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Ladakh-June'2014: Full Circuit ->Zojilla-Suru/Zanskar-Leh-Turtuk-Pangong-Hanle-Tso Moriri-Rohtang

Discussion in 'Travelogues & Experiences' started by VahanPujari, Sep 6, 2014.

  1. VahanPujari

    VahanPujari Staff Member Janitor

    Let me step back a little to cover few important items which shaped this drive..….

    How were the Circuits/ Locations chosen?

    If I’ve to do something, it has to be thoroughly done with as much perfection as possible unless it’s absolutely imperative to quickly brush it and move on. Family was out of question from this 1st Ladakh drive of mine – a) my wife is allergic to curvy climbing roads and altitude & b) did not want to subject kids to complete uncertainties of a Ladakh road trip in terms of opening / closure of routes / passes / roads / weather etc etc.

    That means I’ve to tag along with someone which further means that I’ll have to go with the choice of sectors / locations to visit of the group. After exploring the Net exhaustively, I would have hated to just go to Leh, spend couple of days there, climb Khardung La and may be do a day-trip to Pangong and come back, for the entire Ladakh region is amazing & I can’t imagine myself just touching the tip of the iceberg and come back. So, when I was just routinely discussing it with my brother and he responded overwhelmingly, the decision was made that we’ll do it on our own.

    The best season for Ladakh drive is end-July to Sep. But since I cancelled my other plan of summer vacation for some other reasons, the leaves were available in June and I didn’t want to take a chance by postponing it to July-Aug. After several reiterations, prepared the itinerary which fitted perfectly but was too tight for 15 days leaves. The following sectors were planned:

    • Zanskar till Padum
    • Khardung La – Nubra – till Turtuk
    • Pangong
    • Hanle
    • Tso Moriri
    I wanted to keep minimum 2 days in buffer to cover any hold up’s or delay due to unforeseen circumstances but this was becoming too tight in 15 days. Therefore, I had to strike out one of these sectors. Which one should it be? Zanskar or Hanle? After tough deliberations and further elaborate research, I came to a conclusion that each of these sectors are unique in terms of it’s beauty, challenges & joy of exploring nature. So, what are the alternatives now?

    Due to work commitments, my leave-end date was sacrosanct and could not be extended. And I was damn sure that I need those 2 buffer days without which I’m not too confident to resume work on the given date. Therefore, I did 2 things – extended leaves for 2 days at the beginning of the trip and limit Zanskar sector (instead of going till Padum, proceed till Pensi La/ Drang Drung, come back & halt for night at Rangdum and next day proceed to Leh from Rangdum instead of Padum to Kargil – saved me a day). If you check the final planned itinerary in my Post #2 in this thread, you can see that there were 3 buffer days (2 due to extra leaves and 1 due to limiting Zanskar sector till Drang Drung)....perfecto...this risk / dillema is now mitigated !

    The 2nd table of the itinerary actually executed in the same Post #2 shows that we used only 1 buffer day and still had 2 buffer days at the end of the trip, we could have covered Padum by using 1 buffer day. However, Zanskar was in the 1st half of the trip and I didn't want to use buffer days so early in the trip (had already used one day in Srinagar). So why was Padum chosen to limit Zanskar sector? One of the most beautiful sights in Zanskar is Drang Drung Glacier which we planned to cover anyways. And I read that Padum has only the monasteries. However since the landscapes till Pensi La & Drang Drung were out of the world, simply awesome, I’m sure landscapes ahead till Padum also would be strikingly beautiful. Therefore, Padum is marked as a destination for future drives (Journey is the Destination) :)
  2. pv_krish

    pv_krish Regolare

    Grande Punto 1.3 90 HP
    The photos have come out really good.

    Love the way all are explained. Its one of those cherished trips that anyone would remember.

    I will do mine sooner or later and use your planning as reference. My urge has only increased. It has increased to such a extent that I might want to do it alone (being mad now.)
    VahanPujari likes this.
  3. VahanPujari

    VahanPujari Staff Member Janitor

    On Day 4, we reached Kargil Hotel late at about 9.30 pm. The road passes thro' Kargil town and there was huge pile up of trucks on the narrow road within town which delayed our arrival at hotel by about 30 minutes. We also, went a little further ahead on Leh Road for refuel and we got filled one 20 Ltr jerry can (out of the 3 we carried) for next day. Extra fuel was not actually needed but then our route next day was going to be quite lonely. We were booked in Hotel D'Zojilla and they were instructed to keep dinner ready. Had dinner at about 11 am and crashed to bed.

    Day 5, 16th June'14:

    We're now getting into the real action of the 1st circuit of Ladakh, a circuit which is absolutely beautiful, challenging & extremely less-travelled. This is one heck of a beautiful drive and there are tons and tons of pictures :) As I mentioned earlier, no future Ladakh trips of mine will be without Suru - Zanskar in it ! Such is the beauty of this circuit.

    We got a little late in the morning and hence were able to have breakfast at hotel itself. Could leave only after 7.30 am

    Hotel D'Zojilla


    Zanskar is usually out of bounds for day-trippers from Leh because of its distance and treacherous roads full of dangerous water streams. Read on HVK forum just a couple of days before we went there that there are about 15-20 water crossings on the way and some of them are really deep.

    One important item to keep in mind in Ladakh drive - In the entire trip, we started our journey early in the morning (you can see that in the planned itinerary in Post #2. The reason is simple - we wanted to reach the destination for the day by evening (Target kept at 4-6 pm daily). This was because of couple of prime factors - a) we wanted to keep a couple of hours of day-time in buffer so it something unforeseen happens we still have time before night falls & b) because of melt down of snow in noon, the water streams rises in level with stronger currents post 3 pm in the afternoon.

    We planned to leave early due to potential difficulties on road so that we can visit Drang Drung & come back to Rangdum before 4 pm to avoid increased water levels in water streams in the afternoon/ evening due to snow melt down. But as usual, we got a bit late and left only after 7.30 am. The region Kargil to Padum is divided into 2 parts – first half is Suru Valley and the second half is Zanskar Valley.

    The road from Kargul to Sankoo is tarred, we passed thro’ 3 small villages (Trespone, Kumbathang, Kachan) before we reached Sankoo.

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    Green shades of mountains. Later we came across quite a few different shades of rocks/ mountains in different sectors.


    Starting from Kargil itself, the route is very pretty – snow capped peaks keeps on sneaking out from behind the mountains every now and then. The route takes you surrounding those peaks closer and closer and after a couple of hours you will be watching some of those peaks from the other side! Viewing each peak, we were wondering which one of those are the famous Nun & Kun peaks. Though we saw them while going, we could not identify them and hence while coming back next day we asked villagers and identified Nun & Kun !! Drive thro’ this route is an amazing experience with no other tourist vehicles in sight, we were all alone on the road post Sankoo except for a couple of supplies trucks after Parakchik which were going to Padum. The views all around are amazing surrounded by snow-capped peaks with Nun & Kun sitting up gracefully!

    The First view of the famous Nun-Kun peaks (at 8.15 am):

    The taller peak is Kun & the smaller peak is Nun (in pyramid-like shape right hand size little below).

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    Green paradise with snow-capped peaks in the backdrop


    Brown shades of mountain now

  4. VahanPujari

    VahanPujari Staff Member Janitor

    ....contd...Day 5

    We reached Sankoo at 8.30 am.

    Here, we asked a taxi guy about the road conditions ahead. Green signal from him with remarks to take care gave us some sort of comfort. He also said that barring a couple of water crossings, the others are manageable. At Sankoo we asked about accommodation just in case we can’t reach Rangdum and had to turn back. We were told that JKTDC, Sankoo is not functional, however, there are a couple of home stays.

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    Goats grazing on mountain !
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    Just before a village Purtikchey, we stopped here for some clicks and to take in the surroundings - Greenery, raging water, snow peaks, and a man-made bridge

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    Nun-Kun again. Without realising that they are Nun-Kun, we like it so much that we clicked multiple pics of it from all angles as it kept on sneaking after each turn in the road
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    Last edited: Sep 9, 2014
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  5. VahanPujari

    VahanPujari Staff Member Janitor

    .....contd...Day 5:

    Sights of Magnificent Nun-Kun all along the route:

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    We crossed a village Purtikchey and reached Pannikar. Here we made a mistake, our route plan said that we were to take a small Bye pass before Pannikar. But somehow we got into Pannikar village, may be asking the villagers a couple of times and the language barrier caused it. However, when we came back next day thro’ the bye pass road which is quite elevated than the village road all along, we felt that the road thro’ Pannikar village that we went was a bit more scenic than the road that we came back next day.

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    Shy village kids


    Village school

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    Can you see the horizontal cut/ line in the mountain showing the road? That's the road we should have taken as per our route plan.
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    Ravi likes this.
  6. VahanPujari

    VahanPujari Staff Member Janitor

    ....contd...Day 5 (10:10 am onwards):

    After Pannikar, the road vanishes. There is only dirt surface with tracks full of rocks and one can drive only at 10 – 20 kmph! However, if the roads are extremely bad, the views improve dramatically. You can not just drive past this road, the breathtaking views will force you to stop every now and then!

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    The "Road"
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    mchanna, Ravi, pv_krish and 1 other person like this.
  7. ramjn

    ramjn Staff Member Janitor

    Linea 1.3
    Awesome. Really breath taking views. I wanted to do Leh trip and couldn't succeed in it yet. But, I have made my mind that I will do Ladakh drive in an SUV only. Just to make sure I don't just touch the iceberg and come back. :)
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2014
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  8. Ravi

    Ravi Staff Member Janitor

    Grande Punto 1.3
    Mesmerizing pictures VP, this is really epic. Pictures are so nice, clean and with bright colors.
    When are you buying one?
    VahanPujari likes this.
  9. ramjn

    ramjn Staff Member Janitor

    Linea 1.3
    Don't know. But, I will most probably end up with buying an used car. I definitely don't want to drive down in my Linea. :)
    VahanPujari likes this.
  10. swgaan

    swgaan Amatore

    Panvel, Maharashtra
    Grande Punto 1.3
    Keep them coming VP, its just a Day 5 now.. wold like to meet you personally as well, to see the omitted clicks as well.. :snaphappy:
    VahanPujari likes this.

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