Previously: We were 5 of us in the group, 4 men and I, a solo woman, and we decided to head to Leh for a vacation from Delhi, by our car. We spent a night at Patnitop and were again stopped by the Indian Army at the Tunnel where we had to stay the other night in a bunker near “Shaitani Nala”..
You can read the previous day’s experience here: Leh-A Trip to Remember-From Committing Mistakes to Finishing with Finesse (DAY 1)
15th September, Day 3: THE SILENT MEMORIAL SCREAMING LOUD
Anantnag to Kargil, 256Kms
Waking up around 5 AM on 15th September we started getting ready for our journey towards Leh. We got freshened up quickly and got our car parked in the queue to cross the Jawahar Tunnel again for the final time. As the gates of the tunnel opened at 7AM for the day we made our way through it and finally towards Srinagar.
On the way we witnessed many vehicles returning from Srinagar with smashed car windows & mirrors which confirmed that stones were still being pelted at vehicles in the valley. With prayers on our lips before crossing Srinagar we cheered each other up by playing some romantic numbers in the car, from especially movies of Yash Raj production.
Crossing the snow-capped mountains and the lush green lands, we got enchanted by the beauty of the valley.
We entered Srinagar through Badami Bagh Chowk, the army cantonment area. After a short drive of 10mins we spotted the Srinagar Legislative Assembly with all the leading news channels’ reporters and vans around it. After covering some distance of 2kms we got the first glimpse of the gem studded in Srinagar- the famous Dal Lake.
We often saw this beautiful lake only in movies and documentaries and when we happened to witness its beauty for the first time in reality we all were spellbound by it.
Surrounded by mountains on three sides, the clear water of the lake formed a mirror image of these tall robust mountains. The colourful “Shikaras” or the house boat and the fountains erected on the lake made it a perfect picture- like a paradise on earth. We quickly clicked few pictures of this exotic scenery before resuming our remaining journey.
As we were moving out of Srinagar towards Sonamarg, we witnessed curfew like situation in few areas in the state capital and also saw stones being pelted by local people on army vehicles which were coming from the other side.
Driving at a speed of 60km/hr we managed to come out of Srinagar safe and sound. We made our way towards Sonamarg and the entire route was a treat to the eye with sceneries which left us speechless.
We crossed the river Sindhu and the sunlight reflecting off the crystal clear water, made the river look like it was holding some precious gems in its river bed.
Around 11AM we reached Sonamarg, where we stopped for an hour to have breakfast at a nearby roadside dhaba. The surrounding area near the dhaba looked like a picture worth a click. With tall green pine trees, wooden houses and snow clad mountains at the back ground, it looked like a picture, perfect to feature in some wallpapers or calendars. After satiating our desires to the fullest by clicking the pictures of these beautiful places, at around 12PM we started towards Kargil, our next stop.
A distance of 120km from Sonamarg to Kargil with exotic landscapes on the way was not too much to cover, but the treacherous Zozila pass made our drive a little more slow than expected. The narrow roads, the steep climb, the deep gorges in Zozila gave us an adrenalin gush. One wrong move would have surely landed all of us in our death beds. Keeping safety as our priority, slowly we crossed the pass in 2 hours and entered the plains surrounded by mountains on all sides. After crossing Zozila we all wanted to take a break so we stopped over for a well 45mins to explore the nearby areas and water bodies.
We resumed our journey at around 3PM with the track from “Dil Chahta Hai” blazing out loud from the car. The drive towards Kargil was very wonderful with smooth roads, built and maintained by Border Roads Organization.
Around 5PM we reached the Kargil War Memorial – built in memory of those soldiers who laid down their lives to save the nation in Operation Vijay in 1999. As we explored the war memorial and the museums a sudden pang had gripped our heart at the very thought of the atrocities these soldiers were subjected to by the enemies. It made us all the more emotional to think of the harsh weather conditions in which these brave hearts fought to save the nation and its citizens from the clutches of the infiltrators. Names like Tiger Hills, Tololing Pass, Drass, Batalik which we often heard back in the year 1999 summer, felt as if they had come alive in front of our eyes. The lyrics from the patriotic song ‘Aye Mere Watan K Logon’ felt like a sting in the heart thinking about the selfless sacrifice of these soldiers.
Paying respect to these brave souls and with moist eyes we resumed our journey through the banks of the Suru river, towards Kargil , our final stop over for the night.