Overland Traveller



Travelling the road from Leh to Srinagar, Kashmir: a photo diary (Page 3)

Typical army convoy in Kashmir © Craig FastTypical army convoy in Kashmir © Craig Fast

The road between Leh and Srinagar used to be narrow and treacherous. Part of the army’s job is to help maintain it, as well as protect the border against militant insurgents from both Pakistan and Kashmir. Lengthy convoys of around 20 army trucks frequently passed us, in both directions. They invariably kicked up plenty of dust but their presence was vaguely reassuring.

Chamba Gompa and a roadworks crew in Mulbekh © Craig FastChamba Gompa and a roadworks crew in Mulbekh © Craig Fast

Thirty-three kilometres before Islamic Kargil, Mulbekh is the last outpost of Buddhism in Jammu & Kashmir. A large relief of Buddha is carved into this jut of rock and Buddhists travel many miles to pay their respects here, but there were plenty of men wearing Muslim-style lunghis and kurtas in the village as well.

It was at this point we started to notice pictures of the Ayatollah and the phrase “Ya Allah” adorning the Tata lorries rather than Hindi and Buddhist deities. The scenery also began to take on tinge of green as our journey took us to lower altitudes and rainier climes. The lorry in the picture is full of workers who are currently widening the Leh-Srinagar road.

The road through Kargil © Craig FastThe road through Kargil © Craig Fast

The road from Leh to Srinagar cuts right through Kargil, the most important site of the 1999 Kargil War, which kicked off when Pakistani soldiers and Kashmiri freedom fighters crossed the Line of Control. The clash occurred both in Kargil and along the ridges overlooking this strategically important section of the Leh-Srinagar road. It was the first ground conflict between India and Pakistan since they both developed nuclear weapons and so became the focus of media coverage around the world.

Driving along this section of road was nerve-wracking, mostly due to our over-active imaginations. Bunkers filled with rifle-toting Indian soldiers line the road and the atmosphere is further intensified by the oppressive dryness of the air and land which sucks the moisture from your tongue as you breathe.

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