India Travel Blog
When I shifted to India, traveling in India was high on agenda, one thing that I always wanted to do but could never do it for lack of many things. Hence, the journey began, the first thought, “which is the one place I always wanted to visit but never got time” and the first thing came to my mind, Ladakh and this is how the planning began to India dairies. This is my first India travel blog. We decided from the start that we are not going to take a flight as road trips has its own charm.
Once I read an article of Jacob Hoerger who described what does it feel like to drive in America. He said, how these road trips, cars, friends traveling at the same destination yet, it lead us to realise our own meaning to the journey.
I think, the core notion of the Adventure road trip (Experience trips) is to have a group of friends (Who you like the most), a car (Which will broke down few times no matter how much you prepare) and explore the infinity (Truly liberating experience)— is beguiling. However, the actual act of being on a road trip is more therapeutic than the feeling of reaching the destination itself.
In the India blog travel series, I want to tell a story, not with the words but with pictures, after all a picture is worth 1000 words.
Here we go……
Finally, the day came where after preparing and planning for months, each and every single detail of the road trip, we decided to embark on this trip adventure during early monsoon. We all were very excited but none of us knew what should we expect considering we were going to Leh via Srinagar (Kashmir valley), viewed as a conflicting zone, however, we never felt that for a second as it was peaceful. Just to keep the true spirit of road trip adventure, we had not done any booking except the day we were to arrive in Srinagar, bit of uncertainty can’t hurt.
How to travel ?
We started our journey from Jamkhambhalia to Delhi in a train. Once we reached Delhi, there are number of options one can choose from: One can take a flight from Delhi to Srinagar or hire a car from Delhi itself but we decided to go to Jammu by Train and then, started our road trip by hiring a car in the mountains. Therefore, We travelled in Duranto Express from Delhi (About 600 kilometers) and arrived at Jammu station early morning around 7:00. Then, we hired a SUV.
Tip: Normally, One can hire a car for the fixed price between your destinations. But We choose to hire a SUV for 4000 INR/day and then, it’s upto us wherever we want to travel. There is no restriction. So someday we travelled 300 kilometers and someday just 30-40 kilometers. But, After doing all the calculations, hiring for 4000 INR/day was much reasonable and flexible option.
It’s an interesting thing, this tip was shared to us by an army man who was travelling with us in the train. We just met him and in our conversations when he knew we are travelling for the first time, he helped us to arrange a car and accommodation without even asking. Once you travelled into this part of the region, you will realise ARMY fellows are the best and very helpful.
Also, little trivia about the road trip adventure, we planned the trip so much that we knew exactly how we are going to travel, had maps, remember street names, prices of everything, places to visit, nothing could go wrong. But, on the first day itself, we learned the working of Murphy’s law in real life.
Next, We were supposed to travel another 300 kilometers on mountain roads to reach Srinagar. Every blogger and travel experts (Dhiren Sharma helped us to prepare our itinerary and advised us to reach the Srinagar by the 6 pm at the latest, but we soon realised that the planning is as reliable as the mountain weather, around 5 pm we had travelled just the half way through the journey. There was still 5-6 hours of the journey left, so what should we do? Should we halt at midway or continue? We decided to plunge into the uncertainty and continued to travel.
Finally, we managed to reach at Srinagar 11:30 pm against all odds (encountered bad weather, lost the way for about 25 Kilometres, tunnel blockage at night and at last, finding the location of the bloody hotel which was close to Dal lake but it seems nobody knew about it). However, google maps app came very handy and our only saviour at the midnight. By the way, we were a group of 8 people (2 Male, 5 female and 1 child). So it was an adventure itself, we called it experience trip 😉
Even though we were supposed to feel little scared, we never felt even a hint of danger on those empty roads at midnight. I would say, it was one of the great experience we have had while travelling into the mountain, felt like driving in the dark unknown (ok, that’s a bit over dramatic but we had no idea where we were going in the dark). We were all tired considering we have been travelling for last 60 hours and at one point, our conversation eventually reached the stage which I call “If you see Something, say something”, everyone used to say, oh we reached here, now we are 100 kilometres away, now 80 on and on. It was the time when we reflexively read off every road sign that passed by Anantnag, Pampore, National guest house etc; There was an interesting sign on one place “Royal Hotel: Owned and Operated by an Indian.”
Every once in a while we would quietly check our messages on our phone, hoping to find something engaging and entertaining but mobile network was playing hide and seek. So our first journey from Jammy to Srinagar about 300 kilometres were exhausting and unpredictable but very thrilling.
Where to Stay in Srinagar?
If it’s your budgeted and purely exploring road trip to Srinagar and Leh, don’t need to book your Hotels online. However, I must recommend to get it booked if you are travelling with your family especially kids. There are lots of guesthouse, budgeted Bread and breakfast hotels, home stays option available especially in Leh, in your budget which ranges anything between Rs 800 to 3000 per night for a room. In our case, we had booked it for the first night at Srinagar than we managed to find better deals at the same hotel.
Next three days, we stayed in Srinagar and explored the city and the beautiful surroundings. It’s one the best places I have ever visited (not that I have travelled that much but I have done a bit of backpacking in scenic part of europe covering Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, France, Belgium, Netherland and of course the Vatican city (the smallest country in the world)). I must confess, travelling on these roads has its own charm. Now, I won’t talk about Srinagar but will let pictures to tell you the story.
Which places to see in Srinagar?
Srinagar places to Visit: Dal-lake, Shankaracharya Hill, Nigeen lake, several gardens including Tulip garden, Mughal gardens, Shahi garden; Hazratbal mosque, Gulmarg (55 km) – Gondola ride, Sonmarg (80 km) etc;
Srinagar (Kashmir Valley) road trip
What to eat in Srinagar?
Srinagar places to eat: There are all types of restaurants near the dal-lake including few vegetarians options too. Also, we have had the best Rajma rice on road side Dhabas so do try it out if you are doing a road trip. Please try out Kashmiri Cherry and apples, buy some famous Kashmiri saffron and mamra Almond, just make sure it’s authentic. You can also buy the famous Kashmiri pashmina shawl for your family and don’t forget to negotiate to get fair deals.
After spending glorious three days in Srinagar, witnessing the heaven on earth, we embarked on our next journey to Leh via Kargil (About 210 kilometers). We began our journey at 5:30 am as we had to cover Sonmarg and cross the zojila pass (one of the deadliest roads in India).
Here, we again experienced the murphy’s law where out car’s tyre got punctured, right in the middle of that treacherous zojila pass. In the entire journey, the one place where we didn’t want to halt, we stopped for 40 minutes to change the tyre, it also considered one of the land sliding areas so in our group people who didn’t believe in god, started to prey to the almighty.
Again, I will let pictures to tell you the story and describe the surroundings but I must say, visiting the Kargil war memorial museum was the greatest and the most emotional experience of the trip. Seeing the waving Indian flag beneath the tiger hill was the moment of pride for all of us. I still can’t forget what I read on the war memorial entrance, “When you go home, tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow, we gave our today“. The one word comes to our mind, “Respect” for Indian Army Jawans.
From Srinagar to Kargil road trip
“Caution: You are under enemy surveillance” read the signpost by the side of the road. Our driver was saying, Pakistan Army had set up camps at over the mountain top and it was quite easy for them to bombard us with bombs with this road being at a lower altitude. After few minutes the signpost again read that we were out of enemy zone. Legacies of unforgettable historic events left behind, I thought.
In our so far journey (1900 kilometers by train and 620 kilometers by car), one thing, I did realise, those dead hours of a trip or stuck in a traffic put you in an extraordinary state of suspension especially when you are surrounded by nature at it best. So far, we have witnessed Green slopes, Snow clad mountains, pine forest, mighty Jhelum and Suru river. I believe such road trip fulfils your needs (borrowing from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) of self-realisation. The only thing you have to make sure is to enjoy those thrilling moments and let yourself get overwhelmed by the marvellous landscapes. It may feel like, you are just sitting there doing nothing but It trance you to meditative mode. Your thoughts will keep rippling back onto yourselves. As Anatole France would say, “If the path be beautiful, let us not ask where it leads us to.”
This is the 1st post documenting our complete road trip from Jamkhambhalia to Srinagar to Leh Ladakh. You can also read:
- Post-2: Srinagar-Kargil-Lamayuru-Leh Ladakh Highway journey
- Post-3: Leh -Khardung la (claimed as World’s highest motorable road).
- Post-4: Nubra Valley (a part of the ancient Silk Route)
- Post-5: Nubra Valley to Pangong Tso Lake (a part of the ancient Silk Route)
Please keep in mind:
- Mobile phone networks – Only postpaid connections work in Jammu & Kashmir and BSNL and Airtel are your best bets. These have decent network coverage in Sonamarg, Kargil, Lamayuru and all the other major towns en route.
- If you are travelling at the high altitude especially via flight directly, take complete rest on the first day so that your body gets acclimatised to the surroundings. Avoid too oily or too heavy food and alcohol. Avoid sleeping during daytime.
- If you get any health issue, please visit the doctor asap. Keep the Diamox pills for Acute Mountain Sickness. we took one pill everyday regularly and we didn’t face any problem at all.
- Keep the winter clothes ready for sudden dips in temperature. Also, remember to carry waterproof clothing.
Disclaimer: Please feel free to post any queries or doubts you might have in planning your trip to Sirnagar, Kashmir or Leh, Ladakh in the comments section below. If you have been to this places, kindly share your thoughts and other information you might feel will be worth sharing with other fellow travellers and prove helpful to them. If you enjoyed such posts, then please subscribe to the blog for regular updates. Thank you !