Thursday, September 15, 2016

Himalayan Invitation 2016

Year 2016 was an absolute Himalayan invitation, a little account of my first travel for the year. 

I also regret for my incapability to write for a long time and feel excited to narrate my journey to Himalaya!

A lazy day of last winters, it was snowing heavily and we were enjoying bonfire and a mail popped in the mail inbox. The query was about a proposed Mountain Biking tour into Kinnaur and Spiti and soon it was finalized for April 2016.

On 05th April 2016 the toy train slowly hushed to its final destination Shimla, Mrs. & Mr. Corban were smiling from the compartment as they recognized me. 

The following day, on 06th April, after exploring the Colonial Miles of Shimla, our car roared through the dusty countryside roads and reached a countryside home stay near Shima. As the sun was setting behind the horizons, riots of colors were framed on the valleys.

On morning of 07th April, after an early breakfast and under a mild drizzle our bikes plunged down the valley. The blossom covered the entire valley and every gush of wind introduced us to even better aroma! 

As our bikes touched the uphill section of ride, the drizzle turned into heavy downpour and our enthusiasm was on highest level. The entire ride was dotted with tiny villages surrounded by terraces running down the valley. Soon the rain halted and the sun glanced on the valleys turning them into golden. The last stretch of the ride was steep uphill and Mrs. Corban led the way to complete the 33 km on the day one as Mr. Corban and me followed her.

Jagdish, packed the bikes and drove us to Narkanda. This place use to be an important stopover on the Old Hindustan Tibet Road, a promising route leading into Tibet. Thrilled with the day’s effort we stayed overnight at Narkanda.

A lovely morning of 08th April welcomed us and the ride passed down through Kotgarh valley.  Our bikes buzzed down through the ocean of apple blossom and we halted at Tani-Jubbar Lake. An ancient serpent temple by the side of the lake and lofty snow capped mountains added to it like a ‘Jewel in the Crown.’

Continuing the ride we stopped at the village of Kotgarh to visit the chapel built by an American Missionary in early 1900’s. Samuel Evans Stokes was engrossed in the beauty of the place that he decided to live here for the rest of his life. He also got concerned with the life of people, whose farms could barely feed them. Mr. Stokes took the soil samples back to his country, tested them, brought apple saplings and distributed them among the villagers. This all turned the life of people and today Himachal is a leading apple producer in the country.

It turned warmer with descend and we soon touched the floor of the valley. From here we packed the bikes and drove upstream of River Sutlej to reach Rampur. Post lunch, the drive further passed through some adventurous roads in Himalaya and reached Kalpa. Favorite summer retreat of  Lord Curzon, one of the British Viceroy in India, who wanted to make it as next British Summer Capital of India.

Perched at an elevation of 2960 m, before independence Kalpa was named as Chini. Right opposite to Kalpa is Kinner Kailash range, snowcapped mountains ranging up to an elevation of 6400m. Kinner Kailash (6050m) is sacred mountain and is believed to be the winter abode of Lord Shiva.

District Kinnaur portrays a mingling of culture as Hindu religion merges with Buddhisim. Buddhist Gods are worshiped in Hindu temples and Hindu Gods gets place in Buddhist Monasteries.

The whole valley below our hotel was lit by tiny lights scattered all over. Glare of the moonrise could clearly be seen on the snowcapped mountain range.

Dawn of 09th April was breaking behind the mountains and very soon the whole valley was bathing in morning sunlight. We started the day with a hike above the village of Kalpa. Soon there was carpet of snow under our feel as we ascended up the hill. And it kept on mounting as we geared up, fresh snow flakes welcomed us.

Kinner Kailash range was a beauty as we saw it above the village. For lunch we descended down to Kalpa. Evening was a leisure to observe the changing colors of Kinner Kailash Range.

On 10th April we decided to explore the area on our mountain bikes and we rode to the village of Roghi. The 05 km stretch of the road is built on a sheer cliff that plunges down almost 2000 m to grueling Sutlej! Making a brief stop at village we tried to ride further on the traces of Old Hindustan Tibet Road. However, we abandoned the idea further as the trail was washed at certain sections.

We rode back to Kalpa, explored the ancient temples of Goddess Chandika Devi and Lord Vishu and finally pushed our bikes back to hotel and the evening was at leisure.

On the morning of 11th April our journey proceeded further to Tabo. Under a mild drizzle we drove to Nako. At an elevation of 3600 m, the village of Nako is laid by the side of a sacred Lake. Still upper Kinaur district, offer enchanting views of looming Hangrang mountain range, Reo Purgial 6816 m and groove of Willows which circles the Lake.

While entering Nako snowflakes welcomed us and we started downhill ride followed by a flat section to Sumdo. The thrilling ride passed through barren mountains loaded with snow. As our bikes passed through village of Chango, suddenly the dry valley was replaced by apple orchards! This fragile section of the road is prone to the shooting stones from the mountains above, however, we safely managed to reach Sumdo. Here, Pare – Chu, (discussed in earlier posts) amalgamates with River Spiti. Also, inner line permits issued by administration are verified at the police post here. We drove from here and reached Tabo for the evening.

The morning of 12th April welcomed us and after breakfast we went to visit the ancient monastery of Tabo. The walls are decorated with beautiful paintings depicting the life story Buddha. The upper sections of walls are adorned with sculptures of 32 Bodhisatvas, each in their unique mediating postures. We were being offered a detailed introduction to the monastery by the resident Lama.

Continuing our Himalayan exploration, we drove the valley upstream, which all of a sudden opens here in Tabo to visit Dhankar monastery. Dhankar means a cliff and the monastery is built on the cliff. Dhankar used to be the ancient capital of Spiti. Getting blessed from the monastery, we enjoyed a lovely ride from Dhankar to Kaza. The opposite winds on the Dhankar downhill, were almost limiting Bikes to halt and we pedaled the thrilling downhill!

After lunch, we drove to visit Kee Monastery, a fortified monument built on a hillock. These monasteries were built on the elevated platforms due to the possible fear of invasion. As ancient schools of Buddhism, these places certainly hold a divine Charisma.

Since it was too early to enter Manali so we retraced our journey back to Tabo for a night and another to Reckong-peo and finally to Shimla!

Absolutely a memorable Himalayan experience!