Leh Trip – Part 3
We were ready with our cameras and sweaters by 6:30 in the morning and very enthusiastic about boating in Dal lake. Some general info on the lake for the lesser mortals.
Dal Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes of India and the second largest in the J&K state. Its three sides are surrounded by majestic mountains and a large number of gardens and orchards have been laid along the shores. The campus of University of Kashmir is also located along the shores of the lake.
The small and beautiful boats floating on the heavenly waters of lake are called shikaraas. Each one can sit 5-6 comfortably and sails smoothly on the waters. We visited a floating garden, some shops selling pashmina and other kashmiri clothes and made a round trip around the boat houses. The boatman told us that there is so much more to the lake. Alas, we didn’t have time to explore further.
We checked out of the boathouse and hired a Sumo to travel up to Kargil. By 10’o clock in the morning our vehicle is fast leaving civilization and entering the greater Himalayan mountain terrain. We stopped at least 2 times at subsidiary rivulets of Jhelum to enjoy the really cold water. Srick and Pani had dared to see who could keep naked leg in the flowing water for more time. Our feet became numb by the time we are back in the vehicle.
We stopped at Sonamarg for lunch. It’s a beautiful valley with green mountains on all sides. Devotees going to Amarnath cave take a separate from here. By now we have learned our tricks and asked the restaurant guy to serve us non-veg outside.
The road from Sonamarg to Drass is rough. The only pass between Srinagar and Leh – Zozila pass comes on the way. The pass reached highest altitude at Fotula top at 13479 ft.
It was 4:30 when we reached Drass. Our driver ‘Shera’ suggested that we have light snacks there as we wont be getting anything till we reach Kargil. But the ‘Hill view restaurant’ welcomed us with worst pakodi I ever had and poor chai. After visiting the Kargil war memorial outside Drass we left the village traveling almost along LOC to our next stop.
Its pitch dark when we reached the army camp in Kargil. Mehra had some relatives in Army and he made arrangements in army guesthouses at both Kargil and Leh. Kargil is a beautiful village with lush greenery, surrounding Himalayas and Drass River on one side. The guesthouse we stayed in is opposite to the river. We later came to know that during war time the shelling reaches the guesthouse and in fact LOC is just behind the mountain opposite the army camp.
We hired a Scorpio to travel from Kargil to Leh. ‘Saleem’, our driver seemed very composed and helpful unlike ‘Shera’ – who is caustic and timid and ‘Kursheed’ – who is glib and intrusive.
The landscape from Kargil is totally different with a huge cold dessert welcoming us. Rarely we could see another vehicle on the way and there were very few villages. The huge plains looked really beautiful, serene and welcoming. Saleem told us that the whole area would be covered by snow in winters. I will go there again just to see how beautiful it will become in winters.
As I mentioned earlier, there were really very little civilization on the way and we had to travel quite sometime to have our lunch. It was 4:30 when we reached Khaltsi, a village dominated by Tibetans to have our lunch.
The journey from Khaltsi is less challenging with better roads and sights of vehicles here and there. We reached the guesthouse by 8 in the night.
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