Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Monsoon Trip to Himachal Pradesh - 2012



Route: Mumbai - Delhi – HP (Manali – Spiti – Shimla) – 17th to 30th July 2012

It was time at last to get out of the crazy Mumbai weather and be embraced by the beauty, awesome topography and amazing people that HP has to offer.
It was time to explore, time for adventure and time to add value to the life that seemed to be fading away with the daily routine in Mumbai.  

July 17th was the chosen day to set out on a 2 week HP trip with my Travel Buddy Zariab (Zack), Boarded the 12:55 pm Garib Rath Train 12216 train from Borivali – Mumbai to Sarai Rohilla – Delhi, Altitude: 0–125 m, Distance: 1431 km,  Cost INR 670 class- AC3 reached Delhi at 12:30 noon on July 18th.

Our goal was to reach the ISBT (Inter State Bus Terminal) for which we hired a Hand Rickshaw for INR 20 per head to the Shastri Nagar metro station travelled via metro to Kashmere Gate station INR 12 per head, luckily there was a Mc Donald’s within the Metro station premises, we feasted on some Happy meals by using my sodexo food coupons, rested for a while. The ISBT was just outside the metro, we had an option to travel either by an ordinary HRTC Bus (Himachal Road Transport Corporation) or a HRTC Volvo INR 1000 the obvious choice was the ordinary bus INR 515 per head, Distance: 576 kms to Manali Altitude: 1,950 m (6,400 ft), we left Delhi at 3:45 pm and reached Manali at 8:00 am on July 19th, the journey was extremely uncomfortable since the climate in Delhi was cruel as expected but it got better as we began getting closer to HP.

Manali was very pleasant apparently it has just rained the day before even though it got slightly warm at noon it was bliss as compared to nasty Delhi-Mumbai afternoons. As always we stayed at Hotel Vijayant, INR 400 per day not bad considering we head paid INR 300 per day back in 2010. Felt good taking a warm water bath and feasting on a healthy meal of Carbs and Proteins.


July 20th 5:00 am we boarded a bus from Manali heading to Kaza our destination was Chandra Taal Altitude: 4300 m. We had spoken to the locals the day before and were given 2 choices either to hire a private Sumo for INR 7000 from Manali which would take us to Chandra Tal and back which sounded ridiculously overpriced, OR to take a bus to Batal and then trek uphill for about 14 km (or) to Kunzum Pass then trek downhill for about 9 kms. Most of the experts had advised us to stay for at least a day above 3,000 m to get acclimatized but what the hell we carried on to Kunzum Pass. The 5:00 am Kaza bus passes through Rohtang Pass then Batal and finally reached Kunzum Pass Altitude: 4,590 m (15,059 ft) at about 1:30 pm bus cost: INR 142 per head.




Gaddi






                                        


During the bus journey we met Mr. Nawang Dhondan who works with the Indian Ayurvedic Society he had extensive knowledge of Herbs that grow in Himachal along with the in-depth knowledge of the local culture, he knew 6 languages along with Sanskrit, he was also a fellow trekker and had completed several treks to Ladakh. While we got down at Batal for lunch (INR 60 for a hearty meal of mutton curry + Rice) he had some dried meat which he picked up from Kangaddi Dhaba, he mentioned that the meat (Goat or Ram) is pound and then dried in the freezing cold which increases the life and sustains the taste.

Dried Meat

Kangaddi Dhaba - Owner



The view from Kunzum pass was amazing apparently the locals believe that every vehicle that passes through needs to circle around the Kunzum Devi Temple, failing to do so could lead to accidents or Bad luck during the journey.

Kunzum Devi Temple








After exploring the Kunzum Devi Temple we were all set to begin the 9km trek to Chandra Taal Lake not knowing that we would pay a price for not getting acclimatized to the altitude. The view towards the lake was breath taking with post card pictures all around. It felt like we had been walking through the Alps, there was almost no vegetation, rocks of all kinds, shapes and sizes and snow peaks; a mixture of the cold breeze and the warmth of the afternoon sun.


We had started the trek at around 2:15 pm after walking for an hour or so, we started to suffer from mild altitude sickness with Headaches and breathless having climbed up directly from Manali 1,950 m to Kunzum pass 4,590 m without giving ourselves time to acclimatize. We pushed forward since there was no turning back (the next bus was after 24 hrs), besides we had our equipment and a some food supplies and 2 liters of water in case we needed to camp, our progress got hampered due to the frequent breaks. As expected it was a good mixture of uphill and downhill paths, with narrow trails, paved through edges of rocks and slops, which needed some careful threading through, this was a new experience nothing like we had endured during previous treks at lower altitudes, exertion coupled with fatigue and altitude sickness drained most of our strength, the winds were picking up and it was getting dark which made it even more difficult to trek since some of the ledges were very precarious.






We tried to push on but we had to camp in the middle of nowhere for the night, the winds were too strong and we could not find any flat ground to pitch the tent, as expected it was all slopes and rocks, luckily Zack spotted a pile of rundown stones which may have been used by the Gaddi, we were fatigued, cold and it was too dark to clear the ground, with some quick thinking Zack laid down the inner material of the tent as base layer, protecting us from the direct cold from the ground, over which we used our sleeping bags and used the outer layer of the tent as a blanket, this was around 8:00 pm and now the long wait till sunrise begun, we had feasted on some biscuits and were left with half liter of water. The winds were relentless, the stones seemed to give us some protection from the winds but the shivering just would not stop, felt like a continuous pattern of shivers, heavy breathing and then shivers again….
Zack mentioned that he heard some animal noises, but my body was busy fighting the cold to notice anything else, by 11:30 – 12:00 the winds finally slowed down and it was back to fighting the cold, may have been (4 -6)°C without the winds.


One with Nature
          
July 21st Day break at last, the morning sun never felt so good, it was time to continue our journey, we decided to rest for a little while, take care of the morning business before heading out, to our surprise we found ourselves completely out of energy and the sun seemed very harsh, Zack tried to climb up the slope but failed at both the attempts, it was clear that our bodies had succumbed to altitude sickness and fighting the cold on an empty stomach had drained us dry. We pitched the most ridiculous looking tent on uneven grounds and decided to rest for a while, our water consumption had increased due to the heat and we were almost out, close to 2:00 pm Zack spotted some fellow trekkers, he summoned the strength to reach them, requested them for water and to send porters when they reach the lake, apparently they did not have water. We waited till 2:45 pm gaining our strength we knew that waiting for porters would be futile, the sun had simmered down and without any water we would not last very long, we mustered all our strength and set out to continue our trek.

Heavenly view From the Tent

Zack Climbing up the Slope
The trek seemed to be much easier than the day before, our bodies though fatigued may have been partially acclimatized; we spotted a camera on the way which seemed to have been put up by wildlife authorities to capture Snow Leopards, encountering one would be very rare since they are an endangered species and apparently they was just one of them in that location with a territory spanning a few kilometers.     

Chandra Taal Lake View

Snow Leopard Camera
After a few hours walk we started to feel the usual altitude symptoms, but our progress was good, at around 7:00 pm we reached the “Base Camp” this is where the motorable road starting from Batal ends around 1.5 km from Chandra Taal.


The owner of the Camp Jamaica (Yes that’s his Name and No he is not Black) was kind enough to climb down the slope and help up haul our equipment across the stream and up to the camp site, during the final stretch up the slope we were greeted by a Gaddi Kutta fearsome looking but friendly dog, we were relieved to finally reach camp, after being offered some water by a fellow traveler (Royal Enfield - biker from Delhi) and being treated to some warm tea by Jamaica we decided to sleep in one of his Tents for the night {(INR 600 per head includes: Tent + breakfast + Dinner) Excludes Lunch @ INR 150)} and pitch our own tent the next day.
We slept well that night although there was a slight slope it was nothing compared to the previous nights ordeal.
Jamaica (Bottom Left) with Gaddis


July 22nd The next morning was a new experience with our nose bleeds and Light-headedness but the morning view and atmosphere was out of this world. We decided to dedicate the entire day to recuperate and regenerate our lost strength. There were a mix of travelers from Mumbai, Delhi and Westerners (French and Americans); there were also some Gaddis who had apparently travelled for 2 months to reach Chandra Taal from Manali now that’s some serious trekking.
There was also another camp site just a few yards above Jamaica’s camp which was a Dhaba plus camp site as expected he sold his goods for a premium (1ltr Bottled water INR 30, Old Monk INR 400, Maggie Small packet INR 30.)  

View Of upper and lower Camps



Food preparations Tent
Protein Rich Lunch

Caretaker's Stone Plastic Hybrid Tent

July 23rd I decided to trek to Chandra Taal after my morning tea and the usual crap in the open since the camp site did not have a Toilet Tent. The walk to the lake was fairly short just around 15-20 minutes, the best time to visit was in the morning since its pleasant and mild sun brings out the Blue on the lakes surface. The water was crystal clear and very soothing. Once again I was one with nature with nobody around just the pristine ecosystem that Mumbai has forsaken.          
































July 24th The day we had decided to leave for Kaza after lunch, but since we had not hired a vehicle to get here, we were at the mercy of local travelers to give us a lift to Batal - 14 kms, Jamaica had mentioned that he would work his magic in getting us a free ride, we were cool with that and stepped back to mingle with our fellow travelers and the camp employees. When we checked with Jamaica about the lift it turned out that he was all talk and could not get the job done, he spoke about us paying the drivers for the lift. One of the drivers quoted INR 500 per person which was hilarious; it was getting dark we decided to stay and head out the next day.         

July 25th Zack spoke to some female travelers; one of them was from America and the others from the Middle-East who were kind enough to give us a lift to Batal, we left by 10 am and reached by 11:05 am. The road was rough and dusty with enough space for a single vehicle with a water crossing on the way; the American had apparently travelled from Kinnaur to Kaza to Spiti and would end her Journey in Manali. She was happy to recommend places in Kinnaur and share the pictures she had taken from her camera.       

Chandra Dhaba




The Sumo stopped at Batal outside the Chandra Dhaba I had not visited this dhaba the 1st time around so it was a good chance to explore, the owners were friendly and were known to be very helpful to travelers and people who get stranded during harsh climate. They were extremely reasonable with their pricing (Omelet INR 20, Beer INR 120), they also had a place stay Beds from INR 50 – 100.        

Chandra Dhaba Owner













We were waiting for the Bus going to Kaza which was scheduled to arrive by 1:00 pm, after refreshments and exploring the place, we were informed that due to an accident towards Manali, the bus was delayed and might not make it today; staying in Batal would have been a good experience but I was running short of days. The Dhaba owner informed us that there were few vehicles going towards Kaza, initially they quoted INR 500 per head but settled for INR 200 per head which was a sweet deal for a Sumo.  We left Batal at 3:15 pm and reached Kaza by 7:00 pm. The road to Kaza was amazing there was a sudden change in landscape from snow covered peaks with no vegetation to huge dry mountains with a lot of vegetation at the base, amazing rock formations and high altitude crop plantations.
Most of the time the topography was similar to that of the moon.

The Sumo ride was one of a kind about 10-15 kms from Batal we spotted the Kaza – Manali bus that was stranded, which meant that nobody could travel from Manali to Kaza and back since both the buses were non functional, we were fortunate enough to get a ride, the first stop after Batal was Losar which was about 58 kms from Kaza, it’s also the place where westerners would need a permit to enter, Home Stay is available at this location, we had Tea INR 10, it was a small settlement, good weather, greenery nothing much to do really since we had just 15 minutes before heading towards Kaza. 

15 -20 minutes after leaving Losar our driver gave a lift to a Ton of young local girls, they looked like they would have been in school, later on he mentioned that they remove stones and waste from the roads for the entire day and only get paid a maximum of INR 100 for their hard labor. It was difficult to believe that; throughout the journey they were in high spirits, singing local and Hindi songs in spite of living in poverty. They were inspirational in their own way…..


Reached Kaza at last at first it seemed like the dumping grounds of HP, the air seemed like a mixture of dust and cement, with construction sites in all directions and hordes of trucks parked along the road. It took a while to appreciate the native beauty of the landscape, a winter desert indeed, with very less rain fall the topography is similar to that of a desert with Huge mountains on one side and the same time Crop plantations at the base of the mountains besides a dried up river bed.


Agriculture at Kaza
The people (locals mainly) as expected were helpful as ever, Jamaica (The Camp owner from Chandra Taal) had mentioned that he has a few hotels in Kaza and would give us a good deal. We were having difficulties finding his Hotel “Tashi delek” - Guest House, one of the locals was kind enough to stop washing her clothes and get the location of the hotel, we reached the guest house met one of the workers that we had mingled with at the camp site, he quoted INR 500 stating that the local price is INR 700 and this was the last room he had specially reserved for us, the room was excellent, clean with TV and hot water, but this was Kaza not Shimla, tried to negotiate but it was futile, I stayed back with our luggage while Zack went to explore the local scene, he found a hotel with No TV but Hot water for INR 300 which was a sweet deal, since it meant INR 150 per head, the guy from Tashi delek tried to reduce the price to INR 400 but his deceitful tricks fell on deaf ears.        
Hotel Sidarth - Kaza




Checked into Hotel Sidarth by 7:42 pm INR 300 per day (Hotel checkout time is 12:00 noon), it was good to finally have a proper roof over our heads after 5 days, not having looked in the mirror since 5 days, I realized that I had a major sun burn on my nose, the skin had become scaled and black, it was time for damage control, cleaning and cleansing was in order. Zack’s skin, specially his Nose looked like it had been borrowed from Rudolph (The red nosed Reindeer).
The warm shower and the wooden bed felt like heaven, slept well that night after feasting on some Thukpa.












26th July We decided to explore Kaza the next day, the morning heat was still intense and I was in Vampire mode because of my sun burns. Kaza was filled with Dust, cement and heat with huge mountain ranges, streams, greenery and dried river beds. We were very close to the bus stand and market place. Towards evening we inquired about the buses and shared cabs to Kinnaur – Reckong Peo . Apparently they are very few cams going there prices at INR 700 per head.

View From The Bus Stand


27th July travelled by the 7:30 am bus to Reckong Peo INR 257 per head.  The bus had some vacant seats unlike the Manali – Kaza bus, the last destination for this bus was Shimla. The roads were much better being low lying, there were a few delays because of basic road maintenance work but nothing too major. The bus stopped in Tabo near the boys Hostel which looked similar to Kaza.


Reached Peo by 6:00 pm checked into Hotel Bhagwati INR 400 it was located just opposite the bus stop, I had planned to leave for Shimla the next morning, the was also an option to directly travel to Delhi but that would mean a 20 hour journey which would be very exhausting.   

Peo Bus Stand

View of thick clouds from the Hotel







That night we decided to take it easy, experimented with slow shutter speeds and consumed some tasty treats from the local sweetmeat shop; and yes some French fries Peo style. 





28th July I checked out at 7:30 am (Zack stayed back headed to Kalpa that day) boarded the Shimla bus INR 251 reached Shimla at 5:10 pm.  One of the locals heading to Rampur wanted to cancel the bus ticket she had already purchased, she approached me and I was glad to buy the ticket off her, since she had reserved the seat besides the driver, that meant that I could take videos of the journey (on the down side I could not fall asleep, since a sudden halt, meant that I would be sent flying through the windscreenJ).  






Football Stadium on the way to Shimla
Shimla looked different since the last time I had visited for one the new bus stop was amazing with two stories and a very organized staff and bus junctions. I had an option to either book a local bus INR 312 or a Volvo INR 784 I needed to take it easy so I chose the obvious, the bus was scheduled to leave at 9:00 pm.

Inside the 2 story Shimla Bus Station
29th July reached Delhi - Kashmere Gate at 6:00 am, I had to board a 3:40 pm train to Mumbai from Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station (NZM), caught a Rickshaw to NZM @ INR 150, reached by 6:20 pm, the rickshaw driver had offered to take me to a hotel (INR 300- 500), but I did not want to pay someone for wasting my time cooped up in a room instead I decided to spend 9 hours observing and mingling with the Delhi folk, spotted a few things; Railway officials taking bribe from a passenger who was travelling with luggage that was heavier than the allowed weight, some travelers were sold fake tickets by a stranger and the cops did not care about that, until the passengers started to create a ruckus about it,  local cabbies bickering about who gets the fare, in a way it was very similar to Mumbai.

NZM Railway Station - Delhi

The highlight of those long 9 hours was Mr. Baba and the Bhopal Bros.

Mr. Baba was an old man from Calcutta who used to work in Delhi, he left his usual way to life and became a holy man preaching the way to attain Nirvana, he had made himself cozy near the base of a tree just outside the Railway station, I purchased a cup of Tea INR 7 from a chaiwala near the tree, that’s when Mr. Baba asked me for the time and we started to have a conversation, he mentioned that during his days only a few people could own vehicles but days everyone owns one and that’s increased the noise and pollution, I could not agree more,  what begun as a Hindi conversation soon turned into an intellectual English conversation with topics about corrupt Government, man eat man world and how he left his government job to live a pure spiritual life. He seemed interested in reading my hand I politely refused, we had a bit of a falling out but were back on track when I mentioned that I had just visited HP and was heading home, he started to mention how beautiful and spiritual Himachal is and the abundance of culture and heritage it has. He asked me for the time once again it was 9:00 am he mentioned that he has to attend a spiritual gathering, packed his sleeping man and his cloth bag, smoked his last Beedi and left.    

Bhopal Bros were two brothers from Bhopal travelling to Haridwar they had a train at 12:30 pm and provided good company. Rahul was elder and Saurabh the younger, Rahul teaches engineering students and was a typical Indian authoritative big brother to Saurabh who was completing his Graduation.

Saurabh and Rahul (L to R)
Rahul was kind enough to offer his home cooked meal which included “a sweet Roti” and a great tasting combo of Farsan, I enjoy mixing food but this was a combo that I would never think of.
It’s always good to meet good and kind hearted people when you least expect…….
All the best “Rahul” and “Saurabh” for you future

Inside NZM Station
After the Bhopal Bros left I spent a few hours loitering around the station, picked up some snack for the train journey. It was around 3:30 pm when the train arrived, I boarded the train thinking that it was the end of my journey but I was wrong.  
Apparently there were around 200 Sikh travelers, who were returning from a pilgrimage to Hemkund, my seat was reserved next to the family that had organized the event for this year, my journey to Mumbai turned out to be quite enjoyable, I was treated to some traditional songs and dancing, they convinced me to dance I was happy to shake a leg. Got treated to some great tasting tea and snacks, the tea was apparently from Hemkund. They were happy to share their experiences during the pilgrimage which I found quite fascinating.
They had to cross through the Hemkund Glacier and endure the cold before reaching Gurudwara Hemkunt Sahib after which they are supposed to take a couple of dips in the ice cold water. It’s simply amazing to be able to withstand the freezing water at that altitude (4,632.96 meters -15,200.0 ft).  

One of the young pilgrims shared a spooky story, apparently when he was climbing the mountain to reach the Gurudwara; he spotted a young girl ahead of him, thinking that she might be trekking through a short cut; he followed her, after a while she disappeared, he then realized that he was near the edge of a cliff and if he had followed her further he could have been seriously injured. 

The Sikh family and the fellow travelers were in high spirits and generous, this was indeed a great experience.

This was an ideal way to end my journey filled with new experiences, great topography and awesome people.       

13 comments:

  1. abey that sikh guy's girl mirage/hallucination/fantasy? is a lot like our chandratal mirage.
    Its just an hour away MAX! Where the fuck is it? Why cant i see it?
    2 hours later.... there it is...just seems an hour away!
    10 mins later...where the fuck is it?
    3 days later.... Why arent we there yet???

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yea i thought about that.... but he seemed to be making it into a spiritual connection and i did not want to ruin that for him with my logical explanation......

      Delete
  2. Also....
    Heres the graphic novel

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fs2P566og-M&feature=youtu.be

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awesome ... it turned out better than i expected ... Kudos !!!

      Lets get some more Vids Done ;)

      Delete
  3. you remember that thing we read in my book about Kalpa? Theres something there that changes color with a change in the sun's position?

    I captured that on video.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Reply with the Video Dude .... Youtube ....

    ReplyDelete
  5. which video? and how do u upload files here?

    ReplyDelete
  6. I was also visited this place in two times and seriously feel so nice..There are various places that you can visited here..Manali is one of the most visited hill stations in Himachal Pradesh. Shimla in Himachal Pradesh boasts of old world charm and monuments...Seroiusly such a beautiful place...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very true, infact i just returned from yet another trip to Himachal, had been there last month in December, the weather was awesome !!! i will be update my blog shortly hope you like the content.. Cheers !!!

      Delete
  7. Good day Mark...got your link from Quechua - Forclaz 500 Video and would like to thank you for uploading and sharing as it helps a lot in deciding which stuff to buy... :) thanks again.

    Best and Warm Wishes,

    ReplyDelete
  8. Well forgot to input main thing...good video it is much better than 50 second video of Quechua.... :)

    ReplyDelete