Our 11 day road trip organized by Scout My Trip and OYO had so many locations and memories that I find it difficult to pen all of them down. Having said that, somehow it is the La (La means a mountain pass) each with its individual character, history and story that remains etched in my mind. So here is our road trip, one La at a time.
On this stretch of the road trip, I was part of the black XUV driven by scout Shakeel with bloggers Neha, Karan and Ragini. On the way to Zoji La we stopped at a point which had Baltal which is the base of Amarnath Yatra in the valley below and the frequent helicopters flying above us.
The sight of Baltal’s colourful tents nestled between the mountains was picture perfect. Onward we drove towards Zoji La, through glacial water streams, off roading, ducking a boulder or two till we reached a curve which is known as Captain’s Curve. It has the Vadhera Memorial which is built in memory of Late Capt. HC Vadhera of 4 Engineer Regiment.
This dynamic officer was given the responsibility of constructing this particular stretch of road in the year 1954. After completion, on 27th July 1954, on this very curve his jeep went down the hill and he passed away. As a tribute to him, this particular curve is known as Captain’s Curve.
Even after the passing away of Capt. Vadhera, his mother would come and do puja here. Also the first vehicle of the Army convoy of the season was a temple vehicle carrying the pandit and puja would be done as this stretch was an accident prone one.
But do you know why Zoji La was constructed? Well the garrisons at Dras, Kargil and Leh had to be maintained and the Baltal-Zojila route lacked not just the capacity but also the vehicle carrying classification. Hence, there was an urgent need to construct a fresh Sonamarg-Zojila-Dras road. Consequently, the present route was constructed in the 50’s. It was chilly when we got down at Zoji La to click photos. A shepherd with his flock of sheep crossed us while we took in the beauty of the landscape before driving to our next pit stop.
Scout Shakeel drove us in the black XUV to Namika La which is at a height of 12,198 feet above mean sea level. It is also called the ‘Pillar of the Sky Pass’, which in literal translation from Ladakhi is a reference to the rocky mountain peak adjacent to the pass projecting skywards and appearing to hold the sky up.
Situated in the Himalayan Zanskar Range, Namika La is one of the two mountain passes between Kargil and Leh. The other one is Fotu La. At this pass, Scout My Trip co-founders Vineet and Deepak, the scouts Neeraj, Samarth, Amit, Pratik and Shakeel and us bloggers Neha, Karan, Medhavi, Abhinav, Ami, Swati, Anuradha,Johann, Ragini, Raza, Shubham and me clicked photos of the barren weathered ridge with rocky peaks while enduring the wind- swept mountains.
Namika La falls under Vijayak which is a project of Border Roads Organisation BRO. The project operates in high altitude areas with altitudes varying from 9,500 feet to 13,500 feet above the Mean Sea Level in areas with heavy snowfall and temperatures below sub zero for long periods of time. Reliable roads in the region of Ladakh are required not just for strategic purposes but also for its overall holistic socio-economic development. Yohann who is from Kerala had got packets of banana chips and we munched on those as we drove to the next pass.
At 13, 479 feet above sea level, Fotu la is the highest point on the Srinagar- Leh National Highway 1D. It was a splendid sight of 5 SUVs of Scout my Trip comprising of a Thar, white Scorpio, black Scorpio, XUV and Bolero driving on the highway meandering through the numerous hairpin bends and the sharp U curves to the town of Lamayuru.
Did you know that the military vehicle drivers who ply regularly on this road have nicknamed this stretch of bends and curves as ‘ jalebi mode ‘? This pass is beautified by colorful prayer flags fluttering in the wind and the milestone stating that one is on the highest point on the Srinagar- Leh Highway where I got myself clicked by scout Neeraj.