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One month Solo Backpacking to Himalayas – Chapter 2 – Srinagar – Kargil

Chapter 1: The Journey Begins |  Mumbai – Srinagar

… Next morning at 7:00 am I wake up to a dreadful cold, cough and fever.

I requested Manzoor (the houseboat owner) to give me a light medicine for cold and he offered me a Rs. 2500 Black coal kind of a thing from South Africa! Srinagar behaves like all the travellers here are some kind of an open ATM and they can loot all what they have got. I let it pass and asked for a hot glass of milk which costed me only Rs. 20. Bidding adieu to Dal lake I left to figure out transportation for Kargil.

Leaving Dal Lake

Before leaving the houseboat, Manzoor said, “If you do not find the bus or cab, feel free to drop in. And I am pretty sure you will not get it so late.”
His words echoed in my ears repeatedly when I did not find anything till 10 am. Here all buses leave by 7:00 and cabs by 8:00 am. I decided to try till the last minute of the day and not go back to Srinagar again.

TIP: ALWAYS BOOK YOUR TRANSPORTATION IN ADVANCE when you are on a road transport back pack. ALWAYS!

After juggling and pleading almost 30 cab drivers, I finally found one who agreed to take me along. He suggested to tell my story if the police check post will ask us on the way. This is when I felt I have finally arrived at the right place. I am familiar with this feeling of being surrounded with gigantic mountains, pleasent weather, turquoise river and such heart warming people. Yes, I finally arrived at the right place as I depart for one of the most exciting journeys.

The call of the mountains

From Srinagar to Kargil

“Cherry lelo. Fresh Cherry. Kashmir ki cherry lelo.” – I heard a vendor bellowing. My empty stomach asked Mansoor (the Driver’s name was also Mansoor) to stop the car and I bought some of those for the way. I literally ‘Cherries’hed that moment.

Cherries from Kashmir

As the new day began, I at last started to realised that this is going to be one of the most epic trip of my lifetime.

TIP: ALWAYS TAKE THE RIGHT SIDE. Weather you are going in your own car, shared taxi, bus and not on bike, CHOSE THE RIGHT SIDE. That is where you get to see the most. It's useless to sit on the left window.

We halt at Sonamarg for Lunch and that turned out to be the best thing to happen in so many days. Suffering from cold, only cherries since morning  and parlous journey to cover ahead. In this situation, Chole Roti and hot cup of kahwa has to be the best thing to happen.

Food at Sonamarg, Jammu and Kashmir, India

NOTE :- I will now have to allow my other lens to talk for many of the scrolls.

Sonamarg which literally means Meadows of Gold. A deep rock-girt gorge which opens upto grassy meadow land and village-dotted slopes. Although a bit touristy, Sonamarg is nestled with  serene imposing Himalayan peaks. Such a flair of beauty that your eyes could not ask for anything more to relish.

Sonamarg, Jammu and Kashmir

Green grasslands, Sonamarg, Jammu and Kashmir

As we ride along these exquisite roads, we come across Thajiwas glacier. A lot of tourists came till here for a sledge ride and to play in the snow. I smirk a bit here as I recall my Sarpass Slide.

Thajiwas glacier, Sonamarg, Jammu and Kashmir

After Sonamarg, we come across Meenamarg. I can never stop admiring this fascinating drive. My heart was aching to get on a bike already.

Killer routes at Meenamarg, Jammu and kashmir

Beautiful Meenamarg, Jammu and Kashmir

Meenamarg, Jammu and Kashmir

I only read on blogs that one should not miss the Srinagar to Leh route. I must admit that they all were so right. After Hanle, this route was a stellar and becomes my second biggest reason to repeat the journey on a bike.

Amazing route from Srinagar to Kargil, Jammu and Kashmir

Amazing route from Srinagar to Kargil, Jammu and Kashmir

Mountains are calling

Nothing from these were the destinations. They were all the part of this beautiful journey. May be that is what we should all accept, learn and master. may be THAT is why they say – “It’s all about the journey and not the destination.”  We cleave higher up the towering mountains and cross the lofty valleys to move on to our haven of the day.

Killer route from Srinagar to Kargil, Jammu and Kashmir

Srinagar to Kargil, Jammu and Kashmir

Srinagar to Kargil road, Jammu and Kashmir

Suddenly, after incredible curves and twirls on craggy highway 1D, I found myself standing at the height of 3,528 m (11,575 ft) at ZOJI LA. Zoji La was seized by Pakistan during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1947-48 to capture Ladakh. Ideally, I do not support any wars, hence no army and no country. But given the circumstances, I am so glad that Ladakh’s door are open for me to witness the mesmerising beauty of this place.

Zoji La, Jammu and Kashmir

DRASS

The next capsotne for us was Drass. Ever since I read about Drass, I have been fascinated about it. Stationed at 10990 ft, they say temperature at Drass goes down to – 50 degrees here.

Dras, Jammu and Kashmir

Dras, Jammu and Kashmir

The inhabitants of Dras can well be described as the guardians of Ladakh’s gateway. The valley is known for it’s harsh winters. It’s the second most coldest place on planet and of course the coldest in India. There are a plenty of treks one can go from Drass.

Dras, Jammu and Kashmir

Snowy Routes, Dras, Jammu and Kashmir

For now, I depart to see the Tiger hill and War Memorial. While we are on the way, Mansoor explains the reason behind big walls covering the Sindhu river for a certain patch. He says the Pakistan border is hardly few kms and if there was no wall, you can see one of the their village situated behind that. Even the part of river goes around Pakistan and again meets in India. I dont know how much i can believe but, the info is quite captivating.

On the way to Kargil, Jammu and Kashmir

A soldier dies here because of cold and was later buried here only

On the way to Kargil, Jammu and Kashmir

KARGIL WAR MEMORIAL

On my request, Mansoor stopped at War Memorial for some time. That’s what you benefit when you are not in bus. They run a show here daily explaining about the wars and our freedom fighters and it is known to awaken your patriotic soul.

Kargil War Memorial, Dras, Jammu and Kashmir

Kargil War Memorial, Dras, Jammu and Kashmir

Kargil War Memorial, Dras, Jammu and Kashmir

I was not only traveling solo but also behind the camera all the time. This is the best pic I could get for myself till now.

Unfortunately I didnt have so much time but fortunately Mansoor said I can watch the same thing in Leh Memorial also. We had a good look around the place and left for Kargil.

Shadow Play

Road till kargil

It was only an hour’s journey more for me, but rest of the people were heading to Leh. The roads till from Meenamarg to Zoji pass were tricky but they were amazing after that.

Bridges by BRO

Accidents like these are such a common site

Albeit no photos and videos can do justice to the experience you have when you go there, I have tried to pull up a short video of the journey from Srinagar to Kargil –

Mansoor helped me to find a hotel to stay in Kargil that day. He also helped me finalise a cab for Padum to leave next day. And I bid good bye to another lot of people here.

A long day that was, but not over yet. I rested for a while in room and headed to see the Kargil market. I had some good food, bought some warm clothes and got some medicine. Well again, everyone was amazed to see a single girl traveling and as usual I was ready with my fake story.

Despite the cold temperature of Drass and suffering from cough, I left the windows open to capture every bit and fell horribly ill at night with around 101 degrees temperature. Once more, I was scared of what if something goes wrong. I also asked someone from the hotel to get me right medicines. One of the most cruel conditions I have ever fallen into.

I gathered all the courage & will and kept up with all of my endurance & determination to leave for Padum at 5 am next day…