Archive for August, 2012

Keylong

Posted: August 30, 2012 by randommuzings in India
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Keylong (altitude: 3350m), the capital of Lahaul, is such a small town that on reaching there we wondered as to what will we be doing there for the next couple of days. In comparison even Leh seemed much larger. It is mostly a transit city, where tourists usually halt for a night or two, enroute to Leh or Spiti or Manali. Even the vegetation here (mostly shrubs) is transitioning from the lush green pine forests of Manali to dry arid vegetation of Leh or Spiti. Agriculturally it houses the crops of peas, hops (for beer), potatoes and barley.

For us as well, Keylong was not meant to be the final destination. When we reached Keylong, our first reaction was that we will head out to Kaza after a day but we just couldn’t part from Keylong, mainly because of the people.

In Himanchal, I usually always bank upon the guest houses provided by state government. At Keylong also I chose to stay at Himachal Tourism (HT) bungalow- a colossal property at the highest point of the town. It was named “Chandra Bhaga Resort”, after the local name of Chenab here. I later learnt that the land for this property was acquired in 1992 for the construction of a Heli-ski resort as per a pact between Indian government and USSR but then USSR dissolved and the pact never saw the light of the day. So finally in 2002 the resort as it stands today was constructed long with the adjoining circuit house for a staggering figure of about INR 4 crores (only construction cost). The room rent here is INR 2,000, which seems high for the region but on staying there you realize that you get every penny’s worth including breakfast and dinner. The ground space facing the resort that as per the original plan had been reserved for a helipad, now houses tents that have been shifted here from Sarchu. The HT Volovo buses from Manali to Leh include an overnight stay at Keylong in those luxury tents (within a price of Rs 2000).

Thus every night a loaded bus arrives, carrying 41 travelers. Each night there is a lot of activity- eating, drinking, gossiping but early morning at 4 am the bus would depart and then the place would be shrouded in complete silence. Soon each of the hotel staff was like a family member and along with them we also sub-consciously waited for the night bus to arrive and heard them depart every morning.

We reached there on 16th Aug and on the occasion of Independence Day there was a two-days fair wherein people had come down from Manali and set up stalls for food and clothing. There was a cultural program where people from all adjoining districts were singing and dancing and the program went on till 10.30 pm that is beyond midnight in the hills. I was tempted to go down and watch but there was no light in the town at all and we were not carrying any torches. So we stayed at the hotel, chatting with the passengers of the bus that had just arrived. We were enjoying our freedom and they were enjoying theirs!!

I later sat on the porch of the hotel staring at the night sky. I haven’t seen so many stars in my entire life, not in Leh, not even on the screen at Nehru Planetarium. There were so stars in every corner of the sky that to a city dweller like me it appeared artificial. Too bad that I did not have the remote shutter control to capture it on my camera but of course some experiences are only for the mind to remember!!  I just lay there for eternity, staring at the sky, capturing the image in my mind!!

Manali-Rohtang-Keylong

Posted: August 29, 2012 by randommuzings in India
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Manali to Keylong is just 115 km- a journey that can ideally be covered in 5-6 hours but of course enroute one has to pass the deadly Rohtang Pass. We took a shared cab (Tata Sumo) that charged Rs 250 per seat and was carrying 10 passengers and a driver. So well stuffed we began our journey at noon. In 1.5 hours we were at Rohtang but had to stop here for the next 3 hours.

Rohtang in the local language literally means “A pile of corpses” and is considered to be the deadliest pass of all and we soon learnt why.  Rohtang is under continuous rain or snow. Between May to September, it is mostly continuous rains that cause land slides, hence blocking traffic.

From October to April, there is continuous snow and hence the road remains closed, cutting off Keylong from the rest of the world. The people dwelling beyond Rohtang in Lahaul and Spiti are thus classified as tribals by the government and hence enjoy rebated food and free medical facilities. The tribal status, however, will be lost once the 14 km long Rohtang Tunnel gets constructed that will bypass the Rohtang Pass and make Lahaul-Spiti accessible all the year around. I hope it doesn’t happen for a few more years as then Keylong as I saw it will be lost.

When we reached Rohtang, the road was blocked due to land slides. All vehicles that had left since morning were qued up before us. For the street vendors, it was good business as people munched the food as there was little else that could be done.

The locals alleged that to increase their business, the horse keepers had released some water that had increased landslides in the area. They then volunteered to taken people for a ride on the horses to a popular point closeby with a small permanent glacier from where they claim that the China border is visible, which of course is not true.

The journey after crossing Rohtang was smooth. On the other side of Rohtang, Beas ditched us but Chenab took its place.  In total it took us 9 hours to reach Keylong from Manali.

Lahaul Trip (Aug 2012)

Posted: August 29, 2012 by randommuzings in India
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This is probably the most impromptu trip I’ve undertaken so far. I had applied for leave quite sometime in advance due to convenience and was then trying to fit in a travel plan. My initial plan was Tibet through Nepal but that requires a group China visa which can only be obtained for 5 Indians traveling together. We were just 3 people at best. Next I dawdled over Bhutan and Greece but both didn’t materialize due to monsoons and my 20 year passport respectively.

So when my leaves  started i had no travel plans. I didn’t want to cancel approved leaves and neither spend it at home. So my friend and I just packed our bags and left for my safest abode- Himalayas. Since I have covered the popular destinations way too often, we left for Manali in a Volvo and thereafter head out someplace. Leh I had been only the previous year so was not too keen on going there so soon. Kasaul was an option but then Lahaul Spiti was more appealing. So we set off absolutely unprepared on this trip that turned out to be quite memorable!!

Itinerary:

Delhi to Chandigarh: 290 km via NH1

Chandigarh to Manali via Rupnagar: 280 km via NH21

(Parallel to River Beas)

Manali to Keylong via Rohtang: 115 km via NH21

(Parallel to River Chenab)