Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Day 11 Kargil to Srinagar. ( 203 kms)

Up at 6 for breakfast but the ‘restaurant’ is still locked and no sign of life from the camp staff. Akarsh has to wake them up and by 6.30 they had produced some chai and later omelettes. All of this meant that the proposed 7am departure was delayed by an hour. I felt quite lethargic about getting on the bike and was the last rider to leave.

A turbulent river ran alongside the village and the road out to Drass, (60kms) the first stopping point and the road was a good curvy one with a good sealed surface. Large memorial at Drass to honour Indian soldiers killed in the 1962 indo- china war but principally to remember the surprisingly large numbers (and high ranks) who were killed in clearing the mountains of the Pakistani insurgents who entrenched themselves, overlooking the valley, in 1999. This place has become a national shrine and the equivalent of the Australian National War Memorial.

One of the guys who helped with the “fun”, whom I labelled Al Pacino, when the Indian names were proving difficult to remember.
He’s part of a rockband in Delhi, and later on in Dharamshala, I see a poster that seems to have a dose of self promotion so send it to him.

 From Drass, east, the road turned to shite and there was  a punishing 20km stretch of badly broken road that just left you feeling exhausted followed by a really scary “Colombian Death Road “section where the left hand side of the road dropped away into a deep ravine hundreds of feet below. Being scared of heights I just stayed in the middle of the road and prepared to squeeze up against the cliff wall, if a truck or other vehicle came around a corner.  

A bit further on, a fair bit of this

The drop down is a series of switchbacks and the dust was bad, but interspersed with water crossings which we’d been warned about so I’d started the day with glad bags inside my boots
We sight Baltal, where pilgrims go on a journey to Shiva’s shrine at Amarnath. You can see the tents. 
We don't go down to Baltal but continue running west along the valley floor.

The last few kilometers into Sonmarg were sealed but I arrived feeling not very enthusiastic about the rice/dahl style lunch that was being served. Two chocolate bars seemed more appealing.
The remaining 80kms into Srinagar were the domain of lunatic drivers who overtook us, even  though we were behind slower vehicles, waiting for a reasonably safe opportunity to pass. Road surface was very average so the whole section, seemed to turn into a bit of a race as you struggled to keep up with the leader, and not risk being left behind and unable to find the Srinagar hotel.
There was a minibus driver (in one of those very robust looking “FORCE” vehicles) who driving as if he were on crystal meth, sat behind us horn honking non stop, until there was just the slightest possibility that something might not be coming the other way, and who would then pull out, even on a blind corner. If something was coming, then he’d force his way back on to our side of the road, forcing the bikes into the roadside verge. We did enjoy it when he’d get stuck behind something on a bend and the  bus engine would bog down, so we’d whip past. This seemed to trigger something in his brain to just try harder to pass everything no matter where. If I’d been a passenger I’d have been really worried about getting killed in a headon. When we got to Srinagar, we all remembered him and it seemed quite funny by then.
Woodlands hotel very nice and great to have a shower after 2 days on the road. Although the back up truck with the clean clothes bag was much later getting in.
Dinner arranged to be at a restaurant where the emphasis was on Kashmiri food, a welcome change from the roti, rice/dahl diet of the last week. Despite the lack of alcohol – this state being dry – we kill ourselves laughing.
This is the last time I will be with the guys and I'm going to miss their company.

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