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!
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!
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. 😉
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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”
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.
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
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.
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.
Day 5- A rest from the Drama
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.
Day 6 – At the Highest Bloggers Meet
Leh – Khardung La – Diskit – Hunder (Nubra Valley)
Distance: 125 kms
Drive Time: 3 hours
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
- 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.