years old.(However, the odo reading being 24000 kms, this was not a big concern)

I changed all four tires and both the batteries. That reduced our concerns to quite an extent. Also, being a veteran I was hopeful of being pulled out of any sticky situation by a nearby army unit. I had painfully compiled the contact details of all such units along our route. I consulted with friends and read a lot of online experiences put up by people on Trip adviser etc. People regularly do similar trips in the humble Alto and even the Nano. The die was cast.

The large black bag to the right contained all our heavy woolens and we did not intend to remove it from the car till Leh. As it turned out we only needed to remove it at the Pangong Lake - once in the entire tour! At other places we simply took out what we needed and left the bag in the car. My wife was very proud of this idea.

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The journey started on 02 Jun. We left the house at around 0630 AM to beat the NCR traffic (it was Sunday, which helped) and had a fairly smooth exit from Delhi (and that's saying a lot). The alloo paratha breakfast at Murthal is now standard fare for NCR folks.The GT road, except for around 7 or 8 flyovers - under construction between Murthal and Panipat- is now excellent and we made good time. This is the kind of road the Q5 is most at home in. The quite cabin with non existent NVH, excellent suspension, nice climate control, a fairly good ICE all conspired to make the journey comfortable. These aspects would hold good through out the journey.

The over night stay at Chandigarh was restful.

03 June. We started for Nurpur at around 0800 AM and planned to visit Anandpur Sahib Gurudwara which fell en route.

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By 1600 hours we were at our destination in Nurpur. The stay at Nurpur (in a private hotel) was comfortable.

04 June. We started for Batote (an army camp in south Kashmir) where we had planned our night halt, at 0900 hours. The road from Nurpur to Batote (located just across the Chenani- Nashri tunnel) was a mix of good, bad and ugly. The stretch from Udhampur to the tunnel was mostly under construction, muddy and slow to negotiate. The 9 km long C-N tunnel was a revelation. The construction quality ( two way, four lane), air exhaust system, signage, lighting makes it a world class project. We reached Batote at 1400 hours. Army does not permit photography of its facilities in J&K. A picture below of the view from the porch of our guest room.

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05 June. We started for Srinagar at 0900 hours. The road from Batote to Srinagar was pretty good and we could move at an average speed of 40 km/h. Aside from some bad patches (mostly made by land slides), the two lane, black top road was well maintained. The road moves along a fairly constant altitude of 4500-5000 feet and there are no passes, steep climbs or descents. Fourth June being Id, the traffic on the road was thin. The journey upto Banihal tunnel is mostly along river Chenab. The picture below will give you an idea of the scenery.

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Crossing the Banihal tunnel (9 kms long) brings one to North Kashmir, popularly known as the 'Valley' and also sometime referred to as 'Heaven on Earth'. Its a huge, flat, green plateau. The sudden change in scenery is enchanting, breathtaking even. The road here onward is pretty good. Its still the NH 44 we started on from Delhi. This route now remains open most of the year.

This curve in the road, immediately after crossing the Banihal Tunnel, provides the first panoramic view of the 'Valley'.
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The road from Banihal to Srinagar is an excellent, two way, four lane.
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After a halt for lunch at Anantnag - Amigos is a nice restaurant with cool selection of local and western cuisine - we reached our army guest house in Badami Bagh cantonment in Srinagar at 1600 hours. The weather in the first week of June was a pleasant 28^C and did not go below 12 at night. So we did not have to dig out our heavy cavalry of clothing yet. The large suitcase remained inside the boot through out our Kashmir stay.

06 June. We left early (0800 hours) to explore Srinagar (altitude 5200 feet, visit time temp was 28/12^C). The visit to the Shankracharya Temple provides an excellent venue for a panoramic view of Srinagar. The drive along Dal Lake was nice, even though it was overcast and drizzling intermittently. We spent two hours strolling around in the lovely Chash-me- Shahi garden !! Both Shalimar and Nishat gardens, we felt, are overrated. An excellent late lunch at Ahdoos (briyani cooked the traditional kashmiri way was exquisite) brought a close to the day. We were back in the Cantonment by 5 pm. Its important to note that if you get stuck in Srinagar after 5 PM, you could spend hours sitting in the traffic.

A bird's eye view of Srinagar, with the river Jhelum meandering through.
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Significant efforts have successfully removed most of the surface weeds, making the lake look pristine.
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The excellent Chashme Shahi garden sprawled over 10s of acres of land.
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On 07 June we set out for Gulmarg at 0900h. A two hour drive (approx 60 kms) along a nice and picturesque road brought us to Gulmarg.

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Gulmarg (Altitude 8600 feet, visit temp- 22/4 degrees C, its colder than Srinagar but does not require the monkey caps to come out) is probably the best hill station in the country at the moment (little un-planned habitation, controlled commercialization, clean and, as yet, non-congested). Here too we stayed in an army guest house. The sprawling meadow in the middle of Gulmarg bowl is a photographer's dream.

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Next morning, 08 June, we met up with some friends from Noida who had come directly by air to Srinagar and took the cable car to the top of Mount Apharwat, nearby. The Gulmarg cable car is one of the highest and longest in the world and takes you from around 8000 feet to 14000 feet over a 5 km long cable, implemented in two phases of 3 and 2 kms each with a changeover station in the middle. The view at the top is worth it all. It was completed by a French company in 2005. Remember to reach the start point early as the line up for the tickets tends to get long.

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We came down from the cable journey in time for lunch and then headed back for Srinagar, where we planned to spend the night, before our on-ward journey to Ladakh the next day.

09 June. We started at 0700h to beat the Srinagar traffic and were clear of the city by 0730 h and well on our way to Sonamarg, where we planned to have breakfast with an army friend.

This pic was taken just short of Sonamarg on the banks of river Sind.
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Capt Sood is an army engineer and on deputation to BRO (Border Roads Organisation) which is a govt road construction company. He is based at Sonamarg and responsible for maintaining the road from Sonamarg upto Zojila Pass. He helped us get across the pass smoothly.

The picture below taken on reaching the Pass.
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The Zojila Pass constitutes a nice plateau with some options for fun for the tourists. Many were just happy playing with the snow.

Himmat had a great time riding around on the 'Snow Scooter'.
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Another view of the Zojila Pass
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The road immediately after the pass, for about 5 kms, on the Ladakh side is terrible. It was all unpaved with deep gorges (potholes would be an understatement). And it was here we experienced our first underbelly scrape. The Q5 specs state 200 mm of GC but i suspect that is unladen clearance which gets reduced when fully loaded. Further, the long wheel base doesn't help if your front wheels are in one hole and the rear in another. Thirdly, the front plastic protection bumper located just ahead of the front wheels often scrapes the ground if the vehicle is in descent mode. We took about 40 minutes to negotiate the 5 kms. I inspected the underbelly at Drass (about 40 kms ahead) on a road side ramp used for car washing. Thankfully, every thing appeared OK. Some of the underbelly protection plates on the Q5 are made of plastic/fibre and kept in place by plastic press locks! Many of these had popped out by the time we reached back at Noida. That day I was left wishing these plates were made of steel (hope someone from Audi reads this).

The rest of the road upto Drass was good and we made the forty odd kms in about two hours with some halts for photography.

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We had lunch with an army friend, Brig Ganapathy, at his residence in Drass, visited the Kargil War Memorial(pic below) which was a few kms ahead and then left for Kargil (another 50 kms ahead) at about 4 PM. Drass (altitude 10700 feet), incidentally, happens to be the second most coldest place on Earth (after Siberia!!). Winter time night temp can go down to -40^C.. In early June it was a pleasant 22 degrees C in the afternoon.

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We reached Kargil at 1830 hours. The road from Drass to Kargil is a nice two lane and more importantly it had fewer curves. Just before reaching Kargil, the car TPM indicated that the rear right wheel had lost pressure. I stopped and inspected the tire and found a small nail embedded. I refilled the air with an electric pump. Luckily help was at hand. A thirty minute stop at a gas station in Kargil and the tire was back in shape. This was the only instance of tire puncture we faced during the trip. We also topped up the diesel here. The night stay was in a very comfortable army guest house

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Old 10th July 2019, 10:34   #2
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Default Re: J&k Road Trip, 24 days, 7 Snow Clad Mountain Passes, 3600 kms, Audi Q5

10 June. We left at 0900h on June 10[/b] to meet up with our friends from Noida and together visited a NHPC project just outside Kargil.


A micro NHPC Project on river Suru near Kargil
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At 1100 h we were on our way to Leh- 170 kms to the east of Kargil. The road from Kargil to Leh is simply superb and should be ranked among the top 10 most beautiful drives in the world and I am not exaggerating!! The average altitude of the road is around 12000 feet above MSL. The road is a proper two lane, well marked, good signage, smooth, good quality surface and with sandy shoulders. The Audi Q5, dynamic drive mode + gear lever on S and we were doing a constant 50-60 kms/h on a magic carpet - floating among the ridges of the great Himalayas. The dynamic drive mode reduces body roll somewhat and brings a bit more ‘feel’ to the steering wheel. The sports gearing keeps the RPM high and the car eager to accelerate. In the normal mode if one is cruising at 60 along a mountain road and suddenly come upon a hair pin bend, followed by a steep climb, the Q5 tends to become flat footed. The Q5 sports gearing was perfect, making every ‘curve cum elevation’ a pleasure to negotiate. The panoramic sunroof shield was off making the in car ambiance unreal. Add to that almost zero traffic, daytime temperature of around 10 degree C with bright sunshine- i am at a loss for words here. Euro rail journey (upper deck) through Swiss Alps comes to mind. Hope some of the pics below give you an idea of the experience we went through. I would love to do this again.

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One of the many pretty ladakhi villages one crosses along this route. Most of the housed constructed from local materials tend to make the village merge into the background.
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This picture was taken at a View Point immediately after crossing the Fotu La (altitude 13500 feet)
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We had a sumptuous lunch at the beautiful village Lamayuru (pics below), which has a number of restaurants.

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Made a brief stop at Gurudwara Pather Sahib, which is about 10 kms short of Leh.

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Immediately after Pather Sahib one begins to descend into the Leh Valley. The first sight from the road is spell binding. All tiredness of the day drained away.

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A closer look at the Leh Valley with the river Indus flowing through.
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We reached our Guest House - Silver Cloud - at 6 PM. Silver Cloud turned out to be surprisingly comfortable. The room, especially, was large, well furnished, had heating and a view of the surrounding mountain tops. The attached toilet had running hot water.

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11 June. We went out walking to visit the Leh town (altitude 11500 feet, max/min temp of 20/10^C) and spent most of the morning strolling around the market place.

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Look Maa no cars! The market boulevard is completely devoid of vehicles. Even cycles are not allowed!!
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And after a very nice lunch at the popular Tibetan Kitchen of mutton Zagleb, Noodles and Momos, we were back in our room at around 5 PM. Silver Cloud gave us a very nice Ladakhi vegetarian dinner, sitting down in their tradition dining room, at 730 PM.

The next day, 12 June, we visited the recommended sights around Leh - the Shanti Stupa, Leh Palace etc.

The Shanti Stupa
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A monastry overlooking Leh town
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The famous Leh Palace, woven into the rocks ! It was constructed in the 16th Century, abandoned after the Dogras invaded Ladakh in the 19th century and has recently been restored by the Archaeological Survey of India. Its a World heritage site now.
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A bird's eye view of Leh town
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We had lunch at another excellent restaurant called Bon Appetit which has a small and unique list of international cuisine. Please note that most of Ladakh is vegetarian and there are very few non veg restaurants (Bon Appetit is one of them).

Dinner was again at Silver Cloud- bread baked in traditional ladakhi mud oven along with vegetable stew and baked vegetables- delicious.

13 June. We started our journey from Leh to Nubra Valley at 0900h. The route was to pass over the famous Khardungla Pass (approx 18000 feet altitude) about 40 kms from Leh.The total distance of 130 kms was planned to be covered in 06 hours. Here the Audi Quattro system really shone. It had been snowing on the pass for the past 48 hours and about 10 kms of road on each side of the pass was covered in upto a foot of snow. Most of other cars and vehicles were forced to use chains on the tires. The Q5 went over without a hitch. I did not feel any drift or spin. The vehicle remained rock steady.

Picture taken about 10 kms short of K Pass has the Leh valley in the background.
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5 kms short of the Pass
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By 11 AM, we were at the Khardungla Pass.
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The valley you see behind Himmat is the Shyok river valley. The next picture will show you the reverse view from about 50 kms ahead.
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Its a good idea to spend at least 20 minutes on the passes. There is a unique magical energy to them. Everybody around seems in 'high' spirits (pun unintended ) After crossing the K Pass we were in the Shyok river valley and the road moves along the river upto the point where Nubra joins the Shyok river (approx a 100 kms ahead) and then together move into Pakistan and join the Indus.

The reverse view of Shyok with K Pass in the background taken 50 kms ahead of K Pass.
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Last edited by moralfibre : 16th July 2019 at 09:35. Reason: Minor edits
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Old 10th July 2019, 11:47   #3
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Default Re: J&k Road Trip, 24 days, 7 Snow Clad Mountain Passes, 3600 kms, Audi Q5

We had a brief halt for maggi noodles and chicken curry lunch at Khardung village and then moved on to our destination - the Nubra Eco Lodge - where we were booked to stay for the next three days. Nubra valley is at an altitude of 11000 feet. The day time temp was around 12 degree C and it was possible to roam around in a light jacket. Nights are cold.

Another view of Shyok River with K Pass in the background about 15 kms short of the Nubra Valley.
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Picture below was taken at the mouth of Nubra Valley and about 5 kms short of Nubra lodge.
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The red pin shows the location of Nubra Eco Lodge
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A word about the Nubra Eco Lodge. It is probably one of the best places to stay in the Nubra Valley. Our stay included breakfast and dinner and we found both to be delectable. The room was large and comfortable with a super view of the mountains all around. Hot water was available 24 h. The staff was motivated and friendly and always eager to help. Perfect place for curling up with that book we all want to read. By the end of three days we were left wishing we had booked it for a week.

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The picture below of the Nubra river was taken a few hundred meters from the lodge.
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14 June. We visited the Siachin Glacier Base Camp. Nowadays, armed forces families (accompanied by the AF member/ veteran) are permitted to visit the Base Camp in summer months after taking permission from the local army commander. Earlier it was not so. The base camp was exactly 92 Kms from the Nubra Lodge and we reached there in about 3 hours (with frequent photo halts). The road was narrow but well maintained by BRO.

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The picture below, taken half a km short of Base Camp shows the camp area (blue line) and the Siachin Glacier – where it melts and becomes the Nubra river (red line).

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We visited the SBS - Siachin Battle School - which trains the soldiers before they are sent to forward operational positions facing Pakistan. We also visited the Siachin War Memorial and had lunch with an Infantry unit under- going training there. I had been posted at the Glacier in 1994 with my unit. I was happy to note that the soldiers now are being kitted with probably the best high altitude fighting kit available in the world.

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We started back for the Nubra Lodge at 1530 h.

The Siachin means rose bush place (Sia means Rose bush and Chin means place). The Nubra valley is full of these bushes. One of my favourite pics below.
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We reached back at the Nubra Lodge at 1800 hours.

15 June. We visited Hunder which is actually located on the banks of the river Shyok (about 20 kms west from the confluence with Nubra). This is a popular tourist destination and where 80% of the visitors stay. The land scape is a mix of sand dunes, green valleys and barren mountains. The road was again narrow but well maintained

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The large areas in the river valley consisting of sand dunes is the home of the famous Double Humped Camel and we saw many tourists giving a ride to their kids on them. Other attractions at Hunder included ATVs for riding the sand dunes. Himmat and his mother had a whale of a time on these.

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Another important point to note is that there is a gas station at Diskit which is about 10 kms ahead of Hunder when returning to Nubra. We topped up the fuel tank as the next gas station would be at Karu after we finish the Pangon visit - about 400 kms to go. We returned to the lodge by 1830 h and began our preparations for the move to Pangong Tso lake the next morning.

Last edited by Inder7 : 13th July 2019 at 08:58.
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Old 10th July 2019, 13:00   #4
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Default re: J&K road trip - 24 days, 7 snow-clad mountain Passes, 3600 km in an Audi Q5!

16 June. We left for the Pangong Tso lake, 170 kms along the direct route. I am happy to report the road, apart from a some bad patches ( maybe a total of 15-20 kms out of 170), is now excellent. We started at 0700 hours. Nubra Lodge gave us a nice packed breakfast. We covered the distance in 6 hours including an hour for breakfast and photo stops and were at Spangmik by 1300 hours. Please note that the road from ‘Zero point’ ( where you first see the lake) to Spangmik is badly broken and beyond Spangmik it’s a mud track.

Jammu & Kashmir road trip in an Audi Q5 - 24 days, 7 snow clad mountain passes and 3600 km-pangong-1.jpg
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The lake is at an altitude of 14000 feet and the day time temp hovers around +4 or 5^C, if the sun is out. At night its mostly sub zero. However, its the wind, that generally starts blowing after 2 PM, which brings the killer chill effect and staying outdoors becomes difficult. You will require serious protection. The morning hours are still, warm and excellent. Try and leave the room by 0700 AM, then you will get about 6-7 hours for sight seeing, photography etc


Pictures below of village Spangmik where we stopped for lunch.

Jammu & Kashmir road trip in an Audi Q5 - 24 days, 7 snow clad mountain passes and 3600 km-spangmik-1.jpg
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After lunch, we left for our final destination at Man village where a Ladakhi Home Stay was booked through 'Mountain Homestays'. This was again a three night stay. Dorjay was our host and he gave us the best room in the house. In fact, since no other guest arrived during our stay, we had the entire first floor to ourselves. Dorjay's mother did the cooking and served us some delicious ladakhi delicacies. Dorjay had a solar water heating arrangement and the water was supplied in buckets, just before the bath, each morning.

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17 June; I woke up on the morning to find a ceremony happening in front of the house (pic below). It was brief and got over by 0700 AM. 17 June was a full moon day.

The picture below also includes the Dorjay family. The person standing with back to camera is Dorjay's dad, the lady on the right with a plate full of cookies is Dorjay's mom and the person sitting on the right with dark glasses is Dorjay himself.
Jammu & Kashmir road trip in an Audi Q5 - 24 days, 7 snow clad mountain passes and 3600 km-dorjay-1.jpg

Also remember there is no mobile connectivity beyond ‘Zero point’. There are some spots that you may find the bars appearing – that is if you are carrying a post paid BSNL sim. Expect a black out if you plan to stay at Man or beyond.


Man Village, the blue arrow indicates Dorjay Homestay.
Jammu & Kashmir road trip in an Audi Q5 - 24 days, 7 snow clad mountain passes and 3600 km-man-1.jpg

Sheep farming appeared to be the mainstay of the village. The beautiful and unique fur on these Ladakhi sheep provides the raw material for pashmina shawls.
Jammu & Kashmir road trip in an Audi Q5 - 24 days, 7 snow clad mountain passes and 3600 km-man-2.jpg


We decided to take a drive around Man village and go upto Merak along the new road under construction to join the two villages. The elevated semi constructed track gave us some unique opportunities for pictures!!
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Merak Village- a typical ladakh farm house. Most do Homestay business.
Jammu & Kashmir road trip in an Audi Q5 - 24 days, 7 snow clad mountain passes and 3600 km-merak-1.jpg


Many people who visit Pangong, decide to stay at Spangmik and then return back. In this case they would have only seen about 10-15 % of the lake. If you make a trip to Man you will see about 35 %. A visit to Merak village will have shown you 70% of the lake. If you wish to see 100% of the lake visible from India then you should plan to visit Chushul !

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A couple of pictures below taken from the roof top of Dorjay's home on the evening of 17 June. The full moon was up well before sunset.
Jammu & Kashmir road trip in an Audi Q5 - 24 days, 7 snow clad mountain passes and 3600 km-pangong-10.jpg
Jammu & Kashmir road trip in an Audi Q5 - 24 days, 7 snow clad mountain passes and 3600 km-pangong-11.jpg

18 June. We had planned to visit Chushul but it started snowing and we had to give up our plan. So we spent the day strolling around the lake side near Man village.

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Pangong Tso lake is a beautiful and captivating place, a wonder of nature that everyone must strive to experience once in their life time! However, its genuine high altitude and requires you to be well acclimatized to enjoy the place, else you could fall seriously ill. If you are planning to visit Ladakh by air, then you must spend at least three days at Leh before venturing towards Pangong. Better still, plan to visit Nubra after Leh.

Last edited by Inder7 : 12th July 2019 at 12:51.
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Old 10th July 2019, 19:16   #5
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Default Re: J&k Road Trip, 24 days, 7 Snow Clad Mountain Passes, 3600 kms, Audi Q5

Before I start with the return journey a word about bikers. We found bikers everywhere in Ladakh, probably the most popular method of touring Ladakh. Consequently, hiring of MCs is big business both in Manali and Leh. Of course, many people come on their own bikes too.

Jammu & Kashmir road trip in an Audi Q5 - 24 days, 7 snow clad mountain passes and 3600 km-bikers.jpg

On 19th June, we started our journey back home. The first part of the route would need us to pass through Durbuk, cross the Chang La ( altitude 17688 feet), the second highest motorable pass in the world) and then reach Karu - a small town and military station.

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A monastry along the Chang La - Karu road
Jammu & Kashmir road trip in an Audi Q5 - 24 days, 7 snow clad mountain passes and 3600 km-pss02800_edited.jpg

Picture taken on the outskirts of Karu
Jammu & Kashmir road trip in an Audi Q5 - 24 days, 7 snow clad mountain passes and 3600 km-durbuk-karu-rd-3.jpg

The pretty Karu town with the Indus flowing through
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Karu also has the famous Hemis Monastry, the most revered place in Ladakh.

Jammu & Kashmir road trip in an Audi Q5 - 24 days, 7 snow clad mountain passes and 3600 km-hemis-1.jpg

The inside of the monastry - beautiful and elegant.
Jammu & Kashmir road trip in an Audi Q5 - 24 days, 7 snow clad mountain passes and 3600 km-hemis-2.jpg

We had lunch at a roadside restaurant in the Karu market. Food was standard 'Dhaba' fair. Over spicy and overcooked. We ordered some extra curt and added it to both the vegetable and dal. After lunch we topped up our fuel tank. Karu is one of the very few places where a gas station is available. The next one would be Tandi in Himachal about 400 kms away!

Lato would be the first of two night halts we needed to reach Manali from Karu, a distance of around 440 kms. Lato GH turned out to be a comfortable place (altitude 13500 feet). The room had an attached toilet with water heater. Night time temperatures were sub zero. The family runs a road side restaurant where all meals are served. Lato is a small ladakhi village with less than 30 houses. The place, however, is charming and we wished we had planned on two nights there. For pictures you may visit the following site : https://www.tripadvisor.in/Hotel_Rev...7&ff=249004359

20 June. After a restful night halt at Lato Guest House we started our journey to Gemur in Himachal at 0900h, where we intended to stay the night of 20 June. A distance of 270 kms which would take us over two passes - the TagLang La (altitude 17582 feet, also claiming to be the second highest) and the Baralacha La (altitude 15912 feet). The first 80 kms from Lato has an excellent two lane road including the part where it crosses the Taglang La pass and beyond- upto Pang.

Jammu & Kashmir road trip in an Audi Q5 - 24 days, 7 snow clad mountain passes and 3600 km-taglang-la.jpg

The road from Taglang La to Pang, about 65 kms is pretty good. More importantly its mostly straight - built in the center of the valley ! Its possible to cruise along at 80 Km/h or even more. Be careful about the causeways though. Unusually, BRO decided to make them black top in this stretch. They (the dips) are difficult to spot till you are practically upon them. And there are many.

Jammu & Kashmir road trip in an Audi Q5 - 24 days, 7 snow clad mountain passes and 3600 km-pss02817_edited.jpg

After Pang and upto Zing Zing bar (approx 130 kms), it’s a mix of good, bad and terrible. A 30 km stretch, 15 kms on both side of Sarchu, especially where the road runs along the river Tsarap is good. Another 60 Kms is bad and the rest is terrible. We heard those gut wrenching scrapes at least on three occasions. The part to be careful about is about 5 kms on both side of Baralacha Pass as it is strictly one lane with very few spots where you could cross with a truck coming from the other side. In June, the situation was made worse by un-melted snow on both sides, reducing the road width significantly. There are frequent traffic jams, as you can imagine and people regularly spend hours around the pass every day. We too faced an hour long jam. I guess the experience in August and September may be different.

Jammu & Kashmir road trip in an Audi Q5 - 24 days, 7 snow clad mountain passes and 3600 km-baralacha-pass_edited.jpg
Jammu & Kashmir road trip in an Audi Q5 - 24 days, 7 snow clad mountain passes and 3600 km-baralacha-la-2_edited.jpg

We finally reached Gemur at 1800h ( a nine hour drive !!)

At Gemur (altitude 10500 feet) we stayed at a tented camp (Camp Gemur Holidays) as both my wife and son wanted to have the experience. It was a comfortable place and we had a restful sleep. The dinner too was well made. However, hot water was scarce and in the morning we had to make do with the face wash routine.

21 June. We were finally ready to cross the Rohtang Pass and reach Manali. We started at about 0900 hours. The road upto the Pass is pretty good except for a 3 km stretch, just before the pass, which is under construction. This is a terrible stretch and needed very careful driving. We scraped bottom twice despite all precautions. Nothing serious though as it turned out. By 12 noon we had crossed the pass and started our descent down to Manali. And then we came face to face with the daily traffic jam which nowadays plagues the road from Manali to Rohtang. About 10000 vehicles of all sizes were trying to make their way down and an equal number trying to go up. The road is very narrow at many places and allows only one vehicle either way, especially the top 10 kms. There is little regulation of any kind.

Jammu & Kashmir road trip in an Audi Q5 - 24 days, 7 snow clad mountain passes and 3600 km-pss02822_edited.jpg

To cut the story short, it took us three hours to make the 20 kms down to Manali.

We had a two night stay booked at Ramgarh Heritage Villa, half way between Manali and Kullu. This is beautiful old world place, surrounded by orchards in a lovely, secluded spot. You may see the pictures here if you wish - https://www.ramgarhheritagevillamanali.com/gallery.html. This was a well deserved rest and we spent the time taking long walks, playing carom, reading and watching TV. Another two nights at Chandigarh (to meet up with some relatives and friends) and we were back in Noida on 25 June. Home sweet home!!

Finally, it was time to look at Trip Meter 2.

a) Distance covered - 3620 kms.
b) Average speed - 36 km/h.
c) Average mileage - 12.5 km/l.
(Diesel).

I had the Q5 checked at my favorite workshop in Noida and other than the few missing plastic locks from the bottom protection plates, the vehicle was in good fettle. So, we'll probably be doing Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan in the coming years and even have plans to visit Thailand, Malasia by road!!! Who knows even China is not too far ...Aah, the blessings of retired life.

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Old 13th July 2019, 23:48   #6
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Default re: J&K road trip - 24 days, 7 snow-clad mountain Passes, 3600 km in an Audi Q5!

Thread moved from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 14th July 2019, 11:39   #7
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Beautiful TL inder. Reminded me of the Leh road trip I have done with my family in May-June last year. We also stayed at the Ramgarh Heritage villa and indeed it is a much needed break after the journey. The stay is simply superb there.
Also, for anyone who is driving down from leh to manali , try to cross the rohtang pass on Tuesday as on Tuesdays the pass is closed for tourists . Luckily we passed rohtang on Tuesday and was quite happy to see an empty and serene rohtang without any tourists, which is famous for its hour long jams specially in June. Also it did not took us much time to reach Raison from there.

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Old 15th July 2019, 12:35   #8
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Default Re: Jammu & Kashmir road trip in an Audi Q5 - 24 days, 7 snow clad mountain passes and 3600 km

Nice travelogue with good pictures Inder7.

Just yesterday, I was going through all the pictures from my Ladakh trip, which happened during the same time four years back. We flew in and out of Srinagar so missed all the bits from the drive to Srinagar

Quote:
Many people who visit Pangong, decide to stay at Spangmik and then return back. In this case they would have only seen about 10-15 % of the lake. If you make a trip to Man you will see about 35 %. A visit to Merak village will have shown you 70% of the lake. If you wish to see 100% of the lake visible from India then you should plan to visit Chushul !
Due to a lack of time, we visited on Zero point, stayed the night there (can never that night with chill winds) and got back to Leh next morning. Should plan another trip to see more parts of Pangong Tso, hopefully till Chunsul.
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Old 15th July 2019, 15:07   #9
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Default Re: Jammu & Kashmir road trip in an Audi Q5 - 24 days, 7 snow clad mountain passes and 3600 km

This is one gem of a travelogue, very different from the one done with munching miles. this is more relaxed and serene. Kudos and best of luck for your future trips.
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Old 15th July 2019, 17:25   #10
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Well written travelogue with all the necessary details and tips. Truly a reference guide for new travelers to Leh. Heartfelt thanks sir.
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Old 15th July 2019, 18:04   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeevan Sukumar View Post
Truly a reference guide for new travelers to Leh. Heartfelt thanks sir.
Thanks a lot. I'm glad you liked it and hope its useful to future travelers.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NomadicLife View Post
This is one gem of a travelogue, very different from the one done with munching miles. this is more relaxed and serene. Kudos and best of luck for your future trips.
Thanks a lot for your kind words!!

When we first conceived the plan both my wife and I were agreed on the following :
a) The plan must allow for a relaxed and fun holiday.
b) We must stay long enough, at a place, to soak in the environment, culture.
c) The distances to be covered on any driving day must allow us to reach the destination by Lunch time or shortly after to provide for a unhurried drive and adequate rest. We wanted to enjoy the journey as much as the destination.

Last edited by ampere : 17th July 2019 at 06:52. Reason: back to back posts merged
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Old 16th July 2019, 12:30   #12
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Default Re: Jammu & Kashmir road trip in an Audi Q5 - 24 days, 7 snow clad mountain passes and 3600 km

24 days trip! Wow!



This is the type of travel one has to do when visiting a place of beauty. No need to rush to next spot, no need to move from a spot since your days are limited - but take all the time to enjoy the drive and the locations! Well done, @Inder7!



Even your narration gives a very casual and relaxed feeling.



Would be great if you can share the mediums used to book the stays, as well.
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Old 16th July 2019, 12:32   #13
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Default Re: Jammu & Kashmir road trip in an Audi Q5 - 24 days, 7 snow clad mountain passes and 3600 km

Thank you for taking the time out to pen this brilliant travelogue and for the mesmerizing pictures Sir! I absolutely loved the relaxed pace of your itinerary as well as your narration which is indeed a welcome break. It indeed takes a brave heart and some additional "Himmat" to take a luxury german into these tracks, great to hear that the Q5 handled all of this without too many battle scars :-)

And finally, I have not had the privilege to serve but come from a family of brave hearts like yourself so THANK YOU for your service!
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Old 17th July 2019, 18:54   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HappyWheels View Post

Would be great if you can share the mediums used to book the stays, as well.
Thanks for your response!!
I normally use Tripadvisor and Booking.com, unless a friend or colleague gives a reference.
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