Saturday, July 18, 2009

Leh Road Trip Saga - kargil to kashmir to delhi

Disclaimer : The dialogues and characters may be mismatched. Any irregularities are pure co-incidential. There might be some dialogues and scenes to make the tale more spicy.

The road from Kargil to srinagar was terrible. All broken up - muddy and gravel. At times we were doing less than 10 Kmph. It seemed that we would be on this road for ever. We crossed Drass - the second coldest inhibited place in the world and saw the famous tiger hill.

Around lunch time we reached Baltal. Baltal is the place from where trek to amarnathji starts. It is popular destination for a lot of shivji devotees. The place is beautiful. It is a valley between 3-4 hills and from the top of the hill you could spot lots and lots of tents and vehicles - maybe millions. I did not have any idea that this place would be so crowded.

The road improved a lot from Baltal. As we moved ahead, we approached sonmarg. We could see people bathing in the icy river. We had our lunch in sonmarg. It turns out that sonmarg has good hotels where we could stay.

J : We should have come till sonmarg for stay instead of kargil.
R : Yes, the hotels here look nice.
L : But they might be all full due to the amarnathji yatra rush.

Sonmarg was beautiful. There is a glacier there which you can visit. But it is offroad and would take around 2 hours. We skipped that. And proceeded to kashmir. Soon we could see fields full of yellow flowers. As we came closer, we found out that the yellow flowers were yellow roses. It is strange to see not a single plant but a field full of rose bushes. We drove ahead with the river flowing by our side.

Guddu : Sir, you could see wallnut and cherry trees on the side of the roads.
L : What?? Just like that!!!
R : We could just pluck them and take
Guddu : Ya ya..

We stopped and plucked some raw walnuts and cherries and take some photos. As we entered kashmir we realized that the temperature was high. Guddu put on the A/C. It was very hot and humid. We went to a mughal garden and took some photos and then proceeded to dal lake for renting a house boat. As soon as we stopped at the bank of dal lake, few shikara men (boat rowers) came to us and offered their help in locating a house boat. We saw a few house boats and finally finalized on one. The problem was that we needed a house boat with 3 rooms so that we could all be together and it was difficult to find a house boat with all 3 rooms empty.

Once we were settled in the house boat we took a bath and went for a boat ride. Dal lake is like a city on lake. You get coffee shops, fruit vendors, clothes, wooden workshops - all on top of the dal lake in boats. It is a major tourist center and so is very costly as well. The humidity was high because of the heat. They say that that kashmir is hot in june & july. Rest of the year the whether is pleasant.

We had fruits and kava (kashmiri tea) and pakodas as we roamed about. We saw floating vegetable gardens - a piece of land on the water where vegetables are grown. The land keeps on floating on water and can be dragged away if needed. We went to a walnut wood factory and saw loads of decorative stuff made of walnut - which were extremely costly as well. Next we stopped at a cloth shop and did some shopping. We reached our house boat at 10 pm and had our diner - which was really good. Kashmiri non-veg and rice and rotis. And then we went to sleep.

We woke up late the next day - around 7 and left the house-boat.

R : We have to cover around 900 kms today.
J : 15 hours at least.

We drive towards jammu by the jawahar tunnel (which connects jammu to kashmir). There is a huge traffic jam near jammu where we lost an hour. We drive non-stop till lunch time. The temperature is now 40 degrees and the ac is running at full power. We are all cramped in our seats. We stop for lunch at a dhaba and have normal rajma-rice.

L : It is very hot, lets turn around.
J : Yes lets turn around and go back to leh. We can cover nubra valley.
B : I like srinagar better. Lets stay in srinagar for 2-3 days.
N : And what about office ?
R : Sapne dekhna band karo aur chalo vapas. We have to go to office on monday.
J : We should have taken 1 more week off.

Again we drive non-stop till chandigarh. We reach chandigarh at 11-12 in the night. Have a very heavy diner and go to sleep. The temperature is high and we are all sweating non-stop.

J : It will take some time to get adjusted to the heat.
L : Our guddu driver was the most lucky one. He put on the A/C and slept in the car.
Guddu : Sir 300 rs ka petrol phook dia.
R : Koi nahi, Atleast you slept well.

Next day, we had breakfast and we proceeded towards Delhi. We reached Delhi around 2-3 in the afternoon and proceeded to our homes. We should have taken more time in exploring leh. And there is almost nothing in leh - except relaxing and good weather. The road is where the beauty lies.
Also both manali-leh & srinagar-leh routes are good in their own way. Manali-leh for its snow covered beauty with high peaks and passes and barren land. And Srinagar-leh with its landscapes both barren and greenery and flowers.

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