The Mountain Walker Diaries:  A Sleepy Hamlet, Back In Time

Lari, Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, India, 10 July 2017, 1215 hours

The trouble with a drive is that even with a lot of time on your hands, you are still focused on getting to a destination … and so, you end up giving a miss to mesmerising little hamlets along the way – like Lari village on the way to Tabo.

I wonder where I would have been if all the opportunities and teachers and great people I have met in life, had just driven by and given me a miss. Hmm?

Then again, maybe I would have been sitting under a tree watching a flock graze as the breeze did its own thing, and raise an eyebrow at the occasional car driving by. Maybe I would have been sitting in that field I am passing right now, and maybe I would have been watching a car like this with people from the city enjoy the stunning landscape and wave at me.

That would have been nice. And this is something that I think of every time I spend time in the Himalayas. That it is a very good thing that these places are so remote that people think several times before coming on over. Because if this land comes onto a regular tourist map, everything would change, and it would be a real pity if all of us could just take a limousine bus or drive our own SUVs into the Himalayas.  Trust me I know what I am talking about – several city vehicles from the plains down below have passed us by in the past few days, and they are all in a tearing hurry, honking their way through in a land where the local people drive with the utmost respect, spotting vehicles from three mountain-turns away, stopping at places where they know vehicles can pass, smiling and catching up on road conditions, and then moving on slowly carefully once again.

Yep, in my limited viewpoint, it is best that sleepy hamlets stay sleepy … God, this land is really beautiful. And even driving through at a lazy pace gives you so much time to ponder existential and civil matters.

You know what’s funny? At some point in time, Lari is said to have been fairly important  around these parts. That’s before Tabo came into prominence, so that would be before the 10th century, and definitely before Tibetan Buddhism (based on Indian Mahayana Buddhism) started spreading in this region. Back then, nature-based animistic religions held sway in these parts (I believe researchers call it Bon religion).

Lari is significant today for the Chhumurthi (pronounced Chamurthi) Horse Breeding Farm, which is a part of a government initiative to protect and conserve Spiti Ponies in Himachal Pradesh. But that’s a story for a different day.



The Mountain Walker Diaries: Beyond a Great Confluence

Khab, Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh, India, 9 July 2017, 1430 hours:

One of the awe-inspiring aspects of a tour through Himachal Pradesh is following one river, arriving at the confluence of two rivers, and then moving ahead with the other river.

Check out the drive to Nako just after crossing Khab (confluence of Sutlej and Spiti rivers).

The Mountain Walker Diaries: Across The Hangrang Valley

Nako-Chango Road, Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh, India, 10 July 2017, 1130 hours

We are now driving through one of my favourite parts of Himachal – Hangrang Valley.

Hangrang and Sangla are the two main valleys of Kinnaur. And on this trip we were fortunate to have spent time in both valleys (usually it is either or). Hangrang is a wide expanse of lofty mountains, rugged peaks, barren landscape, and stunning natural beauty. The drives here are exciting, thrilling even, given the narrow roads, cliff-edge views, and chilly winds.

Hangrang has Eight lush green villages  suspended amidst harsh, barren, remote mountains,  surrounded by lofty snow-capped peaks, with the Spiti winding its way in serpentine fashion as the wind whistles in your hair.

Check out this drive.

The Mountain Walker Diaries: Notorious Malling Nallah

Malling Nallah, Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh, India, 10 July 2017, 1010 hours

Once a real raging traffic stopper, Malling Nallah is an unpredictable glory of nature even today.

The Nallah flows down the mountainside, crossing roads and trails at different elevations. Till a few years ago, the road from Khab to Chango used to pass from way below the current road (that passes close to Nako village). On that erstwhile route, the Malling Nallah hit the road at steep angle and came falling through a more lucid soil structure. As a result, the road used to get blocked frequently due to landslides, so much so that there was a JCB (or two) always parked near the Nallah.

Subsequently the BRO constructed a new road and this new road meets the Malling Nallah at a higher elevation with more gradual drops, thus softening the cascade to a more fordable flow.


The Mountain Walker Diaries: When does the Clock become the Time? And Time, Life?

Nako, Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh, India, 9 July 2017, 1755 hours:

We are at Nako. No idea what day or date it is, and am happy about that. It is quite amazing how liberating it is to be free of the calendar. Am not measuring how much I am doing or how often or how well. I am just doing and without the calendar and time hanging over my head, am doing things efficiently the first time every time and because things need to be done. No wastage of effort. Nor any measure thereof. Paradoxical, but true. There seems to be enough time to do everything.

What is it about measurement that destroys the very ability it aims to improve?

Where lies the tipping point when measurement takes a life of its own and becomes an industry instead of inspiring greater industry in the individual who aims for proficiency?

When does proficiency become the clock? When does the clock become the time? When does time become life?

I suppose one could argue that these posts have a date and time and that therefore, I do know the date etc, but I don’t – not in the conventional sense. As in, it is just some words and figures that I am seeing on the phone and adding – with accuracy but without thought – to the post when I am done writing. But this information has no meaning for me, the fact that it is 6 pm is not driving me or telling me to do something or not do it. Or to fret or breath or eat or think or complete something or … anything. Even now, as I write this, I have no idea if it is a Sunday or a Wednesday. To be fair, I don’t think about days of the week or time of day even back home.

But out here, in the Himalayas, the notion of clock time does stand suspended. And am enjoying it for now. Sitting at this lake. Listening to the water. Trying to get stones to skip across the water. That’s life at 12,010 feet above sea-level.

Getting Nako Lake to yourself on a clear day, with nothing but the sounds of nature, now that’s worth a walk at 12,010 feet above sea level; Photo: sanjay mukherjee

The Mountain Walker Diaries: The Ledge Back To Karchham

Sangla-Karchham Road, Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh, India, 9 July 2017, 1000 hours:

This road has been featured as “The Ledge” on ‘IRT India’s Deadliest Roads’.

With adequate caution while driving, it also has the capability of featuring as one of the most beautiful, exhilarating and exciting drives in the world.

Here we are driving out of Sangla Valley on the road to Karchham, on our way to Nako.



The Mountain Walker Diaries: The Indian Tricolour  On The Ridge

Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India, 5 July 2017, 1730 hours

The Ridge in Shimla is a vantage point among vantage points. You can see The Ridge – or its thereabouts marked out by the tall Indian Tricolour – from all across the main town.

The Mountain Walker Diaries: A Holiday Mood

Sangla, Sangla Valley, Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh, India, 8 July 2017, 1600 hours

It’s been an odd trip so far. Odd in the sense that I don’t find myself running off to a hill or dale at every opportunity. Usually, when I travel in the mountains, I notice every turn and trail and while I immensely enjoy the experience every minute, I also realise that it is work for me since am walking with a purpose. But this time around, I am not working, my work mind is switched off completely, and I am soaking in everything with no intention of doing anything with all the experience and information except to just be in the moment with the family and enjoy all of it for myself and them.

We came back to the hotel around 3 and after a relaxed lunch of hot rotis, steaming rice, dal, garden fresh vegetables tossed in a light masala and omelettes, I have been just lounging around the hotel, looking at the hills, watching clouds go by, and listening to the conversations.

Occasionally a thought about the nearby Trout Farm or Rupin Pass or Khanits crosses my mind. I smile at the thought, say hello and goodbye and go back to lying prone with no intention of doing anything worthwhile.

That’s the point of a holiday. To do nothing.

Here’s a view of the Baspa at Chitkul from a hill that we climbed this morning.

Chitkul 04

The Mountain Walker Diaries: Baspa At Chitkul

Chitkul, Sangla Valley, Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh, India, 9 July 2017, 1315 hours

You know what kids love? Climbing hills, running in the grass, and chucking stones into a river, that’s what.

And what better place to chuck stones than the glorious Baspa river in full flow through the last Indian village near the international border with Tibet.

The Mountain Walker Diaries: A Walk Around Raksham

Raksham, Sangla Valley, Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh, India, 9 July 2017, 1100 hours

Apart from Kamru Fort and Basteri village, people come to Sangla to visit Chitkul, the last Indian village before the Indo-Tibetan border. But that’s the destination and tourism checklist.  Often we discover what we were looking for, only when we stop travelling, get down off the vehicle, and start taking a look around.

Like when we stopped near Raksham village. Streams, rockfalls, Bhojpatra trees, pines, views of Sangla valley, gurgling of the Baspa …