Road Journey to Leh from Delhi


A gang of friends traveled to Leh by Road-

Highlights of Trip:

  • Camping at Pangong Tso
  • Snow Fall all along from Taglang La, elevation 17582 feet (5359 m) to Bara Lacha La
  • Walk on the Frozen Lake

Day-1 (Delhi to Jalandhar), Distance- 373 KM

We started journey from delhi on Friday (9th June 2011) afternoon. It was a hot and humid day, and we boarded Maruti Gypsy (without any AC). It took months to prepare for this trip. Essentially we prepared ourselves on following-

  • Clothing
  • Food items
  • Medicines
  • Vehicle and its maintenance

We prepared exhaustively on all these heads. We stocked food for 10 days. On the way to Jalandhar, our friend from Dehradun joined us at Ambala. He chose to ride his new Royal Enfield motorcycle. We took tea on our way after toll booth beyond Ambala. We reached Jalandhar in the evening around 11 PM. It was really difficult to find a reasonable hotel for stay in night. Somehow we managed to find a hotel and after ahving quick dinner (Rajma, Roti) we wnet for sleep.

The road condition is not very good because lot of widening of the national highway is going on.

Day-2 (Jalandhar to Srinagar)

Distance: 472 KM

Driving from Jalandhar to Srinagar was challenge. Since one of our friend was travelling on bike and we were planning to cover a distance of around 500 KM in single day and that too includes crossing the Banihal Pass and Jawahar Tunnel.

We took the challenge and started early in the morning. The first target was to cross the Punjab border and enter into Jammu and Kashmir. We crossed pathankot in the morning itself and had breakfast in a Dhaba on the borders. The delicious aloo paranthas along with Dahi replinshed our energy and we were ready for the climb of Himalayas.

Bike and Gypsy decided to meet again at Patnitop. The weather was still hot and humid and we bought water bottles in Udhampur and traveled towards the banihal. After patnitop i took charge of bike and friend on bike shifted to car. Driving on the hills was a thrilling experince. After Patnitop i took a short break at banihal. After Banihal the driving inside the Jawahar tunnel was really exciting. The bullet stopped inside the Jawahar tunnel and vehicles passing by inquired about the vehicle. Fortunately i was able to start it again. Condition of road is excellent after Jawahar Tunnel. I took short break at ‘view point’ , giving full view of valley of Kashmir. The irrigated rice fields divided by roads and bunds was one of the rare views. While descending from the mountains road passes through a sanctuary. The sight of birds on road, flying with the sound of bike enhnaced the driving experience. after descend the road to valley was straight and quite good. I reached Srinagar by 6 PM and the search for hotel began. Actually at planning stage we booked the clean and peaceful “Lonely Guest House” (Where to stay?) near majau bridge in Srinagar.  The owner of guest house picked us from Lal Chowk and welcomed us with a hot cup of tea.

Day-3, Srinagar to Kargil

Distance- 220 KM

In the morning we decided to take a short break at Dal lake on the way to Kargil. The gang was now excited for the journey to Kargil because of Dal lake, beauty of Sonmarg, and at Last Kargil due to its importance during the Kargil War. In the morning we drove alongwith kargil and passing through the Raj Bhawan we started moving towards the Sonmarg. The road to Sonmarg is narrow compared to road we already traveled till now. we crossed a bridge on the way to Sonmarg and traffic was regulated on it.

The route to Sonmarg is full with natural beauty and one can enjoy the snow capped mountains, mesmerizing sound of flowing rivers and cool refreshing wind slowly touching the body and soul too. On the way to Sonmarg we gained enough height and Glaciers started kissing the roads. Many tourists parked their vehicles and enjoyed the scenery and rivers.

At around 12 noon i reached the Golden Meadows (Sonmarg), literal meaning of Son Marg ( Son- Golden, Marg- Meadows). The green slopes of the mountains hugging each other at the river bed is heavenly scenery. I parked my Royal Enfield and ordered Tea and Parantha. The restaurant owner was a businessman from Delhi also. He told me that in the winters whole Sonmarg is covered under thick sheets of ice and they cut the ice to open their shops. 

After quick breakfast we started to climb the Mighty Zozi-La. In Tibbetian language La means Pass ( hindi- Darra). The Mighty Zozi La was hard for many vehicles. We used the 4×4 drive to clear some holes is the road. The Ice Sheets on both side of the Zozi La indicated well in advance what lies ahead. The road condition was not good and melting snow on the road made it more slippery and dangerous. At the top of Zozi-La we stopped our vehicle and wlaked on the glacier. it was the first spot where we were on the glaciers. everybody was busy in shooting the pictures of deep gorges and high mountains covered with snow. Due to the dusty road leading to Zozi-La and heavy traffic, snow walls were greyish in color.

After photography session we all quickly forced orselves inside the car and started towards the Kargil. descend from Zozi-La was more attractive than the ascend from Srinagar. We finally landed up in the pastures where Himalayan horses were grazing. The dust subsided and more pure and cooler air with majestic colors uplifted our spirit to heavens. As we move beyond the great Himalayas started revealing colors given to it by series of volcanic, metamorphic activities in the past. Interestingly Zozi-La was also pass connecting the valley of Kashmir and Laddakh region of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.  After some travel we took small break, enjoyed the beauty of nature near a army check post. We slowly moved towards the cold desert. At the end of day we reached Kargil and our search for hotel began. Initially we tried to unsuccessfully book hotel from delhi. there are few good hotels in Kargil (to name a few)-

  • Hotel De- Zozi La
  • Hotel Siachen
  • Carvan Sarai
  • Hotel Marzina

There are many other small hotels in the city in the main market. If you are a government employee there is a high proability to get the room in PWD rest house at Kargil. The PWD rest house rooms are better and much cheaper. Early you reach better are chances to get cheap and good hotel. In terms of facility and cleanliness what we found that first two were best but costly too. room rent depends upon the footfall in Kargil. due to our shoestring budget we lodged ourselves in Marzina. Kargil is quite a big town with many restaurants, internet cafe, bakeries etc. Despite our tiredness we decided to cook on our own. After good drinks and food we went for sleep with the target to reach Leh by next day.

Day-4: Kargil to Leh

Distance: 230 KM

In the morning we left Kargil for Leh, and we made our first digression. Rather than taking left we drove straight into the Zanskar Valley. People informed us that the road to Kargil is good beyond Kargil and while driving we were just waiting for that elusive good road, without realizing that we are going to Zanskar. All the persons were smiling at us and welcoming us with ZULE. Very thin traffic on the road was also not able to give us any signal about the wrong road, because we were so excited about the road to Leh. The road was quite rough but full of magnificient flora. There were different colored beautiful flowers on the both sides of road.

After 50 KMS we check it with local person and then we realized that we are going to Zanskar rather than to Leh. the we drove back to Kargil and started druving to Leh. Around afternoon we reached Mulbekh. The small Gompa and chortens spoke that the land of lamas has started. At the end of day we reached Leh driving through the Kargil Memorial, Dras (Second Coldest Place on the earth), alchi etc. In the night we started looking for the Guest House and finally settled in Indus Guest House which was quite clean and beautiful, run by a family (Sonam).

Day 4: Leh

It was the day for rest and strolling in the leh mraket for shopping. There is Leh Market (mall road ) and local market also. You can buy the souveniers from the local market. There are many things like Pen stand (made of Bone), Tibbetain Thermos, paintings and other bone china items which one can buy.

At the end i also found a shop for renting the tents and other items for camping on the shores of Pangong Tso. After lot of discussion we hired the Alpine Tents and sleepimg bags with mats. And now we were ready for the camping on the Pangong Tso.

Day 5: Leh to Pangong Tso

On day 5th we started our journey from Leh to Pangong Tso, carrying our tents. we slowly started ascending the mighty Chang La, claimed to be second highest motorable road in the world. The winding roads , chilly winds sent shock waves in our spines. We slowly ascneded and recahed Chang La. We got our BP checked at the army first aid centre, and they suggested a short stay at such high altitude. They informed us that there was a heavy snow fall in the night and it melted in the morning only. we were regretting our late departure otherwise we would have been able to see the snow clad Chang La.

 At the Chang La pass tea was served by the Army and there was a souvenir shop also with Chang La printed on it.

On the both sides of Chang La dripping water from glaciers melted forming icicles. After short break and photos on Chang la we started descending towards the Tsoltak lake. On the way we found numerous Yaks grazing the slopes of the mountain. After short drive we had first glimpse of frozen Tsoltak lake. Everyone of us was so excited after seeing yaks walking on the frozen lake.

We quickly drove with an intention to click yaks on the frozen lake. we partially succeeded in it.

After reaching there , we braveheart walked on the frozen lake. It was a mix feeling of fear and triumph.

After walking on the frozen lake we did a photo shoot with Yaks. It appears that Yaks were posing for us. After this short break we started driving towards the Pangong Tso.  The river along with the road was frozen.

After travelling through the sand dunes of cold desert , we finally arrived at legendry Pangong Tso. Pangong Tso is saline lake and is reminiscent of ancient Tethys Sea. It is a long lake extending up to china border.

After travelling along with the Pangong Tso lake we reached to the village on the bank of lake. We were looking for the safe site for camping. The sun was about to set and weather was also not good. Thus setting up our tent was the top most priority. At last we identified a place for tents near the village of Spangmik. The location was dusty but with an advantage that fuel wood was available in the neighboring jungle only.

As you can see in the pic on the right hand side , we collected the fire wood from jungle. It was now time to cook our food too. We had lot of discussion on what to cook and ultimately work was distributed and “Khichari” was cooked. Cleaning of utensils was the biggest issue due to freezing water.

Day 6: Pangong Tso to Leh

We woke up early in the morning , so that we can drive upto some distnace along the Pangong Tso before leavng for Leh.

After driving upto some extent we again drove back through Chang La to Leh. At Chang La we prayed baba to show us some snow fall. We that prayer in  mind we reached Leh and packed the things for early morning journey to Keylong from Leh. On the way back to leh we spotted Great Himalayan Marmot. There was a group of these marmots. It was a pleasant siting and they appeared to be very friendly to the tourists. while returning back Gypsy was not taking the load, and we all were afraid. we stopped at the bank of river clened the air filter , chnaged the collant of the engine and then after some time again started our journey back towards Leh.

Day7: Leh to Keylong

The day seven was the climax of the journey. We started early in the morning and started moving towards Tanglang La. As we approached Tanglang La , weather started getting worst. We were very excited with the possibility of snow fall at the Tanglang La. As we moved further , we were able to see all snow covered road going towards the third highest pass on the road. as we approached the pass there was a heavy snow fall. Suddenly bad weather was with us and it remained with us till we crossed Baralacha La. Chang La baba heard our prayer, but we were now worried about the Baralacha La , which can be closed in case of heavy snow fall. Somehow we crossed Tanglang La and reached moors plains. As we reached moors plain there was some respite from bad weather. The we found a BRO shelter and took the bread , butter and bananas in breakfast. After having the breakfast we started towards sarchu. It was this place where we had second digression and moved towards Tsokar Lake. We realized this fact after reaching Tsokar , which was around 45 KM from the place we left. we did not have any choice but to return back from the same path. On the day of bad weather, when we were worried about the Baralacha La , loosing 3 crucial hours was disaster and we paid the price for it. As we started moving towards Sarchu , there was very heavy snow fall. The kind of homesaty available at Tsokar was also scary for us. Thus we started driving towards Sarchu, without giving much time to Photography. imagine what the price we paid for our digression. when wereacjed sarchu, the shopkeeper told us not to wait and quickly move towards Keylong. He was also of the opinion that , if we stay back, wetaher is unpredictable. But driving so long was also hectic ,because on of us was also on the bike. But we took a tough decision and started moving towards Baralach La. The view of Baralacha La was breathtaking. there was fresh and very high ice walls on both side of road.

when we reached Baralacha La sun was setting. The snow melted from the Baralacha La was flowing in the rivers which was also frozen. road was cut through a large sheet of glacier. I never had such a magnificent view in my life. And even short of time, we stopped at many places for clicking beautiful photographs.

After driving in the evening and night we reached around 9 PM to Keylong and after taking bath we all had very good dinner and went for sleep, to travel further and conquer , the last but not least pass of Rohtang (Mound of dead)

Day 8: Keylong to Mandi

On the day 8 we started with the target to reach Ambala. We started climbing Rohtang La and itwas very slippery with very steep ascent. The road was also very narrow and scary. we reached at the top of Rohtang La in the morning around 10 Am. There were lot of tourists at the top of Rohtang, and there was a lnadslide on the way back to Manali. It took us 6 hours to descend from rohtang to Manali. In manali we had fish curry and rice and started driving along the beas river towards mandi. we stayed at Mandi in the night.

Day 9: Mandi to Delhi

On the 9th day we started in morning for Delhi and reached delhi by evening. we completed our trip with lifetime memories with us.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ramu Pradip
    Mar 13, 2012 @ 21:24:01

    Awesome trip! I am also looking forward to do something similar this year.

    Reply

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