Day 11/15 – Kargil to Srinagar – 200 kms – 7 AM to 4 PM
We didn’t get hot water as we expected it to have come. We were fed up of listening to the stories the hotel guy had for us. Allen and Kiran were the first to pack all the stuff and head out for a tank up. Apar and I waited at the hotel, giving the other two enough time to finish the activity and return. After a while, we started from the hotel and synced up with them on the (only) road that led to Srinagar. By now, we started riding by the river, Sind. We also saw a couple tributaries merging at this place. The river was very rough and danced over the rocks at high speeds.
We had some company of army vehicles, ranging from trucks to bulldozers. We also saw one of the boards that read, ‘CAUTION. You are under enemy observation.’ These passages were visible from some of the peaks from Pakistan and thus the reason for the warning. Apar and I stopped by for a picture, however Allen and Kiran seemed a little disinterested.
We reached the town that was called Drass. This was the place where the war was fought 10 years ago. This place had the memorial as well in remembrance of the brave souls who lost their lives fighting for India. We spent some time at the memorial reading through the names of the jawans and about Operation Vijay. This year also was the tenth anniversary after the war and arrangements were being made for the President’s visit that was just a few days ahead. Outside the memorial, we spent some time with a few school kids clicking pictures of them and sharing it with them.
After visiting the memorial, we entered the town of Drass, were we stopped by Mr. Ali’s dhabha that served excellent goat meat. All credits go to Kiran who involved himself in the post mortem of the poor thing on the plate. Filling the tummies, we pushed off Drass. Drass also was the place that was the second coldest inhabited place in the world, when the temperature dropped to -60 degrees during the year 1995.
Further down on the way, we witnessed an army training, where some army men were crossing a river. There was one person near the road, whom I approached and talked to. He was the Captain, and he also introduced us to the Lieutenant. The Lieutenant took his training from OTA, Chennai, very close to which I lived. He was quite happy to meet someone from Chennai and we continued our conversation with the two. The two men explained to us that the point where we were standing was under the control of Pakistan when the Kargil war was going on, and also told us about some of the difficulties that they faced during that time and how they overcame all that. He also shared some of his experiences in the high altitude by the border, where they had to survive al by themselves during most of the year.
We passed through some of the most exotic Kashmir valleys and stopped by each one of them to enjoy their beauty. We also had to cross the Zozilla Pass, which had a pretty bad terrain. But compared to what we had experienced before Leh, we didn’t find this any difficult.
At the descent of the pass, we met up with Allen and Kiran who were waiting near an army truck that was responsible for rescue. From that point, we could see the foothills where there were hundreds of camps. These were setup for the Amarnath yatra and were meant for the people to refresh and stay. The place also had helicopters that people used for the yatra.
One of the bridges there had a very bold statement that read, ‘Impossible takes time. Difficult will be done immediately.’ This was by the Border Roads Organization, who was responsible for building the roads in the Himalayas. I was totally impressed by the attitude.
We reached a place called Sonamarg. This was the last point where it was a little cold. This place was completely green; nothing less, nothing more. We had lunch at the JKTDC in Sonamarg, after which we moved on towards Srinagar. The Sind River was still flowing very close to the road and there were a couple of viewpoints on the way for us to enjoy its beauty. Finally, around 4, we hit the city of Srinagar. Apar and I were the first of the four to reach the city. We parked the bikes on the left side of the road waiting for the other two to arrive. We had to remove all the sweaters and thermal linings in the jackets to cope up with the warmth at the city. We met a couple of Tamil guards, who were happy to get involved in a conversation with us. One of them
also asked if we had any Tamil magazines that we had completed reading, so that they could take it. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any to give them.
After regrouping, we passed by the famous Dal Lake. We had to go around the lake to reach the more crowded parts of the city, where we could get a room to stay. The lake was so huge that it went on an on for a few kms. Finally, at some opposite to the lake, we found a bunch of hotels that looks promising. The only doubt was about availability. There was gentleman who helped us find a good option of the lot.
Settling down quickly, we came out for a stroll by the lake. We had no intention of boating, but later agreed to take a ride in a Chikkara after a good deal one of the boatmen gave us. We were surprised to see a few boats that instantly surrounded us. All of them sold something interesting and were making business sailing from boat to boat searching for customers. Enjoying some corn all the way, there was a great offer from a person who sold saffron. The fellow ended up selling our great Allen, 1 gm of saffron for 150 bucks! And guess why our hero bought it; he thought it was kum kum that ladies use as a holistic material.
During the ride, we were taken through the market in the lake and some lotus ponds. It was pretty dark when the entire ride was over. Paying off the boatman, we proceeded to a restaurant right next to the hotel where we stayed. We ordered a lot of biriyani, that we found very hard to complete and as a result, ended up wasting a lot of it. Done for the day, we head back to the room and crashed.