Prologue, Itinerary & Updates | Zanskar DoW Mega Meet 2015

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I am back from the third edition of DoW Mega Meet 2015 and this time we went on to explore the hidden beauty in Zanskar Valley and remote parts of Changthang in Ladakh. However, I was in middle of all the outrageous happenings going on in office, then dengue scare at home with myself, mom and dad getting hit with sucking viral fever just 5 days before the start of the trip, then to add more agony in the whole uncertainty of my presence in this year Mega Meet, my son developed some rashes and fever consecutively for the third week in a row. We got all the tests done two days before and it came out Typhoid as borderline with doctor assuring that nothing to worry as rest all tests have come out normal. It was quite a major relief just a night before and finally I said to guys "I am coming for the Mega Meet…" 😀 :D… Drama did not end here, as about 14-15 group members including who had to catch the flight to Srinagar in morning, almost missed it with final announcement calling our names all over the airport. All thanks to heaviest rush I have ever seen for security checks at the airport. Well, all is well that ends well and today I am writing this article as a prologue for DoW Mega Meet 2015 for you all 🙂 :)…

Ready to roll ahead to Hanle
Ready to roll ahead to Hanle

As soon as the Mega Meet registration opened, we had put an upper cap of 60 people this time but before we got our senses in control, about 82 people had already booked their tickets and assured conformation by sending those tickets to us within 4-5 days which forced us to close the registrations. However, despite the strong rules this year many personal problems and other issues came up for people and finally the count in the last week was around 60. People started their journeys who wanted to explore the Kashmir and in between three cars had to return for one or the other reason leaving us with a number of 42 people who completed majority of the Mega Meet 2015 in Ladakh & Zanskar Valley. Finally, the day came (4th September 2015) and in our convoy of vehicles we had 3 Bikes, 3 XUVs, 1 Fortuner, 1 Pajero, 1 Xylo, 1 Innova, 1 Aria and 3 other cars which returned with a total of 42 devils on board in them. Many of them were second timers to DoW Mega Meet and I surely know that they also strongly believe or trust in DoW Mega Meet which we say is always an experience that one must run through LifeMeinBaarBaar. About the trip, all I can say to start with is:

11 days or 3500+ kms; chill of minus 6 degree of last day or now 36 degree of today; wonderland of Zanskar or hiddenland of Changthang; a big convoy of 8 self drive cars, 3 taxis and 3 bikes or you call 50 odd free souls in heaven; loads of uncertainties or hundreds of emotions; days full of colors or days full of adventures; sleeping with 20 odd devils in one room on floor or stranded with two tyre bursts in a land higher than khardung la; spreading the smiles in zanskar or spreading the smiles in changthang; some billion stars studded night or some breathless nights of low oxygen; an emotional moment at kargil war memorial or a not so happy services of zanskar stay; scaling the mighty Kaksang la with 13 high mountain passes or witnessing the serene beauty of 10 lakes; magnanimous hospitality by locals of Ladakh or amazing bonding/understanding among all devils; we call them roads or we call them only off roads; stranded in the middle of nowhere with numb hands or sleeping in warm hospitality of locals of Hanle; smiles on the faces of all devils everyday or sadness of separation on the last day; and much more to it…. This is what DoW Mega Meet 2015 was felt like by all devils who joined from various parts of our beautiful country!!!
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all the devils to come along and join this arduous journey in remote parts of trans Himalayas to participate in DoW Causes and do what we, Devils, do best – Spreading Smiles in Himalayas… Yet another ever memorable journey with you all comes to an emotional end but only to begin preparations for the DoW Mega Meet 2016….

As I kick start this epic travel tale of Zanskar Valley & Changthang region of Ladakh, in this article I will just brief out the plan we followed, the road conditions over that route and the expenses that incurred in general to most of us.

Milkyway as seen from Hanle
Milkyway as seen from Hanle
That heart shaped beautiful Yaye Tso lake
That heart shaped beautiful Yaye Tso lake
A dream landscape near Kiagar Tso
A dream landscape near Kiagar Tso
The Fortuner – Our Monster Ride
The Fortuner - Our Monster Ride
Tso Moriri Lake, a place where time stops for you
Tso Moriri Lake, a place where time stops for you
That’s Ringzin new Aria making its way to us near Tso Kar lake
That's Ringzin new Aria making its way to us near Tso Kar lake
The Gata Loops
The Gata Loops

Itinerary of Zanskar & Changthang DoW Mega Meet 2015

As usual, we were carrying our DoW – Maps of Ladakh | Nubra Valley & Changthang and our itinerary had couple of deep regions of Changthang marked over it including the passes which stand higher than Khardung La or Chang La. Well, we had 11 days in hand and we followed the following itinerary in these 11 days:

  • Day 1: We took a flight to Srinagar and kicked off the mega meet 2015 there. We had our lunch at Drass and stayed overnight at Hotel Greenland in Kargil. We reached Kargil around 6.30 PM and started from Srinagar at 9.45 AM.
  • Day 2: Started early morning at 7.20 AM and struggled our way on bad roads all the way to Padum crossing through Rangdum – Penzi La to reach around 6.30 PM. We stayed at Hotel Marq which was comfortable in stay though in terms of services offered and other Hotel Ibex (rooms full of spiders) dented the spirits of many of us right at the start of the trip.
  • Day 3: Stayed in Padum and explore Karsha monastery and Stongde monastery in Padum, we went to Sheela village to see the waterfall and executed DoW Causes in the village to spread some smiles.
  • Day 4: After seeing the harshness of Rangdum on the way, many of us decided to skip the stay there and rightway go to Kargil. However, even rest of us were forced to reach Kargil due to disputes in taxi unions of Leh and Kargil so that we could communicate our pickup from Kargil in better way. We did DoW Causes in the school behind Rangdum monastery and believe me that smiles around in each class were just priceless !! This time we stayed at Hotel Siachen in Kargil as Greenland was full. We left Padum at 8 AM and reached Kargil by 6.15 PM.
  • Day 5: We ran over NH1 to Leh from Kargil covering Lamayuru moonland, pathar sahib, magnetic hill, basgo ruins to reach Leh at night around 8.30 PM. We stayed at Hotel K2 this time in Leh and I was lucky to receive the hospitable dinner from one of the driver Chamba at his lovely home. He was not with us on the trip as Ringzin was with us but he has took my promise to have dinner at his home well in advance. I never ate such nice momos and sweet corn soup before, may be the warmth of his family and their hospitality turned it into special.
  • Day 6: We started at 9 AM from Leh for Hanle going through Chumathang. It almost was 10 AM as we quitted Leh with many issues running around. We reached Hanle at 6 PM and stayed overnight at Padma Homestay.
  • Day 7: We executed DoW Causes at the primary school of Hanle (click link to see smiles) yet again this time and after which many of us were quite emotional to see the smiles around us 🙂 🙂 … We continued to explore the hiddenland around Hanle. Firstly attempted the Photi La pass that stands second highest (after Marsimik La) in Ladakh region in terms of motorable road but due to road closure and very high risk involved in taking alternate route, we decided to head back. We continued to Horala to witness the beautiful Yaye Tso lake from there and then further went on the same road to scale up Kaksang La that just stands third after Photi La in Ladakh region. We had a glimpse of Mitpal Tso lake from the Kaksang La pass and started back towards Mahe to sleep at Chumathang and Mahe partially as different groups. Well, this was the day when the real adventure begun as just short of 3 KMs from Kaksang La in the land of no one, our car had two tyres bursted and got us stranded with sun going down, chill getting its toll, very high altitude ready to kill us… How we survived?? Well, you have to wait for the travel tale to be up for that part 😉
  • Day 8: We visited Tso Moriri lake in the morning from Chumathang and went on to sleep at Tso Kar lake
  • Day 9: We started at 6 AM from Tso Kar and reached Mandi at 11 PM at night to save a day for us. The journey over Manali – Leh Highway is always as special as it should always be 🙂
  • Day 10: By evening we got back home from Mandi by taking the route from Jahu – Bhota – Una.
Thicksey Monastery
Thicksey Monastery
Leading us to heavenly abode
Leading us to heavenly abode
Oops… that is Daddy Devil, me 😉
Oops... that is Daddy Devil, me
Aerial view of Stongde in Zanskar Valley
Aerial view of Stongde in Zanskar Valley
Aerial view from Karsha Monastery at Padum, Zanskar Valley
Aerial view from Karsha Monastery at Padum, Zanskar Valley
Lamayuru – Landscape of Moonland
Lamayuru - Landscape of Moonland
Thats a panoramic view of Hanle
Thats a panoramic view of Hanle
Yummy..
Yummy..
Spreading Smiles in Zanskar Valley
Spreading Smiles in Zanskar Valley
Prayers piled up at Tso Moriri
Prayers piled up at Tso Moriri

Road Conditions in Zanskar Valley and Changthang, Ladakh

Road conditions are just some terms in language when we talk about roads in trans – Himalayan region of Zanskar, Ladakh or Spiti Valley. A lot of things depends upon what time you are traveling in the year and what is the present weather condition. Since, we went in late or end of season with clear blue skies, the roads were in general dry though bumpy, with least water crossings and much much better than it remains rest of the season. Here is the summary of the entire route:

  • Srinagar – Sonamarg – Zojila Pass – Drass – Kargil: Most places it is good. But a little bumpy and dusty roads near Zojila Pass. Rest barring few patches of bad roads, all is quite good.
  • Kargil – Sankoo – Purikutchey: Quite excellent roads all the and you can easily maintain a speed of about 50-55 KMPH for this 60 odd KMs stretch.
  • Purikutchey – Parkachik: Average roads but seems OK.
  • Parkachik – Rangdum: Some quite very bad sections and tricky especially for small cars which will take some beating.
  • Rangdum – Penzi La – Padum: Almost a dirt track or off roading, bumpy and struggle for small cars. After Parkachik, things remain same all the way to Padum
  • Kargil – Mulbekh – Lamayuru – Khaltsi – Nimmu – Leh: Apart from the road between Mulbekh and Kargil where maintenance work is going on, the road was excellent in condition all the way to Leh.
  • Leh – Chumathang: Mix of good and average roads but nothing a small call will struggle or have issues. Road work going on and even small cars can do it at ease.
  • Chumathang – Mahe – Loma – Hanle: Well tarred roads, mostly excellent.
  • Mahe – Sumdo – Namashang La – Kiagar Tso – Tso Moriri: Mix of good and average roads. Some sections are metalled but some have potholes. The road just before Tso Moriri of about 15 odd KMs is remaining to be tarred but rest has been tarred well beyond the first views of the Tso Moriri lake.
  • Kiagar Tso – Tso Moriri: Bad road like a dirt track but manageable with hatchback as well as sedans.
  • Sumdo – Polokong La – Tso Kar Lake: Average roads with mix of tarred but not so good and maintained. Rest of the sections were like dirt track.
  • Tso Kar – Debring – Moore Plains – Pang: Good, tarred roads all the way. You can clock 80-100 KMPH on Moore Plains.
  • Pang – Lachulung La – Nakee La – Gata Loops – Sarchu: Mostly average roads and in SUV feels OK. Small cars, there were some tricky sections.
  • Sarchu – Baralacha La – Darcha: Quite bad and bumpy roads all the way Baralacha La top. Small cars will take a good beating.
  • Baralacha La – Zingzing bar – Darcha: Mostly well tarred, excellent roads all the way to Darcha except few sections in between.
  • Darcha – Jispa – Keylong – Sissu – Khoksar – Gramphu: Good, tarred roads barring many sections only between Tandi to Sissu especially which are in quite bad in shape.
  • Gramphu – Rohtang Pass: Bad and bumpy mostly. Since last year, it has deteriorated a lot. Small cars will take a good beating.
  • Rohtang Pass – Manali: Mostly good with just about a KM near Rani Nalla  being average. Rest all tarred even the Rohtang Pass top up to Manali.
  • Manali – Mandi – Ner Chowk – Jahu – Bhota – Una – Ambala – Delhi: Except the first 15-16 KMs of narrow road to Jahu bridge from Ner Chowk and about a 200-300 Mtrs of a bad patch where road work is going on, excellent roads all the way to Delhi. This is a longer route but saves you from trouble of trucks mess-up bad roads of Manali – Chandigarh Highway from Sundernagar to Bilaspur to Swarghat to Kiratpur.
That’s the flat tyre on the way to Kaksang La
That's the flat tyre on the way to Kaksang La
Spreading Smiles, thats what devils do the best…
Spreading Smiles, thats what devils do the best...
That’s the partial devil’s gang of the meet
That's the partial devil's gang of the meet
Welcome to Zanskar Valley
Welcome to Zanskar Valley
The sweet kiddo and lovely father duo…
The sweet kiddo and lovely father duo...
And it meets into Zanskar river
And it meets into Zanskar river
Expressway to heaven called Ladakh
Expressway to heaven called Ladakh
Those amazing momos made with love
Those amazing momos made with love
Flowers from Ladakh
Flowers from Ladakh

Flowers from Ladakh

Expenses Incurred on DoW Mega Meet 2015

My actual expense on DoW Mega Meet 2015 was as follows

  • Rs 2900 for an air ticket from Delhi to Srinagar
  • Rs 4200 for share of fuel cost. We were 5 people in one Fortuner and the overall drive of 3500+ KMs
  • Rs 10800 for food + stay for 11 days
  • Total Cost incurred to me was about Rs 15000 and an air ticket of Rs 2900 extra
  • Those in the group who did Delhi to Delhi by road as self drive, had a cost of Rs 14500 in one group, 15000 in other and 16500 in third group
  • The overall taxi cost of the trip including Srinagar to Kargil, Kargil to Zanskar and back and then a drop to Manali covering remote corners of Ladakh came out to be Rs 85000. Those who were in taxi had a share of about Rs 17000 each.
  • The food and stay cost for most of those groups in taxi came out to be around Rs 9300
  • So, taxi guys did the trip in around Rs 26300 with extra air tickets to Srinagar from Delhi. They did not spend the last day as they took overnight Volvo to reach back home on the same day.

I hope it helps all of you reading the article for getting a fair idea about the budget of such a remote Ladakh trip. Yes, taxi is a killer 😀 :D… So all is set to roll out this epic travel tale and I am sure in time to come you are surely gonna enjoy every bit of it as I will be re-living those moments again while writing this log :)…

Yes, that is Zojila Pass – Zero Point
Yes, that is Zojila Pass - Zero Point
Vande Matram
Vande Matram
Blessings are in the air
Blessings are in the air
That raw nature in Zanskar Valley
That raw nature in Zanskar Valley
Those lovely farming patters at Stongde Village, Zanskar
Those lovely farming patters at Stongde Village, Zanskar
Innocence says it all
Innocence says it all

Innocence says it all

Innocence says it all

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You can call me an Avid Traveler, a Day - Night Dreamer and a Passionate Lover of Himalayas who has a high zest for driving whilst exploring new places in Himalayas & sharing back those Himalayan Travel experiences with the other fellow Travelers... I am in love with Spreading Smiles in Himalayas through DoW Causes & currently enjoying life as Happy Traveling Soul at DoW Community. You can read more about me in detail at the link here ...

21 Comments

  1. Dear Dheeraj,

    Thanks & congrats for your excellent work in helping enthusiasts plan fantastic trips.

    Can you please suggest if it is possible to pick a bike from Leh and drop at Manali ( if yes, then can you please share no.s).

    Thanks in advance

    • Sunil, that kind of arrangement of one way bike travel on rented bike will have a big dent in your pocket. They charge about 10-12K just for the pickup from Manali. If you can afford it, you can do it.

      • Thanks Dheeraj.

        How are the road conditions to Zanskar.
        Is it going to be alright to do it in the first week of October by bike (especially from the weather perspective)

        And whats your advice on this: is it safe to travel this route (via Kargil) since there are disturbances going on in Srinagar and URI attack has happened.

        Thanks a lot.

        • It will be OK to visit PAdum in first week of October and roads will be dry and better shape as compared to whole season. However, it will be quite cold up there and dry. So, take utmost care and only venture after checking weather conditions at Kargil because snowfall can close Penzi La pass for few days. Area around Kargil is not affected from disturbance in Srinagar, as per updates shared by many.

  2. Kuntal Mukhopadhyay on

    Dear Dheeraj,
    On review of your “Itinerary for My Zanskar Trip in September – 2012” i found you had in your itinerary the following:-
    Day 5 | Padum – Raru – Enmu – Ichar – Dorzong – Purne
    Day 6 | Purne – Phugthal – Purne
    Day 7 | Purne – Ichar – Raru – Baradan Monastery (Lungnak Valley) – Muney Monastery – Padum
    Give a shot at a 3 Day Trek + Road Journey to Phugtal Monastery, one of the amazing sites in Zanskar Valley
    Enjoy Bardan Gompa and Muney Gompa on the way or way back to Phugtal
    Tsarap River flows here aside this trek and may have a magical feeling to it
    Need to contact some local Travel agency for the same
    Overnight stay at Purne (Camps) and Padum (J&K Tourism Bungalow / Mark Hotel)
    ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
    Your related blogs covering the said itinerary i presume were as follows:-
    1.Greenscapes on Srinagar Kargil Highway
    2.Serenity with Nightmare in Suru Valley
    3.A Sprint from Rangdum to Padum
    4.Exploring the Zanskar Valley Wonderland
    5.The Long Run from Padum to Kargil | Zanskar 2012
    6.Zojila Pass & Life Over Dal Lake
    ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
    Observation: After reading the itinerary and related blogs as listed above, , i didn’t find any mention of your travel slated for Day 5,6, 7.
    Query 1: Have i missed out the blogs describing days 5,6,7? If yes pl share me with the link..
    Query 2: In case you dropped your plans of those days and hence there are no blogs describing them?
    Query 3: Is it that these places can’t be travelled in Sept and you dropped them from your itinerary, based on review on reading Padum..
    Sorry if the queries are repetitive or if i have missed or misunderstood the travel.
    Thanks in advance for your support.
    Best Regards,
    Kuntal

    • Hello Kuntal,

      1. Since there was an unrest in Zanskar during that time and clashes were going on in the local communities, we had to flee in odd wee hours of the day dropping most of the planned things.
      2. Like I said there was an unrest in Zanskar, so had to flee away to save our lives :), we could not visit these places but in September they are like more or less amazingly beautiful

      • Kuntal Mukhopadhyay on

        Dear Dheeraj,
        Good Evening!
        Thanks for your prompt response and sharing the information.
        Understood why there was a gap.
        Happy to note you could return safe..
        Query: Isn’t Zanskar as peaceful like Ladhak?
        Query: Has the ground reality improved at Zanskar of communal clashes? Based on your trip of 2015…
        Query: Is it good and safe to travel with family and kids to Zanskar?
        Sorry to trouble you.
        Thanks in advance.
        Best Regards
        Kuntal

        • 1. It is peaceful but I was caught in wrong time in wrong circumstances.
          2. Yes, not it was all peaceful when we went up there in 2015.
          3. Yes, it is quite safe to travel, the people up there are in general very helpful and accommodating.

  3. Kuntal Mukhopadhyay on

    Hi Dheeraj,
    Good Evening!
    I am Kuntal. Stay in Noida.
    Did visit Ladhak in 2015 and took lot of tips from your blog.
    We had the opportunity of travelling in Ladhak with RIGZIN, thanks to his contact at your blog.
    Planning to visit only Zanskar and appreciate if you could take out sometime and respond to the following:-
    Do you know someone like RIGZIN for Zanskar travel? Do you have contact no pl? I presume we have to hire cabs from Kargil for Zanskar.
    How many days we need at Zanskar and what all to visit?
    Where to stay? Do have contact numbers pl?
    I am planning during End Sept, is that a good time?
    Sorry to have troubled you with these.

    Best Regards,
    Kuntal Mukhopadhyay
    ​+91-8800097815​

  4. Kuntal Mukhopadhyay on

    Hi Dheeraj,
    Could you pl share names and contact numbers of some cab drivers for Zanskar travel?
    Thanks in anticipation…

      • Kuntal Mukhopadhyay on

        Thanks for your response and drawing my attention on the link..
        I found names of few drivers on Kargil Zanskar route..would you recommend any other them?
        Just to rephrase my query..
        I need to hire a cab from Srinagar to Kargil. Leave that cab at Kargil.
        Hire another cab from Kargil to Zanskar..say it would take me to Padum and back to Kargil. Padum local travel would be by local cab..
        Is that how you advice to plan logistics?
        Thanks in advance for reconfirmation.
        Best Regards
        Kuntal

        • Kuntal, I updated the list with drivers below as they were with us on DoW Mega Meet 2015. All of them were very very nice chaps especially Jaan and Abbas.

          [*]Ansari: 094-69-568527 Nice chap, very helpful and was with devils on DoW Mega Meet 2015 in first taxi. No complaints by anyone in the group.
          [*]Jaan: 094-69-732955 Nice chap, very helpful and was with devils on DoW Mega Meet 2015 in second taxi. No complaints by anyone in the group.
          [*]Mohd. Abbas: 094-69-249211 Nice chap, very helpful and was with devils on DoW Mega Meet 2015 in third taxi. No complaints by anyone in the group.

          They can help you with Kargil to Zanskar route for sure and I see no reason they cant help you with Srinagar – Leh. Else for Srinagar – Leh, you can contact Firoz or Kazim. Padum to Kaargil, they will make special arrangements where in they will ask local guys to drop you after 3-4 villages outside Padum and then you will be continue in their car. Else if you go by unions then only Padum taxi can drop you to Kargil.

  5. Dheeraj.
    Have not you travel deep inside of Zanskar Valley such as Phugtaal monastry and Drang -drung glacier this time ?

    • Soumen Bhowmick on

      Hello Mr. Ravinder, nothing much is needed to join our group….just stay connected with us over the community and you’d know it all. Saying that, we appreciate travellers with an inclination towards responsible travelling and do whatever possible in one’s capacity towards the betterment of the lives in the Himalayas.

    • Ravinder, Regarding being member or joining DoW, there is no specific criteria we define except: If you are aligned with DoW Vision and DoW Causes and of course you like the spirit of Adventure plus love Himalayas and travel up there, you can be an active member of the DoW community and participate at the link http://devilonwheels.com/india/ … It can be accessed over mobile app of all platforms too, on the move or while traveling, details of which you can see in the announcement section of the community in above link.

      We share all the information about Himalayan Travel, share each other experiences, help each other build travel plans for Himalayas up there only. We publish all meets including Delhi Meets for Travel Chats on Himalayas as well as Himalayan Mega Meet for DoW Causes that happens once a year, in the community only. All active members are present in community, share experiences, guide others and reviews hotels/eating joints of Himalayas so that we can build up more knowledge together by sharing with each other and helping each other out for travel to Himalayas.

      Please register there and start participating. Join us over Delhi Mini Meets if you around here, next is going to happen in mid October, check events section on FB Page. Once a year we call a mega meet where we all travel to Himalayas together in a large group and execute various DoW Causes to spread smiles up there in Himalayas.

      More closely & actively you participate in the DoW Community, more it will make you feel to be part of DoW Community 🙂

      In order to need help in posting topics to DoW Community, you can read the step by step guide: http://devilonwheels.com/india/himalayan-travel-tales/how-write-travel-tale-t3.html

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