Home » Tips & Reviews » CONVERSATIONS WITH A TRAVELER – NAVEEN

CONVERSATIONS WITH A TRAVELER – NAVEEN

by travelmynation

On the mountains of truth, you can never climb in vain: either you will reach a point higher up today, or you will be training your powers so that you will be able to climb higher tomorrow.

OFF TRAILS (The Roads never end!)– BANGALORE – LADAKH – BANGALORE
10 States, 2 UT’s, 19 days, 7800 Km, 8 passes, 2 lakes, 9 crazy travelers & 3 Dusters!

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Naveen with his Duster

ABOUT ME

My name is Naveen Karthik and like many of them in Bangalore, I am an IT Professional and enjoy traveling. I have done a few road trips and am a novice at writing a travelogue, this is my first attempt at it and was keen to do so after this expedition. I am sharing our experiences of the recent trip from Bangalore to Leh and back which was one of its kind!

A DREAM LIKE YOURS

It has been many years since I have been wanting to visit Ladakh, I badly wanted to do it last year when a group of Dusters started their journey from Bangalore to Leh but could not make it for various reasons. As we stepped into 2018, I was keen to complete this expedition and found a few like-minded folks. In the month of April, we decided to target August for the Road trip from Bangalore to Leh and back as it would provide us ample time to plan our leaves, well …let me cut the story short, so we finally formed a team that was all set for this Expedition of our life from Bangalore – Leh and back, 10th of August 2018 was the dates.

3 Dusters & 9 travelers were set for this expedition with no prior bookings as we decided to take things as they come.

  • HISPANIOLA – Grey Duster, Diesel AMT; Drivers: Siddharth Roy (Sid), Subhrojyoti Mandal (Subhro) & Moeinak Sen Gupta (Based out of Kolkata and joined us from Chandigarh)
  • WANDERER – Cayenne Orange, Petrol Manual; Drivers: Arvind Bhat & Vinod Kumar, Co-traveler Sandeep
  • INVADER – White Duster, Diesel Manual; Driver: Naveen Karthik, co-travelers – Sathish & Sreedharan

Post the planning and branding for the cars, the D-day had arrived ** August 10th2018 ** where we all gathered opposite Esteem Mall, Bangalore at 6:00 AM for the flag off and to begin the exciting road trip.
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DAY 1

We were flagged off opposite Esteem Mall at 06:30 and the destination for the day was Nagpur which was 1080 kms from the starting point.

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Off-Trails team along with their rides – “HISPANIOLA, WANDERER & INVADER”

Onset our journey for the planned destination, we decided to have breakfast around 8AM as we were really hungry from the start point since we remained half-awake due to the excitement and the early morning start, obviously due to the final packing, loading the car and the last minute stuff that generally comes up. As we got closer to Penukonda which was around 08:00, we decided to stop for breakfast and it took us about an hour before we got back on the road to resume our journey. We continued our journey with a couple more stops and a tea break around noon, finally reached Hyderabad around 14:00 hrs.

We ventured into the city as many of them were keen to feast on the Hyderabadi Biryani’s, left the restaurant when the clock read 16:00 and were required to refuel. Then we headed back to the highway to find out that the fuel station had only diesel and we also needed petrol, this made us go back to the city before hitting the peripheral ring road since it is a 100 Kms stretch without any fuel stations, which basically means we had lost a lot of time and were running late. It was around 16:30 when we entered the peripheral ring road and covered the stretch in about an hour’s time before stopping for a refreshing tea break at 17:45 once we merged onto the highway.

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At 18:00, we resumed our journey towards Nagpur and decided that we need to really limit our stops, went past Adilabad and stopped at 21:00 for Dinner. By now, we had learned that the roads were not great in this stretch since there were many diversions due to road work and also had a lot of bad patches, after having a quick bite the journey resumed around 21:45 and we started moving at a good pace and finally reached Nagpur around 24:00 where we checked into Hotel Royal Regency which was very close to the highway, checked in and we decided to start at 07:00 the next day.

DAY 2

Fresh and enthusiastic, we were all up by around 06:30 and were hoping to leave in the next hour after finishing the breakfast, but we left the hotel around 08:00 post a heavy breakfast in the hotel and headed straight to a fuel station.

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Fresh after a Good Night’s Sleep at Nagpur, Ready to Rock!

We decided that as we get to 60% of fuel consumption in the car, we would tank up to avoid the delays based on the lessons learned in Hyderabad. It was again a drive of 700 kms to Gwalior which was our destination for the day and we were ambitious, we wanted to get to Agra and halt so that the next day’s drive would be lesser and most importantly it provides anyone who has not seen Taj Mahal an opportunity to view the majestic and amazing structure.

After refueling we started our journey for the day at 09:00 and as we progressed we were welcomed by the amazing landscape and beauty of Pench National Park and we ended up stopping for photographs at multiple points, back of our minds we all know that we were getting delayed with our journey plans but we could not help it. Most of us had only met around a month ago with an objective of going on this expedition and had to start getting to know each other well.

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It’s tough to be cutthroat when you are with a group of people whom you need to get close and understand them well as the next few days are going to be spent together but at the same time, we had to be a bit disciplined to enable us to be on schedule. It started raining and drove past sipping on some hot coffee which we managed to prepare using the water heater in the car.

We entered Madhya Pradesh in some time and were greeted by the scenic routes and rains. The roads were beautiful we were enjoying the drive thoroughly apart from the cattle menace, drove amidst heavy rains until we reached HOTEL KRISHNA at 13:40 which was off the highway and about 20 kms past Narsinghpur, the food was delicious.

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Everyone had their stomach full and we resumed our journey at 14:30. As we moved ahead we were in for a surprise since we saw butterflies flying around in thousands and hitting the windscreen (Butterfly Attack). It looked as though someone had opened a box with thousands of butterflies, the windscreen was completely stained and was hard to clean, and luckily heavy rains followed making it easier. We were driving at a decent pace and we were positive about reaching Agra instead of Gwalior, we stopped for some fuel and tea in the outskirts of Lalitpur at 18:00.

As we sipped our tea, we started discussing if we could get to Agra – we have approx 180 kms to Gwalior and were thinking thru the plan as we expected to cover 180 kms in about three hours and with a couple of hours stretch post-dinner, we would have easily made it to Agra. So, in about 15 mins, we wrapped up the tea break and reached Jhansi by 20:00 which was en route Gwalior. We were welcomed by a traffic jam and were stuck right in the middle of it. We spent about 30 mins and crawled to cover about 500 mt, realized that our Agra plans look very bleak given that the road from Jhansi to Gwalior was not good and our travel time would be more than what we expected.

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With BB Singh in the center at Gwalior

We made some quick calls and primarily to our back-end support (Mr. Soumo Bakshi) who was “tele traveling” with us and was our fall back option for any advice we needed. After getting reservations done via a known member from TDI (Team Duster India) in Gwalior, we reached by 22:30. The last stretch from Jhansi to Gwalior was really frustrating as the roads were bad, single lane and had many deviations. We checked in to the hotel and met our contact (Mr. BB Singh) who was waiting to greet us for over an hour now.

After exchanging pleasantries, we all had dinner together and used this opportunity to start knowing each other better and finally called it a day. We decided to do some local sight-seeing and head out of Gwalior by 10:00

DAY 3

As planned, we started at 09:00 from the hotel post breakfast and headed to get a quick view of the Gwalior fort – a really majestic one and needed more than an hour to cover it, instead we got a quick view of the fort from outside and headed towards Rani Lakshmi Bai’s memorial, stopped there to take a view and offer homage, post which we headed towards the outskirts of Gwalior and visited Bateshwar, Mitawali & Padavali temples – these are considered to be built by the dacoits who used to operate in these areas, currently being renovated by the archaeological team, amazing architecture and definitely would not have visited this place if not for our contact from Gwalior who was very keen that we visit these places.

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Well, after spending a considerable amount of time visiting these places, we bid adieu to him and started our journey toward Agro around 12:30. We decided to take the detours ahead and join the highway instead of heading back towards Gwalior as that would mean we go back almost 25 kms, the roads cut across the villages and provided an opportunity to explore. Shortly we merged into Agra highway and crossed the famous Chambal Ghats which was a feared stretch once upon a time.

By now, we were really hungry because of the explorations since morning and decided to stop for lunch at a local dhaba instead of looking for a standard restaurant, around 13:55 we stopped at a dhaba in Dholpur and feasted on some amazing rotis and sabzi with the local flavor. It was 14:45 when we started and drove non-stop, going past Agra and then took the Yamuna Expressway towards Delhi, we got off the expressway and met another member from TDI who had called us after learning of our journey. Met him, exchanged pleasantries and the kind member had also got us some refreshments, after a quick meeting we headed towards Chandigarh which was our destination for the night.

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We took the eastern expressway and moved ahead, that’s when we received a call from Arvind (driver of WANDERER) sending out SOS on fuel status for his car, we assured him to drive and we would be right behind him in case of emergency, we were making good progress and when it was about 200 mt for the exit – WANDERER came to a halt. As we wondered where the closest fuel station was, Arvind called out and said “I have rinsed the Jerry Can and might have about 0.5 ltr of petrol in it”, made a quick funnel from the water bottle and emptied the fuel we had, allowed a couple of mins for it to settle down and started the car. BINGO! it came back to life and we identified the next fuel station which was hardly a km from this point and headed straight to toward it.

As we merged onto the Delhi – Chandigarh highway, we were amazed to see the Dhabas on this highway along the stretches of Panipat and Karnal – it’s hard to believe that these are called Dhaba’s, each of these are so huge and looked so colorful that we were tempted to stop at one of these and have a quick bit. We did a quick status check and everyone affirmed that we should continue and cover some distance before we pull over for dinner. Around 21:50, we pulled over at Jhilmil Dhaba for dinner and ordered some parotas, lassi, and sabzi, resumed our journey at 22:55 after having a stomach full and drinking tea.

We had about 90 odd kms to cover and as we got closer to Chandigarh around 00:00 hours, we were welcomed with light showers which got steadier by every passing minute. Finally we reached the hotel (KC Residency) at 00:40 that we had booked a couple of hours ago, finished the check-in formalities and re-grouped for a few minutes to chart out the plans for the next day since our 9thcrew member (Moeinak) was supposed to join us next day (arriving from Kolkata to Chandigarh around 07:45) and Shreedharan had an agenda on his list (visit a place near Jalandhar where he had spent his childhood), we decided that the WANDERER and INVADER would leave at 07:00, visit this place and regroup with HISPANIOLA, who would start after picking up Moeinak. With the planning in place, we retired for the night while the heavy showers continued.

DAY 4

As planned the previous night, we were ready to hit the road by 07:30 and learned that it has been raining non-stop during the night and there was chaos on the roads due to rains. We quickly loaded our luggage and left the hotel at 08:00, we looked up the next destination, Adampur and started moving. As we started passing through the roads of Chandigarh, we realized how much of rainfall the area had received the previous night, many sections of the road was covered with water and two-wheelers were finding it difficult to navigate.

As we were nearing the outskirts of Chandigarh, we saw all the vehicles turning around. Sadly the was completely submerged in water and we could see the river overflowing, police had set up barricades and closed the road. Someone suggested that we move ahead and check the next right which would enable us to go thru the by-lanes and reach the highway and we moved in the direction suggested, to realize that the road there was also under the overflowing river.

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We saw a couple of vehicles in front of us and were unsure of the situation, that’s when we saw a Bolero pass by from the opposite side, I waved at him to stop and had a quick word on the situation – he said the water pressure is high but we just pass thru without any stops in the middle and we followed his advice, moved forward to notice a couple of two-wheelers waiting and then noticed a Maruthi 800 coming from the opposite direction, since the water flow was strong and about a feet deep – we were able to notice the car struggle a bit but finally managed to cross over.

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This gave us the confidence and in we went ahead, one behind the other we crossed over and was one of the first water crossing that we had encountered. The downpour continued all the way through and there was no relief, we kept on moving and were hungry by then.

Around 10:00, we stopped at a restaurant in Nawashahar for breakfast, ordered some parothas and in the meanwhile, we were having a conversation with the restaurant owner, this is when we learned that the road from Manali to Leh had been closed due to a major landslide around Mandi. That was supposed to be our road towards Leh but had to change the plans a few days before our departure as we had read on the website that Rohtang pass remains closed on Tuesday’s – we did hear multiple versions that it might be open for Beyond Rohtang but were not sure and did not want to take chances.

We had a good time talking to the owner and sharing experiences, shook hands with him and left for Adampur at 10:40. We experienced considerable delays due to road work and traffic, so post visiting Adampur we took a detour and avoided the highway towards Amritsar, managed to find a parking complex close to Golden Temple at 13:45.

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At the Golden Temple, Amritsar

We quickly moved towards the temple to seek blessings and also had Langar (Prasad at Golden Temple) at the temple premises which was really tasty as the rotis were prepared in ghee and it served as lunch for us as well, as we were stepping outside we got a call from our fellow travelers, HISPANIOLA had also reached and we regrouped… met Moeinak and headed straight to Jalian Wala Bhag, by now it was almost 15:00 and we had to reach Wagah border by 16:00 to collect the VIP passes. After a quick tour of Jalian Wala Bagh and some quick shopping at Golden Temple, we headed straight to Wagah border.

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As we approached the border, we were able to spot the tricolors and the neighboring country flag at a distance too, quickly parked our cars and collected the passes, it was 16:30 by then. We stepped inside to witness the amazing atmosphere at Wagah, it was really a hot afternoon and we were completely soaked in sweat, we wondered if this how it’s in the month of August then what about summers. Well, we eagerly awaited the moment when the drill would start and in the meanwhile kept wondering as to how close we were to the border. I mean, it’s like you go past the gate and you enter a different country altogether.

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The experience was breathtaking and the atmosphere is high Octane Patriotism, it’s like the two countries questioning each other and the discipline, the focus, the commitment is admirable, A highlight of our expedition! We left Wagah border at 19:15 and at this juncture, we took the lead since HISPANIOLA had skipped lunch due to the delays and were really hungry, we asked them to eat something and join us while we hunt for a hotel around Pathankot.

Udhampur, which was the scheduled halt point for the night looked tough since everyone was a bit tired from the day-long tour and especially after spending a long time under the sun. While we refueled and took the lead, we started searching for hotels on the highway and reached a property at 21:50 which was 10kms after Pathankot, we had spoken to the manager on phone about 45 mins back…the view from outside was nice and it welcoming, it had a beautiful lawn and plenty of open space. We parked our cars and couple of them went in to take a look of the rooms and finish the check-in formalities, they came out within a couple of minutes and suggested that we find a different place as the hotel looked shady.

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Alas, our hunt started all over and we proceeded further and finally found Jal Mahal resort which was near Madhopur and on the banks of the river Ravi. By now, it was 22:45 as we stopped at a couple of other places before getting to Jal Mahal and were engrossed in conversations with other travelers who were on bikes from Delhi and were also heading in the same direction as us. Well, we went into the resort and after checking for accommodation, we asked for food since it was close to 23:00 by now, there wasn’t much left.

The manager there was kind enough, he asked us to relax and get fresh while he would prepare some roti’s (phulka to be specific), dal and fried rice, in about 30 – 40 minutes he prepared them and we were jumped on the food as though we had been hungry for ages and at this point HISPANIOLA also joined us, they had finished their dinner.

After some chit-chat, we decided to start at 05:00 since we wanted to make up for not being able to reach Udhampur and most importantly, we wanted to go past the Jawahar tunnel which is about 100 kms before Srinagar as non-J&K vehicles are not allowed to pass post this cut off time. We had a quick dinner and called it a day! By then, a heavy downpour had already started and the noise of the rain was pretty loud.

DAY 5

It was 04:45 and there were wakeup calls being made to get everyone set for the 05:00 start as our destination for the day was Sonamarg, the rains which started the previous night went on and on, it was time to re-assess as even getting into the cars was getting tough and we decided to push our start time to 06:00 hoping that there would be some light as well. By around 05:45, we could see light and we immediately started to load our belongings in the car and bang at 06:15 our engines roar to life with a decision that from here on we will travel strictly as a Convoy as we will need each other’s help.

It was a pretty tough drive early in the morning due to the heavy rains and we started moving at a steady pace, the river Ravi was in full flow and we could see it flooded at many places as we crossed the bridges. We kept on moving at a steady pace crossing flooded roads till around 07:15 when we saw the rain slowing down a bit and we stopped for tea.

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Dusters having a bath in the rains. Nature’s Shower!

Good time for refreshing tea along with biscuits and we continued our journey towards Udhampur where we had planned to stop for breakfast. In a few minutes, we could see the entire landscape change as we started getting closer towards the mountains. The roads were narrow with multiple check posts. We were stopped for security checks in multiple points and the decision to travel as a convoy was very helpful. It was easier to talk about the purpose of our visit and we need not go over these facts car by car.

We reached Udhampur at 10:15 and were surprised to see a huge pile-up of vehicles, we initially thought it to be some pileup since there a junction but as we moved ahead and parked the cars close to the barricades, we learned that this was due to landslides ahead and were informed that it might take a couple of hours.

Shortly, we scattered around in groups with some of us trying to find out more information while some of them started looking for breakfast and a few of us sipping some hot tea with buns. We were keeping a tab on the time and the status as the closure for non-J&K vehicles at Jawahar tunnel was at the back of our minds but there was little that we could do. Finally, we learned that there was a landslide at Digdol and as they were trying to clear it, there were more slides causing delays in the road clearing activities.

Time went by as some of started having conversations, making the best use of time to start knowing each better, taking naps in the car and killing time by munching on snacks. Soon it was afternoon and we ventured into the town and had lunch, came back to the same spot and were hoping for the best as we were trying to explore all other possible routes since morning including the famous Kishtwar route but were advised against it as that was longer and also they expected chances of that being closed too since there is a stretch of 15 – 20 kms where the roads are really bad and narrow which generally is closed if the climate is bad.

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Entering Chenani-Nashri tunnel – one of the longest tunnels

By around 16:30 we decided that there is no point waiting here and decided to explore Patnitop which was a deviation of around 30 kms post crossing the Chenani-Nashri tunnel (built recently and reduces the travel time to Srinagar by almost 2 hrs), we quickly got to work and booked a hotel in Patnitop ( a must to get past the checkpoint as they would allow you to go to Patnitop if you had a stay booked) and roared our engines and drove to the check-post, showed our bookings and were allowed to move forward. We noticed an immediate change in the terrain after a couple of kms and due to the 4 laning on the roads, it was pretty slushy after the rains and something that we were enjoying.

We refueled on the way and crossed the Chenani-Nashri tunnel which is almost 10 kms long and one straight road, we exited the tunnel and stopped for some photographs while we met couple more travelers who were also enquiring on the status of the landslide, we went further ahead and spoke to the next checkpoint temporarily implemented due to the landslides and spoke to the cops who indicated that it might open in sometime, we requested for his phone number so that we could check once we reach Patnitop and decide based on the situation.

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Workhorses resting while we were checking out hotels for the night

Reached Patnitop at 19:15 and called up to find out that the roads were still not open, so we checked into a hotel located inside the Patnitop park and settled for the night. We learned around 20:30 that the roads were open and vehicles were being allowed, we decided that we will spend the night in Patnitop and start towards Srinagar early.

DAY 6

After a good night’s rest, we were up early in the morning and ventured out for a stroll in the park to witness beautiful misty all over the mountains.

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Beautiful Patnitop, at the start of the day – Dusters with their respective drivers!

The place was really very beautiful and after some amazing clicks, we freshened up and made a move at 08:40, we started driving through the picturesque roads and crossed Digdol which had witnessed landslides the previous day, we drove through the stretch where there were some rolling stones and stopped at Makarkote for breakfast at 10:45.

Being the 15th of August, security was high and there were various check posts and troops all over the valley ensuring there were no untoward incidents. After a sumptuous breakfast, we resumed our journey towards Sonamarg and Kargil. Crossed Banihal and reached the entrance of Jawahar tunnel by 12:30. It was overwhelming to see us on track. this happiness was short lived as Jawahar tunnel was closed due to security reasons and we found out that this wait might be for a couple of hours, with nothing much to do we sat along chatting.

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We witnessed a lot of them who were frustrated and it was very important for us to not get into that state of mind but to maintain our cool and go with the flow a some of these things were not in our control and it was ideal to go with the flow of events, the way they say – Jho hota hain acche ke liye hota hain! We happened to meet a couple of them who were at Udhampur with us and they drove straight to Udhampur once the roads were cleared but stuck here at Jawahar tunnel, which was when we learned that they have been closed since morning.

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One of the best captures around the tunnel, during our wait

With not much to do, we went around lazing the entire day with the hope that they would open and we would be allowed to pass. Finally, after a lot of drama and efforts, we managed to enter Srinagar during at 00:15 and checked into a hotel and had dinner before we could call it a day.

DAY 7

It was 06:00 in the morning and we were all set to leave Srinagar and resume our journey towards Kargil which was the destination for the day, we packed our belongings and by 06:20 we were on the streets on Srinagar going around the famous Dal Lake. It was great to see people jogging, exercising and walking around the Dal Lake, sometimes it becomes really hard to believe/understand the situation at Srinagar.

Anyway, let me cut it short and move on….as we moved out of Srinagar, the drive was really very scenic with a stream flowing right next to the highway and the water sound was like a music to the ears. We stopped a couple of times for some clicks till we reached Sonamarg.

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Mesmerizing Sonamarg

Stopped at 10:00 for breakfast before proceeding to the mighty Zojila pass, the view from the pass was breathtaking and we happened to meet and greet a few army men who waved at us the moment they saw KA registered vehicles. We stopped by to say Hello to them in Kannada and had some refreshments and snacks together.

They offered us Prasad from the temples that were located on these passes and were excited to learn of our travel plans, in fact, they also gave us their numbers and asked us to reach out in case of any emergencies, we were really touched and amazed by their gestures. The roads, Wow – that is something which has changed post-Sonamarg, the terrain is totally different and the roads are Challenging and tough.

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Tricky roads of Zojila pass, looks beautiful and easy, doesn’t it?

It’s important to assess the paths you would want to traverse, focus and keep moving in that direction. We encountered convoys of military vehicles coming from the opposite direction and stopped our vehicles allowing them to pass before we could continue.

We crossed Drass and stopped on the outskirts at 15:30 for lunch before entering the Kargil war memorial. The feeling at the war memorial was very different, we headed straight to the auditorium where they show a small video of the different wars that have taken place in this region and most importantly provide you the history of Kargil and covering the famous war of Tiger Hills.

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After spending time at the war memorial, we drove through the scenic roads and entered the town of Kargil at 18:30 and checked into a hotel (Jazeera) which was right next to the river SURU. They had tables outside and we sat there sipping coffee and the sound of water was soothing for the ears. After settling down, we started exploring the marketplace of Kargil by foot and tasted some of the local food joints before heading back to the hotel for a good night’s rest. The next day’s journey was going to be exciting as we were headed to Leh and had many places to cover.

DAY 8

At about 08:50 we were all set, bags packed and loaded in the car, a quick cleaning of the windows to make it easier to view the scenic beauty while traveling and has started our journey towards the destination “Leh”. Took a break at 09:45 for breakfast before we headed to Mulbekh Chamba which is about 45 kms from Kargil, a monastery which looked very simple and small from the outside but as we entered the place, we were astonished to see the beautiful carving of Buddha, Maitreya Buddha to be specific and the carving resembled the figure of Lord Shiva.

After taking some photos of the group and the monastery, we resumed our journey towards Lamayuru Monastery and crossed the beautiful FATULA pass, as always – we were forced to stop and capture a few moments before moving on…

We got closer to Lamayuru and were taken aback by the beauty and the location of this monastery. It was picture perfect! Took some pics and interacted with some children from the village who were very energetic and innocent. Shared some goodies (chocolates & biscuits) with the children and a younger one from the lot innocently asked us if we had toys. He wanted a football. We did not have any but smiled at him and told him that we would bring it along the next time.

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This moment really touched our hearts! We proceeded further towards Lamayuru Monastery and it was about prayer time, so we humbly went inside to take a look at the monastery and offered our prayers, the backdrop of the monastery is so beautiful that we had to literally drag our folks to move on as they were busy clicking snaps. It was lunch time by then and we decided to have something quick at the restaurant outside the monastery and move further.

We moved towards Alchi Monastery and visited it from the outside before moving further to visit the beautiful Likir Monastery. In fact, we appreciated the locations chosen for the monasteries as they are generally at very scenic locations and is peaceful away from the hustle bustle of the highways, spent some time at Likir and resumed our journey crossing the Sangam of Zanskar and Indus River, reached the popular magnetic hills where we had some refreshing tea and tried the magnetic effect of the hills that everyone talks about.

The drive to the hills was banned due to some irresponsible driver who tried to go vertically up the hill and crashed down killing himself, not much could be done so we moved ahead and reached Leh at 19:30 and stopped at a junction to call Ladakh House (Homestay where we had booked our stay and this was the only one that we had pre-booked for this trip), the owner Mr. Jumma came over to receive us and guide us to his property. It was almost 20:00 by now and he offered us some coffee/tea, we also asked him for some Kahwa (Kashmiri Tea) before we could freshen up and settle down for dinner. The plan for next day was to go around Leh and visit places like Hemis, Leh Palace, Shanti Stupa, Hall of Fame, etc.

DAY 9

After taking a good rest at the cozy Ladakh House, we left at 10:15 to explore Leh and headed straight to Hemis Monastery which is believed to be one of the biggest and the famous monastery in Ladakh region which is about 40 Kms from Leh.

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Ladakh House – Beautiful, cozy and hospitable stay

On the way to Hemis, we spotted a few open areas which were ideal for a few clicks with our Dusters and was in the wide open off the roads, post visiting Hemis we stopped at this location for some clicks and also explored these off roads before heading towards Thiksey where we had a quick view of the monastery and headed back to Leh where we ventured downtown to have lunch.

We ventured into a café at 14:30 and had a good meal, a few of them wanted to head back to the guest house to get some rest and hence we decided to split into two teams and reunite in the evening at the downtown marketplace. HISPANIOLA along with Sandeep headed back while the rest of us managed to fit into WANDERER and went ahead to visit the “Hall of Fame”, a museum/war memorial run by the Indian Army and exhibits weapons, history exhibits and other displays related to wars and army.

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Posing outside the Hall of Fame at Leh

A pretty widespread museum which needed close to 90 minutes for us to cover at a fast pace and houses loads of interesting things. After covering this museum we headed towards Leh Palace – a very old palace built based on Tibetian architecture and has multiple floors.

I must say it’s a very old building, located at a beautiful location within the city and offers an exemplary view of the “city of Leh” and the surrounding landscape. We then headed towards the famous Shanti Stupa – depicts various aspects of Buddha’s life and just like the palace offers a beautiful view and is a very peaceful monument.

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City of Leh – A stunning view from Leh Palace!

By now, HISPANIOLA had already reached downtown which was the place for us to meet up in the evening, we left Shanti Stupa and headed towards their location, it was good that we had pinned the location where INVADER was parked and got straight there where we parked WANDERER at 19:30 and ventured on foot to the city center which is the right thing to do considering the traffic and parking woes around this area. Now that we had been officially Leh’d, we picked up the customary flags (in fact Subhro was the one who purchased three of them and gifted it to us, one each for the Leh’d Dusters) and went about shopping for our near and dear ones, especially for the kids.

We were done by about 22:00 and started the walk back to the parking space where we picked up our cars, rushed to a fuel station to fill the tanks along with the Jerry Cans as we would need them for the next leg of our journey. Checked into our guest house and the Jumma’s had dinner ready and were concerned that we are so late since we had to start early the next morning to cross the mighty Khardungla Pass and venture to Turtuk. We quickly wrapped up dinner, spoke to him on the status of roads, telephone signals and most importantly fuel and the finer aspects of these places.

DAY 10

Mr. Jumma had advised that we start by 7:30 latest as the army convoy would head towards Khardungla around 08:00 and we decided to start early, however, we ended up leaving the property at 07:45, looks like there was some info leak out since the convoy started by 07:30 and we were right behind them. LOL, not much we could do but went ahead and started following the convoy and in general, the army convoy of trucks usually do not block the passage of vehicles and provide you the opportunity to pass ahead at the first opportunity.

Traveling to high altitude? Here's how you can beat altitude sickness or AMS

We passed ahead of the convoy and kept moving at a steady pace, the roads started to get more challenging and we could feel the impact of the rising altitudes too, we took our first break when we realized that our cars were losing power, especially the diesel ones and stopped for a quick check of the vehicles and changed the air filters to better ones. It was really nice to see the gesture of the others on the road, many of them stopped to ask us if things were fine or if there was any help required.

We started to thumbs up to the passers so as to not slow them down and they would acknowledge and pass ahead. Continued our journey towards the mighty pass traversing on slush, water passes rocks and slippery soil as well, we also learnt that due to temperature drop and slight drizzle a couple of days back there was a mild snowfall around Khardungla and were hoping to see some white patches and ended up spotting them only on the mountain peaks which definitely was not from this recent fall. Finally, we reached Khardungla at 09:40 and could feel the chillness in the wind and saw some traces of snow around.

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At the mighty Khardungla, a board reads “Your adventure is our Routine”– Very True!

We all had a heavy breathing which was quite common due to the high altitude, we were hungry and had to eat else we would be weak and impact of the altitude would be bad. We entered the restaurant there to sip on hot tea and ate samosas & Maggi, after spending about an hour we started our descend when we spotted a tiny patch of snow and it was time for photography again, did a quick 10 min stop and proceeded with the descend post which we were signaled to stop for permit checks, we quickly finished the paperwork (permits were already obtained but the paperwork at each checkpoint is important) and continued our travel towards Hunder / Diskit which was supposed to be the stop for lunch.

Reached Diskit at 13:30 and at this juncture we did a quick check and every car acknowledged that they had 80% fuel left (please note the only fuel station after Leh is in Diskit) and hence we decided that we would refuel on our return at Diskit which would enable us to proceed per plan, stopped for lunch and spent a good one hour here before resuming our journey at 14:30. The drive was very beautiful as we came closer to Hunder, the landscape around this area was very different, the sand dunes and the mighty Shyok river which was in full swing, the brownish grey color of the water was a perfect blend of nature.

Passed Thoise and somewhere around 30 kms before Turtuk, we spotted a photocopy (Xerox) shop and needed to make few additional copies of our permits so the INVADERS stopped by while the other two proceeded further, took us about 20 mins to complete the photocopying and then we proceeded further and reached Turtuk at 17:30 and spotted the WANDERERS waiting for us at the entry point of the village.

The intent was to camp for the night and hence both these vehicles went ahead to find a nice camping spot, there was absolutely no signal there was no way we could reach HISPANIOLA, proceeded slightly further till we came across a stream and parked our cars hoping that they would be somewhere around and if they had to enter or exit the village then this was the point to get hold of them. After waiting for about 15 mins with no signs of them, we parked our cars leaving behind a note on the windshield informing them that we have gone inside the village to see the Turtuk palace/museum and they need to wait till our return, spent about an hour to visit this palace/museum before we returned back to the parking location and found our dear friends from HISPANIOLA waiting for us.

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Camping site for the Night

At last, the age-old trick of communication worked and we exchanged a few notes blaming them as to why they did not wait for us with a quotient of fun in it. It was about 19:00 by then and HISPANIOLA led us to the camping site for the day, we were all eager to camp and at the same time slightly nervous about the weather as it can get really cold here, while we were pitching our tents, Sid and Vinod set out to get food and inform our whereabouts to the families.

They did return in about an hour’s time with food but no luck on the phone, at this juncture we learned that the BSNL tower (No Airtel, Vodafone, etc) has been damaged and there is no way of communication. By about 20:30 we settled down gazing at the sky and having dinner post which we chatted for some time and retired for the day by about 23:00. The plan for next day was to Visit Thang (about 15 kms ahead and the Northern Most village after which is the border) and head towards Nubra Valley.

DAY 11

We were up early by about 06:30 and spent some time sitting idle admiring the nature before we got fresh, packed our tents and started by 08:00, proceeded to a restaurant nearby for breakfast. At 09:15, we left towards Thang and post the paperwork at the army check post, we reached Thang at 10:00, parked our cars and greeted the soldier on duty who acknowledged and asked all of us to line up for the briefing and history of the village. It’s a very small village with about 24 families and 140 residents and about a km from there was the LOC which was vaguely visible but was clearer with the army grade binoculars.

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We spent about 45 – 60 minutes on the briefing, learning about the place and viewing the specific points which were pointed at the briefing. We bid adieu to the soldier on duty and came back to the check post where we had tea and some amazing samosas before starting toward Hunder which was going to be the next stop for lunch, sand dunes, and the double-humped camel.

Reached Hunder at 14:00 and after admiring the sand dunes and the stream flowing close by, decided to have lunch at a restaurant close by after which we headed in search of the double-humped camels ride and captured some great shots of the landscape, the amazing animals, the cars in the scenic background.

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Double-humped Camels – Hunder

It was 16:30 when we departed Hunder and started our journey towards Panamik and Nubra Valley, as we moved forward we stopped at Diskit fuel station to learn that they were out of stock on Diesel and it would only be available tomorrow around 09:00. WANDERER was the happier lot as they stocked up petrol and were all set, with no choice left we moved ahead about 30 kms to the T-junction where we had taken left towards Nubra. It was approx.. 17:45 by then and we stopped at a Chai point to re-assess the situation and also sip some hot tea. There were multiple discussions around what to do, how to proceed and discussion that had we filled yesterday – we would have been in a better position.

Yes, agreed but then there was no use crying over spilled milk and we had to make the best use of the resources we had at our disposal, with this in mind – myself and Subhro decided to make the call as we knew our vehicle the best and had to make a choice, we had collected the phone number of the fuel station so that we could check the status next day. After evaluating the permutations and calculations with the help of maps and calculating the worst possible mileage, we decided that we would get to Panamik and then halt for the night.

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Scenic roads of Nubra Valley

The light started fading away a bit early and it was pointless going till Panamik as we would not be able to see anything at this hour and in case we needed to come back in the morning for refueling, the closer the better. We drove till Sumur and decided to spend the night here, we were looking for someplace to spend the night as it was pretty cold and we had not spotted any suitable place for camping.

After exploring a bit, we found a property, Semur Guest House where there were options to either camp or check in to rooms, it was about 20:00 by then and a couple of them decided to check into a room while the rest of us preferred to camp. Ordered some food and started setting up our tents, we had dinner and settled in our respective tents/room for the night. The next day would be interesting due to the fuel situation and we were also heading towards the famous Pangong Tso via the Agham-Shyok road.

DAY 12

At 07:45 after freshening up and packing our tents and belongings, we started our journey towards Pangong Lake which was about 160 kms and this route would make more sense since we need not go to Leh, we proceeded towards the T-junction and stopped by at a restaurant for breakfast at 08:20.

We called up the fuel station to check on the status, if it was available then we could travel about 30 kms to tank up and move ahead but alas we were out of luck, re-assessed the situation and we were of the opinion that we can reach Pangong with the fuel we had and could use the jerry can for return – worst case scenario, WANDERER would have to go and fetch fuel for us and with that calculated risk we resumed our journey. Agham-Shyok road was a pretty narrow but very scenic road with quite some water passes and we were advised to reach Pangong by afternoon since these water passes receive more water as the sun rises due to the melting snow.

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Taking a break en route Pangong Lake – Agham Shyok Road

We encountered patches where there were broken / no roads in fact at certain points the roads had collapsed we had to just drive around it – we encountered one such stretch where the roads had collapsed and the water flow was rapid due to which the stones and soil had been washed away and BRO was fixing them, we had to wait for them to clear before passing through it.

At this juncture, I asked Sathish to see if he could cross and record a video of the car crossing but it was fairly deep about 2 feet and due to the force of water, we decided against it and moved on until we got to a point where we had to drive on the riverbed of Shyok river with about 2 -3 feet of water since the roads had collapsed. We moved ahead and spotted some wild horses grazing and some Marmots as well.

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After crossing Durbuk, we stopped ahead at Tangtse for paperwork and also had lunch at 12:55 before hitting the road again at 14:00. At this point, we were pretty close to Pangong and reached there at 15:30 and spent a couple of hours lazing around the beautiful view of the lake, clicking photos and cherishing every moment.

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Men in Black at Pangong

At about 18:00 we moved ahead to Buddha Camp where we decided to stay for the night as camping was not allowed around the lake and settled down. Couple of them went by HISPANIOLA to inform the families via phone and came back with some tasty pakodas which got consumed in a matter of seconds. At about 21:00, we had dinner and called it a day. The destination for the next day was Tso Moriri.

DAY 13

It was about 07:15 when we were ready to begin our journey to Tso Moriri, we quickly proceeded to have breakfast and emptied the jerry cans into the respective vehicles and quickly started our journey at 08:00. As we started, there were two options, one that would go via Hemis and the other one which would go via Chushul & Karzok but there were no fuel stations on the way and hence we chose to take the option via Hemis.

We decided that we would have limited stops today and the target was to reach Tso Moriri by evening as it was a good 9 – 10 hours journey and the team rallied behind us. We headed pretty much non-stop towards Hemis apart from a couple of bio-breaks, navigating through the roads of Chang La – another high altitude pass in the Ladakh region and is second to Khardung La and the heavy traffic including a huge convoy of military vehicles.

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Mighty Changla

We reached Hemis around 13:30 and headed straight to a fuel station where we tanked up and refilled our jerry cans as we would not be able to find the next fuel station till we reach Keylong. There were some discussions if we should really go to Tso Moriri or if we should skip it as it would be another lake like Pangong but a couple of us were very inclined to cover Tso Moriri and the group quickly agreed to leave behind any inhibitions they may have.

We wanted to reach there as early as possible and hence decided to skip lunch and consume the stock of food that we had in the cars, had a refreshing tea and got back to the road in about 15 mins, the initial stretch of 50 – 60 kms was excellent and as we deviated towards Tso Moriri the tar roads vanished and slowed down the pace. It was a very scenic just like the rest of Ladakh but it was colder and we went past some beautiful streams, water crossing and a small but beautiful lake called “Kyagar Tso” roughly about 35 kms before.

We were very inclined to stop and explore this beauty but decided that we should head to our destination and this could be covered tomorrow as we return from Tso Moriri, finally at about 18:15 we reached the beautiful and stunning lake of Tso Moriri. Stopped at the check post to finish out paperwork and proceeded further towards the village as it was getting colder and we wanted to see if we could camp, while some of them were not keen on camping – decided that we would split and the campers could camp while they stay put at a hotel.

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Stunning Tso Moriri Lake

We part ways and Sid, Subro and Moeinak headed in search of a place to stay while the rest of us headed in search of a camping site. As we were looking for one, we went to the lake viewpoint and drove on top of a small hillock to get a good view and to soak in the beauty of this place, spent a few minutes uphill before we drove down and found a spot to pitch our tents right next to a stream of water.

It was about 20:00 by the time we pitched our tents which was a herculean task due to heavy winds, eventually decided to park our cars on each side of the tent so as to reduce the speed of the winds and providing more stability to the tents after which we went out in two batches to a nearby restaurant for dinner before settling down for the night.

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Camping at Tso Moriri amidst the wind and cold weather

There was no communication possible with the other three who were looking for an accommodation but believed that they had found a place as we did not see them return (they were aware of the location where we were trying to pitch our tents). The night was pretty cold and we got our warm wear on including gloves and caps before sneaking into our sleeping bags.

DAY 14

We were up by 06:00 and spent some time admiring the morning beauty and the view from the camping site when we saw HISPANIOLA drive by Subhro coming towards our camping site (courtesy no network), we quickly decided that we would start at 08:00 post breakfast and should target Jispa for the night.

After which Subhro left and we were to meet up at the checkpoint to sign out of the register, packed our bags and noticed a drop in tire pressure on the rear tire of WANDERER, we used the air compressor to refill, had a quick breakfast from the stock we carried before proceeding to the meeting point where we finished the formalities and headed to Kaygar Lake to enjoy the serene beauty of the lake and take some pictures.

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Kaygar Lake

We had to get off the road and drive towards the lake where we stopped and started to capture the beauty, Aravind and a couple of them walked towards a side of the lake which was ideal for capturing the cars amidst the lake, he got back to us and asked us to drive along with him to the shooting point and drove ahead, there was some slush towards the side and as we started to move, I could feel my car moving a bit to the right, quickly swirled to the left and reduced the gear and with a full-throttle got out of the situation.

HISPANIOLA was slightly behind me and were casually driving ahead while chatting in the car since they were moving the car a few meters ahead the grip on the steering was loose while they were also engrossed in some conversation – the vehicle swirled to the right and they were stuck in the slush. They called out for help and rescue – we had a tow rope but was not up to the mark as we could not procure the D shackles for a sturdy tow rope and had one of those that we had picked up online as an emergency.

We attempted the rescue with it and in a few minutes the rope gave away, it was about 10:00 by then and after trying all possible options, we started to dirty our hands and tried making a path for the front wheels but was not easy and the tires had no traction.

At about 11:15, we sent one vehicle (Sathish and Sreedharan in WANDERER) to look for help while the rest of us exhausted other options. Finally, it was decided that we needed a good tow rope to pull the vehicle out and we waited in anticipation that help would arrive. Subhro was saddened and went on to say that you folks move on, while a couple of us would stay back and figure out what to do next – the response from each of us was clear, we are in it and in together…we asked him to remain positive and we will find a way out.

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Around 13:00 we spotted the WANDERER and were keenly looking out when we spotted a Bolero Camper accompanying them, we rejoiced as help had arrived. A quick analysis of the situation, we set up the mountaineering rope that the rescue vehicle had bought and tried pulling it in reverse, the grip was not great and tried the procedure from the front side and we were out in minutes, thanked the gentleman and paid him for his efforts.

Read the best tips that will help you cover any terrain, especially in the mountains!

We regretted not having the right equipment but thanked our stars and moved ahead. The roads towards Debring was really bad with no other vehicles on the stretch, in fact, we doubted if we were on the right track couple of times. We continued our journey leaving behind a trail of dust as the vehicles moved forward, during a bio break HISPANIOLA complained about a strange noise from underneath and we tried our best to reproduce this sound but in vain and would reappear all of a sudden – did a detailed check from underneath the vehicle an realized that is was not something major which would impact the journey but decided to keep a tab and moved forward till we arrived at Debring (junction where we would connect to Manali Highway), it was 16:10 when we stopped for lunch.

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Relaxing in anticipation of Dinner – Our night camp at Sarchu

We were hungry and exhausted due to the efforts since morning and due to the wait in the hot sun. we had a variety of things to eat and concluded lunch with a hot bowl of Soup before resuming our journey towards Sarchu. We drove over the butter smooth roads of Gata Loops which was in contrast to the roads on Nakee La pass and finally reached our destination at 19:45 where we found a small restaurant and ordered for some tea before enquiring for a place to rest, to our surprise they had shelter available right there and showed us the place.

It was small and temporary setup with 4 – 5 beds and was decent enough for us to spend the night. We finished our tea and asked them to get the dinner ready around 9 and started settling down, some of us went in search of a telephone to communicate back home but returned with no luck. The temperature had really dropped and the weather was very chill, finished our dinner and called it a day. Next day was going to be interesting as we were headed to Manali via Rohtang.

DAY 15

We got up by 06:00 and requested for tea to be prepared, quickly sipped the tea and were inside the cars by 06:20 ready to start towards Manali which was the destination for the day. Crossed some of the water passes via zing zing bar and reached Keylong at 10:00 where we found a restaurant and had our stomach’s full, at this point we noticed the pressure drop in the tire of WANDERER (spotted a small nail in the tire which could be the reason, since it was doing well we decided to not disturb the setup at this moment) and got a quick refill before continuing our journey at 11:10.

Rohtang was up next and as we got closer, we could feel the change in climate…we started our drive on the famous Rohtang pass and soon we realized that on quite some sections (Culverts to be precise) the roads were damaged and was under repair – deviations/detours were to be taken which was more or less a vertical climb on the mountains, rocks and stones were something that we had to watch out for else they could damage the underbody of the car. We carefully made our way thru these roads and as we ascended it got foggy with light drizzles which had reduced the visibility, navigated through these roads carefully till we reached the peak and stopped for some tea and the customary photo at Rohtang.

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Soon the light drizzles turned into a heavy downpour reducing the visibility further and making the drive even more challenging. The downpour continued as we started descending the pass and drove towards Manali. We spotted some rocks rolling down the hills and a few small landslides which delayed our progress due to traffic pile up.

We were patient and had to make way for each other passing thru the narrow lanes before we reached Manali at 16:00. After searching for a hotel, we check into “Snow Valley Resorts” around 16:30 and decided to freshen up and meet after an hour so that we could head to the marketplace and spend the evening.

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Moeinak was scheduled to catch a flight leaving for Kolkata from Chandigarh the next day at 11:00. Subhro was to drop him to the bus stand and then meet us for dinner. We took an auto rickshaw and went to the city center where we spent the rest of evening going around downtown, eating and shopping in the heavy rains that were lashing Manali.

At about 22:00 we head back to the hotel to have dinner and then relax for the night, we had got some food from the market and ordered a few things at the hotel, we finished our dinner and as we were about to get back to the rooms – surprise surprise! We get a message from Moeinak around 23:38 that there are landslides and the road towards Mandi has been blocked. After speaking with Moeinak, our navigators/map experts started looking for alternate routes so that we could guide Moeinak and would also be handy in case the landslides are not cleared and we were due to travel the same route next day.

We discovered that the only alternate route which was feasible was to take a detour via Bajura and go to Mandi, this route goes on the other side of the hill, roads are not great, very narrow and meant for cars at the max and would need to us to cover more distance too. After a quick chat, it was decided that he continue with his journey as the road opens and keep us posted too, with a question mark in our minds. We retired for the night wishing each other good night!

DAY 16

We got up to see the messages from Moeinak that the roads remain blocked and he has canceled his flight. This made us a little more relaxed in starting as we wanted to understand the status and then decide accordingly, about 10:00 we were ready after having our breakfast and loading our bags in the car. HISPANIOLA wanted to get the car checked once as the noise from the car remained persistent, we also observed that the pressure had reduced in the rear wheel of WANDERER and hence decided to first tank up and also get these checked. After filling up fuel, HISPANIOLA went ahead in search of a mechanic – got a quick checkup done but could not reproduce and decided to get it checked in Mandi at the authorized service center while WANDERER got the punctures fixed – there were three minor ones in total.

Once we took care of these minor niggles, headed towards the Mandi highway and continued our journey staying in touch with Moeinak to get the latest on the situation and around 11:15 – Moeinak confirmed that things were looking better and vehicles will be allowed to ply shortly. We continued our journey ahead and stopped at the point where we had to take deviation for the Bajura route and re-confirmed the latest, the news was that traffic was being allowed but could expect delays as at stretches it was one-way traffic and the decision was to go ahead on the normal route.

There were significant delays due to the pile up since the previous day and we kept moving at a slow pace, reached Mandi Service Center at 16:15 where the Service Advisor was already flagged off about our arrival. As we arrived, Mr. Pankaj (Service Advisor) attended to our problem immediately and test drove the vehicle and lifted the vehicle for a quick inspection, post which he concluded that the Stabilizer Rod bushes were damaged and had to be replaced, he assured that he will need about an hour to get this done and we should be fine.

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We left the vehicle and went to a close by restaurant for lunch and returned quickly, the vehicle was ready and a test drive was completed to confirm that things were fine – we got the other vehicles checked before bidding adieu and were back on the road by 17:40.

Ideally, we wanted to get to Agra for the night which was a herculean task keeping in mind the delays we had, at 22:30 – we reached Roopnagar where we stopped at a dhaba for dinner. After dinner, we took stock of the situation and decided to proceed as long as we could and keep our plans dynamic. Reached Kurukshetra late night at 02:30 and discussed on the plan, HISPANIOLA were convinced that they would want to relax and were fine to skip Agra (Taj Mahal) while INVADER and WANDERER wanted to proceed after a brief rest.

Day 17

HISPANIOLA checked into a hotel and we parked our cars near the hotel and took a power nap in the car before resuming our journey towards Agra at 04:30. We took sufficient breaks for Tea and continued our journey towards Agra and reached at 10:30, we headed straight to the restaurant for breakfast before going to Mr. Rishi’s house (friend of Sathish, whose house was vacant and we were offered to stay there and take rest). Once we got there, I and Arvind decided that we would skip Taj Mahal as we had seen it before and asked the others to visit while we catch up on sleep and get some rest.

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World famous Taj Mahal

Around 16:00, we woke up when they returned with lunch (parceled for me and Arvind), also learned that they met HISPANIOLA who had reached Agra by then and would be joining us soon. We had lunch, took bath and bid adieu to Rishi’s neighbors who were very hospitable and offered and tea and refreshments enquired about the right place to buy petha and departed at 17:50 towards Jhansi. We were moving at a good pace and around 20:15, we had reached the outskirts of Gwalior and took a break and were discussing if we should have dinner or proceed towards Jhansi – decided that we would cross Gwalior after that for dinner.

With a thumbs up, we move forward so that we could take the Gwalior by-pass which was a couple of kms ahead. As we joined the by-pass, we received a call from Subhro asking us to stop wherever we were and return back – he informed us that Sid received a call from his parents and there might be an emergency. Immediately, we turned around and headed back to the point where HISPANIOLA was parked.

Upon enquiring the details, we realized that there was a medical emergency and Sid may need to travel to Kolkatta. We have him some space to think thru the situation and gather more details, around 20:45 the decision was made – Sid had to travel to Kolkata and we made some calls to figure out that there was a train which would leave from Gwalior to Delhi around 21:45 and was the best option as he could then take a flight from there to Kolkata. We headed towards the city to reach the railway station on time for him to pick up the tickets and catch the train toward Delhi.

It was unfortunate but we thanked our stars as this happened when we were close to a city and most importantly were reachable, had this happened somewhere when we were around the foothills of Himalayas – things would be tough! After seeing him off, we again made some calls to book the hotel that we stayed in during the onward journey, had dinner and checked in to retire for the night.

PS: We are glad to note that everyone at Sid’s family is doing well now.

DAY 18

After getting ready and finishing breakfast at the hotel, we were on the road at 08:30 resuming our journey towards Bangalore and being wary of the fact that the roads from Gwalior to Jhansi were not in great condition. The initial leg of the day’s journey was expected to be slow and as we reached Jhansi and merged on the highway, we took a break for tea and continued our journey at a steady pace and continued our journey with minimum breaks apart from an odd bio break that was needed.

Everyone was in a mood to get back home and reunite with their families after a long journey which helped the cause as the breaks reduce and we started covering distance pretty well. At 13:55, we stopped for lunch and had a well-deserved break to stretch ourselves, post lunch around 15:00 we were back on the road with the target for the day being Adilabad.

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Stopped for lunch, somewhere in MP

As we crossed Narsinghpur, we were welcomed by some heavy rains which made the drive even beautiful and Pench was up next, kept moving a good pace and around 20:45 we were on the outskirts of Nagpur where we stopped at a restaurant. Took a quick status check and everyone provided a thumbs up that they are in good shape and we should stick to the plan of reaching Adilabad for the night, we decided that we would have tea and then stop by at some dhaba on the way.

Left this place at 21:00 and resumed our journey with INVADERS leading the way and were tasked to look out for Dhaba, at some point….we felt this decision to have dinner on the way was turning to backfire as we had crossed the restaurant area and could hardly find a decent dhaba to stop by. With no other options at our disposal, we kept moving ahead and were getting constant calls from WANDERED and HISPANIOLA asking us to stop for dinner as they were hungry, in fact, we all were! After traveling for about 50 odd kms, the roads started to get worse – this was the stretch where there were multiple deviations due to road work but this return path was pathetic. It looked like someone had dug up the road and forgot to fill it, it was pretty tough to navigate thru this path and this slowed us down a bit.

If you are in Andhra/Telangana then you must check these spooky caves out!!

With about 20 odd kms to Adilabad, we spotted a Dhaba around 23:00 and immediately pulled over for dinner. After stopping the vehicle, we called up WANDERER and HISPANIOLA to realize that they were about 20 kms behind and they informed us that they are seeing a dhaba in the vicinity and would eat there. So, we went ahead and finished dinner and also spotted a small hotel next to it where we could spend the night, immediately called up the other two to tell them about this plan when they informed us that they would come to the same place for dinner.

Well, they reached by around 23:45 and we learned that the WANDERER happened to get their front wheels in a deep pothole ending up losing their wheel caps and a slight rim bend which made them spend a few more minutes to switch their spare wheel, there was not much we could do as the roads were really bad and most of these potholes were filled with water too. Post their arrival, we sat along while they finished their dinner before calling it a day at 00:30.

DAY 19

It was 06:30 when we were all awake and were getting ready to hit the road for the final leg of our journey returning to Bangalore, we got into the care at 06:55 and were on the road heading back home. We were happy that the bad patches were over and could now have a comfortable drive. At 07:35 pulled over at a small roadside restaurant which was getting ready to serve hot and fresh breakfast, it was nice to see many of them excited as they could get some good South Indian breakfast for which they have been craving for the past few days.

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We had our tummy full of hot idlis and dosa’s before resuming our journey at 08:25 and sailed through the roads going past Hyderabad with a couple of stops for tea/coffee. As we went past Hyderabad, all of us were hungry and we decided to stop at Jadcherla for lunch at 14:00 and spent about an hour before getting back on the road toward Bangalore.

The best, most off beat hill stations in South India. Have you seen these yet?

We were cruising along until we encountered a heavy downpour at Karur, the visibility was very poor and we spotted a lot of vehicles who had pulled over and were awaiting the rains to subside while we continued moving ahead. We continued to cruise all along and reached the toll booth of Namma Bengaluru airport at 21:130 hours where we also assembled together for the customary photo of our return, we shuffled around the passengers and bags which would make it convenient to drop folks at their residences before heading home.

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A sense of accomplishment!

All of us were pretty excited since we were heading home but somewhere at the back of our minds, each of us was aware that this exciting, fun-filled and adventurous journey had to come to an end. This has left us craving for one more expedition and hoping that we will do it sometime soon.

Recommended / Essentials

Medicines:Any prescribed medicines that you are on, Diamox (for AMS), Dolo 65 (paracetamol), Lomotil, Rantac, Volini (Pain Relief Spray), Digene, Eno, Cetrizine (allergies), Ultracet (Pain Killer), Crepe Bandage, Oxygen cylinder, First-aid Kit (Dettol, Cotton, Band-aid, Bandage, Neosporin powder)

Food products / Snacks: Home products which can last, Biscuits, Dry Fruits (Almonds, Cashew, Dry Grapes), Energy Bars, cup noodles, chocolates, Sugar Sachets, Instant Coffee / Tea, Milk Sachets, Chikki (peanut bars)

A kit for your Vehicle: 12v mobile charger, Air compressor, Puncture Kit, Jumper cables, Good Tow Rope, Headlight Bulb, Air filter, Fuse, Brake Oil, Engine Oil & Coolant, Jerry Can (Fuel Can), Funnel, M-seal, Fevikwik

Camping Gear (Optional, based on interest): Camping Tents, Sleeping Bag, Soft Hammer, camping light, camping mats & any other accessory that would make you comfortable

General: Sunscreen lotion, Sunglasses, Warm clothing, Umbrella, Waterproof jacket, 12v water heater, Vehicle Docs (original + 2 photocopies), Permits (original + photocopies), Authorization Letter (if vehicle is registered on a family member’s name), Torch, Toiletries, Comfortable clothing, BSNL Postpaid SIM, Fastag, Cash (Cards do not work everywhere)

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17 comments

Soumo Bakshi November 9, 2018 - 11:14 AM

Congratulations! Good One Naveen & Co.Looking forward to many more such travel diaries 👌

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Prem November 9, 2018 - 5:02 PM

Many congratulations Naveen… you have achieved a great milestone which most of us dream of ..
Cheers mate..

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Santosh November 9, 2018 - 5:05 PM

wonderful Naveen you made us virtually there thanks you very much

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Indrajit November 9, 2018 - 5:30 PM

Adventures and informative, nicely wrote with full of practical challenges and the way to overcome those. Will help me to plan my travel

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Anonymous November 9, 2018 - 5:37 PM

Good one Naveen.

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Ashwin Karthik SN November 9, 2018 - 6:02 PM

The write made me travel with you . Congratulations on completing the road trip. Super cool

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Shashikumar November 9, 2018 - 6:40 PM

Brilliant drive experience… thanks for detailing out.wishing you more miles for the future…

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Praveen Tripathi November 9, 2018 - 7:20 PM

Awesome!!

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RIJU RAY November 9, 2018 - 8:18 PM

Excellent writing and painting of the travel moments in readers mind. The level of detailing would certainly help anyone who wants to make such plans. Me, being an amateur photographer and travel-lover, liked the Patni top and camping photos very much. Looking forward to read many more like this.

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Ajay November 9, 2018 - 8:34 PM

A very heartfelt and well narrative of your experiences of a trip of a lifetime. Warms my heart to read and experience the events of your journery.

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Anum November 9, 2018 - 11:16 PM

Being one amongst the many who heard the amazing stories of this trip upfront, all the adventures and thrills that you faced..reading this I find myself drawn to it yet again. Beautifully written, Naveen!

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Anonymous November 10, 2018 - 9:46 AM

Very good… so well narrated the day to day plan.
I wish you more of such trips in future.. next time you cross Hyderabad.. Let me know.

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Madhura November 10, 2018 - 5:41 PM

Congratulations on your accomplishments Naveen and team. You made us travel with you with this write up. Good job!!

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Josna November 11, 2018 - 12:07 AM

Well narrated Naveen . This trip is an experience for a lifetime. It made me travel once again with your detailed description.

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Sudeep R November 19, 2018 - 4:01 PM

I can recall my travel to Leh recently & indeed your one is very detailed. Your words have now inspired me to try road trip to one of the worlds best scenic destinations in other way. Lot to cover in our life!

Incredible India!

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Anonymous November 29, 2018 - 7:24 PM

Awesome 👏👏👏👏 so much motivating for others to take up such expedition without fear

Reply
Kalesh Kumar March 15, 2019 - 2:27 AM

Thank you for this extensive travelogue. You should write more. This is really helpful to anyone who is planning to travel.

Reply

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