As mentioned earlier, we had covered 60 kilometers more on the previous day and we just had 100 kilometers to cover for the day. We knew that the risky part of the Srinagar Leh stretch was over and it was going to be good roads for most of the time, and 100 kilometers seemed easy. We woke up relaxed at around 8 AM, had a nice coffee and got ready for the days ride. It was around 9 AM that we left from the hotel. Kids were going to the school and our Activa got a lot of attention from them. Not that they did not know the vehicle. It is just that they are so used to seeing people with larger vehicles and a couple all geared and with luggage on this small vehicle somehow was weird.
Kargil town will be in a valley and you ascend to take the route towards Lamayuru. The vehicle was fuelled the previous day. However with the experience that we had the previous day, we stocked up additional fuel after starting from the hotel. We could have actually traveled to Leh during the second day itself, but we thought it does not make sense to over exert ourselves. It proved to be right as we were able to acclimatize properly. Though Lamayuru is just 105 kilometers from Kargil, we knew we would be reach only by late afternoon as there were two mountain passes to be crossed in that 100 kilometers.
The road was fine at first. The terrain was lush with trees and greenery all around. After crossing Kargil, we needed to descend again. There were smaller villages down the valley which were lush green. The descent was full of twists which was the most enjoyable part, though it reduced the pace at which I was riding. As we rode along, we passed through the same villages we had seen from the top. Many people wished us while we were riding, which gave a glimpse of the warmth of the Kashmiris unlike what is generally shown in Indian media. We had some very insightful conversations when we stopped for tea and understood the average life of a Kashmiri. The people beyond the Zoji La stock 8 months of groceries so that they can live during the time the pass closes. The other alternative is to get things from Leh, which is also not easy due to high mountain passes. It is very inspiring to see their smile and no complain attitude despite the conditions in which they live in. We also heard them speaking about the trouble with the infiltrators from Pakistan and the political turbulence within the area.Both of these have not become part of their life, which they surely don’t appreciate.
As we descended, we rode along the Indus tributary called Suru. We passed through quiet villages with people in their daily chores. The roads were empty except for a few tourist vehicles passing by. Slowly the villages gave way to just mountains and they started turning barren slowly as we rode. We were constantly maintaining a speed of 40, which is decent in that terrain for an Activa. We found some rough patches on and off, otherwise the road was good. But there was a stretch of 10 kilometers where it was still being laid, and was moderately bad for an Activa. Our riding pace also decreased to 20, and I was being careful with loose gravel which skids the vehicle. Suddenly the mountains completely turned barren except for the river bank. There was dust all around with the un-laid road. Slowly this greenery too disappeared. Srivadana was probably taking most of the brunt of the bumpy road as she was not very well that day. It was a tough stretch.
After this tough stretch both of us were craving for some break and nice tea and our hunt began for a stop. We finally found a tea spot, had a good break and proceeded towards the Namik La. The ascend to the Namik La was not very easy. The road was very good. However, it was steep and the vehicle was not going above 20. And there are turns at every corner. That was one of the rare moments when I felt the need of a more powerful vehicle. The turns were boring, but the ride was great. And there is no greenery or any specific scenery. It was barren mountains all around. One thing we noticed on these roads was that truck drivers drive very decently and the worst drivers are the local tourist vehicles. They don’t care of smaller vehicles taking turns slowly and start honking. As we climb, we see boards put by the BRO displaying some meaningful quotes about safety. We had to take some more breaks as Srivadana was getting uncomfortable sitting behind for a long time due to her illness.
There were some stretches where the Activa could not travel for more than 5 KMph. It was so very steep that even bigger bikes had to be given a full throttle. It was like we rode for ages, crossing one hill to another. The temperature was also rising drastically. We saw a couple of landslides being cleared, however they were not too much on the road and it was still commutable. We finally reached the Namik La top, which is at an altitude of 12,139 feet. This was the second mountain pass in the route. All the roads we traveled at the bottom were visible from there and I felt very achieved. One thing you notice there is the quietness in the environment. One can sit and enjoy the calmness mixed with the chirping of distant birds.
The descent from Namik La was effortless and all it required was maneuvering the turns. While descending you can find yellow plants on the sides of the hills which makes them beautiful. We passed through small villages again after descent. We still had to cross one more pass before reaching the destination, and we were craving to have some nice tea break. However, none of the villages had any tea stalls. We were briefly stopped by the local police to enquire where were we going and that was it. We started ascending the Fotu La. Fotu La is the last mountain pass and the highest point between Srinagar and Leh at an altitude of 13,478 feet. As before, the road was very good but barren. We rode with the same pace. After Sonamarg, we could again see snow clad mountains at a distance. We were greeted with our first Ladakhi wish Jhule (means Hello) while ascending. After descending Fotu La, we would reach the destination Lamayuru.
Just before Lamayuru, we had the first and the only crash (together) of the trip. There was a patch of sand and gravel on a still being laid road and while taking a turn the bike skid. We fell to the left directly over some stones. One of the stones hit on my left rib and I felt the pain the next 4-5 days as I was breathing heavily. I am sure my heart skipped a beat wherein I was completely dizzy for 10 seconds. There was a car coming in front of us, and they stopped immediately. By the time they got to us, I recovered and told them I was alright. We lifted the vehicle slowly, parked aside and rested for a while. My jacket, guards, helmet and trouser was covered in dust. Finally we reached Lamayuru at around 4 PM, took a nice home stay.