Journey into the forbidden valley of Lahaul Spiti

Life isn’t what you really think it to be. The journey you share among the paths you take aren’t always meant to be full of what you crave for. A level of uncertainty brings with itself a whole new world that you might want to always cherish rather than crib about. Travelling on the spur of the moment or travelling with a plan, each have their own trodden paths which you might not want to compare, but when you take the roads unknown and imagine the world without your lens or without the lenses of others, you will find that beauty lies within the experience and not just the photos you click or the videos you make. Sometimes you just have to be in the moment, and accept what’s dished out and move on with your stories to enchant your vivid imagination while experiencing the best travel you could ever. Such was the breathtaking journey into the forbidden valley of Lahaul and Spiti… And I wouldn’t disagree to the fact that there is a reason why this place is the forbidden valley and what makes the entire experience worthwhile.

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Yes, the challenges of the battling conditions, the crazy flowing river by your side ready to engulf you the moment you take your eye off it, the paagal naalas (crazy waterfalls) giving you a quick whiff of what to expect in these landslide trodden areas. But the most beautiful and never to forget experience within this journey has to be the smell of fresh air, the breath of beauty across the Himalayas, the frozen ponds you get to view and the soul searching you end up doing across the pagodas, temples and monasteries even if you don’t believe in the concept of God. Of course, your own journey is sacred. Your own experience is sacrosanct and what you view, dream, believe in is what you get to experience in this journey across the forbidden valley. Riding or driving, both options will churn your body like an urn. While you may find comfort in the luxury SUVs, the ground clearance or for that matter the bumpy twists and turns you experience will add to the memories that are etched out if you’re on a bike or low comfort 4*4s or simpler SUVs like a Tata Sumo.

Rohtang, Manali, North India, Spiti

Foggy Terrain enroute Rohtang pass

The journey from Manali to Kaza epitomizes the beauty of Rohtang Pass and as much as you would like to stay still and explore the vast horizon of the landscape, you know, that there’s a lot more of it where it begins and you keep going on a journey that you feel hungry for.

Rohtang Pass, Manali, Spiti

Horses at Rohtang Pass

Especially if you have travelled into the wilderness of Ladakh, you would know what the Spiti Valley beckons. You would want to get there as soon as possible and explore the beauty of the supreme mountains and the surroundings that shall be part of your memories for your entire life. Add to that, the entire escapade brought in an amazing adventure, thanks to the narratives of our local driver arranged by Amit from HimalayanYatra. It added to our experience and made the journey more exciting, especially his amazing driving and some really off the edge experiences where we were saved by a whisker, not to forget the crazy landslide which we fortunately and thankfully missed by a whiff. 

One of the most enchanting and serene things about Spiti is the terrain and the experience the entire landscape offers you, no matter which part you end up going to. Whether it’s the route to the maddening cold village of Ki-Kibber, or the breathtaking and deeply glorious and spiritual Dhankar monastery, it is full of stories and tales that will cross your paths at the mere view of the place, even if it were through a corner of your eye. Hopefully I shall be telling many such stories in the series of blogs that I plan to write about this crazy place… For now, here’s an encapsulated look at our journey in a simple, yet mind blowing photo essay of sorts… Hope you find the beauty captured in the lenses worth your imagination…

The cold desert enroute Spiti Valley

The cold desert enroute Spiti Valley

The road to Spiti isn't just about barren terrains

The road to Spiti isn’t just about barren terrains

The bridge near a small military camp at Lossar

The bridge near a small military camp at Lossar

Beautiful Terrain as we approach Kaza

Beautiful Terrain as we approach Kaza

Tibetian flags across the mountain

Tibetian flags across the mountain enroute Ki-Kibber

Spiti, Ki-Kibber, Spiti Valley, North India

Beautiful Ki-Kibber village – One of the coldest villages in Asia

A mountain deer on our way to Kibber

A mountain deer we spotted on our way to Kibber

Dhanskar Monastery

Dhankar Village and Monastery

Entrance to Dhankar Monastery

Entrance to Dhankar Monastery

A tower atop the Monastery

A tower atop the Monastery

Local women outside the monastery

Local women outside the monastery

The most relaxed terrace atop the monastery

The most relaxed terrace atop the monastery

Hanging out with the local kids

Hanging out with the local kids

The Golden Buddha viewing the Mountains

The Golden Buddha viewing the Mountains

Chandertaal Lake - The most amazing view in Spiti

Chandertaal Lake – The most amazing view in Spiti

Off to the Forbidden Valley – Lahaul Spiti

Entrance of Spiti Valley - Losar

Entrance to the Spiti Valley – Losar

The mountain’s call has been finally answered! The year long wait to endure is too much to ask for me, especially since the beauty of the Himalayas just cannot escape my mind especially when the season to visit the Himalayas begins. Yes, I’m probably a tad too late, considering I missed my Hampta Pass trek due to sickness! Nonetheless, I am hoping to make up for a journey that I lost out a couple of months ago. A visit to the Chandratal lake was due then and is even today, with sordid hopes and gut wrenching travails I shall keep my fingers crossed in lieu of meeting my beloved Himalayas and visiting the Chandratal lake to enjoy its serenity forever… Time may be less, but I hope for making the most out of it and hope the trip is worth it completely. Thanks to Harshil my colleague, who hooked us up with a really great guy, called Amit, who’s part of http://www.himalyanyatra.com/ but a true adventurer at heart! He’s fixed our journey and the ride into Spiti! Hopefully it should be great fun and the experience worth the wait!

For those who don’t know about it, The Spiti Valley is a desert mountain valley located high in the Himalaya mountains in the north-eastern part of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. The name “Spiti” means “The Middle Land”, i.e. the land between Tibet and India

Not much for now, but would certainly be back with my tales and sojourns to hopefully enchant all of you and give you a visual delight in the beauty of the landscape as well as the stories that this forbidden valley has in its depth…

Until then, you guys have a good one.

Cheers

@srinistuff

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Rajasthan: Memoirs from the land of the kings

The land of the Kings! Certainly an enchanting aura that it carries, Rajasthan has always titillated my soul and senses and the one time I have been to this place, very early in my life as a travel blogger or as a wanderer, I’ve enjoyed the range of diversities and ethnicity of culture, craziness and beauty of the deserts and landscapes that take your breath away.

Throughout my week long escapade in the beautiful state of Rajasthan, I admired it not just for its true heritage and flamboyant art encompassed among the roots of its people, palaces and food, but also for the feeling it gave me of a rustic but divine revelation of sorts. Every different city that I explored had a native yet interesting niche that made it a tad different from every other city within the state. The museums, the forts and the cultural expose that I saw, made me believe in a grand heritage that actually told a lot of stories.

Be it the journey from Udaipur to Ajmer in a rugged jeep with locals staring at you with their sense of warmth and helping other locals out like the story of Bindaas Baaji, or be it the long stretches of just nothing but marble quarries on the road the roads told a story that no other could. Even the mile markers had their fascinating bits to add to the spice of the journey. Be it exploring the different admirable aspects of Jain architecture in Jaisalmer Fort or enjoying a chilled beer in the desert after a camel ride there was a stark contrast to every little thing we did in our travels across the state of Rajasthan. The amazing food we ate every evening at a different place, the warm milk and hot jalebis in a chilling weather in Japiur or the Rajasthani thali we hogged in Udaipur or the Parathas we ate outside Udaipur Palace, every memory is still etched in my mind till date. The ride to Pushkar encompassing the mountainous travails still remind me of the ride in the local bus. The beautiful sight of vintage cars in the Mueseum in Udaipur and how can I forget the huge and beautiful architecture of the Hawa Mahal! Not to mention the impulse that we carried at every step of the way, so much so that we managed to ditch a bus to Jaislmer and take a detour towards Ajmer, or extend the trip into Agra and back, every little incident was trivial and at the same time memorable till date.

Baaji

Baaji

Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Into the Jaisalmer Desert

Into the Jaisalmer Desert

Vintage Car Mueseum: Udaipur

Vintage Car Mueseum: Udaipur

 

This probably carries a lot of significance in terms of the way I decided to travel across the country, the rugged trip across 7 cities in 6 days, the camel rides, the cycle rickshaws, the autos the desert the sleeping at night in buses and exploring cities during the day probably added to the beauty of the journey across Rajasthan. The almost getting beaten up in a fight that was not ours to get into, the almost getting ripped off by an auto driver, the street food and the drinking of beer in every city kind of made the journey as rugged as possible. This trip had an essence to itself, which denotes a lot of the style of travel I’ve adopted over a period of time. A style that gives me a reproach in terms of the freedom I need to feel when I wake up in a different city across the country, probably telling me that my wandering feet are free to choose their calling and all they need is a fresh smell of the road and the path that is available for the taking. Something that told me right at the beginning of my journey across various destinations that I was yet to take… Rajasthan will most certainly be one of those destinations and most certainly on my list to go to once every while…

Blue Poppies

Enchanting Valley of Flowers

Yes this is the same beautiful place which probably is not accessible to many because of the devastation in Uttarakhand. Truly a sad state currently, with probably the entire village of Govindghat below the Valley of Flowers existed. We still see pictures sometimes across news feeds showcasing the heavy water flowing across Govindghat and taking down the entire roads along with it, and some of the mountains being washed away due to do the downpour and devastation of the mighty force of the river.

The memories of us being in this beautiful national park, still remain strong and hope that this place is soon rebuilt so that people can actually get access to the beauty that they should visit, at least once in their lifetime. This is the enchanting valley, the valley of flowers. Some of the pictures from that trek.

The Flowers

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The Landscapes 

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As I said… Once in a lifetime experience for sure!!!

The road before the road to heaven…

One of the most amazing places you would come across in the North Western Himalayas and the Indo-Tibet Border. Vasudhara falls is a short but amazingly quiet and serene trek before you actually touch the route to heaven or (Swarga Rohini) as it’s popularly known from the legend of the Mahabharata, where Yudhishthira and his four brothers along with a  dog trekked the mountains in a bid to reach the gates of heaven, with only the eldest of the Pandava making it up there.

Your trek begins when you start walking across the last Indian village at the Indo-Tibet border across the village called Mana. The most beautiful part about this journey is the diverse experience of various landscapes and finally ending up with a beautiful snow capped mountain around a fallen glacier and some cold, really cold water trying to seep through it and at the same time provide some really fresh perspective to your journey. All you need to do is engulf the experience, sink it in and forget whatever you have in your mind and just walk along…

As you start the journey, with it’s peaceful and most enchanting trail, you’ll slowly unravel a different experience, much less one without much adventure, yet the serenity that’ll give you a sense of jostling breath, one that will make you believe in all the fantasies of nature that you’d have ever thought of. The terrain with geographic diversities with a bit of lush greenery, some water flowing by, and some ice or glacier that you’ll encounter makes for an experience that you shall relish of course.

Uttarakhand, Badrinath, Mana, Himalayas, Vasudhara falls

Clouds beside the rocky terrain

Uttarakhand, Badrinath, Mana, Himalayas, Vasudhara falls

Amazing Landscapes along Mana Village

Uttarakhand, Badrinath, Mana, Himalayas, Vasudhara falls

Some more beauty trail across Mana Village

Uttarakhand, Himalayas, Mana, Vasudhara Falls, Badrinath

Cloud engulfing snow capped mountains

Uttarakhand, Himalayas, Mana, Vasudhara Falls, Badrinath

It gets misty in the middle of the trail…

Uttarakhand, Himalayas, Mana, Vasudhara Falls, Badrinath

The Last tea shop on Indo-Tibet border

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Uttarakhand, Mana, Glacier, Vasudhara falls, Himalayas, Badrinath

Snakelike curves of the river following us on our route

Uttarakhand, Glacier, Himalaya, Badrinath, Swarg Rohini, Mountains, Mana village

The glacier formation at the foothills of Vasudhara falls

Uttarakhand, Mana, Glacier, Vasudhara falls, Himalayas, Badrinath

View from inside the glacier at the foothills of Vasudhara

Uttarakhand, Mana, Glacier, Vasudhara falls, Himalayas, Badrinath

The Vasudhara Falls

Traversing through Chang La pass

One of the most amazing destinations in Ladakh is the Pangong Tso Lake. The beauty of this huge multi-colored lake is that 30 percent of the lake is in India while the rest of the seventy percent is layered in China across the border that stretches from there. On our way to Pangong Tso, we encounter the Chang La pass.

It is certainly an enchanting place and something that would come very close to actually riding across Khardung la pass, (the highest motorable road in the world) and Chang La is the third highest. at  5,360 m or 17,590 ft)  The name literally means “Pass towards the South” or “Pass in the South” (Chang = south, La = Pass). It is falsely claimed that the pass is named after the supposed sadhu Changla Baba, a myth propagated by the dedication of a temple at the pass to the supposed Changla Baba. If any such sadhu exists or existed, he would have been named for the pass, rather than vice versa (since the name “changla baba” means the “baba of the southern pass”. The small town of Tangste is the nearest settlement. The Changla Pass is the main gateway for the Changthang Plateau situated in the Himalayas. The nomadic tribes of the region are collectively known as the Changpa or Chang-pa.

Pangong Tso, Ladakh, Leh, Jammu and Kashmir, India, travel, himalayas

Mountains on our road towards Pangong Tso

Snow covered mountains and greenery at the same time

Snow covered mountains and greenery at the same time

A frozen pond...

A frozen pond…

As we come close to Chang La

As we come close to Chang La

The Frozen Mountains of Chang La

The Frozen Mountains of Chang La

Chang La Pass

Chang La Pass

Route to Kalipokhri Village

Kala Pokhri (3186 m) is a small Himalayan village inside the Singalila National Park in the Darjeeling subdivision, Darjeeling district in the state of West Bengal, India. It lies on the trekking route from Mane Bhanjang to Sandakphu (the highest peak in West Bengal), and is roughly halfway between the steep final stretch of the trek from Gairibas to Sandakphu. “Pokhri” means “lake” and “kala” means “dark” in Nepali, and the village is named after a local lake with dark waters.

It is also the second camps en route the Sandakphu trek in the North Eastern Himalayas where you traverse across Darjeeling and get into some small villages of Nepal and head back into Darjeeling via Gurdum. And yes after you’ve crossed Tumling, you have entered for the first time in Nepal.

Now, for those who have done the trek, would know that the route to Kalapokhri has to be the steepest and one of the higher climbs as compared to any other, until of course you carve your feet out of the Himalayas from there on towards Sandakphu.

This journey is as beautiful as it could get. We started early in the morning, foggy and misty with a lot of silence across this journey. With ocassional rainfall, we did take some small stops before we decided to briskly climb up this route.  Some pictures from that trek.

Kalapokhri, West Bengal, Kanchenjunga, Sikkim, Darjeeling, Nepal, Himalayas

As soon as we left Tumling, we left behind these siblings

 

Nepal, Kalapokhri, Sandakphu, Darjeeling, HImalayas

Following the misty trail across Nepal border

 

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You can see the Indian villages down from up top in Nepal

 

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As you reach Kalapokhri, the ascend gets tougher

On the left side is India and on the right is Nepal

On the left side is India and on the right is Nepal

 

By the time you get to Kalapokhri, you’d be quite tired, but at the same time admire the fascinating and very quiet village, some of them playing Nepali songs on the radio and small huts with people sitting near the fireplace seeking some warmth that you’d end up getting relaxed all by yourself right there… One of the best routes on this trek for sure…