- SRINAGAR-KARGIL ROUTE
The Kashmir Valley was beautifully and accurately described by the Mughal Emperor Jehangir who exclaimed “ gar firdaus, ruhe zamin ast, hamin asto hamin asto , hamin asto ( if there is heaven on Earth , it is here, it is here , it is here) “
Srinagar ( 5675ft /1730m) , the capital of Jammu and Kashmir is a large town with a population with over 3,00,000. It is famous for the Dal and Nagin Lakes and the Houseboats on both these water bodies.
This “meadow of Gold” lies only 84 kms from Srinagar at an altitude of 9000ft/ 2740m. The precise origin of the name is not clear- one legend tells of a well in the valley whose water turned everything into gold ! Others attribute the name to the fact that the valley has a profusion of flowers in the spring, but the most likely reason is that this was a very important stop on the lucrative ancient Trade route with Tibet.
Driving out of Srinagar, once you cross Ganderbal, it is a stunningly beautiful drive along the Sindh River with a virtual carpet of lush green Paddy fields spread out on either side.
Your drive from Sonamarg to Kargil takes you over the famous Zoji La Pass, which at 11578ft / 3530m is the lowest of the passes leading into Ladakh. Beyond the pass you drive into Drass Valley before approaching Kargil, the district headquarters. Besides security considerations, the narrow dirt track quality of the road over Zoji La necessitates restricting it to one way traffic.
The army controls the convoy and manages the timings from both sides of the pass.
Although a Dirt Track for most parts, the road climbing to Zoji La is a dramatic ascent over the valley, with a sheer drop at many places. With its uneven surface and serpentine twists and turns you are likely to make slow progress along this road. This pass remains snow bound for most of the year.
From here on there is a dramatic change in the scenery and the lush green of the Kashmir valley gives way to craggy high mountains and barren landscapes stretching upto snow peaks that seem at touching distance.
Descending to the other side, you are entering a watershed with not many rain bearing clouds making it across the Zoji La. The road to Drass, is reasonably good and definitely picturesque. For most of the way you encounter very little human habitation and with the Drass river flowing alongside, you are in a world of Idyllic beauty.
Drass lies at 10,600ft / 3230m and is a small township that became well known during the Pakistani infiltration in 1999. It is also the second coldest Inhabited place in the world (Siberia being the coldest) with the lowest recorded winter temperature being -60degreeC ( there is a sign proclaiming this fact as you enter town )
About 3-4 kms out of town is the War Memorial dedicated to all the brave soldiers who lost their lives in the intense 3 month long Kargil war. The Tololing Hill feature is just off the road and you can also catch sight of the Tiger Hill .
It is a 56 kms long drive to Kargil with the valley narrowing as you approach town. A few kilometers before Kargil, the Drass River merges with the Suru and they flow into POK to later join the mighty Indus.