Tuesday, September 29, 2009

spellbound in spiti! - chotta dhara

rajkumar the guestkeeper agreed to put us up for 250per person incl dinner n chai...basic room with blankets n attached bath toilet...couldn't have asked for more in this spectacular location
nestled deep in a wide valley with the enormous chandra-bhaga ranges on both sides, the pwd guest house at chotta dhara looked miniscule. as day slowly turned to dark, a veritable magic show had begun!
sunset was obscured by clouds but then it cleared n the night sky was so thickly crowded like i've never seen before...spotted two satellites in 2minutes!!...and then this huge blazing cool moon rose with jupiter for company sans it's moons! shivering cold but what an incredile sight to see the entire valley light up...talk about images being imprinted in one's mind!goodnight!
we left early the next morning for chandra tal but not before almost kissing my dear friend goodbye!...he'd adopted us for the brief time we were there :)we stopped ahead to take pics of the glacier after which this lil place is named...my first glacier!

Monday, September 28, 2009

spellbound in spiti! - rohtang to chotta dhara

much of the conversation over that fab jap dinner was planning our trip, esp the drive to spiti...the plan was to stop over either at batal, which is almost halfway or at chotta dhara, just before batal. the choice was between a basic pwd guest house at chotta d or shacking up at a dhabba in your sleeping bag@batal! gramphu comes 85km from manali - the junction where one road turns southeast towards spiti n the other continues up to ladakh. we stopped here for a hearty meal of deep fried aloo parathas! hardly 14kms into the lahaul valley and the greenery has all but disappeared...no tall deodhars n other evergreen pines...just a few scrubs n v little grass.the air feels colder n the sun drier...the road is almost non existant, just a mud n gravel path that forces our qualis to15kmph at the fastest...but there's no hurrying about, no 8.09 fast to catch...it is amazing how everything here slows you down to sanity...we're moving now beyond the central himalayan range to the greater himalayan range...the pwd guest house at chotta dhara appeared out of nowhere...3huts dwarfed deep into the valley. of course, we didn't have prior permission or booking but hardly anyone ventures into these parts n of course, there's room for us...it must've been around 5pm when we got here...in time for chai n sunset!

spellbound in spiti! - manali to rohtang

so it was over that absolutely super jap dinner that we decided to hire a jeep to spiti instead of taking the direct 15hr bone-rattling bus...this way we'd get to be on our own, stop wherever we felt like, choose our pace n most importantly, be able to go up to the magical chandra tal...the next day it pissed down like it does in bombay n the big joke around town was that these bumbaiyas have brought crazy amounts of rain with them...not funny at all, we weren't able to go around manali or walk up to the vashist springs :(so cafe phuntsook once again provided much solace with her consistent roasties...grated boiled potatoes, extravagant amounts of grated cheese n garlic and stuffing of either spinach, tuna or chicken!...yummm...got to crack how to make this at home. mercifully, it didn't rain at night n we left the next morning.
manali to spiti is a mere 200kms...but nothing could've prepared us for the mind-boggling continuously changing landscape. but more about that later...the take2 drive up was completely different from our earlier trip up...it had rained, the roads were a mess n there were more delays...it was around this time that sur called from bombay in panic...the road from keylong to baralach-la has been closed thanks to heavy snowfall, hundreds of tourists have been stranded, so guys, pls don't go! luckily for us, we need to turn right before keylong n the road there is open...more delays?
but it hardly mattered this time round...we didn't have to reach anywhere at any particular time...we had just begun our journey!...it reminded me somehow of robert pirsig's 'zen and the art of motorcycle maintanence'..."and what is good, phaedrus, and what is not good - need we ask anyone to tell us these things?" fresh snow!...of course!! wow! so much of it...just the other day it was all dry n barren...amazing!...once again steered clear of the honeymooner hordes went ahead n went berserk into the snow!...but right up at the pass, bihari labour!!i mean, far from the bowels of their coalmines, here they were in sub-zero temperatures, eating their sabzi-roti unmindful of the apparent incongruence...we drive on, our driver -naresh, patiently stopping for photos...like this oneit is bad enough doing it on motorbikes, but we encountered couples on bicycles on roads like these!! riding all the way from shimla to spiti to ladakh! loco! complete madness! moments after i took this pic, the guy skidded n i ran to help him up n pushed him back onto the road...from here on, we had the river chandra for company all through the lahaul valley.

spellbound in spiti!!! - manalii

angmo!after an authentic japanese dinner in vashist complete with sushi(!!) it was 2nhalf yr old angmo who took a group pic of the 6of us!! she's totally obsessed about taking pics n no, no toy cam for her...she'd click incessantly n dive to you asking, "theek hai?" what a sweetheart! - half japanese, half pahadi fully adorable :)

spellbound in spiti!! - manali

..so like i was saying...we decided to do the round trip - enter spiti from manali n return via shimla...that way we get to go thru the kullu valley then lahaul next spiti and finally kinnaur...being able to appreciate the dramatic changes in landscape n drive those bloodcurdling roads!so back we were at vineet n rimli's absolutely gorgeous home by the beas at vashist...the last time i was here, the mountain tops were all covered with snow n the apple blossoms had just about begun to sprout...this time, luscious red apples shone thru the green...every shade of green...the view from each of their rooms was so fabulous...i kept wondering what the hell am i doing in the city!their bedroom!the beas raging swollen with recent rain.
the plan was to spend 3-4 days with them, go up to rohtang-la, walk around, acclimatise...going from 0 mt above mean sea level to 5000 is best done slowly...and given our fantastic levels of fitness ;) imperative! but then, it is never easy going up to rohtang. there's always traffic jams due to perennial road construction, widening or landslide clearing.so you just sit back n enjoy the views or walk arounda fab day it was, clear skies n strong sun. what should've taken two and a half hours took over 5hrs!! the border road guys are quite amazing...day in n day out toiling to keep the roads open mostly for us n occasionally for the army (or is it the other way round ;) rohtang itself, arrived shrouded in fog crowning a long drive with exhilaration.but once the fog lifts, the highest parking lot in the world reveals itself! complete with dhabas, yak rides n ski photo ops for honeymooners!...we fled right past n walked towards the lahaul valley overlooking the chandra river...as expected, the altitude kicked in with the heaviness in the head n deep rapid breathing...to acclimatise well they say, climb high but sleep low...we were at 13,000ft! cold crisp n beautiful:)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

spellbound in spiti!

...haven't been writing...haven't felt like for some time now...various reasons...but that's another post...ever heard of spiti? am suprised to learn that very few people know or even heard about spiti...tucked deep inside the twisted himalayas, spiti - the "middle land" lies betw tibet n the indian sub-continent...
while doing geo at xavier's i remember spiti being geologically a very imp site but never imagined i'd ever go there...i mean, for starters it is far, very far...you got to go from bom to del then to manali (like we did) or via shimla then cross two very high passes, go thru the lahaul valley n ONLY then are you in spiti!...no wonder then, that Kipling described it as "this is no place for man".