From Spitian Deserts to the Pastures of Lahual
Most of us were overjoyed with the thought of walking on glaciers in the Himalayas, of course there was the odd nerve as well, but that was negligible. So we got off the jeep few kms after Batal, took our sticks, slipped in the plastic sheet between the socks and shoes, put on our gloves, and off we were on a thrilling adventure.
We were walking at our own pace, there was only fun and snow ball fights on our agenda. Except for the guys from Delhi who were a bit jittery and in a rush to complete the trek, and soon the Delhi guys were out of sight; it was just us, the snow, Chandra river, mountains rocks and Snow White, the closer we got to her, the more gorgeous she seemed.
We took pauses along the way, as we were walking by the river this lovely rock came into view. We wanted to get it back home but the weight was too much. Every time I feel like doing these things, a Buddhist story comes to my mind, in short a monk walking down a river bed comes across a small red rock. It was very beautiful and the monk felt like taking it, but then he thinks to himself who am I to take this rock, if its placed over there it has to have some purpose or reason far beyond my understanding, so he left the rock there and moved on. Thats the two of us, as you can evidently make out both our eyes are half shut, the glare was too much to keep our eyes open, you need glasses to walk on snow. My eyes were bloodshot for a few days after this trek, my right eye had also begun to twitch for some unknown reason, it was quite funny! There was absolutely no one around, the feeling was overwhelming! We reached a barren spot where a truck was parked and bumped into the Delhi guys who were taking a breather. We followed suit, and ate some bread and cheese to regain energy!
We hardly walked for an hour or so when we reached this Bulldozer, shovelling the snow into the river. It takes them hours to do a small patch of the road, cutting and shoving the snow is no easy task, and the little beast definitely smokes too much when you see that there was nothing else around polluting the air. Once we passed the bulldozers, we reached a spot with a few people sitting on a couple of rocks, by this time my toes were nearly numb, my socks were wet and I didn’t want them on, so I knocked them off and we were set for our walk on glaciers for couple of kms. The start itself was a task, we had to climb a steep hill covered with snow, with my weight and the bag my feet were just sinking in. My toes were covered with snow were freezing, it was beginning to get painful for me.
Glacier after glacier, and each time Sonam and the other gentleman from Batal told us that it was the last one, or just 5 minutes more. Each glacier had a narrow path to walk on, so we took one step at a time with utmost caution, because one slip and we would be history, flowing in the Chandra river straight to Lahaul. We were told that if we fall in the river, the survival rate is not too high. This was the climax of the trek. Ahead I saw one of the Delhi guys, Anish, slip and fall off the glacier, he was bigger than me, broader built and at least four inches taller.
He had a bad fall, but luckily a guy from Chandigarh, who had biked all the way to Batal, was walking along with him. So he took his bag and pulled Anish up. He had come to check how long it would take for the roads to clear, since he had to get his bike through.
I kept my focus on the path, but at the same spot where Anish fell I slipped as well, the path had turned from snow to ice, making it extremely slippery. I slid down by a couple of feet. My instincts told me to shove the stick into the snow and that held me there. The guy from Chandigarh rushed towards me, I stretched my free hand towards him, but he said no, give me your bag.
I was in a situation, with one hand I was holding the stick and trying to balance, and he wanted me to pass my bag. He said that in such situations one should always give the bag first. I was screaming to my self, take my hand you bastard, I somehow managed to remove my bag and swung it 3 feet above me to the level he was on, Sonam then came down to where I was and helped me out of the spot. After a big sigh of relief and a laugh, we were set to proceed, thanks to Sonam and the guy from Chandigarh who then taught me how to walk on snow. You have to kick your heal in first so you get a good grip even on ice. These guys could run on ice, living around snow for more than 6 months a year its normal terrain for them. Sonam carried Bhavika’s bag and she too seemed to be having a blast hopping on snow like a free bird, while I had a tough time on tricky parts but never failed to welcome a helping hand from the guys whenever they offered it.
After crossing a few more glaciers we were nearly at the end, we had had enough of the snow by now, each one of us. For me I was worried that I would get frost bite, I couldn’t feel my toes for over an hour or so. It felt dead when I touched them, there was no sensation at all.
The path ahead was clear and we saw the jeep waiting for us. We took a group picture, the guy on the extreme left is from Chandigargh, the one just besides me is Sonam the taxi guy, the two on the extreme right are from Delhi. We thanked Sonam and the guy from Chandigargh, we also paid Sonam a little more money for he was not really suppose to accompany us over this path. But our long trek that took us a few hours over snow would take him just half an hour to get back, they can run on ice. But we were done, we had entered Chandra valley in Lahaul. In view was the road and beyond that was the largest glacier in Himachal Pradesh, Bara Shigri glacier. Bara Shigri glacier is more than 25 kms long and about 3 kms wide and is covered with snow throughout the year. We were happy to be sitting in a vehicle once again, my toes were dead and came to life only after a couple of hours, it was joy to feel them. As we exited Spiti and entered Lahaul, not only did the names change but the landscape change was magical. From the desert to lush green meadows, it was unbelievable. A few kms away after Chota Dara, from where we got into the jeep, we were transported to another world. Horses grazing on the plains, the yellow flowers swaying with the breeze and the rhythm of the river sending out some positive vibrations. Flora and fauna surrounded us, how is this possible, cross few glaciers and its a different scenery altogether. Shepherds sleeping under the shade of rocks, while their sheep graze lazily. After a while we reached Chhatru, a picturesque village that serves as an ideal place for trekking and mountaineering. There is a small dhaba there, where we had maggie and chai. We were pooped, so never managed to take a single picture of the Dhaba and the surroundings.
We came across a bunch of French rock climbers who come to Spiti, Lahaul and Hampi every year to climb boulders. One of them needed to get supplies from Manali and asked us if he could share the ride with us. He was a French chef who was passionate about rock climbing and India, and worked at times in hotels across the country to earn some money.
Conversations happened as we moved towards Manali. Lahaul’s landscape was absolutely fascinating, so different than Manali and Parvati. There were melting glaciers forming rivers and an unlimited amount of waterfalls, more than we had seen on our entire trip, and we saw it in Lahaul in 15 minutes of driving.
Waterfalls surrounded by green, that’s what I remember of Lahaul and we made mental notes that we have to stay in Lahaul for a while it was gorgeous!
We had to go via Rohtang pass to get to Manali, since it connects the Kullu valley with the Lahaul and Spiti valley. Rohtang pass is famous among Indian tourists and we had not yet been there. As we climbed higher we drew closer to the pass, until we were in the clouds. It was overcast and thus it also hampered our view, we could not see beyond 10 feet from the car, the fog and clouds had obscured the view. But prior to that the glimpses were lovely, until we reached Rohtang, the snow was black with dirt. There was garbage scattered all over the place, as we reached further up there were various stalls like food, clothes, skiing facilities etc., spoiling the landscape. Rohtang is a total touristy spot. We were glad that we managed to see so much of untouched Himachal Pradesh, Rohtang seemed to remind us of Mumbai. We reached Manali by 7.30 pm 8 pm in the evening, it was raining and the cab guy was kind enough to drop us to Old Manali at the same guest house where we stayed on our earlier visit. Prakash was more than happy to see us again, and we rushed to the room and crashed instantly. Next day we planned to move to our next destination Dharamkot in Dharamshala!
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