Date/Day – Friday, 24th June
Journey – Srinagar-Kargil
Distance – 202 kms
Riding Time – 10.5 Hrs – Climb To Zojila, Descend to Drass and Hilly route to Kargil.
Road Condition – Metallic road till Sonamarg, Tiny (non metallic) road on Zoji-la Ascent, plenty of bad patches post Zoji-la.
We decided to push of early, as idea was to get through the difficult part in first half of the day. It is a good idea to cross passes early morning because of river streams as intensity of ‘nullah’ increases because of glaciers melting.
We left guest house at 7:30 am. I took out 10 grand from ATM, and we started our journey towards Sonmarg. We missed sight seeing of Dal lake during our stay in Srinagar, so we clicked some pictures enroute. The sight was so beautiful that I couldn’t resist to pull osut the cameras.
This is the view, why people like Srinagar as a honeymoon destination. The house boats, the shikaras, the mountains, the trees – a splendid view. We pushed further and reached a village before Sonamarg for a quick breakfast. Both of us realized that our trek gloves are no good for motor biking so we picked up another pair of resin gloves (Rs 100 for a pair), it turned out to be a horrible buy. We corssed Sonmarg and majority of the view was of of a defence transit camp in a beautiful landscape. I had bit of butterflies in my stomach now i.e how is my bike which is un-tested on passes going to pass through tough terrain.
We started our ascend to Zoji-la (13500ft), to be very honest – we both are not very experienced bike riders when it comes to mountain pass climbing and this was our first mountain pass. The ascend started with a very good road, green trees, some snow patches, then a little un-even road, moving on to terrain with no road and no trees. The terrain became very dusty and we had to do an ascent over sharp hair pin turns of the pass. I managed to stop my bike in middle of 60 degree ascend, and I failed to start my bike after 3-4 kicks. To increase my anxiety level, a Truck was ascending and blowing horn to move away as it can not afford to loose momentum. I started feeling breathless and now nervous because of height gain, thinking if my bike will give up here. I calmed myself and kicked with giving in proper decompression and bingo. After ascending 6-8 kms we reached a straight road, it was about 2-3 kms long slush of mud, patches of glacial water streams on so called road. We understood that we have reached the mountain pass, and decided to hydrate ourself and click some pictures.
We started our descend to Drass at 12:00 and reached there by 1:30 pm to have lunch @ a local Dhaba (Farzin was happy to find non-veg food here). At 2:30 we pushed off for Kargil, hoping to reach there by 5 PM. Enroute we saw few defence walls, which were designed to shield army trucks from enemy attack. We crossed the Tiger hill which had a history attached to it (1999-2001 Kargil War). I was wandering how Indian army survive in this area during winters and even made me wander what happens at siachen glacier. After few kilometers we reached a War Museum, constructed by Indian Army in memory of the martyr. Farzin and I mutually decided that we will be spend some time here. It was very touching story of the Indian real heros we heard first hand from the soldiers(of 14 Sikh) guarding the museum. One of tehm narrated the complete war – the Heros, how Pakistan breached the Line of Control, how we regained our position over tiger peak. It was very difficult for me to believe that beyond tiger hill is Line of Control from where we could see Pakistan camps and activities. We met Mikhil and Pravin, two guys were completing the same circuit as we had planned but on a Maruti Alto. We started together from Drass, these guys were hoping somehow reach Kargil and buy new tyres, as both of there rear tyres had given up on Zoji-la. We all reached Kargil at 6:30 PM, these guys bought new MRF Tyres and checked in a local hotel. We had dinner in Shangri-La restaurant on the main road to finish the day. Our plan was to start early the next day to reach Leh by 3:00 and try to get the permit of Khardung-la/Pangong/Tso-mirori.