Ladakh, Heaven on Earth

Day 14: 17th September 2005 Kargil - Srinagar

We had another relaxed (late) start, knowing we had to cover just over 200kms to reach Srinagar.

Breakfast in Kargil consisted of orange juice and potato chips, not a good breakfast. But then again with Drass just 56kms away and a promise of finding better a meal, we rode on.

Half an hour into the ride, it was time for the first water/photo break and when we looked over to the river, we saw a truck which had fallen in.

truck in river

It looked as if the truck had fallen a day or two back, but Manik informed me that they had seen this wreckage while on their way to Leh. It just reminded us of the dangers involved in riding in hills.

Just before Drass we saw Kargil war memorial and decided to pay our homage to the brave soldiers who fought for us. When the four of us went to the main gate, the sentry there asked if we were commandos! After getting a negative reply from us, he called his officers to get the permission for the visit and within five minutes we were in.

The 1999 Kargil war, though not officially a war claimed the lives of 532 Indian soldiers and air force personals and 1400 soldiers were injured.

There is a small wall at the memorial, which lists the names and ranks of all the soldiers who lost their lives, protecting our country.

drass war memorial

The bravest of the brave

drass war memorial

Shahid Kalash

shahid kalash

Me in the foreground and tiger hill in the background

me posing infront of tiger hill near drass

We started our journey again, knowing what sacrifices our soldiers and their families pay to keep our country safe. Along the way we could see soldiers standing every 200mtrs to guard the highway.

Next stop was Drass, the second coldest inhabited place on earth with a lowest recorded temperature of bone chilling -60 degree centigrade. But it didn’t felt cold at all! Infect at that time, it felt vary hot in comparison to Ladakh.

As planned we had our lunch in Drass and started for Zoji-La. Roads were still in good shape and the ride was going as planned.

road to zoji la

But the clouds hovering over Zoji-La indicated it wouldn’t be smooth sailing any more. By the time we reached TCP of Zoji-La, it was raining like there was no tomorrow. A truck driver there suggested we should leave now, rather then wait for the rain to stop. Since it didn’t look like the rain was in any mood to stop, we followed his advice and once again started riding in rain.

By the time we reached Zoji-La top, the thundershowers had turned into a slight drizzle. The next patch of the road from Zoji-La to Sonamarg wasn’t in a good shape, but nothing in comparison to the roads of Baralacha La.

As soon as we entered Sonamarg valley, the rain stopped and it gave me an opportunity to take out my camera.

just before sonamarg

We took a small break at a Punjabi dhabha and had a cup of tea and paranthas. After chatting there for a while we decided to head to Srinagar, with the bad roads behind us it was time to rip.

However presence of soldiers every 200mtrs or so reminded that we were in Kashmir. Infect at one point on the highway I saw a kashmiri wearing local dress carrying an AK47 in his hand! It did make me a bit nervous, but the presence of soldiers was reassuring.

Where ever we took breaks for water or photos, soldiers came to us, in part due to their duty and in part due to the fact they wanted to chat with us. Infect at one point at least half a dozen soldiers came to chat with us, since most of them were from UP and Manik and Sunil were also from UP.

With such hospitality shown by our armed forces, it was time for us to ride into the sunset.

sunset in kashmir

By evening we were in Srinagar and the first thing we did was to visit Dal Lake, infect we got us a hotel room nearby so we could go for shikara ride in the morning.

Preface, Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7-1, Day 7-2, Day 8, Day 9, Day 10, Day 11, Day 12, Day 13, Day 14, Day 15, Day 16-17