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Old 18th May 2022, 12:18   #1
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Default The Everest of Motorheads: Umling LA & Ladakh Circuit

We had an amazing road trip to Ladakh (Ladakh: Four Idiots & One XUV500) back in 2018.
After that, I wasn't able to plan or be a part of any long road trip north.
We had a family trip to Jaisalmer (The Golden City : Jaisalmer) in Dec 2020.
Other than the Jasilamer trip, there wasn't any long road trip in the Last four years. This situation was making me restless.

Yes, we do make a lot of jokes about the phrase " Mountains are Calling".
However, this time, in my case, mountains were really calling. And once again, I took the call.

This is the story of my 5th road trip to the Ladakh region.

This is the story of how I reached Umling La, The highest motorable road.


Lets me start the story with some teasers of the roads and terrain we covered during this trip.

Road to Sonamarg
The Everest of Motorheads: Umling LA & Ladakh Circuit-6.jpg

Dal Lake
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Srinagar-Leh Highway
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Lamayuru Village
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Leh from the road to Khardung LA
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Road to Nubra Valley
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Road to Turtuk
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Pangong Tso
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Rod to Umling LA
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To Hanle Village
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Leh-Manali Road
The Everest of Motorheads: Umling LA & Ladakh Circuit-29.jpg

Road to Baralacha Top
The Everest of Motorheads: Umling LA & Ladakh Circuit-30.1.jpg

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Old 19th May 2022, 11:44   #2
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Default re: The Everest of Motorheads: Umling LA & Ladakh Circuit

Why Ladakh again and again?

Well, there are three answers to this question.

First answer is a poetic one ...

Ladakh is not just a location for me! It is the place where nature dwells in its purest form. From lush green pastures to scenic lakes like Pangong Tso, the natural bounties adorn Ladakh in a charming way. An unbelievable, magical and superb landscape makes this cold desert an extremely awe-inspiring place. Being a nature lover, I can treat my eyes with just nature and all its untouched beauty. There are also many natural sights that can present a visual retreat for the spectators.

There’s nothing quite like an adventure in the mountains, being surrounded by nature’s giants. The achievement of reaching the high passes, the epic views along the way, the feeling of weightlessness as you drive or ride down, and the sense of awe as you are immersed in the wilderness. The mountains have the ability to conjure up our most primal emotions and feelings. I am in love with the Ladakh region and they keep calling me every year.

Second answer is somewhat fact-driven...

BRO (Border Road Organisation) keeps opening new routes and new passes regularly. For Example, a new Route Darcha to Padum, connects HP To Zankar, Photokar- Lighshed-Lamayuru route, Hanle- Photi La -Umling la route. These new routes cover some of the breathtaking new regions (mountains and Passes). The greedy traveler inside me always loves to cover these new routes, which makes all of my Ladakh trip different from my past trips.

Third answer is more realistic and digestible...

Due to my past trips and t"logs on Ladakh, many of my friends consider me a Ladakh expert. They come to me for my input on their itinerary, route planning, and other stuff for the Ladakh trip. I always love to plan a road trip and helping others with their dream trip is always fun. In this process, some of my friends ask me to join them. And like a greedy opportunist, I always grab this kind of offer. I love driving/riding long distances, I love mountains, I love driving in mountains, I love planning a trip, and I love designing a route. For them (or for anyone who is planning a Ladakh road trip) I am a perfect companion.

Saying this all, it's a fact that, I am in love with mountains.
I am in love with the Himalayas. And when you are in love, you never leave the chance to meet your loved ones.
Especially, when those chances come at your doorstep and knock on your door.

I was in touch with many guys, who drove/rode to the Ladakh region in the 2021 season. I was guiding some of them virtually by call or WhatsApp messages. However, due to covid 2021 season neve picked up in terms of the number of tourists.

In 2021, I used to have evening walks with some of my friends from my own neighborhood. We used to talk a lot about road trips, motorcycle riding, and many things about automobiles. We also planned a two days motorcycle ride to a nearby hill station Mt. Abu.

Ride to Mt. Abu
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We had fun at Mt. Abu. We rode to the Statue of Unity and nearby places very next month.

Ride to SOU
The Everest of Motorheads: Umling LA & Ladakh Circuit-2.jpg

Ladakh always used to be a hot topic among us.

One of my friends(Paresh), once asked me why don't we plan a ride to Ladakh. It was a mouthwatering proposal. However, those guys just started motorcycle riding for pleasure. I ask them to gain some more experience in long-distance motorcycle riding before attempting the Ladakh region. One of them suggested dropping the idea of riding and proposed to drive there by a four-wheeler. We added one more guy with Innova in the discussion. We made a tentative plan, we worked out the budget, and we decided on the dates. And then something important came up to one of us.

The same thing happened to the " Ladakh Plan", which regularly happens with a " Ladakh Plan".

It got canceled.

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Old 20th May 2022, 13:39   #3
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Default re: The Everest of Motorheads: Umling LA & Ladakh Circuit

Time passed by, and we forgot about the Ladakh trip and got busy in our routine. Winter started and the way the Ladakh region get disconnected from mainland India, it go disconnected from our minds too.

One fine day, Paresh asked me, " We were not able to make it back in 2021, can we try for 2022?".
He asked me this during the last week of February. We checked with Archan, he was also ready to plan a Ladakh trip during the 2022 season. Immediately, we got together and discussed the possible dates. We wanted to avoid going to Ladakh during school-collages vacation. It was a self-driven road trip, we wanted all the roads with fewer vehicles. This was possible only during the off-season or staring of the season. For the Ladakh region, Oct-Mid May is practically off-season due to freezing weather and blockage of high passes.

We came up with our preferred date 22 April to 07 May.
I always keep a close eye on the status of the Manali - Leh, and Srinagar -Leh highway every year. This year (2022), BRO was keen to get both these highways functioning in record time. In fact, BRO already started the road cleaning work of the Manali-Leh highway during the last week of Feb. This could work in our favor, we could get early access to both of these highways, and we could cover the entire circuit before the tourist rush starts on this circuit.

We finalized our dates during the last week of Feb. We didn't have any confirmed news on the timing of the road opening of both the highways. However, we kept our faith in BRO and blocked the dates by taking necessary leaves. We had a 3-year-old privately owned Innova with 98k Odo reading. We wanted a fourth travel mate to make the trip more economical. I asked my Delhi-based cousin (who always used to ask me to take him with me for one of my road trips to the north) he said yes, and applied for leaves.

The Team


Shreyas (AkA SJM1214)
I think, I already talked a lot about myself in an earlier post. Have a look at my other Travelogues in Team-BHP.

Archan ( Owner of the wheels)
Archan is an entrepreneur in our Home town. An automobile enthusiast and in love with long-distance road trips. Ladakh was his dream for a long time.

Paresh ( Initiator of the idea of this trip)
An engineer by profession. A motorcyclist, an automobile enthusiast, a regular road tripper, and an avid traveler. It was Paresh, who came up with the idea of the Ladakh trip back in 2021. It was again Paresh, who gave rebirth to the idea in Feb 2022.

Joyas (wild Card entry)
Initially, The trip was planned with one of Paresh's friends, due for some reason, he dropped out and my cousin Joyas got a wild card entry into the team. He also had his own share of many long-distance road trips.

The team
The Everest of Motorheads: Umling LA & Ladakh Circuit-32.1.jpg

Our Plan

Our dates were final, and on the base of that our plan was as per below.
We wanted to cover as much as the distance at the earliest to reach the mountains. We decided not to halt for the night before reaching to mountains. It was an ambitious plan, but then all three of us are proven drivers, and it was very much possible for us to do so. We were going to pick up my Delhi-based cousin from the nearest metro station to WPE (Western Peripheral Expressway), at NCR Bahadurgarh.


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Our plan on tsk1979's map
The Everest of Motorheads: Umling LA & Ladakh Circuit-leh_map.jpg

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Old 20th May 2022, 21:58   #4
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BRO declared, the Srinagar- Leh highway open for vehicular movement on the 22nd of March.
However, there was no news of the opening of the Manali Leh highway. Keeping this in mind, we kept Plan B ready for our back journey. We decided to come back via Leh- Srianagr route, in case the Manali Leh highway is not open during our back journey.

Everything was set from our side. We got Innova thoroughly checked. We changed its 60k km old tires. We got the fluids changed, Battery was serviced. We also removed the last row of seats to accommodate more luggage especially 50ltr of fuel cans. We bought some spare fluid, towing cable, jumper cable, tire inflator, puncture kit, and tool kit. We were all set as far as the car was concerned.

Hotel/GH/HS Bookings.

We wanted to use hotels/guesthouses/homestays only for night stays. We were not looking for luxurious accommodation. We started booking our accommodation. There was no plan for a night stay from Anand to Banihal/Ramban. Even for Benihal/Ramban, we decide to search for a hotel after arriving at the destination. The rest of the bookings were done.

Day 3: Sonamarg: We booked a 2 BHP Cottage at JKTDC resort, Sonamarg.

Day 4: Lamayuru: WE booked two rooms at Greenland Guesthouse, Konchop Sarap: 09419627173. I stayed here on my past trips and had a good experience. The owner is a good friend and is in touch with me.

Day 5 & 6 : Leh : Choszin GuestHouse. Tsweng Nurboo: 09622584809. Tsweng is a good friend. He took care of our booking in Leh and Hunder.

Day 7 & 8: Hunder: Zorcho HomeStay. This was also booked by Tsweng.

Day 9: Merak, Pangong Tso: Peaceful Homestay, Merak. We booked a four-bed Dormitory. I stayed at this homestay back in 2018, and they became a good friend. Urgain Sangdup : 094692 80274

Day 10 : Hanle: Padma Homestay. The highest-rated homestay in Hanle at TripAdvisor. I was in touch with Sonam Dorjay, thanks to the small community of riders and travelers. Sonam Dorjay: 9469224302

Day 11: Korzak, Tso Moriri: Namik La Guesthouse booked by some online agent. I had to book it via an agent as on 02/05 thee was only two HG was functional. The rest of the options start working after 15/05.

Day 12: Jispa: Camp Gemur Holidays, Padma Thilley: 070180 09887

Disclaimer: I am not professionally involved with any of the above-mentioned stay options. All the above-mentioned hotel/GH/Homestay owners are my good friends due to my frequent visits to their places.


Status of Srinagar-Leh and Manali-Leh Highways

April month started. I started following every update from BRO about Manali-Leh and Srinagar - Leh Road. The good news was Manali to Darcha section (Via Atal tunnel) was clear, but there was no news of the road ahead of Darcha. I was constantly in touch with Jispa-based Mr. Padma Thilley. Mr. Thilley owns a camp at Jispa and he is always aware of the latest status of the Manali Leh highway. He asked me not to worry about the Manali Leh highway. He assured me that during my dates 02/05/2022, the Manali Leh highway will be opened and we would be able to come back via Manali Leh road. Our night stay(during the back journey) at Jispa was booked at Ghemur Holidays Camp at Ghemur, Jispa.In a sense, Manali-Leh Highway was sorted for us. We had one guy on ground Zero, who can update us with the latest update related to road opening.

However, the issue was with Srinagar - Leh highway. Specifically, for the drive of Sonamrg towards Kargil. After the road opening, only one-way traffic was allowed on the Srinagar -Leh highway. This means, that one-day vehicles are allowed to go towards Kargil from Sonamarg and next-day vehicles are allowed from Minamarg to Sonamarg. The roads were just opened and the glaciers were not settled, the road to Zoji la was prone to landslides. Friday, they do maintenance of the road, and no vehicular movement is allowed on Srinagar - Leh highway.

J&K Traffic police publish the next day's plan by their tweeter handle @Traffic_hqrs every evening.
I started following this account and kept a close eye on their announcement. On the base of their daily update and pattern, I did my math. We wanted to cross, Zoji La on 25/04, and as per their pattern on 25/04, they would allow only Minamarg to Sonamarg traffic. Now, this was a major issue for us. If they don't allow us to cross Zoji La on 25/04, we will have to spend one more day and night at Sonamarg. That can have some serious implications on my entire plan. Yes, we keep buffer days for this kind of scenario only. But, I didn't want to use my only buffer day during the initial phase of the trip.

J&K Traffic police's daily update

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There was a change in the pattern after 15/04.
They started allowing traffic from both sides but at different times. Like Sonamarg to Kargil during 0600 to 1000 and Mnamarg to Sonamrg 01600 to 1800. they used to change the direction of traffic on daily basis. Once again I observed the pattern and did the math. On 25th, it was going to be 0600 to 1000 Minamarg to Sonmarg and 01600 to 1800 Sonamarg to Kargil. This was also an issue with us. If they allow us to move at 1600 on 25/4, all the booking gets ruined. I informed all the hotel/GH/HS owners to remain flexible on our dates of arrival.

Traffic Police's Plan for 25/04/2022
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We decided to tackle this issue after reaching Sonamarg and forgot about it.

ILP/ Green Tax.

There is no need for ILP(Inner Line Permit) for Ladakh Circuit. Or in other words, ILP is renamed Green Tax. We have to pay some amount as a contribution to the ecology of Leh and the Red Cross fee. The same can be done online by logging in to this Link. We selected all available routes, and we were going to drive on almost all available routes. The ILP or The Gree tax receipt is very important. Local Police/ ARMY/ITBP check this green fee receipt at various points. Please keep at least 10 copies of this receipt with you.

The Green Tax Reciept
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Other Preparation.

  • We bought two thirty-liter plastic cans for extra diesel.
  • We were going to drive to some of the remote areas. We arranged small boxes of Gujrati sweets for the Army/ITBP guys posted at remote places or Check posts.
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  • We bought lots of toffees and chocolates to distribute among local kids or labor kids along the road in mountains.
  • We decided not to buy a single water bottle during the entire trip. We carried a good quality flask for each person which can be refiled at fule bunks with RO purifier.
  • We created a WA group with each one of one or two family members in it. We decided to give daily updates on our progress.

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Old 21st May 2022, 14:06   #5
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Day 1 (22/04/2022) Start from Anand at 1400.

22/04 was a working day.
I had one official last meeting till 1330 after that we were free to leave.
We left Anand sharp at 1400.
We took Anand-Modasa-Shamlaji-Udaipur route.

This route has a single-lane road up to a point. I choose to remain in the back seat. Archan and Paresh started driving. I decided to drive during the night and cover as much as possible distance. I tried to sleep in the back seat, but the excitement of starting a long road trip didn't let me sleep. After Shamlaji, the good six-lane road started.

Road to Udaipur
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After some time, we reached the outskirt of Udaipur. Any sane person would go on the Udaipur bypass and avoid the city. Gmap was suggesting us something else. We followed Gmap and we ended up inside the city. Gmap took us to the narrow lane of old Udaipur city. Driving the giant Inoova in old city streets was a tough job.

Google Suggested route.
The Everest of Motorheads: Umling LA & Ladakh Circuit-34.jpg

Somehow, we managed to tackle all those narrow streets and got out of Udaipur City after one and a half hours. We made a mental note not to trust Gmap blindly and always take the local 's opinion in case of Gmap asks us to enter the city. We got on a nice six-lane road from Udaipur to Nathdwara.

Good roads outside of Udaipur
The Everest of Motorheads: Umling LA & Ladakh Circuit-35.jpg

Our Joy for the six-lane road was short-lived.
After some distance, road construction was going on and there were lots of diversions. Somehow, we crossed Nathdwara and had a break. The Dhaba owner told us that after 30km, the six-lane road will start.

A break at Nathdwara
The Everest of Motorheads: Umling LA & Ladakh Circuit-36.jpg

We had our homemade dinner at this Dhaba.
I got my coffee flask filled up with strong black coffee. That break became a drive-changing break. I got on the pilot seat with my Spotify playlist and 500ml of hot black coffee. I started driving at 2030. The Dhaba owner was right. After 30km good six-lane road started. I asked other travel mates to have a good sleep. I started cruising Innova at 100 Kmph.
Good six-lane road, a good car with a powerful engine, your fav playlist, and black coffee, what else a motorhead wants? It was fun cruising Innova on an almost empty road at night. Our Target was NCR Bahadurgarh and we had plenty of time to reach there. We were not in hurry, but the road was almost empty and I was enjoying 100 kmph speed. I kept cruising.

After a while, Paresh and Archan slept and I kept cruising.
We decided to stop at Jaipur, but there was no need to stop at Jaipur. I kept driving. Around, 0230 am, I was feeling sleepy. I decided to stop somewhere. Somehow, Paresh woke up, and we started talking, after a while Archan also woke up and all three of us got into some discussion. This gave me some more energy and I kept driving. During long-distance driving, I always love to stop at those local Dhabas with "Khatiya" as a seating arrangement. I and Paresh tried to find something like that. We were not able to find that kind of Dhaba and stopped at a full-fledged restaurant somewhere after Neemrana at 0345 am. Local dhabas can offer those "khatiyas" but can't offer clean toilets. We gave more importance to clean toilets than Khatiyas.

A stop Somehwere around Neemrana
The Everest of Motorheads: Umling LA & Ladakh Circuit-37.jpg

At 0345, we were at Neemrana.
Our Destination, Brigadier Hoshiar Singh, Metro Station, Bahadurgarh was just 127km (2.30 hours) far from us. We were early. As per our plan, We asked Joyas to remain at the above-mentioned metro station at 0830 in the morning. If we keep driving, we could reach Bahadurgarh at 0600, which means we could be 2.30 hours early. We had two options, wait at the above-mentioned highway hotel, or reach Bahadurgarh and hire a hotel room on hourly bases. We went with the second option and started for Bahadurgarh.

After a particular point, we got on WPE. Once, we reached WPE, we called Joyas and informed him to start his drive/ride to Bahadurgarh and reach it as soon as possible. He was shocked to know that, we were going to be 2.30 hours early.

We reached Bahadurgarh earlier than our anticipation. We reached Bahadurgarh Metro station at 0545.
I was under impression that Bahadurgarh is NCR (National Capital Region) like Gurugram and Noida. I was wrong. It was just some low-key industrial area. There weren't any hotels. We drove a bit inside of town. We approached two or three hotels but none of them were ready to give us rooms for two hours. There was a party Plot nearby, we approached them and asked their permission to use their bathrooms and parking area. They happily gave us permission.

We spent two hours at that party plot. We decided on Bahadurgarh, just because that was the nearest metro station to WPE. Joyas was supposed to come by Metro train. However, we were early, so he reached Bahadurgarh by taxi.

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Day 2 (23/04/2022) Bahadurgarh (NCR) to Ramban.

Joyas reached Bahdurgarh at 0730.
We arranged his bags in the car and started driving back to WPE. We were perfectly on time for a particular task that was in my mind for a very long time.

Murthal and Murthal ke parathe...

Murthal and Murthal ke parathe are always mentioned in Delhi Based stand-up comedians' gigs. These comedians move to Mumbai for their careers still they always talk about three things, Murthal ke Parathe, Karim ka chicken, and Delhi ke Chole Bhathure. Moreover, I always noticed that Delhi-based riders always plan their breakfast rides to Murthal to have these famous Parathas. I wanted to find out what's so special about Murthal and its Parathas.

The timing and the location were perfect for us to have breakfast stop at Murthal for Parathas. We short-listed " Amrik Sukhdev" , feed it in Gmap, and started cruising towards it. After a while, Paresh reminded me about speed guns at Panipat- Karnal road.

We reached " Amrik Sukhdev" at 0900.
Wow, this place was grand. It was full fledge food mall with all kinds of shops and food counters.

Amrik Sukhdev
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This Dhaba (yes, they still call this place a Dhaba) was jam-packed even at 0900 in the morning. There was a long waiting. Somehow, I convinced a caretaker Sardarji that, we are going to Ladakh and we are getting late. He immediately arranged a table for us and ask the waiter to serve us as fast as possible.

Busy Morning at Amrik Sukhdev
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We got settled and Archhan went to search for his favorite place " a clean toilet". We ask that caretake Sardarji about the Amrik's specialties. He advised us to order three kinds of different Parathas and Chole Bhathure. We ordered it with tea.

We got settled.
The Everest of Motorheads: Umling LA & Ladakh Circuit-40.jpg

When I start talking about food, I have some limited words to describe the food, like amazing, delicious, extraordinary, and sometimes very rarely out of the world.
I am sure, I can use all of these words(together) for those Parathas and Chole Bhathure.

Food at Amrik Sukhdev
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We used those clean toilets. We got our water flask refilled with normal water( from Dhaba RO). We were ready to hit the road once again.

I don't know how many of you know that Chole Bhathure is intoxicating food. You feel sleepy after having this amazing dish. I had a one-half dish of those " out of world " Chole Bhathure. I was feeling sleepy. I was not sure if it was due to the entire night's drive or those Chole Bhathure but I wanted to sleep. After all, my job ( driving the entire night) and Task (eating at Murthal) were done. It was time for me to go to the back seat and sleep. I gave the car keys to Paresh and went to the back seat.

We took Panipat -Kurukhshetra- Ludhiana route. We stopped for lunch after Ludhiana. I was not feeling that hungry because of those Chole Bhathure at Amrik Sukhdev. After a quick lunch break, we kept cruising. We didn't have a fixed destination. It could be anything like Katra, Udhampur, or some highway hotel. We decided to keep driving till we feel tired. Archan was driving the car. Once again, I took the chance to have an afternoon siesta in the car.

Archan and Parsesh drove amazingly. We were at Udhampur at 1830. We stopped at one of the tea stalls and toyed with the idea of staying at Udhampur. It was just 1830 and we had 4 hours more driving left in us. We decided to drive for more than three hours before stopping for the night. We thought to climb on the Patanitop and stay there. But then we decided against it as it can be time-consuming and we wanted our accommodation just for the night's stay. We had our tea. Paresh started driving. We kept moving. But all of us were tired. We wanted to stop, we wanted to bath, we wanted to stretch our legs and most importantly, we wanted to sleep. We crossed Chenani - Nashri Tunnel.

Chenani-Nashri Tunnel
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We crossed the tunnel and started searching for the hotel. I suggested pushing for some more and reaching Ramban village. I knew that there are some hotels in Ramban. Other than the hotel, I had two more reasons to reach Ramban. First, I wanted to leave early from Ramban so we can avoid Ramban-Benihal traffic the next day morning. Second, if we leave early we can get some more hours to explore Srinagar.

We all were tried. Last, 20km was tough on us. Paresh was driving the car. Ramban took its own time to come. Finaly, we reached Ramban at 2200. We stopped at the first hotel we spotted and got two rooms. The hotel was nice, with running hot water. We took bath, ordered food in the room, and called it a day. Finally, after 48 hours, we got beds to sleep.

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Day 3 (24/04/2022) Ramban To Srinagar to Sonamarg

All of us woke up at 0600 and were ready to move at 0630.
We deiced to have breakfast at Titanic Point after Crossing the Jawahar tunnel. We also decided to stop at Quazigung Dryfruit Market to buy some dry fruit for the rest of the journey. We just wanted to get out of the Ramban -Benihal stretch. I started driving. I had some bad memories of heavy traffic jams between Ramban and Banihal and I wanted to avoid that. It was a beautful moring at Ramban. Finally, we were in the mountains and we felt happy to have that cold weather.

Good Morning Ramban
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Mountains, rivers, small villages, and horses were welcoming us with open arms, We all were in good mood.

Mountains
The Everest of Motorheads: Umling LA & Ladakh Circuit-45.jpg

Horses
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This road is the only road that connects Jammu to Kashmir valley. This is the only road to Srinagar from Jammu. We were been told that trucks were not allowed to come to this side from Qazigund due to that traffic was bearable. Otherwise, local shepherds horses and sheep, trucks, and tourist vehicle makes this road very busy. Moreover, lots of construction and road widening work was going on there which adds to the chaos.

Constructions work
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JCB ki Khudai
The Everest of Motorheads: Umling LA & Ladakh Circuit-49.jpg

We, horses and tunnle.
The Everest of Motorheads: Umling LA & Ladakh Circuit-50.jpg

We put the Jawahar tunnel in Gmap and started driving towards it with help of Gmap.
One local Police guy stopped us and asked us about our destination. I answered that we wanted to go to Srinagar via Jawahar tunnel.He smiled and told me why you are going by this old road? There is a brand new four-lane road.

Now, I do consider myself an expert in route planning and road. I try to remain updated about new roads in the north. I never heard about a new road (that too four-lane) in this area. Moreover, I felt that the police guy's smile was sarcastic. I thought this is one more Jnk cop who is having fun with us. We ignored his advice and kept following Gmap.

After a while, Paresh asked me to stop the car & look to my left. There was indeed a newly built four-lane road just next to us in the valley. We were climbing up towards the Jawahar tunnel. We checked google, there was no mention of this new road on the Gmap. We were confused, Gmap was still asking us to go to the Jawahar tunnel.

There was a lot of movement of cops in that area. We went to one of the cop's cars and asked about the new road. He asked us about our destination. He informed us there is a new four-lane road and a new tunnel built under the Jawahar tunnel (Benihal Pass). This was strange for me, There was an entirely new tunnel built under the Jawahar tunnel and I didn't know anything about it.

That cop told us that, today (24/05/2022) our PM Mr. Modi is coming here to inaugurate this new tunnel, you guys are welcome to use the tunnel before our Pm inaugurates it" and then he smiled at me.

Now, my past experience taught me that when a Jnk Cop smiles at you, there is always something fishy. I was not able to believe that cop's information. I still wanted to follow Gmap and go towards the Jawahar tunnel. That friendly cop understood my dilemma. He asked me to follow his car and offered to drop us at the start of the new tunnel. We took the offer and started following that cop's vehicle. Paresh got on his mobile and started searching about the new tunnel, its inauguration, and our PM's plan.

That cop was right. PM was going to be there after 3 hours to inaugurate that tunnel.


Quote:
PM Narendra Modi inaugurates Banihal-Qazigund tunnel 24/05/2022

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Jammu and Kashmir to attend the National Panchayati Raj Day celebrations. PM Modi will inaugurate and lay the foundation stone for several development projects worth over Rs 20,000 crore during his visit. One of the multiple important projects to be inaugurated during this visit is the Banihal-Qazigund Road tunnel.

-The Banihal-Qazigund Road tunnel is constructed at the cost of over Rs 3,100 crore

-The Banihal-Qazigund Road tunnel is a two-tube tunnel, one for each direction of travel, with a cross passage every 500 metres for maintenance and emergency evacuation.

Source : https://zeenews.india.com/auto/pm-na...w-2456728.html
We followed that friendy cop, he dropped us at the starting point of the Tunnel.
It was a newly built tunnel, but people had already started using it. The name of the new tunnel is Navyug Tunnel. The tunnel was decorated to welcome our PM. We Zoom passed the tunnel and got out in the Kashmir Valley.

Navyug Tunnel
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Ready to be innaugtred.
The Everest of Motorheads: Umling LA & Ladakh Circuit-53.jpg

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We got into the tunnel and got out in Kashmir Valley.
There was no Titanic Point.
There was no Quazigund Dry fruit market. It was all behind us.
This tunnel saved us 2.30 hours. This was a welcome change. Trucks were not allowed to cross the new tunnel due to Pm's visit to the tunnel. There was a long queue of trucks on the other side of the road. The Hotel owner at Ramban was right. These poor trucks were waiting on this road for almost lat 12 hours. What a waste of human hours and other resources.

Waiting Trucks
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Due to the PM visit, even Benihal to Srinagar traffic was also stopped. We were some of the first vehicles to cross the tunnel. We were lucky. That's the benefit of getting on the road early. Due to these restrictions, we were the only vehicle going towards Srinagar.. Even locals were not allowed on the road and there was a heavy military presence on the road. They were not at all interested in a GUJ Innova with four idiots in it at this early morning. We kept moving. We gave Gujju sweets to some of the military guys and kept moving.

To Srinagar (Notice the military presence)
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Empty road
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We took the full benefit of that empty road and push the pedal. We were cruising at 100+ on that road. Somehow, I felt, At 100+, we are not doing justice to the vistas around us. We were in the Kashmir valley, snow-clad Pir Panjal range, traditional Kashmiri houses, and the cold air was welcoming us and we were busy pushing the pedal. We stopped at a point just to feel the cold air, and see the amazing views.

Pir Panjal Mountian Range.
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Fields.
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The empty Road
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Aur hum.
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We were driving towards Srinagar.
We spotted many familiar names like Anantnag, Pahalgam, and Avantipore, these names regularly come into the news.
We spotted many shops for Cricket bats. Which reminded us that Kashmiri willow Bats are famous among famous cricketers. We didn't know how original these bats can be, but we were curious and we had plenty of time at our disposal. We stopped at one of the bat shops. We were looking at different bats and the owner came and offered us to show their workshop, He explained that the handles come from Singapore and then they attach it with Kashmiri wood. I used to play cricket and I must say, some of them were good quality bats. Paresh bought a bat for his son.

Cricket Bat shop.
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Owner of the Store.
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How it is made
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Workshop
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Bats
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This was my fourth visit to Srinagar. However this was the first time, I was going to get out of the car and step on the soil (or road or whatever) of the Srinagar. During all my earlier visits, civil unrest was going on. There used to be a lot of stone pelting going on during that. During my earlier visits, Army advised us not to stop anywhere in the Srinagar city and just drive out to Sonamarg or Benihal.

This time, we had more than 4 hours to explore the city.
We reached Srinagar at 0830 and directly went to Lal Chowk.
Lal Chowk is the famous central area of Srinagar. I have seen Lal chowk in many Kashmir-based movies and read a lot about protests, stone-pelting, and army presence at Lal Chowk. I wanted to see that, I wanted to walk in the streets around Lal Chowk.

We reached Lal Chowk.
I was surprised to see almost nil Army Presence. There was only one post manned by two Army guys. This was a welcome change for an extreme opposite of Lal Chowk's image in my mind. I love it, nil Army presence means things are normal or getting back to normal.

Welcome to Lal Chowk
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Lal Chowk
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It was 0900 in the morning. Locals were busy setting up the street market, all the shops were closed. The entire area was full of Pigeons and good & healthy-looking street dogs.

Pegions
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Dogs
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We wanted to have breakfast but no shops or hotels were open there.
One of the local street vendors advised us to have breakfast at Dal Lake in a houseboat. It was a good idea. I had a quick walk in the surrounding street just to have a feel of Srinagar. I decided in my mind, that next year I "ll come back to Srinagar with my wife and kid. After a while, we got back in our car and started driving to Dal lake.

Streets of Srinagar
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Lal Chowk
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SJM1214 View Post
This was my fourth visit to Srinagar. However this was the first time, I was going to get out of the car and step on the soil (or road or whatever) of the Srinagar.
The Same issue was with Dal Lake, I never visited it and that's why I was very eager to visit it.

The sparkling quiet waters of Dal Lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains on its three sides, undoubtedly mark it as one of the most beautiful lakes. It is a large lake with numerous gardens and orchards all along its shores. Houseboats form an indelible part of the sceneries of the Dal Lake that are always ready to take tourists on a romantic and peaceful ride of the lake and soothe their nerves as the houseboat floats over the slightly rippling waters. The shores of the Lakehouse are the distinct Moghul monuments and the campus of the Kashmir University while the two hillocks overlook the lake house Shankar Acharya and Hari Parbat temples. The shoreline of the lake, which is about 15.5 kilometers (9.6 mi), is encompassed by a boulevard lined with Mughal-era gardens, parks, houseboats, and hotels. Scenic views of the lake can be witnessed from the shoreline of Mughal gardens, such as Shalimar Bagh and Nishat Bagh built during the reign of Mughal Emperor Jahangir.

A lot of things are written about this lake. I wanted to visit it. We reached one end of Boulevard Rd after taking local's input. It was just a canal with lots of old houseboats. The water was dirty and stinking. I was disappointed. A local Shikara owner approached us and started running behind our car. He offered us to arrange a parking and two hours Shikara ride in Dal lake. We agreed and followed him

Old Houseboat
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Canal
The Everest of Motorheads: Umling LA & Ladakh Circuit-73.jpg

That Canal just next to Boulevard Rd is the starting point of Shikara. The Shikara guy named Saffi Bhai got our car parked at nearby hotel parking and took us to his Shikara. We got in the Shikara. SaffiBhai explained to us that this canal is just a starting point, Dal lake is a big lake with more than a thousand houseboats, two islands, and an entire market. We started our Shikara ride.

Shikara
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To Lake
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We asked Shaffibhai to take us for breakfast.
He started the Shikara and took us to a lane oh Houseboat. Now, I was getting the idea of the size of the Lake and its different lanes. It was big and of course beautiful we were early and the lake was busy with local's daily activities. We were hungry but enjoying the ride. After 10 minutes of floating, We reached a houseboat.

Lane of Houseboat
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Busy Morning.
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The Lake
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A houseboat
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ShaffiBhai took us to one of his known Houseboats.
We ordered our breakfast and got freshen up. The owner asked us to have a look at the Boat. The houseBoat was well-maintained and looked good. I love the classic and royal decoration of HB's living room. The interiors were beautifully decorated with Kashmiri carpets, crystal chandeliers, and plush furniture. Once again, I made mental note to bring my wife and kid here as soon as possible. We experienced houseboats in Kerala, now it's time for them to experience it at Srinagar.

Houseboat
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Backyard
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Narrow lane to rooms
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Bathroom
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Room
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Living Room
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After a while, the breakfast came.
The Everest of Motorheads: Umling LA & Ladakh Circuit-87.jpg

After breakfast, we got back to our Shikara. It was time to explore the Dal Lake. Slowly, we were coming out of that lane and approaching the main lake.

Wow, it was beautiful.
Now, I agree with that guy, who didn't have words after seeing the beauty of Srinagar and repeated the same words thrice "hami asto, hamin asto, hamin asto".
I could understand his problem of not finding words after seeing the beauty of Kashmir. The lake was doated with colorful shikaras and a backdrop with beautiful Pir Panajl Lake.

Dal Lake is on an average 5 ft deep and goes to a maximum of 20 ft at some places. Covering a shoreline of about 15.5 kilometers, the lake covers an area of about 18 square kilometers. It comprises of four basins- Lokut Dal, Nagin (also a separate lake), Gagribal, and Bod Dal. In the middle of Bod Dal, there is a small island by the name of Sona Lank. Lokut Dal is also called Rup Lank and Char Chinari.

We kept floating, we were enjoying the ride.
Shaffi Bhai was in hurry to take us to the floating market.
We wanted to just float around in that comfortable Shikara.

Dal Lake
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Shikaras
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Pir Panjal
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We were having a good time floating around in Dal lake. Much like a roadside market would have, hawkers are present here as well. They have Shikaras of their own and have all sorts of goods for sale. These hawkers approach tourist Shikara and they try to sell their goods, food, artifacts, etc. This was interesting, an entire city with all kinds of services, including a water ambulance and a floating post office was in Dal Lake. We even spotted Army Patrolling Shikara and a Floating Army Post in the lake.

Flower Shop
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Plastic Shop
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Floating Ambulance
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Barbeque
The Everest of Motorheads: Umling LA & Ladakh Circuit-94.jpg

Jewelry Store
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Postoffice
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A unique shopping experience in Dal Lake is that of the lake market, which includes a number of shops located right in the midst of the lake. Shaffi Bhai was very eager to take us to the market. He was talking a lot about local items and why we must buy them. I am sure, there was a commission set for all the Shikara guys at the Market.
Yes, we wanted to visit the floating market but none of us wanted to buy anything.
We had limited time at Dal lake.

[/b]
Floating Market.
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We had a visit to a floating market.
Shaffi Bhai kept insisting to we buy something. I tried to explain to him that we are on a busy schedule and we stole four hours from our busy schedule to visit Dal Lake. We can't waste a single minute of our time. Shaffi Bhai wasn't looking happy. I sensed that we are going to have some problems with Shaffi Bhai. We sailed back to the starting point. It was fun to watch all the houseboats and their names.

Back to starting Point.

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We got back to the starting point. It was Sunday and lots of tourists were waiting to start their Shikara ride. Dal Lake was overflowing with tourists.

It was the perfect time to get out of Dal Lake.
We approached ShaffiBhai to make the payment. He asked for 2500/-. That was atrocious. The deal was 200/- per head for two hours. We got out of the lake exactly after one and forty-five minutes. Shaffi Bhai's Argument was he took us to a houseboat for breakfast (we paid for that houseboat owner), a floating market, and covered more area. His argument was baseless, The Shikars are getting hired on the base of time and we were very much within our timeline. He wanted to cough some more money out of us. We were ok with giving some tips, but we were not at all ok with giving the amount three times higher than the mutually agreed amount. There were many Shikara owners but no one tried to reason with ShaffiBhai. It seemed this was their routine practice to loot and cheat tourists. I tried to pay him 1200, /+, it was 400/- more than the agreed amount. He was not ready. We threaten to go to the tourist police. After that, some of the local guys intervene, I paid 1500/- and closed the deal.

A word of caution to all the tourists, Please take care of this kind of crook and cheater locals. I heard many stories of this kind of incident at Dal lake. ShaffiBhai's incident ruined our mood.

We left Dal lake at 1130. The road to Sonamarg was passing parallel to Dal lake. We stopped for a while for a local Faluda drink and to enjoy the view. After 15 minutes, we break we started for Sonamarg.

Goodbye Dal Lake
The Everest of Motorheads: Umling LA & Ladakh Circuit-103.jpg

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We forgot about that incident and started for Sonamarg.
Archan was driving the car. Sonamarg is just 85km far from Srinagar. However, the road to Sonamagr is Single lane road that passes through some of the villages like Ganderbal, and Gund and that's why this route always takes more than 3 hours to reach Sonamarg. It was a pleasant drive. We Passed through some of the busy villages observing local life. We were getting near to those snow-clad mountains visible from Srinagar

Mountains
The Everest of Motorheads: Umling LA & Ladakh Circuit-104.jpg

We kept moving and faced our first Glacier coming down from the mountains. The beautiful, Sind river was flowing just next to us but in opposite direction. A lot of tourists stopped there to have a view of the glacier tongue and river. We also stopped for a while to enjoy the river.

Sind River
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At 1345, we were just 19 km far from Sonamarg. Once again we were early. Due to the late breakfast, we were not hungry and we wanted to spend some time with the river. After all, that was the first river (which we can touch) and the first Glacier tongue of our journey. We spend more than 20 minutes admiring the views and clicking around.

Sonamarg 19kms
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Tourists
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Glacier Playing with the river.
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Glacier tounge.
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Glacier
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We reached Soanamrg at 1500.
Sonamarg is enveloped by the great Himalayan glaciers - Kolhoi Glacier and Machoi Glacier - and gives rise to the famous Three Sisters of Kashmir Valley. Towering over this charming hill town are the peaks like Kolhoi Peak, Amarnath Peak, Machoi Peak and Sirbal Peak which makes Songamarg a popular place for adventure sports tourism.

Sonamarg acts as the base camp for the trekking routes which lead to the mountain lakes such as Gangabal, Vishansar, Gadsar, Satsar, and Kishansar. The Sonamarg Valley is divided into two halves by the Thajiwas range - on one side is the fir-covered Thajiwas spur popular for its camping site. The other side houses some stunning waterfalls and the Thajiwas glacier which is the prime attraction of this place

To Sonamarg
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Welcome To Sonamarg.
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We had a very bad experience at JKTDC Sonamarg. Here is the capture from my 2018 trip's T" log.

Quote:
We booked a dormitory stay at JKTDC, Sonamarg, and paid in advance. We reached JKTDC resort and approached the caretaker. He asked for 2500 more apart from 800(200/- per bed). As per him, our booking was for a dormitory stay which is situated 4 km far from Sonamarg and only reachable by a horse. I knew that the caretaker was lying but we didn't have any other way to talk to him. I convinced him at 2000/ - extra, paid it, and asked for a receipt. He denied giving any receipt. We checked in at the Dormitory room which had a total of 10 beds and a dirty attached bathroom.
We were booked at the same place even after the above incident. The Property is situated at the center of the Sonamarg and has a good parking area. We reached the JKTDC resort and finished the formalities.

JKTDC Resort.
The Everest of Motorheads: Umling LA & Ladakh Circuit-114.jpg

We booked a two-bedroom cottage. We were allotted the cottage. When I asked about the cottage, the caretaker show me the cottage (notice it in the below picture). It was more than an 800mt climb on the nearby hill. Now, this was an issue, none of us wanted to walk/Climb that much.

The JKTDC tried to play with feeling by saying, " Abhi toh Jawan ho, itna toh chal hi shakte ho" (You guys are young, of course, you can walk this much). We asked the manager to allot some other rooms, there weren't any empty rooms. We also toyed with the idea to let go of the paid amount and book somewhere else. Somehow, I convinced the guys to walk up to the cottage.

JKTDC Resort and Our Cottage
The Everest of Motorheads: Umling LA & Ladakh Circuit-115.jpg

We started walking on that slope.
There was a proper track constructed to climb up. Still, it was tough. Our luggage was carried by the caretaker. Somehow we reached the cottage. It was nice. We were given a dedicated caretaker, who used to stay below our rooms. We didn't even go into the room and settled ourselves on the lawn in front of the cottage.

The walk
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.
Catching our breaths
The Everest of Motorheads: Umling LA & Ladakh Circuit-117.jpg

The Cottage
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We took 15 minutes & two glasses of water to catch our breath. After that, we look around and were shocked to see the view. We were able to see the entire Sonamarg with its mounting range. The view from the hotel was amazing. We spend more than one hour enjoying the view and talking with the caretaker. The caretaker told us that, these cottages are prime property in the entire Sonamarg, due to their amazing location and beautiful views. He informed us many families rent this cottage for more than a week to enjoy the view and amazing weather of Sonamarg. The 800km climb was not an issue for him. Once again I took a mental note to come here and stay at this cottage with my family.

The view
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Notice the walking track
The Everest of Motorheads: Umling LA & Ladakh Circuit-120.jpg

Sonamarg.
The Everest of Motorheads: Umling LA & Ladakh Circuit-121.jpg

We went inside the cottage. It was an old cottage but the guest rooms were well maintained. It was a Two BHK setup. Hall was equipped with a sitting area and dining table. There was a nice balcony facing Sonamarg village. Bedrooms were equipped with heated mattresses which were very useful during the cold night. Overall, the JKTDC cottage was amazing. It was a pity that we were going to stay here just for a night.

Living Area
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Bedroom
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Balcony
The Everest of Motorheads: Umling LA & Ladakh Circuit-124.jpg

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Cold weather, hot tea, amazing weather, talkative and caring caretake, comfortable rooms, and due to all of these, we were missing something very important. One big issue was looming upon us, which could ruin our entire trip planning and bookings.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SJM1214 View Post
There was a change in the pattern after 15/04.
They started allowing traffic from both sides but at different times. Like Sonamarg to Kargil during 0600 to 1000 and Mnamarg to Sonamrg 01600 to 1800. they used to change the direction of traffic on daily basis. Once again I observed the pattern and did the math. On 25th, it was going to be 0600 to 1000 Minamarg to Sonmarg and 01600 to 1800 Sonamarg to Kargil. This was also an issue with us. If they allow us to move at 1600 on 25/4, all the booking gets ruined. I informed all the hotel/GH/HS owners to remain flexible on our dates of arrival.

Traffic Police's Plan for 25/04/2022
Attachment 2310777

We decided to tackle this issue after reaching Sonamarg and forgot about it.
The cottage caretake guy asked us about our next day's plan. I told him about our next day's plan and that reminded me that We had to make a visit to the check-post on the way to Zoji La. It was very important. I want to visit the check-post and talk to the cops about the timing of the traffic to Zoji La. As per their twitter guidelines, they were going to allow us at 1600. No one wanted to get down from the cottage. I decided to go alone. I started getting down and after a while rest of the guys also joined me. We drove to the traffic police checkpoint. We met the in charge. He told us, as per traffic police guidelines, they were going to allow the vehicles to move at 1400 towards Kargil. We asked him to allow us earlier and explain our situation. He clearly said no to us. We noticed many tourist vehicles were waiting at the check-post. We asked him to allow us to cross the CP just to have a drive on the road. He took our original RC CArd and my (driver's) original DL as a guarantee that we come back. This proved that COPS were pretty serious about the rule. We had a small drive beyond the CP, and the next set of cops stopped us and asked us to turn back.

Road to Leh
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To Zoji La
The Everest of Motorheads: Umling LA & Ladakh Circuit-127.jpg

Views
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We got back to the CP. Collected our original license and gave sweets to the CP in charge. He took it, checked it and before eating it told us that don't accept any relaxation next day due to this sweets. We told him it was just a gesture of thanks and nothing else. He smiled and distributed the sweets among other cops. We spent some more time understanding the scenario. We talked to two or three taxi drivers. All of them confirmed that their one day is ruined and they will have to spend one more night at Sonamarg due to that. This was an issue for us also. Many private vehicle owners were trying to convince the CP in Incharge to get the go-ahead, but all were in vain. We left the CP and came back to our hotel.


We met many tourists who wanted to cross the CP and drive ahead to Kargil, all were staying for the night at Sonamarg. Some of them advised us to go for a local JIO Postpaid sim. But then, the shop owner told us that, if we have Airtel postpaid, that's enough for the entire Ladakh circuit. We ordered some Wazwan dishes and asked the hotel owner to get them to our cottage and started climbing back to our cottage.

It was getting cold. The temperature was negative but the cottage care-take kept a bonfire ready for us.

Bonfire at Sonamarg
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We enjoyed the bonfire, had amazing food, talked a lot with Caretakers boys, and called it a day. We went to our cozy and heated bed. It was a long day, and we wanted to make ourselves ready to face one another's long and uncertain day.

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Day 4 (25/04/2022) Sonamarg To Lamayuru

We(I) were using an electrically heated bed for the first time. The problem with this electric bed was it didn't have any regulator to regulate or control the heat. Once you get into bed, initially it feels amazing. But after some time it starts getting hotter and hotter. We had to get out of our blankets but the air was cold. So, we got back in the blanket & switched off the power supply of the bed. After that, the bed felt very cold. So, once again we switched it on.

We spent our entire night in a vicious cycle of switching off and switching on the power supply of the electric mattress. I hardly got any sleep. However, we didn't have any plan to leave early that morning. As we're not going to allow to cross Sonamarg CP until 1600 in the evening.

I woke up at 0830, others were sleeping. I went for a walk in a nearby jungle. It was a small hill and I started climbing it. I wanted to see what was on another side of that small hill. I climbed on that small hill and Sonamagr village's other part was clearly visible from there.

Walk to Jungle
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Other half of Sonamarg
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I was able to see the other half of the Sonamarg Village. I thought if I walk a bit more and climb one more small hill, I can see the Check-post and the waiting vehicles. I climbed one other hill and was able to see the CP. There was a long line of Trucks waiting for the go-ahead from the CP. All of them were going to wait till 1600 in the evening. The imagination of all of them released together to go towards Kargil scared me. I got down and walked back to our cottage.

One more small hill.
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The Police Check Point
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A close up of CP
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I got down from the Jungle. Hot tea and ready-to-move travel mates were waiting for me. We had our tea and breakfast admiring the amazing views. We bid farewell to caretaker guys. We were getting down and didn't have any plan to get up to the cottage again.

Tea,
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Goodbye
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We checked out from the resort at 0930. We didn't have any plan for that entire day. We were thinking to visit Thajiwas Glacier and have a walk in the local market. We left the resort at 0945. I thought to have a look at what's going on at CP. It was 25/04/2022. They were going to allow Sonamarg to Kargil traffic at 1600.

Jnk cops plan for 25/04/2022
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We drove to CP. The same guy (to whom we gave sweets) was posted there. We Parked the car and met him. He was in good mood. He thanked us for the sweet and asked us to go ahead to Kargil. It was shocking, he was allowing us to cross the CP at 1000. I confirmed again, he said most of the vehicles already came from the Other side(Minamarg) of Zoji La, the road is almost empty and they are ok to allow LMVs.

It was great news. We wrote down that cop's name. We didn't waste a single second at that CP and started driving towards Zoji La. We started driving from Sonamarg to Lamayuru at 1000. We were 3 hours late as per my initial plan, but that was manageable as far as our entire day doesn't get wasted at Sonamarg. We were happy. I was very confident to reach Lamayuru before dusk. The road was good with amazing vistas all around us.

Road to Zoji LA.
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Mountains
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Zoji La
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Baltal Valley.
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After a while, we were stopped and asked to clear the road for the army convoy. All the civilian vehicles were asked to park on the road to Baltal valley.

Road to Baltal.
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waiting for Convoy.
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The convoy was more than 50 trucks long. That convoy took more than half an hour to pass. Some tourists were getting impatiens due to this, we tried to convince them its Army Supply convoy. It should always get the first priority on the border roads. We utilized that time for clicking around and talking with local taxi drivers. One of the drivers told us that, It was snowing at the Zero point (Zoji La top).

A tip: Always talk a lot with locals. They like it and moreover, you will always get some important updates about the weather, local events, issues, road blockage, etc.

Army Convoy
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Yours Truly.
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Joyas.
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Paresh & Archan
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After 40 minutes, we were allowed to go. Once again we started driving. We were early and that's why we were leading the convoy of all the vehicles stopped at Baltal road. Believe it or not, the local drivers never like an out-of-state vehicle driving ahead of them, especially local tourist vehicles. They kept honking at us. We stopped at a point, had a photo session, and let the local vehicles pass us.

Back to the road.
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View.
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in good mood
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Photo session.
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We were approaching Zoji La. However, the traffic started coming from Sonamarg behind us. It seemed Soanamrg CP allowed almost all the tourist vehicles to go towards Kargil. We were not at all in any hurry. We wanted to enjoy the road and the views. Once again we stopped at a Glacier and let the other tourist vehicles go ahead. Many of them wanted to reach Leh before dusk. I never understand this kind of Plan. I always love spending time on the road. Off course, the destination is important but then the road should also get enough justice and attention during a road trip.

On the road.
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Glacier Parking
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Tourists going to Leh/Kargil
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We let them go.
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We wanted to enjoy the road, we wanted to remain with nature. Yes, this was my fourth time on this road still I wanted to click a lot of photographs. We kept moving ahead at our sweet pace. The road was turning bad. We were getting closer to Zoji La.

To Zoji La
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Gate of Zoji La.
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The Road
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We kept moving
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Old 1st June 2022, 18:51   #13
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We were approaching Zoji La and it started raining. Within some minutes, Rain converted into Snowfall. Zoji La, Ladakh region wanted to welcome us with the Snow. we stopped the car and got out of it to enjoy the snowfall. It was very cold and windy. Still, we enjoyed the snowfall. You can see that feeling on my face in the below photo.

That Feeling
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Joyas
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Paresh
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Archan
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We moved on towards Zoji La Top. The top is called Zero Point. The Snowfall was continue and the density of snowfall was increasing. We kept driving.

To Zozi La
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We reached Zoji La top at 1205. Zoji La is at an elevation of 3.528m (11,575ft) above sea level. It’s said to be one of the most treacherous passes in the world. The road to the summit is called National Highway 1 (NH1). It’s a spectacular mountain road pass, with stunning views and heart-stopping moments. The Zozila Pass is the entrance to the Ladakh region. The Zozila Pass is one of the riskiest passes in this area. During and after a storm the road may be impassable, even with a four-wheel-drive vehicle, and can easily get muddy if it rains making it challenging to get through. The zone experiences high winds and heavy snowfall, which render it impassable for much of the winter.

The Beacon Force unit of the BRO is responsible for clearing and maintenance of the road during winter. The Border Roads Organization takes two months to clean the National Highway in the Zozila Pass Area. On certain occasions, they complete their job before time. In 2018, the Government of India approved the Zoji La tunnel project.

This was my third time at Zoji la. One of the times we crossed Zoji la in the night during my 2016 trip. (Ladakh in a Duster AWD) Yes, the road to Zoji La is dangerous, but it keeps improving. Thanks to BRO. Saying that utmost care and attention are required for driving in the mountains

Zoji La Top
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Tea/Maggi joints
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& snowfall
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We reached Zoji La top. It was snowing heavily and the visibility was decreased. In the excitement of letting us pass early at Sonamrg CP, we didn't have any tea and breakfast. We stopped at the tea/Maggi joint. We were about to order the food and get under the warm tent. I thought food can wait, snowfall won't wait for us. I offred t to go out and experience the snowfall and play with fresh snow. We tried to climb in the fresh snow. It was tough to walk in fresh snow, but then that was the fun of it.

We, Snow and Fun.

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We had fun with the snow. The combination of wind and snow was very lethal. The Snowflakes were piercing the screen. We spend more than half-hour playing in the snow. Snowfall kept increasing. We got down and rushed for tea and Maggi. The temperature dropped below zero. Hot tea and Maggi was savior at that time. All of us had more than one tea and Maggi. We wanted to eat something more, but those guys didn't have many options other than an omelet and sandwich.

Maggi.
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We
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Archan and Joyas wanted to try their hands on Motor Sledge. We started bargaining with the guys. Those guys started at 3500/- per person and we closed a deal with them at 600/- per head. It had nothing to do with our bargaining skills. I was aware that 600/- per head was a realistic amount. Archan and Joyas went for a Motor-Sledge ride.

Joyas with Motor Sledge
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We choose to remain in the warm tent with a local's bonfire. Snowfall was continue, our so-called water-resistant jackets were completely wet due to melted snow. Shoes and socks were wet. There was no chance that they were going to get dry during the day. We stopped thinking about wet clothes and once again got out of the tent to capture the snowfall.

Those packs.
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Outdoor
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Our car
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a truck.
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Zoji La.
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Joyas and Archan came after the half-hour. As per them, the ride was not that fun due to snowfall. Visibility was almost zero and they were not allowed to handle the Motor Sledge. They were not even able to click any pics or shoot any VDO. However, It was a new experience for them, and that's what we call the adventure. We moved ahead and reached the actual Zoji La top. Of course, we spent more than 10 minutes on photographs.

To Z Top.
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Z top
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Paresh
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Yes, that's a Porche Cayenne in the background.
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We...
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We were more than 50 vehicles at that Baltal siding. After 25km, at Zoji la top, we were the only guys who were still playing with snow and clicking around. We spent more than 2 hours at Zoji La. They were precious 2 hours, which could have been utilized for reaching our next destination earlier. Archan pointed out this to me. I was under intocixtion of the mountian and I repalied him with this hindi sher, मंजिल की परवाह किसे अब,रास्तों को ही हमसफ़र बनाया जब

Well, I used that Hindi sher just to tease Archan. Otherwise, I was very much aware that we were getting late. It was already 1235, I was sure that, we were not able to reach Lamayuru before Dusk. I was sure that we would have to drive the last one to two hours in dark. I didn't want to scare other guys, so I didn't share my thoughts with them. We left Zoji La top at 1240. Once we started getting down from the Zoji La, snowfall stopped, The road was also in bad shape.

Getting Down
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Bad road
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To Ghumri
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War Memorial
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Zojila tunnel job
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We got down from Zoji La and reached Ghumari. Ghumari is a small settlement consists an army base camp, a police cp, and some small cafes. At Ghumari, snowfall was completely stopped, and we witnessed some sunlight too. However, it was not enough to dry our heavy jackets. We finished the registration formalities and drover ahead. We put our cameras aside and decided not to stop anywhere before Drass village which was 25km from Ghumari.

To Ghumari.
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Chumari Checkpost.
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Joyus in his own mood.
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We reached Drass at 1350.
Drass town lies in the center of the Drass valley at a height of 10,800 feet, at a distance of 140 km from Srinagar and 63 km from Sonmarg. Drass is known as "The Indian Siberia” and “Gateway to Ladakh". At least three major signboards, placed by the Kargil Police, Border Roads Organisation, and the State Bank of India, claim Drass is the second coldest inhabited place on earth, after the Siberian town of Oymyakon. Despite being a remote and numbingly chilly destination, Drass valley is not only famous for its spectacular beauty, and serene peaks, but also for the significance it holds politically and historically, including the infamous Kargil war of 1999.

Drass.
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Cold cold cold
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We finished our Lunch at Drass and rushed to Drass War Memorial, also called the Kargil War Memorial. Maintained by the Indian Army, the memorial depicts war photos, and stories of soldiers and explains the difficulties Indian soldiers faced in the Kargil war, all topped with 100 feet high flagpoles. There is a gallery named "Manoj Pandey Gallery" which showcases the photographs taken during that time, weapons and artillery discovered during the war. Located on the National Highway 1D it is often visited by people on the way from Srinagar to Leh. Each year on 26 July, Kargil Vijay Diwas is celebrated at Dras War Memorial to pay tribute to those soldiers. Here are some pics of the Drass War Memorial.

Drass War Memorial.
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I choose to remain in the Parking area and tried to have a power nap. I was not able to sleep. I spent time talking with the Parking area attendant and clicking around.

Parking
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View from Parking
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We Left the Drass war memorial at 1530.
This was a problem. We were late. Kargil was still one and half hours away from Drass. Moreover, we wanted to have a detour to Hunderman village. We decided not to stop anywhere and reach Hunderman as soon as possible.

Bypasses are created to avoid city traffic. During a long-distance drive bypasses always help to save some driving time. However, I never like to take Kargil Bypass. Kargil is a busy town. I always love to pass from a busy local town and witness the life of people. Unfortunately, for HunderMan we had to take a bypass and turn towards POK. Yes, if there are no restrictions, no military post, the road to Hundermand takes you to Pakistan.

Road to Hunderman
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Hunderman used to be an outpost of the ancient silk route. This small village is located in a valley between mountains over which the Line of Control (LoC) passes. And due to that, after India and Pakistan gained Independence, HunderMan has since been a part of the two countries. Between 1947 and 1971, it was a part of Pakistan before it was taken into Indian control during the 1971 war in Gilgit-Baltistan. Many villagers of Hunderman’s residents fled to Pakistan while the ones who chose to stay behind became Indian citizens overnight. In 1974, when a primary school was built in a small settlement in the upper parts of the valley, the villagers abandoned their old village (called Hunderman Brok) and moved to the new settlement. Here, they built clusters of mud-and-wattle houses for themselves and found employment as porters in the Indian Army.

We wanted to go to this old village (called Hunderman Brok). I wanted to see that village and a small museum. The road to Hunderman village was very narrow with stiff inclines. I was driving the car by keeping enough momentum. I knew, what I was doing, but Archan, Paresh, and Joyas were scared. They were not saying anything, but I was able to read the heavy silence in the car. We kept moving.

To Hunderman
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LOC
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Even the Gods of Roads and mountains also identified the heavy silence in our car. We were just 2 km away from the village and the road was blocked due to some reason. We stopped for a while, clicked some pics of the village with a telephoto lens, and took a U-turn. I noticed a big smile on the face of the rest of my travel mates.

Old village (called Hunderman Brok)
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There was a LOC Viewpoint. We stopped there and went to view the LOC (Lince of Control). Well, we all know that LOC is not a physical line, which we can view. There were some locals, with high-end binoculars. They told us that we can view Indian and Pakistan outposts with their respective flags. We tried it, he was right we were able to see a Pakistani Dargah and a Pakistan army post with a Pakistani flag. We were also able to see our post with our national flag. We also observed a small Pakistan village on the other side of LOC.

LOC View Point.
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LOC View
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LOC
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Notice: This area is getting promoted for tourism. These army posts are visible even by naked eyes. Some Army guys confirmed that it's ok to share below two (where I did detailing of POK and India bunker) images at the open Forum.

We left that Viewpoint at 1743. We wanted to have a stop at Kargil for tea and some local delicacies. However, we were already on the Kargil bypass. We carried on driving on the bypass by ignoring Kargil. We were late and we wanted to drive as fast as possible to reach Lamayuru. We stopped for a while to have a bird-eye view of Kargil town.

To Kargil
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Bird eye view of Kargil
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We left Kargil. We were late. We were still 100km away from our destination. We still had to climb and cross two major passes on the way to Lamayuru. As per my estimate, we still had 3 more hours of drive left. Kargil to Lamayur road is in excellent condtion.

Night drive in ghat section or mountains roads is dangerous. However, In my personal opinion, Night drive in the ghat section are beneficial. I do have my own reasons for that. First, we can spot the upcoming vehicle almost before three or four turns by the beam of its headlights. You don't need to rely on honking (which they can forget) of the upcoming vehicles. Second, you can't see the views of the surrounding mountains, so you can give your full attention to driving and the road. I do have enough experience of driving in ghats at night. However, I always remain cautious during the night.

We reached Namik La at 1940.
It was already dark. We stopped for some quick photos and moved on towards the next pass.

Namika La
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After a quick photo shoot, we left Namika La. The road was excellent and due to that, I was able to maintain a steady speed. Other travel mates were tired. They wanted to reach our homestay and have a bath in hot water. I assured them that will happen soon. But before that, we would have to cross one more pass. And that pass is the highest point.

We reached Fotu la at 2040.
We were almost at our destination. When you get down from the Fotu La. Lamayuru is the first village. We were just 14km away from Lamayuru. However, 14km means a 30 minutes drive in mountains. After some pics, we pushed to Lamayuru.

Fotu La
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We reached our destination and our homestay at Greenland Guesthouse at 2115.
We checked in, had a bath, had our dinner, and called it a day.

Greenland GH
The Everest of Motorheads: Umling LA & Ladakh Circuit-230.jpg

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