We had to start early each day as we had to cover the maximum distance. We got ready at about 7 but we needed the energy to start the day. After having a heavy breakfast as the road that we were about to take was remote. We started on our journey at 8 with a lot of excitement. Little did we know about the road that we were about to experience. Our goal for the day was Srinagar. We headed towards Jammu and had to take a shortcut that would save us a good 50km. It’s a small road which meets the main road at Uddhampur which is a small village. The detour is a village road which is not properly constructed. It is basically an off-roading. It took us about 2 hours just to reach Uddhampur without any breaks. Then starts one of the worst ‘Ghats’ in India. About 130Km of Ghat which goes through Patnitop is one hell of a drive. Mesmerizing view with mountains on all sides and rivers flowing through the valley. As beautiful the view is, it evens out with the difficulty of the road. The road is just two lanes which can barely fit two vehicles at a time. It’s a two-way road with heavy trucks. An important tip on road trips, always carry some food for munching and plenty of water.
These Ghats are not for the weak-hearted. There are a few stops here and there but no restaurants as such. Just some small places serving rice and Rajma (which was amazing though). We took small breaks in between as some of us were nauseated. One meal break that took us about an hour. After the 130Km of ghat is a plain road through Kashmir. Srinagar is still about 50-60Km from the end of this ghat. While we were on this road, we searched for some motels there online. But the key here was to ask for more. We reached Srinagar at 9 pm and talked with the owner of the motel. We were 6 people so we needed 2 rooms. The owner suggested us a big room which we immediately wanted to see for ourselves. And it was just perfect which cost us about Rs.1200 which was way cheaper than what we had got on the internet. Srinagar offers some amazing street food options. And we were lucky enough to have some good food right next to our motel. It was a tiresome day and we dozed off as soon as we got to our rooms.
We were most excited about this day since we started planning this trip. Today the destination was Kargil. But the road excited us more than the destination. Today we were about to go through the world’s most dangerous road (literally the world’s most dangerous roads in many lists). Khardungla pass which connects Srinagar to Leh and
Kargil and is one of the two roads that connect Leh to the rest of India. The road is open for about 3-4 months and is covered with snow for the rest of the year. You have to contact the locals to know the dates when it opens. We had an extensive research about this and reached there about two days after it opened. The safest time to go through this road is June-July. The worst patch on this road starts from Sonmarg and ends at Drass. It’s a 15Km stretch but takes about 3 hours just to cover that. This road supports one-way traffic only and is managed by the military. You can go from Srinagar or Sonmarg towards Drass only after 12 pm. The return timings are 6 am to 12 pm. We recommend you to reach early and form a line of entry.
CAUTION- DO NOT cut the line in any sort as the military is very strict and can take actions as heavy as cutting your tires.
We started our journey at about 8 but we had to stop for breakfast. A heavy breakfast here helped us on our journey. We were in Sonmarg at about 11 as the pass opens at 12. But the military movement was a bit too much that day and we had to wait until about 1:30 Pm there. As we started towards the pass, we realized that we had a normal car and not the 4 wheel drive which is pretty necessary here. But we had our expertise in cars so we didn’t think of that as a problem. The roads were full of mud and the melting ice made it worse. Midway on the pass, we realized that our clutch plate was overheated due to all the waiting in the line on a slope. This made the roads very difficult to drive on. At a point, we had to push the car out of a ditch. We had to stop there for about an hour just to make the clutch
plate normal again (make sure you have all the knowledge about this stuff or else it can be a huge problem.). Well, we overcame that problem and the excitement continued. The next stop was amazing. Drass, the world’s second coldest livable place on earth. The temperature at about -5 degrees and great windy place. Usually, people do stay here but we took it up a notch and planned to stretch about 40Km more to Kargil. But here we felt a little hungry and we halted for an early dinner. The only dhaba here which serves awesome and tasty food. It was literally finger licking good. We took off from there as we had to reach Kargil as early as possible and had to search for a place to stay.
The journey from Drass to Kargil was a sweet ride. It was dark and the road was great with small lights beside the roads to guide us. It was an hour of a journey to Kargil and had to search for the motel as we had no network there. We had to search for about an hour for a good hotel but we found the best hotel here. It cost about Rs.1700 for a big room in a three-star hotel as this was the start of the season and we needed to leave early for our final destination. We planned to change our actual plan for the next day and stayed up late.
The D day was here finally. As we had covered the extra distance to Kargil, we had just about 3-hour journey to Leh city. This 3-hour journey is through the Desert Mountains and also the snowy mountains. You come across great roads to click photos. You get a desert feel towards the end of the journey. As we had left early, we reached about 2 pm. The adrenaline didn’t let us wait in Leh and that’s when we decided to leave for our next destination Pangong Tso (Pangong Lake)(this was our first mistake). But first, we had to find a motel for a room where we could leave our luggage and carry small backpacks. Here the secret was to find a guesthouse which was not right in the middle of the city. We found one about a kilometer from the main market. We paid Rs.700 for a room as we just needed one room for the luggage. This took us about an hour.
Now we had one more problem. Leh doesn’t allow outside tourist vehicles to travel to its tourist spots. You can drive your own vehicle but not a tourist one. So we had to park the car near our motel. Leh-Ladakh dream trip is nothing without riding on a Royal Enfield which we had planned already. We had to rent the bikes as early as possible. Leh has one common rate card of renting bikes which we already had with us. I will link the rate card here. We opted for an automatic start version of bikes. We were 6 friends on the trip. Three of us were good at riding bikes, two of us knew how to ride but didn’t try cruiser bikes. And the last one didn’t know how to ride. We took 4 bikes in total (this was our second mistake). All this took us another hour. It was 4 pm already but we still wanted to reach the next destination on the same day. So we took off without any food. The roads seemed nice at first but started to get rough after two hours.
The roads were full of water streams of melting ice. To all the riders here, let me clear out the problem you face here. The water current in the streams is low in the morning and as the night approaches, it freezes the water. It starts getting high after 12 pm as the heat starts melting the ice which gets worse in the evening. We realized that we took a wrong decision. But we still wanted to reach our destination. Soon few of our friends started to feel sick and we found some lights at some distance. It was the Indian Military post. We stopped there for a break but the friends couldn’t feel any better. The military asked us to stay there. They arranged food, medical help and some beds for us. It was a rough night for all of us. Soon as the sun rose, we realized we are at Changla Pass, which is the second highest motorable road in India and the oxygen level here becomes very low.
This is the end of Part 2. Read Part 3 here.