Chander M. Bhat 
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Chadder - A Unique Mail Line

by Chander M. Bhat

 

In Ladakh Division of Jammu and Kashmir Circle there are several mail lines operated by departmental runners. Here, a brief description is given about a mail line in Ladakh Division which although mechanized and yet is operated by mail runners. The reason is the season. The mail line under discussion is the Kargil-Padam (Zanaskar) mail line. This mail line remains operative during summer from the month of June to September. The mails from Kargil to Padam are carried through J&K State Road Transport Corporation Buses serving enroute Sankoo S.O., Panikhar B.O., Parkachik B.O. and Padam S.O. This line remains closed at the onset of winter from October to May. During October to December about six runners serve the mail line from Parkachik BO to Padam SO in Zanaskar Valley, till heavy snowfall on this route. With snowfall the high passes leading to Padam are under deep snow thus rendering the Sankoo-Padam line inaccessible. The only other way is by helicopter.

The unique method of mail conveyance adopted by runners is via Chadder, the Zanaskar River. This river remains totally frozen during January and February with temperature known to drop to minus 300 C.

During this time it is possible to walk on the frozen river all the way to Padam. The river Zanaskar is a raging torrent during summer and negotiable only downstream by white water rafting. Going upstream is out of question. The starting point for upstream frozen river is near village Chilling. At many places there is ice at the edges with fast flowing water at the centre, one wrong step is definitely good-bye. Walls of the gorge are almost vertical upto 2000 ft, leaving no space to walk beside the river. Enroute there are several caves in the walls along the route, which provide convenient shelter, where one can take a halt. The halting stages on this ice route are Tilat Sumbo, Kharnak, Nera 1, Hanumil, Pishu, Stonde, Nieraq and Pidmo village. Pidmo village has the highest number of 15 houses.

This walk on frozen river is not as simple as it sounds. At many places the river does not freeze completely and the runners have to wait for several days for ice to form. The whole route length takes not less than 3 days to reach Padam. Of course, one had to either walk back or fly out unless one wants to stay at Padam till the high passes open in June. The mail runners walk back.

  

 

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