Ladakh! With god's itinerary

Dewank Sharma

Active Member
Ladakh! - It's not just a place, it's an emotion, it's a state of mind, it's a feeling that can hardly be put into words.
Still here is my humble attempt to pen down my first hand experience of this iconic place and why it's rightly said that nothing goes as per plan once you are in Ladakh.


Sharing a few teaser pics for your pleasure before the actual log.

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Dal Lake

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Late night Shikaara ride

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Hunder

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We all know the feeling. :)

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Serene...

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Tso Moriri

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Somewhere between Agham and Shyok
 

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Dewank Sharma

Active Member
Ladakh had been on my bucket list for quite some time now, but every time we thought of going to Ladakh, something or the other came up and all our planning would turn futile. So this time, we had made up our mind that no matter what comes our way, we will be going to Ladakh this season. The plan was set to start from Delhi on 11th Night. So we all, a group of four set off for Ladakh with the following itinerary in mind.

The itinerary was finalized as follows :-

Day 0-1 - Delhi to Srinagar
Day 2 - Srinagar to Panikhar/Rangdum (Zanskar Valley)
Day 3 - Panikhar/Rangdum – Padum – Kargil/Panikhar
Day 4 - Kargil/Panikhar to Leh
Day 5 - Leh local and Permits
Day 6 - Leh – Diskit – Hunder
Day 7 - Hunder – Pangong
Day 8 - Pangong – Tso Moriri
Day 9 - Tso Moriri – Keylong
Day 10 - Keylong – Prashar Lake – Mandi
Day 11 - Mandi – Delhi
Day 12 - Buffer

As per plan, we set off from our home at around 9:30 PM and were at Mukarba flyover at 10:00 PM.

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On our way

The biggest benefit of starting the journey at night is that you don't have do deal with two wheelers, cattle and jaywalkers on the road. Also, with less private vehicles driving erratically, the driving is much more relaxed and enjoyable. We were making good progress overall, encountered some rains and thundershowers around Pathankot and reached outskirts of Jammu at around 5 in the morning.



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On the outskirts of Jammu

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The weather was pleasant all around.

Stopped somewhere around the cut off to Katra for breakfast of Chai/Coffee and pakoras. And as soon as we stopped, it started raining again. Waited close to an hour for the rain to subside and also rested up our bodies. Given the preogress made uptill now, we were hoping to reach Sringar by lunch hours.

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One of the many tunnels on the way.

Encountered a jam before the entry to Chenani Nashri tunnel and were stuck for half an hour, meanwhile the low fuel warning also came up. Decided to skip the tunnel and take the longer and more scenic route through Patnitop and also to get the fuel filled.

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On the way down.

Coming down, we were again stuck in traffic which stretched a good few kilometres even before merging with the main highway. At least the weather was pleasent all around.

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Peeking out.

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Merging with the main highway.

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Vehicle after vehicle till where your eyes can see. Our pans to reach Srinagar by lunch were down by the now.

Apparently, the traffic is allowed to move in only one direction at a time at specific hours of the day. However, the traffic was moving in both directions simultaneously. This along with a few landslides along the way had made matters worse.
We were dead tired being stuck and finally crossed the Jawahar tunnel at around 4 in the evening.

However, as soon as we entered Kashmir valley, we were greeted with such amazing landscape and equally amazing weather that all the tiredness and fatigue was literally went out of the window.

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After jawahar tunnel.

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What may he be thinking...

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Amazing weather

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Nice landscapes

We finally reached Srinagar a little after 6 in the evening.
One of us had a client based in Srinagar with his business bang on the boulevard road and we were his guests for the evening. Got to experience Kashmiri hospitality up close which was an experience in it's own. Had a sumptuous kashmiri style dinner and enjoyed the houseboat experience for the night. Also went for a late night shikaara ride.

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Evening view of the dal lake.

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Look at the size of that carpet! The work was so intricate and the details were amazing.

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Houseboats

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View from the houseboat

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Calmness!

We were dead tired and hit the bed as soon we came back to the houseboat.
 

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Dewank Sharma

Active Member
Day 2

The plan for today was to cross Zozila and to make our way to the Zanskar valley. But what unfolded was something completely unexpected which we weren't prepared for.

Got up at around 7 and were on the road by 8:30.

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Morning view from the houseboat. The weather was pleasant with clouds hovering around the hill tops.

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Small boats used to cross over to the other side.

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One more

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Boating anyone?

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Dal Lake with Hari Parbat visible in the background.

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Enroute Sonamarg

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Views enroute

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Alongside Sind River

Reached Sonamarg around 11 and had breakfast at one of the dhabas.

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Food was average, but the views made up for it.

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Crossed the checkpoint and were on our way to Zozila

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The road below goes to Amarnath basecamp.

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Snow clad mountains.

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We traveled just a couple of kilometres and were stuck in traffic jam.

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The queue getting longer and longer.

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You won't find a better place to be stuck in traffic.

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It was already 3 and it looked looks like it was going to be a long wait.

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Almost sunset time. At least the scenery was excellent all around.

The wait was getting excruciating. We spotted a policeman and asked about the traffic situation, he told us that the pass was closed for a couple of days due to a landslide caused due to recent snowfall near the top of the pass. Because of the roadblock, traffic had piled up at both ends of the pass and to make matters worse, traffic from both sides was was allowed to move simultaneously.

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Looking below.

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It was already 8 in the evening, but there was still decent light. It was starting to get cold.

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The truckers said that it could at least take at least 4-5 hours for the traffic to clear and in worse case, we would have to spend the night in the car itself. We have had our last meal at around 11 in the morning and were having snacks here along the way, but snacks can't replace a proper meal and we all were hungry for a proper food now. But nothing could be done about it.
We switched off our car light and prepared ourselves to spend the night in the car itself.

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A low light, long exposure shot from my OnePlus 3T. The pic was clicked at around 10:00 PM.

Finally around 11, the traffic started to move. We crossed Zozilla at around midnight. It was a different experience altogether.
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At Zozilla.

Finally reached Drass at around 1:00 AM, there were literally hundreds of cars at Drass market, looked as if it was 6 in the evening. We decided to avoid the rush and make a dash to Kargil as it would be difficult to find a decent accommodation amidst such crowd.
The roads were pretty good all the way to Kargil and we finally reached there by 02:30 AM. Had already called up ahead and booked an accommodation along with dinner.
It took us 18 hours from Srinagar to reach Kargil, the same time which to took to cover Delhi to Srinagar. Looked like god took over out itinerary for the day and toyed with it. We were dead tired, had dinner in the room itself and crashed in the warm, cosy bed.
 
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