For centuries, the valley remained cut off from the rest of India. Legend has it that when a road was finally built and the first car drove up, the locals weren’t sure what to feed it. The driver playfully declared that the car likes chicken and whisky. The locals innocently obliged, and the driver had a feast. They also say that when an elderly woman boarded a bus for the first time, she left her shoes on the road as a sign of respect to the bus. Getting off at her destination, she was shocked that her shoes were gone, no longer outside the bus where she had taken them off.
I think I’ve finally come to love the monsoon season in India. I’m mesmerized by the way the rains paint the mountains an emerald green, and provide relief to the parched desert. The way the clouds playfully flirt with the moon at night. The way the monsoon mist descends on lakes and waterfalls. The cool breeze, the raindrops on my skin, the smell of the earth, they are all subtle reminders of how travelling makes me feel – liberated.
Kinnaur, in the lower Himalayas of Himachal Pradesh, is home to the stunning Sangla Valley, along which gushes the mighty Baspa River. Rakcham and Chitkul, the last villages of India before Tibet, make Sangla one of the most beautiful valleys in the Himalayas – sparsely populated with graphic landscapes and a verdant countryside. I’ll let these photos, taken during my trip to Kinnaur last year, speak their thousand words.
My summer of volunteer in Spiti leads me to a nunnery in the Morang village of the valley, in the backdrop of snow-hooded Himalayas and on the shore of the Spiti River. To conceptualize a new volunteer program for Ecosphere, the organization I’m volunteering with, I’m spending an evening with a nun to learn about her life. I’m a little anxious; the closest I’ve been to a nunnery is in the wanderings of my curious mind, and the last thing I want to do is cross the thin line into insensitivity.
As the bus jerks to a stop on the Kullu-Manali highway and the driver yells Raison, I pick up my sleepy self and alight. On my left, a pebbly path winds uphill, away from the paved highway; the absence of a road is a sign that there won’t be many visitors here.
This article was originally published on Offbeat Travel. I’m fascinated as Tenzing describes a mystery mountain close to his hometown in Spiti. He’s my first local friend, and the expert driver who we’ve entrusted with our lives, up the precarious mountain roads from Shimla to Spiti.
Mcleodganj is perhaps every backpacker’s rite of passage to India. Except that it is so unlike India, I feel I’ve skipped a few legalities, missed a few stamps on my passport, and entered a world I was taught is forbidden.
I wrote this travelogue for exclusive publication on Clay, Club Mahindra’s travel portal. As I walk along the green fields of Pin, I smile in delight at the pink, purple and yellow flowers in bloom; I haven’t seen greenery for the last 3 days in the mountain desert terrain of Spiti.
Climb with me to the mountains on the roof of the world. I’ll walk you by gushing rivers. I’ll show you curious summits staring starry skies. I’ll float you to the depths of ancient seas. I’ll take you to the world’s highest inhabited villages. I’ll enchant you with blue streams in deep gorges.
I sit by a Stupa on an elevation above the shore of the Spiti River, shielding myself from the sun. It’ll be a good fifteen minutes before the ball of fire sinks behind the mountain range and relieves human skins. Such penetrating sun rays would make a great premise for a sunscreen advert, I muse.