Staying overnight at Golden Meadow (Sonamarg) is always a pristine moment which will surely became mementos of life later on. This high altitude meadow is only accessible in summers as it gets closed in winters because of heavy snowfall. It is only accessible for four months and it should not be missed, moment it is open for public.
Last night we partied hard and slept with lots of sweet moments and with an eager of crossing Zojila Pass next day. I was in my sleeping bag and was only wondering about Zojila which I had seen many times on Google. Zojila was always an extreme attraction for me to ride on these dreadful curves with the thumping sounds of my bike.
Imagination rolled in my mind of crossing Zojila and sailing down towards Drass which is the second coldest inhabited place of the world after ‘Oymyakon, Russia‘. Thoughts of Tiger Hill and Kargil which were the coming en-route destinations filled me with extreme excitement and patriotism. Army was around every where and riding through these border roads were the most dangerous adventures for us. With all these thoughts I do not know when I fell asleep.
Route: Sonamarg–>Zojila Pass–>Drass–>Tiger Hill–>Kargil
Hotels: Zojila Residency, Siachen Hotel, Caravan Sarai, Greenland Kargil are few good hotels in Kargil. (No hotels in Drass Sector)
To check my previous day journey, please click (Leh Ladakh Road Trip (Delhi-Srinagar-Sonamarg) – Vol#1)
My ongoing journey after Sonamarg…..
Day 4: We did late night party therefore next day we were little late from our schedule. But it did not affected us because Zojila was left open only for vehicles coming from Kargil to Sonamrag. Army people told us that it will start from this side also at round 1 pm and then will be closed for the other side.
Zojila has narrow, steep and zig-zag road which becomes dreadful for two way mode for transportation. Therefore it is always kept one way transportation. Morning to noon is open for Kargil to Sonamarg and after noon it is open for Sonamarg to Kargil. It was 10 am and we had ample amount of time to explore Sonamarg once again.
We parked our bikes near the Army barrigating and with some relaxing mood we did some tour discussions with other riding groups who accompanied us. There were bikers from all parts of India as well as from the world also. A group from Italy also joined us. Now our group members were more than 20 and I had to lead them which itself was a thrilling mindset.
As we had 3 hours in hand therefore we tried exploring some more beauties of Sonamarg. It was a beautiful morning and sun rays were adding more clarity to these stunning and vibrant mountains.
We moved ourselves to the entry point of Sonamarg valley which had a beautiful bridge over Sindh river. This was the most spectacular point from where Zojila top can also be seen. The snow topped mountain in the background is the Zojila top which was our main itinerary for today. I was staring the Zojila and it seemed Drass and Kargil were calling us from the behind of snow topped mountains.
We stepped down below the bridge and enjoyed some relaxing moments at Sindh river banks. We were sharing our experiences, likes, dislikes, non-veg jokes, lifestyles and many more to cherish these relaxing moments.
Sharp at 1 pm Army opened the barrigates. We started the journey again. This journey had full of breathtaking views. It was unbelievable for me that I am going for Zojila top ride. The same ride which I had dreamed a lot and searched on Google many times.
After few kilometers of drive we reached near Baltal point where we had to go through some Army routine checkings. Baltal is the point from where Amarnath Yatra initiates.
Stunning landscapes of Baltal.
There were some quick checks for our luggage and identities by our legendary Indian Army and after that we again hit the NH-1D.
Indian soldiers guarding our motherland.
A glimpse of Zojila pass.
This was most adventurous ride of my life. After few kilometers of drive, tarmac road ended and Kachcha road started. Every biker was leaving a flowing dust behind him. You may think its annoying but here it was the part of adventure and we really enjoyed this.
In the picture, you can see the same road below from where we headed upwards. These zig-zag curves and turns can make anyone’s head swirling. I found few bikers who were vomiting. Army asked them to stay there for few minutes and get acclimatize to the surrounding first and then move ahead.
Once again Army stopped us because it was the next twist of the journey, Landslides. Cranes were called up to clean these. This pass should have been named Zalzala pass instead of Zojila 🙂
My Gang with other groups.
Destiny eyes looking for its destination.
These horizontal parallel lines are the Zojila pass road and they are the same, not two different tracks. Melting glaciers have been cut down by Indian Army for a clear passage. Riding upwards through these glaciers is a spell bound feeling which every rider must experience it.
It was a half an hour halt and again we pulled our socks and with a fire in our belly to cross Zojila. Cranes cleared the road and we were only waiting for Army signal to start again.
Moment Army waived the flag, journey was commenced again. The group started the ride and the entire valley echoed with sounds of our bikes, Dug Dug Dug Dug…. Dug Dug.
The first picture in the upper grid depicts the melting glacier creating sludge on the roads. Rest two pictures showing traffic, it is because sludge was very slippery and tires were skidding. All vehicles were slowed down.
There were many points where turns were very sharp, zig-zag and very steep. Powerful 500 cc bikes also were able to move on the first gear only. None of the bike was ready to brisk on the second gear.
We kept on moving through these sludge as Army was not allowing us to stop which would have created slow traffic. About an hour of drive we came very near to Zojila top. By this time we were little exhausted, forearms were paining because of the bike controls in the sludge with our utmost power.
While riding we found ourselves on the plain tiled road, tiled replaced the steep and sludge. If this happens, it means you are on the top. Zojila was fully covered with snow and glaciers. All of our pains and exhaust converted to immense pleasure of conquering Zojila. We parked our bikes and started our photo session in the midst of magnificent beauties.
Snow masti on the glacial top.
Milestones are the achievements of life and framing this was utmost essential part of this journey. We topped the height of 11649 ft. We were there for half an hour and experienced few frequent switching of weather. We were asked to leave the place as soon as possible as it was going to snow heavily.
We commenced again and this time through the glacial walls which were around 20 ft on the either side of the road. I started shivering while crossing through these walls, I pulled my leather jacket.
While sailing down towards Drass sector from Zojila, we entered in Ladakh region. Traveling Ladakh was my dream and now it was in front me.
A complimentary coffee service by Indian Army. Generally, they offer to those who are not habitual to these climates. If there is no rush then they offer to everyone.
Our dedicated soldiers. They are, therefore we are. It requires enormous sacrifices to guard our motherland. No sacrifice is greater than serving in Army. My salute to them… Jai Hind.
After few chit-chats with Army men we again started sailing towards Drass through Zojila glaciers. It was the endless beauty of endless roads.
We crossed these pleasant and spectacular landscapes. Roads of Zojila pass was in horrible condition, if you are there be careful while sailing down towards Drass.
Melting glaciers created many streams on the pass and we had to cross through those streams. Our Gumboots filled with chilled water but we continued our ride to cross all the streams first and then to clean ourselves in the last.
After crossing all the streams, we cleaned ourselves and had a group photo. Here group did lots discussion of this spectacular ride. It was an amazing day of my life.
We almost sailed down to Drass region and before entering into the city, we found a signboard of ‘Kargil War Memorial’. Just to add one information here, Kargil War Memorial is not in Kargil, it is in Drass sector. It is an Army memorial established in Drass in the name of Kargil warriors.
Yes, Drass sector is the second coldest inhabited place in the world. It is a proud moment to be here. Incredible India !!
We reached Drass city and from there famous Tiger Hill was easily visible. We quickly had our evening snacks and refreshments then moved to Tiger Hill which was just 12 kms off-route from Drass-Kargil highway. It is the same hill which was captured by Pakistani Army in the Kargil war in the year 1999. When Indian Army tried re-capturing it they faced a heavy machinery fire from Pakistanis. Pakistanis were on the top and they were in good position to shoot any Indian from there.
Our soldiers showed some extreme heroism and replied a strong retaliation. Artillery was heavily used by Indian Army to destroy Pakistani bunkers. Tiger hill peak is of 17,411 ft. but our soldiers trekked this and re-captured it. Moment this was captured, mission was accomplished and our former prime minister Shri. Atal Vihari Vajpayee declared the victory of ‘Operation Vijay’. Hero of this Tiger Hill (Point 4660) battle was Rifleman ‘Yogendra Kumar Yadav’ who was later awarded ‘Param Veer Chakra’ (Highest Gallantry Award of India) for his extreme heroism. This story has been showed in the movie ‘Lakshya’ and ‘LOC Kargil’.
We came back to Drass to explore Kargil War Memorial. We left the city back and hit the Kargil highway for the Army memorial.
Just after few minutes of ride we reached this memorial which has lots of memoirs of extreme heroism, patriotism and sacrifice. An Army man shared few stories of Kargil war heroes, the way they sacrificed their lives for the Today of ourselves.
Their stories made us emotional. I found tears in the eyes of few bikers. It was a sentimental moment, all were quiet and silence was prevailing in the atmosphere. We had nothing to do for our heroes, we prayed for their souls to rest in peace. I pledged one thing that I will never forget these heroes and will keep alive their sacrifices in my heart.
War memorial has been established under the Tololing Point. It is the same point which was captured by our enemy and later on Indian Army played the musical triumph after re-capturing it. Heroes of this battle were Maj. Rajesh Adhikari (Mahavir Chakra, posthumously) and Maj. Digendra Kumar (Mahavir Chakra). Mahvir Chakra is the second highest gallantry award of India.
War memorial has a Mig-21 fighter plane and one helipad too. Mig-21 has been placed to respect Sqn.Ldr. Ajay Ahuja who sacrificed his life during photo reconnaissance mission over Tiger Hill and Kargil sector. He was accompanied by Flt.Lft Nachiketa who was flying Mig-27. Anti-aircraft guns of enemy damaged these aircrafts.
Enemy killed Ahuja right there moment they captured him. Nachiketa was taken as a prisoner and was released by Pakistan when pressure from all over world was on Pakistan to follow the ‘Geneva Convention’. As per Geneva Convention no country can kill the war prisoner and have to return them back if any country recognizes their soldier.
A saga of supreme sacrifice and patriotism.
The lethal Mig-21.
I too got emotional with the saga of supreme sacrifice and my tears were about to burst out. I checked my tears because our war heroes do not want us to cry on their story, they only want us to smile and remember them. I checked my eyes and tried giving some rowdy looks. We should not cry on the sacrifice of our great soldiers, we should feel proud, remember them, applaud and salute them instead of getting emotional.
A cute little girl from Drass came to see the war memorial.
We spent our pleasant evening in the memorial itself. I heard with someone that ride from Drass to Kargil is amazing during night. The blinker lights on the either side of the road was the beauty of this ride. Therefore we waited for dark to fall. Around 7 pm we started our adventurous night ride. It was really an amazing road. Riding in dark in the mid of the well tarmac road with blinker lights was an astonishing feeling.
The sounds of flowing Indus river in the abyss and cool breeze made this a wonderful journey. I admired this ride a lot. In the mid I stopped and let my fellow members to go ahead, I wanted to ride alone for few kilometers. I did that, it was a peaceful experience. If you are there, try the night ride of Kargil from Drass. It will become a mesmerizing journey for you forever.
Kargil is 60 kms from Drass, after couple of hours we reached there and stayed overnight in the camps. It was already 9 pm, we quickly had our dinner and accommodated ourselves in the camps and slept. Kargil was our last destination for the day.
Day 5: It was the fifth morning of this journey and again we packed our luggage and started our journey after breakfast. First we wanted to explore Kargil beauty as we arrived here in the night therefore wanted to check the same in day time. City was built on the desert hills with mountainous rocks and stones. It was situated on the bank of Indus river.
Kargil valley with the combination of Indus river. Stunning !!
An aerial view of Kargil.
Kargil on the banks of Indus river. Astonishing !!
After exploring the landscapes of Kargil, group halted and discussed the next itineraries. We had full day in hand and started moving to our next destination.
Check the further journey updates in my next blog – Leh Ladakh Road Trip (Batalik-Aryan Valley-Khalsi) – Vol#3