Srinagar (manigram) to Kargil



Important Notice: While on the trip out of goodwill I had shared my pics with some of fellow travelers. It might well be possible that you might see my pictures that are shown here, posted somewhere else on the web too. It was not very wise of me to share my pics without proper attribution (watermarks) done, but if you do see such pictures please report it to me.


Day 5, 8th July: Srinagar (Manigram) to Kargil


The tent owners had brought one more family with two females in our tent and obviously they felt uncomfortable spending the night in a tent with three other strangers. But no other option, and besides after spending some time talking with us they felt comfortable. Three (Parag, Rajan and I) of us had nice small chat about the trip and further plans and soon slept. Woke up early morning at 5 AM. It was a short sleep but a sound one.
Spending night along with thousands of people in the same place obviously creates one big problem!!! Morning's nature's call :). The yatra facilitators had done some temporary arrangement for that and freshening up in that place is one hell of an experience. Won't go into details of that :D but yeah this wasn't planned in the trip at all. Anyways I was prepared for anything and everything. Soon after I packed and loaded the luggage on the bike with the nylon ropes that I had bought. Parag and Rajan were also ready to start the day's journey. My initial plan was to reach Drass and stay there.


Took out the bike onto the road and all I saw was again a big jam and as the last day's travel, the jam was because of army security checks. We had to wait a lot this time and only by 8.30AM the jam got cleared and the convoy started moving. Every now and then there will be a jam and was moving very slow. But I didn't mind it as I was passing through the such beautiful place. While doing the pre-ride checkup of the bike I noticed that there was less pressure in the rear tyre. I stopped at a mechanic's workshop to refill the tyre. The guy wanted a pic of his with my bike:


Took some pictures when I got some space free from all the traffic going in the same direction as I was.




Once the traffic eased out I started going fast, I passed through a rough road and lo! there goes my nylon ropes and my bags started falling off. I stopped at a dhaba to tighten the bags but the ropes were of non use this time. All this while I was carrying bunch of bungee chords with me and was just too lazy to search it in my bag. But now is the right time to tie the bags with bungee. The terrain is only going to get tougher/rougher from then on. I tied my bags firmly. The kids from the dhaba gathered around me and started asking me if I wanted to get my bike washed. I said no and then one kid started blackmailing me emotionally that whatever money I would give him will help him go to school etc. I still said no because I really didn't feel the need of getting bike washed.
By this time Parag and Rajan also reached the dhaba. I had breakfast there only and moved ahead. The vistas were just awesome, captured some and went ahead.



I am trying to learn how to post process the pics. A lot of pics might not have come out good but please bear with me till I get better at this :D
Soon I reached Sonmarg and WOW! it is really heaven on earth!!






My friend Sunil had told me to stop in Sonmarg and take a horse ride. They will take you beyond the mountains and cover 3-4 lakes around. They take 450/- for it and takes around 4 hours; it is worth it. But somehow I wasn't that interested in leaving the bike with all my luggage at the place for such a long time. Had I being staying in Sonmarg I would have definitely gone for ride on the horses. I passed through the market of Sonmarg (which was very colorful and crowded). There was a diversion where the amarnath yatra guys were turning, I think it was towards baltaal, I decided to move ahead towards Kargil and didn't take the diversion.
Started going uphill with road condition changing (going worse) by every meter. This was the first time I was on this route and I asked myself is this the infamous Zozilla pass? After going some more distance indeed I was climbing the treacherous pass. Road condition was worse and on top of that my bike's fork again had got very lose. It sounded so bad, more of rattling sound. I stopped to at least tighten it to whatever extent I could.
Took some pictures and moved ahead.
The road I traveled

The road I have to go on


Parked the bike on the edge for this pic

Spot the bikers :) Yeah! those tiny dots.


 Bird's eye view 
 
Mesmerizing views of the Great Himalayas

Zozilla is tough majorly because of the terrain, narrowness of the road and also because of the traffic and I experienced it first hand when I met an endless queue of trucks coming down the pass. I had no option but to pull aside and wait for the trucks to go by. I was accompanied by another lone rider. He was sitting on a rock taking pictures enjoying the views. He went to him and asked the usual question, what's his name, where is heading to, etc. He told he is was Denmark and his name is Villads. For pronouncing his name he said just like in India we have "Villas" I can pronounce his name :)
I told him that I am from Central India and immediately he asked am I from Madhya Pradesh. I was impressed by his geographical knowledge of India. He said he has toured a lot in India so he knows quite a lot about India. He also told that he has been waiting for truck traffic to come down from last half an hour.
Road Condition of Zozilla pass

Truck traffic at zozilla


He took couple of pics of me waiting for the traffic to come down. After some time the truck queue and I could move ahead. My fellow traveler also started. The traffic wasn't there but now a new kind of terrain was to be seen. It was actually repair work going on for the zozilla pass. The workers were putting stone tiles all along the route. This was even worse than the dirt road that I had come on because the lose fork was vibrating more and more on the uneven surface. I took a lot of breaks because of that and took a lot of pictures.

Crossed this kind of water stream every now and then
.





Moving at a rather slow pace I reached the Zozilla milestone and customary photograph of the Zozilla details carved on the stone.
Soon I reached the war memorial of Zozilla. Took some photographs there too. It feels so sad as well as proud to read the stories.
By this time Parag and Rajan had also come to the place. Had a chat with them and moved ahead.



Again slowly moving ahead. My hands were shaking and it felt like ants crawling all over my finger tips thanks to my bike's rattling fork which gave all the vibes to the handle bar too.
Drass wasn't that far now and no problems in going slow as my plan was to stay in Drass itself as everybody (who have done this route) had suggested to stay Drass rather than in Kargil. I had ample time hence took every opportunity to take pictures :D




Crossing this part felt so spectacular

As said I was close to Drass

Spotted some horses and again photo clicking time :D

 Again stopped near to this flower bed just before Drass. Was amazed with color contrast of the rocks around and the flowers.



Took some flower shots

 Customary picture of the board through my mobile

Just when I was about to reach Drass I saw a guy on a bicycle with two saddle bags on it. I waived at him and he waived back.
Reached Drass and started searching for a mechanic so that I can get bike's lose fork tightened and relieve myself and the bike from the torture. Couldn't get any mechanic around. People said I'll have to go to Kargil for that.
Anyways no option left I entered a hotel for lunch and I saw Villads, my fellow rider, having lunch. I asked him if I could join him on the table. He welcomed me and we started chatting. He told me where he works (in delhi) and he bought a bullet recently. He had already toured a lot in India but in a car and the last time when he visited Drass this biking bug bit him and this time he came solo on his bullet. He showed pictures that he had taken along the route and also showed me my pics that he took. He said he'll email me those photos once he reaches Delhi. He told that he was able to stay in Srinagar at the time of curfew in his friend's house. He told a horrific incident when he was there. During the protests and curfew the police guys would fire randomly in the air to disperse the crowd, one lady from her house was peeping out of a window just to check. got hit by those bullets and died. He also was sad and disappointed with the conditions there.
I was about to order lunch for myself and Villads recommended me a non-veg dish "mutton rogan josh" :), he said it is very good. I took his recommendation and ordered it. It was really nice. Finished lunch while talking to him. Rajan and Parag also joined and they told that they had a chat with the guy on the bicycle and the guy's plan is a huge one. The guy has planned for cycling through Srinagar, leh, all the way to china and then if gets visa, he'll enter Pakistan and Afganistan. Hats off to the guy for the effort.
That's Villads saying Namaste to all the readers :)

We finished lunch and then I had to decide whether I should stay there at Drass or move to Kargil and then stay for the night. It was 2.30pm and I had a lot of time left. Kargil is just 58kms away from Drass. 
Parag and Rajan had already left for Kargil. Villads asked me if I would like to join him for visiting a mosque nearby. I thought for sometime and decided to leave for Kargil as it would lessen my next days travel in terms of distance. Although I wanted to stay in Drass. The kind of treatment the hotel guys gave me was just awesome; very humble, polite. I felt so special just having lunch in that place. I would really recommend anybody visiting the place to stay there in Drass.

Stopped at a mechanic's place to refill the tyres, now the tyres were losing pressure in half a day probably due to the small punctures on the rear.
Clicked some more pictures on way. Reached the historical Drass Tololing memorial. Parked my bike and went inside the memorial. I was very cordially greeted by the army soldier standing there which was surprising for me as generally army guys will be in their own state of mind and not mixing up with the civilians. This place was an exception. Went inside the gallery that the army guys have put up with lots of photos and items from the war itself. Seeing all those things you feel so overwhelmed with pride as well as sadness that our soldiers had to go through all these situation just because some people our neighboring country cannot sit quietly.


View from the tololing way memorial

The path way
The memorial
Items confiscated from the enemy bunkers

Funny poster

The guys working there wanted their pic



They had some mementos on sale. The money will go to the war victims' families. I bought one key chain and one cap from there which is what I am wearing in the below photo.



Yours truly with the soldiers
Continued ahead after spending some time there talking to the soldiers. Took some more photos en-route.



This one's my favorite.


Reached Kargil by 5 o clock and started searching for a hotel with proper parking place. The first thing one will notice about Kargil is the people there. People there are so fashionable top to bottom, right from there hair to their sun glasses to their shoes. It is quite correct when visitors say it is the fashion capital of that part of India.
But on the other hand the behavior of the crowd is not what you'll like much especially when one compares it with the kind of treatment people in Drass give. They are in their own world not bothering about anything. I had to roam around quite a lot for searching a good hotel. Eventually I found one guest house with very good parking; I could park my bike almost totally hidden from the public which is what I wanted. When I was checking the rooms I noticed that my new friend Villads is also staying in the same hotel. There was only one room available which was actually for 3 people and was worth 500/- , quite neat with attached bathroom and hot water facility. I took that room itself because I was pretty sure I wouldn't get a better hotel in terms of parking place for the bike which is more important for me. I got freshened up, took out my bike to search for a mechanic so that I could get my bike fixed and also for some evening snacks. I had not spoken at my house too for a long time too.
I had postpaid airtel number and it wasn't working there. It seems only BSNL numbers work there due to security reasons
I got my bike fixed and searched for a STD booth to make calls but there was some problem with landline in Kargil itself. I had to wait for a lot of time till the line got fixed and I could speak to my parents.
Kargil, apart from the name in Indian history, didn't entice in any way whether in terms of people or the place itself and I kind of got to know why people suggest to stay in Drass and just pass through Kargil on the way.
Anyways this was how my day 5 ended, not much in terms of happening but all in all it was good. Clicked many pictures, enjoyed going through such beautiful places, also kind of enjoyed crossing Zozilla pass.
Next up it was the day for Leh through the usual route i.e. through Lamayuru. I was looking forward to ride on the arrow straight road on the way to Leh. I had seen the photographs of it and boy does it look like a run way or what :D

Route on the map

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Visit my flickr album for better quality pics (selected ones) : http://www.flickr.com/photos/sumitplall/

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