Bangalore to Mangalore via LEH
9000kms/20 Days/4 Souls/1 Machine
Crossed 94 toll booths,200 hours of driving.Burnt 1000L fuel
One hell of a drive!!
I was contemplating this tour since 2013.Finally its here!Done and dusted!After reading countless travelogues..time has come for me to write one.
I signed off from the ship in the month of May and it was raining cats and dogs in Mangalore.While sipping filter coffee I was going through few fb posts and bumped on one of my friends profile who visited Leh. Leh routes were thrown open to public in the month of April.Saw my calendar, it was perfect.Selected the dates and decided I am doing this.I decided i’l drive solo and started preparing for the trip after convincing my family members.Its now or never as most of the time when I sign off from ship the leh routes would be shut for winters. This time I had come home at the right time.
Solo drive caught everyones attention. My younger brother had just come home from Bangalore on vacation and was at home when all this was happening.He hinted me saying he too interested and he will try to work on his leaves. Later my dad enjoying his retired life said I will give u company . So having 3 members already in, we thought of pulling in one more who can take 15 -20 days leave.I called my youngest cousin(Accenture-Consultant) who used to be my partner in my previous tours. He straight way said lets do it and he managed to get his leaves.So the Wolfpack consisting of 4 contrasting ages were confirmed.
After doing all the risk assessment on weather/ permits/ passes, weekdays, weekends, traffic pattern,we decided to leave Bangalore on June 27th as we had a wedding to attend on 25th June in Bangalore .For this, me and dad need to leave Mangalore on 24th .So 24th June is the day we would be cranking up the engine kickstarting the tour.Tripmeter set to ZERO.
Connected with various members on different whatsapp groups and discussing the routes, I charted out a Itinerary. So the whole June month went in researching, arranging accommodation, permits, reading more reviews.All this while, Itinerary was changed three times and finalised the route we would be taking .
The route would be Mangalore- Bangalore- Mumbai (Backup—Nashik)- Ahmedabad-Jaipur- Jammu- Srinagar- Kargil- Leh and return via Rohtang pass -Manali -Jaipur/Chandigarh- Ahmedabad/Udaipur – Mumbai- Pune- Mangalore.Total around 9000 kms, 20 days and 3 days buffer.
At Leh after acclimatising, we would be covering Khardungla,Nubra,Hunder and Turtuk-Thang(The last village before LOC) and drive direct to Pangyong Lake taking the offbeat track- Agham Shyok . From Pangyong again direct to Tso Moriri via Chushul /Tsaga La pass. From Tso moriri return to Jispa-Manali via Pang,Baralachala,Lachungla and Rohtang pass.
My brother being a banker was struggling with leaves and he decided to join us at Jaipur.So he would be flying to Jaipur and return again decided to fly back along with my cousin either from Jaipur or Chandigarh depending upon our trip progress.So while returning its just me and dad till Mangalore.
Now its 3 – me, my dad and cousin leaving Bangalore on June 27th .Kept on reading all events and news happening at various cities we would be coming across and found few issues happening at Srinagar . So prepared a back up plan to skip Srinagar and enter via Manali to Leh. Entering Leh via Rohtang pass requires permit and it can be applied just a week before arrival Rohtang. So we had time .Heard news of road blocks in Srinagar-Leh highway due to landslides,Manali-Leh highway having heavy traffic jam and few landslides.So we were just counting on our luck on our dates.Also Jammu-Srinagar highway having issues with traffic ,floods and landslides and the nuisance of Amarnath Yatra traffic.
So two weeks remaining, started preparing the Ford Endeavour. With all the over excitement,I gave a nice wash to the endy and got the first shock/setback.After the wash, car was not starting.Checked everything and thought some battery or ground issue. Car instrument cluster was behaving erratic. Called up customer care and road side assistance and got the car battery jumped. Luckily it was a dead battery. I kept investigating, what could have drained the battery while washing.Found later, I had kept my front and rear AC blowers on, cabin lights were on and music was on for 3-4 hours while washing.All these are power hungry components.So I zeroed on that this was the issue and moved ahead.This was a wake up call to get a new battery jump start cable. Couldn’t source a good heavy jump start cable ,so prepared myself one heavy duty cable.Along with cable, purchased some more spares for endy like diesel filter, air filter, coolant, engine oil, voltmeter, air compressor, tools etc etc .Got it serviced, changed all brake pads though it was good.Bought all the items required for the trip as per our checklist.Heard only postpaid BSNL and Airtel works after Jammu and some parts. So I purchased one postpaid BSNL sim.
So everything was set.Dates neared and we 3(myself,dad,cousin) along with my grand-mom departed Bangalore on June 27th.Had breakfast at Davangere.We comfortably cruised to Pune and dropped my grandmom and stayed at her place for the night.
(How can one miss Davanagere Benne Dose-Butter dosa)
Same evening in the news, we heard Mumbai-Ahmedabad route is flooded and blocked.So as per the backup plan, we decided to take the Nashik route. June 28th early morning 6 am departed Pune and we reached Ahmedabad at 5 pm (Got harassed by Ahmedabad traffic police for not having yellow strip on the headlight, though was carrying one, had to argue and pasted the sticker and left the place).At Ahmedabad we stayed at my wife’s relatives house and coincidently their son was also on a road trip to Leh in his Jeep Compass, he was returning from Leh as heard from them.
29th June again early morning departed Ahmedabad to Jaipur.On our way, somewhere near Ajmer we found our relative who was returning from Leh in his Jeep Compass (We had halted at his place in Ahmedabad).We stopped at the road side and took some tips from him and learnt he had gone there driving with some 30 odd Jeep vehicles and said 7 jeeps got their tyres ruptured at Leh including his. So we understood what be there in store for us.We said bye and continued our journey to Jaipur.
Just having entered Jaipur, got harassed again by traffic police for not wearing seat belt!though I was wearing one.No option left, had to grease them.We stayed at one Airbnb accommodation near the airport. Late evening ,Brother flew from Bangalore to Jaipur and joined us. We stayed one extra day at Jaipur and we explored Jaipur and some forts(Amer fort, Jal mahal, Bandini saree factory and did some shopping).
Next day July1st we left for Jammu and cops again stopped us at the outskirts of Jaipur and they started accusing me that I have consumed alcohol.After some arguments they let us free.Enroute, at a place called Rewari, we visited one of my ships colleagues farm house and had sumptuous breakfast in their farmhouse.
(Breakfast at my ship colleagues farmhouse -A village near Rewari-haryana)
This was not part of our plan as we had a very long drive from Jaipur to Jammu.But my colleague forced me so much that I had to say yes.This costed us 3 hours. We left for Jammu from Rewari at 9:30am and we cruised to Jammu non stop.We reached Jammu well before time and before getting dark.Lovely roads I must say.
At Jammu, heard Jammu- Srinagar routes were closed and they might open for traffic midnight or early morning. We just prayed and we left Jammu early morning 4:30am on July 2nd and were lucky to hear the roads are clear. Heavy Amarnath Yatra pilgrims going to Baltal basecamp caused traffic movement a nightmare(very rash local taxi drivers too).Its a treat to watch the Baltal base camp, massive arrangement and security.Here and there small scale land slides were happening and was cleared asap by the BRO. We crossed Jawahar tunnel and is one hell of a tunnel…one has to cross to experience! Very narrow, single lane and long tunnel.Felt like I was entering Russia.
(Jawahar Tunnel) Jammu-Srinagar Highway
We managed to reach Srinagar comfortably and to my shock, I had booking for the wrong dates at Srinagar. So luckily had internet and we searched and booked a nice hotel near Dal lake.Explored Dal lake ,went boating (Shikara) and called it a day after having hot kheva (Kashmiri tea) and pakodas.
July 3rd early morning departed Srinagar to Kargil amidst heavy rainfall.Crossed Sonamarg, deadly Zojillla pass, Drass(They claim it 2nd most coldest place after Serbia-temperatures of -60 also reported). Drass would be shut down for tourists in the months of October-April coz of heavy snowfall. After dodging the perilous roads ,we reached Kargil.What a drive it was..Epic!Stunning valleys. One has to witness, photos don’t do justice.
Had numerous pitstops and ate maggies along the way which felt was no less than a gourmet meal.At Kargil visited Kargil memorial and got goosebumps looking/reading at the things happened there.Reached our stay at Kargil in the evening and took the very much required rest. Our process of acclimatise to the high altitude just started .
Srinagar -Leh when compared to Manali-Leh is very gradual in gradient and you can get acclimatise safely. People planning the trip and having time would suggest travelling via Srinagar and return via Manali. Works out good .
Departed Kargil July 4th and reached Leh. All went as per the plan and to the dot. They say once in Himalaya..you can’t plan. Everyday its a challenge.When you are on self drive expedition without any backup or support groups, it adds more fear quotient i.e fear of breakdown. Most part of the driving was done by me as I wanted to be as much connected with the car. Though all the other members were seasoned drivers whom I trust a lot, they were standby all the time. Enroute to leh we saw some beautiful monasteries at Lamayaru- They call it moonland. Passed few scenic passes (Futula and Namik La).Altitude here was around 13000ft.Finally with all the pitstops we managed to reach Leh at 1500 hrs and by 1600 we checked in .Lot of roadworks happening inside Leh and many roads were blocked.Had harrowing time manoeuvring the mammoth in the streets of Leh. Coincidently the stay we stayed belongs to one of my Mumbai aunts colleague.They work for Hanle observatory.We had good time there.
We had planned to stay at Leh for two days to acclimatise and explore nearby places.But the morning heat was killing us and delayed our acclimatisation .We decided to hit back to the room by not getting too much exposed to the scorching heat.Leh is at around 11000ft altitude.A good sun screen and goggles a must.
Evening we visited the Tibetan refugee market, visited Shanti Stupa and did some local shopping.Got our custom embroidered tee made.Next day we ran around permits and got our standby diesel cans filled.
As the time passed at Leh, we started getting slight dizzy and felt my head-body co-ordination had gone for toss.Low oxygen pressure and levels causes excess carbon dioxide to be carried in the blood and causes AMS(Altitude sickness).Ignoring these would turn fatal.We started having Diamox tablets as these help in flushing the Co2 from the body and makes you breathe harder. Side effects include tingling sensations on the fingers, heavy face and frequent urination.So its very much essential to keep oneself hydrated heavily. Kept a check on our eating habits. Frequent urination causes some salt losses, so we started having fruits.Things usually gets worse when you hit bed. We kept monitoring our oxygen levels using the o2meter we carried and also using note 8 cellphone.Yes! On Note 8, u can check your o2 levels along with heart rate. It used to be around 98-99 at sea level @home. At leh, it had dropped below 80 and after acclimatise and diamox dosage it was hovering around 85-90. At this point we all 4 found comfortable when we woke up the third day at Leh.
So packed and all set to conquer the mighty Khardungla. We had got passes for all the direct routes i.e from Nubra to Pangyong and Panyong to Tso Moriri. That means, it was our last day at Leh and would not be coming back.So checked our checklist and inspected the car, secured the diesel cans as one can had slight leak..the smell was intoxicating. Finally July 6th early morning 6 am we headed to Khardungla. We climbed the Khardungla pass and surprised to see not a single soul around! Heard tourists were less coz of heavy rainfall in Himachal Pradesh and blockage of Manali route.We were lucky, we had good opportunity for photos.
They say not to stay at Khardungla pass at an altitude of 18300 ft for more than 20 mins as one can get AMS. But we stayed more than 1 hour without any discomfort .We were on Diamox dosage and drinking plenty of water and flushing it out.At Khardungla weather was comfortable, though cold and sunny..temperatures were hovering around 0-1 degrees. Played around in snow, took the trademark photo over the Khardungla marker (Highest motor able pass as they claim at 18300 feet) though Umingla pass is the highest at 19000 odd feet-Entry is banned though for security reasons.All done, we started our descent down the Khardungla towards north -Diskit and Hunder. The drive was excellent, valleys kept on changing.Vast valley’s gradually turned to desert.
Encountered Marmots ,Wild asses and Bactrian -Double hump camels.These were used in trade during Mughal times and after some wars these camels were left here…some 300 odd camels are remaining .Stunning creatures, one can have a ride on them over the desert for 30 mins.They would charge around Rs300-500/person.
After witnessing the desert and camels, it was 2 in the noon.We decided to cover Turtok and Thang and return back.Though doable but might turn out to be risky and in the evenings nobody venture on that route.These villages were part of Pakistan before Indo-Pak war. Its a very contrasting village ,You find mix masala of Chinese/Muslims/Hindu/tibetan culture..They follow Balti language.These villages were thrown open for tourists from 2010. The kids from those villages treat us like foreigners..they keep begging for chocolates. Sad we were not carrying any. Lot of villagers were offering their homes as homestay and some of them were excellent.Now some hotels too coming up. One huge resort also has been set up. A small hike here in the morning, one can witness the K2 -2nd largest peak.
We took the risk and managed to cross the Turtok village and reached Thang village.Found out to be heavily guarded area.These are bases for Siachen Glacier.We managed to reach the Thang Checkpost at 4pm. Heard after 4pm no entry is given .Lukily the officer who was stationed there was from Hubbali.We had small chat with him and deposited our ID’s and let us go to the border. They told us what route to take and advised us to come back by 5:30pm. So we had good 1 hour in hand.
(Turtok-Thang route-Nubra Valley)-Last road one can take till POK
The 7 kms road from the check post led to a dead end just before a mammoth hill. 3/4th of the hill belongs to Pak and rest India. Army camps have been set both sides.One can see several bunkers set up. The last Indian bunker can be seen along the LOC. Binoculars have been set up to witness the things around. A goosebump moment for us. Felt satisfied after driving so much.Crossed some scary bridges and the 70 kms stretch from Hunder to Thang is damn secluded and narrow. This road is the last road one can take in India and it ends just bang in-front of a hill and that is POK- Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. You can see a board stating you are 2.2 kms away from POK (Gilgit-Baltistan). Took photographs and started our return journey back on those secluded roads.
(Hill behind is the POK- LOC has been set up across the river and if zoomed ,one can see the last Indian bunker )
We wanted to reach back Hunder before it gets too dark. Reached Hunder at 8pm and Camped in a tent.It was cold and we topped our cars fuel tank and calculated the amount required for the next leg. We were neck to neck when it came to diesel quantity.We couldn’t afford any wastage .Spoke to few taxi drivers regarding 2moros route i.e Nubra to Pangyong via Agham -Shyok. Heard from them to cross it well before noon as we have to cross some tough broken patches of road and small section of the road which goes over the river bed. The snow melt water can come as flash floods and within minutes water can reach upto your bonnet level.So we decided to leave early from Hunder. We visited Diskit monastery enroute/crossed Agham-Shyok (Had to cross several broken roads, water streams, few land slides here and there) and finally managed to reach the spot where one can witness the first glimpse of Pangyong.It took us some 7 hours to drive 200kms stretch. After the 3 idiot movie the place has gained immense popularity and is being infested heavily with tourists. Its a high altitude brackish lake @ 14000 feet. We took some offbeat path, 4wd was engaged automatically and managed to reach a superb spot and took ton’s of photographs.
(First Glimpse of Pangyong Lake)
(Pangyong and Merak)
(Wolfpack at Merak)
We drove further 30 kms away from Pangyong-Spangmik ,away from tourist infested area and reached a place called Merak. Few mud homestays are available for accommodation .Had pre booked one accommodation .We halted for the night. Witnessed the starry night,witnessed different colours of Pangyong,captured the Milky Way at night from the homestay terrace.A night well spent.All crashed as 2moro is the big day and drive gets tougher and interesting. We would be taking the Merak-Chushul-Tsaga la-Hanleside-Mahe-TsoMoriri. Its very secluded roads and GPS goes bonkers over these roads.
(Milky Way captured from the homestay terrace at Merak)
July 8th early morning we left Merak and proceeded towards Tsomoriri. One has to drive close to china border. Whole drive we followed the telephone lines along with the tyre marks on the road. At the check post I asked the officer ,where is the China border?he smiled and said you are standing on zero point, the hill next to you is China and also said mine was the only vehicle for the day on that route and asked us to be careful. Enroute we came across Chushul and Rezangla war memorials.Got Fascinated looking at those army TATRA Offroad trucks in action. Some section of the roads were nightmare. Had to drive over sand dunes..sharp rocky roads..Met some 80 bikers group at Hanle junction . Few bikers from Karnataka approached us and we exchanged our stories. We reached Tso Moriri well ahead of time. 200 kms stretch took us 9 hours.Endeavour just gobbled up all the terrains thrown at her.So we managed to reached way too early. Enroute we found a lake called TsoKiagar- The sky /clouds/Lake all looked very contrasting.We went round the lake and found one section where we can engage 4wd and can go to the lake from the other side .That took us to one amazing point where we took beautiful photographs and later left for TsoMoriri.
(Tso Kiagar)-Enroute to Tso Moriri
As per the plan we were supposed to stay at TsoMoriri. We tried bargaining with few camps and were on expensive side. Having witnessed Pangyong and Tso Kiagar ,we decided we will not halt at TsoMoriri and we will proceed to Pang and try searching accommodation there. It was already 3 pm. Took calculated risk and we left for Pang. Its around 150-200kms dusty/mud roads. We knew this time we may have to drive in the dark. So many things running in my mind I drove bit fast over the corners.Car was fully loaded,Slightly under inflated and at one blind potholed infested turn my rear left tyre ruptured. We dragged the car to the side and noticed the tyres side wall ruptured and the centre of tyre also pierced with sharp stone. We swapped with the stepney (Donut tyre) which is of smaller size and speed limited tyre. We saw one abandoned heavily modified scorpio getaway stranded in the middle of nowhere on two jacks as its two wheels were missing. So many weird things started controlling my mind.
(The Damages-Near TsoMoriri)
Just kept positive and we managed to limp till Pang at around 10pm and stayed at tented accommodation. Next cold morning we emptied the diesel cans and poured in the last few litres of diesel which would take us upto Manali, though in-between at Tandi there is one fuel station, thought we will refuel there for safety.We crossed mighty Baralachala pass…Lachungla Pass…lot of land slides had happened were being cleared!
The scenic valleys were treat to watch.Drove over the famous Ghata loops (Lot of haunted stories hover around it-One can google Ghost of Ghata Loops).Managed to reach Tandi around noon 2pm (The last fuel station one can find). Our bad luck, there was very long Q for the fuel as one machine had broke down and some inspection was going on and there was some issue .We couldn’t afford to waste time as we had Rohtang pass to climb down which we heard from truck drivers that its in very bad shape. So we calculated again the amount of diesel required and we took risk and we departed Tandi without fueling. We crossed Rohtang pass in the evening and reached Manali late evening (Thanks to heavy traffic jams) and searched for hotel with ample parking space.Managed to reach Manali with just 10 litres of fuel in tank.
(Pouring the last few litres of Diesel)
Halted for the night and departed to Chandigarh the next day. Felt relieved as we were out from all those secluded roads and we had covered some 6000kms.Any breakdowns further can be handled easily without much stress/tension.
On 10th July departed Manali and reached Chandigarh and got new tyre for the endy.At Chandigarh just before reaching our hotel we were stopped by police officers and charged us for carrying too many bags at rear and fined us.. greased him and we escaped. Got sick and psyched of these traffic cops in every state.Next day my brother and cousin departed from Chandigarh,they took flight to Bangalore.
We(me and dad) left Chandigarh on July 11th without thinking of any target destination , we decided we will drive till we have juice left in us and lets see where we reach around 10 pm. We happen to reach Udaipur at 9 pm (Drove some 900 plus kms for 15 hours).Managed to get a hotel and we halted for the night. Enroute we were again fined by Chandigarh police for overspeeding though I was not…they have their own ways of fining you.They ask your profession and grab your DL and run away.They ask you to pay fine 2moro and get the DL released.Then one has to cry beg and bargain and settle(Grease the dogs).
Departed Udaipur on July 12th and decided we will drive non stop to Pune..would be again around 900kms-15 hours of journey. We crossed Rajastan..crossed Gujarat and entered Maharastra .Heavy rains throughout the Gujarat and Maharastra belt was causing delay.Kept our patience and drove cautiously.Managed to cross the crazy Mumbai traffic and felt relieved when entered the expressway to Pune.Ripped and in no time(around 10pm) we were at my grandmoms place.She had prepared some yummy home food which we were craving so desperately. We stayed for one more day at Pune and relaxed as we had some hectic drive from Manali to Pune. Every day we covered some 900 kms and again Pune to Mangalore was some 800 kms.So decided to halt one more day at Pune and start fresh the next day ie 14th July and floor the accelerator pedal all the way down till we reach Mangalore.
Finally reached home safely at around 5pm.Took just 11 hours from Pune. Mom had prepared yummy food.My 1.5 yr old son was all joy as he had become restless all these days. Smile on my wife’s face was well placed. All at home prayed for our safe return.
All to all one epic drive of my life
Thanks to all my friends and relatives who made this trip comfortable.
Done with words,let the pics speak 🙂
Pics will never do justice.So pack your bags and head straight to Ladakh.Pics are in random order.Got bit lazy rearranging 😀
Gang with custom embroidered Tee at Pangyong.
Almost nearing leh
Namik La Pass
Namik La Pass
(Khardungla climbing down)
These buses were ferrying Amarnath Yatra Pilgrims.Old school buses-Treat to watch.
Namik la -Local people heading to school
Hunder -Double Hump Camels
Climbing Khardungla Pass
Namik La Pass
A signboard said “Be gentle on my curves, feel them don’t hug them”..These guys took it bit seriously
Met some Karnataka Guys and Mangalore girl .She was fascinated to see my number plate at Leh KA19.
Different states-Different foods
Jaipur Amer Fort
Somewhere In Rajasthan
Home Sweet Home
Thats how I got Leh’d .