Bangalore to Ladakh & back: 8000 km & 17-day road trip in a Tata Safari

It was special on so many levels. What started as a small discussion in a restaurant, ended up being a lifelong memory.

BHPian hemanth.anand recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Chal0 ChaLeh

This is a travelogue of an 8000km road trip that we did between the 5th to 21st of August 2022


It was the April of 2019; a friend of ours was on the cusp of shifting to Japan on an official delegation for 3 years. My wife’s desire of visiting Japan only grew stronger as it would be better when we have somebody there. Since March-May is the Cherry Blossom time, it was the perfect time. But since our friends would need some time to settle down, we decided that we will plan it for the 2020 season. But then, who on earth knew what was in store the next year?

2020 came and we all know what unfolded. 2021 also went past in a similar way. A Japan trip when our friends are there, could not become a reality. But we needed a vacation without a doubt! During one casual discussion sometime in April, my wife and I accepted that a foreign trip was difficult in the short term. I proposed that we plan something within the country. That discussion ended there with nothing concretely decided.

Some days later, my friend and BHPian avinashsg and I were at a restaurant for dinner. We were just cursing covid in general and remembering the pre-covid times and the nice mega road trips that we had gone on. It was nothing more than just venting out the frustration of being locked down for the last couple of years.

He said “At least you’ve done 2 big road trips (East to West and West coast) after the North-South Road trip in 2012. I’ve not done such a trip after 2012 and it’s now been almost 10 years to that!”. We both were like “We should do something like that again”.

For the people who haven’t read those travelogues of mine, below are the links.

  • We ran out of Road – 2012 – Kashmir to Kanyakumari
  • N.E.W.S – 2013 – Arunachal to Gujarat (N.E.W.S. Nepal & East to West in a Safari)
  • W.E.S.T – 2015 – West coast (W.E.S.T. – Western End from Southern Tip)

That discussion with avinashsg stayed in my mind for long enough and the memories of that road trip in 2012 were refreshed. Some days later I told my wife “It seems just like yesterday, but it’s been a decade since our Ladakh road trip!” and I added, “We were thinking of celebrating the 10th anniversary in some special way. The best way would be to do a Ladakh trip again!”. She replied sternly “Last time you left me alone and went on a boys-trip. Don’t even think of doing it again. Either we both go together, or we both don’t go”.

The conversation ended there at that time, but the seed of a road trip had been planted in my head. I wanted to do the 10th-anniversary trip, but taking along my wife and daughter in the car was not going to be easy. Then a Eureka moment happened, and I thought “Hey, we can easily club both together – the family trip and the 10th anniversary celebration of our K-K drive!”

Over the next few days, I put forth this idea to My wife and also Avinash. Both liked the idea and asked me to work out details of how I plan to combine the two.


Checking my WhatsApp messages now, on May 1, 2022, I made this proposal to a broader group of 5 friends and their families. This was the message I sent them…

Hello people, We are planning a Ladakh trip in August 2022. This is to mark the 10th anniversary of our previous Ladakh trip. The plan is that the husbands (currently I have discussed with Avinash) drive the Tata Safari till Leh. Wives and kids will land directly in Leh by flight. We can go around Leh in Tata Safari for 5-6 days and then again wives and kids return in flight and we drive back. We’ll hire another vehicle in Leh for sightseeing. Approximate per family cost will be 1.5lakhs. Please check and let me know.

All of them were interested and we decided to meet and make a more detailed plan. That meeting happened on May 7th and I was astonished that all 5 families were ready (it had never happened in the past!). All of us put forth our convenient dates considering the holidays in our respective offices and the common dates were between August 6th and August 21st.

Avinash, Vishwa and I who were part of the 2012 trip had no problems planning our leave at the office for all 16 days. BHPian pumpy_raj a.k.a Rajesh who had to miss the 2012 drive due to unavoidable circumstances, needed a couple of days time to speak to his manager at the office before confirming. The fifth person Anil said that he can only plan for a week and not more. Two days later Rajesh confirmed in positive too. However, he said that his wife would not be able to join. He said that it would be just his 11-year-old son who would be joining us. So, it became a big group of 15 people (9 adults and 6 kids).

The rough idea was that 4 of us (Avinash, Rajesh, Vishwa and I) would start from Bengaluru in the car and by the time we reach Leh, all the remaining 11 members would land in Leh by air. After 6-7 days of doing the basic Leh Circuit, 11 people would fly back and we 4 start our drive back home.

With this idea, it was decided that we start in the car on Aug 6th and reach Leh on 11th where all others would join us. August 17th would be when we would head back home; 11 people taking the flight and 4 of us in the car.

I named the Whatsapp group as Cha10 ChaLeh – it reads as chalo chalein in Hindi meaning Come let’s go signifying the big group going together and the ’10’ and ‘Leh’ signify the fact that this would be the trip to celebrate the 10th year anniversary of our Leh trip of 2012.

With the dates finalized, I applied for leave at my office on May 11th and got it approved. Then the immediate next task was to book flight tickets which I did the next day. Others also got their leave days approved at the office over the next few days.

With this done, it was time to make further bookings. Although I generally do the planning and bookings myself, with families involved, the group suggested that we take a package tour. I played it safe and agreed. In the next week, we enquired with 3 known travel agents and decided to go ahead with one of them.

I was the SPOC for the travel agent and there were multiple loops of discussions with him. Tweaking and changing the plan, places to be covered and activities to be done, price negotiations and acting as a mediator for all the questions from the group…trust me it was not easy. All this took one full month and on June 18th, we paid the advance and booked the travel package. This was the package itinerary that was finalized (It was probably the 10th version)

Leh, Ladakh Package 6 Nights / 7 Days

  • Day 1, Thu 11.8.22: Arrive at Leh by flight. Transfer to hotel, Acclimatize. Overnight in hotel at Leh.
  • Day 2, Fri 12.8.22: Hall of fame, Magnetic hill, Sangam, Gurudwara, Shanti stupa. Overnight in hotel at Leh.
  • Day 3, Sat 13.8.22: Leh to Nubra Valley via Khardungla, Diskit Monastery. Overnight in camp at Hunder.
  • Day 4, Sun 14.8.22: Hunder to Turtuk (former Baltistan) and back. Overnight in camp at Hunder.
  • Day 5, Mon 15.8.22: Hunder to Pangong Lake Via Shyok. Overnight in camp at Pangong
  • Day 6, Tue 16.8.2022: Pangong to Leh via Changla, Thiksey and Shey Monasteries. Overnight in hotel at Leh.
  • Day 7, Wed 17.8.2022: Departure from Leh to Bengaluru.

Between all these things, I had to do all the planning for our road-trip. I had 3 things in my bucket list for this road trip:

  • Drive to Umlingla – The reigning highest motorable road in the world.
  • Drive to the centre of India – Since we have previously driven to the 4 corners of the country.
  • Drive on the Kistwar-Killar road – supposed to be one of the most dangerous roads in the country.

Over and above this, we had a couple of restrictions and conditions:

  • Our Safari was now more than 10 years old, and taking it inside Delhi was not allowed. We had to bypass the National Capital.
  • We wanted to repeat as less places from our 2012 trip as possible and cover as many new places as possible.

Accordingly, I made my initial plan as below:

Initial plan

I ran this plan among my co-passengers. They told me that I had the full freedom to do all the planning and I can just inform them of the final plan, and they’d just follow it. I then started reading all the information available on TBHP and various other travel forums for the latest road conditions, new roads, POIs etc.

While I was working on this, I was attending a college friend’s family gathering on May 22nd. At the function, 5 of us were sitting together chatting with each other as this was a gathering after a very long time (thanks to Covid). Just like that, one of them, Anoop, asked me “It’s been so long since you went on a long road trip…have you planned something this year?”. I told him that as a matter of fact, I have planned one and I just completed booking the flights.

He was immediately ready to join but he couldn’t get his entire family. Two more were also interested but again for various reasons, they were not in a situation to get their families too. I shared my plan, and they all told me that we should also plan something similar.

Every one of them told me that if I join, they would be ready to do it in 2023. I agreed and we closed the topic there. But after a couple of weeks, Anoop called me again and he said that he had convinced the other 3 and they also wanted to do this in his Ertiga in 2022 itself. Their available dates were almost the same except that they wanted to start on 4th of August. I was honestly surprised because I had not expected them to be ready so soon!

While every one of us is an experienced driver, we four in Safari differ in some respects when it comes to driving in comparison to 4 of them. Couple of major differences are:

  • They prefer night driving and are late risers, we are early risers and prefer to start early and drive during the day.
  • We prefer booking all hotels in advance and set a goal for the day, they prefer finding a hotel in any location that they are in at some cut-off time.

So, we agreed that we can be together in Ladakh, but we can take different routes with no dependability on each other. Since it was their first drive to Ladakh, we planned a similar route that we took in 2012. This was the initial plan.

Initial Plan for Ertiga

As we were planning, one of them had to drop out due to some unplanned official trip. They still did not cancel the plans and only 3 decided to go. Due to this, they made some small modifications but overall, they stuck to their planned route. This was their final plan before leaving. They were prepared to be extremely flexible and make changes on the go.

Final plan for Ertiga

While I was booking the flights for the 5 families, one day, one of my colleagues overheard me and asked me what I was planning. He was also very much interested but the dates were not matching. He asked me to talk to my travel agent and get him also the same plan but a week earlier. Same thing happened with my wife’s colleague too and they too did the same but 2 days earlier than us. So in total, I was involved in planning trips for 4 different groups. My wife was joking that I should become a travel agent myself!!

What these 4 plans did was it helped me in getting the entire map in my head (I’m generally poor at this) and the most important thing was that, since all others were going before us, we would get the latest road status in advance. This would help me in tweaking our plan if needed.

Talking about tweaking, I called up our helpful DBHPian paragsachania on June 3rd to take his suggestions, feedback, and improvement points. I’m always amazed at people like Parag how they have map details at the back of their hands always! Parag told me that he’d connect me to another avid traveller, Madhu, who would be the best person with this. He told me that he does a Himalayan Road trip at least once every year and had recently returned from Ladakh and is a very resourceful person.

On June 13th, Parag setup a conference call with Madhu. How correct was Parag! Talking to Madhu was the best thing that could’ve happened. Not only did he help me with planning the route, but he also shared detailed co-ordinates and information throughout the trip. Hotels, road conditions, alternate options…everything and much more. During the route planning options, he first patiently listened to me as to what I wanted, what is our driving patterns and preferences etc. Only after that, he suggested changes that suited us. If not for him, I’d never have taken the routes that we finally did and we’re truly grateful to him for sharing his knowledge and guidance.


He suggested that instead of doing Keylong-Kishtwar, Kishtwar-Srinagar, Srinagar-Kargil and Kargil-Leh over 4 days, it is better to do Keylong-Kishtwar-Keylong, Keylong-Padum and Padum-Lingshed-Leh over 3 days. He said that the thrilling road we were seeking near Kistwar-Killar was no more as thrilling as it used to be. Hence he suggested that we drive only till Azhaal falls near Killar and return back and stay in Keylong.

From Keylong, we can do the Zanskar circuit of Keylong-Padum-Leh. With this, not only will we not repeat the Srinagar-Leh route which we had done in our previous trip, but also get to do the less explored Zanskar circuit.


Instead of returning back with the entire group from Pangong to Leh and then going to Hanle, Madhu suggested us to go to Hanle directly from Pangong. Again, this would mean that we will not repeat the Pangong to Leh road and get to do the more adventurous Pangong-Chushul-Hanle route.
Furthermore, he told me to visit Umlingla in the morning than do it in the evening.

Change 3:

He suggested us to take the Loma-Dungti-Koyul-Hanle route as it was more adventurous. However, he advised us to be flexible in this section and check with locals for the latest conditions.

I accepted all the changes and below is how the almost-final plan looked like on Jun 16th.

Updated plan

I showed it to the other 3 and they had no issues whatsoever in general. But they were sceptical about the first three days. They thought that Bengaluru-Nagpur, Nagpur-Agra and Agra-Manali would be too hectic even with 4 drivers. While Parag and Madhu said that we could do this easily, the group felt that I should try to change it if possible.

With the flights already booked, the only option to change without affecting much was that we start a day earlier. Rajesh said that he could not take more leave at office. So, everyone agreed to this plan although not entirely confident with it.

One thing that Madhu categorically told me was to book a Homestay in Hanle immediately as there are very few good options there and it would get filled up soon. He gave me the contact of Padma Lodge at Hanle too. I checked various sites and sent a message too. On I found that Padma homestay was available and immediately I booked it. I got the confirmation email also the next day. The mail said that I need to pay directly at the homestay. It even had a separate note saying that I would be contacted if any advance was needed.

By June 26th, I had booked accommodation at Padum for one night and Keylong for three nights by paying the necessary advance amounts.

On June 27th I wrote an email to asking them the exact co-ordinates of the homestay and payment terms. From then on, I called them almost every day and they asked me to call them a day later while they confirm with the homestay. On July 1st I got an email from that my booking was cancelled because I had not made the prepayment!!! I called up customer care again and gave them a piece of my mind and they finally wrote back saying that they didn’t have rooms for the dates I was looking for. I don’t know whose problem it was, but it was not the experience I expected.

Immediately I looked for other homestays and I found one Milky Way homestay. Called them up and checked availability. He had a triple bedroom with an attached bathroom and another dormitory. We were ok with this and booked it right away by paying them the advance. The next day I even Booked a homestay in Tso-Moriri.

The stay for the remaining day in Ladakh was part of the package tour. and all the way till Himachal we had a lot of options and hence I decided to book them closer to the travel date.

On Jul 2nd we gave the Safari for its annual service which was anyway due and we told the service advisor to be really thorough as we are planning a trip to Ladakh. Apart from the regular service, the clutch plates, brake pads, brake discs and suspension bushes were replaced too. The vehicle was taking more than usual time to start up and the wipers were operating really slow. So, the wiper motor was replaced and there was new coil winding made for the starter motor. They took 10 days with an overall bill of 45k!

Meanwhile, we were continuously checking with Rajesh if he can manage one additional day leave at the office. He told us that he’ll try his level best but can’t confirm anything early. In one of the discussions, we got an idea and decided that on the afternoon/evening of Friday, August 5th (a day earlier than planned), we’ll drive a small distance and reach Kurnool. Rajesh told that in the worst case, he’d take a bus/train in the night and reach Kurnool the next morning and then from there we can go together. Although this meant that Rajesh might not be fully rested for Day 2, we felt it was a good compromise to driving huge distances that we are not fully confident about.

The Bengaluru-Nagpur-Sonipat-Keylong over 3 days was changed to Bengaluru-Kurnool-Jabalpur-Panipat-Keylong over 3.5 days. So, I made hotel Bookings in Kurnool and Jabalpur on Jul 9th.

Closer to the Actual start date, Rajesh came with the news that he can take an additional half a day’s leave and we can start at 14:00 from his office on Friday. This was good news overall as we all could go together from the beginning and Rajesh would be fully rested on Day 2 as well.

On July 15th I booked a Hotel in Panipat too. With this, hotels for the entire onward journey and half of the return journey were booked. For the remaining, I decided to book it as and when needed. The final plan looked like this…

Final Plan

With Hotel bookings in place and Vehicle service completed, we slowly started collecting things that would be needed for the trip. The first thing that we did was purchase a traction board. On our 2012 trip, our car was stuck in the sand and had to be towed out. Our wooden DIY traction board wasn’t of much help. Hence this time we purchased a good traction board, the ones generally seen on 4×4 vehicles. So I purchased this from Swastikfabs Bengaluru. When the item arrived, it was bigger than I expected and took up a lot of space in the boot. So, we decided to tie it on the roof using motorcycle tie-down straps. Although the red thing would look ugly in pictures, it was more important than looks.

One major modification (probably the first one for the SUV) that we did to the Safari was the headlamp upgrade. The stock headlamps were slightly brighter than a candle. We seriously don’t know how we did so many trips with those lamps. We left it at our trusted accessory shop “High-Definition Cars” on Bhannerughatta road for this upgrade. We upgraded the headlamps to an LED projector setup. We also added Hella Auxiliary lamps. These 4 lamps made sure that whatever little night driving we do, will be stress-free for us.

A friend of mine was returning from the US and we got a 2 channel Thinkware dashcam. This was also installed in High-Definition cars. Meanwhile, Vishwa arranged for a small handy gas stove for emergency purposes.

20 days before the flight and two weeks before our road trip started, Rajesh informed me of a good change. His wife was successful in obtaining leave from her work and she was also ready to join. Rajesh immediately booked flight tickets for her-the same flight as others. Even though it was slightly more expensive than a couple of other flight options, Rajesh booked her the same flight as others so that everyone would be together.

With this new addition, we did one more round of negotiation with the travel agent. Once this was finalised, we made the full package payment to the agent on 29th July and checked that item off the list.

After this, Avinash took the vehicle on a trip to Sakaleshapura over a weekend with his friends. This 800kms trip of his would be like a preparatory run. This would help identify things that need attention if any, any fresh issues, etc. This would also help us in making sure that the traction board tied on the roof would stay on the roof even at highway speeds.

When he returned, the vehicle was running perfectly well with no issues whatsoever. Avinash was mighty impressed with the performance of the headlamps and the aux lamps. The tie-down straps held the traction board on the roof very well too.

With a week to go, we purchased a medical kit with all basic medicines, first aid kit, the most important Diamox tablets in case of HAMS among others. In 2012, we were just 4 young men, but this time we had families with kids in the age 5.5 to 11 years age group. The excitement of all the wives had now turned into anxiety. Friends and families everyone was talking about HAMS, Low Oxygen density in the Himalayas and this made them more worried. Even though we knew that we will not need oxygen cylinders, with kids, everyone was extra-cautious, we purchased small portable 5L oxygen cylinders too.

Just a day before our trip, we purchased snacks that would be needed in the car. This included biscuits, dry fruits, fried snacks, chocolates, trail mixes etc. On the same day. We also kept a 25ltr water can and a 10ltr Jerry can in the boot.

I also purchased a long new tow rope of 5 tonne capacity. A shorter tow rope (2T capacity) which I already had, was given to the other group in the Ertiga along with a 5ltr fuel can when I waved them off on August 4th evening.

Thursday, 4th August 2022

We were just a day before the actual start. The Ertiga arrived at my home in the afternoon to collect the towrope and fuel can. My friend Anoop and his elder brother Ashvin who live near my home were in the car. Another friend Harsha would be picked up on the way. I wished them a happy journey. We were anyway scheduled to meet the next week at Leh.

After my office hours, I started to keep all the things that I need to carry in one place and check off items one after the other. We did one last conference call before the trip and everyone else had packed up everything.

Since Rajesh would be the last person to start after attending his office for half a day, we didn’t want to waste time after he left office. Avinash who lives close by, collected all his luggage, and kept it in his home. Vishwa lives on the opposite side of the city. The plan would be that everyone reaches my home in the morning, we pack the vehicle, have lunch, and pick Rajesh up and depart.

That evening, like always before such big trips, I had butterflies in my tummy. While I had everything that we need and more, there was a strange feeling that I’d left out something. Although I slept well that night, it took an hour or so to get sleep after I hit the bed! Anxiety, Excitement, Eagerness, Nervousness, what do they call that funny feeling?

Day 1 | Friday, 5th August 2022 | Bengaluru – Kurnool

Usually, the alarm wakes me up at 0600hrs on a Friday. Today was different…I woke the alarm up at 0545

After Breakfast, I started to put all the items that I had kept aside into bags. I topped up the fuel tank just near my home. By 1000hrs, Avinash arrived at my home with Rajesh and his luggage. We put all that and my luggage inside the vehicle. Vishwa arrived by around 1100hrs and in some time, everything was inside the vehicle.

All loaded

And…we were ready to go! My family waved us off and we had officially started our trip!

Rajesh was still not home and hence the first stop for us three was for Lunch. We had our lunch at a restaurant near my home. By 1315hrs we reached Rajesh’s home. Anil also had come to flag us off.

All aboard

Our destination for the day was Kurnool. It was a straight 350-400 kms drive on the Hyderabad highway. As soon as we had crossed the city limits, we stopped at a shell petrol bunk just near Nandi. We purchased some Engine oil for the vehicle to top up if needed.

After that, it was a straight quick non-stop drive, apart from a small photo stop near the Kia factory.

On the Highway

The Beast

The Powerhouse

The proud owner

The Kia factory

Avinash who was driving all the while till here gave away the driver seat to Vishwa who drove till Kurnool from there on.

Straight and fast

Some evening scenes

The straight and flat roads continued

We reached Kurnool by 1830hrs and checked into our hotel. We called family members and some friends that we have reached. Some friends told us that probably we should have driven all the way till Hyderabad, but we did not want to stress ourselves on the first day itself.

We had a leisurely dinner in the hotel and by 9:00 PM we crashed into our beds because the next day we are planning to leave early. The destination for the next day was Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh.

Day Stats

  • Total Distance: 382 km
  • Drive start: 11:30
  • Drive end: 8:30
  • Duration: 07:00
  • Average Speed: 54.6 kmph
  • States crossed: KA, AP
  • Fuel filled: Bengaluru, KA at Nayara at ₹90.89 per ltr

Continue reading about hemanth.anand’s road trip for BHPian comments, insights and more information.

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