8 on 8, a journey in Ladakh

Yogesh Sarkar

The stranded Storme

We checked with a few passersby, they didn’t know where the occupants of the Storme were. We checked with a shopkeeper nearby and he told us that they were here in the morning. Safari Storme wasn’t starting, so they tried to tow start it and that didn’t work. He said they were getting a replacement battery from Leh and were in a hotel in Nyoma.

His phone too was down, so we couldn’t call them and decided to check out guesthouses nearby. Eventually, KP found them in a small guesthouse, not too far away.

Soon all of us met and the trio started narrating their experience.

Turns out they had made it to Nyoma yesterday, after visiting Hanle. The battery of their car had died and all attempts to revive it had been futile. Jumpstarts, tow-starts etc. have not worked, since Safari needs a battery to keep the engine going. Eventually, Rahul called Dorjey, thinking I was traveling with him. Since my phone number was unreachable today.

Dorjey had agreed to buy a car battery for them from Leh, and send it in a taxi. As we spoke, the car battery was probably en route.

Since mobile phone network was down, we decided to stick around and wait for it.

After a couple of hours, mobile phone network started working and we got confirmation from the driver, that he was en route and he had the battery with him. Since it was already past 4pm, we decided to head to Leh, hoping to catch the driver en route.

Rahul was planning to start for Leh as soon as the Safari started working. I tried to dissuade him from doing that at night since the road between Nyoma and Upshi was in bad condition. However, the max concession I could get from him was, he would only do it if the driver too was heading back to Leh. In that case, he would follow his vehicle back to Leh.

We once again began our journey back to Leh. I had slept for barely 3 and a half hours, and now, I was feeling sleepy. That along with stomach ache ensured that I lost my will to do any photography and instead chose to lose myself in thoughts and the road we were driving on. After all, this was one of my favorites stretches in Ladakh. Running along the Indus River.

Of course, my SJCAM SJ4000+ was recording the entire journey in the form of a hyper-lapse.

We stopped en route at Chumathang, while Neha and KP went to have a look at the hot springs, I decided to stay put. I wanted to rest, and the car felt cozy. I guess my lazy mode had just switched on. Photography for me was over. And whenever I get into that mindset, I put away my camera.

After about half an hour, we got back on the road and headed back to Leh. En route we crossed a Scorpio, being driven at a blazing fast speed.

Sonam recognized it easily, it was none other than Dorjey’s father. Turned out, he was the one, who was taking the battery to Rahul.

An old man (only by looks), with a cigarette in his mouth and a style of driving, that could easily rival most spirited young drivers.

We were now sure, Rahul would soon have a battery for his Safari Storme and would be meeting us in Leh.

The evening turned into night, and conversations continued.

Once we reached around Upshi, I called Otsal and requested him to get our rooms ready and another room for the trio, as well as food for all of us.

We managed to reach Leh around 7:30pm and headed straight for Otsal Guest House.

Once there, we were welcomed by the ever cheerful and warm smile of Otsal and got our rooms back.

Sadly the only other room available didn’t have an attached toilet. However, Otsal promised to provide warm food till midnight or even later, depending on when Rahul arrived.

We went back to our rooms, after calling home, I crashed and immediately fell asleep.

I eventually woke up around 11:30, saw there were a couple of missed calls from Neha. The trio too arrived at the guest house and I met them. By then Neha and KP had gone to sleep.

There was a shock in store for me.

The trio had been in an accident! A major one at that and Storme’s bumper and bonnet had suffered a lot of damage.

Rahul was pissed but laughing, once again he hadn’t listened to what I had said (I had warned him about battery before leaving Delhi) and worst fears had come true.

Worst still, they had rear-ended the very person, who had in a way, rescued them from Nyoma, Dorjey’s father!

Turns out, he was as usual driving at a fast pace on dirt roads and these guys were following him. He climbed a culvert, which wasn’t complete and braked hard. Rahul initially thought he was slowing down and only braked hard at the last moment. By then it was too late, Safari Storme banged the rear door of the Scorpio real hard. With enough force to catapult the Scorpio several feet ahead.

Thankfully only Mini sustained minor injuries in the accident, and no one was seriously hurt.

Dorjey’s dad, while furious initially, still accompanied them to Leh and had even helped them tie the bumper and bonnet.

As we talked and laughed about this incident over dinner, all of us knew, tomorrow was going to be a long day.

Prashant moved in my room, while Rahul and Mini had to make do with a beautiful room adjacent to mine, though without any attached toilet.

It had been a long day, and now, it was time to go to sleep.

Scroll down to read the next part
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Yogesh Sarkar

29th September 2016, the day of the jugad…

We got up somewhat lazily in the morning and took our sweet time getting ready.

Today’s agenda was to get the Safari Storme fixed, so that Rahul, Mini, and Prashant could make it back to Delhi.

Neha, KP, and I had to arrange for our mode of transportation as well. Because even though we had a flight booked out of Srinagar on 2nd of October, there was no way we were going to enter Kashmir with the ongoing protest.

Otsal was trying to arrange cheap air tickets from Leh to Delhi through his contact at the airport. I wasn’t confident we would find anything cheap at the last hour. Getting a shared taxi seemed like a more feasible plan to me. However, KP didn’t want to take a bus from Manali to Delhi.

So after breakfast, KP headed to the airport with Sonam, while we waited for Dorjey. I kept teasing Rahul, that things will only get decided after Dorjey arrived. So much so, that for the first time, he actually looked nervous.

Eventually, Dorjey arrived on his motorcycle. And as he sat down for tea, jokes and the regular chit-chat began.

Soon KP came back as well, with a big smile on his face, we were getting 3 Jet Airways tickets for 4.8k each, and the flight would be leaving tomorrow for Delhi.

After few minutes of jokes, Rahul and I went with Dorjey and his father to the local dent and paint shop. While he tried his best to convince the mechanic to fix the dent. The mechanic was adamant, it couldn’t be properly repaired.

We eventually decided it would be a better idea to get a new door. Dorjey asked the denter and a spare part guy to find an old door. In the meanwhile, we went to Mahindra service center to check for availability of Scorpio rear door. Thankfully, it was available. However, with paint, it would cost around 20k.

Dorjey decided to get the door from the service center and get it painted from outside, this way would save a couple of thousand rupees.

Then we took the Storme to Tata Authorised Service Center. Unfortunately, the only one in Leh was for commercial vehicles. Add to that, insurance that Rahul had, didn’t have any office in Leh. They wanted him to get the vehicle towed to Mandi, where they could take over. However, that wasn’t a feasible option, considering the long and bumpy road to Manali and the fact, that Storme was driveable.

After talking with service center people, we decided to take 360-degree photographs of the Storme and then detach the bumper and tie it to the roof. So that it could be driven back to Delhi.


While service center staff helped, Dorjey did the majority of the heavy lifting. And not only helped detach the front bumper but also tied it to the roof and helped tie the bonnet down. After a while, we decided to drive out of the service center like this.


The day was far from over. New battery had terminals on the opposite side and hence couldn’t be tied down properly. So we drove towards the airport road, behind it was an electrician Dorjey used to go to regularly. En route, the Storme came to a halt. The loose terminals were now shorting and Dorjey had to attach them a couple of times before we made it to the electrician.

Once there, Rahul and Dorjey started working with the electrician, to come up with a jugad to keep the battery in its place and route the wires properly.

It was well past 3, by the time work got done. Then we drove back to the place where Dorjey’s motorcycle was and thanked him for all his help. We also once again apologized to his father, and I told his dad, that the next time I come to Ladakh, I will do a circuit with him. After all, it would be interesting to drive with him and learn from his immense knowledge of Ladakh.

I was happy with the fact that neither Rahul nor Dorjey made any fuss of the whole matter and it was all solved amicably and without any arguments. Not only that, Dorjey had spent the better part of the day, helping us fix the Safari. It also kind of made me feel guilty about not hiring Dorjey this time around. On my last 3 trips I had hired him, and I had always admired his knowledge of even the offbeat routes.

After this we drove back to Otsal Guest House, neither Rahul nor I had any lunch and we were now looking forward to relaxing a little and I was hoping to photograph the last sunset in Leh.

However, when we drove back to the guest house, we discovered, the fuel tank of the Safari was leaking a bit and one of the tyres seemed to be punctured.

So we got back on the road, picked up a little bit of M-Seal and went back to Tata Service Center. This was our third trip to the service center since the morning. One of the staff helped us put the M-Seal on, and the fuel tank was repaired.

As the sun was going down, we were searching for a puncture shop. The ones we found, either had long wait time or weren’t operational. Eventually, we found one on the outskirts of Leh.

When the puncture repair guy checked the tyre, he found there were multiple punctures and his attempt to fix the major one, went in vein. We had to eventually put a tube in it.

As the tyre was being repaired, the day turned into night. We drove back to Otsal Guest House and found rest of the gang there. They were back from their outing at the main market and had done some shopping. They had also gotten an apple each from Sonam Uncle (Otsal’s dad). Since everyone had been eyeing his apple trees, since they saw them in the backyard.

It was time for me to run, I needed to buy few souvenirs for home and friends. Sadly, the shop from where I wanted to buy paintings from, was closed. So I decided to head to the organic store and buy a few eatables as souvenirs. On my way out, I met Sonam uncle. He told me, he had given everyone an apple each. He also told me to meet him in the morning before leaving, as he had kept 4-5 apples for me as well. I thanked him and then rushed to the market.

Once at the organic shop, I bought Gulbadan apple juice, Leh Berry juice, and jam, and apricot jam.

Leh Palace was illuminated and was looking oh so beautiful. There was momentary regret in my heart, on not having been able to photograph it. However, there is always next time and I know, I would be coming back to Ladakh soon.

As I walked to Cross Road Café, where we were all supposed to meet for dinner. I felt at home, I wasn’t getting out of breath and there was no sign of stress on the body due to high altitude. Each time I come to Ladakh, by the time I get used to the high altitude, it is time for me to head back home. I guess in a way it is good, since this way, I am always on the edge.

I entered Cross Road Restaurant and went to the roof. I was extremely hungry, and as I sat down to order. Rest of the gang came in as well. As we ordered food, Otsal joined in as well and we had a hearty chat over delicious dinner.


Everyone was happy and talkative, this trip for all of us was coming to an end. And yet, everyone was looking forward to their next trip to this high altitude wonderland.

We went back to our rooms and slept.

30th September 2016, back to Delhi

We woke up early in the morning. Rahul, Mini, and Prashant were getting ready to leave as early as possible, in order to reach Keylong by evening. It was time to say goodbye, knowing we would be meeting soon, in Gurgaon or Delhi.

Otsal offered to drive us to the airport, while Sonam Uncle had a surprise for me. He had well over a kg of apple plucked and stored for me. I love the apple he grows, and more than that, I love the way he treats me and tells me stories.

Time spent with Sonam Uncle and Otsal is always entertaining and educating at the same time, drive to Kushok Bakula Rinpoche Airport was no different.

However, it was now time to say goodbye to friends; Otsal and Ladakh. Knowing I would see both of them again, hopefully, very soon…
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Yogesh Sarkar

Credit, contacts, and gear

Big thanks to Neha, KP, Rahul, Mini and Prashant for being a part of this trip and more importantly, for being friends. This trip just wouldn’t have been the same without them.

Otsal and Sonam Uncle are always a big help and I can’t help but recommend Otsal Guest House enough. It is right on the Changspa Road and has the perfect vibe and wonderful hosts. While rooms are basic, they are beautiful and clean. Phone no: +919419177276, +919622951977. Email: [email protected].

Rehman bhai is a wonderful host and due to his hospitality, Habib Guest House seems even better than it actually is. A good place to live in Nubra Valley and it is open throughout the year. Phone no: +91-9469736543, 01980-221039 and 01980-200344.

Pangong Villa was a nice experience and had good food and a nice view of Pangong Tso from the rooms. Certainly a place I would like to try again in future, Dorjey +91-9419342720, 9622960460, www.pangongvilla.com.

Sonam Angdus was a good and knowledgeable driver, and good company. He can be reached at +91-9469272773.

Dorjey, I can’t begin to thank him enough. He has been a good travel companion, knows all the routes and as I found out during this trip, is extremely helpful. Apart from taxis, he runs a motorcycle rental and tour company as well. An excellent driver and guide. Phone no: +91-9906971501.

All photographs in this travelogue have been shot with Canon 60D, 1000D and Redmi Note 3.

I used Tokina 11-16 f2.8, Tamron 17-50 f2.8, and Canon 55-250IS lenses.

I used a Manfrotto Befree tripod on this trip since it is compact and lightweight for trips like these.

Hyperlapse videos were shot with SJCAM SJ4000+.

I kept my SJCAM SJ4000+ powered on throughout the day with the help of Ambrane P-1310, 13,000mAh power bank.

All the camera gear was carried inside my trusty LowePro Flipside 400AW camera backpack.

All images were processed and edited in Photoshop 2015.5CC and Lightroom CC. Time-lapse videos were also edited in Photoshop.

Other videos were edited in Windows Movie Maker.

Oh yes, Lotus Herbals Safe Sun - Intensive Sun Block Spray (SPF-50) proved to be a life saver. It didn’t leave any white residue on my face and was easy to apply and worked well.
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Well-Known Member
Yogesh, spellbinding narrative & pics! Such journeys and travelogues should never end! Liked the professional end with details of accommodation, etc., to help others planning such trips. Look forward to more stories from you ...

Yogesh Sarkar

@Yogesh Sarkar wow bro interesting as ever. superb write up and the flow is just interesting and keeps one hooked. Awesome shots (goes without saying), superb clicks. . . way 2 go. . . keep adding
Thank you.

Yogesh, spellbinding narrative & pics! Such journeys and travelogues should never end! Liked the professional end with details of accommodation, etc., to help others planning such trips. Look forward to more stories from you ...
Thank you very much, glad you found the last bit helpful.

Looks like a novel reading.
Very gripping details of Safari and Scoripio.
Yogesh,great show.
Thank you Master ji.


Himalayan Wanderer
Credit, contacts, and gear

Pangong Villa was a nice experience and had good food and a nice view of Pangong Tso from the rooms. Certainly a place I would like to try again in future, Dorjey +91-941932720, 9622960460, www.pangongvilla.com.
Hi... Yogesh,

You have missed one digit in the first contact no. of Dorjey shared in above post.

Please correct the same if you have complete mobile no. available with you. It will be helpful for us.