Cost: Own car –Rs.17000, Hired car –Rs.25500 plus lunch,diesel,misc –Rs.5000A road trip to the mesmerizing Ladakh was something that I was looking forward to for the past few months. With my Nikon, I wanted to capture the humongous mountains, the bright blue sky and shadow of the clouds that fell beautifully in the valley. It was just us, a group of 16 explorers in our 5 cars driving on the less travelled roads of Ladakh through the Zojila, Fatula, Khardung-la, Changla, Tanglangla pass.
I have to save those wonderful 10 days of our road trip on my blog. As I go back in time the memories of the mystical land keeps pleasing me and my thoughts are distracted. It was an experience of lifetime and it’s not easy to put those feelings into words. Well here I am, trying, so read on..
16 travel & fun loving Explore-Xers –
Last minute packing and eagerness to leave home while saying goodbye to Harpreet was the turmoil I felt on that Friday night, 13 Sep’13. Mostly Friday we watch a movie, treat ourselves to a fine dinner or party. This time I knew it was a start to an unforgettable trip of my life. I wanted to make most of it and I did.
I had not planned anything specific like I usually do before any trip. Just wanted to experience every moment as it comes. Friends & family told me I am crazy to go on such a long trip with a group of total strangers. Trust me, it was totally worth it. I returned with happiness and made some really good friends. This is that something new I keep looking for. Adventure in life!
The excitement will build up as you read through. Exactly like it happened to me.
Day 1: Drive from Gurgaon – Srinagar – 866kms – 22 hrs
Route – Gurgaon – Delhi – Murthal – Ambala – Jalandhar – Pathakot – Samba – Udhampur – Banihal – Jammu – Srinagar
5 cars and we 16 travel enthusiast started on 13 Sep night from Gurgaon. Anukriti and Sid were to join us from Jammu. Dalvir, Manjeet and Sukhdeep from Pathankot the next morning.
We started an hour late from our planned start time and hit Murthal within few hours. Thanks to the “getting to know you” chit chat with Ashish, Sachin and Yogita. Well it was more of Ashish talking non stop over a glass of whisky and vodka. Whoa! I did have a glass of whisky, again a first in my life. Now don’t you think that we are a bunch of drunkards! Just that it was an Explore-X funda – khao, piyo, phuko and so jao. The next person on wheel had to get good sleep and be fresh enough to drive the next stretch early morning.
Initially Sachin was driving the Innova and I tried to sleep being on the back seat. Alas! The whisky did not help. I guess I was too excited to fall asleep even though the route till Pathankot was familiar. Where our next stoppage for breakfast was decided.
At Pathankot around 6:30am we had an early breakfast of bread butter toast, parathas and hot tea. Then I took over Nitin’s swift and drove till Udhampur before the start of curvy roads. Those 2.5hrs of drive were super fun. Thanks to girgit aka Deepak. Deepak did not hesitate to strike a conversation and helped me drive on. We clicked due to the common thread of Mumbai – Pune and the slangs he used. I couldn’t help laughing, yet needed to concentrate on the road. Let me tell you something about this new friend of mine. He is simply mast. For him, life is, take it easy man. Khud mein happy rehta hai. Hates hindi songs, still loves to listen to them. So he scanned my ipod and tried to play songs as per his taste and failed.
Well he had to play songs of my choice as I was driving and his life was in my hands. We also had Nitin dead asleep on back seat and I had to check on him again and again to see if he was still alive. 😀
Our next stop was Jammu airport to pickup Anukriti and Sid. Lovely couple and we spent rest of the Ladakh trip happily travelling together in our little home called Innova. More details of the crazy acts we did, on the go.
From Jammu started our longest drive till Srinagar. We were supposed to reach the houseboat, which we were all excited about, by 6:00PM on 14 Sep. Instead we reached by 8:30PM. We stayed on the Wangnoo deluxe houseboat
on the Nagin lake. They served yummy dinner of Kashmiri pulao, chicken curry, vegetables, rotis and salad. Thinking of which I recall, we all were very hungry and attacked the food immediately.
On arriving at the houseboats, I was shocked. It was nothing like I had imagined. Not at all romantic like I had watched in the movie “Kashmir ki kali” while growing up. Infact it was bit scary with the mushy waters, wooden interiors and the heavy curtains. Hello! I am not being choosy here. Just that after watching “The Conjuring” just few days before this trip and being alone scared me. Thank God I had my Shiva trilogy. Took a quick bath and I hugged the book and fell asleep.
Day 2: Drive from Srinagar – Kargil – 204kms – 9 hrs
Route – Srinagar – Sonamarg – Zojila – Drass – Kargil
As promised to myself, I woke up at 5:30am to take Sunrise photos of the Nagin Lake. The midnight moon showered some light over the lake and we could guess that there were other boats and mountains across the lake. I had to capture it all. At 5:45am still there was no sun, only fog and a peaceful silence spread across the lake. There was a single water bird flying from one end to other and everything else seemed to be asleep.
I smelled the fresh air and sat at the boat edge for 10 mins as the Islamic prayers resonated at a distance. Then decided to go back and catch a 30mins nap till the sun was bright and orange behind the mountains. At 6:30am I ran out to see the sunrise again. This time I woke up Ashish and Yogita as they too wanted to see the sunrise. Ashish took out his camera and came along. We clicked some really good shots of the reflection over Nagin Lake. While we were doing so came Mr. Bulbul the flower-selling guy. This was my much awaited shot. I wanted to click picture of the colorful flowers and its reflection in the Lake. I had to engage Mr. Bulbul into some conversation of buying flower seeds of Dalia etc so that I get the photos. Which I did and they came out as expected.
After breakfast at 8:00am and some photography we started from Srinagar around 9:30am. It was almost 10:30am with the fuel break and a Vento couple joining us from Pune. Anukriti took over driving till our first stoppage of the day at Sonamarg. Where we had our early lunch around 12:30. On the way we also clicked some photos with a celebrity – The king-Sid khan himself (photo proof below) :D. Ahead was a heads-up for the Zojila pass we were about to enter for Ladakh region. We were already at 11649 ft. Woohoo!
It had started raining and what could have been better for an adventurous drive through Zojila pass. For safety reasons, Innova, now to be driven by Rajiv would be leading other cars and Yeti would be tailing in the end. Leaving my Innova buddies, I shifted to Gyan’s Yeti. And a truck hit Innova on its left side. There it goes without me! Ofcourse it’s a joke ;). Till the time tailing yeti reached the spot, I got to hear different versions of how the accident happened. Which was later a topic of huge laughs.
Okay now let me tell you what Gyan’s yeti offered me on the way. Firstly introduction to “Above and Beyond”, kinda trans music. Tell me has anyone heard of it? It was good but I was just fooling around to not like it. May be the mood. Both Gyan and Deepak seemed to love it. With no lyrics to keep me going I was soon dozing off and was awoken by Gyan showing me some mountains around. I felt ashamed that I was being sleepy on such a wonderful drive. So asked to change the music to something more meaningful. God gracious! I again started clicking photos and enjoying the weather outside.
Soon we were at the Drass War Memorial. It was such an honor to be there. Especially when we met a proud Indian soldier. We initially intended to just pass by and visit the museum. But he got us interested. Without him showing us, we wouldn’t have known the location of Tiger hill and where the Pakistani TPO had set his bunker during the great Kargil war between India – Pakistan. Facts like, the mines laid by the Pakistan soldiers are still there on the mountains and how it gets dangerous during winters. Also because of the unexpected attack during kargil war, now the Indian soldiers in Drass have to patrol even during super cold winters. They stay awake and alert in temperature as cold as -55 degrees so that we Indians can sleep peacefully.
With a quick walk through the museum and having chai, samosa we left further for our hotel stay in Kargil city.
Did I mention, this road trip was not at all like a rugged tiring road trip I had expected it to be? Instead I realized it in the kargil hotel – Hotel Greenland
that it was more of a luxury road trip. This hotel was super clean and the staff was readily available at service. We reached there around 5:30pm and had the whole evening to relax, talk, booze and party. We did it all. From this evening, every evening of the trip we enjoyed as much. The bar kept rising and so did the fun. And we had just started to know each other.
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