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Old 20th July 2010, 17:39   #46
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Originally Posted by aargee View Post
Appreciate if you can shed some light on this process & how long it takes. I heard this process gobbles up almost a day. Is that true?

Very true indeed.

Yes, the Splendor guy & the two men, young at heart are really deserving an applause in addition to you
The process is quite simple and would generally take maximum of 1 hour. Basically you need to fill a form detailing names and places to be visited and a covering letter (to be copied from existing lying with them). However, in my case, they did not have extra forms and sent me get photocopies (guess they do it with everybody). You have to attach copy of ID proof. The same needs to be initialed by the DC (open door policy, just walk in, he will initial it without even passing a cursory glance). Go back, sumbit the fee (or was this before initial by DC), get a copy and walk out.
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Old 20th July 2010, 18:54   #47
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@ Motomaniac, Hats off to you and wife for taking this adventure on, I know how the road are. Excellent Pics as well.

Doing this on a bike needs real guts, BRAVO !!!
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Old 21st July 2010, 13:04   #48
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Default Day 7: Start of return journey

Was informed the day before that there is some unrest / curfew in parts of Srinagar. However, since we wanted to go back a different route plus were thinking of visiting Wagah border, we decided to take our chances. The mechanic who serviced our bikes day before also was of the view that it may not be much of a concern since Srinagar is a large city and unrest may be in few areas. Hence decided to take Srinagar route. What we really faced will come later.

Again, after leisurely breakfast and chit chat, could leave the hotel by around 9 AM (first revised from 7 to 8 and then from 8 to 9). We were to miss riding with the Group and tension of tyre puncture etc was again back. The road is great for few kms and we got excited thinking that it may be such all the way. However, it was not to be. Though not as bad or difficult at the Manali-Leh, road till after Zozilla pass / Sonamarg is still having number of challenges. With lot of road construction work also going on, many of the places we were just riding on big rocks.

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We stopped for our second breakfast (first was at Leh) and were surprised to note that the person managing the place was Marastrian - my wife was happy to be able to chat with someone in marathi (she is Maharastrian). He comes to the place for work during this period and after sept goes to Goa to work there. There are many people like him in this region. Even the help in hotel at Leh had come from Bihar for the tourist period.
We got petrol filled at Kargil (last fill was at Leh the day before). I was looking for a shop where I could buy RVM as I am not very comfortable in riding in mountains without one moreso now since traffic is more on this route and it is important to know when some vehicle wants to overtake us, but it was in vain.

The road after that is filled with army checkpost, even one board stating that we may be under observation of enemy. Most of the time on this road, I followed an army vehicle who finally got irritated and let us pass (though I was not looking to overtake him). We were continuously riding since we had left Leh and were tired hence decided to take a halt at Drass which we reached ~6:30 PM (which was the right thing to do which we realised next day as crossing Zozilla pass after daylight is certainly not advisable, more so on a bike).

We did not see the Drass memorial, which we had crossed on the way since it looked closed. Just after that we were stopped by an army vehicle - we were stopped because the driver was Maharastrian and seeing Mumbai number plate just wanted to have a chat :-). Again there was chit chat in marathi between my wife and him and I guess both were happy.

When we were in Leh, we got an impression that people in Drass are cheats who tend to fleece the tourists. The term used by guy was "Drass main chai ka daam bhi time ke saath badalta hai" - that depending on the time of the day and cold, people at drass charge different rates for tea. But our experience at Drass was complete opposite of it.

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While searching for a hotel, we first went to see Hotel city view or something, which was quite horrible and shady. However, while parking the bike to see the hotel, we saw the board of J&K tourism hotel which was just next to it. Got a room there for Rs 400 which was quite nice. Plus there were lot of other tourists there, including families. The geyser in the room was not working but the caretaker was more than happy to provide hot water in buckets (initially asked us Rs 20 per bucket, but when he told that in other rooms the geyser works, he agreed to provide hot water free of cost since geyser not working was not our fault).

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Since we had taken halt at respectable time, we thought to checking out the market before dinner. We went for a walk. We bought some fruits on the way and were informed that fruits / vegetables are bought from Srinagar. We went into a bakery to buy some water and tried the plain cake there. It was one of the freshest, softest cake that we had ever eaten and was such reasonably price (more than reasonably priced actually).

We had our dinner at a small eatery opposite to the hotel. The food was also yummy. Ate rajma which are called dal there. So when they dal chawal, they mean rajma - chawal. After good food and overall a very pleasant experience at Drass, we went off to sleep.
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Old 23rd July 2010, 15:32   #49
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Very nice and honest travelogue; inspirational to all who want to do the Leh trip. Enjoyed reading evey post. Waiting eagerly for the rest.
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Old 24th July 2010, 12:41   #50
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Default Day 8: Through srinagar at full throttle

[FONT=Helv][SIZE=2][FONT=Helv][SIZE=2]Now since there was to be no leisurly breakfast (as a matter of fact, no breakfast), we were on the road by 7 am. The only challenge today was to zozilla pass (or so we thought) and it sure was challenge, since it started raining when we reached zozilla memorial and continued till we were on the other side of the pass (guess God chose to make the return journey also challenging, ride wise). All my fears of tyre puncture were back and so were slipping on the slippery muddy pebbles that constituted the road. However, were able to cross the pass without any incident and to reward us for all the hard work, we were greeted by great roads and even better view of sonamarg. After a small break to savour the view, we proceeded towards sonamarg. Now we were entering high traffic area and were cautioned by many people in advance that people drive like crazy in the srinagar sonamarg route and we soon found out that they were all correct.

We had our breakfast at sonamarg (parathas in some punjabi dhaba). While the parathas were decent, the coffee was horrible (coffee at dhabhas generally is horrible but MJ does not drink tea therefore I also take coffee sometimes). Sonamarg was full of tourists / yatris and we thought that all the concerns of bandh / curfew may be thing of past.
Continuing our journey, we were now crossing through lot of populated areas and MJ wanted to ride the bike. While I was contemplating when to stop, we emcountered what I was fearing all along - tyre puncture. But as luck would have it, we were further than 50 mtrs from a tyre repair shop. The owner (young guy) did not seem too pleased to offer their services but his helper (an old guy) came forward to get the puncture repaired. During discussions we realised that though both were upset over deaths in police shootouts, the older guy did not have any animosity towards tourists (unlike the young guy). During all this got a call from home and they were very upset and worried havinh seen status in srinagar valley in news. Other locals also shared that from there onwards there is major bandh being followed in all of kashmir valley and it may be dangerous to cross and they shared certain routes through which we could avoid major problem areas. We also came to know that even this village were enforcing bandh till yesterday. We thanked our lucky stars that puncture happened here and not in bandh area.

Now the scenario totally changed. The roads were deserted with 1-2 army / police personnel stationed every 200-300 mtr§. We were really worried now but had no choice but to carry on. We entered srinagar (dal lake) and found it almost deserted - did not even stop to look at dal lake.
After srinagar, the situation even worsened with roads even more deserted - for may kms we would be the only vehicle on road. Stopped on the way to ask a policeman as to how far the bandh will be, he informed that once we cross srinagar valley, things should be better. He also recommended getting out before 2.30 or so as they were expecting some trouble after namaz time. Riding fast was not an issue as roads were good and empty but this was no fun ride. We were really worried as under mob mentality, people can do anything. Earlier, when people used to stare at us, we used to think that they either admiring us or were puzzled, but today we were worried about these stares. We were worried whenever we saw group of guys standing together.

In one area, we saw some some 200-300 people outside some mosque shouting azadi azadi. We were worried but we crossed them without any instance. We stopped on the way to have some tea - coffee but were refused to be served. Guess they were not serving tourists. During this ride also realised how sonamarg was full despite such bandh - the buses carrying yatris were having army escort. An army truck / jeeps were being followed by number of these buses.

After this we crossed a tunnel which was 2.5 km long. It was quite something. We started ascending and realised that we may be almost / out of srinagar valley. On the top there was a view point which had eateries. We had number of sada dosas there. Here we met a local MLA who was curious of our trip.

The descent seemed much more normal as number of vehicles on the road kept increasing. We also saw the first petrol pump which was open. We had encountered lot of trucks standing on the side in kashmir valley and realised that both bandh and unavailabilty of fuel would have contributed. We filled fuel at first open petrol pump we encountered. Checked with pump attendant and were informed that henceforth situation is normal.

Balance of Day 8 would be updated shortly
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Old 24th July 2010, 17:30   #51
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Motomanic and MJ, you guys' trip is such an inspiration!

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