It was one of the most important and meaningful days of our entire trip as we visited the Drass War Memorial dedicated to Kargil War Hero and other Martyrs who laid down their lives in this region protecting India. It was a goose bumps moment to see the Indian Tri color fly high on a hundred feet pole with the backdrop of Tololing hill and other strategic ranges. The Amar Jawan Jyoti here reminded us of a ever burning rage for which these brave souls have scarified their lives. We should always remember and respect these super Heroes.
The visit to the War memorial not only makes us appreciate but admire and respect the Indian Army even more. An Army Jawan briefed us about the entire conflict in a crisp and informative manner. The amount of scarifies that these men and women, not to forget their extended family, make to keep us safe is unimaginable. The harsh climate, unforgivable terrain, determination to venture out to scary passes, built bridges overnight, limited supply of food and staying awake even at night but still willing to face bullets with a smile all for our Nation and her safety. Even after attaining victory, they did show their humane and professional side by providing proper burials for enemy soldiers. This totally shows that they are doing their job and are not heartless people but humans with feelings at the end of the day.
Besides the Memorial is a war cemetery where many brave soldiers lie peacefully over looking the hills that they loved so much that they ended up sacrificing their lives. The army has erected a sandstone wall that has the names of all Indian Army personnel who laid down their lives during Kargil War. Visitors can know more details about the war by visiting an exclusive remembrance hut named Manoj Pandey war gallery. It is dedicated to the heroes of the Indian Armed Forces displaying photographs of thrilling moments of the War, heart melting letters written from the war zone plus arms and ammunition captured from the enemy. This monument is a must visit for every Indian to see and understand the difficulties and harsh terrain in which our soldiers are deployed.
Paying our respect to the martyred soldiers, we left the memorial filled with pride, gratitude and gratefulness for all that these men & women in uniform to do for us civilians. Just after crossing Kargil War Memorial, a short trek leads to Bhim Pathar. A massive stone associated with Pandava kings during their exile. It is believed that the huge rock is the solidified body of Bhim, hence, the name of the village-Bhimbat. A superstition associated with this rock is that a childless woman will be able to conceive if she consumes dust from this rock. The bangles on the rock prove people widely believe this. This place is 5 km from Drass and just 1 km from the National Highway. However, there is no signage or direction to this place, a young gentleman volunteered to be the guide.
While heading back to Kargil from Drass, we realized that en route our visit to Drass war memorial we miscalculated the range and distance and were running short of two liters of fuel with the nearest petrol pump around 50 km away. Travel teaches us a lot and one of the most important aspects is that our survival depends on mercy and kindness of total strangers. After inquiring from the local shops in Drass we were not able to buy fuel but a kind gentleman came forward and helped us with his stock that he had for his personal use. It is this kindness and generosity that there is hope of "humanity is still alive." It was not about the money that we paid him but it is about the fact that he bailed us out of a very sticky situation. Though we would never meet him again we would be forever grateful.
We thanked him for his help and headed to Kargil. The road from Drass to Kargil is one of the most beautiful stretches with the gushing water of the rivers giving us company all along. The beautiful roads, massive snow covered hills and the many green fertile patches that now have settlements and the wonderful bridges connecting them to the highway- all of this on one stretch is a delight for any road-tripper. Along the way we caught glimpses of many waterfalls streaming downhill and joining the river. The crystal clear water melting from the glaciers atop the mountain peaks was an amazing sight.
On the way, we stopped at Harka Bahadur Memorial. During the 1948 war, it looked like India would lose the entire Kargil region to Pakistan, It was the valor and sacrifice of Subedar Harka Bahadur Rand and the men of 1/5 Gorkha Rifles who proved that were not going down without a fight. The enemy soldiers had captured Kargil region and the only barrier between them and the Indian soldiers was a bridge. When fighting over the Khera bridge did not seem to work, these men crossed over the bridge right into the enemy positions and forced them to surrender. It was through their effort that Kargil remained intact with India and they ended up sacrificing their lives. It is unlikely to see a Memorial dedicated to a single person in the region of Jammu and Kashmir but in this case Indian Army made an exception and dedicated a memorial for Harka Bahadur Rana. A new bridge was also constructed and it was named Harka Bhahadur Bridge.
In Kargil, we checked into Hotel Suru View and it is definitely one of the best budget properties. The rooms were spacious and clean with all basic amenities. WiFi works in the lobby and their restaurant serves amazing food. The view of Suru river from our room was simply breathtaking. Post sunset when the city sleeps the thundering sound of Suru crashing against massive boulders was very soothing to our ears/was our perfect lullaby.