Well the most awaited road trip started on 6th Aug night when four of us started driving a Maruti Ertiga towards Leh-Ladakh. We have been alarmed & warned multiple times by friends about current bad weather & local political conditions but risk was worth taking for sure. After driving for almost 900 Kms with 6-7 stops we decided to spend our night in Balihan, 110Kms before Srinagar. We stayed in Govt. Hotel Mapples, quite decent & reasonable in terms of money. It was night just to get some rest after all the way driving madly.
8th Aug- We left from Banihal to Srinagar. Martand Sun Temple, built in AD 724-761 was the first stop in Srinagar. This temple has very old architecture with multi pillars surrounding a big dome in the centre. Don’t know much about it but a song of movie “Haider” was shot here. Dal Lake in Aug gives a beautiful view with wooden houses & shikaras on the sides. This around 21 square Km lake has floating gardens too & second largest lake of J&K, is best place for boating & Shikaras. Leaving the still water of Dal Lake behind, we drove around 90 Kms more to reach Sonamarg for the night halt. Meadows of Gold is on the bank of river Nallah Sindh & gives a panoramic view of Himalayan ranges. This places is full of alpine trees & inaccessible during winters. We stayed in J&K tourism cottages & it’s one of the best designed & maintained hotel so far in my all road trips to hills. Well-polished heavy wooden structure with all the modern facilities & situated on the top of valley, which will give you wonderful view of sunrise in this Alpine Valley.
9th Aug- After a wonderful morning view & breakfast, it was time to move ahead & from here the real adventure starts while driving to these motorable roads without roads. Though Srinagar- Leh highway is still the best maintained & actually have some awesomely done roads on the way except few patches, which take your breath away while driving to landslide roads. Our next stop was at 11649 ft. Zozila pass, 108 Kms from Srinagar. & now the cold desert starts from here with many bikers, cyclist, army personnel & crazy travellers. Visiting Kargil, Drass, Batalik, Captan Batra’s camp, Tololing Peak & many other martyrs camps give adrenaline rush to your patriotism. Highest altitude wars had been taken place here multiple times & we won proudly every time with sacrifices which can never be forgotten. We spent the night in our tents near Khugru; a small village & I have never seen so bright night without moon. It was most mesmerising view of sky in night; loaded with stars & shining galaxies.
10th Aug- Day when we reached Leh after crossing mighty mountains, well maintained roads by BRO, cold desert full of sand dunes structure & a chilling feeling of witnessing a dream destination about to come true. We roamed around crazily in the town & decided to stay at Changspa Valley in guest house made of wood again. Time was for the well-deserved party after honing our driving skills for days. We had a party among some guitarist, foreign travellers & few so called travel singers. Night went well..
11th Aug- with so many landslides on the way of Khardung-La & other passes, we only had one option left & that was Pangong Tso- around 225 Kms from Leh. On the way is Chang-La at 17688 Ft. There is a temple Changla Baba & refreshment cafeteria; the only one on our way to Pangong. Changla was First place where we saw some snow fields nearby in this season & chilling weather too. On the way we found many Ice water streams & sat for a few hours to enjoy our drinks with view of horses walking around & chilling air of mountains touching us extensively. Then we left for our today’s destination & believe me the first sight of Lake Pangong Tso is still alive in our eyes. This Ice water salty lake situated at 14720ft is around 140 kms long, 5kms broad & only 30-40% of it is in India. Crystal clear chilled water & camping tents in a row around it. We stayed in our own tent here just next to lake. This place gives immense pleasure to eyes & scenic beauty of this place is just beyond words. Every bit of this place gives you peace & forces you to think about your own existence again. Reaching here in time & spending a night here only was best decision. Watching sunrise on this place is altogether a different experience. Every falling ray behind mountains was giving this lake a view of sparkling diamonds or like fire over the water. A place must visit.
12th Aug- 15th Aug- We started our Journey back to New Delhi, taking the Manali-Rohtang pass & the worst road adventure starts from here. Road from Leh to Pang is still ok but Pang to Sarchu is like driving in hell full of boulders, pebbles, water bodies, mud & all worst. Though view on this way is great but this side we were unlucky because clouds have surrounded us. On the way we saw double rainbow first time in our life. One night in Sarchu; where we slept with locals in a dhaba as night had fallen on us & roads & weather conditions had gone worst. Second day we drove in the clouds to reach Manali & couldn’t see a bit of it. It was hard to say whether we were clouded or we were driving into the clouds. A night in Manali and then we were back again in Delhi NCR with a feeling & promise to go back again asap- Most probable in winters
Life teaches us a lot & travelling such places gives you opportunity to use those learnings & enlightening it. Remember I am talking about travelling not about staying in hotels & shopping around these places.
Have a safe journey in Ladakh but do it for sure…..