Jammu & Kashmir is the most northern-west state in India. After border-crossing from Himachal Pradesh, the villages and cities are turning suddenly from Hindu- to Islamic communities. In this area, we’d to ride on lonely roads for crossing the first high passes – the landscape with their deep, green valleys reminds me in some stages on Austria – only the numerous military posts didn’t fit into this picturesque scenery.
Kashmir is one of the most disputed areas in Asia. On the one hand, it is splittet up between Pakistan and India – both countries are de facto in a state of war since decades for it. On the other hand, there are constantly bloody clashes caused by riots and terror-attacks of Islamic-separatist movements. On due to this situation, security and control are major issues in this part of India, regular checks are on everybody’s daily agenda.
Shepards are moving from the low-lands towards mountains, for spending the next 3 to 4 month with their families and livestock on higher summer pastures.
The crossed passes has already been on an altitude between 2.000m and 3.000m – at the top of the passes a marvelous view on the valleys down below is guaranteed. As soon as having a break in one of this numerous tee stalls along the road, we’ve been always surrounded immediately by spectators. The first snow invites for having a snow ball fight.
The roads became more and more rougher, this conditions reminded me on a former motorbike tour through Tadjikistan – I’ve been riding there under similar external conditions. When we met other bikers or domestic tourist on the way, it was almost always mandatory for us to be available for selfies.
At least one part of this area is to discover on motorbike now – it was a good opportunity to head towards south, daring a detour in this unique region.
Srinagar is the capital of Kashmir. I know this city pretty well – that’s why we reduced our stay there for as short as possible. There is nothing special – except maybe hundreds of house boats and floating markets on Dal Lake. But this city is the hub for going further to Ladakh – up in the higher areas of Himalayas. We would have to cross passes with an altitude higher than 5.000m and we also would have to ride in snow and mud. Therefore it was recommended to take the last opportunity for mounting new tires having off-road tread patterns.
Zoji La is the name of the first high pass on the way to Ladakh. 3.500m high and partially covered with snow – we’d big advantage riding our bikes in comparison to all the cars and trucks. While an almost endless line of cars were moving and winding slowly uphill, we were able to overtake all of them and did’nt lose hours this day – like the others did – as heard days later.
After passing the faceless Muslim city of Kargil, we entered Ladakh. It is this part of the Indian mountain area, where I’m always feeling best. Ladakh is a high plane with an altitude of about 3.500m above sea level. Peaks higher than 7.000m rising up into the air, barren stone deserts and green Oases characterize this region, mostly inhabited by Buddhists. Ladakh is one of the beautifulest places on earth as well as for trekking and adventurous motorbike tours. Our first stage finish was Lamayuru, a small village with a famous Buddhist monastery in the west of Ladakh – and also a perfect starting point for detours to the legendary former Kingdom of Zanskar. Two passes with an altitude of 3.700m and 4.100m had to be crossed, before we could reach Lamayuru and move in our hotel at dusk.