7800 km round trip from Bangalore to Leh in a Ford EcoSport

Almost all my road trips will have circuitous route so that there is some variety and thrill while travelling.

BHPian jithin23 recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Disclaimer This travelogue is going to be a lengthy one and I hope I am considered a normal person! I could find some time on a weekend to finish this travelogue as I'm on constant travel almost every weekend due to my personal and social commitments. I have clicked only a few pics from these mammoth drives as I had a very simple phone and I like to keep my experiences raw and real as well as re-live them by narrating over here. Most of you might be familiar with the mods and the build I've done on my car, but I also like to put all the mods on the car to good use by driving it around too

All work and no play make Jithin a dull man, right! Well, this man(yours truly) has been travelling like crazy for a long time but in 2022, The Red Dragon took him to places he had only written down on a piece of paper while graduating from College on a motorcycle was his dream. Such travels are still a dream for many and the Almighty has blessed me with good health and sufficient opportunities to explore the planet. Well, the place is almost the map of India. To top it off 80% of the drive was solo(Even if friends have accompanied me on this trip, I'll be the one behind the wheel and to speak as not all are familiar with Hindi). I've driven crazy distances and never felt fatigued despite the geographical changes and language barriers(I love to learn different languages as that is a major bridge for forging some really great bonds with people). Plus I was always inclined to Geography as a child and loved observing maps and atlases.

Of course, I have a few more states pending to visit and nobody has ever completed studying the entire syllabus for an exam right. So I wanted to leave out a few places so that I can travel those places with my future better half, else I'll be bored by saying I've seen almost all the places in India and she will give me a kicking as well. Plus when I travel abroad in the future I want to be in a position to tell that yes, I've been across India and I can understand the diversity it offers. To experience that diversity, there's nothing better than a road trip(rail too is fine) as it gives you the autonomy and flexibility to do whatever you want, wherever you want! The travelogues on team-bhp were partly an inspiration for me to do such drives, and I wanted to execute such drives on my own. I might remember only some of the places of stay or food as it has been more than a year since I returned from these trips.

Some of you might think why I'm not posting too much on Instagram or I could have been a YouTuber. I want to enjoy the present and live in the moment at that place and not be carried away by curating videos(no offence to the Youtubers or Instagrammers) and there are many who do it as a means of living and I respect their choice. Like I mentioned earlier, I want my experiences to be read and I have documented this for my future reference. And of course, you folks are aware of the after-effects of the place after one influencer goes to a particular place or restaurant for example. I believe in word-of-mouth experiences. Plus I do not refer much to any travel forum too so that I can get a proper feel of travelling on my own.

Some might even think after reading this travelogue, how on earth does this guy pull it off! I'll give a bit of a background for the same. In the year 2008( I was in class 7) and Volvo buses were the fad in Bangalore back then. I was supposed to watch a movie in Inox(this too was a fad back then) with my friends but for some reason, my friends ditched the movie plan. I took a bus pass and started exploring the city bit by bit alone. Back then in one single day, I travelled from Majestic to Kadugodi, then Majestic in the same Volvo. Again from Majestic to Nelamangala and back in the same bus and then from Majestic to Attibele to Silk Board to my locality near Kalyan Nagar. Full paisa vasool of that pass(I still remember it was 150 Rs for the Vajra day pass and that itself was pricey) as well as explored the then tourist spots such as Isckon and the likes and the rest is history! There are some more insane stories of mine but I think I'll keep that a secret(Take a guess: Varaanam Aayirram-inspired scene, however, I travelled within India itself during college days).

Moreover, what's the point of paying an EMI on the car when it's not put to use properly. I remember a saying as well: "The more miles a car is driven, its value depreciates but the experiences of that individual increase in value". Plus in my case, the car and experiences are immense. My parents have had no issues with my travel as long as I'm working and earning for myself because I remember that my parents were like you're free to do whatever you want after you start earning and I started living my dream one by one as we never know what's in store for us the next day. We can earn money in several legal ways but the bonds with people and the memories are priceless, no amount of money can suffice that. My Travels might be a bit extreme on a short notice, my style of travel is a bit different and I do not click too many pics as well, as I always like to tell a story. Please read it with an open mind and perspective. I'm sharing my personal perspective and learnings from the trip over here, so kindly bear with the long hours of driving and jumping state by state. I love to drive so much because I felt connected with an automobile, I was deprived of driving, a lack of a car for the initial 4-5 years after I earned my license. I then decided, that one day I would drive across the world in my own car and start with the home country first! My personal best has been 1200kms in 14 hours from Bangalore to Nagpur, 1000 kms in 11 hours(Bangalore-Shirdi).

I'm really grateful to all my friends, acquaintances, family, and the Indian Army(at the borders) for helping me on such crazy drives! These drives are a testament and a token of gratitude to the travel, automobile community, and Ford, you have given me a lot of firsts in my life! For making my life better right from my first flight to visit the factory(partly sponsored by Ford!) to my first relationship(the girl asked me out seeing my travel stories, now back to being happily single), my first job(I narrated how I got the First EcoSport and the cross country drive), the first car I sat in(A 1998 Ford Escort 1.8D), my first own car(My Red Dragon) and a lot more, especially great friends who are family within as well as outside the Bhpian community. Without it I would have still been without an identity and purpose in my life.

The Blue EcoSport has taken me to another country,(An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport) the Red made me explore the country in detail. I'll focus more on the travels with the Red Dragon and I've split the Pan-India Drive into two parts:

Part 1. Bangalore - Leh- Bangalore (7,800 kms): This was during June-July 2022

Part 2. Bangalore - North East(Upto Tawang)- Bangalore(9,800 kms): This was during Oct-Nov 2022.

Almost all my road trips will have a circuitous route so that there is some variety and thrill while travelling. I have condensed the information over here as much as possibe and I have left out explaining about places or things to do as many Bhpians or Google Ammayi have shared info on these. I'll be sharing only my experiences here.

P.S.: Both were unplanned trips. I just empty my closet into the car's boot and off we go!

My OEM+ Steed without the Shelby grill

Without further Ado, let's take off into this travelogue!

Part 1: Getting Leh'd for the second time(this time by car from home)

Day 1: The Random Rush(21 June 2022)

Distance Driven: 1,087 km(Bangalore-Nagpur)

Time Taken: 15h 38m

After a hard day's work and meetings, I was thinking I hadn't driven much this year and I always wanted to drive to every place in the country and I was bored of driving within South India, so I just emptied my closet into the car's boot and I set off on the highway with the compass pointing towards North on the Speedo. I usually carry a baseball bat, a portable inverter(so that I can work from the car itself) tyre inflator, and repair kit and a water can. Plus some muesli to snack up as I don't prefer processed snacks much.

Set off from home at midnight and reached Hyderabad by 7 am. Crashed into a friend's PG for a few hours to get some sleep and met a fellow EcoSport owner, had a sumptuous lunch(of course Biryani!) at Pista house and I continued my journey towards Nagpur by 3.30 PM. The overall drive for this stretch is uneventful, but I like the reserve forest stretch after Adilabad which feels like driving in a vast expanse of foliage. This was the first time I was traversing beyond the Deccan Plateau by car and I cherished driving every single km of my drive. Energy levels were quite high and I used to take a break after every 150-200km or 2 hrs 30 min.

Booked a stay near Ganeshpeth in Nagpur and I called it a day by 10.30 and completed some work till 12 am (I was working in night shift during 2022). All I had thought was I'd reach Delhi and then let the steering decide the direction for me.

A few pics from Day 1

An average range of 800+kms tank to tank is impressive

Kashmir ain't that far away

I like the Adilabad stretch from Hyd-Nagpur

Stay at Nagpur

Distance for today

Day 2: Dilwalo Ki Dilli!(22/23 Jun 2022)

Distance Driven: 1,080 km(Nagpur-Delhi)

Time Taken: 16h 10m

Started off a bit late from Nagpur by 10 am after having breakfast at Haldirams, buying the OG Nagpur orange for the trip, and within no time I reached Pench National Park. What amazed me was the way the roads are built over a forest thereby ensuring hassle-free movement of vehicles above and animals below the bridge. I was grinning ear to ear as the stretches were scenic though the region is arid. Was gunning the car down as though I was driving on a track and the car was sticking to the road like a rail!

Nagpur Oranges

One of the several tank fills

Once you enter MP, the roads get even more deserted and the weather gets hotter. By noon I was scouting for food options, so I zeroed in on Midway Treat by MP Tourism as I'm skeptical to try random food joints on the highway as I'll be travelling for at least 2 weeks. Had parathas and panner curry and then I set off further into the hinterlands as the sun was setting on the horizon, I reached Jhansi and stopped for a quick kullhad chai plus sutta break(I quit smoking now as I write this travelogue). The dragon has been an amazing companion and I did not feel one bit tired despite driving crazy distances at crazy speeds. Attended a couple of meetings in the car itself and then I stopped at a Rajasthani Restaurant in Gwalior. Started at 10 pm from Gwalior and reached Delhi by 3 am via the Yamuna Expressway. The drive on the expressway was surreal and I hit some mad speeds on that road. Reached a friend's place and slept for the day in Delhi.

A quick cladding wash

Bangalore to Delhi Stats

Day 3: Manali Madness

Distance Driven: 508 km(23/24 June 2022)

Time Taken: 16h 21m

We started off a bit late close to 11 pm in order to avoid traffic at Delhi. I had taken my friend along too(though I was driving for the maximum amount of time) as he hadn't travelled much within the country. We stop at Amrik Sukhdev Dhaba for a sumptuous dinner(the usual Parantha and Subzi when in North India). Post dinner, we sped past Chandigarh in a couple of hours and the cops had flagged me down for tint. I have sunshades and mild tint on the car so that the interiors remain cool, so I paid the fine to the cops and started ascending Himachal within 40-50 kms from Chandigarh.

Once you enter Himachal, it is all a touristy vibe up to Sissu. We were stopped by a harrier en route after he saw me zipping past him. He enquired where I was from and he thought I was from Kerala(by my looks and my car). Most of them in the North have a perception that if a South Indian is travelling by car that means they're from Kerala, then I sit and tell them that I'm from Karnataka as my car has KA plates. We were driving slowly in the traffic and reached Manali for lunch and we stopped for the day.

As I decided that today was a rest day, after some scouting we found a place to stay and I bought a jerry can(basically an old oil can) and a tow rope as I know that the terrain beyond Manali is unforgiving. After refreshing, we went to Hadimba temple and Mall Road in Manali. That was the time I decided that would be my only visit/stay in Manali as it was too crowded even in June.However, the vintage Manali charm was missing.

In terms of food, Siddu(an XL-sized momo) was really tasty and I liked the night vibe in some of the cafes in Manali.

One funny incident was my manager somehow got wind that I was not in Bangalore(that year WFH was allowed and I made the best use of it by travelling every week!), called me up that night and he started stating some HR policy that you have to inform if you're out of Bangalore, I told him that VPN rule applies if you travel overseas and not within the country as per the policy and I like to keep my personal interests away from my work and colleagues unless I vibe well with them. Then I sorted the work scene and he told me to apply for leave I asked him for a week's leave and he approved it immediately and I had to return back to Bangalore on the 8th day! Till then I used to work and attend meetings in the car or hotel wherever I stayed during my shift hours.

The stay at Manali

Day 4: Ascent towards Hanle

Distance Driven: 320 km(25 June 2022)

Time Taken: 12 hrs

We started driving towards Leh road and the traffic was at its peak till Tandi. I fueled up the car the previous night itself and filled the Jerry can too as I know that in Tandi there will be a huge line for fuel because from Tandi to Leh, there are no fuel pumps at all! Not even a bit of vegetation. Almost everyone wanted a pic at the Rohtang tunnel which further added to the time.We stopped at a kutty restaurant for a quick snack and food stop and I didn't click too many pics at Suraj Tal either as it was too crowded. Felt almost like a jaathre(which means a crowded market/mela in Kannada) there(even in Khardung La as well). Then we were gaining good pace and the topography was rapidly changing with a dip in weather. We quickly crossed Jispa by noon and the roads were literally a bliss to drive.

At Jispa

By evening we crossed the Gata loops as there was a truck which turned turtle while he was negotiating a turn. Plus Gata loops were fun to drive with a tuned car but perilous at the same time as there are no guard rails and one wrong move, you're gone! We also saw a toppled Ecosport too over there. We stopped for Maggi and I had already downloaded offline maps, I was looking for a place to crash for the night. We stopped near Tso Kar tents and surprisingly we had natural light till 7.30-8 ish in the evening in this part of the country. The Harrier gang split towards Leh and Me and my friend towards Tso Kar.

That frame!

Day 5: A failed attempt to Umling La and then to Leh

Distance Driven: 350 km(25 June 2022)

Time Taken: 14 hrs

We started early around 5 am towards Hanle and after some mild off-roading and stream crossings, we reached a place called Mahe(not the one in Kerala) and wrote the details of my car and my ID.I always carry my passport in if I'm travelling across the tropic of cancer in my car as I might drift off to another country if I feel like it. After Mahe, I missed noticing a gap in the road, and my car got stuck in that gap. Luckily the car didn't slip off into the ditch nearby and there was a BRO truck filled with laboureres at the right time. I took their help and within 5 minutes we were back on the road again! We stopped at Nyoma for breakfast and to withdraw some money and I really loved the eerie silence and the aura around this place that I was just gazing at the nature and mountains for half an hour straight. Post Nyoma, there is a check post at Loma and I did not have a permit. Then I convinced the army personnel and they let me go as they saw my car's plates. A few stretches were being patched but the roads were very well maintained. by 10ish we reached Hanle and we spotted a few bikers and a UP16 Thar and asked them if they knew the route to Umling La. I went to the Hanle gompa and I was again sitting and viewing the mountains(I wish the roads the world over had a fuss-free system like the European Union). By noon we decided to head towards Umling La I tried going through 3 routes but my car's tyres were giving up and the battery was in its last stages. I tried the photi la route and this was under construction after a few kms. I also tried going along with some bikers by crossing a ground-type route but a GJ Skoda owner was like this route isn't good and he had to turn back. Talk about worst luck :(. Then I also wanted to try via Loma as there was a longer route to Umling la, but that was even more dangerous and as I knew my car's condition plus a solo driver(my friend was barely 20, so I couldn't risk putting his life under risk too), I decided that I'll head to Leh and visit Hanle and Umling La next time. Moreover, we didn't have any stay options too in Hanle as the places were full and I had only very limited cash in my wallet.

I thought this signboard was a sign of completing one of my bucket lists, but the list still remains on for a greater purpose

No man's land for kilometers and kilometers

Hanle Gompa is in the background. Next time I'll stay and visit the observatory too

We drove towards Leh, after helping an Army gypsy and a truck as its axle had broken. Fortunately, the. jerry can come to use and I could fill up half a tank of diesel in my car and continue towards Leh. At one of the Checkposts, I got lucky as one of the army personnel gave 2 packs of Juice and biscuits as he saw my car and me driving post dusk and by 10ish at night we reached Leh and stayed for the night at Sponbo guest house. It's a simple guesthouse with home-cooked food and car parking for 2 cars with a TT table. Wanted to explore Leh Market and stay for a day to rest.

A long drive to China Anyone?

Dragon gave itself and me a warning in the form of a weak battery by the ABS light glowing in the ignition. In another few kms, we would have conquered Umling La. Must have been 18,000+ ft for sure

Sometimes it is the journey, not the destination we need to focus on

Continue reading BHPian jithin23 report for more insights and information.

Redlining the Indian Scene