June 20th-21st, 2017
On our way to Leh, we spontaneously stopped in Drass and Kargil for school visits. The road to Drass was the beginning of the many hairpin turns that we made on the trip, and the temperature dropped quickly. We stopped along the way for spicy egg curry at a restaurant in the middle of nowhere, and kids with pink faces from the cold also came out of nowhere to ask if we had any food.
We watched as they stumbled back up the mountain to their home. Where do they go to school? we wondered as we looked around the dry landscape.
After a few kilometers of driving through the cold desert, we made it to Drass, where we were immediately greeted by a board that proclaimed Drass as the second coldest inhabited place in the world.
The school that we visited – Drass Higher Secondary School – was set against an incredible backdrop. It was the first of many schools that we’d see settled against snow-capped mountains. The kids were surely used to it, considering it an ordinary part of their lives, but we, the visitors from louder, more polluted areas, marveled at the crisp, clean air and towering mountains.
We were once again received enthusiastically, and many of the questions that we received were about Pune and why we did not visit Drass sooner. We also met with Mr. Sagar, the Education Officer of Kargil District.
After our visit, we moved towards Kargil, with a stop at the Kargil War Memorial. The Memorial was built after the Kargil War with Pakistan in 1999 and an army man narrated the story of the war to us. We were amazed at how the armies were able to fight in such cold and harsh conditions.
We stayed in Kargil that night and the next morning, had a visit at the Akchamal Government Higher Secondary School. One of our cars got lost on the way to the school, and now, if Milind and Gaurav ever return to Kargil, they will know their way around the city very well. We stopped in many schools to see where the bus could possibly be, and we spread the word of the Skill Yatra to at least 5 schools that day.
When we finally reached the school, we realized that the students had not moved from the bus for two hours. They were also asking us questions about where we are from, what language we speak, and what we thought about Kargil. It was clear that they, just as in Drass and Srinagar, did not receive many visitors.
After this incredible visit, we were back on road, and this time – finally – we were on our way to Leh.