Expect the Unexpected #9: Your driver and the route
Keep your driver in good mood. Keep him awake! Do not allow him to speed. Drivers from plains drive much faster even on treacherous mountain roads than the drivers who come from mountains.
Make sure the driver knows the route of your journey. There are no road signs at many places. Carry printed maps with you. Remember Unexpected #3. You GPS is likely to go dead in mountains. Do not depend on drivers. They may not admit but they also may not know the road. Do not hesitate to stop and ask directions from any human you come across if you are not sure where you are headed to.
You will need to be well aware of alternate routes in case the planned route gets blocked due to landslide or heavy snowfall or unexpected downpour.
Make sure you vehicle is filled up with enough fuel. Refilling stations are few and far away. Some of them may be running dry and awaiting a refill themselves. Some others may ration the fuel to each vehicle. Please ask how far away the next station is when you refill. Conserve your fuel.
Carry music of your choice along. Otherwise the driver will play music of his own choice – most likely local – loud and monotonous beat. After all, he needs to keep himself awake. If you like to listen to bhangra tunes all day, great. Otherwise carry your own stock with you.
Now this one is going to be very difficult. If you are on a photography tour, you need a very patient driver. You want the driver to stop every now-and-them. You are likely to ask him to slow down even when you are in the fastest lane on a four lane highway from Chandigarh to Shimla!!
The trick to make your driver patient is to teach him basics of photography composition. Everyone loves selfies and drivers are no exception. Once they start seeing how a good composition makes them look handsome in their selfie, they themselves will start slowing down and stopping at right places. Keep appreciating them and improve their photography skills. Once they are hooked, it will pay rich dividends in return.
Expect the Unexpected #10: Home Stays
Home stays is the best way to experience the local way of living. They are good, rooms are comfortable, food is simple yet tasty and the hosts are caring. But…but, you may not get commodes for your morning chores. If you can do it squatting, nothing like it. Otherwise brace yourself to face the unexpected.
Expect the Unexpected #11: Living in Tents
The thought of spending night in a tent next to Pangong Tso or Tso Moriri or Chandrataal is very exciting. Not just the thought but the experience itself is very thrilling. But it comes with its own challenge. The temperatures in the night fall below 5 degree C and even go minus. There are no heaters in the tent. The oxygen levels are lower at night than during day-time. All this results in a disturbed sleep and heavy breathing.
My friend recently attended half-marathon at Leh. The organizers called the participants a week prior to the event so that they get acclimatized and fit for the run. They also arranged a visit and stay of two nights at Pangong Tso in tents. The temperatures at night were closer to 0 degree C. My friend said, 60% of them experienced disturbed sleep and heavy breathing at night.
If you are unable to bear the cold and if you get a choice, stay inside four walled accommodation than a tent.
Expect the Unexpected #12:
This is last but most important. Take all the precautions and rest assured that everything is going to be OK. Just focus on your trip and ENJOY!!!
So what is the unexpected# 12?
Well, the unexpected is, you will never ever enjoy your favorite NatGeo TV shows any more. Instead, you will keep coming to high altitude destinations more and more.
I did and I will. Just expect this unexpected will happen to you as well.