My Ladakh Road Trip: Part 1 of an adventure that created memories for life!

posted in: Asia, Jammu & Kashmir, Nature, Tips | 107

After my Indo-Nepal road trip, it was time was yet another epic trip and this time, a record breaking one. The last few days you would have seen fewer posts from me as I was out on a 12 day long Ladakh road trip from Delhi with ScoutMyTrip & OYO Rooms. Quite unlike the Indo-Nepal one, this Ladakh Road Trip was all about creating memories, even when the best plans went awry. What it resulted in were 2 landmark records that went into the India Book of Records (not kidding!), loads of laughter, tons of memories and bonds for a lifetime!

All set for the Ladakh Road Trip
All set for the Ladakh Road Trip                                                                                              Photo Credits: Raza Rahil 

12 days are going to be impossible to crunch into a single post and naturally, you guys are all up for a complete series. There were just so many unusual destinations that I need to share with you. Adding to the spice is the drama and melodrama that 20 bloggers can create. And then the high of the recording breaking of being a part of the Highest Bloggers Meet– a feat that has been recorded in the India Book of Records! It has been tough to decide where to start from but well, I can’t be holding it all back. So, here goes my first post that will not just give you a bird’s eye view of what went through these 12 days of the Ladakh road trip but also, will help you plan a route for your own!

About Ladakh

Leh City in Ladakh
Leh City in Ladakh

Simply put, Ladakh is like the crown of India. Part of the Jammu & Kashmir State, this is a region that is bound by different mountain ranges on all sides. Naturally, it has a name that befits for Ladakh means Land of High Passes. The entire region is quite remote and you will find a lot of Tibetan settlements here. While traversing through the region. you will need to be careful as you are treading along the borders of our neighboring countries. The largest city here is Leh followed by Kargil. The entire region is at a high altitude and visiting here is bound to give you a very different perspective to India. I can promise you that this is one unexplored and stunning part of India.

Introducing the Participants

There is so much more I want to talk about when it comes to Ladakh but for the time being, the participants of this Ladakh Road trip await patiently. Leading the pack was the lovely team from ScoutMyTrip –  Deepak infamous from the last trip with his nonsensical lyrics, Vineet with his serious sense of humor and Neeraj with his rich knowledge of the Ladakh road trip. I have described their traits in detail in my last post and these stay true even for this trip. 😉

The Scouts on the Ladakh Road Trip
The Scouts on the Ladakh Road Trip                                    (L to R) – Vineet, Pratik, Dr.Amit, Dr. Shakeel, Samarth, Neeraj, Deepak

Since this time, we had a larger troop, we had some more scouts – Samarth from Pune (driving the White Scorpio) who turned out to be the life of every evening party, Dr. Amit (with his red Thar) who doubled up as a health consultant, Pratik Jain a.k.a Nano Seth  (driving the Bolero) – the youngest and the funniest of the scouts and Dr. Shakeel (with his XUV) who absolutely shamed Lightening McQueen.

The bloggers that made it to the Highest Bloggers meet in Ladakh
The bloggers that made it to the Highest Bloggers meet in Ladakh                                                         Photo Credits: Deepak Ananth

Next come in the bloggers with Yours Truly. ScoutMyTrip made this part easier by listing us all down out here. A day prior to our trip, I met most of these lovely people – some of who I had traveled with earlier and some who I had known for a while but had not met.

The Oyo Rooms Team .
The OYO Rooms Team . (L to R) – Shruti, Vikram, Harshit & Nishant

And the last but not the list was the team from OYO Rooms, led by Vikram who made all the stays possible for the entire Ladakh Road Trip. The stays definitely merit a separate post that will be up soon!

Day 1 of the Ladakh Road Trip

From Delhi – Murthal – Ludhiana- Pathankot- Jammu

Distance: 588 Kms

Drive Time: 9 hours

Day one of every trip is always exciting! A call at 5 am seemed quite trivial for most of us and despite us being ready, by the time we packed and started off, it was past six. It’s only natural that you would want to take pictures of the start of an epic trip that was bound to create records. With Neha, Abhinav, Samarth and me in a classy, clean White Scorpio, we set off to take our first break at Murthal. In the first 2 hours of our travel to Murthal, I think, our blogger chatter drove Samarth up the wall. With no music available in the car, that was all that we could do! Naturally, the wise man bought an AUX cable for the stereo system to just shut us all up.

Day one of the Ladakh Road Trip with Samarth at the wheel and Neha & Abhinav in the rear seats.
Day one of the Ladakh Road Trip with Samarth at the wheel and Neha & Abhinav in the rear seats.

Little did he realize, that he would be dragged into singing raunchy songs from the 80s and 90s and cracking rude jokes at the celebs – all the way up to Jammu. I think he so got into it, that for the rest of the 12 days, he led the pack with his dance and songs.

Towards Jammu - our first Night halt on the Ladakh Road trip
Towards Jammu – our first Night halt on the Ladakh Road trip

This stretch of the road trip was just about passing through the cities of Punjab to finally land at Jammu where we had the first problem with our convoy. It was Neeraj’s car that had already started groaning and need a quick fix to proceed through the highlands of Kashmir.

Day 2 with an unexpected halt at Ramban

Jammu – Udhampur- Ramban- Sonamarg

Distance: 336 kms

Drive Time: 7.5 hours

The ScoutMyTrip team made flash changes in the morning as Neeraj’s car needed some attention before we hit the highlands. Deepak and Neeraj stayed back while the rest of us were shuffled around to accommodate the missing car. Our raucous group was punished for being naughty and the three of us – Neha, Abhinav and yours truly were separated to different cars. My new companions were Ajay, Anuradha and Medhavi along with Samarth.

Chenani- Nashri Tunnel
Chenani- Nashri Tunnel

With rains pouring down on us, the 4 cars made their way through the infamous longest tunnel – the Chenani- Nashri Tunnel all the way to Ramban. This is where the first major detour to our plans happened for we were stopped at Ramban owing to a landslide further up the road. There was no going back or forward and thus, we ended up at a Ramban Hotel with River Chenab flowing by it.

Our unexpected pit stop at Ramban during the Ladakh Road Trip
Our unexpected pit stop at Ramban during the Ladakh Road Trip

To me, this was perfect – for the view was just heavenly and it also, gave a chance for the missing car to catch up with us. This is a classic case of why detours are good on a road trip.

Day 3 – Zipping through Sonamarg to Kargil

Ramban – Srinagar – Sonamarg – Kargil

Distance: 345 kms

Drive Time: 7 hours

The valleys of Kashmir
The valleys of Kashmir

Having lost a day, we piled into our car at wee-hours of the morning (4 am I think) and tried convincing the guards to let us through. I guess, our charms failed to convince them and finally, after an hour and half, we zipped through the barricades towards Srinagar. It was imperative that we reached Zojila pass before it closed down at 5pm so that we could be at Kargil.

Passing by Dal Lake in Srinagar along the Ladakh Road Trip
Passing by Dal Lake in Srinagar along the Ladakh Road Trip

This route was one scenic route that I wish we had time to stop and click. I felt as if I were traveling through the meadows of Switzerland. The scenes here were absolutely breathtaking and a true testament of the phrase that Kashmir has been given – “Paradise on Earth

Valleys of Sonamarg
Valleys of Sonamarg
Sonamarg - our intended halt for Day 2 of the Ladakh Road Trip
Sonamarg – our intended halt for Day 2 of the Ladakh Road Trip

Since the political situation in Srinagar did not allow us to halt much, we crossed over to Sonamarg and halted here for lunch. This is where our missing car with Neeraj and Deepak caught up with us. Jubilant that we were together again, we all set off to cross the mighty Zojila pass to Kargil while stopping by to see the heart-wrenching Drass Memorial.

Zojila Pass that connects Kargil and Sonamarg
Zojila Pass that connects Kargil and Sonamarg

However, mid-way through this crossing, we realized that two of our cars were missing and that is where the next drama of our trip took place.The Bolero with Nano Seth has managed to get a puncture on Zojila pass and the Black Scorpio along with the Thar were helping the cause there. While these cars were on a rescue mission, we had our own problems in the White Scorpio with Anuradha experiencing some motion sickness. We decided to proceed further while the other cars attended to the puncture so that at least the Anuradha managed some rest. Finally, after a lot of melodrama – both these problems were sorted out and the whole troop retired peacefully for the night at Kargil.

Day 4- The first feel of Ladakh

Kargil – Fotu La Pass – Lamayuru – Leh

Distance: 216 kms

Drive Time: 4 hrs

Birds Eye View of the Kargil Town - our night halt on Day 3 of the Ladakh Road Trip
Birds Eye View of the Kargil Town – our night halt on Day 3 of the Ladakh Road Trip

Time to change the car companions again and this time we had Abhinav, Samarth and me as the constants in a single car. The fourth person in the car was either Deepak or Vineet  – both of whom tried to keep changing our playlist for the day.

The positive vibes of Prayer Flags at Fotu La Pass
The positive vibes of Prayer Flags at Fotu La Pass

Day 4 of the Ladakh Road Trip gave us an actual feel of Ladakh. The stunning landscapes filled with sands of varied colors with prayer flags flying high in the air, spreading their positive vibes. This stretch had us stopping at various points to see and absorb the Buddhist culture that predominates Ladakh. It seemed nothing could go wrong as there were just positive vibes all around. With the exception of one of us falling ill, nothing indeed did go wrong and all of us reached Leh safe and sound that evening.

Lamayuru Monastery enroute to Leh
Lamayuru Monastery enroute to Leh
Confluence of Zanskar and Indus River along the way to Leh on the Ladakh Road Trip
Confluence of Zanskar and Indus River along the way to Leh on the Ladakh Road Trip

Day 5- A rest from the Drama

Leh Palace
Leh Palace

One of the key things that the ScoutMyTrip team was insistent upon was to take it easy in Leh. The gradual acclimatization to the altitude was required for the next day, we were going to be out for the record-breaking feat of attending the highest bloggers meet at Khardung La. I was more than happy to abide by this – not for the acclimatization part but more from a perspective of enjoying and discovering Leh. (Remember I have been called Indiana Jones, and I had to be true to that name!). This is what I pretty much did along with the other bloggers and of course, tales on these will be up in the next few posts.

Shanti Stupa in Leh
Shanti Stupa in Leh

Day 6 – At the Highest Bloggers Meet

Leh – Khardung La – Diskit – Hunder (Nubra Valley)

Distance: 125 kms

Drive Time: 3 hours

Enroute to Khardung La
Enroute to Khardung La

As the day dawned, the excitement among all of us reached a high. Today was the day! And thankfully, it was a day that we absolutely enjoyed. Considered as one of the highest motorable passes, Khardung La was the destination where we were to have our highest ever blogger meet – a feat that has now been recorded in India Book of Records.

At Khardung La
At Khardung La                                                                                                Photo Credits:Abhinav Singh

It is during this 2-hour meet that had OYO rooms announce a unique program for the travelers. It was a fun and intense conversation on the OYONauts Program – an interesting option for regular travel writers and travel bloggers.

Our Highest Bloggers Meeting in progress
Our Highest Bloggers Meeting in progress                                                                                     Photo Credits: Deepak Ananth

Post the meet, most of us proceeded to Hunder via Diskit. Hunder was such a revelation – white sand dunes surrounded by gorgeous mountains. It felt surreal especially since the landscape changed from green valleys to red sand mountains to finally white deserts.

The White Sands of Hunder, Nubra Valley
The White Sands of Hunder, Nubra Valley
At Diskit Monastery in Hunder
At Diskit Monastery in Hunder

With a stop over at Diskit monastery, we retired for a fun night with Samarth dancing his heart out at Hunder. However, not before we had spotted the cute double-humped camels of Nubra Valley.

Double humped camels of Nubra valley
Double humped camels of Nubra valley

Day 7: The pace of adventure changes

If the subheading has gotten you all excited about what happened, you will have to just wait up for my next post. Part Two of the Ladakh Road Trip becomes even more interesting after this juncture with some more forced changes to the plan and rush of adrenaline. The roads became non-existent and the life around became scarce. The border of China was close and we were in the line of the Chinese Snipers. Curious?

The adventure of the Ladakh Road trip continues
The adventure of the Ladakh Road trip continues

Your turn now – Tell me on how you have found our trip so far. Wouldn’t you have wanted to be a part of it?

Travel Tips:

  • If you are planning to travel along the same route as I have outlined, then you need to be prepared for a gradual acclimatization.  Read about how to avoid AMS that is likely to hit you in Ladakh.
  • Drink lots of water
  • There are plenty of public toilets along this route – at the fuel bunks specifically. However, please note that they are very basic and you will need to carry your own sanitizer and toilet paper for these.
  • You will encounter small restaurants along the way that will treat you to some basic Indian meals. If you pass the larger cities like Ludhiana, you can stop at a proper multi-cuisine restaurant.
  • The route mapped above has some road tolls that you need to be prepared for.
  • Please be aware of the political situation when traveling through Kashmir. It is extremely volatile and one needs to be mindful of the same when passing through Srinagar and nearby areas.

P.S: I was invited to be a part of the #HighestBloggerMeet by ScoutMyTrip & OYO Rooms

 

 

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107 Responses

  1. zestinatote

    You seem to have had a good one on this bloggers’ meet.

    More than a decade ago, I have done this road trip from the other side. As in Delhi – Manali – Sarchu – Leh – Drass – Sonamarg – Pehelgam. The Manali – Sarchu – Leh leg to my mind is the road trip of a lifetime, with magnificent views, and nothing after that (New Zealand, Namibia, Switzerland et al) is as dramatic.

    • Ami

      I can quite relate to what you are saying. Everything else seems so trivial after Ladakh. Sigh! Still dazed with what I saw

  2. SANDEEP PANWAR

    Good post,
    ब्लॉग की दुनिया में आने से पहले मैं लेह-लद्दाख की यात्रा कर आया था ब्लॉग लिखने का यही सबसे बड़ा लाभ है कि हम कोई भी यात्रा करते हैं तो उसमें बहुत सारी सूचनाएं आदि समेटने की कोशिश करते हैं लेकिन यदि हम ब्लॉगिंग नहीं कर रहे हैं और किसी यात्रा पर जा रहे हैं तो तब हम केवल अपने खुद के आनंद के लिए घूमते है।
    यह अंतर मैं पहले की व आज की यात्राओं में महसूस कर रहा हूँ।

    • Ami

      This road trip was one of its kind. Still not over it. Hang in there for Part two before you realize how amazing it was. Thanks for stopping by Michelle.

  3. Arnav Mathur

    Must have been one hell of an amazing trip. I was regularly following all your group updates and it was like reliving Ladakh once again. Doing the worlds highest blogger meat was an amazing initiative, and no wonder it got it place in the record books as well.

  4. Karie

    Oh wow that was quite an exciting road trip to Leh Ladakh.I have read posts about it before but yours is so very detailed and the pictures are great! Congrats on making it to the Indian Book of records.Leh Ladakh has been on my bucket list and I definitely hope yo visit soon.Can’t wait for part two and the rest of the adventure!

    • Ami

      Thanks Karie. The Part Two is going to be up soon. A 12 day trip could not have asked for a simple post. I had to put it all out.

  5. Dashin' Ash

    I just ran into my first altitude sickness experience myself. Good job gradually acclimating, it could have been a rough trip for you all.

    • Ami

      It was all thanks to the ScoutMyTrip team who planned the route such that there was gradual acclimatization. It could have been bad otherwise. Nonetheless, glad that all was well!

  6. Carolina Colborn

    Wow, what a cool thing to do. Highest Bloggers’ Meet. That was indeed an exciting accomplishment!

  7. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

    What an epic road trip with incredible landscapes! I would not have guessed those mountains were in India. So fun, too, when you make new friends and share a lot of laughs along the drive. How interesting to be on the borders of such different countries and how that reflects in the local culture and food of the region. So glad you had an awesome trip and look forward to reading Part 2 of your Leh Ladakh road trip!

    • Ami

      Thank you Jackie. Glad you enjoyed the journey so far and part two coming up soon (likely tomorrow :-)). Cheers

  8. Kimberley Casey

    Ami I love this! I’m a fan of telling the travel stories and sharing the experiences, and this is a goodie. And the pics! Makes me want to go. Great read, thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Ami

      Thank you Kimberley. Glad you had fun with this one. Post 2 of this is up. Give it a read too 😀

    • Ami

      Thanks a ton. Glad you enjoyed this part. Part Two up for you to read. Do share your favorites from those too 🙂

  9. Jetsettera

    I went to Leh, Ladakh in 2011 and it was such a magical place. It looks like it still is wonderful. Also, looks like you enjoyed it very much!

    • Ami

      Absolutely loved it and cannot wait for another trip back there! Thanks for stopping by

  10. 100cobbledroads

    Have seen endless pictures of Ladakh, but haven’t been there yet. Such an amazing landscape. And the Sonmarg picture of the green meadows is epic!

  11. Sandy N Vyjay

    What a wonderful trip, Epic in all ways. I can see that this just the “starters”, and the main course and dessert yet to follow. The pictures are stunning and the spirit of the entire trip comes across vividly in the post. Regret to have to let go of this wonderful trip.

    • Ami

      You sure would have loved this trip. But I can understand your constraints. Hopefully we shall do another #AageSeRight together!

  12. Joanna

    The Zojila pass looks scary. I would have probably freaked out if I was in the car that got a puncture over there. I was on a similar road in Argentina and I had to cover my eyes and get down on the seat until we got through it safely. The entire route however looks amazing, with surreal scenery! I actually have a friend who went to Ldakh but got sick becaue of the altitude. She didn’t recover until she got back down to lower altitudes.

    • Ami

      Yes, the AMS condition hits a lot of people. Thankful to the Scoutmytrip team for planning a route that helped us gradually acclimatize. Ladakh is just surreal. Hope you get there Joanna. Cheers

  13. swatisinha09

    That sounds like an epic trip, Looking forward to more stories and adventure of the 12 day road trip. Great pictures as always 🙂

  14. wellcaffeinatedtraveller

    What an incredible adventure you had! I have never even heard of these places before but now of course I want to visit them myself. Although I’m not sure how I feel about very long times in a car with 4 other people – lol! I’m more of a solo traveller. I can’t wait to read about the rest of your adventure!

    • Ami

      Trust me, that is what one of my fellow bloggers said. She was a convert at the end of it. This trip was just fun!

  15. Ruchika Das

    Wow. This trip looks like fun. Its true that Ladakh is very beautiful. I have been planning a trip for so long now. Taking some serious notes from this blog.

  16. Abigail Sinsona

    That is the true meaning of an epic road trip indeed. How cool is it that you get to be a part of a new record indeed! The beautiful mountain ranges and diverse landscape are all too dreamy to pass up!

    • Ami

      You bet! The unexpected adventures and the scenes….Sigh! One epic road trip that too! Thanks for stopping by Abigail.

  17. Sam Sparrow

    I can’t believe you got into the India Book of Records! What a cool thing, and all those memories you have too! Sounds like you had the best adventure, I think I’d love to do something like this one day!

    • Ami

      We sure did and this record is going to be precious owing to the whole road trip experience. I do hope you get to it some day Sam. thanks for stopping by though.

  18. Skyring

    Beautiful shot of the boat on the lake. Is the water tilted, or just the camera?

    Good to see a blogger meetup. No wonder your chauffeur was driven round the bend!

    Not sure why your text is protected.

    • Ami

      THanks Skyring. I took that pic on the go, so I guess it is the Camera 🙂 Thanks for dropping by though.

  19. nomadicshoes

    I was following the whole trip via scoutmytrip updates. I know it must be special, first its Ladakh and then the highest bloggers meet. Congratulations.

  20. tnmitch

    How clever! The highest blogger meet, love it! I also love your pictures. I am amazed at the terrain differences; from the barren mountains to the lush green grass. Amazing!

    • Ami

      Trust me…the colors and varied landscapes is so surreal. You must try and get here yourself. Cheers

  21. Paige Wunder

    This looks like an awesome place to road trip. And how fun to break an Indian record! So cool! That’s when you know you’re doing it right 😉

    • Ami

      Thanks Paige. It sure was fun to get the record but even more when we went on the trip.

    • Ami

      RAmban is a quaint little village which was a lovely surprise. Am sure you will find interesting stuff there. Thanks for stopping by Christopher.

  22. WhenTwoWander

    Amazing photo essay – I’m surprised that there haven’t been more Hollywood movies made in these locations. They’re stunning!

    • Ami

      This is quite a remote place which makes shooting difficult and in some ways, am glad it has not been used. A few bollywood movies though has used it.

  23. Thirty30Courtney

    That’s such a neat initiative! The highest blogger meet. Super creative! I can only imagine how proud you were to be a part of this mission and the views aren’t half bad either.

    • Ami

      THe views were just gorgeous and the company amazing. Glad to have been a part of this.

    • Ami

      It sure was and each landscape was better than the other. Still have so much to share.

  24. raginipuri

    Beautifully narrated, Ami! And the lovely photos compliment the narration so well.

  25. sara | belly rumbles

    The landscape is amazing and you saw so much! Congratulations in being part of the highest bloggers meet up and getting into the Indian Book of Records, very cool!

  26. Ryan Biddulph

    Ami these pictures are beyond brilliant! One of my faves is the camel just chilling in the middle of nowhere. I am slowly, and surely, becoming more familiar with this region of the world as more travel bloggers cover it. Adding to the list.

    • Ami

      Thank you Ryan – that sure makes my day. I do hope you get to Ladakh one of these days.

  27. Suvrajyoti Bhattacharya

    Your recent Ladakh tour seems to be an amazaing trip and you portrayed so nicely along with a number of self explained beautiful photographs Feeling very much excited after reading this blog ….Cheers !!!

  28. tatumskipper

    OMg what an amazing trip you went on. Aren’t road trips the best to see places and experience them for all they’re worth?? So happy to see you happy and with so many amazing people who I’m sure made the trip that much more enjoyable.

    • Ami

      You got that right. The amazing company did do a lot to make this trip a huge success. It sure was epic for a lot of other reasons too. Thanks for stopping by.

  29. Meg Jerrard

    Congrats on your landmark records 🙂 I would love to get to Ladakh, and it sounds like the best way to explore is by an epic roadtrip. I love the combination of stunning scenery and Tibetan culture, some very early mornings for you but totally worth it from the sounds of it. Interesting that the political situation in a couple of spots meant you couldn’t halt – better be quick with the camera through the car window I guess 🙂 Congrts again!

    • Ami

      THank you so much Meg. This trip was just one epic trip which I know will be on my mind for a long long time. The early mornings were just worth every minute of this trip. And yes, quick on the camera thro the window was indeed the mantra!

  30. Neha

    You are up to some awesome road trips this year..isn’t it 🙂 Ladakh is indeed a dream destination for me. I am glad you are writing this series. I will be following it to plan my trip there. Diskit monastery and the whole landscape around it look stunning!

    • Ami

      Yes, this has been a good year with road trips and epic ones too…Gosh how I love them. Hope you get to yours soon Neha.

  31. quirkywanderer

    FINALLY I READ IT! 🙂 And it was just so so so so well put Ami.. the pics superb as always (sonamarg one is my fav!) and the narration is direct dil se. I really really really missed it 🙁

    • Ami

      Thanks Divsi and I so so missed you on this trip. Sonamarg left me wanting for more. Suddenly though Ramban was fun, I realized that I might have missed something even better after reaching here. Ah well! Got to leave something for next time I suppose. 🙂

  32. Lydia Smith

    What a lovely trip. That you are many and share like goals makes it more interesting. I can imagine you never wanting the trip to endx that’s what I’d have prayed for. Thanks for the tips section but I was more captiavted by the tales of the exciting trip.

    • Ami

      This was one crazy trip that still is as fresh as it was a month back when I went on it. I loved every bit of it. Glad you too liked it here Lydia.

Would love to know what you think