September 2007
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    Tour of Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir

    Friday, September 28th, 2007

    We were very lucky to manage to squeeze this tour just before the winter.

    We only did the basic tour  Dharamsala-Manali-Leh-Kargil-Srinagar. We had to postpone the other parts like
    Nubra Valley, Suru Valley, Zanskar  for some other visit.

    It is really worth your time and money to come and visit these unbelievable mountains.

    I will just make a short overview of the conditions to help others plan the own trip.

    As we arrived in late september, we were not sure if the high passes from Manali to Leh were still snow-free.
    We tried to find out the road condition before going to Manali, the forum was very
    helpful (as always) but, just as Graham predicted, you can’t really know until you are in Manali.

    In Manali we found out that the buses stopped but the jeeps are still going, so I started asking
    every jeep ticket reservation shop about the road conditions. The answers ranged from TanglangLa being snowed in,
     to the road being opened but with the Sarchu tent camp closed to everything perfect.
    Finally we spotted a luggage laden Enfield coming down from RothangLa, it was coming from Leh.
    Finnaly a source we could trust, we find out that  the road is open, Sarchu camp is still there but is also very cold.

    As we were in a hurry, we only stayed in Manali (actually Vashisht) for 1 day, skipping over the acclimatization.
     It’s better to stay in Manali for a few days, going to RothangLa during the day and sleeping at the lower altitude.
    Ioana had no problems with the altitude sickness, I had a strange gastric acidity crisis (strange because I never had
    such problems before). This started in a night that we slept in Sarchu (4200m) and continued until we reached Srinagar.
    It wasn’t serious but it was a bit of a nuisance.

    The road from Manali to Leh has all kinds of surfaces: about 30% is very good asphalt, another 40% is badly potholed asphalt, 20% is gravel and the rest is sand, river-crossings, etc etc. This is probably changing all the time due to the frequent land-slides and very harsh winters, so don’t rely too much on this information. We didn’t had any really difficult parts (for a 2-up Africa Twin, with 60kg of luggage and Tourance tyres). There is a lot of heavy traffic so any muddy section is usually thorn up pretty bad.

    We managed an average of about 30km/h (including stops), you could go significantly faster, but I was trying to protect the overloaded panniers racks. This speed also conveniently divides the trip in two days, Manali to Sarchu and Sarchu-Leh.
    You can hurry a bit and go all the way in one long day, but I don’t think is worth passing-on the wonderful night sky in Sarchu.

    We managed to cross the mountains just in time, the next day there was heavy rain in Leh and the mountains were all white.

    The road from Leh to Kargil is better than Manali-Leh, with a long unsealed section on the descent from FotuLa. Kargil
    is probably the most expensive town in India (we were quoted 1300 rupees for a grubby room by one delusional hotel manager).
    Leh-Kargil took us about 5 hours.

    Kargil-Srinagar is even better apart from the truly spectacular ZojiLa, which is a bit difficult but it’s well worth it. Here
    we had the deepest stream crossing (a good 50cm deep) which wasn’t very difficult but a bit… refreshing in the 9 degrees ambient.
    It also took us 5 hours to reach Srinagar. Here I recommend to stay on Nageen Lake rather than the much more crowded Dal Lake.

    Some pictures from the mountains:

    kashmir01.jpg   kashmir02.jpg   kashmir03.jpg

    kashmir04.jpg   kashmir05.jpg   kashmir06.jpg

    kashmir07.jpg   kashmir08.jpg   kashmir09.jpg

    kashmir10.jpg  kashmir11.jpg   kashmir12.jpg

    kashmir13.jpg   kashmir14.jpg   kashmir15.jpg

    and a picture with the tent camp in sarchu: