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Old 22nd May 2021, 11:40   #1
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Default Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4

This travelogue is about my trip to Zanskar valley in October 2020, via the newly opened Shinku La pass.



Route covered: Navi Mumbai - Ahmedabad - Manali - Atal tunnel - Shinkula - Padum - Umbala - Dras - Srinagar bypass - Daksum - Sinthan top - Cliffhanger - Killar - Sach pass - Chamba - Ahmedabad - Navi Mumbai.

Review Index:

Preparation, Day 1, 2 & 3: Navi Mumbai - Ahmedabad - Manali

Day 4: Manali - Atal tunnel - Gondhla - Kardang - Keylong

Day 5: Keylong - Darcha - Shinkula - Kargyak - Purne - Padum

Day 6: Padum - Pensila - Rangdum - Prakachik - Panikhar - Sankoo

Day 7: Sankoo - Umbala - Dras - Zojila - Srinagar - Sumbhal - Daksum

Day 8: Daksum - Sinthan top - Kishtawar - Gulabgarh - Tyari / Cliffhanger - Killar

Day 9: Killar - Sach pass - Satrundi - Kalaban - Bairagarh - Chamba

Day 10, 11 & 12: Chamba - Pathankot - Murthal - Ahmedabad - Navi Mumbai



This was a pending trip since 2019 and the moment we got a window, we decided to do the trip. The vehicle used was my 3.2Litre 4x4 Ford Endeavour.


Some of the Covid precautions we took:-
1) No overnight stopping anywhere on the highway. Drove non-stop from Ahmedabad to Manali and on the return from Chamba to Ahmedabad. At Ahmedabad we stayed at one of the participants home.
2) Stopped at clean petrol pumps for bio breaks and food breaks.
3) Ate our food enroute. We had so much food with us that almost half was brought back. Breakfast and lunch was from the food we carried. Dinner was from the place we stayed, only at a few places.
4) Used our MSR stove for tea and food.
5) Wore masks for the entire trip.
6) No close contact with anyone.
7) Wherever possible we used wireless transactions upto Rs. 2000.


Highlights of the trip:-
1) Max. altitude = 16580 feet. at Shinkula pass.
2) Passes crossed = Shinku la, Penzi la, Umba La, Zoji La, Sinthan pass, Sach pass. Rohtang pass was bypassed as we took the Atal tunnel.
3) Crossed the newly opened Atal / Rohtang tunnel and Darcha bridge few days after their opening.
4) Minimum temperature experienced = Minus 10 deg. C. at Padum.
5) Total distance covered = 5320 kms.


So what’s special about this trip:-
We drove on the deserted track from Keylong to Padum via Shinku la Pass, an adventure for any traveler. This route is going to be an all weather route to Leh in the future, to facilitate military movements and to have 365 days access to Ladakh, which usually remains cut off from the rest of the country for 4-6 months in a year. At present, it is mainly a dirt track and fun for off roaders and bikers.
On the return trip, we crossed Cliffhanger into Pangi valley and then crossed Sach pass back home. Cliffhanger is another adventurous road.


An ancient track from Padum to Kargil already existed decades back, which is today's National Highway 301. The missing link for Zanskar Valley was the Darcha to Padum sector via Shinku la pass which was nothing but a trekking route. From Padum, the new route goes to Leh via Singe la pass, which was also a trekking route. The distant dream of having an all weather connectivity to Leh will be possible after the tunnel is built at Shinkula and the route is widened.

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The Nimmo-Padum-Darcha or NPD road alignment.
Source:
https://www.indiatoday.in/india/stor...978-2020-08-22


For decades, Zanskar remained cut off from Ladakh and the rest of the country for more than 6 months in a year. The only road connection in summer was a dirt track from Kargil to Padum, which also use to close during winters due to heavy snowfall. Being a cold desert, the winter temperatures would go down as low as minus 30 degress C. In winters, the people movement, if required was done over the frozen Zanskar river, which we call the Chadar trek today. On the other side, the people of Padum Valley would trek over the Shingo la pass towards Keylong-Manali. Such were the hardships of the Zanskaris as they remained cut off for maximum time in a year.


About Shinku La or Shingo La:-
This is a mountain pass on the border between UT of Ladakh and state of Himachal Pradesh. The pass is on a long-distance footpath linking Zanskar and Lahaul, used often by locals and trekkers alike.

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201022_093136.jpg

A rudimentary road from Darcha to Shingo La was first constructed in 2015. The road was extended to Lakong above the Kurgiakh-Chu river in 2017 and a very rough extension to the village of Kurgiakh was made by in 2018. The road is motorable but the road from Lakong to Kurgiakh had various water crossing over the Kurgiakh Chu river and so driving through was difficult for non 4x4 vehicles.
The winter of 2018/2019 did severe damage to both sides of the pass and in June 2019 the road was rebuilt. Although a biking group first visited the pass from Darcha side in 2015, bikers and private SUVs started visiting the pass from the summers of 2019 and some even in 2018. Full fledged local taxi movements started in 2019.


About Meme Chonjor and his efforts for the road:-
The initial road was constructed by 75-year-old Tsultrim Chonjor, fondly known as ‘Meme Chonjor, who comes from the remote village of Stongde in the Zanskar Valley of Ladakh.

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The former government employee, who was working with the State handicrafts department from 1965 to 2000, was unhappy at how remote and inaccessible the region was for the rest of the Indian mainland. As a result of this, the entire region of Zanskar, which falls under the Kargil district and is located at an altitude ranging from 11,500 to 23,000 feet above sea level, was for decades neglected by both the local and State administration.
The 292-km Darcha-Shinkula-Padam-Nimoo road was planned in 2001 but no interest was taken and it was only on paper.
Despite repeated pleas to the authorities, there was little action on the ground. However, Meme Chonjor wasn’t one to wait. He was determined to ensure that his efforts would make a difference to the lives of not just his fellow villagers, but also the rest of the region.
From May 2014 to June 2017, he single-handedly led efforts to construct a 38-km stretch of road from Ramjak, an inhabited area on the Jammu and Kashmir side of Shinkula pass, to Kargyak village, the first properly inhabited village in the Zanskar region. Out of nearly 80 lakh, he spent Rs 57 lakh from his own pocket after dipping into life savings and selling his ancestral property, Meme Chonjor pressed a JCB machine into action, set forth with five donkeys and constructed the road. The Border Roads Organisation later undertook road widening construction on this stretch and the entire route.
He even received funds from a few other locals, who were in favour of the road—Rs 5 lakh from the local councillor and another 2.5 lakh from a local merchant, among other locals. “Seeing the pain and suffering of others had inspired me to construct this road,” says Meme Chonjor.
This Republic Day of 2021, Chonjor was awarded Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian honor, for social work.



Route details are explained in this video.



Courtesy: A NOMAD ON WHEELS.

On our trip we took the Darcha - Shinku La - Padum route and exited to Dras via Umba La. The Padum - Nimmu route is left for some other time.




Recent development in 2021:-
Recently the government sanctioned the Shinku la tunnel project and approved a 4.25 kms. tunnel under the pass. While we were there, we could see workers around mainly for the survey work. While a longer tunnel was proposed last year, the government went with the shorter alignment to reduce the costs. Only time will tell if the decision is correct.
Read full story here: https://psuwatch.com/bro-tunnel-unde...fence-ministry


Above completes the introduction. Coming up with the details of my trip in the next post.

Last edited by ruzbehxyz : 5th June 2021 at 16:13. Reason: Errors
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Old 22nd May 2021, 17:13   #2
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Default re: Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4

I was planning for this trip from long time and it wasn't working out somehow. Finally in September there were talks in our Endeavour group for doing this trip. One of the members Mr. Chandra was planning this trip. So I vouched to join him and it was almost decided to take two Endeavours for the trip. I was going to be accompanied with my old travel buddy, Mr. Dharmesh Desai and Chandra with two of his friends. After one week of discussions, Chandra dropped his plan due to personal commitments at home. However I was eager to go but was worried about taking a lone vehicle to the unknown. I was not doubting the capability of the Endeavour, but was worried nevertheless as it could snow anytime in end October and we could get stuck.
During the week of planning, I got a call from Mr. Ashish Duggal who is also part of our Endeavour group. I met him only once at one of the off road events organized by our Ford Endeavour owners group. He showed keen interest, however I was a bit worried as he had not been to such heights. However I was later convinced, as I needed a secondary driver and we did not want to stop anywhere enroute. Finally it was decided that we three, Dharmesh, Ashish and I would do this trip in my Endeavour.



Preparations: Besides the standard items for a road trip, here are few items which I wish to mention.

Please note I am in no way commercially connected with any of these products. These products are personal preference and viewers here may have more better choice of products.


1) Two jerry cans each of 20 litres capacity, with a spout. I bought these from Olive planet, Bangalore.
Link: https://oliveplanet.in/20-ltr-steel-jerry-can.html and https://oliveplanet.in/jerry-can-spout.html


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2) Noco GB70 jump starter as temperatures would be negative and we had a diesel engine . In fact I always carry this in my car.

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-noco.jpg
Review: https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/modif...p-starter.html (Review: Noco GB70 jump starter)



3) Two pieces Maxtrax MKII in case we get stuck. I had got these from Australia
Link: https://www.maxtrax.com.au/product/m...nature-orange/


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4) Dr. Trust Oximeter.


5) Two numbers Portable oxygen can - OXY99.
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6) Diesel anti-freeze additive.
I bought one can from Amazon and wanted another one. Due to Covid, the deliveries were delayed so I contacted the seller in Shimla. He advised to cancel the order from Amazon and that he will directly courier it to a place of my choice, which will be faster. So I got him to courier it to our local contact in Palchan village near Manali (Mr. Singhiram Thakur, a close friend of Dharmesh).

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-wurth.jpg



7) Litres and litres of water - Two cases of 1 litre Bisleri - Total 48 litres. One 20 litres can. One 4 litres can and loads of small personal bottles. We also bought more water enroute.


8) OBD2 scanner for the SUV.


9) Extra tyre in addition to the stepney we already had. However we dumped it in Ahmedabad as it was taking lot of space in the boot.


10) MSR high altitude Butane/Propane gas stove.
This stove is very compact in size and good enough for 2-3 people.


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Day 1: Navi Mumbai - Ahmedabad.
Route: via NH48.
Date: Sunday, 18th Oct. 2020.
Distance: Approx. 555 kms.

Nothing exciting on day 1, except that it took us almost 12 hours because of heavy truck traffic. Ashish and I drove to Ahmedabad and we picked up Dharmesh from BAPS temple, Ahmedabad highway as he was staying close by at his in-laws place.
All three of us stayed overnight at Ashish's place and discussed further for the trip.

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201019_053009.jpg
Above is some of my stuff while packing for the next day. We still had to load and reset more luggage.


Day 2: Ahmedabad - Mehsana - Palanpur - Abu road - Pali - Beawar - Ajmer - Jaipur - Western peripheral expressway - Sonipat - Panipat - Ambala.
Date: Monday, 19th Oct. 2020.
Distance: Approx. 1150 kms.

Started early at 5.30 am and drove for the entire day. We crossed Ambala around 11pm.
From Ahmedabad we took the 2+2 lane Gujarat state highway into Rajasthan and joined NH48 at Beawar.
From Beawar we continued towards Jaipur and faced the usual heavy traffic on the Jaipur - Delhi stretch. After Bhiwadi and just before the outskirts of Delhi, we turned left on to the Western peripheral expressway which straight runs to Rai before Sonipat, about 95 kms. What a road! Was impressed with this 3 + 3 lane road as in 1.5 hours we were in Sonipat. From Sonipat we continued onto Grand trunk road and were amazed to see various Punjabi dhabas open even after midnight. Loads of cars were parked outside these dhabas giving an indication that they are full even at midnight. Enroute at Murthal, we saw Garam Dharam dhaba and decided to stop here on our return journey.


Day 3: Ambala - Bilaspur - Mandi - Manali.
Date: Tuesday, 20th Oct. 2020.
Distance: Approx. 330 kms.
We drove continuously overnight and reached Manali by 7am.

As per our plan, we checked into "Ride Inn".
Note: The suspension bridge leading to Ride Inn is very narrow and only one vehicle can pass.

Some pictures of Ride Inn.

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Ashish posing with the map at Ride Inn.
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Snehal and Godwin D’ Cruz, owners of Ride Inn in Manali, started this wonderful place a few years back and its been very famous among bikers, trekkers and travel enthusiasts.

Quote:
We are both professional hairdressers & chefs with an unyielding passion for travel. We have been exploring India extensively on two wheels for a few years now, our longest ride spanning over 6 months on the road across the length & breadth of India & Nepal. Having frequently visited the higher Himalayas, we fell in love with it and have made it our home. We look forward to hosting people in our humble Himalayan abode. Visit Ride Inn and we are sure to win you over with our delicious food, warmth and hospitality. Oh, and maybe a great haircut too.
– Sneh & Godwin.
https://rideinn.in/


(I am no way connected to Ride Inn)


Our story at Ride Inn:
We had a good hot shower and a warm lunch. Took some rest and later in the evening, we had a brief chat with Godwin and told him about our plan.
He warned us about the following:-
1) It can snow anytime and the road to Padum could be blocked.
2) Entire Ladakh is closed for tourism and the Autonomous council has directed the villagers not to give guest houses to tourists (Big issue).
3) There is hard ice / sleet few kilometers before Shinku la (No problem for the Endeavour).
4) After Shinku la there are various river crossings (No problem for the Endeavour).
5) The villagers near Padum are not welcoming tourists and we may have to spend the night in the car or better still pitch a tent. (We never carried a tent). Spending the night in a car in negative temperatures is not a good idea.
6) COVID tests were been done at various places in J&K.
7) His suggestion was to go upto Shinku la and come back.


All this demoralized us and we went back to our room. The discussion started and there were various questions across the room. What if this? and what if that? especially since we were going to unknown territory in a single car. Dharmesh had a local contact in Keylong and he called him up for more info. That guy also gave the same info and that it could snow anytime. He invited us to Keylong and check further.
So next day we decided to visit his place at Keylong (Hotel Snowland) and discuss further.


Coming up Day 4 in a new post.

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Old 23rd May 2021, 10:48   #3
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Default re: Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4

Day 4: Manali - Atal tunnel - Gondhla - Khardang - Keylong.
Date: Wednesday, 21st Oct. 2020.
Distance: Approx. 90 kms.

Altitude of places visited:-
Manali - 2050 m. / 7625 ft.
Palchan - 2873 m. / 9429 ft.
Gondhla - 3160 m. / 10,370 ft.
Keylong - 3150 m. / 10,330 ft.



As we decided the previous night, we would go to Keylong and stay at Hotel Snowland.
Enroute we decided to explore the Atal tunnel, Gondla village and fort, Tubchiling monastery and Kardang monastery.

We started early at 7am from Manali. Enroute we first went to Palchan village to pick up the Wurth diesel anti-freeze which was delivered at Shingiram's house.

I met Shingiram first in 2005 on one of my trips to Manali. Here I was meeting him after 15 years.

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_5189.jpg


After Palchan, we started for the Atal tunnel. It was a nice road with freshly laid tarmac.

A small video of the tunnel transit. You can see the amount of luggage carried. Most of it was food and water. I normally dont carry so much, but with Covid, the amount was increased.


For details of the Atal tunnel, you can refer this TBhp link: https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/stree...now-ready.html (Atal Tunnel - World's longest highway tunnel above 10,000 ft. is now ready)

The Atal tunnel "offically" opened on 03rd Oct. 2020 and we transitted on 21st Oct. 2020.

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Coming up with more on Day 4 in next post.

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Old 23rd May 2021, 11:23   #4
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Default re: Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4

Day 4 continued:

After crossing the Atal tunnel, we entered the beautiful Lahual valley. Since it was October, we were in Autumn. October is when Lahual-Spiti is beautifully covered with Autumn vibes. With Summer fading into Autumn, we witnessed the beautiful colours that this season brings. Also on a road trip you can truely get lost into the stunning views while driving.
It is around 30km. drive to reach the North End of the tunnel which lands you in Spiti Valley. The moment you come out of the tunnel, you are welcomed with a beautiful landscape. You can stop by the road side and enjoy the cool breeze.

Sissu Village is around 6 km from Tunnel's North End and first village on that way.

After Sissu, we stopped at Gondhla village.
The weather was crisp and there were different colourful shades all around. September and October really bring out the best in these valleys.

Some pictures.

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In Gondhla village, we visited the Gondhla tower or castle.

The Gondhla castle belonging to the local thakur (ruler) was built more than 300 years ago—locally called ‘Char.’ According to the District Gazetteer of Lahaul and Spiti, the fort was built in 1700 AD by Raja Man Singh of Kullu whose influence stretched till the Lingti plains beyond the Baralacha-la. This Raja also married a daughter of the Gondhla family to cement his ties with the Thakur. Raja Man Singh had stayed there in 1720 A.D. while on his way to Trilokinath Temple.

The tower is a seven-storey house with staircases made of wood and has a veranda running around the top. The wood that was used was supposedly taken from Manali. It is called Kath-Kuni style of architecture. Wood is locally called as Kath and corners are known as Kuni. One important characteristic of this style is the complete absence of diagonal or perpendicular member in construction, which gives the building flexibility to severe earthquakes. A mesh of interlocking wooden slippers is created. There are logs of wood in each wall and the building is made of stone.
In essence, the castle is an example of the indigenous timber-bonded stone style of the western Himalayas consisting of alternate courses of stone and wooden beams and cemented together. The fifth storey was exclusively meant for the Thakur. It consisted of personal prayer chamber and a verandah from where the Thakur used to listen to the public and later pronounce his judgements. Once the walls of the prayer chamber were painted all over in stone colours. Forty volumes of Kangyur can still be seen littered around and carelessly stacked on a wooden rack. Ganesha as the main deity carved on the façade of the prayer chamber. In one of the prayer chambers the window connecting the outer room is an exquisite work of wood carving. The 'jali' (net) carved on a single piece of wood looks exactly like the cane work.
The castle is now unoccupied and locked up, but it is still an impressive sight.

The local Thakur has in his possession the 'Sharab Raldi' i.e. 'Sword of Wisdom' of the Thakurs. This sword seems to have been built in the 'Toledo' technique of Spain. According to the Thakur, this sword was given to one of his ancestors by His Holiness Dalai Lama when that ancestor had fled to Tibet sick of the designs of the local people. The sword is not on display.


We enquired about the sword in the village, but never got a good response.

Some pictures.

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Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201021_093113.jpg  


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Default re: Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4

Day 4 continued:

From Gondhla, we moved further towards Keylong.
Enroute we stopped at Indian oil fuel pump at Tandi.

Some photos.

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Till a few years back, hundreds of stickers were placed on this sign board by some irresponsible tourists. Fortunately they have been taken off. This old sign board says that the next petrol pump is 365km to Leh. Actually this is not valid now, as a new pump has been opened at Karu some years back. Karu is 335 km. from here.

From Indian oil pump, Tandi, we took the narrow diversion (sharp U-turn) towards a newly built road going to some ancient monasteries. Within a kilometer or two we arrive at Tupchiling monastery.


About Tubchiling monastery:
Not much info could be found online, except that it is close to the more famous Guru Ghantal gompa, which involves a trek. It was earlier called Gandhla. The construction looks quite modern and we were fortunate to see it from the inside.

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201021_104421.jpg
The dirt track to the gompa.

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The plaque.

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Small video:


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Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_5504.jpg
A cute little girl we met near one of the villages enroute.


From Tubchiling we left for Kardang monastery.

About Kardang gompa:-
Kardang Monastery or Gompa is a famous Drukpa Lineage monastery near Kardang village and is one of the biggest monastery in Lahaul valley. Kardang was once the capital of Lahaul.

The monastery is a huge white building bedecked with prayer flags. It is situated on a ridge below the 15,000 foot (4,572 metres) Rangcha peak, at an altitude of 3,500m on the left bank of the Bhaga River, facing the town of Keylong, about 8 km away.

The monastery is believed to have been built in the 12th century and houses a large library of Buddhist literature. The monastery was in ruins until it was renovated in 1912 by Lama Norbu Rinpoche (died 1952), who, with Lama Kunga, turned it into a proper educational and training establishment. The old monastery temple was fully destroyed by rain at 1998. The new temple was rebuilt at 1999-2009 by present monastery head Lama Paljor.

This monastery has an old library, which is known as the largest Buddhist library in the country. The library has Kangyur and Tangyur scriptures written in the Bhotia or Sherpa language. The monastery has a vast collection of Thanka paintings, musical instruments such as lutes, drums, horns and some old weapons.

Unfortunately the gompa was closed due to Covid.

Some photos:-

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On the return journey we saw some horses with a little pony.

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In the same village we saw some kind of a dark vegetable, probably black cabbage.

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201021_125254.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201021_125302.jpg

From Kardang we drove back to Tandi, topped up diesel and then headed for Keylong.

Almost all of the Keylong hotels were closed and the village looked deserted. Even Snowland was closed for the season. The manager got it cleaned and opened up one room with three beds for us, as he was known to Dharmesh.

The route to the hotel from the Manali side passed through the Keylong market and was so narrow that I had to close my side mirrors on a few occasions.

The hotel is very simple and we had a good stay.

After some hot tea, we went on the terrace of the hotel and had a good view of Keylong.

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201021_141803.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201021_142537.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201021_141828.jpg

The Lady of Keylong.

The Lady of Keylong is actually a glacier and can be seen from Keylong. The name 'Lady of Keylong' was given by Lady Elashainghday about a century ago during the British rule. The glacier is situated at an altitude of about 6,061 meters, remains covered with snow throughout the year. But in the middle, there is seen a dark bare patch that looks like the figure of a woman, walking with a load on her back. It is also recorded as 'Lady of Keylong' by the geological survey team of India.

The same evening we had a long discussion with the manager and he gave us the same info that Godwin gave us. The main worry was that it could snow anytime. However he said that there is no issue for going to Shinku la and our vehicle can easily make it. No doubt !
On further discussion, he gave us a valuable peace of information. He said that there are quite a few local jeeps moving from Padum to Himachal. This gave us a sigh of relief as till date we always thought that we would be the only ones on the road and there would be no help enroute, mainly due to Covid.

The final decision was that we will go upto Shinku La and see.

After a hot meal at the hotel, we retired for the night at 10pm.

Coming up with Day 5 in next post.

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Day 5: Keylong - Darcha - Shinkula - Kargyak - Purne - Padum.
Date: Thursday, 22nd Oct. 2020.
Distance: Approx. 160 kms.
Total time: 12 hours. inclusive of stops.

Distances covered:-
Keylong - Darcha: 32 kms.
Darcha - Zanskar Sumdo: 18 kms.
Zanskar Sumdo - Shinkula: 18 kms.
Shinkula - Kargyak: 21 kms.
Kargyak - Purne: 22 kms.
Purne - Padum: 49 kms.
Note: These are approximate distances.



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Elevation comparison of various places on the route. Shinku la is not accurate.
Source: www.dreamladakh.com


If you type Keylong to Padum in Google maps, it will route you through Leh, probably because the route is not fully motorable and still a dirt track at various places. However this will change in a year or two.

This was the main day of our trip and we actually did not know that we would make it to Padum on the same day. Our target as per original plan was Purne because we wanted to visit the Phugtal monastery.

After some hot tea, we started off from Keylong at 6 am. Enroute we crossed the new bridge at Darcha, which was inaugurated a few days back.

Our video of the crossing:


About Darcha bridge:-

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Arial view of Darcha bridge.
Source: The Tribune.

Less than a fortnight after the inauguration of the strategically important Atal/Rohtang Tunnel, the 360 meter long Darcha- Barsi bridge, was opened to traffic on the Manali-Leh road on 12th Oct. 2020.

It is the second longest bridge of its kind in the country after the Col. Chewang Rinchen Setu across Shyok river on route to the world’s highest landing ground at Daulat Beg Oldie in Ladakh (related to Galwan conflict) towards Karakoram pass.
The Darcha bridge is a steel truss structure in which the load bearing super structure is constructed of a rigid assembly of steel beams. In addition to the abutments on either end, the length is supported by five piers arising from the river bed.

Besides improving the flow of traffic, the new bridge, would prove helpful in increased load carrying ability. Darcha is located in Lahaul region, about 33 kms ahead of Keylong, at a height of about 11,020 feet, which is the last permanent settlement on this route in Himachal.

Every year, with the water rise in Bagga river used to wash away the temporary Darcha bridge, which the BRO used to lay each time for mobility of traffic.

This new strategic bridge has changed the game for good. It took about 10 years to construct owing to the difficult terrain, inclement weather, limited working season and various stoppages.



A little ahead of Darcha, we left the Manali-Leh road and headed towards Shinku La. There was freshly laid tarmac and butter smooth roads for quite a few kilometres after Darcha. Probably by next year BRO will reach almost till the pass.

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_5618.jpg
This sign-board with Padum and Kargil deleted.


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_5638.jpg
Freshly laid tarmac.

The route from Darcha to Shinku La is about 39+ kms. and the following settlements are enroute - Rarig, Chikka, Palamo, Zanskar Sumdo. At Zanskar Sumdo, we crossed a bridge, turned north-east and climbed towards the pass.
A few kilometres before the pass, we got frozen ice / sleet on the road. I changed the Endeavour's mode to 'Snow/Mud/Grass' and carried on.
No issues at all. It was about 9 am when we reached the top of the pass.
We stopped to view the beauty around and had our breakfast. To our luck, we spotted a local jeep coming from Padum. We enquired about the route and the driver said that there's no problem and we can go. We had a superior vehicle, however we knew our limitations and also knew that these drivers are highly skilled, and traverse these roads even on 4x2 vehicles. The main thing was the positivity that he gave us and even some of the locals inside said that we can go easily. We had already made up our mind when we reached the top and the conversation with the locals boosted us even further. The weather was also clear and sunny. There were no signs of the possibility of snow. The only issue now ahead of us was night stay in negative temperatures


Some photos:-

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_5645.jpg
The beast.


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_5683.jpg
The climb to the pass.


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201022_093132.jpg
At the top of Shinkula .


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_5706.jpg
Ashish at the top of Shinkula.


Day 5 continued in next post

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Day 5 continued:

We started our decent from Shinku la towards Padum. Our target was Purne as we wanted to visit the Phugtal gompa.

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_5719.jpg
Survey work at the northern approaches.


After descending the pass, the route opens up into a valley with various river crossings. When the road was opened, these crossings were quite dangerous in summer. Now BRO has re-aligned the route at many places, to minimize the crossings.
The river is called Tsarap Lingti or Lakhang Chu (Chu means river in Zanskari) which originates at Shingo La.



Enroute we saw a lofty peak called Gumbok Rangan. Gumbok Rangan towers over us throughout the valley, a constant reminder of something huge pointing at you.

About Gumbok Rangan:-
Gumbok Rangan or Gumburanjon peak is an imposing solitary granite peak which rises majestically in the Kurgiak Valley of Zanskar.
The peak is at 5596 m. / 18,360 ft. above m.s.l. and about 1500 m. from its base.
Gumbok Rangan, or God’s Mountain, is considered to be holy by the local inhabitants who practice Tibetan Buddhism.
This mammoth granite rock is revered as a monastery. The Zanskaris believe that at every Tibetan New Year celebration, a devout few can hear the low beat of the drums and see the flickering of little lamps on this monolith.

The peak resembling a sharks fin, is an incredible rock feature, that would delight any rock-climber. I searched online but could not find any info of anyone having climbed it.

At the foot of the Gumburanjon mountain, one can find Himalayan Blue poppy flowering plants, which is often referred as Queen of Himalayan Flowers. These normally flower from June to September.


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-gumbo_ranjan.jpg
Source: https://www.insidehimalayas.com/gumb...cred-mountain/

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20210526_224414.jpg
The peak as seen from Google maps.

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Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_5748.jpg


The valley flattens out and with a gloriously shining sun it turns out to be one of the best days of our drive. It's a mixture of colours, with barren mountains and green fields around the hamlets, with yaks roaming around, munching on grass under the shadow of the mighty Gumbo Rangan peak.

After a few kilometres, we reached Kargyak or Kurgiak village, the first major village in Zanskar from Himachal side. Here we saw the check-post for mandatory Covid test. We were surprised to see a Covid test centre in a village, which does not even have proper electricity. All three of us were tested and the results were negative.

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201022_111200.jpg

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Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_5770.jpg

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Dharmesh getting tested.

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201022_115047.jpg
The negative test results.


Cultivable land is clearly scarce, but every available piece of flat land around these villages is irrigated by complex systems efficiently directing the glacial melting water to the crops. A fine balance is required for adequate water supplies, enough snow in winters, and plenty of sunlight to melt it.

We carried on further from here towards Purne, our plan for night stay. We were comfortable on the route and on time. However at all times we were thinking about the night stay, as everyone enroute said that it is difficult to get one.

A few kilometres after the village, we saw a red jeep coming from the opposite direction. I could make out that it's a private vehicle so waved my hand out. The jeep stopped and we saw two persons inside. And guess what! One of them was Zulfiqar Khan, who was an acquaintance of Ashish and the other was Savio Pereira from Bandra, Mumbai. Being a Bandra boy, I had seen him somewhere but could not recollect. What a small world !

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_5789.jpg
The 4x4 Mahindra Thar jeep.

After exchanging some pleasantries, we enquired for the stay in Purne and Padum. They suggested that we carry on till Padum, as Phugtal monastery may not be open for visitors and so there is no point to stay at Purne. They were also pretty sure that we would not get any accommodation enroute. However they gave us the local contact of a home stay in Padum, where they stayed the night before. They had got this stay arranged for themselves through some contacts. Since there was no cellular network in this area, we could not call the homestay owner in Padum.

Zulfiqar and Savio were traveling since more than a month and covered North Kashmir, Gurez valley etc. They were heading towards Manali and assured us that they will call the homestay in Padum, once they are in network. However that would only happen near Darcha.

Out of nowhere, we met these two guys and they were perhaps God sent. Our stay was almost done and we breathed a sigh of relief.

We exchanged route details, phone numbers and carried on further.


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_5790.jpg
Zulfiqar (L) and Savio (R).


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_5793.jpg
Ashish (L) and Zulfiqar (R)


Here is the link to Zulfiqar's 40 day trip in Kashmir and Himachal: https://www.cntraveller.in/story/kas...ip-experience/

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Day 5 continued:

We were now constantly on a flatish Zanskar plateau at an altitude of 13,000 feet. The roads were dusty, winding and adjacent to the Tsarap river.

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201023_090602.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201023_095121.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_5798.jpg

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Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_5814.jpg


We finally arrived at Purne around 2 pm. The first sight was Dolma homestay, which was managed by two girls. We enquired about Phugtal gompa and if we could stay overnight at their homestay. However they refused sighting the local regulations due to Covid. We were told to move towards Padum as it would take 4 hours and sunset would be around 6 pm.
By now I was driving continuously since morning and developed a headache. Dharmesh suggested some hot tea. After some hot tea and a small break, I was fresh and we continued till Padum. Although the temperature was low, the sun was very harsh, a typical example of cold desert.

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_5803.jpg
Dolma homestay, Purne.

From here a route bifurcates to Phugtal monastery. A new road is being built to the monastery and reached almost upto 1 km. from the monastery. By next year, the road should be ready. This monastery should not be missed as it is unique. You can read about it online and see various YouTube videos.


After the village, we crossed a small bridge and started climbing. There was a fresh landslide here and a lone excavator was clearing the road. This stoppage delayed us by 30 minutes.

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_5818.jpg
The bridge after Purne village.

Some more shots:-

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_5857.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_5869.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_5880.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_5890.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_5896.jpg
Bardan gompa, 11 km. before Padum.

About Bardan Gompa:-
Bardan Gompa is a fortress-like monastery with a spectacular setting atop a rocky outcrop commanding an S-bend in the Lugnak Valley. The main prayer hall retains some ancient murals and is accessed via an appealing triangular courtyard.
Although its core is from the 13th century, the bulk of the structure was developed in the 16th and 17th centuries by Lama Deva Gyatso, a son of the Padum king. Legend has it that the site was chosen when a crow picked up the lantern of Lama Barawa and dropped it here.
Source: Lonely Planet.



We finally reached Padum at 6 pm. Last 15 odd kilometres had freshly laid tarmac. It was turning dark and we could not see a soul around. We decided to head directly for the homestay as per the directions given to us by Zulfiqar and Savio. To our luck, we just saw the owner who was locking his place and going to his relative's house. A five minute delay meant no stay. We spoke to him and gave the reference of Zulfiqar and Savio. He invited us warmly and we were perhaps the most luckiest persons on that day. As per his suggestion, we headed first to the fuel pump as it would close soon. When we arrived Padum there was no electricity and we were told that it would come soon. However there was no electricity for the day.


The manual pump outside Padum village.


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_5906.jpg
The dinner area. Even normal rice tastes delicious.


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_5912.jpg
A warm meal.


During the long chat with the owner, we discussed about the new route to Leh via Singge la pass. Even he had not done this route but had trekked over it some years back with a group of foreigners. He informed us that some local taxis used the route, but due to the end of season and Covid, traffic movement was restricted. However by now, we had already decided on taking the Padum-Kargil road to Sankoo. Why Sankoo? Because a road bifurcates from here directly to Dras and bypassing Kargil.

The temperature had already dipped, but the homestay had very warm thick woolen beddings and blankets. We retired for the night by 10 pm.


Summary of the entire day by Ashish.



I was in two minds to use the Wurth diesel anti-freeze. One day before the trip, I read on an Australian forum that the Endeavour is well insulated and can sustain temperatures upto - 20 deg.C. Even the homestay owner said that it would be no issue for starting the car in the morning. So decided not to add the Wurth can. Let's see if the Endeavour starts on the next day. Coming up in next post.

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Day 6: Padum - Pensi La - Rangdum - Prakachik - Panikhar - Sankoo.
Date: Friday, 23rd Oct. 2020.
Distance: Approx. 190 kms.
Total time: 10 hours. inclusive of stops.


Approximate altitudes of various places:-
Juldo - 3970 m. / 13,050 ft.
Parkachik - 3600 m. / 11,800 ft.
Panikhar - 3350 m. / 10,990 ft.
Sanku / Sankoo - 2903 m. / 9524 ft.


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-kargiltopadumroadmap.jpg
Kargil to Padum route.
Source: Varghis Khan.
Link: https://vargiskhan.com/log/kargil-to...-travel-guide/


We woke up at 6 am. and started the preparations. After freshening up, I went to the Endeavour, put the key in, waited for a few sections and surprise! The beast started in one crank. Left the vehicle to warm up while we were packing our stuff.

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_5921.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_5924.jpg
A warm farewell before leaving Padum.


About Padum:-
Padum (also known as Padam) at about 12,000 feet is a town named after Guru Padmasambhava. It is the only town and administrative centre in Zanskar tehsil, Kargil district of Ladakh UT. In ancient times, it was historically one of the two main capitals of the Zanskar Kingdom, the other being Zangla. It is 240 km away via the link road from Kargil town.
Padum located in a remote valley of the Zanskar area, makes it an ideal location for travelers who want to escape the usual busy and crowded touristic areas. In the recent years, it has become a center of interest for the trekking community, as there are approximately 32 trekking routes to be explored starting from Padum.

In 1979-80 a track was made from Kargil to Padum, which is still in use today. This was the only road connection to Zanskar valley till the Darcha route was opened. Zanskar- Kargil road was declared National Highway (NH301) in 2017 by the Centre. It has been widened over time and is now in progress of being converted to a proper tarred road.

With the new road from Darcha and the widening of Kargil road, Padum may slowly become the next Leh.



After bidding the owner good bye, we started from Padum at 7 am.

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_5944.jpg
Early morning view from Padum.


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_5962.jpg
Cute little boy with his mother at Sani village.


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_5965.jpg


The first major climb from Padum is for Pensi la pass. A long drive, gentle ascent, and few zig zags will take you to the top of the pass before you even realize it. You will notice a small body of water near the road atop Pensi La. These in fact are two small lakes called Ta Tso and the Lang Tso lakes. Beyond these lakes, you will see the massive Drang Drung glacier. There are many small hamlets from Padum to Pensi la. From Abran to the pass, the valley is bleak and arid, with no signs of vegetation for miles.


About Penzi la pass:-
Pensi la or Penzi la pass is the boundary of two valleys. On the south side is Zanskar and on the north is Suru valley.
Pensi la as per the board present is 14000 feet above msl, however various sources mention the height above 14400 feet.
To the west of Pensi La watershed flows the Suru River, an important tributary of the Indus which meets at Kargil. The Drang Drung Glacier to the eastern flank of Pensi La is the source of Stod or Doda River.



Zanskar or Zangskar consists of the country lying along the two main branches of the Zanskar river. The first, the Doda, has its source near the Pensi la pass, and then flows south-eastwards along the main valley leading towards Padum, the capital of Zanskar. Two main tributaries known as Kargyak river, with its source near the Shingo la, and Tsarap river, with its source near the Baralacha la forms the second branch. Those two rivers unite below the village of Purne to form the Lungnak river (also known as the Lingti or Tsarap). The Lungnak river then flows north-westwards along a narrow gorge towards Zanskar's central valley (known locally as gzhung khor), where it unites with the Doda river to form the Zanskar river. The Zanskar river then takes a north-eastern course until it joins the Indus near Nimu.


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6012.jpg
The current sign-board which says 14000 feet.


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6008.jpg


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6022.jpg


About Drang-Drung Glacier:-
The Drang-Drung Glacier (also called Durung Drung Glacier) is a mountain glacier near the Pensi La pass on the Kargil - Padum Road.
The Drang-Drung Glacier is the second largest glacier in Ladakh after Siachen Glacier, with a maximum length of 23 kilometers and at an average elevation of 4,780 m (15,680 feet).


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6005.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201023_111835.jpg


We descended Pensila pass and entered Suru valley.
After about 30 kms. of barren land and winding curves, we reach Rangdum gompa. We did not enter the gompa but is definitely recommended.

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201023_130627.jpg
Rangdum Monastery atop a hill and the dirt track leading to it.

About Rangdum Gompa:-
Rangdum Monastery is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery belonging to the Gelugpa sect, situated on top of a small but steep hill at an altitude of 4,031 m (13,225 ft) at the head of the Suru Valley.
According to an inscription, the monastery was built by Gelek Yashy Takpa during the reign of King Tsewang Mangyul of Ladakh about 200 years ago.
This monastery looks like a fortress and in fact was used as one by Dogra armies of General Zorawar Singh.
In 1946, the Rangdom Gompa was attacked and ransacked by the Bakerwals from Kishtawar.

The monastery was electrified using Solar Energy in June 2017 by Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE).


5 Kilometers from Rangdum gompa is Rangdum village. From here the road slowly starts winding to Prakachik village. The valley changes and we can start seeing more trees around with shades of autumn.
All along the road we can now see the Nun Kun massif on the left.


About Nun Kun massif:-
The Nun Kun mountain massif consists of a pair of Himalayan peaks: Nun at 7,135 m (23,409 ft) and its neighbor peak Kun at 7,077 m (23,218 ft).
A trenched plateau separates the two peaks, extending to about 4 km.
Mountaineering Expeditions to these mountains started way back in 1898. While the lower Kun had been first summited in 1913, the more lofty Nun resisted three attempts until it yielded to a European man-woman duo in 1953.
The climb to the peaks is technical and for serious mountaineers only.


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-my-doc670940.jpg
Source: Artou guidebook.


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Before Parkachik village, we have Shafat, a small hamlet with few houses and a police checkpost. The road slows winds into Parkachik village and then Panikhar about 20 kms. away. Panikhar is a rather large village on a stepped plateau with rich agricultural fields. The road now runs through beautiful trees lined with autumn leaves into Putikchey village.

We finally arrived at Sankoo at 5 pm.

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6135.jpg
At Spingo guest house, Sankoo.

Initially we thought that the drive from Darcha to Padum was tough, but even the drive from Padum to Sankoo was tiring, full of dust, boulders, loose gravel etc. However we could see construction work at various places to extend and widen the road.
At Sankoo we checked into Spingo guest house on the main road. The entire guesthouse was empty. After a warm shower we retired for the night at 10 pm.

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Day 7: Sankoo - Umbala - Drass - Zojila - Srinagar - Anantnag - Daksum.
Date: Saturday, 24th Oct. 2020.
Distance: Approx. 300 kms.
Total time: 12 hours. inclusive of stops.

Appromixate altitudes of places visisted:
Umbala: 4,496 m. / 14,750 ft.
Dras: 3280 m. / 10,761 ft.
Zojila: 3550 m. /11,649 ft.
Sonmarg: 2730 m. / 8960 ft.



We started from Sankoo at 7 am and headed for Umba la pass. The climb is steep at places with various hairpin bends. The route takes you to the top of the pass. There is no sign- board here. The route descends from pass into a plateau like area and then again climbs up. After a small climb, the route descends into Dras.

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6144.jpg
Viw from Umba la top (No sign board).

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6158.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6162.jpg



About Umbala pass:-
The Dras - Kargil stretch of the National highway from Srinagar to Leh is always under enemy observation and subject to heavy artillery's fire. Hence the Umbala road was proposed as an alternate alignment after the 1999 Kargil war, on an existing trek route. The idea was to use it as a covert “strike” base to push back the enemy from key Kargil heights in the Drass sector.
However 7 years down the line nothing much happened. The road was to be ready in 2006, but was opposed by the then Government.
Source: https://www.hindustantimes.com/india...1I9sOpqNI.html

Finally most of the road was ready in 2007. In 2012, heavy rain washed many parts of the road by landslide and the road again became unusable. Even locals did not prefer this road.

Currently, the road is tarred for most of the way.



Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6227.jpg
The famous sign-board of Dras. However this is a myth. The average winter temperture is about - 23 deg.C.
The coldest ever one off temperature recorded in this mountain township was -60°C (-76°F) in January 1995.


After crossing the Dras market, we continued towards Zoji la pass. On the left we could see the Zoji la tunnel construction work in full swing. We descended Zojila and entered Kashmir. Zoji la marks the border of Kashmir and Ladakh. As we enter the KAshmir valley, suddenly the scenery changes and from barren landscape to greenary. The entire highway to Sonmarg is dotted with hotels and guest houses, and everything was closed. Just before Srinagar we left the main highway and continued to Sumbal and from there we bypassed Srinagar. I had accidently taken this route in 2015, so decided to take it again, as we did not want to enter Srinagar city.
From Srinagar, we continued till Anantnag and then diverted to Daksum, at the base of Sinthan pass.
The Indian Army was constantly at guard at various places on the National highway. We must have entered our details many many times in Kashmir and lost count of it.


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6320.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6335.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6339.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6361.jpg


After a long day, we checked into Paradise Retreat Daksum on the highway.

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-dak.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6490.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201025_065228.jpg

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Old 1st June 2021, 10:53   #11
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Day 8: Daksum - Sinthan top - Kishtawar - Gulabgarh - Tyari / Cliffhanger - Killar.

Date: Sunday, 25th Oct. 2020.
Distance: Approx. 225 kms.
Total time: 11 hours. inclusive of stops.

Approximate altitudes of various places:-
Daksum - 2438 m. / 8,000ft.
Sinthan top - 3,748 m. /12,297 ft.
Kishtawar - 1,638 m. / 5,374 ft.
Gulabgarh - 1,935 m. / 6,350 ft.



We started off from Daksum at 7.30 am. The drive is very scenic and the road steadily climbs up with numerous hairpin bends. The forest is thick with huge pine trees. With no traffic around we were hoping to see some wild animals, however the 3.2 litre engine is so loud, that the animals would anyway run off.

We took a brief break at the top and commenced our descent.

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6525.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6539.jpg


After crossing Gulabgarh and various villages we reach the Cliffhanger road.

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-map.png

Tun is the remotest village of Paddar valley in Gandhari Nala which separates Paddar from Himachal Pradesh, whereas Suncham, the highest inhabited village situated at an elevation of 3385 metres from sea level. Suncham links Paddar with Padum in Zanskar after crossing Umasi La or Bardhar Pass at a height of 5340 meters above sea level.


Paddar - The Land of Blue Sapphire:-
Paddar, also spelled Padar is a remote valley in the Kishtwar district of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
Gulabgarh is the sub-divisional commercial center of Paddar and a hub for the area's economic activities.
The Paddar Sapphire is considered to be the best in the entire world for its unmatched qualities of durability, variety and beauty.
The blue sapphire mines were discovered in 1880s and have been worked only occasionally since then because of the difficult terrain and inhospitable climate in the area. Successive regimes have failed to exploit these blue sapphire mines, to cash on this huge wealth to bring prosperity to the state.
Suncham, the highest inhabited village in Paddar and from here one can see the famous blue sapphire mine. Government has stationed a police party in the village to check the smuggling of Sapphire. However villagers are of the opinion that there is no more sapphire left in the mountains/mines as Britishers have taken away the lions share during their rule and whatever is being extracted today is mere remnant. However, facts have something else to say as government has reined in private companies for the extraction of the gemstones and has also conducted the auctions in the recent years.

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4 carat Blue Sapphire

Read detailed story here: http://www.palagems.com/kashmir-sapphire




About Cliffhanger road:
The Road which connects Killar in Pangi Valley of Chamba District in Himachal Pradesh to Gulabgarh in the Padar Valley of Kistwar District, J&K, is often reffered to as the Most Dangerous Road in the world. It is indeed quite narrow at sections, but most of the sections are now widened. Numerous travelers have done this road and posted on social media.
The road was part of the Himachal Pradesh State Highway 26 (HP SG26) named Tandi – Kishtwar road. The Road runs along the Chenab / Chandrabhaga River’s Gorge.
The J&K state government and the Border Road Organization have done a commendable job by constructing a road in the middle of nowhere. A good number of laborers have sacrificed their lives for the construction of this road.

The most dangerous section of the Road is between Tyari and Ishtyari in the Padar Tehsil. The Cliffhanger section is cut through a solid Rock face and the river runs thousands of feet below the Road with a sheer fall.

The Cliffhanger Section of the Killar Kishtwar Road as seen from a distance. an alternate Road is being built over the Rock face and the Cliffhanger section will be closed once that is done. During our visit, we could see construction in full swing.


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-1.jpeg

Source: https://travelthehimalayas.com/kiki/...d-in-the-world


Quote:
Local lore has it that the people of Chamba, fleeing Mughal invaders, settled the hidden Pangi valley. Noble families would send their women and children to Pangi to live in peace and secrecy. When the valley later came under the rule of the Kingdom of Chamba in the 16th Century, officials posted here were given funeral allowance, since they were expected to never return home. According to another legend, the King of Chamba sent criminals to the valley to serve life sentences.

The Pangi via Kishtwar road cuts rights through mountain ledges, and for the most part, is only wide enough for one car at a time. Somehow though, brave bus and truck drivers ply the route too. If two cars meet each other going opposite directions, one driver has to carefully drive in reverse for potentially hundreds of metres until a suitable passing spot is reached. All along the road, cliffs shoot straight up to the tops of mountains, and then straight down thousands of metres to the rubble-strewn banks of the Chenab River. The road is so rocky and steep that one 30km stretch took us four hours to cross.

Along the way, we encountered locals who are used to the treacherous roads and landscapes that surround them. The Pangwal, descendants of the original settlers, have small agricultural farms along the route. And at higher altitudes, the Bhot people – who speak Tibetan languages and mostly make a livelihood herding animals – weather the harsh conditions by preserving meat, storing barley and brewing a type of hard liquor known locally as patru or rakh. Winter, when the whole valley is engulfed in snow, is the most difficult time for the locals. Reaching Chamba takes two days by road, and during medical emergencies, the government arranges helicopter service for the people.
Source: http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/2016...-remote-valley


Our video:


Some photographs:-

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6653.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6724.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6725.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6745.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6748.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6752.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6772.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6796.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6850.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6875.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6876.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6757.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6899.jpg


Day 8 continued in next post

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Old 2nd June 2021, 10:40   #12
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Day 8 continued:

After clearing the Cliffhanger, we arrived at Sansari Forest checkpost. This is the last checkpost in J&K where you enter your details. However it was unmanned and no soul around. After a few photographs we moved ahead. The drive from the checkpost to the Sansari nalla bridge is steep and narrow.
After crossing the bridge, one enters the state of Himachal Pradesh.

Some photographs:-

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6933.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6937.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6944.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6962.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6976.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_6996.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_7010.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_7014.jpg


From Sansari, we continued towards Killar in Pangi valley. After entering Himachal, the road again winds uphill to Killar.
We had stayed at PWD guesthouse, Killar on our 2015 trip to Sach pass and Ladakh, and hence decided to stay here itself. A lot of modern construction was going on in Killar and so it was difficult to locate the correct road. We took a wrong narrow lane which ends at a Government bungalow. We had no choice but to enter the compound for a U turn. Co-incidently this was the same place we landed up at in 2015.

Finally we checked into the PWD guesthouse, which is actually at a higher point of the town. Again co-incidently we were given the same room that we stayed in 2015. However we decided otherwise and took the room on the first floor as it was larger and had three beds.

After a warm dinner we retired for the night at 11 pm.


Some photos:-

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201026_073353.jpg
The Endeavour parked at the same location where I had parked my XUV5OO in 2015.


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201026_073440.jpg
The main building of the gueshouse.


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201026_073359.jpg
Secondary building of the guesthouse.


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_7049.jpg
Warm dinner.

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Day 9: Killar - Sach pass - Satrundi - Kalaban - Bairagarh - Chamba.

Date: Monday, 26th Oct. 2020.
Distance: Approx. 160 kms.
Total time: 10 hours. inclusive of stops.

Approximate altitudes of various places:-
Killar - 2,524 m. / 8,280 ft.
Sach pass - 4,414 m. / 14,482 ft.
Satrundi - 3,400 m. / 11,155 ft.
Bairagarh - 2,880 m. / 9,449 ft.
Chamba - 996 m. / 3,268 ft.



We started from Killar at 7.30 am. and continued towards Sach pass.
The road over Sach pass was opened for vehicular traffic in 2006 and remains closed for about 6 months in a year due to heavy snowfall.

Pangi is a subdivision of Chamba district but is cut off from all sides by high mountains of Pir Panjal & Zanskar Ranges, connected only through seasonal roads that generally close down in the winters with excessive snowfall.
The road near the pass and in Pangi valley is not only narrow and unmetalled, but can be muddy and rocky at many places with many bends and steep slopes. The going had to be cautious because this road is by no way passive. Rocks come down, melting ice forms streams that flow violantly as the day goes hotter and change course. It is the combination of these geographical dynamics and dangers associated that make driving or riding across the Sach pass such a thrilling experience.

After my last visit in 2015, I could see that certain narrow sections were widened. We even saw Jio laying fibre optic cables across the pass and most of the work was complete.
On 23rd October, it had snowed at the pass and at the approaches. The bus service was also stopped. However there was no prediction of snowfall for the next few days. During our visit the pass and its approaches were dry, however there were frozen river crossings and waterfalls.

Sach pass top has a Shiv temple, but no proper board.


Some photographs:

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_7064.jpg
Pangi valley old bridge.


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_7070.jpg
Pangi valley new bridge, built in 2008.


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_7088.jpg


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_7096.jpg


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_7113.jpg


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_7147.jpg


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_7157.jpg


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_7203.jpg


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_7212.jpg


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_7224.jpg


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_7254.jpg


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_7298.jpg
Sach pass top.


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_7316.jpg
Sach pass top.


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_7324.jpg
Dharmesh praying at the temple.


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_7360.jpg


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_7335.jpg


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_7338.jpg


We finally descent into Satrundi, which is nothing but a checkpost and a helipad. However now the checkpost has been shifted further. After Satrundi, the route enters dense forest and the first settlement is Trakar Kalaban. The route offers great views of the towering Pir Panjal ranges. The freshness of Kalaban, meaning 'black forest', largely dominated by deodar, oak and other trees, happens to be one of the thickest forested areas of the region and is a treat to the eyes.

The first terrorist incident of Himachal Pradesh happened in 1998 at Kalaban and Satrundi, when the road was being constructed. Read full story here: https://www.tribuneindia.com/1998/98aug04/head.htm


From Kalaban, we reach Bairagarh. This village has a beautiful PWD guesthouse where we had stayed on our last trip. Opposite the guesthouse is a Shiv temple.

We continued our drive straight to Chamba. At Chamba, we checked into Anantson resort, a beautiful bungalow. We were the only guests at the resort for obvious reasons. Located on the banks of the Ravi river, this resort is actually a picturesque bungalow. The only downside was that the parking is slightly away from the resort, about 100 metres walk.

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_7374.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_7376.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201026_205214.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_7395.jpg

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Day 10, 11: Chamba - Pathankot - Murthal - Western peripheral expressway - Ahmedabad.
Day 12: Ahmedabad - Navi Mumbai.



Some morning shots of Anantson resort.

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201027_080715.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201027_080626.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_7434.jpg
Breakfast in the garden.


Chamba marks the end of the hills and we departed Chamba at 1 pm. The return route was the same via Ahmedabad. We reached Ahmedabad the following day at 5 pm., after a long continous drive of 1500 kms. We stayed at Ashish's place. Next day we dropped Dharmesh at Ahmedabad and returned back home.

The drive was a simple National highway drive and nothing much to write about, except that on the grand trunk road, we visited the Garam Dharam dhaba at Murthal.
This entire highway is famous for North Indian dhabas, most of which are open 24 hours.
Inspired by veteran actor Dharmendra, 'Garam Dharam' Dhaba came up in Murthal in 2018. This place has many quirky points and will bring back old memories of various films of the Bollywood actor. With a quirky entrance of a big water tank inspired from Sholay film, posters of Dharmendra films, replica of the Sholay bullet brings back the nostalgia of many classic movies of 'He-man' Dharmendra.

Some photos:

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201028_014106.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201028_014113.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201028_020923.jpg

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Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201028_014817.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201028_014827.jpg

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Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201028_015533.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201028_015715.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201028_020215.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201028_020254.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201028_020332.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201028_020346.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201028_020355.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_7517.jpg

Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_7521.jpg


-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


A special thanks to Ford for introducing the new Ford Endeavour in India and making my travels memorable and safe.


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-20201024_080309.jpg



A special thanks to BRO and NHAI for building such roads and making our trip safe and successful.


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-bro.jpg



And finally thanks to www.team-bhp.com to allow me to post this travelogue on their site.


Zanskar and Pangi Valley | Drive to the unknown in my Endeavour 4x4-img_7002.jpg


This ends the travelogue. Thanks for reading.


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