So last year we went on a rather unusual journey. We took a farm tractor 3623 kms across Ladakh through the most dangerous roads, highest passes and random rivers. In the end it also got two of my team members a Limca World Record (not me as I didn’t have a tractors license) after we completed the journey in just fourteen days. Unfortunately, the journey could not be documented properly as I had an accident at Drass were my right shoulder got dislocated while climbing the tractor. The accident was horrible because there was no car accident lawyer or so much as a sign of civilisation where it happened. I used my phone to take most of the pictures.
We were given a brand new green colored 65hp 3065DI tractor by Indo Farm Equipments Pvt. Ltd. They also sponsored fuel and other expenses as this expedition would prove that their machine in capable of running in extreme conditions and can take severe weather variations.
Two days before the journey, Indo Farm gave us the tractor so that our trailor caravan could be attached to it. The caravan, designed by Jazzy Paji ( Jaibir Singh Virk) had two compartments divided horizontally. The top part could be used for sleeping while the bottom section was used for storing 150lt of fuel and other stuff. The caravan had a waterproof softtop and two fans. We later attached a Belkin AC Anywhere to power our devices.
1. Jaibir Singh Virk – Works as an Advocate, is a hardcore adventurer, started traveling at the age of 16. Did many expeditions on car, bike and bi-cycle. Holds a limca world record for a Solo Tractor Ride in the Himalayas at Highest Altitude, where he traveled 3174 kms across the Himalayas in just 18 days. He is also the President of Fox Adventure Club.
2. Amit Chaudhary – Traveler, Adventurer, Hardcode biker. Holds a Doctorate in Naturopathy. He is also a founding member of Fox Adventure Club. He works as a teacher in Kurukshetra.
The expedition was full of so many amazing experiences that I can write a book on it, but for this post I’ll just share the notes in my diary chronologically. So here we go.
- Started from Kurukshetra to reach Baddi.
- The temperature must be above 40 Degree Celsius.
- Impossible to sit in the caravan.
- On Delhi – Chandigarh Highway – Max Speed 37km/h
- Haryana Roadways is a luxury if compared to this tractor.
- Reached Indo Farm Facility in Baddi, Himachal Pradesh.
- 08:00 – Flagged off officially.
Day One ( Started at 8 pm )
24 May 2012
- Drove alternately.
- 04:00am – Breakfast at McDonald’s Dashua. Amit still sleeping.
- 01:00pm – Crossed Pathankot and reached Udhampur via Thein Dam.
- Dry hot air blowing straight on our face.
- Dinner at Patni Top. Best Rajma Chawal I’v ever had.
25 May 2012
- Early morning breakfast of Rajma Chawal.
- Temperature dropped to around 20 Degree Celsius
- The road got interesting and we crossed interestingly named places like, Khuni Nallah and Shaitani Nallah.
- Further drop in temerature. Jackets out.
- Srinagar still 50 kms away. Started drizzling.
- Reached Srinagar. Heavy Rain. Impossible to drive. Front tyres showering us with water.
- Parked. Having juices and snacks in our caravan as the rain gets heavy.
- The rain stopped. Started moving again.
- Reached Kangan at 10.30pm. Had dinner and slept in the caravan.
26 May 2012
- Left Kangan after breakfast.
- Towed a Force Traveler full of tourists for 14kms till Sonmarg.
- Parked at Sonemarg. Raining again.
- Crossed Zojila Pass. Covered with Snow.
- 4:00PM – Agyam
- 10:00pm – Reached Drass – Had dinner – Dislocated my shoulder while climbing the tractor.
- 2:00am – Reached Kargil – Hospitals closed – Slept in the caravan.
27 May 2012
- 6am : Kargil Civil Hospital – No Doctor. Obviously.
- Found the address of the hospital Orthopedist, Dr. Abdul Zalil, an amazing person. He relocated my shoulder and tied it. Have to not move it for 2 weeks.
- Enjoyed Ladakhi Bread and tea at his home. Thanked him and moved on. He didn’t even accept any fees for his early morning services.
- Refuelled at Kargil. Took the Kargil-Zanskar Road to reach Padum. It’s a 240km stretch of dirt road and would be longest and bumpiest one.
- Average speed – 5.8km/h.
- 25km before Rangdum – Exhausted.
- Luggage, equipment and caravan full of dust.
- Covered our faces and slept.
28 May 2012
- Started early in the morning. Crossed Pansila at 10.30am.
- Beautiful Road. Small natural lake, barren landscape and huge mountains.
- Darang Darung Glaciar – What an awesome glaciar!
- Reached Phey Village.
- Stayed at our friends home. Tashi Choptup.
- Slept like logs.
29 May 2012
- Breakfast with Yak Milk Curd.
- Got back on the same road to reach Kargil.
- Kargil – 238 kms away.
- Tied our luggage with ropes. Increased our speed to 18km/h and made our journey more uncomfortable.
- Maggie Lunch at Rangdum.
- Reached Sangkhoo at 10pm and had dinner.
- Crossed Kargil. Now Parked on Kargil Leh road.
30 May 2012
- Crossed Namkila Pass.
- Maggie + Tea breakfast.
- Smooth Road. Average speed 30km/h
- Reached Kaltsi at a Punjabi Dhaba.
- Had Paranthas after days. Now I know why Punjabi Dhabas are so popular everywhere.
- Getting late for permits.
- Stopped a Taxi and Amit went ahead to get the permits ready for the route ahead.
- Reached Leh, refueled our tanks.
- Not allowed to cross Khardung La Pass after sunset.
- Parked at Leh. Tractor attracting a lot of attention.
- Having awesome food after days.
31 May, 2012
- Started climbing Khardung La.
- Paji and Amit got off to take the natures call. Left Amit behind. He took a lift to reach the tractor. Amusing experience.
- Reached the mighty Khardung La Pass. At 18,523 ft, it is the officially highest motorable road in the world. The highest being Marsimik la, (18,634).
- Kawa and Maggie Noodles at the world’s highest cafeteria, Rinchin Cafe.
- Low oxygen level.
- Got down and reached Khardung Village and had Lunch at Phunsuk Wangchu cafe, named after a character in the famous Bollywood movie, ‘Three Idiots’.
- We reached Diskit at 6:45km. Serviced the tractor. Slept in the caravan.
1 June 2012
- Started on the road to Wari La Pass. It was still closed. Disappointed.
- Took the road to Shyok via Agham.
- No Road – Driving on the river bed. Crossed 1 ft deep river.
- Back on the dirt road.
- Problem – Found a crack in the trailer.
- Temporarily secured it with chains.
- Reached a GREF unit at Shyok
- Mr. Dinesh Kumar helped us weld the crack.
- Had tea and coffee. Thanked him for helping us.
- Saw our faces in the mirror after days. Tanned and burned skin. Messy hair full of dust.
- Repaired our trailor and left for Durbuk.
- Took the road to Karo via ChangLa
- Weather getting dark and cloudy.
- 08:45pm – Reached Changla Pass (17,586 ft) at 8:45 pm. It is the second highest motorable road in the world.
- Started snowing.
- Phone batteries died because of the freezing temperature.
- Snowfall got heavy and we kept moving. No other choice. The snowfall continued for 30 kms till Sakti.
- It is drizzling there. We reached Karu at 11pm.
- Exhausted and cold. Had to refuel the tractor but the Petrol Station was closed.
- We parked our tractor there and slept. Rain continued till morning.
2 June 2012
- 07:00 am – Refueled our tanks. Had breakfast and left for Hanle.
- Changla closed because of snowfall. We were lucky to have crossed it on time.
- Amit driving and Paji resting in the caravan.
- Parked on the bank of river Indus to wash our faces. Water is too cold for bathing.
- Reached Chumathang and spotted a crack on the welded trailer joint.
- Again secured it with Chains.
- Hoping to find another GREF unit as Chumathang has so welding shop.
- Reached Nyoma. 24 RCC ( Highest in the world). Had a telephonic conversation with the GREF unit head. He was very happy to help.
- 05:00pm : Work started.
- 08:00pm : Crack successfully welded and we left for Hanle.
- The Landscape looking beautiful with outline of the rounded hills and the vastness of the landscape.
- Amit slept. Me and Paji kept driving.
- No movement on the road.
- 12:15 am – Reached Hanle
- Exhuasted. No energy left. Parked alongside the road and slept.
3 June, 2012
- Hanle is the home to as one of the world’s highest sites for optical, infrared and gamma-ray telescopes. It is currently the second highest optical telescope in the world.
- We climed up and took few pictures. No time to go inside.
- Reached Mahe Bridge took a left from Puga and crossed Sumdo with natural hot water springs.
- Back on dirt road. Average Speed 8 km/h.
- Crossed Polo Kong La Pass. Sunny but freezing cold.
- Reached the most beautiful lake, Tso Kar. Too tired to enjoy the beautiful landscape.
- Moon is added to the beautiful lake landscape.
- Reached Debring and now on the Leh-Manali Road.
- Reached Pang. Had food. Slept.
- Got up.
- Crossed Sarchu – Killing Serai – Baralacha – Darcha – Jispa and Keylong.
- Having dinner at Keylong.
- Kept Moving.
- 01:00am – Crossing Rohtang Pass, covered in a thick sheet of snow. Moon light making the landscape a lot more beautiful.
- Driving on ice.
- Reached Marhi and stopped to refuel the tractor.
- Reached Vishisht. Paji went to take a dip in the Hot Spring water.
- He is back with a new energy.
- Crossed Manali. Had Breakfast.
- Took the road to Banjar.
- The temperature got warmer.
- Reached Jalori Pass. Descended towards Rampur. Had dinner and kept moving towards Narkanda.
- 03:00am – Stopping here for a quick nap.
- Started from Narkanda.
- 07:00am – Reached Shimla.
- Breakfast at Shoghi.
- Journey Complete at Baddi.
- A warm welcome by Indo Farm Team.
- The End.
So we successfully covered the full circuit of Ladakh and travelled 3623 kms in 14 days. Experienced temperature variation from 42C to -5C. The brightest summer sun of the plains to snowfall at Chang La. Amit and Paji got their name in the Limca Book of World Records. We all got an amazing story to share. It was challenging but the humour kept us going through the barren and lonely roads of Ladakh. It was tough but it was one crazy experience.