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|4th November 2009, 13:44||#136|
Thanks a lot.
Had it not been the continuous encouragement I have received here at Team Bhp, forget the travelogue I wouldn't have undertaken the travel itself.
Three cheers and five stars for the community.
|4th November 2009, 16:14||#137|
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: New Delhi
Thanked: 142 Times
That would indeed be wonderful -- not just for you two, but for us others in the forum as well! I have been reading the travelogues of both of you guys, and it has been a real pleasure going through them. I have been thoroughly impressed by the narration skills, sense of humour, power of observation. If you do make a trip together, I will really be looking forward to that travelogue from both of you.
By the way, Sen, I see that no one has commented on that "snow lady sculpted by Mother Nature" picture (in post #125) yet; I found it amazing.
|5th November 2009, 12:17||#138|
Day 13 Part 1
We got up around 6:30 AM and got ready. Although the hotel charges included breakfast, they wouldn’t serve till 9 o’clock. We decided to worry about breakfast later, and headed directly to pin valley. We wanted to see some wildlife!
The road to pin valley branches off from the main road near a place called Attargu.
The drive inside the pin valley on the banks of pin river is drive to be done to be appreciated.
After entering Pin valley, we needed some help. As such I planned to drive till Mud village, but didn't know exactly where the wildlife will be, or exactly what the wildlife would be! So we asked this gentleman. He told us to enquire around Sagnam and Mud.
We crossed the Sagnam Bridge in a litle while.
On the way we saw the house of the "most arrogant human on earth". He has erected a house on the slope of the mountain on the other side of the river. There is no road to his house. Locals said he stays there alone and travels by horse. Look at the right half of the photo to spot his compound.
Mud village is about 20 minutes from Sagnam.
Around here, all peaks were snow covered. I clicked a plenty of snaps of everything around.
First thing we saw in Mud was a few wild horses.
At Mud village We asked a few locals about the wildlife that could be seen. They didn't give us much hope. The snow line has retraced to very high in the mountains, so Ibex or Blue sheep aren’t coming down. They asked us to go another 8-10 Kilometers towards Bhava peak. We may spot some wild dogs if we were lucky - they said.
We stopped near a waterfall enroute and cooked maggi. We were sure that this was the guiness record of magi cooked at highest altitude, but soon we spotted some empty yellow packs lying around. Talk about non degradable waste, kills a world record in just two minutes.
Maggi eaten, we push ahead to look for wildlife. whenever we see snow near the road, we peel our eyes.
Suddenly one small animal, might be a fox or might be a wild dog, scurried across the road, faster than we could click. But no Ibex, no Blue sheep. Nada!
After around 10 kilometers from Mud, we turned back. We couldn’t see wild animals, but we saw plenty of horses who were no less beautiful We also got to know that Mud and Sagnam were the prime breeding centre for these sure footed mountain horses.
The pin valley like the spiti valley is a warehouse of pre historic geology.
The area has this weired red color plants, I could not ascertain what they were. Must be some kind of whacko grass.
We crossed quite a few unknown tribal villages on our way back.
The road is as unreal as it could get, always accompnied by the meandering pin river.
With a little imaginative mind, one can see the whole world among the mountain slopes, take this "temple of Doom" for example.
The Pin River takes us along all the way back to the entrance of Pin valley at attargu.
|5th November 2009, 13:08||#139|
Day 13 Part 2
Next up was Dhankar Monastery. From Attargu one needs to go towards Tabo for about 5 kilometers to reach Schichling.
On the way, one can see the small hydel projct built on Lingti River.
The spiti accompnyies all along.
This is a natural formation, believe me!
From Schichling, on needs to take right through the Dhankar Gate.
The climb to Dhankar is about 8 kilometrs. On the left one can see the place where Pin river pours into Spiti.
Dhankar monastery is somehwere on the top of this cliff.
There are about 150 Lamas in Dhankar, who stays in quarters around the main monastery.
We reached Dhankar but couldn’t find anyone other than three stone drunk guys. It seemed they themselves had forgotten where the monastery was. We asked here and there, gone up a few wrong places.
Finally we were almost giving up hope, when two small kids surfaced. They asked for chocolate, which we had in plenty.
After taking some satisfactory bites, they asked if we wanted to see the monastery!
Well, we did! And they showed us to the place.
The climb was very very tough, more so due to the thin air. The stair part was easier, the slopes were too difficult for us to take snaps. We were simply out of breath when we reached the top.
It was as unornamented and understated as it could be.
But the views from the top of the cliff where the monastery was situated was pristine.
One could see the Pin river and the Lingti river valleys (for Lingti it’s a canyon) merge into the spiti river.
Next was to go back to Kaza, fill Diesel and head to Kye, Kibber,Langza and Comic.
I tried one more shot of the Lingti River canyon on the way back.
At kaza, a nasty surprise was awaiting us. The pump did not have diesel!
After much haggling, requesting and begging, he gave us 10 litres. He kept saying that his whole stock was just 200 litres and he won't get supply till the Malling Nullah opens.
However, this 10 litres plus my balance about 20 litres in tank (I last filled in Manali) will just be sufficient to reach Manali.
So we started an emergency parliament to discuss the situation. We could either go to Ki-Kibber or Langza-comic. We had already seen a monastery, so Kye monastery wasn't priority. Now, Kibber is a high altitude village, a special one. Meanwhile, Langza and Comic also were situated at similar altitude *give and take a few 100 meters). Langza has a fossil centre and has the biggest open air Buddha statue of India.
After some deliberations, congress voted for langza Comic. If diesel permits, we shall try to include Demul and Hikkim.
We ate some biscuits and stuff while driving. no time for lunch. It was quite a weired feeling. We came from Mumbai, the land of hurry! We have driven some 3000 kilometrers to escape the mad rush of Mumbai and cherish the interior and idyllic India. And here, we don't have even 10 minutes to spare. I think all mumbaites are cursed for life.
By the time, we reached the turn off for Langza, it was already late afternoon.
The road to Langza branches out of the main highway and climbs steeply.
I couldn’t stop praising “The Pradhanmantri Gram Sadak Yojna “ all through my trip. The climb to Langza was scary and had it not been completely paved and tarred by the aforesaid scheme, I doubt if I would try that.
The Spiti valley on our left was in its peak glory compliemented by the late afternoon Sun.
THe road is very steep and quite narrow. Driving one way is simple as the surface is excellent. But when something comes from the otehr side, it's time to scratch one's head! There's no passiong area for long stretches.
While climbing, one can see an important Geological formation on his left - The Fold. I don't quite know what these are, google it up if you like!
At the end of the climb, one reaches the Fossil area.
|5th November 2009, 14:59||#141|
Day 13 Part 3
We reahced Langza around 5 o'clock.
The Buddha Statue was visible from far.
We saw this board promoting Eco-tourism at Langza. I did not know anything about it before. The board said there were plenty of wild life to be seen around here.
We looked around and spotted a local person walking by. He told us that the best time to see wildlife is during June-July. Lucky few have also seen snow leopards. But no such luck for us.
We saw the village and the pastures in the far.
In a lil while, we got to business and started looking for fossils. My wife with her recent expertise in mountaineerin led the pack. We did a little background research on this and learnt that fossils would be found most commonly in flat stretches of land wedged between cliifs. We walked around with our eyes focused on the ground and....
Would you believe it?! We got four of them – with very clear imprints of a sea shell kind of creature. The imprint must be some 70 million years old. Live proof in my hands that the Tethys Sea was here.
It took me a good 30 minutes to simply digest the fact that I am in physical touch with a time 70 million years back, time when the Asian and Indian plates were still separated by Tethys Sea.
After a while, I gathered myself together and pushed off to Comic.
These two villages Langza and Comic are about 4200 meters high and are perched on top of two adjascent mountains. So there’s not much climbing descending between Langza and Comic.
In Comic there is a large monastery. The main room of the monastery was out of bar for females. So, I alone saw it. It was a small darkish room with a brass statue of Buddha kept at a corner.
There is a stuffed skin of snow leopard fixed on the roof of this room. Photography is not allowed here. So I could only snap the large prayer wheel outside.
The upper hall was pretty large compared to this and is open to all human beings. Centrally placed is a large brass statue of Buddha.
Many ancient "Pothi" (books) were kept in cupboards.
A large and intricately designed curtain was kept behind a photo which I think is of Dalai Lama. (Not Sure).
There is another compound nearby, which is a monastery and a Lama hostel.
We saw the Lamas were dancing!It was a scene to be seen, they were sitting on dirt after every two steps. But given the cold and lack of oxygen, we were sitting on dirt every two minutes of standing. Great that they could dance. They were playing the same tibetan type percussion instrument that we heard in Sarahan Bheemakali temple Aarti.
The Lama hostel building has many excuisite murals painted on them. I could not relate the murals to anything from Indian Mythology. Must be some Buddhist stuff. Everything was presented in a way to resemble Dragons.
The interior room of the Lama hostel had some more pothis and a Buddha statue.
There was this large drum like thing. They use it to call for prayers.
We spent a very little time there as the temperature dropped beyond tolerance. We got back in the car, ran the heater for ten minutes and then we were alive again.
Around 6 o'clock we started our downward journey from Comic. It would be around 6 – 6:10, we had crossed langza and would be about a 12-14 kilometers from Kaza, my wife shouted stop! Stop! Switch off!.
I did so and whoa!
Our prize lies right ahead.
A full pack of blue sheep crossing the road.
Lead by the horned male and tailed by a little one.
We clicked and clicked and clicked.
We went deep inside pin valley for them and they are right here, in Kaza!
I knew we were in luck right from the time the cabbies near Batal told me that Kunzum wasn't closed.
We kept watching them as long as there was light. They were not one bit afraid of us, they grazed, they ran, had their happy time while we looked, wondered and clicked.
We left them only when it became uncomfortably dark and we could see no more.
Reached Kaza hotel around 7:15 PM and retired for the day.
Ordered an early dinner as we would have to start early tomorrow. Mumbai is long long way and I have just two days in hand.
|5th November 2009, 15:16||#142|
Join Date: Sep 2009
Thanked: 28 Times
Superb travelogue and good narration. Its sad to hear that things got more commercialised at Manikaran, but the hot springs are worth visiting. Though there were so many trips covered on these routes with some wonderful photographs of the locations, you have tried to do it differently and I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed reading your experiences. I must also appreciate you for attempting and conquering these locations with solo driving and the ladies.
Good work and thank you..
|5th November 2009, 18:21||#143|
Day 14 Part 1
We got up early for an early start. The ladies won’t let the hotel guys go merry for long. So they have woken up and packed us our breakfast by 6:30 Am.
We hit the road at 6:45 AM.
We spot the Kye monastery on our right. For this trip a view from far has to suffice. We promised to ourselves that we would come back... soon!
Plan A – Kunzum is clear and we make good progress: We’ll go to Chandigarh tonight and Mumbai next night.
Plan B – We get slowed down, we’ll halt at Bilaspur. Ladies will take flight from Delhi.
Plan C – We get very very slowed down, we’ll halt at Manali. Ladies will fly from Kullu.
Whatever be the case, ladies need to be in Mumbai 17th Morning, that is morning of day after tomorrow.
We crossed Losar in about an hour and half. We took a pit stop of 5 minutes for throwing out the ice cold puris and two days old alu bhaji they packed for us. (They fed us this same alu bhaji at the dinner of our arrival day.)
On the climb to Kunzum we saw lots and lots of fresh snow.
This shape was particularly interesting.
I was thinking that the fresh snow might have covered my Snow Lady. But, nah! There she was, now even more prominent.
There weren't much snow on the straight part of the road, but the hair pin bends had a lot of hard snow. The rear wheel will just skid a little at the apex of the turn! Making the hair of the driver stand up like a pin. (Is that why they call it a hair-pin?)
Progress till Kunzum is quick and we reached Batal by 10 AM.
Although the snow was not on the road, still it affected the roads alright.
I am pretty sure the surface was much better two days ago when I drove in.
This stream was very much alive when we went earlier, now almost frozen.
The snow reduced post Chota Dhara, and the scenary was same as before.
It was almost four hours since we left Kaza, this was the first vehicle we crossed.
I pulled over at Chatru for a tea break, around 11:30 AM. The progress is nice and given this pace we should be in Chandigarh at a reasonable hour, maybe 10 or 11 PM.
The tea was extremely sweet, but that gave me some energy. I sipped it while comfortably basking in the Sun and looking at this water fall far away.
Looking at our comfortable postures, the Dhaba dogs misunderstood our hurry and fell asleep by the car.
I shooed him off and started for Rohtang. We planned not to stop for Lunch at Boudi's in Gramphoo as we just had a break. Plus we have a good chance of making it upto Marhi by say 1:30 PM. So eating lunch there would be more meaningful.
I reached the broken road area of gramphoo around 12:25 PM.
The sky towards Rohtang looked a little cloudy.
Just before Gramphoo, we saw them, the "men at work".
Resulting in "Black top". The logic of leaving the road broken for 5 and half months out of the 6 months season and then making them on 15th October totally beats me. This will be closed in another 10-15 days and then when it'll reopen after 6 months, everything will be destroyed anyway.
However, what worried me more was a thick cloud cover near Rohtang. It started snowing a little, albeit very intermittently.
I could reach Rohtang Top around 1 o'clock. It kept snowing alittle here and there, but not much to cause any worry. Rohtang was full of tourists, looking for snow.
And then the fun starts. BRO, GREF and all their cousins are at full swing.
We reach Marhi at 4 o’clock. We ate some very lousy dal roti at Chamba Dhaba and push off. We have lost all the time advantage we gained till Rohtang.
We reached manali mall around 6 o’clock. By the time everyone’s quite tired so we contemplate staying. But staying means driving alone for me, and ladies also don’t want to miss the fun of the cross country road trip.
On the other hand, Chandigarh, our scheduled stop is about 300 Kilometers. I was fairly tired, having driven 200 Kilometers of most unforgiving terrain. It was getting dark, and handling another 300 Kilometers of twisties in the night didn't make me feel - safe!
The decision has to be made, quickly!
|5th November 2009, 20:17||#144|
Distinguished - BHPian
Join Date: Sep 2008
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|5th November 2009, 20:56||#145|
|6th November 2009, 09:35||#146|
Join Date: Jan 2007
Thanked: 18 Times
Excellent pics again, Sen. It's like traveling along with you.
|6th November 2009, 09:50||#147|
Join Date: Sep 2009
Thanked: 4 Times
I have joined in late and just finished the 5 pages of your epic travelogue.
Your narrative style is excellent. Wonderful pictures. Congratulations on making this adventurous trip.
Can't wait to continue reading.
Last edited by Roameo : 6th November 2009 at 09:51.
|6th November 2009, 09:50||#148|
The snow lady was an wonderful thing. It is very large and we got to see it every alternative turn for atleast 20-30 minutes. It's like showing the way for the lost.
It takes a little imagination alright, but then the world is at your sight.
There is little a camera can capture. You have to see it to enjoy it's true beauty. Definitely a must go, and a must go again!
Thanks a lot for your comment.
I am not sure, but I think the guy is a settler.
While I was talking to a local person about this, he casually mentioned that this guy wasn't even afraid of wild dogs, which the locals very much are.
That ofcourse is not concluding argument that the person is not local, just a general drift I felt.
It would indeed be very nice to know about him over a cup of tea. But, given his choice of neighbourhood, I am not too sure how much he would like to mingle.
|6th November 2009, 10:35||#149|
Day 14 Part 2
We parked near Van Vihar Gate, in a decidedly no parking area and started to discuss options. You see, we are always very good at situation analysis, what we are bad at is going through with the committee recommendations.
Till a little while back, my opinions fetched little in such discussions. The ladies always ruled with their acute sense of argument.
But, now that I was the one to take the load single handedly, ladies started to include me in the discussion. In my mind I uttered a Bengali phrase “Pathe Eso”. I can’t quite translate this, but I guess one can get the drift.
We went with the discussions for a little while and decided to keep going towards Chandigarh. We planned to have our lunch around 9:30 – 10 o’clock, preferably between Mandi and Bilaspur. If possible we’ll push a little more, else we’ll stop over. Finding hotels in these regions should not be a big problem.
So, ladies went to the mall and stuffed our already stuffed car (The Gorcery bag was not even one part lightened after all these 14 days!) with Bananas, Red Bulls and Apricots. I tried one apricot and my teeth became so sour that I had to rinse them immediately with Listerine!
After a little more drama, we left around 7 o’clock. Journey up to Kullu was very slow due to dense evening traffic. We could cross the Kullu Airport around 8:45 PM. After that I stepped on it and cleared Aut in another 30 odd minutes. We crossed mandi around 9:30 and started to look for a place to eat.
Lots of milestones were showing to a place “Sundernagar”, so we decided that to be the dinner halt. It was around 10 o’clock, so I was little sceptical of totally empty restaurants. We finally pulled over at a road side dhaba where lot of buses were also parked.
The food was the lousiest till so far, and the service was extremely slow. I had to wait at least 20 minutes for the bill (or the check, as my wife calls it) after eating. We could leave the place around 11:15 PM.
However, the long break had done well to me and I did not feel very drowsy post dinner. Chandigarh was still about 200 clicks, out of which 130 odd are twisties. I figured if I could clear the mountains tonight, I can rip right from tomorrow morning. I had just one day to reach Mumbai.
Next two hours were endless dodging of trucks growling at first gear. I was beyond tired when I crossed Kiratpur at 1:30 AM.
The flat straight roads after Kiratpur gave me a new burst of energy and I decided to continue till Dera Bassi or Ambala.I figured if I stop in Chandigarh city, I would have to dodge heavy city traffic in the morning, and now at night, I can cross it much faster. What I did not think of then is that I would have to look for a hotel on the notorious GT Road at 3 o’clock in the night, with three ladies on board.
We crossed Zirakpur around 2:45 AM.
I started to look for hotels from Dera Bassi area. Every hotel staff was deep asleep.
I would park my car with left wheels on the divider between the highway and service road, dodge battalions of curious stray dogs, wake up the security guard and the following conversation would take place -
O Bhaiya! .... O BHAAAIYAAAA!
Haan ji?... haan!
Haan ji?! .. hmmm!
Abhi Jo bola room hay?!!
I got the guy awake at one place, but he was busy dealing with a couple of drunk firangs demanding “Chikhan Teekhaw” at 3 o'clock in the night.
I kept pushing towards Ambala. The GPS showed there was a kingfisher place near Ambala junction. I kept it as my last back up, assuming it to be exorbitantly expensive.
However, with little luck, I found one place near Ambala where people were semi awake and weren’t drunk. Costed us Rs. 850/- per room for quite lousy accommodation. But I didn’t have the energy for bargaining.
|6th November 2009, 11:37||#150|
We woke up exactly at 9 o'clock.
I came out and had a look around the place. It was the same place where we spotted our first open air Lord Shiva!
The hotel is bang opposite to a swanky looking resort, some Grand Retreat. Wonder why didn't I see that one last night. I didn't have to drive 3 kilometers for a U turn then.
Funny things happen at night!
Anyways, I went back to my room, freshned up and after a quick breakfast of Alu paratha, we hit the road.
After days of mountain twisties, the flat one way was more than welcome. I started to rip, but had to slow down a lot on GT Road near Kurukshetra and Karnal due to heavy two wheeler traffic.
We crossed Panipath and took right towards Rewari around 12 o'clock. Plan was to clear this stretch as fast as possible and take lunch on Delhi Jaipur Road.
It was 16th of OCtober, three days after 13th of October and one day before 17th October. That meant two thngs -
One, The elections had happened only three days before, so almost all potholes were pathced up. The surface which was pretty awful earlier, had become quite smooth.
Two, it was just the day before Diwali and we were in North India. Every two kilometers, there would be huge mithai and fireworks stalls. The whole belt was like a giant Mela. Although my speed had to be reduced due to this, we enjoyed the environment a lot. There's no feeling more satisfying than to travel home on Diwali Eve. All those who have lived outside their hometown would know! The festive atmosphere all around, the smiles, the sweets, the fireworks... and the anticipation of meeting the dear ones.
We stopped near Gohana for five minutes and quickly bought a pack of rockets and a box of pedas.
We crossed the stretch between Panipath and Rewari in about 3 hours and were on the Jaipur Road by 3:30 PM. Now we needed lunch.
I was not very keen on eating dal chawal as that would make me drowsy.
We pulled up at a small Dhaba about 20 kilometers from where Rewari Road merges into NH8.
The Dhaba owner was the most enterprising kid I have ever seen. He had just completed his third year in class eight and was proxying for his father.
Upon asking what's available, he read out all 56 items written on the wall. We requested his silence and ordered Roti, Dal and Paneer. I had little food, but ladies feasted. The food was good for the looks of the place.
The guy also helped me clean my windshield (a special thanks to him for that!).
After three glasses of boiling tea, we were back on the road.
Jaipur was about 100 clicks or less from here. But the traffic was getting heavier as we approached evening. We reached bahror around 5:30 and got stuck in traffic. We could cross jaipur around 8 o'clock.
There was a very nice looking 'Hotel Highway King" on NH8 just out of Jaipur. We had some tea there. I had little food earlier so was feeling a little hungry. I asked for a "malai kulfi" expecting something special of Jaipur. They handed me a cup of Amul Kulfi. It was softer than cotton and sweeter than jaggery. The guy would need to write to Amul for his tip!
I washed my head, rubbed some amrutanjan on the yes and had some Red bull. Next up is a non stop 1200 clicks till Mumbai, and I would have to do it in next 12 hours.
The roads from here on were simply driver's delight!
The GVK Highway from Jaipur to Ajmer is around 100 Clicks, and I could cross it in 45 odd minutes. The traffic thinned out even further after Ajmer Bypass. A lone truck here or there, just open dark road. I have had seen these roads on my earlier run, so stepped on it intrepidly.
We reached Chittaurgarh around 11:30 PM and stopped for diesel right after entering NH76 towards Udaipur.
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