Dangerous travel stories: How sleeping in saved my life

We woke up early in the morning. It was a beautiful day and it seemed like the sun rays were tickling the clouds. Even though it was summer, it was still pretty cold and it kept getting even colder as we were approaching Pangong Tso. This lake was one of the main reasons to visit Kashmir for me. The stories about Pangong always described it as the ultimate mountain jewel, standing at more than 4,300 meters above sea level. The day started off very nicely and never did I think this lovely day will turn into a dangerous travel story…

 The journey to Pangong Tso

It was a long journey since the mountain roads weren’t in the best condition. Few monasteries and army camps later, we spotted a small frozen lake. That was strange considering it was the beginning of June and it was supposed to be summer. This just showed us exactly how Kashmiri summer looks like.

My faithful companion for this trip, my headache, stroke again, warning me that the air is getting thinner with every next meter of height. An hour or so later, I finally saw Pangong Tso peeping through the dry mountains. It looked so small from here, but the view was majestic. As we were driving down the hill, I started realizing how big the lake actually is.

Reaching the lake

Only a small portion of Pangong Tso is actually within the borders of India and the larger part belongs to China. Pangong Tso is based in the center of Aksai Chin, (the disputed region that was a reason for a war conflict between India and China) but still, the lake gave me that feeling of eternal peace. I’ve never seen a place like that before- that captivates the soul of the traveler with such serenity and tranquillity.

Dangerous travel stories

I will always remember this lake as the one whose beauty leaves even the greatest wordsmiths speechless. Pangong Tso is like that beautiful girl that you gather the courage to approach with months and when you finally get the guts to do so, you suddenly forget how to speak. That’s the impression Pangong Tso usually leaves on people, and I was no exception.

After this experience, I have forgotten about all my worries and daily struggles. It was the closest thing to a nirvana, I suppose you could say. I was so relaxed, that I forgot that we almost reached China and we barely have enough money to go back to Delhi! Tashi dropped us back to Leh and from here our financial situation only allowed us to take the local bus to Srinagar, as we couldn’t afford anything else. The local buses are sometimes so crowded, that there are people that ride on the top of the bus! I was just happy this wasn’t one of those times.

Dangerous travel stories: how sleeping in saved my life?

In the morning we slept in and we missed the first bus. I was frustrated at the time, but now I’m glad that happened. Our tickets were valid for the next bus and we got on it. This was looking like the beginning of the end of our Kashmir adventure. Or, so we thought.

Srinagar to Leh

The bus suddenly made a stop at Kargil. Initially, we thought we’re taking a break, but the bus driver told Rishabh that this is the last stop. We were shocked, as we paid for bus tickets to Srinagar. Apparently, the previous bus (the one we missed) was held captive near Srinagar by a group of armed protesters. They stopped the bus on the road, they stoned the bus and were holding all the passengers captive.

We kindly explained our bad luck to the driver and asked for a refund, which we eventually got after some bargaining. I must say I really didn’t enjoy the vibe Kargil was giving me. Historically, Kargil was known as the terrorist stronghold and the center of the India Pakistani war. And the militant influence is still pretty strong among the local people. I don’t speak a single word of Urdu, but I could feel the aggression and hate in the voice of the preacher in the central mosque that had speakers that were echoing throughout the entire town. That was a really creepy feeling.

Things like this is just one reason why you should consider getting a travel insurance before going anywhere.

The road to Pangong Tso

What happened next?

After a lot of bargaining and explaining, we managed to get one of the local taxi drivers to drop us to Jammu for the amount of money that we had left. While Rishabh was negotiating, I was just walking around the market acting as if we’re not together. I knew that if the taxi driver figured out that we’re together, the price would increase dramatically.

 

Going back to Jammu and boarding the crazy train

We were finally on the way. Our driver was savagely rushing down the hill, turning the 16-hour journey into a 10 hour one. I felt like our car might stumble down the hill at least 15 times. But finally, we reached Jammu. We shrugged off all the coins and pocket money and somehow managed to collect around 160 rupees ($2.50 USD).

Dangerous travel Kashmir

After that, we went straight to the Jammu train station and we bought tickets for the lowest class. And riding on that train is something I will never forget. It was a 13-hour journey to Delhi, but still, there were more than 100 people that were standing all the way to Delhi. The rule in this train is: if you find a free spot, then that’s yours. If you get up from your seat to go to the bathroom, that’s not your seat anymore.

Indian train

When we got up all the seats were already taken, so we were sitting on the upper floor, where people would suppose to keep their bags in normal trains. In this train, there were eight people sitting in that area, including me. I think I was the only non-Indian in the coach and I could tell everyone around me were really surprised. After 13 hours of sitting in the same position without even going to the bathroom, we finally reached Delhi. That was the last chapter of this crazy Kashmir and at times dangerous travel adventure.

A few final thoughts

Staying in Kashmir for two weeks and interacting with the local people made me see their part of the story. A story which is a lot different than the one we get to see in the media. And I’m not going to say that everything is perfect in Kashmir. But these stories didn’t stop me from visiting one of the most beautiful places I have seen in my life. And meeting some of the nicest people I ever met. Of course, we had our share of bad luck and things I can’t say that I would like to experience again, but this journey sure turned out to be a great story to tell.

Did you like this dangerous travel story? What’s the scariest thing you experienced on the road? Let me know in the comments! 

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26 thoughts on “Dangerous travel stories: How sleeping in saved my life”

  1. Lucky you slept in for sure! Did you ever find out what happened to the people on the first bus? Your photos are beautiful. The lake is stunning. Funnily enough, I had an almost death experience in India. But instead of a hostage taking, I bumped into a tiger in front of our tent in Ranthambore National Park. A truly terrifying moment and one that I can’t believe that I survived. Crazy this travel thing!!! Lol

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  2. Oh it’s really scary to know about the previous bus. Kashmir is so beautiful but so uncertain sometimes. I am glad you slept in and you are safe. Hope you have had better memories of the land too.

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  3. wow – as a big Bollywood fan, the names are all familiar to me – Srinagar, Kargil, Jammu – in some of their war/patriotic films I have seen. However, your personal experience there for me really showed me the reality of what traveling and perhaps living in Kashmir is really like. I have heard it is one of the most beautiful places on earth but I have to admit the instability has prevented me from even thinking about it as a possibility.

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    • Regardless of what happened, I do believe it was an isolated incident and I would recommend anyone to visit Kashmir. It is indeed, one of the most beautiful destinations I ever visited.

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  4. Wow that sounds like a crazy experience! Glad you slept in and missed that first bus. You just never know what could happen while you travel so good lesson to everyone to get travel insurance and travel as safely as possible.

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  5. Ok that’s some really scary experience you luckily avoided by sleeping in. Travelling as much as it sounds fun, it still has its crazy and scary times too. Loved the Pangong Tso lake picture, hope to visit this place someday.

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    • Thank you, Suma. It indeed was a crazy experience. Pangong Tso is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen and I hope you get the chance to visit one day.

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  6. Oh jeez, I am glad you are safe! What an experience. It is cool that you went to Kashmir when still many Indians aren’t comfortable going due to the conflict. The pictures look stunning. I can’t help but wonder if this is location of where the last scene from the movie 3 Idiots was shot.

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  7. Wow that’s hectic! And glad you guys missed your bus. That’s what I actually always tell myself when I miss a place or miss my trains or bus. That maybe it is for a reason. It kinda put things on perspective despite the stress of travelling sometimes. Also, is that Pangong Lake the second picture from above? That looks like Ladakh in India! And that pic is amazing.

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    • I sure was lucky, Christine. You’re right, that is the Pangong Lake of Ladakh. It’s located near the border between China and India and a part of the lake belongs to India and another part- to China.

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  8. Wow… that’s really scary. It reminds me a little bit of a time we took a bus in the Philippines, and the bus that went before us (the same one on the same route) crashed down a hillside. We didn’t find out if people on the other bus had been hurt as we couldn’t find anything about it in the news, but we saw the crashed bus and it looked really bad.

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    • That’s quite similar, Alex. I suppose these things are a part of traveling. I’m glad you guys didn’t get on that bus and that everything worked out fine for you in the end.

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  9. Eeek. What worthwhile experience with a story to tell. That photo alone left me speechless and lost in thought as I pictured myself at the side of the water. I cannot even begin to imagine what seeing it away from a screen would be like!

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    • Thank you for your comment, I really appreciate it and I’m glad to hear you enjoyed this story. You’re absolutely right, things like this one might not be very pleasant to experience but they sure make great stories.

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  10. Wow, what a story! It sounds like you experienced quite some tense situations there. Fair play to you to get through the trip unscathedly and without losing your sanity. I would have probably tried to close my eyes many a times and think of that beautiful lake.
    Anyways, fantastic story. Thanks for sharing it!

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    • Thanks, Nils. I am glad you found my article interesting to read. Indeed it was extremely tensed back then but I am glad that I had the chance to tell my story.

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