Ladakh to Kanyakumari on an Activa – Zoji La to Kargil
Drass was just 40 kilometers away and we had made it to the Zero point quite quickly. We were very relaxed as we would reach Drass in 1.5 hours easily and planned to spend more time here. The first day of the ride was going great. The Zero point is almost at the top of Zoji La. There was still some climbing to be done, however the road was much better and plain. Near to the road side restaurants, you can find glacier ice at a distance. It is said that the other side of these mountains, lie Amarnath and this is the same glacier that forms the Linga formation in Amarnath. One can go near the ice and we had seen ice sledging being done. Srivadana wanted to do it as well. You will be approached by the locals for providing these services and Srivadana went over while I rested. I was not very keen on doing this stuff.
After a nice break and some photography, we started riding further and ascending to the top of Zoji La. The the road became bad again, with small stones and sand. With the smaller vehicle, it was not very easy to ride as there was a risk of skidding. The road was not that narrow, so it was easy to maneuver. We crossed bridges constructed over streams formed by melting ice. Parts of the road were good and we could ride a little faster. Wherever there were bad patches, it was really bad. The descent was quite easy as the road was good. The landscape got better and better as we descended. Endless mountains and blue sky with large puffs of clouds were a pleasure to watch.
While entering the Kargil district, one normally has to sign at one of the army check posts. However, starting this year Indian riders are not required to.
We were told that our accommodation was booked in one of the transit camps in Drass. Drass is a town in the Kargil district and has a record of being the second coldest inhabited place in the world with temperatures going down to 48 degrees centigrade, first being Siberia.The road to Drass was being still laid out, and it was very good at some places and bad at most of the places. The terrain slowed us down. Moreover, being the first day of the ride we were tired as well and were anxious to close the ride for the day. We reached the camp at which we were told our accommodation is booked. However, they had no information. We were not able to reach out contacts as well due to zero mobile connectivity. The army folks were so sweet, that they prepared tea for us knowing that we were tired and waiting for confirmation of the stay.
Understanding that this was not going to happen, we decided then to ride further till Kargil and take a hotel over there. Kargil was still around 50 kilometers and it was already around 5 PM. We were told initially that we would get fuel in Drass, however Drass does not have any fuel stations. The only option was to refuel in Kargil and we were slowly running out of it. The real saving grace was the road condition. Excellent, till Kargil which really helped ride faster. If not for this roads, the vehicle would have consumed fuel faster and we would have been stranded mid way. We had a nice evening tea in one of the restaurants. One of the facility which is scarce is bathrooms. You will not find any for longer distances and if need be, one need to relieve himself / herself somewhere behind bushes or boulders. We experienced this in our earlier rides as well and were quite fine with that.
Before Kargil is located the Memorial of the famous 1999 war with Pakistan. I had read about its museum and the confiscated weaponry during the war, and was looking forward for being there. Unfortunately, the museum was closed for some days for preparations for the anniversary of the victory. We felt real bad for missing this. However we had captured some pictures and especially this video.
It was a very proud moment to ride right in the 1999 war zone. Just beside the main road is the famous Tololing mountain which was captured by the Pakistan army, and officers like Major Rajesh Adhikari, Lt. Col. Viswanathan, Major Vivek Gupta, Major Padmapani Acharya, Captain Nimo and Captain Vijayant Thapar laid their lives and reclaimed it back for us.
Finally we reached Kargil around 8 PM. We found the fuel station before entering the town and were relieved. We were so lucky that the tank was almost empty with probably 100 ml of it left. The top up was almost the full capacity. The ride was quite easy from Drass, but we were really tired. We rode around 60 kilometers more than what we had planned for the day. After reaching the town, we had taken a decent hotel. We had planned to start late the next day as we had covered some of the distance planned for the next day already. Once we reached Kargil town, we called our Army contacts and we found that the accommodation was arranged near the War Memorial and there was a confusion in informing us. They were also anxiously waiting for me to inform them of our whereabouts. This felt more bad, as if we had stayed in the army camp near the War Memorial, we could have visited it though it was closed.
With the joy of completing the first day of the ride, we had a nice simple dinner and crashed for the night.