Leh Trip October-2016.


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A teaser....

My obsession with mountains!

Well, let me be specific, my Obsession with the Himalayas is well known to my family and friends.

2003 Entire Sikkim by Hired Taxi, 2004 Dharmshala – Maclodganj by Self-driven Hatchback, 2009 Leh by Hired Sumo, 2011 Ladakh by Royal Enfield, 2013 Lahual and Spiti by hired Sumo and many one day or two-days trips to Manali and Shimla but nothing after 2013. This situation was making me restless, moreover, all the blogs, Travelogues, The Himalayan club page at FB was making me jealous. But the Himalayas never leave you, they call you back, in fact, it was calling me all those years but I was busy and wasn’t taking the call. After all of this Himalayas tried another way to get in touch with me.

A London based friend texted me on what’s app, asking me to help him to plan a self-driven trip to Ladakh by a one-month-old Duster AWD. It’s always fun to plan travel & we started discussing when, how, where, why for “his “trip. Out of the Blue, he asked me why don’t you join us. Yeah same question I asked myself.

They were two guys with a Brand new(one month old without even RC book) Duster AWD. Me, Myself already been to Ladakh thrice, roamed half of the India by self-driven Vehicle, in love with mountains and crazy for Road Travels, was a perfect companion for them.

Yes!! Chalo!! I am coming.

And then!!! One guy At London, another at Ahmadabad and me at Anand. It was never possible for us to meet and plan our travel. Not to worry!! We have what’s app…A group named “Chalo Ladakh” (we are not that poetic guys who can name their travels)created in WA.

We inquired around, every expert said no for Ladakh in October, there are always chances of roadblocks due to early snowfall. I personally had a chance to talk to the great hvkumar. I was so much irritated by everyone’s negative advice. I asked HVK that “Is going to Ladakh during October is taboo? He answered calmly “ Yes indeed it’s a taboo, but not impossible”

Why No to Ladakh in October:

· By end of September winter starts in this area, in case of early snowfall all the high passes on Manali – Leh and Leh Srinagar Highways block.
· Hotels, camps, dhabas start closing business from September end on Manali – Leh HW.
· Every year the first week of October Raid De Himalaya happens on this route. It happens in the collaboration of HP government, so Officials of this Rally blocks the road for free passage of participant vehicles. (Our date and time for starting from Manali was same as Raid’s plan).
· Temperature of this region drops to subzero after September, which makes it more difficult.
· No rescue operation after September by Indian Army.

We built our travel on the base of HVK’s answer’s later part… “Not Impossible”

Dates : 06-10-2016 to 16-10-2016
Day 1 : Ahmedabad to Jaipur
Day 2 : Jaipur to Delhi.

Other two guys were going to land at Delhi Airport, I had to pick them up from Delhi Airport and start our journey towards Manali/Mandi

Day 3 : Delhi to Mandi
Day 4 : Mandi to Manali-Palchan
Day 5 : Palchan to Jispa
Day 6 : Jispa to Leh
Day 7 : Local site Seeing
Day 8 : Leh to Nubra
Day 9 : Nubra to Pangong to Leh
Day 10: Leh to Kargil or Drass
Day 11: Kargil to Banihal
Day 12 : Banihal to Ludhiana
Day 13 : Ludhiana to KishanGarh
Day 14 : KishanGarh to Ahmedabad
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Day 1 : Anand-Ahmedabad to Jaipur.

One of our friends was directly coming from London. Instead of landing at Ahmedabad I asked him to land at Delhi so he can save his two days of A’bad – Delhi journey. Another friend and owner of our ride had some personal commitment. He also chooses to travel Delhi by air.

My job was to drive A”bad – Delhi alone, pick them up from Delhi airport and start immediately towards Mandi.

I started driving from A’bad at 1 pm with all the luggage by brand new Duster AWD. Alone? Boring? Tiring? Never ! It was raining cats and dogs. October Rain was in it,s full swing but it was fun driving on nicely maintained Ahmedabad-Palanpur-Abu Road - Sirohi highway.

My Plan was to have the night stay at the outskirt of Jaipur & start early morning to Delhi to reach Delhi Airport at 10 am. Ahmedabad – Jaipur via Sirohi road was in excellent condition with occasional cows and camels on road. With some very small stops for tea and smokes, I reached Hotel Hiwayking, Jaipur around at 9.30. Some of my Jaipur based friends were already waiting for me at the hotel, so it was a resting time for the duster and some beer time for me/us.

PS: no pics during A’bad – Jaipur, as it was just driving, driving and driving!!


Some Tes Stop
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Day 2 : Jaipur-Delhi-Mandi

Some beers with friends, nice food and a night's sleep! In morning at 4 am when I received a wake-up call from hotel reception, I was already waking up, and ready to move.

The plan was to start early from Jaipur & reach Delhi airport to avoid heavy traffic in Gurgaon and Delhi. I started towards Delhi at 5 am. Jaipur- Delhi was a nice road, without much traffic during early morning hours. I wanted to reach airport as soon as possible so I can take a nap in the car at airport parking. Jaipur to Delhi was a nice & event-less drive. I reached Delhi Airport at 8.45 parked my vehicle at airport parking and had heavy breakfast at one of the cafés at arrival T1c waiting-lounge. Flights of my other travel mates were on time both of them landed at 10 am, after a formal hi & hello and some tea, we immediately got in our vehicle and started our journey to HP at 12.15pm. We wanted to get out of Delhi as soon as possible!

We wanted to reach Manali. Delhi to Manali is 550.km. We started at 12.15 pm from Delhi, so we were very well aware that we can’t make it. We kept our options open for a night stay, a maximum target was to reach Mandi, but no rush!! We got out of Delhi. We wanted to have some nice lunch (Preferably Non-Veg) & I wanted a beer with it. Beer!!! Why? Because now we had one international drive and another one owner of duster with vast driving experience. It was time for me to take nap at back seat! We had to cross Karnal to find Nonveg-Beer combination.

I woke up somewhere around kiratpur Sahib. & then I got a call.


"sir aap kal Jaipur Mai yaha hamari hotel pe ruke they"

"Ji ha"

"Aap yaha PE aapna driving licence bhul Gaye ho"

"oh no, WTF, please aap kuch karo

Hotel guy was cooperative. I explained to him that, we are going to Leh - Kashmir and I need that original DL anyhow. I told him to run to any courier guy pay as much as he asks. But I want that Dl at Manali tomorrow.

He tried his best and called me.... “saab koi bhi courier mai do din toh lagenge hi” Huh!! So now I had to do my entire trip without my original DL. I had 10 photocopies of my Dl with me and a scanned soft copy on my phone!!

But it was a blow. Three states! One of them was an ongoing conflict zone (Srinagar-Kashmir) and I had to drive without original DL. But nothing was possible. I need to forget the fact that practically I am without DL and without any original ID proof! All I had was photocopies and soft copies!!!The best way to forget it, was to keep calm and drive. I asked my friend to let me drive he understood my mood gave me car keys!!!

I started driving. So far this was my 7th trip on the road to Manali. We started climbing mountains. Roads were nice with frequent road construction diversions. It is always fun to drive in mountains only irritation was bus and Volvo drivers, they are crazy drivers without any traffic sense.

We kept moving. I was enjoying the drive on mountain roads but other two guys were tired. Our NRI friend who came all the way from London dint get any kind of rest or sleep from last 36 hours moreover he had jet-lag. We discussed to stop at Bilaspur but decided to push some more, finally stopped at Hotel Comfort in at Sundernagar. Which was just 10 km before Mandi, so practically we were at Mandi. Which was our target for that day.

So far it was all good. We checked in at a hotel, had some beer and food and slept.
Two beers were really helpful to forget that I am going to Ladakh without my original Driving License.

PS: So far My DSLR was resting in its bag. Moreover, news of lost DL was so irritating that I was in no mood to click pictures.


Hotel Comfort in, SunderNagar.

sunderpur 2.JPG

Hotel Comfort in, SunderNagar.
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Day 3 : SunderNagar-Kullu-Manali-Palchan

At Sundernagar we got a nice deal at the hotel, we got a basic suit with two separate rooms and separate double beds. Two beers, heavy food and entire day's drive was enough reason for sound sleep.

So when at 5.45 am the alarm buzzed it was the most irritating thing. I thought ..." Kullu tak hi toh Jana hai" and reset my alarm for one more hour and slept.

Finally at 6.45 am I didn't have any excuse. I woke up, got out of the hotel to check our vehicle and came to know there is some lake just in front of our hotel. I had a small walk there and went back, till that time other two guys were also ready to go!!!



Our plan was to driver till Kullu and do water rafting, reach Manali, do some last time essential shopping for Manali Leh journey and check in at our hotel in Palachan.

Mandi to Kullu is 65 km, kullu to Manali is 40 km and Manali to Palachan our hotel is 12 km, so it was total 120 km. As far as driving was a concern it was a very relaxing day for us.


A tes stop after SunderNagar


We started for Kullu.

I got my SLR out and my friends started driving. We all were in good mood. Amazing climate, beautiful mountains and the playful Beas river was with us. It was pleasant driving. But after some time of driving, we realized that it was not that pleasant. All the Volvos, Tempo travellers, taxis and private vehicle start from Delhi for Manali at evening and they reach Mandi at the same time when we started for Kullu. Moreover, it was a weekend. So entire Punjab was running to spend the weekend in Manali.


Road to kullu & views.


Beas River.


Some rest for Duster.

So, after all, it was a nightmare to drive on that road. Senseless driving by bus drivers and frequent jams was usual. We kept moving, at every jam I used to get out of our vehicle, click some pics and help other guys to clear the traffic jam. It took us 2.30 hours to finish that 60 km to Kullu.


Kullu Town


Kullu Town
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We did rafting. The flow of water was not that much happening so overall rafting was dull. We finished it, had breakfast in Kullu and moved to Manali.


River Rafting in Beas River.


River Rafting in Beas River.


River Rafting in Beas River.


River Rafting in Beas River.

We stopped at one the shawl shop and bought woollens for our dear and near ones. Our NRI friends had to do a lot of shopping for all of his friends at London.no issue of space in cars thanks to Duster’s 475 ltr boot space.


Shawl Shop after Kullu.


A beautiful House.
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From Kullu, we started noticing posters of "Raid de Himalaya". Raid de Himalaya is a high altitude extreme adventure race /rally on Manali Leh or Manali Spiti road. We knew that we were travelling on the same dates with them!! The rally/race happens in collaboration with HPTDC, so during that rally road blockage to give free passage to competitors is highly possible, and it was one of our biggest worries!!!Some 20 KM before Manali at some hotel we saw all the Raid vehicles, that hotel was the starting line for Raid!!

We stopped for a while talked with some officials and kept moving. We actually wanted to know their flag of time on next day so we can plan our move accordingly. One of my old FB friends was a marshal at Raid, I met him took his number to check raid’s timing and status!


Schedule of Raid The Himalayas 2016.
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At 12.30pm we reached Manali. Parked our vehicle at Johnson lodge and bar (one of the best hotel in Manali) and ordered our lunch. All the waiters and hotel staff was too much excited. Curiously I asked one of the hotel staff.

"Kya ho Raha hai kyu itni hadbhad machi hai'

she said " lo aapko nahi pata, aaj Salman Khan, Akshya Kumar, Shatrughan Sinha, Huma Qureshi sab yaha par hai"

Due to Raid de Himalaya, Presence of top celebrities, and weekend rush, entire Manali was excited!! We discussed let's just finish our food and leave Manali!

Our lunch was served and when we were eating it, suddenly I realized that I know this girl seating just next to my table. Oops, that was Huma Qureshi ( I'm a Fan of GOW movies). We talked a little about her movie and she got a call and she got busy on call!! We finished our lunch, bought water, dry fruits, chocolates, tissue papers etc, withdrew enough cash for two days and started for Palachan. To Our beautiful small homestay named Clifftop Cottage!!

It was just 1:15 pm and our hotel was just 11 km far from Manali, so all three of us were relaxed. We even planned to do paragliding and other adventure sports at Solang valley. We did some photography on the way. Kept moving slowly and just before Solang valley, we stuck in one of the deadliest traffic jam.



To Palchan.


Road to Palchan.


Road to Palchan.

All the tourist vehicles which went for site seeing to Rohtang Pass were coming back, more and more vehicles were going towards Rohtang and Solang valley! Too many raid official Vehicles were also going towards Rohtang. Roads were too narrow and usual traffic of buses, trucks and military Vehicles was also there. Overall it was Chaos. Manali was really excited that day. This was the result of Manali's excitement. It took us 5.15 hours to pass that 3 km of Solang to Palachan.


Traffic jam Beetwin Solang to Palchan.


Traffic jam Beetwin Solang to Palchan.

Finally, we reached Palachan we parked our car just next to the road and walked towards our hotel which was on a small hill. A small beautiful hill with the amazing view!! The Clifftop Cottage, Palchan.


A pic from Clifftop Cottage. Notice those vehicles jammed in b2b traffic.
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PS: We were not able to click pics of our homestay Clifftop Cottage. Sharing images of My family trip to Manali during April 2017 to get a glimpse of this amazing place.


The Clifftop Cottage. Palchan.


Garden area.


View from Room Balcony.


View from Room's Left Window.

I called up Kapil Thakur. Owner of Clifftop cottage. I was very well in touch with Kapil during the planning phase of our travel. Kapil was an amazing help to get us SDM permit to cross Rohtang pass. He said to make ourselves comfortable at the cottage. He" ll see us soon. Poor Kapil was also stuck in that jam many vehicles behind us!!!

Physical we were fit but mentally we were exhausted! I wanted some hard drink and food. Luckily we bought two bottles of Old Monk rum to keep it with us during Manali Leh journey in case of emergency! We had it, ordered food and enjoyed the view from Balcony.

It was almost 9.00 pm & that traffic jam was still there moving very slowly!! Kapil came, he joined us for dinner!! We talked a lot about many things (don’t remember what, as I was drunk). It was one of the longest days, and we had to wake up early in morning!

We called it a day and went to sleep in the cosy and comfortable attic room of Clifftop Cottage!!
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nice TL waiting for the rest. yes the traffic blocks in manali is horrific. i too got stranded in one in 2013, 6 kms from manali, took 6 hrs to reach manali