25th August 1994, Thursday…………Day(7) Drass-Ramban (290 km)
It was still drizzling when we got up in the morning. There was still no confirm news whether Zoji la was open or not. After quick breakfast we hurried towards Zoji la. After riding for about an hours or we reached at a very large open valley called Meenamarg. Hundreds of vehicles were already parked in the valley. We were told that all the vehicles would move with army convoy after sometime.
Army convoy began moving at 11am. We followed them. The road was all mud, slush and pretty bad. It was drizzling too. Road widening process was on and there were few landslides too. We had to stop and wait for one hour at one point due to landslide clearance. At one place I noticed army jawan’s got down from vehicles, salute a samadhi of a soldier and return back to vehicle.
We came to know that it was a memorial built in the memory of an army captain who lost his life while working on building road on Zoji la pass. We, too, paid our respect to the brave soul.
Reached Sonmarg at around 2.30pm and had nice rajmah chawal from a punjabi dhaba. We were told we need to hurry up if we wanted to cross Jawahar tunnel as the tunnel was supposed to be closed for vehicular traffic at 7pm every evening.
It was 3pm and we still needed to cover approximately 190 kilometers in 4 hours. We rode very fast. Those were the days of militancy. We were stopped at many places and advised to slow down. At one point a policeman warned us that we could be shot if we rode so fast.
Reached Srinagar at around 5pm but did not stop for even a minute and kept riding towards our target. We did not see anything on the way that day and kept riding as quickly as possible. We reached near the tunnel at around 6.45pm.
Strong wind was blowing. At one point we felt as if we would be blown away by this fierce wind.We continued anyhow. The tunnel was not lit and it fell dark. The headlights of my bike had also gone off due to fast riding in rain and on bumpy road.
I don’t know how we crossed that 2.5 kilometer tunnel in the dead darkness and potholed road. But we did cross the tunnel before 7pm. Reached Banihal at around 8pm but did not like the place. We were asked to stop and checked by police personnel once more. Infact one of the police officer gave us a good dressing down for riding in disturbed times.
We continued further and found nice room at Rs.25- in JKTDC run Tourist Bungalow at Ramban. It was quite hot in Ramban and we were wearing many layers of clothing. We quickly got the clothing off and went under the showers. That was a heavenly bath. We hadn’t had bath for many days and it was nice to get the grime off from dirty body.The food that night was simple but refreshing.
It was not very long when we both were snoring heavily in our respective beds……!!!