Early morning in Srinagar is very quiet. We had seen very few people on the road despite the area being very near to the Dal Lake. Most of the vehicles were the army trucks and special vehicles from which the army patrolled the roads. There were also many tourist vehicles, specially of the Amarnath Yatra. There was a petrol station some 5 kilometers from the cantonment and I had the tank full. We set the GPS to Sonamarg which is the first pit stop.
Sonamarg is around 80 kilometers from Srinagar and we would b e passing through the beautiful Dal Lake. When we reached the Lake, we thought it was a small one. It was very narrow at the mouth with a row of endless houseboats. It was a colorful sight.
As we rode further, it expanded wide.There were already many riders at the lake enjoying the pleasant morning.The sun had risen and the the first rays started peeping in from the clouds. It was a beautiful sight. A series of fountains were also setup at one of the banks of the lake which probably function all the time. You can find some boats at that place as well. One side of the road is completely green with Chinar trees which adds to the ambiance.
As we ride further, we cross Srinagar and pass through small villages. We could not find much activity in these villages, primarily as all these villages are prone to terrorist movements and we see the army patrolling most of the time.
We wanted to take a break for tea, however we could not find any dhabas on the way. Around 40 kilometers from Srinagar was the place we had taken the first break. There was a nice dhaba where we found groups of Amarnath Yatris. Most of these Yatris belonged to Andhra Pradesh, which is mostly the case every year. They all were excited to see my AP registered two wheeler and asked us a lot of questions on how did we think of riding on Activa etc. They were more excited to hear our plan to ride till Kanyakumari.
After taking a good break and a couple of teas each, we proceeded further. Most of the villages we crossed were green with fields and mountains. Moreover, most of the road further was on one side of the Sindh (Indus)river which was gushing with white water, Chinar trees on the other side. It was a refreshing ride. The sun was already out and it started getting hot. We had to cross many iron bridges which were built over the river. It is an important point to note that most of these bridges cannot withstand huge weight and it is always suggested that one vehicle crosses it at a time. Moreover they are narrow and two heavy vehicles will get stuck.
Smaller vehicles are no problem. The roads have been maintained extremely well by the Border Roads Organization and it is just because of them, that anyone is able to pass through. Every year after the winter, the BRO conducts Project Vijayak which is primarily clearing out the roads of the snow till Leh.
We stopped for our second tea break at a small hotel around 30 kilometers before Sonamarg. While having tea, we were told that it is not very safe to stay at that place for a long time because of terrorism. Finally, we reached Sonamarg at around 10 AM. We were very hungry and had our breakfast. I somehow could not eat much which I think is because of being tensed on what lies ahead. We also met an Australian lady in the restaurant and she wished us for the ride. We met the same lady again after 5 days in Nubra, which I shall write about later.
So after the breakfast, we rode ahead from Sonamarg. I wanted to fuel up as I had less than half tank. However, I had been told that there was no fuel station till Drass which was more than 50 kilometers away. We tried to find if we can find loose petrol, however there was no option. Finally, we decided to take a chance and rode ahead to ascend the Zoji La.