Tag Archives: day 1

Ladakh – A Romantic Saga ||Episode 1 || Delhi – Sonmarg (Kashmir)

Day-1 (Delhi – Sonmarg) route details: Delhi – Sonipat-Panipat-Karnal-Ambala-Ludhiana-Phagwara-Jalandhar-Mukerian-Pathankot-Sujanpur-Kathua-Ghagwal-Samba-Jammu-Pulwara-Sringar-Ganderbal-Kullan-Sonmarg.
Total distance: 990kms.

The plan was pretty simple, really, or atleast so it seemed. Start driving late night and drive as far as we possibly could so that the 2nd day could be a relatively easy drive to Leh from wherever we would be at the end of 1st day’s drive. And since we were four guys and we all know how to drive, it pretty much should turn out to be an easy affair or atleast that’s how we thought it should be.

Now, the vehicle of choice was a SUV since we pretty much knew the terrains we would encounter woudn’t really be what you call ‘smooth’ in real sense. Yes, there would ofcourse be stretches where we would find some awesome tarmac to go “crazy” on, but then there would also be roads (or the lack thereof!), where we would pretty much crawl, to put it mildly. The stuff that we had packed for this 6-day long expedition to #Ladakh were:

  1. Camera gear (first & foremost, and for ME, most important)
  2. Warm clothes, although it turned out to be pretty much not needed (more on that later)
  3. Engine oil & a 5 litre extra jerry-can filled with diesel for the vehicle since finding diesel might just be an issue enroute
  4. Cash and bank ATM cards
  5. Snacks & chocolate bars for instant energy
  6. Miscellaneous knick-knacks.

We met at the now famous Taj CCD around 1am from where we were supposed to begin this journey. Now, driving on the straight stretches of highway is pretty much something which anyone with a sense of judgement and a patient and cool mind can easily do all night. Getting out of the Capital at that time of the night was a no-brainer and we were cruising happily on the National Highway-1 (or rather AH-1, as it is now officially known) in about 30 minutes time after leaving Delhi. Now, I am what everyone calls, a very patient driver and somebody who would NEVER take a risk while on the road, and since it was well past midnight, I decided to take it real easy and we took a couple of breaks here and there to pick up some energy drinks and just generally relieve ourselves and stuff.

The night was pretty much uneventful and with a driver change in between somewhere passed Chandigarh, we were in the hills by dawn. Now, once you cross into Jammu & Kashmir (at the Lakhanpur border), the prepaid mobile connections seize to work and that is because of the security concerns. Out of the four guys, two (me & another friend) had prepaid connections while the other two had postpaid ones. So, essentially, once we entered J&K after paying the toll-tax at the Lakhanpur border, the prepaid mobile networks were gone, and I pretty much switched off my mobile phone and kept it inside my camera bag, both, to conserve the battery (as if I’d need it in the next 6 days, except, perhaps, to surf the internet & check for emails/ whatsapp/ Facebook/ Instagram/ Twitter over hotel wifi at different locations) and also, I just wanted to feel light. I wanted to feel free.

You see, mobile phones are good; I am not against them. But, there are days when you wish you wouldn’t have them but you cannot help it. So, Ladakh presented me an opportunity to be without my cell-phone for a period of 6 days at a stretch and somewhere deep down, I was pretty satisfied with this.

Nonetheless, this – the first day’s drive was pretty much uneventful, and although we had to drive constantly for more than 18 hours, we finally reached Sonmarg (which is about 990kms from Delhi) by night; if I remember, it was around 9:30pm or so that we checked into a nice, small, cozy hotel and relaxed for the night.

Kashmir Valley

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As tired as we were, while eating our dinner and even after going to bed, I constantly kept thinking and visualizing about the kind of high-passes & the terrains that we would encounter the next day. I had been to Ladakh on earlier occasions but the sheer excitement just doesn’t abate, no matter how many times you visit that magical place. I had also pretty much visualized the kind of shots that I wanted – both for my still album and for the film that I was there to shoot.

With all that excitement and adrenaline flowing through my veins, even at 2 in the night, I couldn’t really fall asleep while everyone else was fast asleep. Finally, after calming my nerves down, I went to sleep, for the next day had some amazing stories which were to unfold…

 

…to be continued.

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