Himalayan Saga-XI[Final Part]  

Posted by Praveen in , , ,

Day 13-The road trip was over yesterday. And we still had 2 days left in Manali. We were itching to get back on the road. And Raja had to do paragliding. Thats when Manoj Bhai strikes again. He calls us up and asks us whether we want to accompany him on one more trip to Rohtang. Alongwith that, there was this irresistible offer of paragliding at Solang valley. And so we set on yet again, to Rohtang. The qualis on this day had all the typical ingredients of a tourist vehicle-a guy who blabbers on no end about anything and everything based on his wikipedia knowledge, an old woman and her daughter who were having this little competition among themselves on who vomits the most, another girl who laughs like the 'yakshis' you get to see in C-grade horror soaps, a honeymoon couple where the lady screams at every turn of the vehicle and two misfits(us), who were eagerly waiting for the vehicle to stop somewhere to escape from all this. The wikipedia guy bored Manoj Bhai to death with his gyaan on Himachal, as we coughed hard to hide our laughter. We heaved a sigh of relief when we reached Solang valley.
The paragliding experience

The ropeway at Solang valley

the ropeway will take you into the clouds

Solang valley is pretty near to Manali and is known for sports like paragliding, skiing, zorbing etc. There's also a ropeway service which will take you up the mountain and give you a scenic view. As the families proceeded to the ropeway, we started the climb up the hill to realise our dream of flying free. It was a tiring walk up the slightly slushy slopes because of the lack of oxygen. Atlast, we reached a reasonable height and the guys who were accompanying us with the 2 paragliding kits untied it and set it up. I realised to my horror that I am to do it first thus spoiling all my ideas of using Raja as a guinea pig to see how scary is it. As the guy tied the ropes on to me, I was in for the second shock. He said-"You stand in front and run when I say. Dont stop, else we'll both fall down." My heart almost stopped beating for a second and cursed myself for deciding to do this. I said-"why dont you stand in front and run? I'll follow you". By that time he had tied everything tight to me and got himself tied behind me. The next second I heard him say- "RUNNNNN!!!" I ran....and ran. Those 5-10 seconds were the scariest of my life. Here we were running to the edge of a hill with a heavy bag like thing attached to our backs and the man himself had warned that there's a chance of falling down. But 5 seconds later, it was all heaven as we lifted off smoothly near the edge of the hill. The thick cloud cover meant that we couldn't see anything below us for sometime. We glided down the hills, through the clouds, circling the trees. I could see people walking along the hill slopes. I got a taste of how a bird felt and for the first time I understood what 'freebird' literally meant. He experltly manoeuvered it as we gradually began to come towards the ground. As we were nearing, he again screamed "RUN"...Run I did, and we landed safely...One more iteration of the above para and that will be Raja's paragliding experience. Alas, He got a guinea pig in me!

After the customary maggi meal, we were back in the vehicle with the old boring bunch. It was time for the journey up to Rohtang, through that dangerous road yet again which almost gave us all heart attack the first time around. It was raining and the roads were slushier than before. It was terror all over again as the vehicle literally glided on the slush and came precariously close to the edge of the road. The mist didn't help matters either as visibility was next to nill near Rohtang. Atlast, after another arduous journey, we reached Rohtang. Having walked around the first time around, it was a time for chilling out for we two as we sat around in the dhaba with Manoj Bhai. I jumped out to click as I saw several military trucks emerging from the mist and travelling down the road. As I stood there and started clicking, I saw each of the men in uniform driving the trucks giving me a simple salute. I couldn't help but stop clicking and salute them back. A goosebump moment, that! As we walked around, we met an old man at a small shop renting jackets to toursists. He told us about Himachalis being god fearing and that they never ever lie to anybody. We knew its true having experienced it over the last 2 weeks. As dusk approached, we descended and reached Manali by nightfall.

military trucks emerging from the mist

and disappear again into the mist

tourists being taken for a horse ride around Rohtang

smoke! ..inside a tent in Rohtang

and leave

the man renting jackets to tourists

dusk...through the glass.

Day 14- The trip was ending atlast. What began as a trip to Ladakh ended up as a trip around Himachal. But we were not complaining because this was much more than what we bargained for. If anybody asks us what was the best part of the trip, we would most probably say, The people. There are many of them who just found a place in our hearts with their warmness and innocence-Our driver Manoj Bhai, his friend Sanu Bhai, Daulat Ram, the prayer flag seller at Lossar, the hotel owners at most places, the kids, the monks and many more. And, of course there was the unparalleled beauty and majesty of the Himalayas which made us gape in wonder on all the 14 days with its sheer variety of geographies. Its these things that will make us come back here many more times in the future. And, when I say this, am sure we'll return...And, it felt great when Sanju Bhai came to see us off.

turn back...inside Manali market

wool...decked up in the shelves

a confluence of cultures...one of the last shots from Manali

The journey back to Delhi was a record breaking journey of sorts. The Himalayas didn't seem to like us leaving the place. Yet another landslide happened and we were at the same place from night 9 till morning 7. One more night spent in Himachal, thanks to the Himalayas. I bow before thy might. Day 15 was on the road as we travelled from Himachal through Haryana and Punjab to Delhi. Day 16-Flight to Kerala for Onam...The perfect icing on the best cake we ever got :)...

Thanks to all for bearing with this travelogue for so long...No more words to say..All I've left are some more pics which will be up in my photoblog. And ofcourse the ebook version of the whole travelogue...

your crusader Praveen

Himalayan Saga- X  

Posted by Praveen in , , ,

Day 11-This day saw one of our longest road journies of the trip. Being in Rampur, we were back into the world of good roads and lot of people. All these days in the lonely mountains and plains made us feel like we were away from civilization for too long. Rampur is in Shimla district and hence the good condition of roads. The MPs and ministers turn a blind eye to the interiors as they pour all the money to the places close to the capital. Our journey started with a big setback as we had to retrace 60 kms because of a blocked road. And to make up for the lost time, Manoj bhai was at his speediest best. And the vehicle did show some problems for the first time. As he opened the bonnet and fixed it up, 2 mechanical engineers stood there with wide open mouths, thinking what the hell each part is. Lunch was at a lonely hotel in a misty place. At 1pm in the afternoon, the place looked like the sun hasn't risen yet.
a lady walking up the hills to shower pesticides on plants...she saw the cam and gave a shy smile.

a house in the clouds

the mist covered road
another interesting house

And after a rollercoaster ride, during which I almost screamed out in terror seeing the speedometer, we reached Kullu in the evening. But we didn't stop. Our destination for the day was Manikaran, famous for its hot spring and the Gurudwara. On the way, we passed very near to the Malana village. Its a village known all over the world for producing the best hashish called Malana cream. But, more than that this village is significant because they live by their own rules. They have a democratic structure which is older than most countries. And they are fiercely protective of their lifestyle and culture. They see Malana as a country and the Indian Govt's rules don't work there. Outsiders might find it hard to adjust to their rules and going there without proper guidance can put you in danger too. Manoj Bhai told us that they thwart the police who comes to raid the drug cultivations here by rolling down big rocks from uphill. It takes more than a day to trek to this village. Having missed it this time, we are sure to return to trek to Malana. Another interesting place on the way is Kasaul, a place so filled up with Israelis that you might doubt if this is in India itself. Even the boards of the shops are in Hebrew. The young Israelis come here after the compulsory military training and have a good time in the hills. At night, we had a great time with Manoj Bhai and his driver friends at Manikaran.

Day 12-The day started with a dash of spirituality as we took a dip in the hot water spring near Manikaran gurudwara. The water from the original spring was re routed to a big pool near the Gurudwara. This was followed by a visit to the Gurudwara, situated at the other side of the river Parvati, which was flowing with all might. The Guru Granth Sahib was being read by a group of old men inside the main shrine. Manikaran is a holy place for the Sikhs as it is believed that Guru Nanak himself visited this places. Whole families packed in lorries were seen as was bikers proudly displaying the Sikh flag. Through a pathway in the Gurudwara, we can reach the Siva temple. Parts of the temple stand on the natural hot spring and you can feel the immense heat on the floor. Here, the main ritual is the cooking of rice in natural hot water. Rice is tied up in clothes and put into the spring and it cooks faster than any pressure cooker. The rice is given as prasadam. We visited another Siva temple in Kulu, this one carved out of rocks. The temple has a big feeding hall at the bottom where anyone can have lunch for free. We had a simple yet tasty lunch, sitting along with swamis who been travelling the length and breadth of the country.

Manikaran at night

Manikaran at morning. At the bottom, you can see the natual hot spring being re routed into a pool. The gurudwara can be reached by crossing the river.

a view of Manikaran village

a swamiji we met at the Kullu siva temple. Forgot his name. He said he keeps on travelling and has seen most parts of India.

Now, we were on our way back to Manali, but the adventure wasn't over yet. We had our first experience of rafting in Kullu. As the life jacket was worn and the boat started moving, I was scared a bit thinking of how terrifying the experience is gonna be. But then, as we went down stream moving up and down with the waves and getting splashed all over, I realised this was one of the best experiences ever. And Sanju Bhai, our driver Manoj's friend followed us through the road and clicked as we rafted along merrily. Though it was 5 Kms of rafting, it was a blink and miss experience. And one worth every millisecond of it. Next was the experience of watching river beas rushing just below you from a wooden trolley controlled by ropes. This is used by the people here to cross the river and to transport goods from one side of the river to the other. Sitting huddled up inside that small box and stopping just above the middle of the river is an exhilarating experience. We also stopped by at the shawl making centres of Kullu. Kullu is famous for its shawls and it was nice to see the intricate process of weaving. They sell the produce at their own textile on the top floor. There are a number of similar shops in Kullu. This shop was special because I saw some of the most beautiful girls ever to work in a textile. I had a hard time selecting shawls as my eyes were out of control. I still haven't forgotten those faces.

the rafting experience...photos courtesy-Sanju bhai

making of the famous kullu shawl

on the trolley...over the Beas...!

And this is what weary travellers do after a long road trip...rest at Hotel surabhi just below the world peace cafe, gazing at the mighty mountains..

And atlast, the road trip had come full circle by the evening of Day 12, when we reached Manali. After 9 days on the road, one awesome driver, mountains, rivers, snow, monasteries and encounter with inetersting people later, we were poorer by many rupees, but richer by experience. And I wouldn't trade anything for this. But, we were not done yet...!

your crusader Praveen

Himalayan Saga- IX  

Posted by Praveen in , , ,

By the evening of day 9, after being held up by the landslide, we reached the centre of Kinnaur. Winding up through the hills, we were welcomed by the evening rush in Recong Peo. So we thought why don't we drive further up. And so after many more rounds of winding up, we were in Kalpa. We stayed in a calm place away from the crowd. iI've no memories left of the night as we went almost straight to sleep at the hotel.

Day 10. One of the best opening scenes to a day, even better than the one I saw in Keylong. And this time too, it was thanks to Raja as he kicked me awake from deep sleep. Through the window, we saw the Kinner Kailash mountain towering over us. With clouds making it vanish and appear every other minute, it seemed like an illusion, something unreal. Fresh snow was glowing in the sun. We could feel the coldness and the freshness from our balcony. And as the blue skies came on view, it was a visual treat. The pine trees provided a nice silhouette as the clouds engulfed the valley and the mountains. The kinner Kailash is a mountain which is highly revered by Hindus. Its considered as a smaller version of the original mount Kailash.
kinner kailash...when the clouds cleared up..

Kinner kailash ..up close.

Add Imagethrough the window pane...I would rate this among the best windows of the world :D

my 1st attempt at lens flare...

another window ..another scene...the left glass is broken..

prayers in the air...

the clouds begin to cover up kinner kailash


Kinnaur is known to produce the best apples in India. How big the business here is evident from the huge number of orchards that can be seen all around. Breakfast was a funny affair with some local music videos being played in the tv, specially for us. It was supposed to be modern versions of traditional Kinnauri songs. But the guys have managed to spoil it to the max which in turn gave us lot of laughs. Another myth about the Kinnauris is that they are descendants of the Pandavas and are considered as a special being in between man and God. Our first destination for the day was Sangla valley. The journey through the sides of river sutlej and Baspa river provided some excellent view. A big area is owned by the Jaypee group with power projects and tunnels seen all around. We gave lift to an old man from Bihar who been working here for the past many decades. He regaled us with stories from his olden days. On the way upto Sangla, there's a small mandir where the baba will come down and bless each vehicle as it passes by. The old man gave us the not so colourful history of the 'baba' too.

Sangla is a beautiful valley located near the Tibetan border. Those who have enough time can take a trek to the chitkul village, which is almost near the border. We went straight up to the temple and monastery, which is located quite near to the centre of the small town. A short walk through narrow paths will take you to the temple. When we went there, only 3 children who were playing there were there. The wooden carvings were intricate and depicted various interesting figures. The children were having a gala time fighting with each other. The youngest of them was interested in posing for the camera too. We were surprised to see grass(not the ones that cows eat) growing freely, just outside the temple gates. As I was nearing our vehicle a group of little girls came running towards me asking to take snaps. Later I realised, it was Raja who pointed them to me, when he was attacked for carrying the camera bag. It was a few minutes of delightful clicking as the kids wanted a variety of poses. I just wish I could mail them these.

the kids having a nice time fighting...at the temple complex in Sangla..

the smartest of the lot :D

a part of the temple

a view of the temple at the top of sangla town..

Our driver Manoj bhai and Raja standing before the intricately designed doorway...

blaaaaaaaam! a door handle at the temple

the group of girls who were eager to be photographed..

she wanted a solo snap of her...checkout the apples to the left of the blurred background..

and then she wanted a solo snap too...

running before the click...in their eagerness to see the snap, they started running before the click...:D

a house in sangla valley..

the roads were filled with warning signs like this..a rock can fall on your head anytime...and this man seems to be protecting himself :D

Later it was another long drive to Rampur, where we stayed for the night. And on the way, we were joined by Sanju Bhai, our driver Manoj bhai's best friend. The short man with an ever smiling face was a source of info regarding anything and everything related to Himachal. This man would delight us for the last leg of our journey...

your crusader Praveen