As flying from Leh is ridiculously expensive in high season, I decided to take a share taxi down to Srinagar and go from there. For Rs 1,800, I got the front seat in a Xylo, which is a pretty comfortable vehicle. I always book the front seat if I go by share taxi as I really hate being too crowded. I also don’t like being in back with people who are carsick. There’s always someone, it seems. When you book, which you do a bit in advance, you usually get a choice. Booking in advance means that there is some choice in the matter. In my case, I booked the night before. Sometimes they charge a bit extra for the front seat, but in my opinion it’s absolutely worth it.
The share taxis takes 13 or 14 hours and they always go overnight. We left at 5pm and reached Srinagar a little after 6am. It wouldn’t have been so bad, really, because the car was pretty comfortable; but in order to stay awake the driver kept the music on loud all night and the windows open. Alas, my earplugs couldn’t drown out the music and my blanket was insufficient to keep me warm, so I didn’t sleep at all.
There were six other passengers—this sweet Israeli couple (Adi and Asaf), who were on their honeymoon, and four Indian men.
Ladakh is high-altitude desert, so the landscape is mostly pretty barren. Part of the trip follows the Indus River, but I think the part of the trip that is taken during the night might be the most interesting, because that’s when you go over the passes. On the other hand, missing Kargil and Drass is surely a blessing.
In the middle of the night we stopped for dinner. Well, the driver and the Indians had dinner. The rest of us settled for tea and a pit stop. The driver headed for a rather grungy dhaba, but the Israelis and I found a nicer restaurant with an acceptable toilet down the road.
The flight I got from Srinagar to Delhi was under Rs 5,000, which is less than half of what it would have cost from Leh, so I saved a few thousand rupees going this way. I stayed with friends who have houseboats, so I didn’t end up spending the difference for staying a few days in Srinagar.