Overland Traveller



Travelling the road from Leh to Srinagar, Kashmir: a photo diary (Page 4)

A friendly soldier guarding the Operation Vijay memorial near Drass © Craig FastA friendly soldier guarding the Operation Vijay memorial near Drass © Craig Fast

Operation Vijay was a successful Indian attempt to push the infiltrators back across the border during the 1999 Kargil War. This memorial to the Indian soldiers who lost their lives in the operation has recently been opened to the public. It is near Drass, which also holds the unenviable record of being the second-coldest inhabited place on earth, after Oymyakon, Siberia.

The Indian soldiers guarding the gate were very friendly and happy to have their photo taken. Interestingly, the army and Jammu & Kashmir tourism department are now working to promote the area as an adventure tourism destination with plans for a golf course, pony trekking, mountaineering and high-altitude camping. Nearby Kargil is already popular with domestic tourists who come to pay their respects to those who lost their lives in 1999, see damage done by shells dropped, and visit Tiger Hill, site of the fiercest battles.

Crossing into the Kashmir Valley © Craig FastCrossing into the Kashmir Valley © Craig Fast

The drive over the Zoji La (3,500m) into the Sindh Valley (the Kashmir Valley’s largest tributary) took us into a green paradise after the dust and rubble of the previous one and a half days. Our first glimpse of the valley really was jaw-dropping. The U-shaped valley is vast, speckled with trees, lush grass and interspersed with exposed slopes of solid rock. Snow caps the mountain peaks and the scent of pine drifts through the window where before there was only dust. It finally felt like we were in Kashmir proper and the greenery flourished as we drove past paddy fields towards Srinagar.

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