Leh Ladakh Tour
I thought there must a catch. Any way, I visited Make My Trip website and filled in a web inquiry form. Next day I got a call from Ahmedabad and lady on the other end said - seats are limited. I asked for available dates and checked on date in the first week of May. Paid advance booking amount of Rs.3,000/- per person through credit card using IVR (Interactive Voice Response). Of course, I got few nervous moments because my usual Credit Card could not be used - since it was expiring by April and new card could not be used because it would become active only in May! So, I tried 2 other cards and both would not go beyond the credit card number. Lady on the other end volunteered to enter the credit card number but again system would not accept valid up to date or CVV. So, I called up one bank and learnt that wrong CVV was entered. That's impossible - so I concluded that MakeMyTrip's IVR system had some noise or problem or they were up to some trick! Any way after few attempts I could manage to make payment through credit card.
Immediately I got an email giving booking number. I was told that I should make balance payment in 3-4 days. Then I just looked around to find out how reliable MakeMyTrip (MMT) people are. To my horror I found that on one popular web site (GupShup) 80% people had written negative feedback about them. So, I spent some time studying the details and I was relieved to note that most were dissatisfied with service they received for air tickets. Only one feedback was there for their tours saying - time management was poor and restaurants were not good. So, I should give them benefit of doubt because they could be better at tours.
So, I paid them the balance amount through Credit card - which had failed in CVV verification earlier - after having some trouble - as usual by now.
On the appointed day we all started for Delhi. Reached airport after braving the incredible traffic jam on Western Express highway. I had already done the web check-in for all 9 of us so that we could get some extra points from the airline. Before doing the same I had called up MMT to find out if I should do web check-in with 5 more people travelling with us on the same booking number. They were clue less and advised me not to do it. I asked for their phone number but they refused. So, I went ahead and did the web check-in for all - as group booking tickets don't allow individual web check-ins. Of course, before taking this step I made several calls to Kingfisher's group booking people. But to put it in nut-shell, experience was bad - first they were not picking up calls - when picked up found number had changed - again did not pick up - when picked up said I should call up branch group booking as they were handling national group booking queries - branch people said it's not in their hand to issue separate booking number for a part of a group - what a waste of time!!
Any way, we boarded the aircraft 2 hours later because incoming flight was delayed. We reached Delhi around 12.30 am. After coming out of airport after about 5 min of search we found the MMT representative. He was there with 3 cars. By the time we reached nearby hotel (Lohmod) it was 1.30 am. We quickly filled in Hotel Register, gave driving license for photocopy, collected room key, reached the room. It was 2.15 am. My son's complained that TV is not working! I found that his rooms intercom phone was not working. We complained but nothing happened. We did not care and tried to sleep for 2 hours in a noisy AC environment - as we had to catch early morning flight of 6 am. We had tea and biscuits. Found there were only 2 cars for 9 of us. All left except me and my wife with 2 bags in hand. Fortunately 3rd car came after 10 min and we could catch the flight.
At airport there was a chaotic long queue. But our web check-in came to our rescue. We got out boarding passes out of turn and quickly ran through the security check and just reached in time to catch the flight. We reached Leh after a comfortable flight with a light break fast.
Leh is a small town at a height of 3,500 meters with hardly any tourists - even in peak season! One needs to take rest for 24 hours (at least) before one ventures out - even for a walk! Oxygen is just 15% in Air compared to 21% at Sea level. So, one's system requires 24 hours to get used to it. Also, it is recommended to take 1 tablet of Dyamox one day before and one on arrival. But, we were not told by MMT! This happened in spite of my calling them and specifically asking them about travel trips, pre-cautions etc. Even their website has an article on acclimatisation but not a word about this medicine!
And, one of our fellow traveller - who gave us this information and tablets also - said he learnt about it from an email sent to him by MMT. Clearly MMT does not have well trained staff to take care of tours.
After taking one tablet, after about 5 or 6 hours, I started experiencing vibrations on my face - particularly in cheek and forehead area. It vanished after a night's sleep. It was like a small helicopter running inside my head! It was definitely due to the tablet because for next two days I did not take the tablet and I was back to normal health. And, I took one tablet on 4th day and experience repeated. One doctor said may be I needed potassium and should take coconut water. But we got this advice around 8 pm and we could not find any open shops - since all shops close around 7 pm.
We heard that people who were to come in the next day missed their flight at Delhi. Due to some problem their booking was lost and had to stay in Delhi for 1 more day and take flight the next day. Saving grace was that MMT arranged a free tour to Taj Mahal (Agra) for them and they arrived one day late.
Leh does not have any greenery. It's largest district of India - with 55,000 sq.km area and population of 2 lakhs! All hotels except one (Grand Dragon) close down after 4 months of peak season! It's a dreary desert land with un-predictable weather with heavy winds. I felts Wind farms can be set-up here to provide electricity to entire India - due to its vast expanse.
Pangong lake was too good but we could spend only 30 min - as it takes 5 hours to reach there and 5 hours to return and road condition is not good. Its beauty simply can't be described. It's a 130 km long and 5 km wide salt water lake with no fish inside. It completely freezes in winter. Around 60% of its area is owned by China. Boating is not allowed. Some locals claim to have seen Chinese submarine few year's back in the lake! It's that deep!
On last day we had come back just before reaching the highest motorable road.