My last post gave you a brief idea of the recent road trip that I took to Ladakh with Scout My Trip and OYO. I shared about the purpose of the trip, the scouts that took us there and the bloggers that joined in. There was more to it than just Khardung La. Like Seriously! We made some interesting pit stops en route Ladakh and it all connected together in the grand scheme of things. I’m more than excited to write it all down here. Remember the pictures galore I talked about? Brace yourself!
Connecting the dots
The road trip covered approximately 3000km across the northern reaches of India, traversing a bunch of states and touching international land borders. Yes, China and Pakistan, we were real close. While Jammu & Kashmir state bagged the spotlight most of the journey, we also crossed through Delhi, Haryana, Chandigarh, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh encountering people from different walks of life, breaking language and cultural barriers and satiating our hungry appetites with soul-filling food.
Let’s take a closer look at the cities, towns, and villages we touched base en route Ladakh. Special thanks to OYO who managed to score us some of its best properties en route. Not to mention, Scout My Trip who made it all happen.
Delhi •→ Jammu •→ Ramban •→ Kargil •→ Leh •→ Khardung La
Our journey began from Delhi, the capital of India, where we were booked into a OYO Flagship hotel based in Gurgaon or rather Gurugram as it’s known these days. I still prefer Gurgaon. I mean who makes these names. Technically Gurugram is in Haryana but it was added to the National Capital Region called the NCR that constitutes Delhi. This is where we mustered together as a unit before we set off on the road trip to Ladakh. We had our road trip briefings and introductions with the scouts and bloggers. Everyone was raring to go.
Day 1 of the journey took us quite the distance away from Delhi. Roughly 640 km all the way to Jammu where we made our first pit-stop en route Ladakh. It wasn’t a really tiring ride. The roads were good and comfortable to ride on. The food trail along the stretch was simply marvelous. Punjab and Haryana, thanks for those excellent mouth-watering dishes. You can imagine those butter dripping parathas. The bloggers also got their first exposure to the road trip, the vehicles and some get-to-know-each other time. We settled in for the night at a lovely new OYO Resort in Jammu.
Kilometers clocked: 640km
The initial plan for Day 2 was to hit Sonamarg past the Kashmir Valley. A little after we started for the day, one of the SUVs encountered an engine trouble and could not proceed. While two scouts stayed back, we went ahead with our trip thanks to the remaining scouts. A short while later we hit a road block towards Srinagar due to landslides. Rather safe than sorry, we halted at Ramban, a small town beside the Chenab River for our second pit stop en route Ladakh. With the road trip excitement brewing in, we took the time out to savor some good food and got an early sleep.
Kilometers clocked: 120km
Since we missed out on a lot of road miles we could have otherwise covered if not for the landslides and had a big catching up to do on Day 3. In the wee hours of the morning, we found a way to sneak out of Ramban. With police permission of course. First, we needed to safely get to Sonamarg due to the volatile situations in the Kashmir Valley and then proceed to Kargil, our third pit stop en route Ladakh. Carefully and diligently our convoy passed through the most talked about city in India, Srinagar. Thanks to some heavily guarded roads both by the local police and the Indian Army, we carefully shuffled our way around the city to the beautiful meadows of Sonamarg. The Black Mahindra Scorpio, the SUV that stayed behind in Jammu caught up with us at Sonamarg while we stopped for lunch.
Pretty ecstatic, we moved on to the next hurdle, the Zoji La. The first of the big high altitude passes on this trip. This one connects the Kashmir Valley to Ladakh. The views got even better and the roads got worse. Luck seemed to be on our side for a while until another one of the SUVs, the Mahindra Bolero hit a snag and punctured our dreams. No, not really. Dreams were intact, just a tire got punctured thankfully. This eventually led 7 of us to miss out on making it to the Dras War Memorial on time. A huge loss! The rest of the team was lucky to pay their tributes to the valiant soldiers of the Kargil war at the memorial. We all made it to Kargil that night somehow where a good shower, dinner and sound sleep awaited us.
Kilometers clocked: 350km
Since our next destination wasn’t too far away from Kargil, we took a lazy start from Kargil on Day 4. Not to mention, the landscape had a visual transformation from green mountains to a bone dry arid high altitude marshland. We visited some interesting points of interest on the way. Mulbekh Monastery, Fotu La, Namik La, Lamayuru Monastery, Confluence of the Indus and Zanskar rivers before making it to our fourth pit stop en route Ladakh, Leh. We spent two nights at an OYO Room and took the time to explore the famous city and caught up with the bloggers who flew in for the trip. The next day was left open for us to roam as we wished and I, along with Shubham from travelshoebum.com, took the time to explore some of the lesser known remnants in the old city of Leh. A day well spent acclimatizing to the high altitudes and some more bonding with the whole team before the record attempts the next day.
Kilometers clocked: 220km
All roads were leading to Khardung La from Leh that fine morning and our convoy of 5 SUVs combined with a convoy of journalists and the OYO team made way to make history. We touched base at Khardung La in the shivering cold of the Highest Motorable Road in the World at approximately 18000ft., making two records in the India Book of Records. After the mandatory photographs at the pass, we drove down the other side of the Khardung La to the Tsolding Buddha Park, for the Highest Blogger Meet that we all came for. With the serene setting in the mountains, bloggers, journalists, and organizers sat around and discussed the future of travel and OYO revealed the OYOnauts program for all aspiring travelers.
Kilometers clocked: 40km
To be continued…
More pit stops, majestic vistas, punctured dreams and Scorpio troubles coming your way from the other side of the Khardung La on my next post. Stay tuned!
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*All views expressed here are my own.