I woke up late in the morning. After having my Ladakhi breakfast, I went to the Bazaar to do some last minute shopping. On my way, I bumped into the 3 European tourists whom I met on the way here. Today, I am leaving Ladakh to go to my next destination. I had to walk about 2km to the bus stand with my 20kg backpack. What a difference from the day I came here. I could hardly take my own weight then. I got into my bus which I had already booked. Though it was a deluxe bus, I could not see anything deluxe about it. It was a 30seater. Everyone had to climb to the roof and put their heavy lugguage on the top themselves. So I also had to do the same. In the bus, there were a few tourists, locals and a mallu couple. It was quite sometime that I had heard malayalam directly. He was in the army.
The bus moved on. I could see that almost half of Ladakh was a military base. It was such a beautiful place. As we moved on, I could see many more army bases. These bases did not look like the ones we usually find in our part of the country. These were forward bases and looked more like the ones we see in the video games. One thing I can’t help mentioning here are the roads. It is a single lane mountain road. Literally. If a vehicle comes from the other direction, the way out is to move it off the road, right at the edge of the cliff. Try this, get into a bus on this route, take a window seat, and trust me, you will surely know the exact meaning of the phrase, ‘heart in your mouth’. It was, for me, most of the time as I was having a window seat. The way down will be a superfast 300ft plunge.
Soon we entered a town called Lamayuru. Like its meaning, it looks exactly like the moon. The colour of the soil is light and it is full of dust. At around 9:00pm, we were on a pass. Now, it started to snow. Wow. We are now in the Fotula pass, the highest in the Leh-Srinagar route at 4100m above MSL. Though it is common to see snow on these passes all the time, its quite rare to see a snowfall at this time of the year. The window pane in my seat wouldn’t close properly. So I put my thermometer here. It showed -2°c. Wow again. Another first time experience, negative temperature. I was feeling the cold in my hands and feet, but was manageable.
It was night and we were now passing through the area which was a battlefield 10yrs ago. We were nearing Kargil. The Kargil town was quite big and resembles an average Indian town with shops and other business establishments. It is the ultimate sacrifice of those brave men, which enables me to use this road 10yrs later. There were a lot of signboards related to the Kargil war heros. It should have been very difficult to win in this terrain. They braved the cold and fought on to win. With a prayer in my heart, I moved on. I was now feeling quite cold in the bus. And rightly so, as we were now passing through the second coldest inhabited place on earth, Drass. In 1997, the temperature here plumetted to -40 degrees. But still people live here. I could also see a signboard, ‘You are now under enemy observation’. We were moving so close to the line of control. It is very late in the night, and I need to get some sleep. Remembering the war heroes and with a prayer, I slowly closed my eyes to get some rest.
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