Day 3 started with early morning photography at Sonamarg. After having the breakfast at Sonamarg, we headed towards the Zojila pass. Zojila is the first pass in Srinagar – Leh route and is 4000 m above the sea level. It was decided in the morning that our next major halt will be at Kargil War Memrial in Drass. Distance between Sonamarg and Drass is 70 KMs. Munish was driving ahead of me and others in Xylo car were following me. Before the pass we took several breaks to capture the beauty of region in our cameras. While climbing the pass I stopped and tried to capture the pictures but locals coming behind suggested not to halt there as the area was very land slide prone. Just after crossing the Zojia pass there were too roads; one at straight direction and other downwards. Army personal on duty there asked me to take the straight road. I took that road and was in impression that Munish is ahead of me. I kept driving in assumption that somewhere ahead Munish will be waiting for us. But there were no signs of Munish. I had the pre paid moile connection which was not working in J&K so there was no way to contact rest of the group members. I thought he will be waiting for us at Kargil War Memorial at Drass. I reached the War Memorial and tried to find out Munish but he was nowhere. Now I was worried, I waited there for an hour and no one came. I went to the public telephone booth setup by Army there in order to call Munish or rest of the members but unfortunately all the phones at Drass area that day were not working. Even after 2-3 hours no one show up. Now all type of negative thoughts started coming to my mind as the road crossing Zojila pass was one of the most dangerous. I decided if they don’t turn up in next 30 minutes then I will drive back to find them out.
Now when they didn’t turn up after 3 hours of I reached there, I started losing the hopes and getting prepared to drive back. Suddenly they turned up. I had the shy of relief and asked them about where they were. They were equally worried and never thought that I have crossed Munish and reached the Drass sector. They were in impression I was behind Munish and kept enquiring the army personal and other travelers about me. They even thought of driving back in between to find me out but came to check at War Memorial first as this was the place where we decided to have the halt. Two roads at Zojila created all the confusion. But Thank God all was well and we happily went inside the War Memorial.
We visited the Kargil War Memorial, read the stories written over there and inquired officials about details of incidents occurred. The best experience was to listen the Kargil story from a soldier, who was there to narrate the incidents happened to visitors. The passion and the emotions on which he was narrating the stories were enough to bring the tears out of visitor’s eyes. Along with other visitors we also paid our tribute to the brave soldiers who scarified their lives for the nation.
After spending some time at War Memorial we proceeded towards Kargil. The Distance to Kargil from Drass is 55 KMs. Our imagination of Kargil was a small and remote village with majority of the Army presence but the reality was entirely different. Kargil is a District Headquarters and it’s bigger than many towns I have visited. We reached Kargil in the afternoon and had the lunch at a Dhaba. After roaming around the town we started the accommodation search for night stay.
Visited a number of Hotels but either they were very expensive or not good. Then we saw a Tourist Information Centre next to D’Zojila hotel. The location was very nice and the campus and building was huge. We went inside to inquire about the accommodation available in town and came to know that there are some very good rooms in the Tourist Information Center itself but all were booked. The location was very good and we just wanted to stay there. One very good restaurant was also there inside the TIC premises. We requested the care takers about any possibilities of staying there and they told us that two rooms get booked from DC office and if they don’t send any booking by 5 PM then these rooms can be given to us. We waited till 5 and luckily got those two rooms. Rooms were awesome with very reasonable charges.
Roamed around in the evening, clicked some photos and had dinner at restaurant inside the TIC premises. The restaurant was very good but service and taste of food was very poor. For good accommodation unknowingly we had to compromise with the food 🙂
Distance Traveled on Day 3:
Sonamarg to War Memorial Drass: 70 KMs
Drass to Kargil: 65 KMs
Agenda for tomorrow is to drive till Leh and have night stay there. Distance to Leh from Kargil is 210 KMs.