WRs in Himalayas – 8

28th Sept:
Lamyuru looked more scenic in the morning. Strangely, as if like stray dogs, we could see a few foxes roaming around. Later we got to know it was because a lorry which was transporting chicken was parked next to our room and foxes had come due because of smell of chicken. Roads were comparatively better and we reached Kargil by noon, and had lunch in Kargil. Our bikes needed a bit of servicing; we got it done at mechanic shop nearby. Kargil seemed very new, it’s grown from a small town to a kind to city, in recent years, especially after the Kargil war.

We reached Dras Sector at 3pm; this place was the epicenter, where extreme gun battles took place during the Kargil war. It stands on the foot hills of Tololing, which was captured by Pakistan during the war. We could see the Pakistan infiltration camps and Tiger hill from where we stood. We saw a short movie on Kargil war, at the war memorial (Vikram Batra’s fight and death in the war was very touching)…

It was already 3.30pm and we were yet to cover another 140 KMS to reach Srinagar. As we drove towards Srinagar, we could see a lot of military movements and huge Bofors guns pointing towards Pakistan. On roads we spotted many sign boards quoting ‘You are under enemies observation now’.
Light would start fading in an hour and cold has already started kicking in, we were running out of time and to add to this we had another huge obstacle which stood in front of us – The 9 km long, steepy, curvy, dangerous, terrainious roads of the mighty Zo-Zila Pass.
It was indeed a very scary ride across the Zozila, there were a few close shaves, we were lucky to have survived on a few occasions where we could have fallen off the cliffs.
At least an inch of dust had settled on our faces while we crossed the Zozi la, phew the roads were that dusty. Just as we climbed down the pass, we reached Sonamarg another very beautiful place, which looked just the way I had imagined about the Paradise Kashmir valley.
We all met up at a local tea shop and washed our faces and recollected our scary drive across the Zozi la. It soon became pitch dark. Instead of staying in Srinagar, we decided to go on a night drive of 80kms to Srinagar. (A horribly wrong decision! what followed next, we could never ever have imagined!!!)

29th Sept:

WRs in Himalayas – 7

26th Sept:
Our destination for the day: ‘Pangong Tso lake’. Today, for a change, we dint have to ride our bikes at all, we’d booked a mini van for our Pangong Visit. Our mini van driver, a Ladakhi localite, played bollywood songs all day in his mini van.
We had hot Alu Parathas for breakfast at ‘Upshi’.
After an hour or so, we reached the ‘Chang La’ pass, which happens to be the second highest motorable road in the world at 17,590 feet above sea level. We couldn’t stay there for long as the oxygen levels were very low. A few of us had hot tea, which was offered to us by the Indian jawans.
On our journey towards pangong, we stopped by a place where we spotted a few horses grazing on lush green grass in the valleys, when we got down, we even spotted a few ‘Mermuts’, small cute little rabbit like animals which live in the burrows underground. We even spotted a few CharTunTunns birds, yaks and foxes as we drove along.
Our first glimpse of the lake was mesmerizing, the lake looked just BEAUTIFUL. So calm, so fresh, so colorful, and so pure, no words we just stood staring at the lake.

While driving back, we stopped near a military settlement and bought a few Indian army caps and sweaters.
While having dinner at Hotel Hortze, all of us were like- There’s no way we’re returning without riding on the ‘Highest motorable road in the world’. We finalized on the plans, the next morning, we’ll get up early and drive till Khardung La, and then head towards Kargil later in the day.

27th Sept:
At 6 AM, it was severe cold but it dint matter to us in anyways, we were all raring to go. With head masks, scarves and gloves on, we got our bikes refueled, cheered up ourselves as if we were all going on a mission.
And off we go, our first stop was at the military camp where we had to register our names and our next stop, we were already on top at ‘Khardungla’, we made it!!, we were standing at an altitude of 18,380 feet above sea level, the Highest motorable road in the world. When we all stood together with India Flag in our hands, it was a dream come true. Tears of joy, and a feel of accomplishment, phew… one of those moments in life, you just can’t forget.

We were back in our hotel by noon, we spent a little too much of time while shopping in Leh. It was already 3 when we left Leh. We crossed the Magnetic hills on our way. At around 6pm, we stopped for lunch-cum-dinner at a Kashmiri-Apple-garden-come-restaurant. Food was super delicious with tasty mouth watering rotis and nans and sabjis. The best part was, while the cook prepared food for us, we were allowed to pick and eat apples from apple trees in the garden. The place itself was amazing, situated in a beautiful valley surrounded by huge mountains with a river flowing near the gardens.
By the time we had our food, it was fast getting dark, Kargil was another 120 Kms ahead. We started riding but the roads were in very bad shape and dark night and cold weathers added to our difficulties. We reached Lamayuru, and found an accommodation and decided to spend night there. We booked for accommodation and unpacked our luggage, but Shaz and Kumar hadn’t reached yet. Bharath and I drove back in search of them in pitch dark, deserted, rugged roads. After driving for 30 minutes or so, we found them, their bike batteries had died. While we changed batteries, we enjoyed every moment of it laughing and shouting in the deserted valleys of Kashmir under dim moon light, talking about Yetis and ghosts and joking and laughing around…
Back in Lamayuru, we had light dinner. There was no exhaustion whatsoever, everyone were happy, with all smiles, the feel of achievement was there. All of us were kind of united, and ready to face any obstacles come what may… Like everyday, we planned for the next day’s routes and slept.