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Old 22nd May 2022, 09:57   #1
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Default Lahaul in a Jeep Compass - My first solo trip to Himachal

This is a travelogue about my recent solo trip to Himachal. I will try and make this log as useful as possible, with route details. The write up may contain errors, jokes, etc. - please do not take them too seriously. Please let me know if you have any queries.

Regards..

Panc....

Oops! (backspace backspace) I have reached a point where I am not sure if I am writing a formal email or a travelogue. Such is corporate life. It keeps draining out the last ounce of vigour till there is some more and then BAM! You reach a state when nothing matters - that trip you wanted to take, that car you wanted to buy, that adventure you wanted to embark on, that roaring laugh you had - all gone. What matters is work, that promotion and more work and then that increment. Do not get me wrong. This is how, we humans, have evolved to function and it is a necessity. You, me and a lot of other people will follow this path or this routine. I will do it - happily. Why? because we need to. But to come to think of this, where is that 'me' time when you get to switch off and think, reflect and slow down for a bit.

To find this, and to change up my daily routine, I decided to hit the road for an unplanned trip to Himachal.

So what did I do: Took a solo trip

Where: Not decided but had booked a place in Keylong. More on that later.

What did I drive: Jeep Compass 4x4 Diesel Auto 2021

Duration: Not decided initially but ended up doing 5 days and 4 nights

How much did I spend: INR 23000 (approx.)

What is the cost break up: Diesel = INR 10000 (approx.); Stay = INR 8500/-; Food = INR 3000/-; Toll = INR 1200/-

What was the plan: Hybrid. Vacay on weekend and work on week days

Again, I could not afford a full vacay yet. I had to work on the weekdays so I thought why not work from mountains. But I was never big on solo trips. I usually never do things alone. I always want to eat with people, visit places with friends, celebrate occasions with family. Not because I cannot do all these things alone but I just like my loved ones to be around. But there is an issue with this. Not everyone's calendar will be synced with yours. More specifically, my mother's and my girl friend's.

For years, I have been asking my mum to take a trip with me - but I guess old age really takes away your will to step out of the house and go on adventures. She has been cooped up in the house and more so since the pandemic started. She wants to go on trips - I know that but just does not want to step out of her comfort zone, I feel.

For many many months, I have been asking my girlfriend to take a trip with me - but I guess corporate life really takes away your will to step out and go on adventures. She has been cooped up in the house working and now with office opening up she has even less flexibility. She wants to go on trips - I know that but just does not want to step out of her comfort zone, I feel.

The above two paras are NOT copy paste errors. You see what I did there.

Anyway, so I decided - enough is enough. I have a car, a will to drive and explore, work from home is still a thing - why not take a chance and just go. I had a place in mind so let's just go. Here is a teaser pic.

Lahaul in a Jeep Compass - My first solo trip to Himachal-98ac0f7ebd6a4e93896a850d35ad5ced.jpeg

Last edited by Pancham : 1st July 2022 at 10:16.
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Old 22nd May 2022, 14:03   #2
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Default Re: Lahaul in a Compass - My first solo trip to Himachal

I was so desperate to go on a driving trip that I had initially planned to drive to Kolkata - my home town. Honestly, with the fuel prices going north, driving to Kolkata does not make sense any more. So I made a few plans to carry some stuff back from Kolkata - (e.g., some gym equipment) just to add logic to this endeavour. I was supposed to leave on Saturday (May 14). But then on Thursday, I had his epiphany about how I can do a quick trip before and then fly to Kolkata instead of driving 3100 Kms to and fro. The other funny thing is that I had just got done a full polish and coating done on my car on Wednesday. It was not cheap but this trip will also be a quick litmus test for all the tall claims my detailer made.

Glimpse of how my car looked on Wednesday.

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So on Thursday (May 12), I decided to call Zomsa and check if they have any rooms available. What is Zomsa?

So Zomsa Culture Hub is this 80 year mud house in Keylong where you can stay. That's it. Zomsa means a 'gathering'. I have been wanting to go there ever since they opened last year and was featured in Ronnie and Barty's youtube channel. The facilities are basic and it is not for everyone. But it is as authentic as you can get. More on this later.

Luckily, Zomsa confirmed that they have a single room available for the weekend. A single room that is apt for solo travellers. Perfect. I immediately booked and made the transfer. Texted my girlfriend that I am going - along; got her blessings immediately.

I quickly started asking people about the route. Many suggested driving to Manali directly might not be a good idea. I realised many people stop over at Chandigarh or somewhere on the way. But I did not want to because (i) lack of time - I wanted to explore over the weekend, (ii) I genuinely thought it was doable.

So the route was:

Gurgaon - Cantonment - Sonipat - Panipat - Karnal - Ambala - Mohali - Kiratpur Sahib - Swarghat - Bilaspur - Mandi - Manali.

I decided to leave as early as possible on Saturday. So on Friday, I got all the basic essentials - biscuits, dry/wet napkins, water, etc. I went off to sleep at 8pm on Friday. My girlfriend returned late from work but made one large basket of sandwiches. I woke up at 3:30am, made a flask full of coffee and I was off.

Day 1 - May 14: Gurgaon to Manali: 560kms. Left at 4:25am from Gurgaon

The idea was to leave as early as possible. I was flying solo so I was not sure if I will be able to make it till Manali so I had mentally prepared myself to stop anywhere on the way. Luckily bhpian Altocumulus connected me with a fellow traveller who was also going to Manali but he left at 12:30am. So he was 4 hours ahead of me but he was super helpful. He kept sending me updates about the road conditions ahead.

Driving alone has its advantages. You have all to flexibility to stop, keep going and pace your journey accordingly. I made good progress early on. It did not take much time to reach Murthal. There were diversions near Sonipat and was stuck there for a while. Being a weekend traffic was a bit on the higher side. But soon I was on my way to Karnal and then Ambala. I reached Ambala cantonment at 8am dot.

The highway till Ambala is pretty good. You can maintain the speed limit of 90 kmph comfortably. As you reach Ambala, they make you take a right and then there is 2 lane divider-less highway of around 40km. I stopped somewhere in between to hog into my sandwiches and coffee. I had paper cups from my earlier Kolkata - Delhi trip which I used for coffee. With the short break done and recharged - I was off again towards Chandigarh/Mohali. One issue was that the outside temperatures were terribly high. So stepping out was not a good option. Also, it was very dusty outside. I stopped for a few bio breaks in between and reached Kiratpur Sahib by 10am. I was pretty relaxed overall. Listening to your favourite music and since it was a Saturday work was not on my mind.

I think I crossed Bilaspur at around 12pm.

Tanked up at a Reliance pump in Bilaspur. Fuel prices in Himachal is substantially cheap btw.

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The roads were overall not so okay. My excitement to hit the mountains was high so I did not pay much heed to the road conditions. Reached Mandi at 1:50pm. That is when the 'road to hell' started.

Conditions after Mandi is so bad that I almost started regretting the trip. Due to construction of the tunnels there was a traffic jam every 100 meters and everything was super dusty. My good friend who was already 4 hours ahead of me had given me a heads up about the road blockages post Mandi. Although I faced a lot less jam that he did, traffic was still painfully slow. This went on for about 20-30km after Mandi.

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Then you hit the nicer highways near Kullu and about 35kms before Manali, the roads are really nice.

One thing to note is that as you approach Manali (say about 100kms from Manali) please do not follow Google maps blindly. G Maps will get you in trouble in no time. Try and follow the road signages pointing towards Manali or ask locals. Also, try and stick to the main highway as much as possible that runs by the Beas river. I made the mistake of taking the Nagger route to Manali. Although it was scenic, it took a long time for me to reach Manali.

Parked somewhere on the Nagger route towards Manali.

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This route has lesser cars but it takes a bit more time to reach Manali. After driving for 14 hours, you start feeling every additional minute. Nevertheless, I reached Manali at around 7:30pm.

Not expecting this, but the road to the hotel I booked was surprisingly steep. The hotel was right on top of a by-lane that went up from the Manali highway. It was narrow and mostly unpaved but you could find everything from a tempo travellers to convertible Mercedes' there. And yes it was a both way traffic. The fun part was the 700m climb on unpaved roads. The Compass, as expected, gobbled it up without much effort. Just one caveat to this - the transmission temperature reached 89 degrees Celsius by the time I reached the hotel. It usually hovers around 70.

Some pictures of the view from the hotel and my parked car.

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So finally, I did manage to reach Manali in one go. It took me around 14 -15 hours but the car performed really well. I was tired because of the Mandi leg. Otherwise, the car was rock solid and went over bad roads like nobody's business. The Compass is made for these roads it seemed. I was finally happy that I was using the car how it is supposed to be. Tip of the iceberg (in terms of usage), but still.

The day ended with me ordering some naan and butter chicken and watching IPL. Slept off at around 10 with the excitement to see what lies beyond Atal Tunnel the next day.

Last edited by Pancham : 1st July 2022 at 17:40.
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Old 1st July 2022, 18:10   #3
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Default Re: Lahaul in a Compass - My first solo trip to Himachal

Day 2 - May 15: Manali to Keylong and wherever: 100ish kms

The best part about Day 2 was that it was a Sunday - and not just any Sunday but one where I was in the cusp of a beautiful hill station waiting to enter an even more breathtaking part of Himachal. As the mountains beckoned, I decided to play it cool. I woke up at around 8, had my coffee, lazily went down for breakfast, came up and chit chatted with my mum for a bit. A perfect Sunday waiting to get even better. The view from the hotel:

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The hotel:
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I stayed at Hotel Aeraki - a relatively new hotel. Tariff was around INR 3000 per night booked through Make My trip.

I left for Keylong/Jispa at around 10am. Having heard so much about Atal Tunnel, I was really excited to see what it was like. Surprisingly, there was minimal traffic. I was just asked to stopped at the entrance to open the boot. Waiting time was less than 2-3 minutes. Within moments I was inside the tunnel. And what can I say - it truly is an engineering marvel.

It took me around 45 min to reach the tunnel from my hotel. There are 2 things you will notice when you come out of the other side of the tunnel:

1. How the temperature drops: Manali, during the day, was kind of warm. But the temp. dropped to mid teens by the time I came out of the tunnel.

2. How the landscape changes: Manali, is well, a hill station. The other side of the tunnel is something you have to see to believe.

All the pain and dusty roads I had to deal with till Manali was forgotten. It truly is a different world on the other side of Atal tunnel.

I just could not stop taking photographs. Eventually, I stopped somewhere to let it all sink in. I reached for my flask, loosened the cap and poured some hot coffee into the small cup I was carrying. Its finally happening. I am here and nothing else matters. .

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The next few moments felt surreal. Anyone who disses at sunroofs should try opening one here. You NEED one when you are touring these parts of the country. Well, the first time I opened I almost got burned because the sun was quite strong and the leather seat almost grilled my bum (I had stepped out for a bit). So I just opened the shade and drove. It felt really good.

So, as I was saying - the next few moments were just me, my car, and some really good music.

I tanked up at Tandi and reached Keylong in no time.

Lahaul in a Jeep Compass - My first solo trip to Himachal-whatsapp-image-20220701-6.25.58-pm-4.jpeg

Fuel at Tandi is slightly more expensive than other parts of Himachal.

Lahaul in a Jeep Compass - My first solo trip to Himachal-whatsapp-image-20220701-6.25.58-pm-5.jpeg

I reached Keylong at 2pm because I stopped at several places in between. The issue in Keylong is finding a good parking spot. I could not find a spot so requested a local to let me park in front of his shop. Climbed up to Zomsa to drop my luggage off.

A statutory warning here: Zomsa is not for people looking for a luxury stay or expecting bubble baths with their baes. Heck the bathrooms are common for all guests. It is a mud house that is doing a really good job at retaining the core Lahauli culture in the midst of pink and orange brick and mortar hotels. The climb to the mud house is quite steep especially if you have luggage.

Lahaul in a Jeep Compass - My first solo trip to Himachal-whatsapp-image-20220701-6.25.58-pm-20.jpeg

Unfortunately, when I reached there was no one to check me in. So I dropped my bags and decided to explore further North East.

One word: the roads are magnificent. You can keep driving on and on. The only thing you got to keep in mind is the altitude. Don't act smart with nature. Take it easy and drink loads of water.

The landscape beyond Keylong is even better. I reached Jispa and had lunch at a local restaurant. Food was not that great. Drove further till the Darcha bridge.

You have put down your name at the check post after crossing the bridge. I did not want to go much further; nevertheless I had nothing much to do so decided to drive up a little further.

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Then I saw the notorious board - the gateway to an epic trip that has been eluding me and Deep (team bhp handle: Slipstream) for some time now.

The route to Zanskar:

Lahaul in a Jeep Compass - My first solo trip to Himachal-whatsapp-image-20220701-6.25.58-pm-8.jpeg

Lahaul in a Jeep Compass - My first solo trip to Himachal-whatsapp-image-20220701-6.25.58-pm-9.jpeg

One thing to note is that you don't get phone network once you leave Keylong - there is absolutely no network in Jispa. I had Vodafone, Jio and Airtel - nothing worked.

Last edited by Aditya : 2nd July 2022 at 05:28. Reason: As requested
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Old 1st July 2022, 19:05   #4
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Default Re: Lahaul in a Compass - My first solo trip to Himachal

I turned back from here and went back down to Zomsa.

A glimse of Zomsa - the mud house where I was going to spend the next 3 days (at least):

Lahaul in a Jeep Compass - My first solo trip to Himachal-whatsapp-image-20220701-7.12.14-pm.jpeg

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The view from my room was breathtaking (it was a small single bed room for solo travelers). Well, the view from the entire town of Keylong was excellent. The food was excellent too.

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Keylong:

Lahaul in a Jeep Compass - My first solo trip to Himachal-whatsapp-image-20220701-7.14.47-pm-3.jpeg

The next three days were spent, well working. Honestly, workcation is not easy. With all the views and nice roads calling you to get on with in and explore endlessly is quite distracting.

The People:

Coming from a metro city what struck me were the people and how they went about their lives. They are so so nice to outsiders - they treat you like you are one of their own. I was invited to a local Lahauli function on Monday even - I hurried to finish my work and tagged along with my new found friends at Zomsa (Japnit who manages things at Zomsa, Pallavi - owner of Zomsa, et al). I cannot explain in words how much I enjoyed. People kept singing, dancing and laughing all (almost) night long under the full moon (it was Buddha Purnima). For once, even I let my hair down and danced with them forgetting about all my city worries. We made a circle and kept going round and round - with a local Lahauli singer (and quite well known) singing all her favourite songs which were quite a hit amongs the locals. It was a night to remember.

Lahaul in a Jeep Compass - My first solo trip to Himachal-whatsapp-image-20220701-7.27.39-pm-1.jpeg

As I mentioned earlier, finding a good parking spot in Keylong is a problem. Luckily, I found a spot on Sunday and did not take my car out till I left on Wednesday.

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How I found my car on Wednesday before I left:

Lahaul in a Jeep Compass - My first solo trip to Himachal-whatsapp-image-20220701-7.27.39-pm-6.jpeg

Back to reality: The return

As I mentioned, I did not do much in the next 3 days - worked a lot, chilled in the evenings - chatted with the Zomsa peeps over dinners, listened to their stories and that is about it.

I decided to leave on Wednesday morning at around 5am. Eventually left at 7am. I was feeling very sleepy when I woke up so decided to lay on bed for a bit longer.

Left Keylong at around 7 and stopped for tea at a local shop:

(I have to stop taking pictures of my car. )

Lahaul in a Jeep Compass - My first solo trip to Himachal-whatsapp-image-20220701-7.42.17-pm.jpeg

The plan was to reach Gurgaon by late evening and I did. Reached home at around 11pm. Final stats:

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This is how the car looked next morning in Gurgaon:

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This is it. A short sweet solo trip just to drive and enjoy a little bit of life out of office. If I could do it you can too. But before I end please read the following very carefully:

ONE VERY IMPORTANT MESSAGE

When you travel in Himachal please try and bring your trash back. These hilly regions do not have very good solid waste management systems so chances are that your plastic bottle (which you leave behind) may eventually land up in the beautiful rivers causing environmental havoc and even worst (and in all probably) will outlast you in terms of your time on this planet. I carried my waste back home. You can do it too.

Lahaul in a Jeep Compass - My first solo trip to Himachal-whatsapp-image-20220701-7.44.27-pm.jpeg

With this, I close my travelogue. Adios! Please hit me with your queries, in case you have any.

Last edited by Pancham : 1st July 2022 at 19:54.
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Old 1st July 2022, 20:01   #5
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Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 1st July 2022, 20:46   #6
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What a log! Beautiful pictures and superbly narrated. The last para is juat too beautiful. ♥ Jeep is looking absolutely gorgeous with mighty Himalay in the backdrop!
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Old 1st July 2022, 22:16   #7
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Default Re: Lahaul in a Jeep Compass - My first solo trip to Himachal

Well-written travelogue, Pancham. I like your style of writing.

Indeed, the road to Manali is the major deterrent at present for taking a roadtrip to that region. Good that you were enjoying your time in the company of your Compass, mostly cocooned from the heat and dust.

So you made it back to Gurugram from Keylong in 16 hours - did you follow the same road back from Manali?
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Old 2nd July 2022, 02:47   #8
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Default Re: Lahaul in a Jeep Compass - My first solo trip to Himachal

Me and my wife did the same trip back in April's Easter weekend. Just planned on 13th and executed on 14th. We were like 'we will drive till the road is blocked further towards Leh'.

We started on 14th at 12 AM from our home at South Delhi and apart from few jams till Sonipat, we reached Murthal very quickly. Had the customary Paratha and Chai and we kept on driving. Was taking break at every 150 odd kilometers for food and washroom. From Mandi we took IIT Mandi route till Kullu (narrow road still faster than the Mandi - Kullu main road (came back by the main road and still I regret )

Reached at Manali Hotel by 8 PM, had dinner and slept. Next day started at 9 AM towards Atal Tunnel. But traffic was too bad. Our Beat still climbed effortlessly. Experiencing Atal Tunnel itself was something unexplainable. Exited the Tunnel and took right turn towards Rohtang Pass. Road was closed at Koksar. Thousands were pouring in that day and the area was filled with Cars, Tempos, etc. Lot of ice and tonnes of photographs.

We turned back and our next destination was Sissu. By the time we reached the bridge leading to Atal Tunnel a Police officer stopped us stating that Atal Tunnel is temporarily closed due to extraordinary long weekend rush. We sat in the car for 30 mins to cross the bridge mouth towards Sissu. Then new ideas started popping. First visited Sissu lake. Then observing Sissu waterfall like WOW! We were like 'why don't we hike till the waterfall and can have some fun with zipline too' and we did all this exactly.

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We were back in our car at 5:30 pm. Then planned to drive till Keylong. In the mean time a friend of wife is camping at Jispa and he invited us. Filled petrol from Tandi and kept driving. We drove till Darcha checkpost and came back to Jispa and had some time with our friend and team. (while driving towards Darcha we got snowfall at at Jispa) Now time is 8:45 PM. We started driving back. The only light available was moon light and headlamps.

Lahaul in a Jeep Compass - My first solo trip to Himachal-whatsapp-image-20220702-2.15.07-am.jpeg

It was an awesome journey back at night to Manali. We encountered 3 wild animals in between. 2 small Fox type and 1 small Leopard type. Couldn't click since they stare at the headlight for few seconds and run. Road was absolutely empty till Manali. Only 2 Boleros came from opposite. We crossed Atal tunnel at 10:40 PM and reached Hotel at 12:00 AM

Next day started early at 7:45 AM after breakfast and checked out from the hotel to beat the traffic and cross Atal Tunnel AEAP. Target was to drive till Suraj Tal but road was closed at Deepak Tal. Again tonnes of pics clicked and started our return journey back to Delhi. We reached our home at 9 PM Sunday

Lahaul in a Jeep Compass - My first solo trip to Himachal-whatsapp-image-20220702-2.40.19-am.jpeg

Lahaul in a Jeep Compass - My first solo trip to Himachal-whatsapp-image-20220702-1.11.10-am.jpeg

WOW! What a drive. https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/offic...ml#post5300336 (Chevrolet Beat : Test Drive & Review)

Sorry to hijack your post.

Cheers!
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Old 2nd July 2022, 14:11   #9
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Default Re: Lahaul in a Jeep Compass - My first solo trip to Himachal

"I carried my waste back home. You can do it too". Hats off to you. Well done! Wish every visitor there does what you did.

Nice travelogue too. Does your work need very good internet? What did you do for connectivity?
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Old 2nd July 2022, 15:54   #10
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Default Re: Lahaul in a Jeep Compass - My first solo trip to Himachal

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Originally Posted by cp171185 View Post
What a log! Beautiful pictures and superbly narrated. The last para is juat too beautiful. ♥ Jeep is looking absolutely gorgeous with mighty Himalay in the backdrop!
Thanks a lot. The Jeep does look amazing in the mountains.

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Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
Well-written travelogue, Pancham. I like your style of writing.

Indeed, the road to Manali is the major deterrent at present for taking a roadtrip to that region. Good that you were enjoying your time in the company of your Compass, mostly cocooned from the heat and dust.

So you made it back to Gurugram from Keylong in 16 hours - did you follow the same road back from Manali?
Yes, I took the exact same route back home. Stopped at Bilaspur HPTDC guest house for lunch and that’s about it.
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"I carried my waste back home. You can do it too". Hats off to you. Well done! Wish every visitor there does what you did.

Nice travelogue too. Does your work need very good internet? What did you do for connectivity?
Yes, because I have a lot of emails coming in. I used hotspot from my Airtel Postpaid sim and it worked flawlessly in Keylong.
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Old 2nd July 2022, 18:24   #11
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Default Re: Lahaul in a Compass - My first solo trip to Himachal

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(I have to stop taking pictures of my car. )
Don't say that, I'd have not liked your post as much without Compass pictures. Jeep Compass looks quite handsome in Black. Great humour and well written, truly inspiring for us corporate slaves to take the long overdue break everyone is putting off.
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Old 3rd July 2022, 08:46   #12
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Default Re: Lahaul in a Jeep Compass - My first solo trip to Himachal

Very well written blog. Pictures are amazing.
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Old 3rd July 2022, 10:38   #13
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Well written, well shot Vlog, Co Incidently I recently came back from Himachal Trip from Gurgaon as well, although I went to Dharamshala to my inlaws place, I echo your feelings to the Highway from Ambala, but then going from Kharar Mohali Road and finally to the main Highway which goes till Anandpur Sahib, after the brief single road section the main highway (4 lane) was just fantastic and the best road in the trip, way better than that GT Karnal road one, extremely well paved, designed and mostly empty, I could reach and sustain unmentionable speeds but I stuck to 90 – 100 for most part.
Then our ways diverged as I went through Nangal to Una and Amb all the way to Dharamshala, road conditions were fair for most part even there and it took me a little over 10 hours for the 500 and change KMs trip, and about 2.7k of Gurgaon Rate Diesel and about 2.2k of Himachal rate Diesel (the difference is not just down to the cheaper diesel there but substantially better mileage in the downhill trip) to complete the trip.(Near about 5k of total Diesel)

Last edited by Rocketscience : 3rd July 2022 at 10:40.
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Old 3rd July 2022, 13:09   #14
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Default Re: Lahaul in a Compass - My first solo trip to Himachal

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When you travel in Himachal please try and bring your trash back.
What a trip, congratulations. I often wonder if this country has people like you, how is it that it seems to be crumbling under the raging mob we seem to have become.
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Old 3rd July 2022, 14:22   #15
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Default Re: Lahaul in a Jeep Compass - My first solo trip to Himachal

Very well narrated - thanks for sharing - the number pictures of your Compass are truly justified because 1. it does look great, not a hint of tiredness and 2. more importantly when you travel solo you car is your only dependable companion, you almost tend to speak to it especially in such remote regions. The car's reliability/safety is of utmost importance. I am sure you thanked it as soon as you came home.
I did when I went solo from Chennai to Khatmandu in my Thar a few years back
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