It was an impromptu plan, master minded quickly by father, acted upon immediately by us three, me, Aryamann and mum. We didn’t even know where we’d be staying intermittently or which places we’d be visiting. We just knew the basics of the road we were to embark upon, a long one. We had two broad destinations in mind: Chandra Tal Lake, and Leh. That’s it.
We started from Shimla in father’s car and reached Rampur that afternoon. I later got to know by reading some pages of this book later in Leh, that this town’s full name is Rampur Bushahr. I had mistook it as a separate name of the town in the ancient times because it was written as “Rampur-Bushahr”. So it felt like something written to symbolize a name that is no more existent now, or so I took it for no particular reason.
- In the middle we stopped at two places.
My father’s driver’s resort. You read it right. He and his brothers have such a wonderful resort, I was left breathless. I couldn’t have imagined such a beautiful place, rooms and what not, a few miles ahead of Kufri and Theog. When asked why he continues on his driver’s job he said Ab duty to duty hoti hai na, usse thori na chor sakte hain (Well this job is the job, one can’t just leave it).
- Narkanda rest house, where Ved Uncle, waited for us. He was the person that took care of me my first 3 years of life. He seemed to be less surprised with meeting me. I wasn’t. I hugged him crazy as he stood surprised. Perhaps he was scribbled too much by hardships of life or it was something else, we never really could know, I never really asked. But he had a faint smile on his face, and that was wonderful to take away in memories.
One of the things that not planning the trip implicated was that I would not be able to look up the rivers beside which we’d be driving (a lot). The reason being simple, there wouldn’t be any cellular networks. So while I write this, I’ll track down the river names on Google Maps. The river that would be running along for quite a while until Reckong Peo and beyond (up until the confluence of Spiti and Sutlej River, near Khab) would be Sutlej river.
On the way to Reckong Peo, we stopped at a road side when our driver spotted a snow leopard deep down the mountain chasing a cow. As soon as he sensed he was seen, he hid somewhere before anybody else could see it.
We stayed at HPPWD Rest house Reckong Peo, and something unexpected happened there. When we were being served dinner by the person in charge, he and my mother shared a few remembrance filled glances. Soon it was revealed that he used to work as a substitute household help in our house 20 years ago in Thanedar, near Narkanda. It was so good to meet with people who brought me up for my few initial years, even though I didn’t know them much. It was exhilarating.
We had forgotten the toiletries: soap, shampoo, tooth paste etc… We took the leverage of open shops near Reckong Peo’s (where we stayed the first night) Bus Stand, at 7 am in the morning to get all of them. At Reckong Peo I saw a couple of things that I wrote down in a beautiful diary gifted to me almost unsolicitedly by Kajol Runwal. I’ll jot them down exactly as I wrote them.
Traffic Divider Cones: (Reckong Peo Market, 12/7/17, 7:30 am)
A cow is licking the top of a road traffic cone divider. After licking now, she’s helping herself scratch parts of her face where its itching. I’m just thinking about so many items in the world that have been accessed by so many different creatures before being held in hands by humans and used for different purposes.
Towards Reckong Peo:
I saw a small boy in a school dress climbing up the stairs to his home. My guess is that the primary government school is a few km away so that he has to walk to and from it daily. He was alone, skipping steps as a challenge, singing something to himself. It’s a pity I feverishly feel alone sometimes.
I left my white towel in the rest house there. Least useful information, but well, I did hear words of inadequacy for remembrance from my mother for it. So.
At night my brother and I discussed about something very intriguing. We talked about how we as a human race are bubbled in the air of time, and that we simply do not have the means to see out of that bubble (the physics of things for example) unless someone from the outside, outside of time, finds a way to impart that information. This discussion went on for well over an hour.
The next morning we headed out towards Losar, a small village in Lahaul and Spiti District, from Reckong Peo. It was a tiring journey, the roads were bumpy, wretched, dilapidated. But since our driver was super cool and skilled, we didn’t feel a thing. One thing that was very weird during the last stretch of 30 km was that, even though there were no other cars and our car windows were shut, invisible minute dust kept coming in from somewhere. Here’s an updated map of the places we stayed either overnight or for a while.
On the way we detoured about a couple of km to see the Nako lake. It was small little village where people grow their own vegetables. A peek:
We ate paranthas with freshly plucked cauliflowers right out of their yard and also met late teen agriculture students from Hyderabad who were on a research project traveling to villages around.
One thing that you should keep in mind while traveling through this route from Kinnaur is to take care of your neck and back if they are problematic. Regular stretches during the journey, and proper exercise for a whole week at least before starting could do good.
The Kaza Stretch was the most amazing valley I saw the entire route, probably next to the Leh straight stretch of roads, and partly because the sun was lit so beautifully in the evening there.
We stayed in HPPWD rest house in Losar. Our driver was a cook about 12 years ago. Since the dinner wasn’t prepared, he and the rest house in charge both cooked wonderful Matar Aatu for us. The peas were freshly plucked from a cultivation few km ahead of Kaza. They had a sweet little baby accompanying them in the fields. The people who gave us those 3-4 kg of Peas refused to take any money. Such nice people, they only took smiles for the price.
// photo of the kid in the field few km ahead of kaza.
In Losar I saw the most beautiful sidereal night sky I’ve ever seen. Losar was pitch dark at night, it’s a super small village with perhaps not more than 200 people living. It was pretty chilly in the night as well. I hurt my neck craning upwards too much. I just couldn’t help it. Even though I had no idea about the celestial system I was seeing, I just dazzled in the unknown points in the sky.
If you want to know what’s in the night sky there’s a good coursera course (Introduction to Astronomy, Duke University, Edx) that I never completed.
From Losar, the next day we set on to the most scariest dirtiest motor able road I’ve ever seen, probably will ever see. We crossed the Kunzum la pass, and took a turn towards Chandra Tal Lake. One of most picturesque lakes I’ve seen (I’ve seen so few). A young group from Israel was there with us. I think most of them were there to chill out and smoke things. We three trekked the hill that extends til the end of the lake on the left side of the lake. Then on a rock, overlooking the latter part of the lake (and its end as well), I set my eyes closed and got lost. When I opened my eyes and looked back, the person who had trekked with me uphill had slept on his rucksack. We bade the lake good bye.
When I visited the lake it was cloudy and windy. But when one of my college senior friend went it was neither. See:
The beauty you see in me is a reflection of you. ~Rumi #spiti #ramsar #wetlands #himalayas #transhimalayas #himachalpradesh #himachaltourism #chandertal #lake #lakesofinstagram #reflection #crystalclear #mountains #mountainlife #hippieinhills #natgeo #travelwithshenaz #natureporn #mountainlovers #incredibleindia
It’s always advised on this road to all the motorcyclists and cars alike to start early from where ever you are staying because you’ll find many Nalas in your way. Nalas are wide gorges and ravines clubbed together to make something impassable for a vehicle. On our way there were too many difficult Nalas to cross despite the fact that we started around 7 every day. One such Nala, while going to Jispa from Chandra Tal Lake is famously called Paagal Naala. We caught up with it at around 4 pm. There was already an Innova waiting there for half an hour, its driver confused as to how to cross over. A biker from Bangalore, whom we had helped a couple of times before in the way got superbly stuck and was rescued by a couple of foreigners. But their accent they seemed like Brits but I couldn’t be sure. The picture below is of that Paagal Nala (Mad Gorge), but it doesn’t do justice to show how dangerous it was. Nonetheless, here:
Our driver and the other had to put many rocks to prevent both of the Innovas’s (we had it too) diesel tanks from bursting out by bumping to the rocks in the water below. The biggest problem of a Nala is, if you are in a car and you find yourself stopped in the middle of it, stuck, your shoes and socks would get wet, because you’d have to get out and push the car in the water. Luckily both of the cars passed. You can also see in the picture the same motor cycler from Bangalore being aided by a couple of foreigners (I hate this word suggest me an alternative).
When traveling from Chandra Tal Lake to Jispa, we found a stay period of 2 hours when a JCB had to put up a pipe to route water from another Nala. I took the liberty of time to dive into myself again. This is after I meditated for half an hour.
And this was the view I woke up to, vast pains of absolute big and small rocks.
In this picture I’m sitting on a rock that is at least 15 ft tall. I didn’t click the picture of it.
I did however capture a very very red rock.
We reached Jispa late evening around 7:45 pm. As always we stayed in the PWD rest house, thanks to father for all the PWD pre bookings. Jispa though, unlike the other PWD rest houses that housed us, wasn’t well maintained, the person in charge didn’t properly know how to cook, so we took it to a dhaba nearby. The river (bhag river) beside which Jispa is located moves really fast (as is apparent from its name itself). Here see for yourself.
Either on this route or from Manali, you’ll often find this particular thing written on the Border Road Organisation Road Boards.
Shooting Stones Area Ahead, Please Drive Carefully
Guess what could be a band from Kinnaur/Lahul Spiti/Ladakh be called? You guessed it right. Shooting Stones. Thanks for bearing the PJ.
Throughout the route, we kept seeing superbly apt roadside boards other than the one above, that helps a driver/rider keep alert while on the road. Some of them are as follows (BRO = Border Roads Organisation, but for pun, please read it as brother).
THE BRO JOKES
- Bro, sinking area, drive slowly,
- Bro, shooting stone area, drive carefully
- Bro inconvenience deeply regretted
- Army hai Jahan bro hai wahan
- Bro all is well
- Bro welcome
- Bro, safety on roads is safe tea at home
- Bro please go slow
- Bro be gentle on my curves
- Bro don’t be a Gama in the land of lama
- Bro drive don’t fly
- Bro, you are not being chased
- Bro check your nerves on my curves
- Bro that is deep please don’t sleep
- Bro darling I like you but not so fast
- Bro ka prayas bhaarat ka vikas
A Random Thought
What about the places with no names, in between the places that have names?
We started from Jispa early in the morning as always. The first 150 km or so stretch was
Wretched, Cracked, Dilapidated
but the remaining stretch is what motor cyclists come Leh for. Makkah Road!
Through out the way, on the banks and river beds you’ll find remarkably magnificent partial erosion of soil leading to temple like sand structures like this:
Few minutes to Leh, there was a restaurant called Drunk Restaurant. I think it intended to be Druk (meaning Dragon) Restaurant.
…to be continued in part 2