Ladakh Once Again- May 2018


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We did Ladakh circuit back in October 2016 by a Duster AWD. That trip was planned by reading all the travelogues at different travel and automobile forums. Travelogues were the amazing help to plan our trip. We got all the inputs and necessary details from the write-ups of some of the best writers and travellers.

After completing our Ladakh trip in October 2016, I wrote my travelogue.

Leh Trip October-2016.

I forwarded my travelogue links to all the friends and family. Most of them actually read that and some of them came back to me, asking for help to plan their trip to Ladakh. Everyone wanted to go to Ladakh, everyone wanted to experience the ups and downs we faced, everyone wanted to experience the adventure.

One over-enthusiastic WhatsApp group immediately changed their name to "Chalo Ladakh" back in December 2017 and started discussing a plan. I am an ex-employee of Vodafone Gujarat. Some of us are still in touch and keep talking at WhatsApp. We are total 9 guys in that group. Initially, we all were ready to go to Ladakh and all of them offered their cars to make this trip possible.

We kept discussing, months passed and the big news of Idea taking over ( or merging with) Vodafone came. Some of the current top Vodafone employees had to back down from the trip. The Group name changed back to its original name and we all forget about the Ladakh trip and got busy in our routines.

But then, this is Ladakh. It never leaves you that easily. Three of us were still in touch via a separate Whatsapp group named "Ladakh???". One fine day, two of them came to my home city, Anand. We met for a normal peaceful booze session at one of my friend's farmhouse. The topic at our farmhouse meet was Ladakh, one of them offered to take his brand new Petrol Jazz. The third guy Vittoed the idea of Jazz and offered his three years old XUV W6.

And this was how the Idea of going to Ladakh was reborn in the mind of we three guys. The Idea was to plan a budget trip to Ladakh during mid-May. I asked other two guys to leave all the planning and booking responsibility on my soldiers. This was my fourth trip to this region and I was very familiar with all the details and necessary requirements. I proposed to involve one more person to make the trip more economical. I asked one of my Anand based friends and he immediately said yes.

So back in April 2018, we were four guys with an XUV ready to explore Ladakh during May 2018. Three of them transferred 5000/- per head to me as a confirmation amount.


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Our Vehicle:

I started planning the trip. I asked XUV owner to do necessary servicing and replacements in the car. XUV's tyres were 58000 km old and due for replacement, he replaced it and got a basic service checkup. We bought a tyre inflator, towing rope, jumper cable, some quantity of all kind of fluids ( coolant oils). XUV was ready, I personally took a 200km test drive of XUV to some of the hills in Gujarat and I was satisfied with the car.

Stay arrangement and Advance bookings:

I was very much clear about one aspect. If we want to do a budget trip, we"ll avoid the advance booking. We could reach the destination and search for possible stay arrangement. In proper cities like Leh, Srinagar, Kargil, that's easily possible. We were four guys, looking for an adventurous experience and not a comfortable luxury vacation. I proposed to consider dormitory stay options or common rooms with four beds wherever its possible.

I googled for possible dormitory stay and got an amazing deal at JKTDC Sonmarg, 200/- per bed. Same way I got in touch with Zaltak Guest House, Leh. We got a room with four beds with attached bathroom at 250/- per head. This time, I wanted to stay at Merak village (Last village on the banks of Pangong Lake). I got in touch with a friendly Homestay owner (Peaceful Home Stay) at Merak and booked it at 1000/- per head( including food).

That was it. We were going to have 12 days long trip and booked for three nights. My other travel mates were worried about that, I convinced them by saying, just leave everything on me, I would not let them sleep in the car. I assured them that they will get a soft bed, pillow and a (or two) warm blanket at the end of every day.


I wanted to cover Tso Morir(Korzok) from Tso Pangong and Manali- Leh highway from Korzok Via Tso Kar. There was lots of confusion going on at Leh for permits. even locals were not sure about what is allowed for normal tourist and whats out of reach for them. I wanted to do Merak- Chusul-Loma-Nyoma-Mahe-Korzok route. I studied it all and asked experts. I even talked to the homestay owner at Merak. He told me that, if I have a stamp for Chususl on a permit, I can go to Korzok from Merak. It was all confusing.

I called up Zaltak Guest Houuse owner Teswang Nurboo. He asked me to send him all the documents, within two days he sent me a permit.



I knew my plan was hectic but then it was hectic during driving on plain terrain only. For Example, I proposed to drive all the way Ahmedabad to Pathankot or even Jammu without any stop in 24 hours. It was tough but surely possible with four proven drivers. After Sonmarg, My plan was very much moderate as far as driving was a concern.

Bellow was our plan. Did we achieve it? Let's talk about that later.

Day 1. (11/05/2018) Start from A’bad at 2100. Keep driving. Night driving.

Day 2 (12/05/2018) Reach Pathankot (1350 KM). or Jammu

Day 3 (13/05/2018) Reach Sonamarg.

Day 4 (14/05/2018) Sonamarg to Lamayuru.

Day 5 (15/05/2018) Lamayuru to Leh.

Day 6 (16/05/2018) Visit local sites including Khardung La.

Day 7 (17/05/2018) Leh to Pangong Tso- Merak .

Day 8 (18/05/2018) Merak to Korzok.

Day 9 (19/05/2018) Korzok to Jispa.

Day 10 (20/05/2018) Jispa to Bilaspur.

Day 11 (21/05/2018) Bilaspur to Jaipur

Day 12 (22/05/2018) Jaipur to Ahmedabad.

Distance Vs Time:

I created one more reference sheet to keep a close eye on distance vs time factor. I noted down google map suggested time between two points. Same way I wrote down my time, which included all kind of stops and time spent at toll plazas. I instructed other guys also to keep a close eye on D&T sheet during the drive. It was very important to do it during initial days because reaching to Sonamarg on 13/05/2018 evening was very important for the entire plan.

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Day 1: Start from Ahmedabad at 2000.

We were talking about this trip from almost last six months but then actual planning of this trip started after 20-Apr-2018. Three of us are family men with other commitments so till 10-05-2018, we were busy with other stuff. On the D-Day (11-05-2018) morning, I went to the market to buy some essential things. I was so busy those entire 15 days, I didn't have those sleepless nights waiting for D-day. I wanted one relaxing day before D-Day to get everything done. Moreover, on 09-05-2018, I got sick with heavy fever and unbearable cough. My family physician asked me to cancel the trip and take rest. I clearly told our family doctor that it's not possible, I asked him to give tablets for two or three days.

So, finally at 1900 on 11/05/2018, we were ready to go. My bags were packed, I kept my SLR and weatherproof shoes in a small duffel bag which was very old. I decided to throw it away once we get in XUV.

My Luggage.

I and my other friend are from Anand. Other two travel mates are from Ahmedabad. Our XUV was at Ahmedabad and we were starting our trip from Ahmedabad. So me and Joy( my Anand based friend) had to travel Anand to Ahmedabad (70km). We asked one of my to drop us at Dastan Auto World Museum at outer ring road of Ahmedabad.

We reached ring road on time, we emptied our luggage on road and started waiting for other mates with the vehicle.

Joy with Luggage at Ring road, A"bad.

Other mates arrived after 15 minutes. We stuffed our bags in XUV. Thanks to XUV's 700ltr boot space (after folding last row seats). All the luggage accommodated in the car nicely.

Luggage in the XUV.

A mandatory Selfi, before starting our trip.

Let me take the chance to introduce my other travel mates.

The Guy in Pink tee is Dilesh.
The person in the black tee with glasses is Vicky.
Grey tee with the writing "life is short to stay mad" is yours truly.
I think we already met Joy in another photograph with luggage.

Oh, and by the way my name is Shreyas.

So there we were. We started out drive sharp at 2000 from Ahmedabad to ...? Well, Let's see... Ahmedabad to Pathankot or maybe Jammu or maybe Sonamarg.

Without a night stay. Brave! ain't We?
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Once we were in the car, we had nothing to do. We made some odd rules. The guy sitting at co-pilot seat cannot sleep. Each one should drive at least 300kms at one go. Other guys seating at back seat can do anything ( including light booze).

We started from Ahmedabad.

We started driving from Ahmedabad, I wanted to cover maximum distance during the night. I and Dilesh started driving on the well-maintained road from Udaipur to Jaipur. We were enjoying our favourite music and excellent roads. After a while back seat guys slept and we kept driving. We had some very small stops for tea and smoke. Our drive to Jaipur was eventless and smooth without any problem. XUV was amazing, it can run all day(or night) long without any hiccups.

Early morning at 0600, we reached Jaipur. We took bypass for Delhi/Rohtak got out of Jaipur and stopped at small dhaba. It was time for some tea, bid breaks and if possible a bath at dhaba.

A stop at Jaipur.

Yes! I took bath at that Dhaba, truck driver style.

Joy, aka Sunny started taking selfies. A bachelor symptom.

Vicky's Dilemma. Bath or not to Bath?


After a quick break, we started from Jaipur. We wanted to avoid the crazy rush of Jaipur- Delhi highway and reach Rohtak as soon as possible. We kept driving and faced some oddly overloaded tractors. We all were in good mood.

On the way to Rohtak.

Our distance to time ratios was getting perfectly maintained. After a while, I came back to the relaxing room of the car (back seat). Dilesh and Joy took the responsibility of cockpit. The back seat means that I can do anything including light booze. After all, I drove my share of the day, A'bad to Jaipur 799kms in the entire night, so it was time for me to chill in the back seat.

We reached Rohtak and stopped at the Wine shop. I bought some mild beers and started enjoying back room of XUV. After a while, I slept.

A wine shop at Rohtak.

Beer for me.


I and Vicky took a long morning - afternoon nap. We slept for more than three hours. I was feeling hot in the backseat and that woke me up. The car was stopped, Dilesh and Joy were enjoying lassi at some dhaba. We were at the outskirts of Ambala. It was another driver changing stop. I checked the distance vs time sheet and we were perfectly on time. It was a great news. We were going great, perfectly as I planned. We also joined for Lassi and some pakoras.

Somewhere At Ambala.

I love it when everything goes as per plan. I was happy.


Some Light moments.

We started from Ambala. It was 1500. We were all fresh and in good mood. None of us was tired. I was optimistic to reach Pathankot on time or maybe we go ahead of Pathankot on the same day. We kept moving towards Ludhiana. The road was amazing. We were enjoying the drive. After one hour of driving at 1600, it started getting dark. It was strange. We were approaching Ludhiana and It was getting dark like dusk. After some time it started raining.

Rain at Ludhiana at 1630.

It was tough to drive.

My planning of driving till Pathankot or up to Jammu was purely based on the availability of Sunlight. We are familiar with night driving on Ahmedabad to Jaipur stretch but Jalandhar-Pathankot-Jammu was a new territory for us.

At Jalandhar, we lose all the Sunlight. It was just 1730 and there wasn't any daylight available. I knew we could make it up to Pathankot (that was the plan) but then Pathankot to Sonmarg (next day) could be a long and tiring run for us. I was thinking all this. I Was just talking to my self and calculating Kilometers. I didn't want to stop for the night. I wanted to make it up to Jammu or Udhampur. But then after 24 hours of driving, asking others to remain in the car for 24 hours more was not practical.

We kept driving, after a while around Pathankot the weather cleared. it was something 1900. We had some half hours of daylight and believe me that daylight was bright enough after a rain. When you are driving, daylight always gives you hope.

We kept moving, we crossed Pathankot. Thanks to that half hour's daylight, that actually charged us up. Now we were back in the game, I was trying to motivate other guys by talking about the benefits of reaching early at Sonamarg. They were listening to me and ready to do it. We put Pathankot to Jammu in our GPS and kept driving.

Pathankot To Jammu was a nice road but with heavy traffic of trucks and busses. It took us four long hours to reach outskirts of Jammu. We stopped at small dhaba. We all were hungry and even our vehicle needed a well-deserved break. We were still some 25 km far from Jammu.

Somewhere Before Jammu.

We were tired.

We were starving.

It was 2200, we were somewhere 25km before Jammu having our dinner at Veshno dhaba. We were good, exactly as per our time and distance ratio. We were tired and our best course of action at that time was to get a room at Jammu and call it a day.

I was having tasty Zeera rice and Dal Makhani. Food was excellent, but my over-enthusiastic and somewhat greedy mind was talking to me. " you made it to Jammu, why not Udhampur?".

I was scared of other travel mates. I was scared of their reaction. I asked Dilesh how was his mood and proposed to drive 100km more and reach Udhampur. All of them listened to my proposal and to my surprise all of them said...Chalo.

Chalo Udhampur.

We finished the dinner, I got on the wheel and started driving. There was only one thing going on in my mind Udhampur...Udhampur...Udhampur...

We decided to stay(yes finally) at Udhampur. We stopped for a while at Katara Tunnel and kept moving. The Idea of stopping for a night gave all of us great enthusiasm. We all were happy and relaxed.

Katra Tunnel.

Udhampur in my mind.

Vicky and Joy.

Dilesh in his own mood.

At 0200 we reached outskirts of Udhampur. We were tired and sleepy. We didn't try to search a hotel. We stopped at Dhaba which have that "khatiya". Parked our car. Dilesh and Joy slept in the car. I and Vicky choose to sleep on that comfortable Khatiya.

It was the end of our journey's second day. Ahmedabad to Udhampur in 28 hours without any night stop.
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Dilesh woke up around 0500. He checked the distance and time sheet. He took the responsibility and started driving. All three of us were sleeping in the car. I was very much excited about Chenani tunnel. I wanted to see it, but we crossed it while I was sleeping in the back seat.

We crossed Chenani tunnel and welcomed by the amazing view of mountains with clouds. Someone tried to wake me up but I wanted to sleep. They kept driving.

After Chenani Tunnel.

Approaching Mountains and Clouds.


Some Random Village after Patnitop.

Before starting our trip, I briefed my travel mates about some of the bad known and ugly traffic jam stretches. Ramban to Banihal was one of that. We were approaching Ramban. We stopped at small tea stall some 20 km before Ramban. The road was empty. Vicky and Joy tried to tease me by saying where that "bad known" traffic jams. I kept mum and let them enjoy their early morning tea.

A small Tea stall.

They were asking me, where is that "bad known" Jam.

I kept mum.

We finished our tea and bio breaks. I started driving. All three of them were making fun of me and my statement of "bad known" traffic jam stretches. Frist time in my life, I prayed for a traffic jam. I wanted to prove my point and the god of roads and vehicles listened to my prayer. After Ramban, there was a long queue of trucks and taxis.

Traffic Jam

That Bad known traffic jam stretch.

Fortunately, that traffic jam was moving slowly. It took us three hours to get out of that traffic jam and cross small Banihal town.

Getting out of Jam.

Approaching Jawahar Tunnel.

At 0800, We were at Jawahar tunnel.

Jawahar Tunnel, Banihal side.
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We crossed Jawahar tunnel. We were welcomed by amazing views of Kashmir Valley. Officially we were in Kashmir valley. All of us were excited. Jawahar Tunnel or Banihal Tunnel is a 2.5-kilometre tunnel, situated on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway, linking Jammu to Kashmir Valley. We had a small stop just after Jawahar tunnel.

A small stop after Jawahar Tunnel.

Welcome to Kashmir Valley.

We had a small stop and had a quick photo session just after Jawahar tunnel. I checked our distance & time sheet. We were completely on time. If we don't face any unavoidable circumstances crossing Srinagar, we could be in Sonmarg before 1600. That was an amazing news and it raised our spirit.

Joy and Vicky enjoying the views.

Vicky posing with his XUV.

Welcome to Kashmir.

After some time we reached at that famous Titanic Point after Jawahar tunnel, which offers and an amazing view of Kashmir Valley.

We again stopped there and ordered some Maggi. It was time for some tea, Maggi and briefing. I was keeping a close eye on all the news of civil unrest and stone pelting at Srinagar and surrounding area. We going to approach that area.

Yes, We were approaching one of the beautiful valleys on earth at the same time that valley is bad-known for civil unrest and separatist movement. I clearly instructed other guys that we are not going to stop even for bio break in Srinagar. We"ll have to keep driving and cross Srinagar city as fast as possible.

Our briefing session was going on with tea and Maggi. One of the guys approached us with some woollen caps. I personally brought three woollen caps with me but Dilesh and Joy didn't have any warm cap with them ( some people never listen to pre-trip advice). We all bought warm caps from that guy.

View from Titanic Point.

View from Titanic Point.

We bought Caps.

Our Briefing session.
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We started from Titanic point to Srinagar. I called up one of my local friends to check the status of Srinagar City. He told me everything is fine and adviced us to visit Dal lake. He wanted to meet us at Dal Lake.

Srinagar's Dal lake...WOW. It was and tempting offer. This was my third trip to Srinagar and I never been to Dal lake. I have never seen a single houseboat in my life. I started thinking about a quick visit to Dal Lake.

But after crossing some 50 km from Banihal, we noticed a very strange thing. There was a heavy presence of military at each and every crossing. they were stopping all the vehicle with young guys and asking something to them. They (army) didn't even bother to notice a Gujarat vehicle.

Approaching Srinagar.

I instructed other mates not to stop anywhere but some people never listen. Our youngest travel mate(Joy) was hungry. It was 1100, just before 3 hours we had Maggi and tea at Titanic Point. I asked Joy to keep calm and wait for some more time. He waited for 10 big minutes and started crying for food. We were just 20 km far from Srinagar, Army guys were all around the road and this guy wanted to eat something.

I didn't want to stop anywhere until Ganderbal but we had to stop at a small stall.

A stop.

Joy rushed ahead and bought some wafers. Before I could say something to anyone, Dilesh and Vicky also got out and started eating that wafers. Brave guys. They were not sacred of stone pelting but I was.

Hungry Joy.

Dilesh and Vicky Joined Joy.

I was just getting out of the car and three army guys approached me. They asked me about where are we going and why were we stopped? I took the chance and asked them should We visit Dal Lake. They clearly asked us to keep our camera inside the bag and keep driving and cross Srinagar as fast as possible.

My brave "wafer eater" friends listened to my conversation with those army guys. They immediately got back in the car. Once again, I made myself clear "no more stop till Gund". We started moving ahead and kept our SLR in its bag.

No more stops.
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We kept driving at a slow pace. We were having fun. We crossed Srinagar and reached Ganderbal. We didn't stop at Ganderbal, which is one more bad known place for stone pelting. Locals were surprised to see a Gujarat Vehicle in their part of the area.

Of course, we had very small stops for water and bio-breaks. I talked to some of the locals and they all were cooperative to their guest who came all the way from Gujarat. However, we wanted to get out the danger zone.

We had a brief stop after 40 km from Srinagar. It was a beautiful small town named Gund.

Stop after Srinagar.

Gund Town.

We reached Gund at 1400. It was our first stop after Srinagar. We were just 25Km far from Sonamarg. We were about to finish an epic journey from Ahmedabad to Sonmarg. It was an amazing feat for all of us. We stopped at the small viewpoint and spent 30 minutes, admiring amazing views and celebrating our success. Yes, We were 25 km far from Sonamarag. So What, We knew we would reach Sonamarg before evening.

My distance to time sheet was asking me to celebrate. Those beautiful mountains were welcoming us with a big smile and glacier tounges.

Me and Vicky in good mood.

We almost made it.


Time for a Small celebration.
PS : Dilesh and Joy were dry. (As per my rule)

Dilesh and Vicky admiring the view.


Yours Truly.

We finished our quick celebration and moved ahead. We all were in good mood and enjoying the nature.

Pines and cloud.

Some Glacier.

Way to Sonamarg.

Beautiful stream.

Approaching Sonamarg.

Ready to meet Sonamarg.

At 1530, We were just 4kms far from Sonamarg. We all were hungry but not in a hurry. We driving slowly enjoying each and every corner of the road.

4Km Away from Sonamarg.

Sonmarg at its best.

Snowcalded Mountains.

Welcome to Sonamarg.

Welcome to Sonamarg.

So finally on 13/05/2018 at 1600, We were at Sonamarg. Thanks to my other travel mates' cooperation. My overenthusiastic and greedy plan worked. Our distance vs time calculations worked. Yes, we spent one night in the car, one night at a dhaba and almost 44 hours literally on roads. But after all of that, the reward was amazing. We were at Sonamarg as per plan. in fact 4 hours early.

We covered 1750kms (Ahmedabad to Sonamarg) in 44 hours without any night stop (in a hotel). That was an amazing achievement.
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We entered Sonamarg village. Situated at an altitude of 2730 m, Sonamarg is a mesmerizing hill station in the Ganderbal district of Jammu and Kashmir. Sonamarg literally means ‘the meadow of gold’ and with snow-capped mountains set against a spectacular blue sky, it is as close to heaven as it can get. It is also the take-off station for the drive to Ladakh across Zojila.

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Indian Army Welcomed us.

We a booked dormitory stay at JKTDC, Sonamarg and paid in advance. We reached JKTDC resort and approached caretaker. He asked 2500 more apart from 800(200/- per bed). As per him, our booking was for a dormitory stay which is situated 4 km far from Sanmarg and only reachable by a horse. I knew that caretaker was lying but we didn't have any other way to talk to him. I convinced him at 2000/ - extra, paid it and asked for a receipt. He denied to give us any receipt. We checked in at Dormitory room which had total 10 beds and a dirty attached bathroom

JKTDC, Sonamarg.

JKTDC, Sonamarg.

We checked in and finished our lunch. We were tired but equally excited. We just got out of our hotel and started exploring Sonamarg village.

Playing with River.

Playing with River.


Beautiful Sonamarg.

While We were playing with the river, I found some plastic bottles and plastic wrappers in it. I got one polythene bag and collected the plastic scrape in it.

Cleaning the river.

After Cleaning the river, we moved ahead, there was beautiful ground. We turned a slight right and entered in that ground. Some locals were playing football on that ground some of the tourists were enjoying the mountains. We spent some time playing with our vehicle and clicking photographs.

Getting in Football Ground.

Playing with XUV.

I took the chance.


My main reason for getting out and exploring Sonamarg was Army and Police CPs at Sonamarg. I wanted to visit Army and Policecp at Sonamarg. I wanted to know, is there any timing restriction for approaching Zoji la in the morning.

I approached Police check post and they suggested us to go ahead and meet Army CP. We went to Army CP. Army guys informed us that they will allow vehicles to Zoji la pass after 0900. I requested them to allow us to cross at 0700. They smiled and said... "thick hai, jaldi nikal jana" (ok, you can leave early)

Approaching Army CP.

Sonmarg to Leh.

We got oral permission to cross Sonamarg CP at 0700 next morning. I wrote down the name of the person who was going to be posted at Army CP. We were about to get back and I got an idea, why not to have some taste of Sonamarg - Leh highway way. We crossed that CP and drive for two more Kms.

On Sonamarg -Leh highway.

Some Village.

Some Random Village

Vicky and Joy.

We spent more than an hour on road, had a photo session with that famous signboard. We were tired, We wanted to sleep but that could wait.

Being Gentle.

Enjoying Mountains.

Not that Gentle.

Our ride.

At 1900, We reached JKTDC resort and got in our room. I got in the bed and slept. I don't remember we eat or not. A warm bed was calling us and we took the call.

Parking space at JKTDC, Sonamarg.

10 beds Dimitory at JKTDC.

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