More 4 am wake up calls from the local mosques were a feature of our last days in the predominantly muslim state of Kashmir. From Kargil we had our last pass to cross into the Vale of Kashmir, the 3800m Zoji La and we had our first day of getting wet while biking – hmmm – we have been spoilt. We parked up in Drass for a day so we could get good weather over the pass. Drass has the dubious fame of being the second coldest inhabited town in the world when it hit minus 60 one January.
The wait was worth it as we had a glorious day going over the Zoji La – us and a convoy of 50 army trucks! Just over the pass we looked down on a tent city that houses visitors for the annual Yatra trail – a Hindu pilgrimage to a God inhabited cave at 4000m. 25 years ago Dave and I walked with 10,000 pilgrims for a couple of days before going our own way. Nowadays people can use a helicopter to get them within 6km of the cave for the express visit (in the two months they expect over 1 million pilgrims and around 17,000 on any day).
Beyond the Yatra Base Camp traffic was full on and we had to be defensive bikers. With the huge numbers of Hindu pilgrims and the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan ending, the army and police were in full force patrolling (and staking out) the road. Temperatures were rising as we descended down to 1700m. We hadn’t been this low since the start of our trip.
In Srinigar we stayed with Amin and his family (Amin is the brother of Ashraf who runs our favourite Indian restaurant in Wanaka). We enjoyed the hospitality at the Pala family and it was a good place to clean and pack up our kit. We couldn’t visit Srinigar without a night in Gulmarg where we had skied for 6 weeks 3 years ago. It was fun seeing the village and mountain without it’s snowy mantle.
Finally time to get through the 3 xray machines, 2 frisks and 1 hand carry search of Srinigar’s security conscious airport for our flight to Delhi and onwards home. My mother was glad to see me back but sad that she would no longer be journeying with us in the Himalaya thru our stories and pictures – so I guess we better start planning the next one!
ps – thanks for the company along the way
pps – due to popular demand I have added maps at the bottom of the photos below and/or if you click her to go to the Google maps page you can zoom in on the live Google map
ppps – I have updated the gear list page finally
|India trip view
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|Zoomed in trip view
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