Kashmir To Ladakh – My Fun Trip By Bus
Oh boy, were we excited !!! This was an ‘on the spot decision’ taken by Sameer and me after spending a week in blissful Kashmir. My husband and me had been hatching a ‘Kashmir trip plan’ for more than two years now, which finally materialized only this August. And believe me, when I say, it was a trip well worth the wait! After witnessing and experiencing what people call ‘Heaven on Earth’, when they talk about Kashmir, we just wanted to take in and soak in some more of the beauty, having come here all the way. So, though our trip was scheduled for just 8 days, we made the sudden decision of going on further to enchanting Ladakh, after speaking to locals and other tourists. This was the reason for my excitement and delight.
The locals had told us that one of the best ways to travel to Ladakh was by bus as you could take in so much more of the passing beauty and we could choose from the Deluxe and Super Deluxe buses on offer. But on the day of travel, when we saw the ‘not so exciting’ state of our luxury mode of transport, we realized that we were just plain lucky that we had booked the ‘supposed Super Deluxe Bus’ or it would have been a total nightmare to even think of travelling in the general category bus! Nevertheless, we boarded the bus without comment, as for us it was more important to just get to our destination and take in the wayside, unmissable landscape.
And what a scintillating landscape that was! First, lush green meadows and inviting fields which then gave way to the hills, beautiful mountains and towering peaks as we sped and hurtled along to Sonmarg. On the way, we also spotted our men in army fatigues, lurking in and around the hills. While this felt reassuring in a strange way, it also made us acutely aware of the lurking danger in these areas as we were close to the border of Pakistan. Once at Sonmarg village, we were swallowed by the huge wave of traffic and pollution and longed to head to the hills once again. But this was more nerve-wracking than I thought. The already distressed bus swung from side to side as it twisted around every narrow bend and ascended higher and higher towards Zoji-La Pass. And all we could do was giggle nervously like school children!
A few stops along the way also let us get a taste of exactly how terrifyingly high we were as we looked down from the edge of certain hills, which had no railings or border guards. The bus could easily plunge into the deadly valley as our over-confident driver mindlessly negotiated the peaks and descents as we drove onto our destination. So, believe me when I say, the night stop at Kargil was a welcome break from this nail-biting, exciting adventure of a journey. However, little did I know that Kargil would give us another story to tell of the type of accommodation, facilities and food that was made available to us. But guess, that’s what adds to the mystery and excitement of a road trip to an unknown place.
The next morning, after some serious photography sessions and an unusual and hearty breakfast or should I say, meal of rice, vegetables, lentils and some precious egg stew for the non-vegetarians, we set off to Leh, the capital of Ladakh. By now the verdant green hills had changed to huge stark mountains. It seemed like there was nothing and no one, but just you and the mountains for miles together. We would spot the odd local scurrying along here and there, but nothing like the crowd in the villages and towns we’ve come from or passed along the way. It was the land of peace, beautiful clear sky, intimidating mountains and rough terrain. That sure kept us grounded as we were tossed around in that ‘now beloved bus’ of ours! Beloved, as it had brought us to our final destination in one piece and stood the ravages of terrain. There was also a new found respect for the bus driver who seemed unfazed by it all and handled the vehicle and rough terrain brilliantly.
Soon we noticed a change even in the people we now passed by. Gone were the tall, sturdy Kashmiris with sharp features…….we now noticed people with wider, flatter faces and high cheekbones. We passed mountains on the top of which we saw small hamlets and beautiful monasteries. It was all so serene, picturesque and tranquil! This was the Ladakh I had read about, seen pictures of and imagined. And this is when my husband and I realized that the bus journey, though rough in several patches was well worth it and great fun, as we experienced and witnessed so much more than just flying over to the destination. I really would not do it any other way!
Picture Credits : Vargis Khan