Monday, September 25, 2006

Dream Trip…. World of Mountains…

There is something about this place, which fascinated me for a long time now. Might be since the 1999 kargil war, this place made a place in my heart. I wanted to visit this place atleast once and the best possibility would have been going to these places when I was in delhi. I was a bit disappointed when I quit Samsung because I just had a month’s time left for my trip, now this is what I call hand of god… certain things in life happen when it is required at the perfect time..

My friend uday told me that 6 of his friends are coming from Bangalore for a trip to leh and all the places to which I had dreamed off… I was lucky enough as I also got the opportunity to join the wonderful group.

Our team consisted of 7 wonderful people Vijay (The planner…) this guy planned the trip sooo well that it was a great success even after lots of hiccups.. hats off to his efforts. Kashyap (The Bargainer…or the Dealer….), SP (Only Expert in our group….who was very silent but achieved what others had not…..), Ashok (Over Enthusiastic Person….), Deepu (Sleeper… he slept for most part of the trip….), Santosh ( Ice man…his only motive of the trip was to see ice….), My self Poorna (Camera Man….).. we also had one funny character as usual in our trip it was again our driver Ranjith singh (Safest driver)…..

I hardly got any time to prepare this time, I can say I went to one of the toughest trips I had undergone with one of the worst preparations. The cab which I had booked came to my place around 9pm of 8th September 2006, from where I left to uday’s house. There we took some luggage and left to airport to pickup our team. Even though the plane arrived on time it took around 1hr for all the team members to checkout of the airport.

This was my first interaction with the team. Uday introduced me to each and every member of the team. First glance of these people interested me, one good thing about them I liked was I think we all were a bit like minded fun loving guys… so it was not hard for me to mix with the new team and more over I have improved a lot in man handling skills.. so I got up with the team immediately. We left again to drop uday back to his home. We had our dinner at uday’s house (uday had got parcel for all of us for the dinner).

We left delhi around 2 in the midnight for the wonder journey of our life… 7 members… I started with 6 others who were new to me but became like a family in the days ahead…

Day –1 :

A journey will be fascinated with the incidents which happens around… like wise it started very early in our trip our vehicle got punctured for the first time around 5.30am hardly around 3hrs from the start of our journey. Also for the first time we got to the see the state of the tiers we had for such a hard trip, going ahead with such tiers for such adventure was simply impossible, but our immediate requirement was to get the tier fixed and stretch it as far as possible. At around 7am we stopped our vehicle to get the puncture fixed as well as get refreshed and have some breakfast. Barely 30min after having breakfast we got to see the same puncture episode again it was taking a toll as we were already behind schedule and there couldn’t have been any other irritating stuff at that time. Because of the fear we started moving very slowly and then we found a place were we could get new tiers for our vehicle. It was taking lots of time but this was very necessary for our days ahead. It was around 2 we got our new tiers and started moving towards Manali non-stop. We reached Manali around 9pm. It was a silent city that retires very early at night might be because of cold. We booked a hotel had dinner and since everyone was very tiered went to sleep early.

Day –2:

After a hard day of journey everyone was re-enforced with their energy levels to take up the journey of mountains. From here I would say until the end the trip gonna be very fascinating, thrilling, scary…… After packing ourselves with some water bottles and some snacks we started towards Rautang Pass our 1st destination for the day. We new there was a place before rautang where we could have breakfast. On the way to Rautang we got to see the first landslide of those horrifying mountains. One complete side of the mountain had collapsed but might be because of the hard effort of the BRO the roads were opened without any major traffic blocks. We stopped for breakfast but to our surprise we saw a telugu movie being shot over that place. Well came to know from other guys that the hero was a very famous person in the telugu film industry. But I hardly new, anyway we had wonderful breakfast over here and left to Rautang, another 15kms from this place. Rautang was a beautiful place no civilization, filled with clouds… you get a feeling like you are flying in the clouds. It was very cold and it even drizzled a bit. We also met a team of girls from bangalore, there were on their college trip we had a group snap with their teachers… any way they were suppose to go back from there and for us, this is the place from where our real trip started.

From Rautang we reached Koksar….. for the first time got to see the spectacular view of the amazing mountains… For the first time I got to see something which I ever dreamt off…. Mountains mountains…mountains …. You can see that till your vision limits you… no trace of any living thing… it’s a bit scary at times, the narrow roads, the silence the chillness in the air and no one to help if something goes wrong…. Now that’s what is something adventures right ?

The road from Koksar to Keylong was not just narrow but I would say there was no true trace of any roads here…pathetic you cannot travel faster than 10-20kmph over this stretch..

Our destination for the day was Sarchu.. but luckily we got some tourist tents in between from where we could get some food for ourselves… everyone was very hungry…so our next stop was Sarchu…..

We never planned of a night drive but we cant find anything until Sarchu so traveled till around 8.30pm to reach Sarchu.. many of us had severe headache (high altitude sikness…) Night drive was a bit scary as well as fun… everyone in the cab started singing songs of the all the hindi horror movies hahahaha…. With some comments like I saw something hahahahaa….. a feel of pitch darkness in between the terror mountains is un explainable…

Once reached Sarchu, we can see some tents for tourists to rest. Its very minimal around 100-200 bugs for each tent…. I couldn’t survive the cold over here… I think it was below zero… I got severe headache and couldn’t even afford for dinner so took some crocine and went to sleep…. Should definitely tell about the temperature here… below zero is something I had never felt off… adding to this was the breeze… it was soooo strong that I was even scared to go out of tents…breeze was so strong that I got a feeling of it would take me off if I go out…. More over the killing darkness….. Next day I heard lots of people couldn’t sleep properly because of the cold but I had my part of sleep properly…

Day –3:

We started off from Sarchu very early around 4am as we need to travel a lot to reach Leh, our next destination. First morning in these amazing mountains was simply superb I think I would say this was one of the best day of our trip. When the first rays of sun fall on these mountains it looks like a golden mountains…. This journey was also very scary as we were moving more and more towards higher altitude… and the roads as expected very narrow… On the way we could even see the lorries, which had slipped down the road…. Some where half struck between the rocks and some reached the end… I don’t think there would be any survivors left if you slip from those mountains.

We passed through Tanglangla Pass and Barlachla Pass. Over here we had the first encounter of snow and ice in this trip.. santosh was really thrilled at seeing the snow… After crossing over these hard passes we reached Pang, a place where in again you can find some tents for tourists to rest. We had some maggi over here for breakfast took some rest and started again with the wonderful journey.

All along since Rautang we were traveling through the zig-zag roads across the huge mountains….. after Pang something strange was waiting for us…. We were on top of a mountain..this mountain was connected to the other mountain top… in between we could see a river flowing down between the mountains…. But once we reached the other mountain top it was an amazing view a stretch of around 25-30kms barren desert…. straight land on top of the mountain… we never expected something like this…. Everyone was shocked to see such a long stretch dessert on top of a mountain…. Amazing view…. We stopped our vehicle here for a small photo session and again started moving towards Leh.

We were around 100km away from Leh for the first time we could feel the presence of army in the state of J&K. We started meeting lots of heavy vehicles along the road. Also the mountains over here were totally different from what we saw earlier. Each mountain over here was of different color red,green,brown, black followed by lots of defense installations… all was new got a feeling that we are some where near the border for the first time. Also these mountains looked soooo hard that if you slip if will be found hanging to a sharp rock….amazing mountains.

After a tea break in a small village around 50kms from Leh.. we started moving towards our last stop for the day… We reached Leh around 4pm. It was very funny over here we went around almost whole of Leh to find a hotel that tooo by walk. After finalizing for a nice deal at a hotel myself and vijay went in search of mechanic to get our vehicle a fix. Every one was very tiered and we went to bed after enjoying a wonderful dinner.

Leh is a full-fledged city you will not get a feeling like you are in the remote Himalayas. Here you can recharge yourself completely with all the necessities.

Till here I had been through one of the toughest and scary journeys of my lifetime. Had reached half the distance of our trip. No words to explain the silence and horror of these mountains… I felt like its very beautiful, but it’s a trap…. The more you try to go near these the more risk you are taking to disturb its peace and wake a ghost in it….

Day –4:

Day four was a slow starter, since we had to wait for the district magistrate to get the permission for 2 spots on which we had narrowed down, we got up very late. Around 9 we went to the district magistrate’s office and got the permit to visit “Khardungla Pass” and “Pangongk Lake”.

It was around 11.30 and Khardungla pass was around 50kms from Leh. We left to Khardungla Pass. After a small army check post and after verifying our papers we left to the World’s Highest Motorable road “Khardungla Pass”. It is around 18380 feet above sea level, We could easily feel the effect of mountain sickness, headache, lack of oxygen to breath…. Also our vehicle was struggling for combustion of fuel…. Result was lack of pullup.

We were on top of Khardungla pass where in we have a army camp and surrounded by lots of snow capped mountains.. It was a good feeling to be at a place which is a considered as something special and unique in the world as I mentioned… this is only road which is being built at such high altitude… There was a precaution for travelers not to stay in this place for more than 30min. I was in such a place where in it can be fatal if you break the rules of mountains. So we started back to Leh after enjoying a party in the snow.

Once we reached Leh we went to a hotel for lunch at around 4.30 in the evening. Here one of the worst thing of our trip happened, Santosh forgot his camera on the table and as expected lost his digital camera. I would say a bit of negligence but really did not deserve to loose the camera in such a wonderful trip. We doubted on the hotel owner.. we even offered him some money but he was not in a mood to give back the camera. Anyway it was bad mood at hotel having lost some great moments captured in his camera.

Santosh and Kashyap decided to stay back at leh and give one final try for the camera the next day. A mixture of good,hard and bad feelings for the day….

Day –5:

As I told before Santosh and Kashyap decided to stay away from this day’s trip and give one final try for the camera. But it was very unfortunate for them that they missed the best part of the trip. We had plans of going to Pangongk lake which is around 150km from Leh and only 1/3 of the lake is in India, other 2/3 is in china.

We started off very early around 6 and started moving towards Pangonk lake, again here we passed through Changla pass 3rd highest motorable road. We have an army camp here stopped to meet few army personal had a warm tea with the soldiers. Also met few people from himachal..but was very strange he was doctor and he had studied in Karnataka… I asked him where in Karnataka and to my surprise he studied in tumkur the place I grew up… felt like world is so small unites people all around the globe.

I passed through one of the best valleys of the trip….once we reached the lake I was spell bound….. no words to explain the beauty of this lake……..Calm, silent… blue, transparent, ice cold water…. We can see all the stones below the water…. This is something strange….on top of the mountain you find such a big lake……. Totally untouched away from all the disturbances of the world……. Sooooo calm yet sooo wild…The color of the water changes as per the climate, shadows of clouds get a feel of dark blue water…. Well only some of my snaps can explain the beauty of this place……

The worst thing of our trip which was waiting for some time happened here…. We were away from all the civilization… it was even hard to find a race of human being at this place only hope was a small hut which was around 5kms and it takes around 4hrs to reach…on those mountains. We were moving towards the lake and our vehicle sunk in the sand…. And to our luck it only went from bad to worse… 2 tiers were completely inside the sand…. We were trying to get rocks and place below the tyre but it was taking its toll no oxygen… no food… I was thinking of the alternative what to do if nothing works out and if we are struck at this lonely place…. It even scared everyone a bit…. Vijay and Ashok put their heart to get out the vehicle but nothing was working…. We saw a cab…. And asked for his help but in these mountains no one helps…. Survival of the fittest….. Everyone myself,vijay,ashok,Deepak and SP were a bit worried we did not have anything to eat also… adding to it was lack of oxygen and the temperature which was getting colder….

Miracles do happen…. All of sudden we saw 2 people…adventure sports specialist came and initially they started scolding us for being soo stupid and for not respecting the laws of mountains….. but finally they gave lots of confidence and the idea to put mats below the tier.. This really worked well…. Because of the mats… the sand didnot sink any more and over vehicle came out of the shit….. What a horrible experience at this lonely place….. there was no limit to our joy….. We left that place again moved to the spot where there is a small army camp along with a small hotel… we enjoyed some maggi every one was very hungry….. and then started moving towards leh back…..

Bad things were not yet over….. SP lost his mobile, which he had left in the hotel room. Soooo many episodes in such little time was hard to digest everyone was getting a raw feeling that things are not moving smoothly…. I think this was the time where everyone might have felt like enough of the horrifying mountains it would be great if we reach home safely..

But yes this lake view was the best place I have seen till date….. nothing can match this place still…. Amazing beauty…. The best thing I liked was the way the color of the water changes every few minutes….. God’s own creation…. God only knows……

Day –6:

After all the best views and bad experience we left to Srinagar out next stop. Even this path is as spectacular as the manali-leh roads, but only good thing is leh-srinagar roads are really good. Its not that easy to construct such good roads at that altitude and such terrain hats off to our BRO… on this way you can find lots and lots of army I mean every 100mts you can find soldiers guarding the highway….. We reached Kargil around 12.30. This was the place where India fought the battle with Pakistan in 1999. Lots of our soldiers gave their life fighting this battle every thing came in front of my eyes… we asked a soldier and he explained the facts like at that time…like we had a base in kargil like an airport, fuel depot, ammunition center… everything was destroyed by the Pakistani shelling. We can even see Pakistan from this place… what an experience it gives a real experience of love for your motherland.. feel like doing something …. But the only thing we managed was… pissing in the direction of Pakistan….. Hats off to our brave soldiers….

From Kargil we left to Drass… one more important and strategic points on the srinagar-leh highway, which was captured by the intruders… We visited the Operation Vijay Memorial where in, we were told about the various heights which was captured by Pakistan and how we fought against the intruders in getting back these points. This memorial is built on the base of Tololing height. This was the first mountain from where India started its assault in driving the enemy out. We paid our respect to the memorial spending some time with the soldiers and sitting in front of the memorial for sometime…

We also saw Tiger hills… which was one of the most toughest and strategic mountains in this region. We were just 30kms away from LOC where we can see both Indian and Pakistani bunkers face to face but for this we needed to get the permission of the Brigadier but we were very unlucky….. not to get the permission…. Its not for travelers as lots of risk in involved in the same. Also on the highway we can see the board which says “Be careful you are under enemy observation”.

We were just around 200kms from srinagar we got to pass through this Jojila pass…. Oooff wat an experience….. roads are very very narrow followed by around 100 trucks from the opposite direction… just to move a distance of around 10kms we took around 3hrs… one of the worst and scary experience passing every truck because you are on the edge of the mountain one mistake and will meet at the bottom of the mountain (Direct Landing).

We reached Sonmarg one of the most beautiful place of J&K around 4.30. We stopped here for food everyone was very hungry from morning… had lots and lots of food filled our tanks and started moving towards srinagar passing along the beautiful mountains of Sonmarg. Initially we planned to stay at Gulmarg but later we decided to go to vaishnav devi temple and hence the trip to Gulmarg was cancelled.

We reached Srinagar around 7.30pm after lots of security checks all around, its always safe to reach srinagar before night and night journey is not preferred as you will be stopped by the security every 5kms and your vehicle will be completely checked I would say it’s a very painful situation but yes its required for the security purpose. In srinagar we got a good deal for our accommodation at Boat House in the world famous Dal Lake. Everyone enjoyed their stay in the boat house… it was a nice and relaxed feeling staying in the boat house… we partied that night…

Day –7:

Here in the Dal lake we can see lots of kashmiri vendors trying to sell their art like the kashmiri shawls, jackets, crockery.. etc well we did some shopping in the boat house. After a small ride in the boat around the dal lake and a wonderful lunch of kashmiri biryani we left to our next destination katra.

After such horrible terrain the journey to Katra was not that scary…even though we went around the hilly roads but we had seen lot more than that so it was very normal stuff. But yes we went through one of the world famous Jawahar Tunnel, it’s a very long tunnel around 10-15mins inside the tunnel total dark around 10kms stretch.. with lots of security all around to safe guard the tunnel.

We reached katra around 11.30 but the bad thing was the ticket counter closes at 11pm. As per our plan we needed to start climbing immediately, but without tickets you cannot pass the security check. Well we went to the katra police station and asked the in charge to help us out. Initially he was in no mood to listen to us. But after pleading a lot he took out some tickets, which they had kept for their seniors, and we were very lucky to find exactly 7 tickets, god wills it. After parking our vehicle we started to climb the mountain. Take a note here only still cameras are allowed. Everyone started getting more and more tired as we were traveling without any proper food. Especially deepu was getting tiered a lot.

Day –8:

We reached the hilltop in a record time non stop in around 4hrs time. After taking the coldwater bath we met few security people from Karnataka who promised us to bypass the long queue and take to the shrine directly, that’s what even we wanted as everyone was very tiered. After the dharshan of mata our team split few of them left back to katra. Myself, kyshap, sp and ashok went to bhairav temple and while coming down every one was very tired no strength to even stand adding to our pain we completed the entire journey of vaishnav devi temple without any food.

We started from katra at around 4.30 after having food. After which know one knew what happened on earth… I was sitting with the driver …my eyes were open but I couldn’t see anything coming from ahead I think my mind had slept completely, more like dead with open eyes…. Everyone was badly tired…. Whole night we traveled towards delhi only one incident was again there was puncture but no one knows where and what place was that… everyone was dead….

We reached delhi around 10am ….. end of my dream trip…. What an experience …… one thing is neither my photographs nor my words can explain about the beauty or my feelings over this place its only like there was something special I felt and it only could be felt…. My words are just to remind me of those moments and not to explain those moments…. Its all together a different world…. I would say the world of mountains….

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