My Road Trip to Ladakh: Part 2 of a memorable adventure!

posted in: Asia, India, Jammu & Kashmir, Nature, Tips | 94

Still down with a hangover of Ladakh but bound by a promise to come back with Part two of my road trip to Ladakh – here I am! Nope, it is not being melodramatic, but it is true. The Ladakh fever even after a week is just so strong that all I wish to do right now is to head right back there. However, as a humble blogger, my duties to you come first!  So here goes, part two of the Road Trip to Ladakh.

Overlooking the Shanti Stupa at Leh

A recap of Day 1 – 6 of the Road Trip to Ladakh

While you can click through for the first part of this 12-day Ladakh road trip, let me attempt summarizing it into a paragraph. After a good start till Jammu from Delhi, our actual adventures started in the form of one car requiring an emergency service and deserting us while we ran into a landslide up the Ramban- Srinagar road. This resulted in a pleasant surprise of discovering the scenic Ramban town by the gushing River Chenab. Further on, we rushed the next day to cover the distance that we could not and therein, we had a day of joyful reunion with the car that had deserted us but at the same time the crazy adventure of attending to a puncture on the high Zojila Pass.

Along the Zojila Pass on a road trip to Ladakh

After a peaceful night at Kargil, we enjoyed the sights along the way to Leh, where we rested for a day and then, attempted the record that we all had taken this road trip for. The Highest Bloggers meet it was at Khardungla with the OYO team announcing a unique program for the travelers. Post the meet, the team split into two – with one set of bloggers returning to Leh to fly back while the rest of us continued to meet and greet the double humped camels at Hunder!

A glimpse of surreal beauty of Nubra Valley Ladakh

This is where I left you in the last post with a preview of things that were to come – a close call with the Chinese snipers, forced changes in plans and the rush of adrenaline with the crazy adventures. So, without much ado –

Day 7- Of the Planned & Unplanned

Hunder- Khardung La- Leh – Thiksey – Chang La Pass – Tangste – Pangong Tso

Distance: 240 kms

Drive Time: 6.5 hrs

Continuing on our high spirits from the previous evening, we set forth for one of our longest stretches to Pangong Tso lake. This time, I shed my inhibitions to become a wild traveler who hung out of her window to capture the passing sights. With Swati as my partner-in-crime, I spelt out a disclaimer to a nervous Samarth that in case he loses me to a valley, my hubby would be more than happy.

Spreading my wings on the road trip to Ladakh
The road between Leh and Nubra Valley

Crossing over the Khardung La again, we reached the Leh City View point to discover that two cars ahead of us had completely disappeared and the ones behind us were not to be seen! Thankfully the ones ahead of us were all fine but it was a different story for the ones behind us. Seems like Neeraj’s car had given up at Khardung La and need not just a nudge,  but a push uphill. However, all was well as we caught them all at Kharoo before we hit the road for 2nd highest motorable pass in the world – Chang La Pass. Of course, not before we took in the sights of the lovely Thiksey Monastery from the outside.

Thiksey Monastery near Leh

As we ascended to this pass. Neeraj’s car completely stopped and a tough call was taken where Vineet and Deepak set back for Leh to get the car working while the rest of us continued to Pangong Lake.

Chang La Pass
The terrain post Chang La Pass on the road trip to Ladakh

I must say that this was the smartest call taken by the ScoutMyTrip team for there was no way one could have crossed the gushing streams, the high plateaus and the gravel pathways in that car. As much as I had the other team on my mind, I could not help enjoy the adventure that we had set upon on this stretch. The early evening gave way to night and all I could see was stars in the sky as Samarth expertly motored his way through those gushing streams to land us at Pangong Tso by 10 in the night.

River crossing on the way to Ladakh Pangong Lake

There was no denying the spookiness of this drive but with adrenaline running high, funny songs and a fun bunch of car mates, this little stretch turned out to be one of my liveliest ones on this road trip to Ladakh.

Day 8 – Reunited at Tso Moriri

Pangong Tso – Merak- Chushul – Tso Moriri

Distance: 330 Kms

Drive Time: 8.5 hours

Sunrise over Ladakh Pangong Lake

Having lost all our bearings in the night, it was a pleasant surprise to see a gorgeous lake staring at us in the morning. The sun kissed lake kept changing colors from an orange-streaked gray to a beautiful bright blue. Enclosed by the mountains that separated us from Tibet, this lake was truly an enchanting sight.

The famous 3 idiots lake aka Pangong Lake in Ladakh

After a few photo opportunities, we hit the roads straight to Tso Moriri. The drive on this stretch was just unbelievable – not a person in sight, just flat lands that were bordered by the mountains. The roads were so desolate that I could not help think of what would happen if we had a flat tyre here!

The long desolate road to Tso Moriri on the road trip to Ladakh

In retrospect, I should not have thought of that for that is exactly, what happened as we crossed a stream to discover that the Bolero was stuck. This is again, where the readiness of the ScoutMyTrip team came to rescue as they quickly changed the tyres and then, we were off. While they did the change, I got a chance to soak in the beautiful barren surroundings. It was great to do so without the knowledge of the fact that we were so close to the Chinese border here and one toe out of the line, would have been an alert for the Chinese snipers to do their thing. Yes, this whole region is the line of sight for these guys! (Gulp!)

The area in Ladakh that is close to the China border
Along the Indus River to Tso Moriri

Zipping through the landscape, with Indus flowing by our side at some point, we reached Tso Moriri to the lowest ever temperature that I had experienced on this Ladakh Trip. Bundled into layers, we grabbed our dinner and retired to our tent to be woken up rudely and pleasantly by the two lone rangers – Deepak and Vineet. These amazing guys chose to drive through the dark to reunite with the rest of us. It sure was a pleasant and a welcome surprise to be a complete team again.

Day 9- My personal high at More Plains

Tso Moriri – More Plains – Sarchu- Jispa – Keylong

Distance: 336 Kms

Drive Time: 10.5 hours

Tso Moriri in Ladakh

It was a buoyant feeling to wake up as a complete team. In some ways, it was also, bittersweet as we all realized that we were nearing the end of the road trip to Ladakh. The bubbliness in the car was to some extent punctured as we moved ahead to our next destination Keylong. To infuse in some of that missing enthusiasm, we transformed our car to a moving discotheque with Samarth and Abhinav attempting the kinkiest moves while Swati and I attempted to capture it with a camera – just to hold them to ransom someday!

Johann trying to join the dancing car!
Tso Kar Lake

To some extent that did help pick up the mood but what completely had us enthralled was the lovely landscape of Tso Kar Lake and the More Plains. This is where I bull dozed Samarth into handing over the White Scorpio for a short drive down the plains.

Taking over the car at More Plains

Picture this – Samarth on the Navigators seat holding on to his dear life, while Swati and Abhinav whoop with glee (or fear!) as I fly them down the More Plains. Oh Boy! Even the thought of it gets me on a complete high.

The beginning of the Indian Petra Landscape at Ladakh

Like a good girl, I handed back the car the moment we touched the mountains and went back to my meek, quiet self ( Oh yes, I can see those rolling eyes!)  for the rest of the journey – all the way to Keylong. This stretch was particularly melancholic for a lot of reasons – one being our own mood and the other being the lores that I share tell you in my next posts – of the places we saw along the way.

Suraj Tal, enroute to Keylong

Day 10 – Drowning our sorrows at Manali

Keylong – Rohtang Pass – Manali

Distance: 115 Kms

Drive Time: 4 hours

Our psychedelic stop at Keylong while we waited for Diesel

The atmosphere in the car was getting dreary by the day and we just needed a jolt to snap us out of it. Luckily for us, we got that in the form of the low fuel situation in one of our cars. The fuel station at Keylong had run out of diesel and in a bid to find some, one car set off to the next town to get a can-full. The rest of us took over a small little shop in Tandi for some card games, snacks and tea. Thankfully, the team was able to tank up at Darcha and we set forth as soon as they returned.

Along Rohtang Pass

Though the landscape was stunning, nothing felt the same given the impending end to our trip. Yes, we attempted capturing it all but definitely, the number of clicks had drastically reduced. After a brief stop at Rohtang Pass, we reached Manali to one of the most beautiful properties of OYO rooms by the river Beas. That night, all of us drowned our impending end to the Ladakh Road trip. A fun time on the Dance Floor followed by some crazy sessions of laughter and rude jokes, we retired for the night.

The beautiful PYO Rooms in Manali

Day 11 – A silent trip home

Manali – Bhuntar – Mandi – Chandigarh – Delhi – Gurgaon

Distance: 575 kms

Drive Time: 12.5 hours

I would call this day as the darkest, gloomiest and longest day of the entire road trip to Ladakh. Not one of us wanted to sing. Each car was drowning with depression. This was probably the only stretch where I insisted that I be allowed to take a power nap. With minimal stops, we finally landed in Gurgaon in the wee-hours of Day 12. There were a few interesting incidents along the way – like how Nano Seth tried to convert the Bolero into a Knight Bus and how the team was caught with tinted glasses. However, the only point that I will remember fondly in this entire stretch is Samarth and me trying to keep each other awake to safely reach our destination.

Trying to cheer ourselves on the way back

Dead in the night, with the google maps on, I was literally seeing two roads instead of one on the screen. As for Samarth, he was just on an auto mode that followed by voice directions. With the last crack of jokes at each other, somehow, we reached the OYO Rooms Gurgaon to retire for the night.

The Ultimate Highs of Road Trip to Ladakh

The entire lot (Minus Deepak Ananth who took the picture) along the road trip to Ladakh

Sure enough, there were plenty of adventures along the way but the readiness of the team saved the day. Also, what turned out to be a detour from our plan, became our memories for life. This Ladakh Road trip got all of us into the India book of records for having done the Highest Blogger Meet in Khardungla. It, in fact, gave us one more record of being the first to do so too. No doubt that this accolade will remain precious to each one us but for me, the ultimate high of this road trip to Ladakh would be the memories of laughter, the strange adrenaline rush, the stunning landscapes that we traversed and more importantly, the bonds that we formed with each other. For sure, this road trip to Ladakh is going to be on my mind and in my heart for a long, long time!

Ah Well! That is enough of me being emotional. Let’s hear from you guys on what you thought of this entire road trip to Ladakh!  Pin this if you plan one for yourself or if you have already been – as a memory for yourself!

Travel Tips:

  • As warned in my India book of records, please gear up to avoid AMS (acute mountain sickness) by drinking lots of water and taking precautions as mentioned in the hyperlinked article.
  • The roads in this section, especially towards Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri are extremely desolate. There are almost no rest rooms or restaurants available on this route.
  • For all the Ladakh destinations except for Leh City, you will need to take Inner Line Permits from Leh.
  • The road conditions on this route range from bad (no roads) to extremely good roads. Note that in the Ladakh region, the roads or paths will lead you through gravel and gushing streams. Hence, ensure that your choice of vehicle has a four-wheel drive like the Tata Hexa or a Scorpio or even a Thar.
  • Avoid night time drives for the same reasons as above.
  • Here and there, you will find small tents advertising Maggi or Hot Tea. Those are your small road side cafes for a quick bite.
  • Please pre-book your accommodations before heading to these destinations as they have limited capacity and there are not too, many options available.

Summary of the Route taken for this Ladakh Road Trip

To summarize the route with its major stops –

New Delhi – Jammu – Sonamarg – Kargil – Leh – Hunder – Pangong Tso – Tso Moriri – Keylong – Manali – New Delhi

While these are the major stops, I have given the actual road routes in part one and this part of the Road Trip to Ladakh. This should help plan your own.

P.S: I was invited by ScoutMyTrip and OYO Rooms to be a part of this road trip to Ladakh





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