Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Trip to cold desert - Ladakh Part I

A 16 day dream trip was planned (16days from mumbai to mumbai) from 16Aug to 31Aug.There were 5 of us. Me & my parents  and my friend Ritesh Bagul & his wife. They joined us at Leh on 21st of Aug.

This time the itinerary was changed compared to last year (which got cancelled due to unfortunate cloudburst around Leh) with Manali-Leh road trip dropped due to reports of bad and uncertain road conditions.
Also it would have taken 2 more days out of our itinerary.

So the final itinerary was as follows
16-8-11 Flight Mumbai Srinagar. Local Sight seeing
17-8-11 Dep Srinagar reach Kargil
18-8-11 Kargil – Batalik – Dah – Kargil
19-8-11 Kargil – suru valley – kargil - Lamayuru
20-8-11 Lamayuru – Alchi – Leh
21-8-11 Acclamatization / Sightseeing – Shey, thikse,choglamsar
22-8-11 Leh – Diskit via Khardungla
23-8-11 Diskit – Turtuk – Diskit
24-8-11 Diskit – Leh
25-8-11 Leh - Pangong - Stay at Spangmik
26-8-11 Pangong - Chushul – Loma - Nyoma - Tso Moriri
27-8-11 Tso Moriri – Tso Kar
28-8-11 Tso Kar - Leh via Tanglangla
29-8-11 Leh Local sightseeing
30-8-11 Leh Local sightseeing
31-8-11 Dep Leh by Air, Arrvl Mumbai

Before the start of travel unlike 2010 all the news were good.
Clear Weather!!

We had not booked any hotels before hand since our visit was towards the end of season so we were told that rooms would be available and also bargaining plays a big role in this region, which can be best done only face to face :-)

Though we got some very good references from our friend Mr. Vivek Nagvekar who himself takes multiple tours to Ladakh every year and is an avid trekker (He has done the chaddar trek on frozen Zanskar).

We got a reference to one of the very good driver Mr. Liyakat from our friends from BARC who had been to Ladakh few years back.

Day 1 - 16th Aug - Mumbai - Srinagar

As soon as we landed in Srinagar i had an instant feeling that it is very different than other hill regions we have visited. The main reason for this must be a very different landscape & flora of Kashmir as compared to other hill regions I have visited like gharwal, kumaon or Himachal.

We were in Srinagr only for one night.
Reached Srinagar at 1300.

Stayed at Hotel Pine Groove near Boulevard.

Pine Groove Hotel Entrance

We visited Shankaracharya hill, Nishat & Shalimar gardens and of course a Shikara ride in Dal Lake.

Shankaracharya Hill:

It is overlooking dal lake on its south bank.
It hosts the Shankarachya Temple also known as Jyeteshwar Temple.
Amarnath yatra pilgrimes visit this temple before proceeding towards the yatra.
The forest is depleted due to wood cutting for fire but it has been recovered since 1940s a bit and we saw a Chukar partridge.

View of Dal Lake from midway on the Shankaracharya hill

Dal Lake full of Shikaras
Chukar on Shakaracharya hill road

Shikaras in Dal Lake
Dal Lake view before just getting down from Shankarachrya Hill

Nishat and Shalimar Bagh:

They are on the east shore of dal lake.
They are Mughal gardens and are terraced.

Nishat Gardens of Srinagar

Beautiful flowers in the garden

A small landscaping in Nishat

Shalimar Gardens

Shalimar Gardens

Eurasian Jackdaw

Himalayan Bulbul

Shalimar garden

Dal Lake:

It is an urban lake in the city of Srinagar. It is integral to tourism in Jammu and Kashmir.

The evening ride in the Shikara was the best part.
The lake was awesome and it was more interesting to learn the business that goes around inside the lake.
Ofcourse there are house boats but there are also shops.
Not only that there are also floating fields in the lake where vegetables are grown and every morning a bazaar is setup in the middle of the lake to sell these vegetables.

Sunset over Dal Lake

Dal Lake in evening sky from Shikara

Sunset over Dal Lake

Floating shops on Dal Lake
With only half day at Srinagar we were very late in the lake so could not see everything and that is one thing for which I will surely return to Srinagar.

A night stroll back to hotel on the bolevaurd along the lake was wonderful.

Day 2 - 17th Aug - Srinagar - Kargil

Our driver had informed us earlier day that he will not be able to make to Srinagar from Leh as he was stuck somewhere. But he had sent another driver and he was on time in the morning.

We checked out of our hotel and started by 9am for Kargil.

Before leaving Srinagar we decide to take some snaps of Dal Lake but it was very hazy and could manage a few birds shots.
Whiskered Tern

Black Kite

Little Grebe

On the way stop at Sonmarg

From there we proceeded towards Sonmarg which is at 2800m and on the way just  before Sonmarg stopped for a view of Tazivas glacier. 
Its a tourist location and one gets ponies to take tourists to Tazivas glacier 3000m. 
We could also see a JKTDC resort here.

Baltal base of Amarnath Yatra

At the base of Zojila pass is a place called baltal which is the camping ground for pilgrims starting the Amarnath yatra.

Here is snap of the trekking route going to Amarnath.

Zojila Pass (11575 Feet)

This is a 11500ft high pass on Srinagar Leh highway (NH1). Earlier this pass used to be closed for almost 6months now generally it is closed only for 4 months and opens much before May.

 Just as we were on the other side of Zojila we saw the Lammergeier or also called a bearded vulture.
Its a huge bird with a wingspan of 10feet. Its also called a bone beaker as it takes huge bones high up in the sky and then drop them on a rock to break it into smaller pieces.

Lammergeier or bearded vulture

The road to Dras was scenic with view of snow peaks also.
Here are some of the shots.

Draas (second coldest habitable place in world)

Draas is a small town which was the center of Kargil war.
Geographically it is the second coldest habitable place in the world. Temperature of -30C has been recorded from here and people live all round the year.

At Draas one can see the Tiger Hill, Tololing range and other high points which were captured by Pakistan in 1999. The memorial is in the memory of all the armymen who fought for India in this war.

Tiger Hill

Tololing range which is very close to Srinagar - Leh highway. So one can imagine how close Pakistan had reached.

Draas memorial with the Tololing mountain range in the background

Tololing range

Draas Memorial

From Memorial looking at the entrance of the memorial

European Goldfinch

We reached kargil by 6pm and checked in at a Hotel Greenland.
A decent hotel and rooms (may be because the building was just constructed in 2010 :-))
Here we met our driver Mr Liyakat for the first time.
He informed that for Dah as well we will a local vehicle (JK07) and Leh vehicle (JK10) will not be allowed by local Taxi union as we were going to come back to Kargil.
But that was not a problem for us as he was going to arrange everything.

We went out at night to find a nice place for dinner but as had heard from mutliple source Kargil does not have a decent restaurant and that too veg. Initially i had not belived it looking at the size of the town but it turned out true.

Only one dabha type restaurant run by a Sardarji having one bench was where we had dinner and that too dal and chawal, No roti. But after a long first days ride the hot food was tasting good.

Part 2 Day 3 - 6 Dah Village, Suru Valley and Kargil-Leh travel covering Lamayuru