My trip to India last Summer – Part II
So, following on from my last post HERE. We left off at me getting on the train. I know I am a bit late, I’m sorry :(.
The train journey was pretty smooth. I had downloaded an episode of Top Gear earlier on in the day so I started watching that. It was a good way to help me to get to sleep since there is lots of external noise in the trains and this helped me get rid of it. The next morning, we reached Secundrabad station where we had to alight the train. We were greeted and then taken to the Hotel where we would stay for the next few days for the wedding.
The wedding was a lot of fun. There was lots of food (as there is in every Indian wedding) and lots of fun was had. I had not met my parents for a long time and they had travelled straight to the wedding. So I was really excited to meet them when we got to the hotel. Then as the day went on, we practised for the dances we were going to do in the wedding and had lots of fun. As the night approached, we had the sangeet ceremony where we did our dance performance and then after it all finished, had a DJ play us songs for nearly 2 hours and just dance to that. It was great fun!
On our way back from Hyderabad, my stomach started to get worse and worse due to the excessive travelling (mainly because I wasn’t used to it) and I had to travel throughout the 12 hour journey with a very bad stomach. And when we reached Jalna in the morning, had a very good night(morning) sleep. The next day, we had to do some finishing programmes about the wedding where I met my new Jiju (brother-in-law) who just got engaged to my lovely sister. That was a great day and even though I had a bad stomach, I still tried to enjoy as much as I could. Although, I missed out on the food :(.
The next day, all our baccha party (all the children) went with the newly married couple to visit the temples nearby Jalna to get blessings from our God’s. As we got to the first temple, we all took off our shoes/slippers and went into the temple. I was the camera man, taking all the pics of the moments. We took lots of pictures since the place was absolutely stunning and stayed there for quite a while. After we finished taking the photos, we went back down to wear our shoes/slippers and to my surprise, my shoes were nowhere to be found; someone had stolen them – mostly because I had a camera in my hand (thinking my shoes must be rich since I have a camera)? So I had to walk bare foot all the way until we got home. The date was 15th of July when this happened, and some people say it is good luck that your shoes get taken in a temple. My results were going to come out on 15th of August, so I made some sort of a connection 😉
After the whole wedding celebrations had ended, we had to leave Jalna to go to Sangamner and start our trip to Leh, Ladakh for 10 days. So we all headed back home and started preparing for our trip. I had been given all the tech-y stuff to do such as online check-in and just making sure everything we had was correct (documents and ID’s). We left Sangamner at 3AM for Nashik where we had to pick up a few of our friends and then head to Mumbai for our flight to Srinagar. We got to Mumbai by 9AM and got abroad the flight to Srinagar with a stop-over at Jammu. I have flown a fair bit but while on this flight, my ears had experienced the worst air compression issue. It had never hurt so bad. I was in constant pain while throughout this flight. After we landed, we found out that there had been some problems in Jammu and Srinagar (someone had been shot by someone and there was curfew in the area) and because of that, all of Srinagar was closed down and police were everywhere to keep everything under control. This meant that all the roads from and to Srinagar were under constant threat from angry people who were pelting stones at cars. This put our schedules off the track since we were supposed to leave Srinagar as soon as landed so that it could be completed at the end. However, because of everything being closed down (except tourist places) we had to roam within Srinagar for the day. We booked a Shikara ride on the Dal Lake at Srinagar and had a few hours of relaxing on the lakes. As night approached, we had our lunch and thought that 11PM was a good time to leave the city and not get affected by the angry mobs.
As we left, everything was fine. We all had our dinners and were pretty sleepy since we had been travelling for a long time. However, as we left Srinagar and were on the main route to Sonamarg we had to stop and fill our mini-bus of diesel. At the pump, our driver was approached by a group of people asking him “jo mare wo tere koi lagta nahi kya?” (those who died, are they nothing to you?) and got our driver scared. We ignored them and filled our tank and went on. A few miles ahead, I had gone to sleep and suddenly heard something crash into a window. As I got up, I found out that someone from ourside threw a rock at our mini-bus and it flew through the side window and hit our driver’s chest. He still powered through the road even though there were rocks being pelted at our bus. Everyone else had ducked down in case the rock hit someone else too. After a while, we saw a hotel and then stopped to see if they could provide us somewhere to stay for a bit but they told us that there was a military camp just a few minutes down the road where everyone could stay. So we did. When we got off the bus, we saw the window had a lot of cracks in it and the body of the bus had a lot of dents in it too. We stayed at the camps for a few hours and left for our hotel at Sonamarg at 2AM. The road thereafter was pretty clear and nothing much happened. After driving for an hour or so,we reached out hotel where we were supposed to have reached 6 hours earlier.
The next morning, we examined the state of the car and had our first experience at high altitude sightseeing. It was absolutely beautiful. Tall, green mountains were surrounding our hotel and off in the distance you could just about see waterfalls from the glaciers. Since most of our ride contained going up mountains and back down again -which took a lot of time and skill, we couldn’t spend much time admiring the beauty and so we left to get to our next place of halt, a resort in the valleys of the Himalayas, Ule Tokpo.
As we were travelling up the mountains, we were stopped by the military and asked us if we could help one of the tourists in that area to get to the town of Kashmir. She was from Taiwan and was trekking across the Himalayas in order to help a charity and the poor by bringing light to their houses. We gladly let her come with us and everyone started asking her questions about Taiwan and the work she did. As we left and started climbing, we encountered some land sliding and a rock – the size of a cricket ball – hit the window next to where my dad was sitting. The whole window came off and smashed into pieces and the rock with the momentum hit my dad’s left arm. He started bleeding and so after getting to flat land, we stopped and gave him some medication to help relieve the pain. This was the second window that had broken in just 2 days. At this pace, we would be traveling in a convertible mini bus.
As we started getting closer and closer to Kashmir, we encountered the war memorial of Kargil where the war between India and Pakistan took place. It felt really weird and very proud standing in a place where lots of soldiers had become martyr for our country. There was a giant flag flying in the middle of the memorial and a forever burning flame and a soldier was standing in front of it to give respect. We asked him questions on what, why, who, when, where about the war. He pointed out to us the bunkers where the soldiers were on top of the mountains, where the temperature in winter reached -50 degrees Celsius. Just standing there and listening to someone talk about the history really made me cry inside and made me feel proud for what they have done to help our country. After staying there for an hour or two, we continued our journey to the town of Kargil and beyond to our overnight resort at Ule Tokpo. While on the road to Ule Tokpo, we experienced the highest altitude we had experienced since the trip had started, however we had underestimated the time it takes to go around the Himalayas and therefore we were running late and couldn’t stop anywhere.
As we reached Ule Tokpo, the time was very late and so we didn’t get to see the scenery that we had paid a good money for. So we had our quick dinner and went quickly to sleep – well I tried to go to sleep. Everyone in the group had slept during our travels and so they all were overly energetic and kept annoying me.
As we woke up in the morning, we realised why we had paid such an amount for this resort, the view was beautiful and the service was exceptional. After our previous experience of just surviving while leaving Srinagar, everyone felt that it wouldn’t be safe to go the same route again on our way back and so we started looking for flight deals from Leh and Chandigarh to return back to Mumbai. We spent just over 3 hours looking for flight deals for 14 people with no success. The hotel owner really helped us out with providing us internet access and also providing us with free tea and breakfast while we were liking for deals. We really felt special there and I would most certainly like to visit the same hotel again.
Another day of traveling and we reached Leh where we met up with the military for our next place of halt. They had provided us with all that we needed and even some more. We were welcomed into our rooms and then told that we would be having our check ups since we had reached a very high altitude and we needed to get used to the high altitude and the thin air. We were also told to stay in the rooms and not travel around much and that also meant that our plans had to get thrown off course again. We stayed in our rooms for most of the day and then went into town for shopping (more like window shopping) at night. As we were guests of the military, we were provided with all of our breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. The next day, we went to visit the attractions which were nearer the town and went into the war museum where there was one quote which really stood out for me.
The next day we left for Nubra Valley for a days halt. On our way we were caught in a few landslides and had to wait for the locals to clear it up. Although, we were lucky enough to reach it just as they cleared it and so we didn’t have to wait for a long time. On our route to Nubra Valley we had to cross the Khardungla Pass which is the highest point of any road in the world. When we stopped at the point, most of us had problems with breathing since the air was very thin. We had to make sure that we drank enough water to keep the oxygen level in our blood high enough that we won’t faint. As I walked our of the minibus, I felt dizzy and had to just relax and take deep breathes in order to make sure my oxygen level was high enough. We were also provided with black tea from the army camp up above and a warm room to sit in. On our route we had to first go see a monastery where – since we were the guests of the military – were given a warm welcome into Nubra Valley. They had provided us with warm tea and some food to eat. It felt really special. After getting the information about the monastery, we headed out to go to the sand dunes where we would rude the double hump back camels and see the desert which was 10,000 feet above the sea limit. Here again, we were welcomed by the military who had set up camps for us to sit down and relax and provided us with tea and some snacks. The double-humped back camels looked really sobby and we felt really bad for them. So only the light-weight people to ride on them so that :P. While we did the ride across the desert, it quickly became dark and so we had to head to the military camp in Diskit to halt for the night. After getting there rather then sleeping, we were just telling each other some ghost stories since we had slept for hours on the minibus and couldn’t go to sleep but then after a while just slept while we were telling each other stories.
I think I’ll have to do this in another part, so look forward to my part 3 HERE (link not available yet). I’ll most likely take another 4 months to write the next part of this story :$.