This is the last of the 3 part series of my Ladakh trip Aug 09. The second part can be found here.
Day 11: (To Srinagar, J&K)
- After spending the night in Kargil at shady motel, we were itching to start off to Srinagar.
- The roads were very good unlike our previous journey. We raced around till we reached Drass, the famous point where Kargil war was fought. Tiger Hills is very close to Drass.
- Sharyathi interviewed a villager who lived in that area during the Kargil war. As he was explaining the horrors of war, we were busy photographing the Warning boards in that area.
- This was the first time we all got to see Pakistan. It was just a mountain away from the point we were standing.
- GK had troubles with his clutch plate through out the journey, so we stopped in Drass to find clutch plate oil. It turned out that Omar Abdhulla the CM of J&K had come to deliver a speech. There was tight security and it became difficult to navigate around the town in search of clutch oil.
- After an hour we located a shop which provided us oil. It turned out that the clutch problem was not solved with clutch plate oil. We had no other choice but to move on due to unavailability of mechanics.
- The next stop was Sonmarg in Kashmir Valley. There was a sudden shift in the landscape. The dull cold rocky mountains were replaced by lush green meadows and streams.
- It started to drizzle but we managed to reach Srinagar right on time. This was the first time in 10 days we saw so much traffic and chaos of a city.
- After scouting around Dal Lake in Srinagar we finally settled for a moderate house boat. Had a very late dinner and rushed off to bed.
Bloopers/Bike Failure Counters/Road Condition On Avg : GK had a fall after filling up petrol which triggered the clutch issue later on. Average Roads.
- Sharyathi managed to make a mark in the military records. He approached a solider on guard and inquired about toilet. The confused solider pointed out the vast openness that can be used as toilet. The question from Sharyathi probably raised suspicion and the solider actually added this as a part of that days conversation record maintained by military.
- In Srinagar, we saw a very beautiful girl cross the street and the gang decided to follow her until she disappeared into the thick crowd.
- Mohit managed to start a conversation with locals regarding computers and business. How much more geeky can people get?
Personal Thoughts :
I had a strong feeling that the exhaustive drives so far would soon be over as this was a very important military area and roads would be maintained well. As time passed i was able to confirm my prediction. There were couple of good areas during the journey to Srinagar. The first one had to be Drass, the second coldest inhabitable place in the world where the Great Kargil War was fought. The very sight of the cold mountains sent a shiver down my spine. It was as if the mountains from the Pakistan side were watching us. I began to segregate mountains as we drove along as good and bad. The ones on the Pakistan side were bad ones. Its silly to think that way but it was in my mind after the village boy explained us how snipers from those mountains on the Pakistan side killed many of our soldiers. Ironically, as i was passing through Drass, watching the mountains on Pakistan side, the song “Lost For Words” by Pink Floyd was playing in my head. Especially the lines
So I open my door to my enemies
And I ask could we wipe the slate clean
But they tell me to please go fuck myself
You know you just can’t win
After few thoughtful moments while passing through Tiger Hills, i began to notice the change in the landscape. The cold desert we passed through for the last 10 days suddenly gave way to lush green valley. The sight of greens after such a long time is truly refreshing. It was as though we walked out of B&W movie and entered a Technicolor one. The only ugliness in otherwise wonderful landscape is men with guns. The very sight of soldiers gave me an unsettling feeling. It was as though i was trapped in a paradise prison. The people of this area are very friendly contrary to the media showcasing them as traitors. When we stopped at a tea stall for some refreshments, i was pleasantly surprised to see the shop owner listening keenly on the on going topic within our group regarding the angle of growth of the trees in these hilly areas. Although he might not be educated he was inquisitive enough to clarify the reason behind the slanted growth. It made me wonder if these people were educated they could be of great value to our country. Sadly that is not the case.
Day 12: (In & Around Srinagar)
- The day started with us rushing to the mechanic to get GK’s clutch problem fixed. The mechanic cleaned the clutch plate and refilled clutch oil. Sharyathi was still not able to find a suitable wiser for his helmet.
- We started off to Gulmarg which is very near Srinagar. It was a hot day and we were sweating profusely. As we neared Gulmarg the weather changed and it started raining.
- The Horse Walla’s at Gulmarg gave us a hard time by forcing us to take a ride on their horse after we refused their service. To avoid them we walked the wrong way and reached Gondola (Ropeway) very late. Luckily we managed to get tickets to first point.
- The first point was Kongdori which we were able to reach. The second point was Apherwat for which we were late and had to skip it.
- It started raining by the time we reached Kongdori and so we had to hurry back down in the Gondola.
- We had no choice but to drive back to Srinagar in pouring rain. With our rain clothing on, we started the decent to Srinagar.
- On reaching Srinagar, we decided to eat authentic Kashmiri food. We made our way to a restaurant named Ahdoos which served very good Kashmiri food. We had Rista Gustaba, Tabak Maz, Nadroo Yakhni and Rice. After the very heavy dinner we went back to the boat house to retire for the day.
Bloopers/Bike Failure Counters/Road Condition On Avg : Excellent roads.
- Sight of small boy carrying a ball twice his size.
Day 13: (To Jammu, J&K)
- Started the day with a bike problem. No prizes for guessing. Yes its GK’s bike once again.
- We had to push to get it started and with in minutes we were on the Jammu highway
- It was a hot day and we had to cover 300kms. The roads were in excellent conditions but there was heavy traffic.
- Most of us split up as it was difficult to travel as group. We all meet again near a Dhaba for lunch.
- The second half of the day was much more pleasant and we drove past Jammu and stopped at a small hotel on the highway.
Bloopers/Bike Failure Counters/Road Condition On Avg : GK’s bike did not start. Excellent roads.
- Uttaran got lost as he did not show up for the gathering after every 50km distance. We assumed that he must have taken the wrong road. We tried to call him but the cleaver guy had left his cellphone and purse with Sharyathi. We had no way of reaching him except to go back and look for him. Fortunately in 30 mins he found his way back to us.
Day 14: (To Ludhiana, Punjab)
- We planned to split up into two groups, Me, Sharyathi and Uttaran planned to stay back in Ludhiana while Mohit, GK and Ashish decided to push on to Delhi. So we packed our bags and divided the bikes ourselves to make it easy for the split.
- The drive to Ludhiana was uneventful with average roads and hot weather.
- We entered Ludhiana city while other group took the by-pass to Delhi.
- We were shopping in Ludhiana when the other group informed us that they were stuck at the outskirts of Ludhiana due to GK’s bike problem.
- We rushed to the place where the bike was getting repaired. It turned out to be a big problem and we had to change the clutch plate. At this point we had to give the other group my bike and decided to wait till this bike was fixed. They pushed on to Delhi and we were made to wait for the bike to get fixed.
- Once repaired we started off to find some place to stay outside Ludhiana, but before we could do that the bike gave away once again. There were no mechanics around except for few helpful people who offered suggestions.
- After couple of hours of toil to get it working , Sharyathi and Uttaran gave up and so we decided to stay in a close by hotel which looked expensive. It sure was.
Bloopers/Bike Failure Counters/Road Condition On Avg : GK’s bike had a serious clutch problem. Excellent roads.
- In the hotel where we decided to stay, i was mistook to be a foreigner and was asked for pan card. Luckily i had it.
- We got a photo of Mohit sleeping on the bike with all the noise around that place.
Day 15: (To New Delhi)
- We went in search of a Royal Enfield mechanic and managed to find a showroom. The mechanic came to spot to repair the bike. Within 20 minutes the bike was up and running.
- We started off to Delhi which turned out to be a dull drive with no particular incidences worth mentioning.
- Reached Delhi at around 5:00 pm and went to Ankur’s house for rest.
Bloopers/Bike Failure Counters/Road Condition On Avg : Excellent.
For Ladakh Photos: Click Here