11th April, Day 1 – Delhi to Naldehra, 400 kms and approx 10 hours of drive.
Started our day at 4am today as we quickly had our morning tea. Mom packed some paranthas and egg Bhurjee for the road and soon we bid goodbye to everyone. It was drizzling as we left Delhi in our Renault Duster which is completely loaded with bags. More than 10 bags to be specific.
Luckily the traffic at the time was light and we crossed Delhi in no time. On the way we crossed the Old Fort and got to drive along a Delhi Lahore Delhi bus being escorted by police vehicles. Worked well for us as we got moving quickly along with the convoy. As we crossed into Haryana the highway disappeared in a cloud of dust and we could see dark clouds everywhere. Soon enough we saw the pitter patter of rain drops on the windscreen. The police escort was long gone and we drove slowly as Vidur skilfully tried avoiding potholes and water puddles on the highway.
Somewhere around Ambala we found a nice patch of grass overlooking lush green fields and took our breakfast break. Hot paranthas and egg bhurjee on the menu that mom had made early morning. Thanks to her we got to eat ghar ka khana that we would surely miss for the next two months.
Once the weather cleared, we switched on the cruise control and drive steadily at 90kmph. But suddenly we hit a water puddle that was deep!! The car swerved and swayed to the left and we came very close to hitting a trailer truck. But luckily Vidur managed to get the car under control and averted a mishap. Quick tip – when driving in rainfall keep away from water puddles. You wouldn’t know how deep they are or whether there is a pot hole under it.
We hit the ghats near Parwanoo and got no relief from the rains. The highways turned into a single lane road and we chugged along behind trucks and busses. The wind got chilly, it was still drizzling and the landscape consisted of clouds moving over the valley. Couldn’t have found a better time to stop for some chai and noodles – the fav food of people traveling in the mountains.
At around noon, we entered Shimla district. Vidur had lots of childhood memories from here since his mom belonged to Shimla. But he was very disappointed to see the amount of commercialisation. Cars parked on the roads for miles together and buildings everywhere! We decided to skip a break in Shimla and headed towards Mashobra. We got off the highway and drove along small villages, beautiful valleys and gorgeous landscapes. Our first day had been very exciting and we were so relaxed to be in a place that was peaceful, less crowded and beautiful. These are the things we look for while traveling.
Finally reached our hotel The Chalets around 2.30pm. Did a quick check in and headed straight to the restaurant to have our lunch consisting of mushroom Palak and Mutton Rogan Josh!!! The rest of the day we were busy clicking pictures in the property until we finally decided to treat ourselves to some vodka and malai tikkas for the night.
Travel tip – if you are traveling to this region, avoid Shimla. You can stay in Naldehra or Mashobra instead. They are prettier, quieter and less crowded.
Day 2: 12th April. A day at Naldhera
13th April Day 3: Naldehra to Narkanda
Today was a totally crazy day full of events. We were heading to Naldehra and supposed to checkout post breakfast. I was in the room busy packing the bags while Vidur was taking his bath. Suddenly I hear the main door open and I thought the house keeping guys were there. But then, I see a shadow from the corner of my left eye! As i leaned backwards little irritated wondering why the housekeeping guys did not knock before entering the room , I was taken aback on seeing a huge monkey sitting on the dining table with my iPhone in his hand!! “VIDUUUUUURRRR” I screamed – there is a monkey in the room holding my phone! “WHAT ?? He rushed out of the washroom in his towel. I shooed the monkey and pleaded him to leave the phone behind. My heart was in my mouth and I was almost in tears, but I guess the monkey noticed this! He gently kept my phone back and instead picked up the two dairy milk chocolates next to the phone and ran out to enjoy his steal in the nearby tree. As I watched this fella enjoying my chocolate, I also thanked God for giving him the brains to understand that the phone is not a perishable item.
It literally took us some time to get out of this trauma and finally we started our journey for today. We crossed some beautiful roads and got a clear view of the snow-capped Himalayas on the way. Suddenly it struck us that we need to collect a BSNL SIM card from the way or else we might not be able to find it anywhere else. Now instead of enjoying the roads and the valleys we ended up hunting for a mobile store. And yaaayy we found one shop who had the SIM cards but the shop was in a very busy and crowded area. I quickly went to the shop while Vidur went looking for parking. Now I was told that we need a local reference along with his / her Aadhaar card or else we won’t be given a sim. DAMN!! Where do I get a local reference now? After a lot of brain storming, I finally thought of an old friend who was a localite and managed to get his Aadhaar but alas the phone number that my friend had was that of Bangalore and hence we were denied a sim. We decided to try another shop on the way.
Now in the second shop as Vidur went to get a sim and everything was working just fine, the shopkeeper asked us to enter the OTP which we receive for verification. Once again we were stuck here as the OTP would just not work in spite of us trying again and again and the verification failed. We had totally given up and continued our drive. We decided to try one final time as we saw a mobile shop on the road. This time Archana went to get it and the same issue arises. The guys needed a local guardian and their details. After a lot of thinking we decided to request the owner of the resort where we were staying today as he was a local. It was really kind of this gentleman as he agreed to help us with all the details and finally we managed to get a SIM card 🙂
How relieved we were and started proceeding to the resort. The roads were good as we drove through apple orchards with a view of the snow-capped Himalayas.
Took us about 5 hours as we took a lot of breaks on the way to take pictures and interact with the locals.
Reached there during lunch and the chef prepared us some lovely home-made style local food. Happy and satisfied we had our full and clicked some pictures of the resort, Tethys Ski Resort and explored the nearby villages.
We asked the staff if we could try some Himachali food and they took the liberty of ordering something themselves. So at dinner time we were served Chana Paneer Madra, Chicken Himachali, Kheru(soup), Siddu(which is like a big Momo with chicken inside), roti and rice. The best part of dinner was the gud ki kheer they served. Absolutely lip smacking and something that we won’t forget in a long time.
Travel tip – Carry a BSNL SIM card when you travel to remote regions and preferably a post paid one since prepaid doesn’t work in J&K. Be careful of monkeys here; and don’t forget to keep your room doors locked.
14th April – At Tethys Ski Resort – Narkanda!
It’s been a wonderful morning today as we drove down to the nearby river which is 6km from the resort. Mud roads passing through apple orchards on the right hand side and steep valleys on left. Window glasses were rolled down as we were enjoying the view and the cold wind. We don’t remember if we ever enjoyed such cool breeze in Bangalore.
Anyways, as we were driving downhill we saw an elderly women climbing up the hill with a sack of grass on her back. Nostalgia struck Archana because she was seeing this after years. The last time she saw a similar sight was when she was staying in Shillong. She made me stop the car and before I could figure out what was going on, she convinced the lady to give her the sack as she wanted to carry it and take some pics 🙂
Really sweet of this lady who sat down with us by the roadside and we took so many pics. She seemed inquisitive about who we are and we told her about our road trip and where all we were heading. After chit chatting for almost 15-20 mins she offered us to visit her village which was just across the road. YES. WHY NOT! we said 🙂
I parked the car safely at a distance and headed towards the village. It was a small village with hardly 20 families living in it. The villagers grew their own crops which included Cherry’s, peaches, peas and apples. The old lady took us to her house and offered us tea and snacks. She was so sweet to even offer us breakfast followed by lunch but we were running out of time so had to say no but promised her to visit her again if ever we come to Naldehra again.
Our initial plan for the day was to visit Hathu peak but later some locals informed us that the roads are very narrow and our Duster might not be able to go comfortably. Sadly, we had to drop the idea and instead decided to explore some unknown roads post lunch. Roads in these regions are so beautiful. Tall pine trees, apple orchards and tiny flowers all across the pathways. As we headed further we reached a lake next to the forest. One could get the view of the breathtaking Himalayan ranges from there. Archana and I just watched the view for sometime before we decided to head back to the resort.
As the sun began to set I wrapped myself in the cozy blanket and put my favourite movie on while Archana went for a trek alone in the woods where she met a lot of mountain goats and made friends with the Sherpas.
Travel Tip – When in this region, dont forget to try Siddu, Khatta Meat and Kheru!
15th April – From Naldehra to Chitkul
So our day started at 7am today as we began packing our bags before we headed for Chitkul. Weather forecast cast says Its going to be cold there as the previous night it snowed there. All covered in woollens we drive towards Chitkul.
I won’t be saying how the roads to Chitkul were. All I can say is I began to cry midway because the view was so beautiful and mesmerizing that I was unable to take and believe it. It was a 10 hour drive and we drove along the beautiful Satluj river. Single lane roads cut through the mountains with a sheer drop of thousands of feet. Driving through this terrain was tough and we were averaging 25 kmph. Driving fast is not an option as one mistake can take your life. In between we went hunting for a selfie stick and finally found one in some town.
For lunch, we managed to find a Bengali restaurant in Sangla and those guys prepared fresh rice and dal along with Bengali style potato sabzi. Fancy finding a Bengali joint in the middle of nowhere in Himachal.
Chitkul was another 20 kms from Sangla which was almost a 90 minutes drive. We took so many breaks on the way to click pictures and do some live videos with you guys. Around 430 we finally reached our homestay, The Wanderers Nest which was surrounded by snow-capped mountains on all 4 sides.
There is no network here but thank God we have our BSNL sim with us. As far as the location of the homestay is concerned, hands down this was the most scenic place we have ever stayed in. The next 3 days is gonna be fun as we will explore Chitkul and maybe even trek to one of the snow-capped mountains out there.
Travel Tip – The roads to Chitkul are very narrow and go through high mountain passes. Buffer enough time for this stretch as speeding can be very dangerous. Carry ID proof since the ITBP conducts ID check at Mastrang check post.
16th & 17th April – Exploring India’s last accessible village in Kinnaur
Chitkul witnesses one of the most beautiful sunrise and sunsets for sure. Right from our room we see the sun rising from behind those gorgeous snow-capped mountains and lightning them like a sheet of glitter. With a view like this you can’t even try to sleep until late and are literally bound to wake up to enjoy a morning walk by the river. Neha and Ramnik (we met at Chitkul) from Delhi have now become our friends and all of us are having such a gala time exploring Chitkul, visiting the nearby village, hogging on Maggi and omelets and of course enjoying the local drink called Arek.
Someone had rightly said “never trust the weather in the mountains “ and indeed on both the days the bright and sunny day surprisingly turned gloomy and in no time it started pouring and snowing as well. Ah! What do you usually do when it snows? Sit at home and keep yourself warm? Well not us, as we decided to make the day a bit more interesting and instead of sitting in our room, we tried some Arek (local alcohol) and went dancing in the snow having loads and loads of fun until sunset.
During evenings, sitting by the bonfire was a must as we jammed with the host and the team of Delhi street Art who were there for showing off their graffiti work on the walls of the The Wanderers nest.
Travel Tip – We would suggest you avoid non veg in Chitkul. If you still want to have it, do ask the restaurant if the meat has been freshly cut. It was very cold in April so if you are travelling there from November to April do carry a lot of winter clothes.
18th April – Chitkul to Nako
Finally the much awaited day has come and we are starting our journey towards Spiti Valley. It’s going to be a long drive and we are going to halt somewhere on the way… whatever we find best.
The valley was completely white and we couldn’t get over the elation of having experienced heavy snowfall for the first time! To see something for the first time gives a childlike exhilaration and creates memories that are hard to forget. Chitkul would always have a special place in our memories for this very reason.
As we go back on the roads of Chitkul, listening to Kishore kumar hits, we wonder if we will ever come across places so beautiful and so mesmerizing? On and on we go until we finally hit some semblance of a highway, get on to the roads towards Spiti and the landscape just blew our minds away! Is this real? Can a place be so beautiful? Completely awestruck, we were lost in the beauty of the last of Kinnaur region before entering Spiti, when we finally reached Nako around 3pm.
Vidur was not feeling very well today; guess it’s the scorching winter sun that is giving him a terrible headache and moreover we were hungry hence we stop there for lunch. Rice, dal and aloo + brinjal sabzi (home-made style) what else could one ask for. The owner of the restaurant told us they have rooms too for 500/- per night! A small homestay next to the highway with neat and clean rooms is just what we needed for the night. We weren’t planning on exploring Nako much except for the lake we visited later that day. Sadly, not much of the lake will be left in a few months due to rapid development around the area and construction of a gazillion homestays nearby! We all know that “Man proposes, but God disposes” but in this case the man is the one doing the disposing. That’s the harsh reality of tourism in the country.
Nako to Kaza – 19th April
What a beautiful day it is today as we wake up to the view of the Himalayas, after a good night’s sleep. Vidur is feeling better as well and so we decide to continue our journey and head towards Kaza.
So excited to explore Spiti Valley, lovely music complementing the stunning long desert stretches. Every curve looks the same, every piece of landscape feels as if they are repeating themselves and the horizon was so beautiful and clearly visible. We are literally running out of words and just absorbing the unbelievably beautiful sights leading us towards Kaza.
Reaching Kaza around late afternoon we quickly grabbed some lunch. On our plate was homestyle rice, dal and brinjal sabzi and on our face was a big and satisfying smile. Next we headed to Hotel Deyzor owned by Karanbir! What a personality this guy has and what artistic expression displayed in his hotel. WOW! We were amazed at the kind of little DIY things he had in his lovely hotel with a lot of detailing, and his pets “awwww they are so adorable”. We didn’t even realise when the moon came up and it was time for us to hunt for a stay. Initially the plan was to stay at Deyzor but Karan’s property was under renovation hence we had to look for another option.
To our surprise, Karan had already figured out a homestay where we would be staying and he personally took us to Maha Bauddha homestay run by a guy with long locks. He was Akshay and we were delighted to know that he had come here from Mysore.
Soon after settling down, we decided to join everyone in the common area downstairs where they usually burn a tandoor and chitchat. We had an awesome night that day as Akshay, Karan and his partner Scarlzon (ex Archery Olympian) joined us for a drink while it started snowing heavily outside. Damn! I can’t wait until morning and see how Kaza would change it’s colour from brown to white.
20th-23rd April, The Whiteout in Kaza
We never little about Spiti valley apart from the places we had to cover. On our list was Key, Kibber, Langza, Hikkim and Tashigang. However, the weather Gods had something else in store for us. We woke up to snowfall, the valley covered with a thick layer of white with no sign of respite from the snowfall. The brown hues of Kaza had given way to a winter white and taken with it our plans of exploring the Valley.
We quickly walked to the car curious to see how it was and were excited to see about 2 feet of snow on it. “Damn no waterproof gloves”, we thought as we started removing the snow from the car. In no time, our hands started hurting with the cold and we got in the car and switched on the heater. The snowfall wasnt much as we were able to drive down for about a kilometre and take some pics before we got hungry.
Stuck in the homestay, we spent some time talking to Akshay and how he migrated from Mysore to Spiti. Along with Singhe, he ran a homestay here along with another hotel closeby. Akshay, being the lovely host that he is, ensured that Singhe prepared Phalay and omelette for us as we discussed about the terrain, culture, people and life in Spiti valley.
From the window we would see the sun beating down into the mountains and hope it would be enough for us to drive around. We navigated our short walk through melting snow to our car to discover it was covered with a foot of snow! With bare hands, we removed the snow off the car and in no time our hands were freezing. We hopped into the car, switched on the heater and enjoyed the warmth; something we don’t ever get to do in the plains! The drive was a short one as we soon discovered that the roads weren’t yet conducive for driving and returned to the homestay to a hearty breakfast consisting of Phalay and massive omelettes! Post that we again visited Hotel Deyzor to talk to Karanbir about Spiti and picked up a few books to learn more about the fascinating history of this region!
The next day again witnessed heavy snowfall and we heard that the upper regions received around 6 foot of snowfall! One again we walked to the car to complete the ritual of cleansing it and this time there was about 2 feet of snow on it. Luckily the car always managed to start in one go without much trouble! The sun had come out early and the roads were beginning to clear fast as we decided to visit Key Monastery and Kibber today. The roads to Tashigang were slushy so we had to leave out the destination. The drive up to Key and Kibber was full of drama as we encountered huge shooting stones with some smaller ones landing on the roof of the Duster. The snow was melting but the roads had become slushy and along with sharp stones falling from the loose mountain terrain, it made the drive very dangerous.
However, we managed to cover both destinations safely without any incidents and return unharmed to our homestay by evening. Akshay had called a few friends over for a party! That night we witnessed some of the best singing we have ever experienced. Here’s a short video of the guy who was Mohit Chauhan’s close friend and trained with him.
23rd was our last day in Kaza and Karanbir has directed us to visit Langza along with a map of a site where we could find fossils. He had requested that we only take one if we find any so that there’s some left for other to find as well. The drive to Langza was again risky due to the shooting stones but luckily the snow had melted and we could speed along the tarred roads. Langza seemed like a quaint little village overlooking the brownish mountains on all sides. The wind was very cold due to the snowfall a day earlier and we looked around for the spot Karanbir had told us about. The walk to the fossil site was tricky as we trekked along the ridge that was very slushy and slippery and we almost took a fall a couple of times. 20 minutes later, panting profusely due to lack of oxygen, we reached the streamed where Karanbir had found fossils. I spent 5 minutes on the river bed before I gave up as I was running out of breath but Archana did manage to find a few fossils and took the best one back with us.
Karan had arranged for us to stay at Lobzang Homestay in Mane today and we met the lovely at Deyzor. She took us to Mane, about an hour’s drive from Kaza, through narrow steep roads towards her cute little village home. That night we again huddled around the tandoor and got to know her story and how her family had built the home!
Travel Tip – If you suffer from AMS, you have to try Seabuckthorn juice. It did wonders for Archana who eventually used it as a cocktail mix with Vodka as well!
24th April – Good bye Mane
All good things has an end! Indeed the time has come for us to say goodbye to Spiti Village. As we left Mane early morning today, Tshering our host packed us some local rajmah from her field as a parting gift. It was really sweet of her and we could not thank her enough. We gave her a hug and said our final goodbye before we headed towards Rampur Bhushaher for the day.
Yet again we crossed the beautiful roads of Spiti, but this time the grief of leaving the place was unbearable. Spiti has taught us a lot. The culture, the tradition and the meaning of simple living. To keep the journey exciting we stopped at various places clicking a lot of crazy pictures and doing a lot of live videos on Instagram with you guys.
Although the journey was long yet our never-ending chit-chat and our little fights kept the moments excited.We reached Rampur Bushahr during late afternoon and checked into our hotel which was run by the Himachal Tourism department itself. The rest of our day went scrolling through our pictures and watching some old Bollywood movies.
25th & 26th April – Jibhi
Today we are travelling to a place lesser known. Almost 200 kms from Rampur is a small village called Jibhi full of lush greenery and a stream with lots of fishes in it. We are staying at the Mudhouse experiential hostels (a place for travellers and backpackers) for the next 3 days along with few other guests.
Jibhi is so relaxing and do nothing type destination. We literally don’t feel like doing anything except for relaxing , sun bathing and fishing in the stream. Out here our evenings are usually spent sitting by the bonfire and playing some new kind of games such as “frictional stories”
We also walked up to the nearby waterfall for a dip the next day and also explored the places In and around our hostel. During lunch we usually hogged on a lot of momos prepared in the nearby dhaba.
It’s gonna be a long day Tomorrow as we are heading to a place called Garli. We did not want to stress out a lot hence a quick dinner followed by some nice and relaxing music by the bonfire and off we went to sleep.
27th & 28th April – Gorgeous Garli (memories refreshed)
It was a pleasant morning today as we set off for Garli after a strong cup of tea. Narrow roads and clear sky accompanied us for a long stretch until we came across paths even narrower then the previous ones.
To our surprise we noticed a lot of marijuana growing around the roads and every streets. In fact it looked as if every house was growing this stuff around their house, which is not the case but it looked so due to its excess growth.
We reached Garli village by lunch and Vidur’s heart skipped a beat at the first sight of the property. This place reminded him of his Nana’s kothi in Shimla and in fact the host family seemed to have known Vidur’s ancestors as well. Wow! It’s a small world surely.
The entire place had the antique village look on it and looked amazing. Right from the furniture to the architecture everything was so unique about this place. The yummy home style food and the evening tea arranged by the river was such a surprise for us. Garli literally took us back in time and gave us an experience we will cherish for our lifetime.
29th April – Delightful Dharamsala / Manic McLeodganj
After 2 days of awesome stay in Garli we are heading to Dharamsala today to the Blossoms Village Resort. I have always heard about Dharamsala since a kid but never got a chance to visit hence I am sure you will understand how excited I must be to go there. Roads of Himachal have always been beautiful and once again as we cross the scenic paths I am busy taking hundreds of videos and making memories.
Soon we reached Dharamsala and then to our resort. A beautiful property with the view of the Himalayas,what more can one possible ask? At Blossoms Village Resort we didn’t realise how two days passed by. Apart from the beautiful sunrise we also witnessed the mesmerizing sunsets along with our cold coffees at the rooftop restaurant.
We also went for a drive towards Mcleodganj but before we even reached half our distance we took a U-turn and came back as soon as realised how busy the streets were with the tourist crowd all around. There was literally no space to move on the roads and in that situation driving through those roads was an impossible task and we chose not to try it. Instead we chose to spend the day at Blossoms Resort, admiring the gorgeous sunset at the backdrop of the Dhauladhar Range.
1st/2nd May- Peaceful Patnitop
Once again empty and beautiful stretches of road welcomes us as we drive towards Patnitop today before we head to Kashmir after two days. Today we have not booked any stay for ourselves hence as soon as we reach there we need to hunt for one.
Drive was pleasant as we climb up the mountains which almost looked like those we crossed while on our way to Udaipur. By evening as soon as I got some network on my phone I started searching for economical homestays and finally found Green stay eco resort just 8kms before Patnitop hills.
The next morning we went exploring the Patnitop hills. A quick Maggie and omelette on the way for our breakfast as we headed to the meadow completely covered with pine trees. The day went exploring this beautiful place. Watching so many sheep and their shepherds walking by, watching the locals going for their work, the horses attending the tourist etc. Patnitop reminded me of Shillong and our house inside the pine forest. It surely brought back memories of childhood in me.
3rd May – A Nerve Wracking Drive to Pahalgam
The morning sun shone through our curtains reminding us that it was time for us to move on to another destination! It was a cold night and we lazily got out of our beds, not wanting to leave the warmth of the blankets. The water was freezing so both of us decided to skip taking a bath and packed up our luggage. Our plan was to head towards Kashmir and we were not decided if we should go towards Srinagar or Pahalgam today.
But then we remembered that our instructors from JIM & WS would be in Pahalgam (their headquarters) so we decided to drive up there and pay them a surprise visit. The map showed us a route through the Jammu Srinagar highway and the distance for the day was 180 kms. For once I was happy as the map showed that drive was through a NH. But to my horror when we hit the highway, I found it to be under construction and with heavy traffic thanks to an army convoy.
Somewhere close to Verinag we finally got a 4 lane highway and I got to relax a little bit with the cruise control switched on. Our Kashmir trip had always been on tenter hooks as there was news of disturbance in the area and some tourists vehicles had also been attacked by stone pelters. I remember in one stretch we saw hundreds of security forces standing along with highway with guns and looking at us with strange expressions. We started getting a little nervous and just then on a lonely stretch of the highway 4 armed personnel asked us to stop. It was nerve wracking, tense moments followed as we steered the car onto a curb, where they demanded us to step down for a search. It was just a routine check and they were curious about what a KA registered car was doing in Kashmir and let us go after we told them we were on a roadtrip.
From there it took us 3 hours to reach Pahalgam, crossing beautiful landscape dotted with flowers, rivers and mountain peaks. We searched for the JIM & WS campus and caught up with our instructors who told us about couple of places like Aru and Lidder that we should see during our visit here. They were also kind enough to put us up in Hotel Palestine, after getting a very good discount as well!
Hotel Palestine is located at the heart of Pahalgam with the local market in front of it. As we checked in, we noticed a street vendor preparing fresh seekh kebabs; the air around the place was full of the sweet smell of freshly cooked meat and we decided to head on there for a quick bite. Dinner was personalised for us by the hotel chef as they prepared local Xaak with daal and rice; it was quite a treat as this was the first time we were experiencing Kashmiri cuisine!
4th May – Amazing Aru!
The next morning we made a plan to visit Aru, Lidder, Betab Valley and Chandanwadi. First stop was Chandanwari, located at an altitude of around 9500 ft and is famous for being the starting point of the Amarnath Yatra. Unfortunately, the place was teeming with tourists as most of them had come to see a glacier there, which had now turned black due to heavy human footprint. We left there in a hurry and left to see the famous Betab valley.
Unfortunately, this place was also very crowded and the valley now had little space left due to rapid commercialisation. The funny thing we saw there was a school group that had come there with an aim to spread awareness on Swacch Bharat but were themselves littering the place with plastic bottles and plates. We were highly disappointed at the sad state of affairs here and decided to try our luck at Aru valley. Our instructors at JIM & WS had invited us to camp there for the day so we checked out of the hotel and headed to find the camping spot there.
This time we got lucky!! Overlooking snow clad mountains with many rivulets flowing through it, Aru is full of nature’s bloom and beautiful meadows all around. The camping spot was in an open high ground, with a river flowing beneath it and overlooking the mighty himalayas.
5th May – Srinagar
Today we need to head to Srinagar but due to the current situation there, we are skeptical about our decision. Parents are worried too and their continuous calls and concerns are scaring us even more. This morning before starting off, we went through the news in different channels but the situation doesn’t seem too good. We have to take a chance coz our stay is already booked.
We start early around 7am and took the main highway although google showed us shorter routes. Speed limit was between 90-100kms/hr and there was strictly no stopping on the way. I covered my head with a scarf similar to how local girls do, thinking it might be a safe idea and go unnoticed.
There was slight shower today and the visibility was not good. We reached Srinagar during lunch and noticed that most of the shops were closed and there was hardly any movement. Army officers were on duty in every nook and corner of Srinagar. Excited to reach Srinagar safely yet the fear of the incidents kept disturbing us.
As we checked into our hotel, a feeling of relief took over, moreover as we spoke to the hotel staff about the situation they calmed us down saying that the media has exaggerated the situation a bit too much and it was completely safe to be in Srinagar.
6th May – Gulmarg
We are finally visiting the most awaited place in my bucket list today – Gulmarg. I have seen this place in movies and serials and the urge to see it physically never stopped me from dreaming about that place. Hence early morning today we went to explore Gulmarg. It’s been drizzling since last night hence the weather is gloomy.
As we entered the parking lot, we were hounded by the locals wanting to get business out of us. It was a harrowing experience and we literally had to fight our way through a small mob of shoppers, horse owners and street vendors to get to the meadows that had thousands of people walking all over. For a minute, I wanted to go back, leave the place as this is not how we had thought Gulmarg would be. We were disappointed to see garbage strewen all over, hundred of vehicles and thousands of tourists who had flocked to see the glaciers.
Archana reasoned with that we had travelled thousands of kilometres to explore the valley and that we should spend some time here. So we took 2 pony’s (coz that’s the only option if you wanna see the place) and explored the whole place, every nook and corner of it and in fact even tried some local yummy food called Methi!
Tomorrow my sister Suparna is arriving in Srinagar and joining us for Ladakh trip. Hence we have parked Dal lake and Shikara rides for tomorrow with her.
7th May – Exploring Srinagar
Today has been a lazy morning for us as we woke up late and had a late breakfast too. Due to disturbance in the region, Srinagar is closed for the next 7 days starting today hence the entire place is quiet and all the shops are closed too.
Suparna arrived during lunch, and by evening situation in Srinagar was little better hence we decided to visit Dal lake post lunch which is 10 mins walk from our hotel.
A ride in the Shikaras is a must when you visit Srinagar and after a lot of haggling we found one that we really liked. We paid INR400 (for 3 persons) for an hours ride. The lake didn’t seem very clean, and there were shrubs growing under the water. People have their shops in the shikaras itself and you find all kind of shops there from tea stalls, to photo studio, clothes, kebabs, ice cream parlour and even live bbq shops in the shikara. To be honest it looks like a small e-commerce operating live in a beautiful lake.
Tomorrow we are heading to Kargil hence an early departure is expected. We are not gonna make the night a long one. A couple of vodka shots followed by dinner and we are off to bed.
8th May – Kargil
Tensions continue in Srinagar and we are advised to leave as early as possible to Kargil because we need to cross the sensitive areas of Srinagar and Sonmarg. Vidur drove the car and had already instructed us not to ask him to stop anywhere, hence I silently enjoyed the empty roads of Srinagar and at the same time was vigilant about anything unusual happening on the roads.
Soon after we crossed the area, I could see the reaction on Vidur’s face and that sense of relief in his eyes. The day is bright and sunny by now and we started with the ghats as we are now crossing Zozila pass completely covered in snow. It’s such a difficult stretch and the roads almost not there. Slowly and steadily we drove and reached the top of the pass to get caught in a traffic jam for not less than an hour and why not? The road is covered with more then 10 ft of snow on both the sides whereas the pathway is so narrow that only one vehicle can cross at a time.
The stretch we drove on just after crossing Zozila took my heart. I have never seen something so beautiful ever. I guess the snow and the snowfall created that effect but I am never going to forget it. I literally can declare we have driven on one of the most scenic roads from Zozila to Kargil.
On the way to Kargil, we crossed Drass and made a pit stop at the War Memorial which for us was one of the most hair raising experiences we ever had. The memorial talks about the sacrifices of our soldiers during the Kargil war and details every incident during the war. This place is definitely one of the pit stops you should take on your way to Leh.
We are staying at Hotel The Kargil for the next 3 days and it’s a beautiful hotel in the middle of the market. The host Zaheer, seems to be a very interesting and knowledgeable person and am sure we are going to learn and gather so much information from him about Kargil over the next 3 days. Looking forward to what’s in store for us in the coming days.
9th May- What’s Hunderman???
Zaheer is accompanying us to a village called Hunderman which has been abandoned and is nestled amidst the craggy peaks of Kargil. This village is now home to a unique ‘Museum of Memories’ that documents the life of border families. The village has since been a part of two countries. Between 1947 and 1971, it was a part of Pakistan before it was taken into Indian control during the 1971 war in Gilgit-Baltistan. Many villagers of Hunderman’s residents fled to Pakistan while the ones who chose to stay behind became Indian citizens overnight.
We were amazed looking at the houses which were 100’s of years old and made of stones and mud. The villagers while evacuating their homes left their identity cards, their money, utensils, and so many daily needs behind that they now have become a part of the museum.
On the way back to the hotel Zaheer also made us stop at a point from where you can see the Pakistan border including their forces and their bunkers with the help of binoculars. We saw the Pakistan force walking up and down their area and also saw some civilians going to the mosque. One person from the force was also waving at us while we were watching him with the binocular. What a spectacular moment it was. I never experienced such thing in my life and today has been a beautiful day for I can only Thank God for bringing us here and showing things I could never imagine.
After a quick lunch, we went towards Chamba through some beautiful stretch surrounded by green trees on both the sides and blue river flowing next to it. We were told that we would find a old and large Buddha sculpture on the rocks or Chamba which people are not aware of. Although we reached the place yet none of us were able to spot the sculpture. When asked to some local kids they said “follow us and we will take you there”. A 5 mins walk towards a small canal and up we look as we see the Buddha carved on the rocks and it looks beautiful.
Spent almost an hour in Chamba and then we drove to Nunkun-a snow peaked mountain completely covered in snow. It looked like vanilla ice cream without a cherry on top. What mesmerising view that was. Thoroughly enjoyed every bit of today and as we were heading back home our plans for tomorrow have already started!
10th May – Batalik (war zone)
It’s a beautiful and sunny day today and we are all happy and excited to visit this place we had always been reading about. Batalik where the famous Kargil war took place. Driving through rough patches of road and infact even no roads we reached this place where a small village with limited houses reside. Civilians are not allowed to enter the village after a certain point but the locals outside are there to tell you a lot about what happened during the war. We sat there for hours hearing the story of few locals who witnessed the war and the destruction that it brought along.
This was an experience of a lifetime for us. While going back we could think of nothing but of the people who suffered and fought then. We took our our phone and read more and more about the war and what exactly happened as now we were able to relate better then ever.