15th September 2015 (Tuesday)….Padum to Kargil…253 km
After a nice sleep I got up very early and fresh at Padum. Since it was going to be a long drive I checked out quite early from Hotel Ibex. Had two cups of tea as usual and was on my way back to Kargil. Early morning drive is always very freshening especially after a nice sleep and when the landscape around is so beautiful. This was the first picture of the day which I clicked from Padum.
For first few kilometers the road was tarred and smooth. Soon I reached a village that had a lake and a statue on the other side of the lake. The landscape presented was very beautiful. Later I came to know that place was Holy Lake Tuthot.
Driving little further I reached a diversion, the road to the right across the bridge lead to village Karsha and Karsha Monastery. I realised where I faltered that night while coming to Padum. Instead of moving ahead I had turned to Karsha on this road and got lost for over an hour.
The landscape was desolate but beautiful. Since I drove through this landscape during night while coming, this was the first time I was beholding this beautiful landscape. Doda River which originates from Drang Drung glacier near Pensi la was meandering merrily through the wast wasteland.
It was still quite early and I saw children waiting for school vehicles at many places. Some of them took lift in my car for few kilometers. They looked very innocent, fresh and happy.
There was hardly anyone on the road. I did not see any vehicle or human being for miles together. The road was all gravel with loose stones and potholed. The landscape continued to be rugged but beautiful.
Due to winters the grass had turned brown and red. The mountains were bare and brown. Doda river was flowing merrily through the beautiful vast wilderness. The landscape all around was breathtaking.
The riot of colors, bare brown mountains, glacial rivers and wilderness spread all around, it was all so sensuous to the eyes.
And the peeking snowclad mountains in between, it was stunning beauty spread all around me. I felt myself to be so lucky to have been there all to myself without anyone around to disturb my feelings. At the same I missed some of my dear ones as well.
Landscape became absolutely stunning near Drang Drung glacier. Bare brown mountains were shining bright, huge grass was spread like a wildfire. The setting was perfect for Lalpari to pose and capture lifetime memoir. Drang drung glacier is right behind this small raised area, a nice place to climb and soak in the beauty of glacier.
Drang drung glacier had been in my dream book for many many years. I have looked at it in my dream book many a times before the advent of internet. I have waited for so long to be there. I was very close to this place in 1989 but could not make it some how. This time I was lucky to be there twice in three days. Standing there alone beholding this amazing work of Nature in full glory all by myself was a dream come true. I knew I was carrying with me lifetime memories and joy forever.
On the way up I could not click my picture at Penzi la due to paucity of time. It was nice and warm this time, perfect for a photo session and collection of lifetime memories. Penzi la is the highest point on the route and gateway in between Suru and Zanskar Valleys. The views from Penzi la are some of the most breathtaking views from a pass anywhere.
The grass in the Suru Valley became even brighter in the last two days. It was good to see few cars parked inside the vast grassland near a stream. There were few tents too. Some men and women playing merrily around the tents. It felt like a group was having nice time picnicking.
I could not click these agile creatures (Marmots) on way up. They were playing around and gave good opportunity to click this time. A few kilometers drive from Rangdum I saw two creatures galloping very fast in the vast grassland.
I mistook them as marmots but when I reached closer I found them to be brown bears, one big one and the other smaller one.
They swiftly crossed the road almost 50 meters from where I was and climbed the mountain in a matter of minutes.
By the time I took my camera out they were gone. This was the first time I saw bears in the wild
Padum to Panzi la is around 75 km and Rangdum further 25 km. Since I crossed this area during night while going to Padum, I took lot of time enjoying the beauty of this area in day time along with clicking pictures. I got my name struck at Rangdum army check post and was at Rangdum by 3pm.
From Rangdum, Parkachik is another 40-45 kilometer. Weather turned murky near Nun-Kun massif while crossing Parkachik glacier. By the time I crossed this desolate area it was already 5pm and Kargil was still more than 100 kilometers away.
The entire drive from Padum to Kargil (240 km) is isolated, remote and tiring. It is tarred for 10 kilometers near Padum and then it’s a total offroading for 175 kilometers till 5 kilometers beyond Panikhar. There are shops at only two places between Padum and Parkachik, at Rangdum and the other one at Parkachik.
The drive was both breathtaking, bone breaking and tiring. At Parkachik I decided to drive through the village instead of taking bypass road. I saw a dhaba at the entrance of the village and stopped for tea. It was 6pm when I left from Parkachik. Panikhar was still around 20 kilometer away and there was still off roading for another 25 kilometers or so.
I took other and better road this time. This road was on the right bank of Suru River and along a bare mountain. Weather took turn and a cool breeze started blowing. After sometime it started drizzling as well. The bare mountain was devoid of any tree cover and had loose soil and boulders. At times it felt like a landslide was imminent. It fell dark too. There was no one around for miles together. The road was better but had big potholes which appeared suddenly discouraging me to pick up any sort of speed. For the first time in this route, I was feeling bit fearful.
Soon I reached a village and got a solace. From that unknown village, the road to Sankoo was still desolate. At one point I reached a crossroad and hesitated for a while lest I take a wrong road again. Luckily a vehicle arrived and put me on the correct road. After sometime the road became tarred and smooth. Driving through Sankoo and army camps till Kargil was a cakewalk thereafter.
Reached Kargil at around 9.30pm in the night. Fresh from desolation of Zanskar, It looked a lively and happening place in the nightly lights. I wanted to eat tandoori food and a suitable place for parking the car.
There were number of restaurant, hotels and guest houses open even at that time. I did not find place of my choice though. Finally I drove to Leh-Srinagar highway and found a suitable parking place in between two trucks parked outside a dhaba.
Since it is a main highway things kept happening till late in the night. Traffic kept moving almost the entire night and dhaba continued to attract customers till late as well. I spent the time walking on the road and contemplating about my life and travel. Few drinks added additional spark to already amazing nightly atmosphere.
Sleeping inside the car parked at Kargil, on Leh-Srinagar highway that night was like a dream. I still remember that night fondly and its very thought fills my heart with endless joy…..how beautiful this life is!!!