Srinagar- Turtuk- Pangong- Manali

Life is a Journey, enjoy the DRIVE!

I believe that one can’t get her/his fill of Ladakh. And there is no better way but to hit the road and rough it out…….

My old friends would remember the albums, the story, the blog of our journey in 2002. It captured our exhilarating expedition from Delhi-Manali-Leh-Pangong and back. And then multiple Srinagar to Leh trips during my stint in J&K.

Guess my obsession with LEH keeps me yearning for more! Besides we had left unfinished business last time, Khardungla and beyond…..

So here we go again!

Members : Ashish, Praveen, Sunny and Amit.

The Plan



Day 1 : Delhi to Patni top


KM & Time       :        733km / 7am to 9pm

It was overcast throughout but thanks to Atal ji, the road and the drive was excellent. Infact from Jammu you have to see the new highway under construction (huge bridges & culverts). The Jammu bypass was blocked and we had to wade through the jammu traffic. The last 20km drive near patnitop was in dense fog at night, took us almost 2 hrs.

Checked into JKTDC resort, had our energy drinks / dinner and slept like logs.


Day 2 : Patni top to Sonmarg


KM & Time       :        298km / 7am to 4pm

Landmarks       :        Srinagar

Was slightly drizling in the morning. Decided to start early at 7am. It rained upto Ramban and therafter turned sunny. Saw the IRCON marvel, train track & the tunnel near Banihal. Driving through 2.8 km Jawahar tunnel gave us the goose bumps, the new 11.2 km train tunnel would be some experience.

Road was excellent again except for the traffic in the valley. Compared to my earlier days in the valley in 2005, the traffic and congestion was horrific. Srinagar was crowded like any other city in India.

Srinagar to Sonamarg drive is green and very pleasant after srinagar’s heavy traffic jams. Loads of traffic due to Amarnath yatri’s. We stayed in JKTDC resort right in the middle of sonmarg meadow.


Day 3 : Sonmarg to Lamayaru


Km & Time       :        244km / 6.30am to 5pm

Landmarks       :        Zozila pass (11643 ft), Drass, Kargil, Mulbek, Namikla Pass (12198 ft), Fatula Pass(13479 ft), Lamayuru

Sonmarg was crowded thanks to amarnath yatra. I think the count of pilgrims going to Amarnath is being regulated thru some registration system and permits. But you have to see the baltel camping site (check the pics) for yatri’s. It’s on the river bed just like Gaurikund and very risky. We prayed “god almighty pls don’t repeat your act of uttarakhand. We humans will learn from our mistakes and your fury” Amen!

The Zojila pass has always scared me the most on this route. This was my 4th crossing over. It is rocky, with loose soil and gravels. Water flows on the road from glaciers above & the heights are scary. Check out the pics.
They have really improved the road beyond the pass. There is only 20 odd km of dirt road now.

Drass / Kargil museum & kargil.
This one is to salute our soldiers. It’s cold and the terrain is very very tough out there. I couldn’t even imagine how bad it must have been with snow all around and the infrastructure very very bad. A soldier on duty was narrating the fight to us and we listened in awe/respect.

Kargil to Lamayuru, the drive was on good mettled road and the scenery was awesome. pls check it for yourself.
First few pics are that of Kargil. Crossed two passes Namik La and Fatula. And it was like being on top of the world.
Last pics are that of Lamayuru monastery. We stayed in a guest house close to it. Had headaches during night, guess we did not plan well the place of stay and high altitude sickness got us.


Day 4 : Lamayaru to Leh


Km & Time       :        144km / 6.30am to 1pm

Landmarks       :        Lamayuru monastery / Moon rocks / Indus river / Magnetic hill / Pathar Sahib.

The first few pics are that of moon rocks close to Lamayuru. Look at their shape and colors. Mother nature has some sense of art…..
Touched Indus river after 45 mts and drove along it for almost 1+ hour. The canvas kept changing every 10 mts and one was reflecting how civilizations “Indus valley – Mohanjodaro” were made by this river. And destroyed later on when the river decided to change its course.

The bikers in the last shot is the next inspiration……..

The magnetic hill. We tried it out and the vehicle did roll back on flat road. In the subsequent shots you won’t miss magnetic hill, if you have seen “jab tak hai jaan” and remember shahrukh’s entry on a bike with a mountain as backdrop.
Last few pics are first sighting of Leh….

Spent the day in leh getting permits for Nubra, pangong, Tso-moriri etc. Got vehicle checked (air filter and stuff) did some shopping for the tough days ahead.


Day 5 : Leh to Nubra


Km & Time       :        131km / 7.30am to 1pm

Landmarks       :        Khardungla pass (18380 ft) highest motorable road on earth, Shyok river and the sand dunes of Nubra. You need permit (issued by DC office in Leh) to go to Nubra and pangong.

Sit back and enjoy the drive, experience the terrain, the sheer heights (statutory warning : If you are Acrophobic, please rush thru some of the pics). With your feet’s on terra firma, this is how the world looks from the top.

The initial pics are the drive from Leh to Khardungla top and then the top. The khardungla top at 18380 ft literally takes your breath away, with the view and the Acute mountain sickness at 5602mtr. We enjoyed 20mts at the top shooting and taking tea (courtesy Indian Army). The body started feeling numb and we decided to rush down. Just for reference Srinagar is 5200ft and  manali 6726ft.

Beautiful Khardung village.

First sight of Shyok river and Nubra valley.

Drive to sand dunes of Diskit/Hundur.

Found a beautiful camp site near the sand dunes and adjacent to shyok river (originates from china and flows out to Pakistan).


Day 6 : Nubra valley (Hundur) to turtuk & back to Leh


Km & Time       :  302km / 8am to 7pm

Landmarks       :  Thoise airstrip, Pakistan border (Gorkha ridge)

The night before we had good debate, before we decided to do an extra 145km to & fro to check out ‘turtuk’, the India-pakistan border going on to gilgit in Pakistan.

Our jaws dropped in awe as we saw a flight (big ILS) landing and taking off, all within 50 mts, from the Thoise airstrip (at that height & between the mountains).

The roads were very good and the sites were amazing. Check out the colours,  patterns and the abstract art painted on larger then life canvases.

The center of first pic captures the hill on which pakistan has their check post. We gave lift to a local from Bogdam, who gave us some historical downloads from 1971 war. Bogdam was india’s last village until 1971, the Indian army went in and conquered upto gilgit. They finally retreaded but annexed some 35km strategic territory upto Turtuk.

Drive back to Leh was done at a hectic pace to reach well before night and get some rest.

Until now this trip was done by self, Praveen and Sunny. In Leh Amit who flew in from Delhi, joined us. Arey bhai different orgs and perennial leaves issues…


Day 7 : Leh to Pangong lake


Km & Time       :        169 km / 9am to 2pm

Landmarks       :        Changla pass (17586 ft)

Initial pics are of leh outskirts on leh-manali road and the drive upto changla pass, the 3rd highest motorable road.

As we were approaching Changla top, one of the new generation drivers who do not know or care to follow the mountain driving basics, ‘give right of way to ascending vehicles’ got us stuck for 5 mts. From there our scorpio, with low oxygen levels, rocks on road (ubad khabad) and the angle of ascent, could not muster the power to pick up. I tried 3-4 times, before deciding to roll back some 20 mtrs to a flattish ground for getting the vehicle back into a momentum.

Changla pass was beautiful as always.

After ascending down some 20km from the top, I handed the vehicle to Amit. He drove for some 10-15km before we smelt something burning??? I guessed that it was the clutch plate (some of it coming from the episode before changla top) and decided that I should switch back and figure out the problem with some controlled clutch usage and driving.

Drove through beautiful villages of Durbuk and Tangste.

First sight of the pangong lake.

The lake….. ‘awesome’ only word to define it!

You won’t believe that it is saline? Saline at this height?? Well if it is 140-150 kms and you get to see waves on it’s shores, you can very well call it a sea and sea=saline.

Post cloud burst episode in leh and during shoots of 3 idiots  Aamir khan did a lot of social work in Leh and its surrounding areas. While the locals are happy with the tourist influx these days. Seeing camps and restaurant at the banks of pangong lake was very disappointing for me. In 2002 there was only one army checkpost with 2 motorboats, one jeep and 5 jawans.

We had initially planned to drive 60-70km along the lake to reach chushul and then next day to karzok. But with the clutch-plate issue, we got in 2 minds and decided to mull over the pro & cons by staying over at one of the camping sites in pangong (13500ft).

Amit who flew into leh and joined us the day before, faced some breathing problems at night but we somehow scaped through.


Day 8 : Pangong lake to Sarchu (JK-HP border).


Km & Time       :        355 km / 6.30am to 7.15pm

Landmarks       :        Tanglangla pass (17592 ft), More planes, Pang, Lachlungla pass (16616ft), Nakeela pass (15547ft), Gata loop (21 loops), Sarchu planes.

Here is “piece de resistance.”

Just check the riot of colors (white/blue/brown/yellow/purple) in the pics.

Tanglangla pass (2nd highest motorable road) is the most beautiful and picturesque pass. Check out the breathtaking views from the top.

Followed by More plane’s 55 kms drive.

In India you won’t get a 50+ km stretch better than this. That’s a challenge!

And now they have doubled and hot-mattled it. I found it was better then the roads in Delhi. Last time in 2002 we only had ‘tooti-footi’ road and mostly dirt tracks. The western end of More plane’s ends at Pang and has some very beautiful landscapes.

There was some 25-30km horror stretch after Pang.

My friends who have seen my Delhi-manali-Leh pics of 2002 (refer blog”top of the world”), would remember two bad experiences we had. While going, the  landslide/overnight stay in vehicle after Lachlungla pass. And while returning, the truck hanging precariously on the edge of the road, just after we crossed Lachlungla.

We were carrying some 20 ltr diesel with us in our scorpio’s boot. Just 20km before Lachlungla, amit complained that he could smell diesel. We stopped to check and found that our diesel can had started leaking. We emptied half of it into scorpio and re-sealed it. As we reached the L top, I prayed to lachlungla baba at the small temple. Moving on to the other side of the pass one of our tubeless started leaking with a big hiss (later we found a big bolt had pierced the tubeless). jo bhi kaho is baar saste mein nipat gaye

Gata loops, 21 loops taking you down from 15302 ft to 13780 ft just over 3-5 kms must be the most dreaded sight for a loaded truck driver going from manali to leh. It’s known to test their driving skills and has been graveyard for many……..

Sarchu planes with its riverside drive and the statue formations  on river walls is a different experience altogether.


Day 9 : Sarchu to Manali.


Km & Time       :        235 km / 9.30am to 6.30pm

Landmarks       :        Baralachla pass (16040 ft), Keylong town, Rohtangla (13050 ft), Manali (6726 ft).

This being the 2nd last day of the trip we kinda rushed and drove hard through it. Besides, after ‘tandoori chicken’ would you care for ‘Aaloo zeera’. Any which ways I am serving it to complete the epic ….

You’d find Bharatpur and the Baralachla pass pics exciting. I must admit that the BRO/Govt of India is working very hard on expanding & mettling the road. We were held up at four places between keylong and Rohtangla by DRO men working on roads (lost about 2 hours in total).

Also saw the tunnel being constructed under Rohtang pass. Once complted it will cut down the travel time by atleast 2+ hours.

Sorry there aren’t any pics of rohtang pass and manali, we had packed our cams by then.

Stayed overnight at Club Mahindra in Manali outskirts, nice property and very comfortable.


Day 10 : Manali to Delhi


Km & Time       :        600 km / 8.30am to 10.30pm

Landmarks       :        Lunch at a ‘Haveli’, rest was non-descript.

Back to the jungle, with TV, newspaper, phone, mails, blackberry………..

Kitne complications hain life mein : Income tax return bharni hai, Insurance ka premium dena hai, Society maint due ho gayi hai, Saari mails padhni padengi, Office mein ek naya ‘break even’ plan banana hai.


My advice – Take a break & go get leh’d.

Awaiting your call for making your itinerary……………………..

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