11th September 2015 (Friday)….Srinagar to Sonamarg…125 km
Again had a trouble free night sleep inside the car parked inside a street near Nehru Garden, Srinagar. Two cups of tea and bun from a tea shop near Dal lake and last stroll along the Dal lake, it was time to drive to next destination of the trip.
But before moving on to the next destination I wanted to have a picture of Lalpari at Lal chowk which is notorious for numerous terrorists activities. This was a dream taken years ago when I visited Lal chowk for the first time in 1989. It was early morning there wasn’t any rush. I did not face any difficulty in clicking pictures and having a little stroll even in the presence of so many security men.
After having nice time at Lal chowk I drove towards the next destination of the day, Sonmarg. The drive till Ganderbal was on a busy congested road. Tall Chinar trees all along the road were a delight though.
From Ganderbal the road became quite wide and landscape even more beautiful. Mountains all around the vast valley and golden paddy fields in the foreground presented a picture perfect scenery.
The drive continued to be beautiful. I was asked to stop near Kangan by police and first time in the trip papers of my car and my id was thoroughly examined. Policeman took lot of time and was very reluctant to let me go even after everything was found in order. Finally he looked into my twinkling eyes and he had to let me go.
Kangal bazar was all closed. Local bands are very frequent here in Kashmir. There were people gathered on both sides of the road. At first I thought of diverting to Naranag, the base for trek to Gangabal, but looking at the situation decided otherwise and continued driving towards Sonmarg. The sight of Punjabi dhabas lined on both sides of the road near Kangan was welcome sight. The reason for the same could be due to a large number of Amarnath yatra bound punjabi pilgrims.
From Kangan the drive was along a beautiful river and the landscape became even better. There were some good resorts near the river and I stopped near one of them for tea and rest.
Like all the popular hill stations in Kashmir I had to pay a nominal fee to enter Sonmarg. Sonamarg, situated on the river Indus, is a vast meadow, gateway to Ladakh and Zanskar valleys and has no permanent settlement. It was gateway to ancient silk route as well. It’s a popular summer destination now, the base for trek to Amarnath yatra Baltal is also closeby. The large meadow turns yellow red in autumn and thus called meadow of gold.
In summers large number of tourists visit Sonamarg to play with snow and pony rides to nearby Thajiwas glacier. There are some good treks as well, mainly to Kolahoi and Machoi glaciers. It’s also a popular pitstop for large number of Ladakh bound bikers and truckers as well. There are large number of road side dhabas, guest houses, hotels and resorts in Sonamarg.
I reached Sonamarg quite early. It was still afternoon. I had a nice lunch from a dhaba owned by a sardar ji. I had tandoori roti after many days. I also used this time to charge laptop. Then I drove few kilometers to the base of trek to Thajiwas glacier. After few kilometers walk I realised that weather was murky and I was not enjoying the walk. So I walked back and drove to Sonamarg.
Evening in Sonmarg was very lively. Market was open till late. I had nice time walking around. Enjoyed few drinks as well. Dinner was from the same dhaba. Later, parked the car in the main market area and had nice sleep inside the car.