Every year thousands of tourists from around the world converge at the Ladakh region of India. Some of these tourists take flights but most of them use the roads to reach the beautiful and secluded region in the Himalayas. The roads in the region are one of the most dangerous in the world and here are ten things that every tourist to the region should keep in mind.
The whole region stays under a blanket of snow for the better part of the year. The authorities remove the snow from the road after the summer sets in and make the roads accessible again. However, the constant melting of snow can cause a landslide and it is quite common in the region. Always be on the lookout for falling stones on the road and stay at a safe distance from the spot when it happens. It is always a good idea to keep a few spare days in reserve.
Acute Mountain Sickness
Acute Mountain Sickness or AMS is one of the biggest challenges for the road travellers. As the altitude rises, the level of oxygen becomes less and tourists who are not used to such a low level of oxygen in the air suffer from AMS. This causes nausea, fatigue, weakness, dizziness and in extreme cases, can be fatal too. It is always advised to stop and get accustomed to the oxygen level. When going via Manali-Rohtang route, the altitude increases at a rapid speed, which creates more chances of AMS than the Srinagar-Kargil route. Keep drinking water and keep medicines like DIAMOX to fight AMS.
Sudden weather changes
The vast Himalayas has its own weather system and it can change in a matter of a few minutes. Always rely on local weather reports before planning the journey. It does not take much time for a sunny day to become an overcast one and there is always a chance of rain and snow hitting the ground. If you see the weather changing, it is better to stop at any nearest village or roadside shelters and wait for the weather to settle down. Rain and snow bring landslides that can trap you for days.
Running out of fuel
As the region remains cut off from the rest of India for about 6-7 months, there is always a shortage of supply. And when the roads open, any mishap on the road, including accidents or landslides, can keep the essential supplies like fuel and food from reaching the region. This can cause fuel shortage and can trap hundreds of tourists. Also, the fuel pumps are not as common as they are in other parts of India. One has to know the fuel pump locations and plan the refills accordingly.
People in a hurry
Such people can be found everywhere in India. On the city roads, we see them as zig-zag drivers who drive dangerously and close to the vehicles. In the mountains, such people would show off their skills and manoeuvres too. But the mountains are not as forgiving as the city roads and one slip can cause disasters. Always stay away from such high-on-adrenaline drivers and set your own pace to admire the nature and reach your destination in time.
The condition of the roads in the Ladakh region has improved quite a lot over the years and yet there are a few excruciating stretches. While many hatchbacks with low ground clearance have completed the trip without much problem, one should be extremely careful of sudden dips and slippery road surfaces in the region. Any car with a good driver can complete the Ladakh tour, however, one has to be extremely careful and be ready for some underbody bashes if it is a low ground clearance car. If you’re going just after the opening of the roads, it is a good idea to have a 4WD vehicle, as snow can form on the road due to the cold weather.
Car vulnerable to the weather
The Ladakh region is extremely cold and the Leh city itself is quite arid. One should know the effects of weather on the car in such situations. Extremely cold temperatures can solidify the engine oil, which does not let the engine to start until the temperature rises again. Diesel vehicles also face the dilemma of frozen fuel lines as diesel can freeze quickly. One should always wait for the sun to come out and raise the temperature which will melt the engine oil and diesel fuel lines. However, if you’re in hurry, ask for local support and use pressure cooker vapours to melt the engine oil and fuel lines.
Picking the wrong time to travel
It totally depends on the tourists and different months will throw in different challenges. Just after the opening of roads, which is May/June, the roads remain bad with potholes and snow. Towards the end when the roads are closed again in September/October, the roads become better as the authorities finish their repair work and the traffic becomes less too.
Unexpected health issues
The Ladakh region does not have the best medical facilities and the harsh weather can make a condition go worse. If you’re suffering from asthma, heart problems, diabetes, anaemia or any such conditions, always refer to a doctor before setting the course.
Local strikes and protests
Keep an eye on the local news to know what is going on in the region. Quite a few times, taxi unions have closed down the roads demanding that out of state taxis should not be allowed in the region. Also, one should know the places where the civilians are not allowed to go. The area is very sensitive as it shares borders with Tibet and China and many tourists in the past have gone to places without any prior permissions. Tourists need an Inner Line Permit from Leh to visit nearby places.