16th September 2015 (Wednesday)….Kargil to Plan Bandipora…273 km
Morning in Kargil was very refreshing. Got up early and was away to the next destination. Took tea break at a dhaba near Drass. Filled air pressure in the tyres and diesel from jerry can into the tank. Since I did not drive much in Padum and car performance was upto the mark, so extra diesel carried to Padum was not required. Took another break at Drass war memorial to pay respect.
Enjoyed early morning drive to Zoji la. The road was smooth and empty. It took me no time reaching Zoji la pass. A brief photo session and I was off to the next destination.
Crossed Baltal in a jiffy. Took a brief break on the outskirts of Sonmarg for pictures and then moved on.
Took lunch from the same punjabi dhaba at Sonmarg that serves good punjabi food with tandoori chapati. Unlike the other day, Sonmarg was bit crowded this time.
At Manigam I left main Leh-Srinagar highway and turned right, on a beautiful road towards Safapora (Manasbal). Loved the drive through ripe apple orchards. Before entering Mughal gardens at Manasbal lake I drove straight and stopped briefly to see an ancient hindu temple which has been recently unearthed. The pyramid shaped roof top of the temple is believed to be 1300-1400 year old and is a new attraction for pilgrims visiting Amarnath Caves and Kheer Bhawani Temple.
I drove little further to see what lay ahead and to take u-turn. Suddenly I saw a few policemen running here and there. Stones were being pelted from the other side of the street. Policemen threw teargas shells and rubber bullets to wither away the stone pelters. I found myself right in the middle of stone pelters and police. Luckily there was enough space to take u-turn and I quickly left the scene unharmed.
When I reached back at the Mughal gardens, everything seemed to be normal. Large number of day dwellers were making merry. There were ample policemen around. It felt like a minor incident and the policemen there advised me to take it easy. So assured I entered the garden by paying a nominal fees and had a little walk inside the garden.
The garden situated on the banks of Manasbal was well laid and and had number of willow trees. The day dwellers present in the garden were mostly local people from nearby areas. They were having nice time with their families and friends. Some of them were enjoying boat rides in the lake which was oozing with lotus flowers and weeds.
From Manasbal I drove through a narrow village road to the village of Tulmulla where famous hindu temple dedicated to Goddess Kheer Bhawani is situated. The term kheer refers to jaggery rice pudding which is offered in the spring to appease the Goddess.
I was happily surprised to see the setting of the temple. It has a large crowed square market right at the entrance gate selling all kind of souvenirs and snacks. The big entrance gate was manned by security forces. Every visitor has to enter details in a register kept.
A little walk and crossing a sacred pond, one reaches the main compound which has many temples and big chinar trees. Sanctum sanctum having the idol of main deity is in the middle of the compound. A number of pilgrims from far off places were there to seek blessings.
The setting of the temple compound was very natural and peaceful. There was a beautiful channel right at the entrance of the main shrine. The atmosphere at the temple was so like any other hindu shrine elsewhere in India. The only difference was, natural surrounding and presence of security forces.
From Tulmulla I drove to Bandipora (Plan Bandipora). Initial part of the drive was through large paddy fields. Landscape looked beautiful in the backdrop of setting sun. After fe kilometers I was again driving along Mansar Lake. Soon it became dark. The road was a narrow potholed village road. It passed through low lying hilly areas, dense forest and along wuller lake. The drive became lonely at times.
By the time I reached Bandipora it was 8pm. I drove through the entire Bandipora bazar, it was abuzz with activity. There were few guest houses and restaurants in the middle, somehow I did not find them suitable for me. Drove few kilometer on Sopore road and found an Indian Oil filling station which seemed more suitable for parking the car and sleeping inside it.
Before parking the car at filling station I thought it proper to ask for permission from the filling station staff. They happily allowed me to park the car at the filling station and sleep inside. They also offered me all kind of help.
This is what I wrote on my facebook timeline of that night at around 10pm. “Rt now I am inside the car parked at a Patrol Pump in Bandipora. Lights have gone off. It’s pitch dark outside. Its dead silence as well. I am trying to sleep, which is miles away. I don’t know how am I going to spend the next 8 hours, until it’s dawn and new day begins…..Mind u, this is the 16th such night of this trip”!!!