Saturday, July 18, 2009

Leh Road Trip SAGA - Leh to khardung la and to kargil

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.

Next day we decided to tough the highest motorable road in the world - khardung la. We left at around 7 and drove at an easy pace. Everyone seemed tired even after a night's sound sleep.

R : Should we do nubra valley? We can go and come back on the same day.
J : Lets see what happens. It seems that all are tired.
B : What is there in Nubra valley ?
J : Sand and desert and camels with 2 humps
L : Lets send guddu to get a pic of the camel with 2 humps and we will use photoshop to put us on to the camel.
N : I am tired but i am ok with going. After coming so far, we dont want to miss out on any thing.
Guddu : Sir kaha chalna hai ?
R : Lets go to Khardungla first and then we will decide if we want to go further.

We drove to khardung la which is around 45 kms from leh. The road was smooth in the beginning and the climb is also not very steep. But later in the last 5 kms, the road turns very bad and broken with snow all over. We all have headaches by the time we reach the top. We get out of the car.

J : It is very very cold here.
N : What else do you expect at the highest motorable road in the world.
R : lets click some photos.
B : My headache is getting worse. Why do we come here - to get headaches?
J (to R) : I dont think we would be able to go to Nubra valley.
L : There is no one here to offer tea.

We see lots of cars pulling up and people getting out and clicking photos. In 30 minutes we click many photos. Both B & N go inside the cafeteria and sit down. All have bad headaches. We decide to head back to leh from here. And proceed to shey palace - local sight seeing.

The shey palace is around 40-50 kms from leh - it is in shey. It was well located and there was a huge fish pond in front of it. We saw lots of tourists and a huge buddha statue there.

We drive back and reach leh by lunch time. We all go to bed to relieve ourselves of the terrible headaches. We leave in the evening and look for a new resturant for food. There is a rooftop resturant which we enter, but it is cold on the roof top, so we decide to have diner inside the
resturant itself. The soup is good. And the food is gr8 here - even non-veg. We try kashmiri non-veg dish and it is too good.

After a nice sleep in the night we start towards kargil & kashmir the next day at around 7 am.

L : Kya yaar, we missed nubra valley.
J : Lets turn the car around and go to nubra valley.
B : No yaar, we have to join office on monday - lets go to kashmir.
R (to Guddu) : Can we reach kashmir in a single day?
Guddu : We can, but it will be a long drive - around 14 hours.
J : We will stop at kargil or drass where-ever we get tired.
B : And at Patthar Sahab and take his blessings
N : And at magnetic hill and see how it works.
B : And eat langar at Patthar Sahab.

So, we drive out of Leh and in an hour we are at patthar sahab. It is a gurudwara where a huge stone had fallen on one of the gurus. And as history says that the stone turned to wax and the figure of the guru was engraved into the stone. The gurudwara was almost deserted with a few military men taking care of its maintenance. There were other travelling people who stopped there for a visit. We came to know that the langar was held in the afternoon, but they had some left-overs and we had that. It still tasted great. And we moved ahead.

Within 15-20 minutes we were at magnetic hill. There was a simple board on the road which says "Magnetic Hill".

N : What happens here?
J : If we leave the car in neutral, it will start sliding.
Guddu : You all get down, and let me try.

We all get down and guddu tries the magnetic hill. The results were good and we enjoyed.

As we proceeded ahead from magnetic hill, the landscape was very enchanting. The roads were very smooth. You could call it a moonscape cause there was hardly any vegetation. The whole area was full of soil and mountains of rocks. We drove for around 4-5 hours with a small lunch stop in
between. Around 5 pm we were in kargil. We were losing altitude. The road from leh to kargil was muddy and most of it was still under construction. But there were no peaks to be crossed. The highest point on this road is Fotu la around 13,500 ft.

J : Lets go till drass and stop there.
R : How far is drass ?
J : Around 50 kms
L : No, lets stop here itself, it seems like a huge town.

Kargil is a huge city built on both sides of a river. We had thought that kargil would be some small city and it would be difficult to find hotels there, but looking at the size of kargil, we were sure that we could find hotel there. The city is very strategically located on the banks
of a river and with a huge river bed. But it has not been well kept. It could have become a tourist spot if it was well kept.

We searched for hotels. We had heard about a hotel named Caravan and we went there. It was on top of a hill and the roads were really very narrow. The rooms were not very welcoming though they costed 1000/- each (after discount). Another hotel recomended to us by the leh hotel manager
was hotel siachen. It is very close to the market and the approach road is very crowded. There is a parking space near this hotel, but it was full. We went to the hotel and looked at the rooms. They were better but still dingy. The fact that this was supposed to be the best hotel in the city made us feel a bit insecure.

The city was dirty and the streets were narrow. The hotel room itself smelled strangely. The people looked un-educated.

L : I want to run away from here as soon as possible.
J : Kyu ?
L : I feel strange over here. The people look strange.
B : I dont feel safe.
R : We should have stopped at drass.
N : What's done is done, lets have diner and sleep early. We will leave from here at around 5.
J (the early riser) : Ok with me.
R : I wont try non-veg here.
L : I dont know if they have proper chicken here. They could feed you something else.
J : Lets eat simple veg - dal & rice.
R : The hotel is veg.
B : That is ok, but why do the rooms have this strange smell.
N : Dont worry, you will get used to it.

We have diner at 8 and pay our bills there itself. The toilets are not well maintained. The Bed also seems strange with small pillows and lots of blankets. I counted 6 blankets in my room itself. We sat in a room after diner and had a long chat - something we were missing in this trip
- a relaxed chat. We refreshed our old memories about our jobs and our early lives. It was a night to remember. We went to our bed at 12. The whole town was in darkness.

J : We leave at 6.
Everyone else laughs.
L : As early as possible.

J closes the door to his room and locks it properly. He then puts his bags against the door to prevent anyone from forcing it open. Our of the 6 blankets, he keeps 2 and throws the remaining on the floor. The bed and the blankets smell stronger. He thinks how would he sleep with this s
mell. Maybe he would not be able to get the smell out of his head. Maybe the smell will haunt him - linger with him throughout his life. (Today as I write the blog, the smell has returned to my head.) He checks the bed for any bugs/insects and then lies on the bed and covers himself with the blanket. He tries to cover his nose, but it does not help. But he is tired, so he sleeps.

J wakes up at 5. N is sleeping. He feels that the smell has embedded itself in his head. He takes a quick bath and wears clean clothes and watches TV after knoching on all the rooms and waking the sleeping members. The car is ready and we all leave without breakfast at around 8. Though
the city and the hotel is left behind now, we could still feel the strangeness and insecurity.

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