Julley Ladakh !...Trip by gang of 18 in late August/early September 2019

ypk_123

Fernweh...
With the logistics out of the way and hopefully all the hurdles behind us, we began packing our bags and getting ready for the trip. Vizag groupies met for pre-departure meet at my house and outstation guys joined in video calls from Hyd and Trivandrum.
Informed everyone about the obvious things...like carrying AMS medication along with regular medicines if using any, photo ID proofs, power banks etc. Some ppl asked about what clothes to carry...I was pretty sure the weather will not be cold at all this time of the year.

However, on consultation with Punchok, all members were advised to carry light woollens with a pair of thermals (may not be needed at all, but just in case), rain protection like caps, lightweight raincoats, sunscreen creams as the sun can be quite harsh in the mountains.

As advised by ENT specialist I decided to keep my ears always covered by monkey-cap/skull-cap above altitude of 10000 feet (I suffered with severe ear-ache during both of our earlier Sikkim visits, "exposed ears" it seems causes such problems in some people).

This was the adda for the pre-departure meet (my house in Green City).

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ypk_123

Fernweh...
Day 1

Cmdr got a bus arranged for us (arranged by another dear friend of us Sri Y Balaji, who unfortunately could not join in this trip owing to his busy work schedule) to take us Vizag fellows to airport on the morning of 27th Aug 2019. The bus was scheduled to arrive by 6 am and be stationed in front of my house. It arrived right on time and luggage loading started. All 15 people got ready and luggage was loaded in the bus by 6.45 am. The airport was a short 15 mins drive from Green City.

Here's the group pic before we embarked on the journey to our dream destination.

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L to R (excluding Chaitu's parents): Jaya, Cmdr,Murthy,LN,Ishaan,Gautam,Deepthi(half hidden-last row),VL,me(ypk), Nani, NVVL, Abhiram,Chaitu,GS & RL
The persons in green T-shirt and orange saree in the pic above are Chaitu's parents (Jaya's in-laws) who came to see us off.

Waiting at Vizag airport to board Delhi flight.
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The beautiful Vizag coastline as seen from the plane.
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Jaya...catching up on well deserved sleep.
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The flight took 2 hrs 30 mins and we landed at Delhi by 11.30 am. Immediately after landing, I got busy answering a few phone calls from a classmate who stays in Delhi. Collected our baggage and met up with Hema and Ramana. They arrived from Hyderabad about an hour before us, took an airport shuttle and came to terminal T-2 where our flight landed.

Cmdr went in search of SR who arrived from Trivandrum and was waiting in a different terminal.
In the meanwhile we contacted the Innova drivers who were supposed to pick us up. The vehicles then came to the pick-up point at T-2. Cmdr arrived soon along with SR and we loaded all our luggage into the 4 Innovas. We started our journey to Chandigarh by 1 pm.

Decided to have lunch somewhere enroute. The drivers suggested a dhabha called Golden Hut at Sonipat.
 
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ypk_123

Fernweh...
The quality of food at Golden Hut,Sonipat, was average at best. I am a huge fan of Punjabi cuisine...was a bit disappointed. Service took quite some time too, probably because it was close to 3 pm by the time we reached there.
 
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ypk_123

Fernweh...
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Sunset pics enroute...

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We stopped for a short time at Panipat IOC Refinery junction to meet with nephew of NVVL who works there. He bought a big pack of delicious Haryanvi sweets which we enjoyed the next two days.
This click of the road taken by Nani just before we reached Chandigarh.
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We finally reached our hotel...SunPark Resort, Zirakpur (Chandigarh) at around 7 pm. We faced a bit of an issue with the driver of our car...he drove rashly and we had a near miss of collision with another car in front of us. We had a word with the lead driver and the vehicle coordinator who admonished the fellow. He was quite sullen and aloof after lunch. This was the only driver we had a problem with during the entire trip and luckily it was only for a day.


At hotel Sun Park, Zirakpur.
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VL travelling long hours with her fractured hand...Hats off to her determination and spirit !
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We were satisfied with the hotel for the one night stay.Restaurant offered good vegetarian food which we all liked. The breakfast spread the next morning was quite good too. Rooms were spacious, clean and comfortable.
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Waiting in hotel lobby the next morning before departure to Manali.
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After reaching the hotel, Punchok got in touch and asked if everything was ok. Informed all was fine. He asked me to pay Rs 30000 to the lead driver Nirmal Singh for the 4 Innovas and also pay Rs 40800 for hotel charges (balance amount minus the advance deposited by Punchok) of Sun Park hotel at Chandigarh and Manali in Chandigarh itself.(At Manali also the hotel booked was Sun Park Manali, Naggar Road on the left bank of Beas river). These amounts would be adjusted in the final settlement with Punchok.

Paid the said amounts in cash and informed Punchok. Hotel told it will send the Invoice to Punchok's email with a copy to me. Also took a hand-written receipt of the payment done to the hotel and whatsapped it to Punchok.

I was informed by Punchok that a 2nd set of 4 Innovas with new drivers will come by 6 am the next day to drive us till the HP-Ladakh border somewhere beyond Sarchu. It seems only taxis with JK number plates are allowed to carry tourists in Ladakh, so we have to shift to a 3rd set of Innovas having JK number plates before entering Ladakh.

I was glad that we were rid of the rash driver. Punchok assured that these drivers were safe, experienced fellows and he advised us to start early the next day.
 
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ypk_123

Fernweh...
Continuing with the TL and dedicating it to the memory of YS. Although we never met or talked, it was YS and his BCMT which inspired us to undertake this trip to Ladakh. YS...you will be missed a lot ! RIP.
 

ypk_123

Fernweh...
Was up early the next morning. Had a whatsapp chat with Punchok who informed that our vehicles were waiting in the hotel parking and asked me to inform the time of our departure from hotel to the lead driver OmParkash (yes it is OmParkash, not OmPrakash...which was later confirmed by him. He is from Dharamshala in HP and his name is spelled like that in Himachali).

As per the informed time, all our groupies were packed and ready by 7.15 am. Had an early breakfast by 7.30 am and were ready to go to our next pit-stop at Manali. Luggage loaded in the 4 Innovas, we started by 8-8.15 am.

As usual, we adhered to the same mini groups in the vehicles. Me and wifey with NVVL & VL in the lead Innova driven by OmParkash... Cmdr, Abhiram, Murthy and RL in the second... Nani, Hema, Ramana & Deepthi in the third...LN, Jaya,Chaitu, SR and the two kiddos Ishu and Gautam in the fourth.

Driving through the clean, well maintained roads of Chandigarh, I admired the layout of probably the only "planned city" of India. It was somewhat similar to our steel plant colony...wide roads with avenue plantation, neatly planned colonies in "Sectors", parks everywhere.
 
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