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Old 14th August 2022, 22:18   #1
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Default A trek to Hampta Pass and Solo Bike ride to Tirthan Valley, Himachal Pradesh

Monsoons are a travel magnet in my dictionary.The rains and the greenery transforms the landscape into a magical journey of the mystique.(if one can choose to ignore the misery of being soaked and chilled to the bones which the camera fails to capture).

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Cannot keep reiterating enough that the best season to enjoy any place is generally its off season.

Once again the trip was a solo one as have been all my Himalayan treks till date.Having been to Kashmir and Uttarakhand earlier this time it was the other popular trekking destination Himachal.

Though the first choice was the Pin Bhabha Trek the fitness requirements demanded by India Hikes meant that I had to prepare much earlier and have to plan this for another time.The slightly easier trek in the same region was the ever popular Hampta Pass which reached a peak of 14,065 feet but had all the high points like a walk on a frozen river,a ridge walk,2 river crossings a walk through meadows bursting with wild flowers and a walk under a small waterfall.

It was a cross over trek meaning that it started from the green valleys of Kullu region and traversed through a wall of mountains which we crossed at the hampta pass below the Hampta glacier peak and crossed over to the desert region of the Lahaul district just at the cusp of the Spiti valley culminating to a short drive to the divine Chandrataal lake.

To be fair though this appears mindbogglingly tough it was a trek of 26 kms spread over 6 days which would cut short a driving distance of about 65ms but the satisfaction and joy levels are immeasurable.

All journeys as usual begin with the planning and the perils of packing or over packing in my case as being a Safety king I usually tend to pack back up for back up(carry 3 battery packs for instance).Guess I can finally call myself a true trekker the day I use all the stuff I pack for the trek and the biking trip post that and not the 40% extra stuff I get back without using them even once.

The plan was as below
1) Fly from Bangalore to Chandigarh-Spend some time in chandigarh enjoying the best parathas and surely visit the Rock Garden/Sukhna Lake besides the Bird park if possible.
2) Take the night bus to Manali.Hire a bike and go exploring the many cafes and places around manali.
3) Start off for the 6 day trek.
4) Head from the last base camp to Chandrataal and return back to Manali.
5) Hire a bike and head to Tirthan valley and plan to trek to Great Himalayan National park/Jalori pass/Serolsar lake besides chilling by the tirthan river.
6) Head back to manali and take the night bus to Chandigarh to fly back the next day to Bangalore.

The trip did go as per plan and met a trio of fellow trekkers at Bangalore airport and we decided to explore Chandigarh together as we had about 8 hours from the time we landed at Chandigarh to catching the night bus to Manali.

Firstly as true trekkers got added to the splitwise account to share all common expenses with Tejas/Anagha and Deepika and after checking into a cheap Oyo room to dump the luggage we took a auto to Rock Garden located in Sector 1.

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First up was lunch and a quick search for an eatery near the rock garden led us to Brothers Amritsari Kulcha hub at sector 9 where we had piping hot kulcha chole/assorted kulchas/lassi and ginger chai.Was a satisfying meal and especially from down south found the typical local Punjabi food to be yummy.

If one had to pick only spot to visit in Chandigarh it would undoubtedly be this 24 acre of sheer brilliance created by artist Nek Chand who has created a masterpiece of over 2000 random statues,ponds,amphitheatres and an ecosystem out of discarded waste material like broken bangles,ceramic cutlery,broken power points etc.It is unique to say the least.

From here the next point was the sunset at Sukhna lake.This can be reached by electric buses/electric bikes on hire or share autos.The lake is like any other touristy large city lake with boating,food,caricature and a general festive atmosphere where locals and tourists spend an evening watching the glorious sunset against the back drop of the lake water.

Other nearby places to visit if time permits are the bird park,smriti upavan,open hand monument,rose park all located close by.
However we just had enough time to head back to the hotel to pick our luggage,have a quick dinner and head to sector 43 to catch the HRTC bus to Manali.

The bus reached Manali by 6 am and we were greeted by a rains while we took a taxi to our hotel Keylinga Inn at Prini.Manali being a hot bed of tourism and also a gateway to the very popular Ladakh and Spiti circuits has plenty of options near Mall road,hip places at Old Manali ranging from a dorm @ Rs 500 to luxurious stay options.Hotel Keylinga Inn close to our trek start point is a pioneer of the igloo stay in the winters and is a cozy wonderful budget stay place with superb food and a team with a large heart(They graciously allowed me to drop my luggage post the trek just as family run stays would do).

Review of Keylinga Inn- Cozy home stay costing Rs 1500 per night single occupancy(food extra) with clean rooms and bed sheets.Nice wooden padded spacious rooms and clean linen.Service with a smile and wonderful food reasonably priced albeit a tad slow in service (or may be we have unrealistic service speed expectations!).

After freshening up the 4 of us decided to hire scooters and head to Sissu waterfalls after the Atal Tunnel on the way to Ladakh.

A word of advice on hiring vehicles in Manali is that there are plenty of options available and if one is choosing a gearless scooter for local travel or a bullet/Himalayan for Ladakh/Spiti road trip then it is best to reach here and negotiate best rates with a vehicle drop to stay place.The scooter was negotiated @ Rs 600 each and off we went in bright sunshine to Sissu water falls.

The pictures will speak for the journey and the story.

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The way to reach the actual water fall is either crossing the river on the zip line and trekking to the top or like we did head a bit further back and either take your bike/car across the suspension bridge or park it like us and walk up to the top of the hill to the base of the waterfall.

The trek is appx 5 kms in total and is not too tough but neither a walk in the park if you know what I mean.The pathway is clear and takes you right to near the base of the fall which is pretty beautiful and invariably we can spot the rainbow as the spray from the falls is sure to soak you.There is a stone to stand and strike an Instagram pose.

The journey to the place was also pretty and the first time experience of driving through the near 10km Atal tunnel on a bike was exhilarating.We stopped at Solan where the girls did the zipline and we contemplated doing the paragliding over the valley@Rs 3500 for the 30 mins experience but decided against it due to lack of time.

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On the way back we stopped for coffee and snacks at the 1947 café just before Manali which overlooks the river and has a pleasant ambience and decent food though a tad bit expensive.
The other Waterfall options around Manali are
1) Jogini waterfalls
2) Sajla waterfalls
3) Baror parsha waterfalls
4) Patlikuhl waterfalls.
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Old 15th August 2022, 12:42   #2
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Default re: A trek to Hampta Pass and Solo Bike ride to Tirthan Valley, Himachal Pradesh

Next day started with reporting to the base camp shuru homestay and then a short drive after lunch took us to Jobra Road head where the hydro plant has road accessibility (need to fill a form for permission at the check post) and from there a short trek through the forest to Jobra our first camp site.
The road was winding and steep and the highlight was that we could spot 4 majestic Vultures by the side of the road on a tree and the sight of them taking off with their wings spread out remain etched in my memory.The first ever time that I had seen a Vulture in the wild so up close.Unfortunately the sort time gap meant that only Raj could take a photo on his mobile of the bird flying away.

When we started the trek to Jobra (9380 feet) it started raining and we all put on our ponchos.Had a cup of chai(the cheni kum and adrak zyaada became our default code for the rest of the trek when ordering chai).
Our trek guide was Tilak a young man,friendly,had a host of stories up his sleeve especially ghost stories of the encounter of the third kind which were associated with that trek and his support staff were Yogi and Roshan Thakur with Yogi at the front (great sense of humour and loved teasing him by saying yeh Roti mujhe de de Thakur from the cult dialog in Sholay by replacing yeh haath mujhe de de thakur with anything and everything during the trek) and the quite Roshan bringing the rear.

We were a team of 24 trekkers and had loads of fun with our banter and chatter throughout the trek.The scenery around us included the omni present Rani Nallah and massive mountains with huge pine and other trees as well as patches of grass with wild flowers.

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The first days trek was fairly simple and short and Tilak included games like hugging a tree and sharing our gratitude to them as well as trying to let go one of our worries by sharing the same with our chosen tree.The trees have witnessed the history of the place around us and have given an eco system for millions of creatures and birds and kept the soil together from eroding and apparently have an underground neural system to communicate through the roots with all other trees in the vicinity.We also picked up any plastics or waste around us in our eco bags which is an initiative by India Hikes to try and leave the place better than we found it.Despite the fact that by trekking and camping in these pristine alpine areas we also contribute to the carbon footprint but the least we could do to minimise the same is not add to the plastic but refusing to eat or bring any packaged food with us,collecting any plastic we could find left by earlier trekkers and dispose them off in the plains after due segregation,use as minimal water as possible and ensure we use a pit to dispose our bio degradable food and human waste and cover them to allow it to decompose back to the soil.

Find this awareness and adherence to a Green Trail a very endearing feature of the India Hikes programme.



Camps at the site were shared by 3 trekkers in each tent and food was in a common dinner tent.It was pouring all night as was to be the norm for the 6 days of the trek with only the shades of intensity varying.

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Day 2 of the trek was to be about 4.5 kms to be covered in 4 hours and the highlight were to be walking under a waterfall and crossing the Nallah barefoot with the ice cold water of the stream.

We were following a regime of 6-7-8 today where we wake up at 6 and with the black tea get our vitals tested by Tilak in the dining tent which meant that we actually woke up 30 mins prior and completed our morning rituals with brushing strictly to be done at the designated wash areas a little away from the water source with a plastic bucket having holes punctured in it to regulate the water flow and use minimal quantity.

Breakfast was at 7 and after that we pack our bags and do our warm up before starting for the trek at 8.

The other unforeseen high light was another encounter with a flock of Vultures but this time a fair distance away feasting on a dead cow carcass.
All through we were walking on a ledge with the flowing Ranu Nallah below us to the right and the topography dotted with a few wild flowers.Hampta pass was supposed to be the valley of flowers of Himachal in the rainy season with wild flowers growing in the grass meadows. However having done the valley of flowers in Uttarakhand I can confirm that though there were varied coloured wild flowers to be seen throughout the trek no where did it come close to the splendour of the valley of flowers trek.

Again pictures would more describe the experience of the trek till we reached the River crossing point.

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The river crossing by far was the highlight of this leg and involved us splitting into 2 batches of 12 trekkers each.We had Tilak leading our batch and Yogi bringing the rear.All had to remove our shoes and walk bare feet holding each others hands while crossing in a line.The team had to cross in sync while the stones underneath and the ice cold water was making this as uncomfortable as possible. The few minutes it took to cross looked like an eternity and soon we were cheering the other team whole they crossed and filming their walk.

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After the crossing we continues bare feet to the Jwara camp(11005 feet) where it was a carpet of pink flowers and with the clouds covering the mountains it gave a feeling of being in the movie set of Avatar with the hidden mountains behind the screen of clouds and the many waterfalls surrounding us and of course the green carpet dotted with pink wild flowers surrounding us.

It was pure joy to be in this surrounding and while we were all busy clicking away some chose to explore the waterfalls and all of us post that wet to take pictures amidst the sea of pink.

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Old 15th August 2022, 14:50   #3
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Default re: A trek to Hampta Pass and Solo Bike ride to Tirthan Valley, Himachal Pradesh

Being cut off from the world as signal would be available only after the trek on the way back to Manali it was wonderful to pass time playing games or taking short walks together in this surreal surroundings.

Day 3 was from Jwara to Balu ka ghera(abode of the sands or surrounded by sands also referred to as the beach of himachal) a 5 km trek where we would camp at 12411 feet.

Again pictures would best describe the trek.

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The camp site was surrounded by water and sand and if there was any cloud burst (as was to happen for the batch after us)then this was the place mostly likely to be affected.

The Ghost story which Tilak told us about this camp site was that once during the monsoons the water level in the river was high and a girl trekker trying to cross unfortunately slipped and fell.Her brother too dived in hearing her scream and tried to rescue her.He was fortunately rescued by fellow guides but unfortunately the girl went missing.To help in the search and rescue people from base camp came over by late evening and the next day the girl’s body was recovered between boulders down stream.The IH team carried her body to the trek leads camp which used to be pitched throughout the season and then she was taken back to her family.

In the following trek a girl trek lead was staying alone in the tent and felt that through the night some one was watching her.Moreover in a subsequent trek too a male trek lead thought one of the guides was sleeping in the tent and when he asked in the morning who had got in to the tent at night to sleep there he was told that he was the only one in the tent that night.The IH team had to finally dismantle that tent before these incidents came to an end.

Phew some story that!
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Last edited by libranof1987 : 16th August 2022 at 13:41. Reason: Text repeated
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Old 15th August 2022, 16:25   #4
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Default re: A trek to Hampta Pass and Solo Bike ride to Tirthan Valley, Himachal Pradesh

Day 4 was the long day and day of the ascend where we would be walking on a frozen river,walking on a ridge which is a narrow path on the top of the mountain connecting to another one with valleys on both sides,the actual pass(hampta pass at 14,065 feet) which is a gap between a wall of mountains below the hampta glacier peak and the bull mountain and then a sharp descend into another district Lahaul from the kullu district.This was the cross over from the green rain fed side to the desert like rain shadow district of Lahaul and spiti through the hampta pass.The destination was to be the camp site of Shea goru.Total trek distance 5kms and estimated time was 9 hours.

As with any summit day it is an early start (though not too early the schedule for the day was 5-6-7 with 7am being time of start of the trek).The trek did go off well and thankfully everyone made it to the summit despite the continuous rains making conditions tougher and we took several group photos to celebrate the accomplishment .Unfortunately we didn’t have the customary banner saying done Hampta pass to take a photo and capture the same for eternity.

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The descend after the summit which incidentally just crept up as unlike most other treks this wasn’t a peak and didn’t exactly give the feeling of having scaled the highest point on the trek,was in my opinion the more difficult part as there was a sharp descend made tougher by the slippery mud and loose boulders.

Once we reached the plains of Lahaul we could feel a nip in the air as it was definitely colder in this region and we had an easy trek in the plains to reach the Shea Goru camp site.

After relaxing in the tent while a few were playing cricket with the support team we all rushed out as a whoop of joy rent the air as lo and behold there was the sun which had finally come out and shining brightly from above the mountains.Never ever were we so happy to see the shining sun.We were also rewarded with a beautiful rainbow.

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Day 5 was a 6-7-8 routine and the high point or low point was to be an immediate river crossing across the river which promised to be more colder than the last time around.We were amazed by the knowledge our guides Yogi and Roshan who by looking at the current of the river could say where the river would be at its shallowest and we could cross safely.

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Another bone chilling experience later we crossed over and proceeded towards Chatru our last camp site for the trek.(a small village of 120 residents)

Last day at the camp site was spent playing games and exploring the area around.

Day 6- a few of us chose to continue with a stop at Chandrataal lake before our return to Manali while the rest chose to go ahead with their future plans including a return home.

I must say that I felt those who missed out did miss a great outing if they had like me never been to the chandrataal.
Not only was the topography of the Lahaul area with its blue skies and white clouds and the river below in the valley surrounded by imposing snow top mountains and desert like rocky terrain so amazingly beautiful yet different from Spiti but the cherry on the cake was of course the divine Chandrataal lake.
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Old 15th August 2022, 17:20   #5
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Default re: A trek to Hampta Pass and Solo Bike ride to Tirthan Valley, Himachal Pradesh

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The stop over at the iconic Chacha chachi dhaba for my second visit there added to the fun factor as was flying my drone over the turquoise blue green and crystal clear.Was so glad could make it to the lake where we were told that a trek to the nearby mountain reveals not only this lake but also a few more Alpine lakes but that was for a next time.Also had to check the stories about a strange UFO sighting in this lake vicinity on the internet.

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With the return to Manali the trek was officially done and dusted.

The post trek routine was as usual to hire a bike this time a Hero X pulse for the trip to Tirthnan valley which involved a stay at the iconic Raju Bharti Guest House at Gushaini for 2 nights and the balance 2 nights at Lost escape a remote stay booked through a web site not on maps.

Will just make a synopsis of what I did for the sake if brevity but I dare say I truly enjoyed these last few days as much as the trek.

The trip covered trout fishing/a failed trek to the great Himalayan national park due to weather conditions causing land slides/visit to Saarchi village and a trek to the nearby meadows for a Europe like experience/chhoie water falls/Raghupur fort trek from jalori pass where having lost the way and adding some kms managed to see a Red Himalayan fox/balu nath temple at Bhigu village/Jibhi waterfalls/tandi village with its valley views/Shoja village near Jalori pass/Kuli katandi (mini Thailand).

Missed out on Serolsar lake and limestone lake a trek from Jalori pass.
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Old 15th August 2022, 21:04   #6
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Default re: A trek to Hampta Pass and Solo Bike ride to Tirthan Valley, Himachal Pradesh

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Raju Bharti Guest House- The pioneer of homestays in Tirthan valley region this was arguably among the best home stays I have stayed in India.Beautiful well managed wooden cottages with impeccable hospitality managed by Varun and Karan and their mom with superb food.The zip line like bucket system to cross the river anytime you want to come and go is a unique experience especially in the rains when the water level of the river nearly reaches your legs.The fresh fruits and homemade jams juices from the farm available (we had apples/pears and plums and apple/apricot jam as well as Rhodo /plum and apple juices ) and the experience of plucking the apples directly from the tree!Priceless!.

Reasonably priced @ Rs 1500 per person inclusive of all meals.

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Lost Escape powered by www.notonmaps.com- Not on maps is an interesting web site offering homestays run in rural areas and the Lost Escape a new venture run by Pratik is a lovely homestay about 15 mins walk down hill from the main road before Jibhi and is one of the 3 houses which make up Dalicha Village.Surrounded by apple and other fruit trees and a river flowing nearby with the team including the friendly dog Juno who is super excited to welcome visitors and Bobby the cook.

Great Hospitality and the dorm room costed me Rs 600 incl breakfast.

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The Tirthan Valley leg of the trip was superb away from the crowds of Manali and the bike did well.

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Last edited by Aditya : 16th August 2022 at 17:29. Reason: Image orientation corrected
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Old 15th August 2022, 21:09   #7
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End Notes:

Also putting down a few places to visit in and around Manali a few which I did and a few missed as well as amazing places to eat in Manali and Jibhi area.
Manali mall road(Great food places)/Old Manali(super cafes,live music and stay places preferred by foreigners)/Hadimba and Ghatotghach temple,Vashist temple(a hot water spring as part of the temple)/kullu/naggar/manikaran/sholan and the many waterfalls mentioned earlier.

The food places are Dana bakery(pumpkin caramel cake and chocolate balls) and its branches at old manali(german Bakery blue berry cheese cake) and Amigos(Tiramusu dark and white chocolate cakes),Corner house,Café 1947,Johnsons café,chopsticks,fat plate,Chopsticks,Café southern soul,sunshine café,Kilta coffee,Renaissance,IL forno ,Aleo café are all popular joints to try food.

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Old 16th August 2022, 08:53   #8
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Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 16th August 2022, 14:33   #9
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Default Re: A trek to Hampta Pass and Solo Bike ride to Tirthan Valley, Himachal Pradesh

Brought back memories of 1978 (!) when two of us callow DU students thought we'd do the Hamta circuit
At that time even Prini was off the road and a long walk from Manali. Forget the road beyond Prini, we had to scrabble up the steep hillside behind Prini after sleeping in the open at the foot of the climb
The next day we got to Chikka, where we spent the night under a rock overhang, with field rats scurrying about!
And then we woke up and saw the huge wall of ice! We walked about a kilometre in our canvas, brand new, latest-on-the-market "North Stars"(!), and realised we were hopelessly inadequately equipped!
Thus back to Hamta top, and a warm night in a tea shop tent, followed by the scramble down to Prini and back to the Youth Hostel, Manali
Things have changed...
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Old 16th August 2022, 14:43   #10
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Default Re: A trek to Hampta Pass and Solo Bike ride to Tirthan Valley, Himachal Pradesh

Ha ha Especillay looking at your experience!

The Atal tunnel has further reduced the road travl back from Chatru too.

But guess back then the pass would be even more beautiful and pristine.
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Old 16th August 2022, 15:27   #11
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Default Re: A trek to Hampta Pass and Solo Bike ride to Tirthan Valley, Himachal Pradesh

The photographs are just amazing. Not just extremely well composed frames, but excellent choice of subjects complemented by great exposures. Postcard perfect.

Tell us more about your photography secrets.
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Old 16th August 2022, 16:26   #12
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Default Re: A trek to Hampta Pass and Solo Bike ride to Tirthan Valley, Himachal Pradesh

Fantastic stuff, man! This writeup gives me an itinerary for my next Himachal visit. If Kerala is God's own country, this is God's own holiday destination
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Old 17th August 2022, 17:28   #13
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Default Re: A trek to Hampta Pass and Solo Bike ride to Tirthan Valley, Himachal Pradesh

Quote:
Originally Posted by kovilkalai View Post
Fantastic stuff, man! This writeup gives me an itinerary for my next Himachal visit. If Kerala is God's own country, this is God's own holiday destination
Yes you should go for it @kovilkalai.The Himalayas regardless of whichever state you go to are a calling that you need to respond to.Himachal much like kerela satisfies every wish of ours and enchants us with its eternal beaty.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ajayc123 View Post
The photographs are just amazing. Not just extremely well composed frames, but excellent choice of subjects complemented by great exposures. Postcard perfect.

Tell us more about your photography secrets.
Ha ha @ ajayc123 I always wish I could say once that we need to keep the focal length at so and so or white balance or ISO levels and maybe one day I would reach there.

I am overwhelmed that you have appreciated my photography skills but honestly it must be that phones have evolved to click such amazing photos.I personally used the Iphone XR though I also shot videos on my drone and my go pro which I did not post.

Seriously you have made my day.Thanks Buddy.

Last edited by vijayols : 17th August 2022 at 17:29. Reason: grammar error
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Old 17th August 2022, 17:35   #14
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Actually, I was a member of the college photography society in my college long time back, and have studied a lot of theory. While I can understand that iphone can take get you the right exposures, but I must still reiterate that no phone can help you with the composition, choice of subjects, angles. You have a knack for it.
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