Travel is an enriching experience. For me, travel is a form of meditation. It is the best kind of therapy. Travel is not about going away from home. It is about making another one!

Which is why, I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel to the mystic land of Himachal Pradesh. Thanks to six months of intense studying, half of 2014 had already flown by. As it ran away, the lost time left a sense of emptiness behind, a vacuum. Studying for a professional exam is not an easy task.

The pressure does get to you eventually. It got to me, and I needed a break. A desperate attempt to break away from all the stress, tension, negativity and unhappiness. A desperate attempt to just be me. I heaved a sigh of relief when Rushikesh informed me of the road trip that he was planning to organise in June.

 

Details:

Place: Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh

Duration: 13 days (including train travel)

Organised by: Breakfree Journeys

Having travelled with Breakfree before, I knew for a fact that this was going to be a good trip. Knowing Rushikesh (Our Man-in-charge, or MIC), I was certain that it was going to be excellently planned and all the requisite safety measures were going to be well in place

The train bookings progressed through the months of April and May. My exam ended by June and I was one excited traveller-in-waiting, even as a series of checklists and posts were shared with us by the MIC.

Come June 20 and Bandra Terminus suddenly looked like the most exciting place on earth. And why not? Our friend, Paschim Express, was waiting to take us to our glorious destination. By 11.30am, the train departed and our journey began. This was the first time I was travelling without my family. Also, except for the MIC, I did not know anyone else on the trip. As the MIC began the round of introduction with the eight travellers, of one thing I was sure – the 13 days ahead were definitely going to be the most memorable 13 days of my life.

At Surat, our last co-traveller joined in (with plenty of Surati snacks for all of us!).

So that was it. Nine travellers. One destination. Same level of enthusiasm!

I was pretty much blank before the trip commenced. That feeling of equanimity! Of course I was looking forward to the 13 days that lay ahead of me, and yet I was blank. Maybe sometimes we hold our feelings back, keep calm and just wait for the perfect moment to leave us overwhelmed. The perfect moment to let the feeling of freedom sink in. Maybe I was waiting for that perfect moment still.

Day 2 – Arrival at Chandigarh:

Having chugged across six states and one National Territory of Delhi, the Paschim Express finally arrived at Ambala station, where it was to split into two parts – five bogeys that would travel to Kalka (Haryana) via Chandigarh and the rest of the train to Amritsar (Punjab). Now this was a phenomenon unheard of to most of us on the trip. So we decided to record it, and we will always remember how the Kalka part of the train got joined to another engine right at Ambala station, right in front of our eyes!

A little above an hour after we witnessed the dis-joining and re-joining of the Paschim Express, we finally arrived at Chandigarh station. Warm and dry, Chandigarh appeared a well planned city. We retired to our rooms at Diamond Inn hotel, which was at a distance of barely 500 metres from the railway station. After an almost 30 hour long journey, the refreshed travellers then bonded over a sumptuous meal prepared by the hotel staff. That coupled with the cozy rooms and excellent room service made our overnight stay in Chandigarh very pleasant and comfortable!

En route Tabo!

 

Day 3 – En route Sangla:

This was going to be one long day, the MIC had warned us well in advance. Our road trip was to commence with an almost 14 hour long drive- from Chandigarh to Sangla. The nine road-trippers were well awake and packing by 4 am the next morning.  We had booked two Xylos for the journey. The enthusiastic drivers arrived by 4.30 am and happily waited on us! At 5 am, the group split and loaded up into their respective vehicles and we hit the road! The road trip had begun, and how!

HP map collage

The route to Sangla:

Chandigarh —> Shimla —> Chalawada —> Jhakri —>Urni —> Wangtoo —> Karcham Dam —> Sangla.

Our place of stay in Sangla was a homestay called Negi cottage in Kuppa village. The place was simple and yet so beautiful! The neat and cozy rooms and delicious dinner prepared by Mr. Negi and his team was a perfect end to the day!

Negi Cottage - Our homestay in Sangla

Highlights of the Day

  • A splendid breakfast with a magnificent view at Sher-e-Punjab hotel in Chalawada, a small town on the outskirts of Shimla.
  • A re-fueling meal at Mahesh Lunch Home in Jhakri.
  • Driving through the Hindustan Tibet road on NH 22 (See photo).
  • Sighting the monumental Karcham Dam.
  • Relaxing in the cozy homestay at Sangla and bonding with the rest of the travellers (See photo).

Day 4: Driving upto Kalpa:

The next morning, we were greeted with an overwhelming sight of the beautiful Kinnauri mountains surrounding our cottage, the fragrance of ‘garam chai’ and the scent of freshly prepared parathas with cubes of butter! Today’s agenda had two things: Visit to Kamru fort and Hitting the road to Kalpa!

Tha Kamru Fort

Tha Kamakhya temple.

 

Kamru fort was a good 45 minute walk uphill. It houses the beautiful Kamakhya temple. The temple caretaker gave us traditional Kinnauri caps and an orange band to be tied around the waist, only after which we could enter the temple fort. Located on the hill top, the fort was beautiful and the temple was intricately designed. We spent some time clicking photos in the fort, talking to the caretaker, the priest and the homeguard jawan in the temple premises and basking in the beauty of the Himalayas! As we descended back to the village, we couldn’t help but feel convinced that goddess Kamakhya indeed was showering her blessings on this quaint little town!

On our way up to the fort, we crossed quite a few local homes and cottages. Those were such humble abodes, that it made me wonder how those locals even survived in such tiny spaces. It got me thinking about how much we want and how much we really need. Here there were people living in houses that were barely one fourth the size of only one room in our house, and yet, they were so happy and content! And what about us, always yearning for more? It got me thinking…

Hotel Rakpa Regency – our place of stay in Kalpa 🙂

Hotel Rakpa Regency - our place of stay in Kalpa :)

 

With the locals at Kalpa.

With the locals at Kalpa.

By 12.30 pm, we took off for Kalpa, which was another 5 hours away. En route Kalpa, we briefly halted at Reckong Peo (district HQ of Kinnaur) for a quick lunch. We ate at one of the restaurants in the market place, but the local dhabas are recommended for a quick and delicious meal. Our stay in Kalpa was booked at the excellently located Rakpa Regency hotel, overlooking the tri-peaks – Jorkendan, Raldang and Kinner Kailash. We were going to be spending the next 24 hours in the loving care of the gorgeous tri-peaks.

From among all the places we visited in the Kinnaur and Spiti valleys, Kalpa was the undisputed favourite. It was my favourite place, too. I plan to write a detailed post on my Kalpa experience and hence I maintain brevity here!

Day 5: See you Kinnaur, Hello Spiti!

Another nine hour drive awaited us, before we finally entered Spiti valley! The plan was to drive from Kalpa to Nako (six hours) and then head from Nako to Tabo (three hours). On arriving at Tabo, we immediately headed to our night halt – Sonam homestay – that faced the Tabo Monastery. With its narrow roads and small houses, the quaint village housed the 1000 year old Tabo Monastery!

The star studded sky at Tabo!

Highlights of the day:

  • A fine Tibetan meal at the ‘Tibetan Kitchen’ restaurant in Nako. The steaming momos made the long drive completely worth it!
  • The drive through Akpa bridge, a wooden bridge that could accommodate only one car at a time.
  • The complete change of scenery – from the lush green pastures and mountains, cloudy skies and blue river, we were now in the midst of the bluest skies, whitest clouds and brownest (if such a word exists) mountains and river! Not to mention the sudden dip in temperature.
  • Discovering our neat & clean rooms and gorging on the delicious fare prepared by the staff at the homestay!
  • A long walk through the town. Tabo’s 10760 ft altitude ensured that the sunset only at 8.15 pm! Also, the pin drop silence, star-filled sky and the chilly air only added to the tranquility of the village.
  • The star gazing and guitar playing session we had in the beautiful open air courtyard right at the center of our homestay!
  • The star studded sky at Tabo!

The star-studded sky was indeed beautiful. it was the Universe’s way of letting us know that we are never alone, maybe. Standing there, even as the stars showered me with all their love and light, it dawned upon me that as human beings, we are so egoistic and think so greatly of ourselves and all our achievements. But here I was, in the middle of the most magnificent mountains, roaring rivers, the endless sky and those sparkling stars. Everything else looked just so insignificant – we, our life and our existence even – all of it was just so insignificant in comparison to everything else around us.

Day 6 – Tabo, Dhangkar, Kaza!

This was going to be one fun-filled day! It took us an hour to explore the gorgeous Tabo Gompa (monastery) that was established in the year 996. We marveled at how it was more than a 1000 years old and yet so well preserved! The thangkas – paintings on silk cloth, wall art, warmth and serenity marked the beginning of another spectacular day!

The Tabo Gompa.

The Tabo Gompa.

Soon after exiting the beautiful Gompa, we hit the road for Dhangkar, another pictureseque town in the Spiti Valley. Filled with limestone rock reserves, Dhangkar looked like a fantasy land! We quickly visited the Dhangkar Monastery that overlooked the confluence of the Pin and Spiti rivers.

At Dhangkar Gompa.

At Dhangkar Gompa.

Confluence of the Pin and Spiti rivers. Pin Valley to the left and Spiti Valley to the right.

Confluence of the Pin and Spiti rivers. Pin Valley to the left and Spiti Valley to the right.

We clicked plenty of photographs at the monastery and we spent some time in silence in the meditation hall, as Rushikesh conversed with the Lama. The Lama at the monastery suggested that we also walk to Dhangkar Lake, now that we were already there.  The travellers were more than up for it, and after a short meal break at a local eatery, located a few metres away from the monastery we set out for the one hour trek to Dhangkar lake.

The gorgeous Dhangkar Lake atop the mountain.

The gorgeous Dhangkar Lake atop the mountain.

The trek was a long and tiring one and the heat only made it worse. Moreso, AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness – explained at the end of this para) began to take its toll on us and the camphor tablets had to be urgently whipped out. The walk seemed to be unending and we almost thought of giving up mid way. However, Rushikesh, accompanied by a couple of others, marched ahead to see if they could find a lead, while the rest of us stayed back. Soon, the MIC sent for us and after another fifteen minutes of walking, there we were – at the beautiful Dhangkar lake! The beautiful lake more than made up for all our fatigue and effort.

Team Breakfree at Dhangkar Lake!

Team Breakfree at Dhangkar Lake!

It was only the nine of us, and the sparkling lake was all ours to savour! After an hour and a half of photo sessions, playing in the ice cold water, introspection and appreciating the beauty of the gorgeous emerald lake, we began the descent.

Now that we were a lot more relaxed after a refreshing time at the lake, the descent was a fairly easy task. Soon we were at the base and ready to hit the road to Kaza (locally pronounced as Kajja), as the noble mountains whispered us a fond adieu. Another hour and a half later, we were at Kaza and checking into the cozy Snow Lion hotel (Sakya homestay is another recommended option for a good stay at Kaza). After a long day on the road (and on the mountains!), we were more than delighted to see the wide variety of food available on the hotel menu. After a sumptuous meal, the group relaxed over some good conversations in the luxurious rooms. The adventurous day had come to an end and how!

The living/dining room at hotel Snow Lion.

The living/dining room at hotel Snow Lion.

Kindly Note:

  • En route Dhangkar, we sighted a small silt beach along the gushing Spiti waters. Rushikesh, on seeing all our excitement, decided to take a brief halt at the river bank and allowed us to sink into the beauty of that site! (See photo)
  • Chilling by the river, en route Dhangkar!
  • AMS or Acute Mountain Sickness is an altitude sickness caused on account on low exposure to oxygen. Rushikesh had pre-warned us about this condition and had made it mandatory for every traveller to bring along plenty of camphor tablets. Sniffing camphor tablets at regular intervals is supposed to be an easy and quick cure to AMS. Having experienced AMS myself, I can vouch for the fact that it did work wonders for us. It is very important to stay hydrated and maintain your glucose level by constantly munching on dry fruits in order to prevent AMS. You can read more about it here.
  • In spite of the fact that Kaza is one of the main towns in the Spiti Valley, we had to constantly battle power cuts during our three day stay here. Thanks to the cool weather, the power cuts were not much of a problem, but make sure you carry with yourself a torch or flashlight if you plan to visit here. Also, portable chargers and extra camera batteries.
  • We had a wonderful experience at Hotel Snow Lion. With its courteous & efficient staff, modern & spacious rooms, delicious food and beautiful view of the town, it is one of the most recommended hotels in Spiti. We give a total thumbs up to this well maintained property except that they need to work on the non-availability of hot water at the hotel. That was the only problem we faced during our stay there.
  • We fell in love with the ‘ginger lemon honey tea’ at the hotel. In case you visit the hotel, this beverage is highly recommended by Team Breakfree!

Chilling by the river, en route Dhangkar!

Day 7- Langza, Kee and Kibber:

Our mornings in Kaza were fairly relaxed. Breakfast comprised mostly parathas, toast and the customary ginger lemon honey tea (slurrp!) and we usually took off for our destination by 8 am.

The stupendous Buddha statue at Langza!

The stupendous Buddha statue at Langza!

 

Today we were to visit three places, Langza being our first halt. After an hour of driving through exceptionally beautiful scenery, we finally arrived at Langza. Langza is a small town, marked by the monumental statue of Lord Buddha. In spite of the roaring cold wind, we rushed out of our cars in excitement to get a better view of the stupendous statue. The next 45 minutes were spent in clicking photos at the beautiful site and hunting for fossils along the way (yes, Langza is known for its fossil reserve and if you’re lucky, you just might find a few. We were very fortunate to find two of them!)

Goan ambience in the Himalayas – at Kibber.

Goan ambience in the Himalayas - at Kibber.

We then took off for Kibber for a quick meal. The eating joint appeared to be the only one in Kibber and was a cool attempt at re-creating a Goan ambience in the Himalayas! We stuffed ourselves with Maggi and Pizza (yes, they served some extremely fancy food as well) and headed straight for Kee (aka Key or Kye or Keeh). We headed straight for the Kee monastery, which was another beautiful visual. With its multiple meditation and prayer rooms, the monastery was splendidly located atop a hill, overlooking the river.

After a good dekko of the monastery, we headed back to Kaza. After strolling around Kaza market for some time, we returned to the comfort of our hotel. That marked the end to another lovely day in the Himalayas!

Gulping down the delicious tea prepared by the Lamas at Kee Monastery.

Gulping down the delicious tea prepared by the Lamas at Kee Monastery.

Highlights:

  • There is an exclusive fossil park in Langza, which we could not manage to visit, but it one of the recommended places to visit.
  • The Lamas at Kee monastery sat us down and lovingly served us with the most delicious self-prepared Tibetan style tea. THAT certainly was the highlight of our day! (See photo above)
  • Kaza market has some lovely food stalls and is a hit with tourists. We were surprised to find a ‘Chaat stall’ in the middle of the great Himalayas! Also, the jalebis are absolutely worth trying!
  • The Chaat stall at Kaza market!

 

Day 8- Hello snow, hello happiness- Kunzum La!

Initially, Manali was one of the most looked-forward-to destination on the itinerary. However, we were in for a bit of bad luck as the route connecting us to Manali via Kunzum La(pronounced as Kunjum) – was closed on account of uncleared snow. We kept hoping for it open while we were still at Kaza. Manali and Rohtang were pretty high on everyone’s wishlist because all of us wanted to see snow.

The view en route Kunzum La!

The view en route Kunzum La!

None of us had ever seen snow before! But since the road was not officially open to vehicles and we did not have any more time on hand to wait and watch, Rushikesh decided to head to Kunzum anyway, spend the day in snow, and then return to Kaza. The itinerary was reviewed and changed and we headed to Kunzum anyway! Personally, this was the best part of the trip for me! Snow! 😀

Snow war at Kunzum!

Snow war at Kunzum!

After a super day at Kunzum, we returned to Kaza via Losar – our food halt. Another visit to the market and we were back to the hotel. That was going to be our last day at Kaza and all nine of us had bonded very well by then. We were already eight days into the trip, but it felt like just yesterday….

The road to Kunzum La was one of the most scenic routes we saw over the trip! The memories of those landscaped vistas will remain etched in my heart forever!

We had all of Kunzum La to ourselves and each of us metamorphosized into excited kids at the sight of snow! It was one of the happiest and most exciting days of our trip. I will be writing a detailed account of my experience of seeing snow for the first time. Hence, again, I maintain brevity here.

Day 9- Public demand, back to Kalpa!

 

Thanks to the uncleared snow at Kunzum La, we had to rejig our itinerary, cross out those places that would not be possible to visit now and add new places that we could possibly visit. Each of the nine travellers was very keen on returning to Kalpa and spending some time at the beautiful Rakpa Regency. So, on collective demand from each of us, Rushikesh decided to put a one day halt Kalpa back on the itinerary (each of us had a soft spot for the beautiful Kalpa!)

So we left for Kalpa, with a short breakfast halt at Tabo. Now with all the ice breaking over and done, our journey was filled with games and friendly banter!

What was only a small stream before, had transformed into a roaring river..thanks to the melting glaciers! – En route Kalpa.

Thankfully, we managed to get the same rooms at the hotel as we had before. The day was spent by chilling at the meadow, playing board games, plenty of conversations and staying up all night to see the sunrise over the gorgeous tri peak! (Included in detail in my personal account of Kalpa).

Day 10- En route Sarahan:

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Another new entry to the list was Sarahan, which was a six hour drive from Kalpa. Sarahan was different from all the other places we had visited. it was a small town, home to training centres of the premier border security forces including – ITBP and SSB, it was brimming with activity! We decided to freshen up at our guest house and then head to the famous Bhima Kali temple.

Luckily for us, our guest house was centrally located in the market place and was barely five minutes away from the opulent temple. As we entered the temple, we were greeted by a sound of ringing bells and bhajans. The wooden structure with its intricate Indo-Tibetan architecture left us awe-struck. After spending some quality time at the temple and absorbing its beauty and architecture, we went out for a stroll into the market place. Some souvenir shopping later, we retired to our guest house for a competition of dumb-charades, bhel and a delicious North Indian meal prepared at the guest house. We had now reached the last three days countdown. No, that didn’t make us feel very happy.

An early morning walk at Sarahan.

Highlights:

  • The boys had been craving bhel (a delicious snack prepared with puffed rice, spices, vegetables, and chutney) for days now. We had tried looking for ingredients right from Tabo, but to no luck. O joy knew no bounds when we found all the required ingredients at Sarahan! The bhel was prepared in no time, and we relished the delicacy in the comfort of our rooWhere there is a will, there is a bhel!
  • The market place was filled with shops selling smart woolen vests and traditional caps. We got a very good bargain at one of the shops and had some great souvenirs to take away!

Day 11- Exit Sarahan, enter Shimla:

The day began with an early morning walk across Sarahan. The previous night was filled with games and activity, so the morning walk was optional and those who could manage to wake up early in the morning were free to join Rushikesh for the walk. Four of us, in total, ventured out by 6.30 am only to be greeted by empty roads and the sound of exotic birds.

We walked across the town and saw the beautiful Shanti Kunj palace overlooking the Bhima Kali temple. The weather was pleasant and the lush greenery soothed our eyes as we walked. A good one hour of walking later, we returned to our guest house for a hot cup of chai and steaming parathas.

The living room at Sparse Lodge.

In no time, the enthusiastic travellers were ready to hit the road for Shimla, which was three hours away. The drive to Shimla was refreshing and beautiful to say the least. The fog covered hills, the smell of fresh air and the slight drizzle zoomed us into another world altogether! We were to stay at Sparse Lodge in Shimla, which, on arrival, we realised was an excellently designed villa. We were so enamoured by the beauty of the warm and cozy place, that we decided to spend the rest of the day indoors – exploring the lovely house, playing cards and other games, and relaxing by the enormous glass windows in the living room that overlooked the gorgeous city!

Dinner was an elaborate affair with pizzas (good) and pasta (passable) prepared by the staff at the lodge, after which we headed out for a quick post dinner stroll. Shimla had managed to win our hearts and we were looking forward to exploring the city on the next day!

Highlights:

  • The roads in Sarahan were filled with dried pines. We managed to pick a few during the morning walk!
  • Sparse Lodge, was a beautiful house with a living room as we enter, and eight other rooms in basement – two on each floor. Again, we were very fortunate to have the entire place to ourselves as the other rooms were unoccupied during the duration of our stay! The place is a wonderful place to live at, if travelling with a large group. But be wary of your valuables.

The rain-kissed roads of Shimla!

Day 12- Exploring Shimla and back to Chandigarh:

The moment we set foot in Shimla, I knew I was going to love the place. Which is why my excitement knew no bounds on the next day as we were going to explore this beautiful city that had already made a place for itself in my heart. Our bags were packed, and with all our luggage shifted into one room, we set out to explore the city on foot. The morning mist had cleared and there the city was in all its glory.

The rain-kissed roads welcomed us and the fresh air made us feel at home. As we walked through Chaura Maidan Road, we were greeted with a view of the exquisite Oberoi Cecil hotel.

The heritage buildings and colonial architecture were a sight to remember! As we walked along Mall Road, Summer Hill and The Ridge, we came across a number of government offices, army quarters and court houses. There were plenty of sign-boards for various heritage walks that you can go on your own throughout the city.

Because photos are mandatory!

Because photos are mandatory!

We visited the Christ Church and its beautiful glass paintings were a sight to remember! We also climbed up the Jhakoo temple hill (within the 30 minute time limit that was prescribed for apparently ‘Very fit’ people). Hundreds of people had thronged the temple to seek the blessings of the glorious Lord Hanuman. We spent some time uphill and returned to the base after an hour. The road to and fro Jhakoo was filled with monkeys (extremely rowdy ones) so it is highly recommended that you do not carry your belongings in your hand, lest they get picked by the tactful apes!

We soon began to make our way to the lodge, stopping by for some popcorn, endless photographs and delicious ice cream. We broke for a short while at Indian Coffee House, to grab a quick bite. Even though the place was packed to capacity, our Mumbai-based taste buds found the food to be very average and unappetizing.

As the mist clears from over the beautiful Shimla!

Personally, I would definitely give the place a skip on my next visit to Shimla. We then returned to the lodge, checked out and headed for Chandigarh, which was approximately three hours away. We stopped at Giani Da Dhaba on the way, and to call the food delicious would be an understatement. As we bade Shimla adieu and approached Chandigarh, the change in scenery was hard to miss. The loving Himalayas were now waving us goodbye and the concrete and traffic lights welcomed us back to Chandigarh, where we retired at hotel Diamond Hill for the night. Our old friend – Paschim Express – would meet us again on the next day.

As the mist clears from over the beautiful Shimla!

There are some places that immediately touch your heart. These places, you can instantly connect with.  Shimla was that place for me. I had the best time of my life in the snow, but Shimla was something else altogether. The moment we set foot there, I knew that this was one place that I was definitely going to return to. It seemed to exude this magnificent warmth that was too good to not accept. So I am looking forward to visit this charming city once again and write about my experiences there. Until then, I will have to make do with being a Shimla fan-girl for life! 🙂

Day 12- Goodbyes:

We spent our last day at Chandigarh by catching up on each others’ best and worst memories at the trip, reminiscing about the last ten days, playing random games and just talking away. Aboard the Paschim Express the next day, we finally said goodbye to Chandigarh. Our trip had come full circle now. But then we knew that all good things must come to an end, didn’t we?

General points:

  • Mobile network- Mobile network was a bit of a problem. I was using Idea, which went off on the second day itself even before we reached Sangla. Vodafone and Airtel networks were working fine until Tabo. However, Tabo and onwards, all of us were completely cut off contact. Only BSNL network is accessible in the Spiti Valley. So in case you’re travelling alone, make sure you have a BSNL sim card in handy!
  • There were days when we had to drive down for hours at a stretch, which is why it became very important for us to feel comfortable during the travel. I am so grateful to Breakfree Journeys and Rushikesh for accommodating only four people per car (even though it was a six-seater) and ensuring that we remained comfortable at all times.
  • Finding decent washrooms was another major problem. We hardly found public toilets throughout the Kinnaur-Spiti stretch. It is advisable to take pauses at regular intervals at small food joints or home-stays along the way. Public washrooms are hard to find.
  • Language was certainly not a barrier. Everywhere we went, the locals were extremely comfortable with Hindi.
  • ATMs- Rushikesh had pre-warned us that finding ATM centres might be difficult after Chandigarh. So we carried a fair amount of cash with us. Sangla, Kalpa and Tabo did not have ATM centres that we are aware of. However, Kaza did seem to have one. But we wouldn’t know whether or not it was fully functional.
  • Rushikesh also asked us to make sure that we had stuffed our backpacks with copious amounts of dry fruits, nuts, electral and glucose bars. That really helped, especially when we had to travel long distances without any sight of human habitation around us. Maintaining the body glucose level also seemed to help combat AMS as well!

The road ahead…

So that was my account of my first trip alone, without family – travelling across the magnificent Himalayas with a bunch of eight strangers who shared the same of amount of enthusiasm towards the trip as me!

Travel is a beautiful teacher. I know it is. And it makes us appreciate every bit of whatever we have. Over these thirteen days, I felt a sense of contentment. Life was good, after all! And we were so fortunate to have everything going in our favour – from the cars, to the hotels to the beautiful places to the company – everything was just as perfect as it possibly could have been! I also, realised that when you travel with a group, co-existing and co-operating is not just a need, it is a necessity. I feel so fortunate to have travelled with an amazing set of people who were so enthusiastic about every single plan!

The Dhangkar trek was difficult and so was the steep climb to Jhakoo temple. But not once did anybody complain. Nobody lost hope hope and nobody gave up, ever. That in itself was so motivating to everyone else, and ultimately that was all that mattered- how much we were able to push ourselves even in difficult situations and how much it ended up enriching our experience! I can safely say that the trip was as perfect as it possibly could have been, and I am sure each of the other eight travellers would agree!

Another thing that completely left me awestruck was how the locals co-existed. Now Himachal is a place with extremely narrow roads treacherously constructed across mountains. These roads can barely accommodate one vehicle at a time and extremely prone to traffic bottlenecks if two cars came face to face. In spite of this, it was heart-warming to see how the locals stopped their vehicles on sighting us from afar, and made way for us to pass by. Also, each one of them would greet our driver with a smile and a wave, as a gesture of thanks, every time we made way for them. The love and respect that these people had for each other, that was something else altogether! And it is one thing I will always remember from the trip!

Himachal Pradesh charmed me, completely! It gave me an amazing 13 days – complete with fun, introspection, some much required ‘me time’, the most beautiful vistas ever and a sense of realization that life is beautiful. Very, very beautiful! I returned to Mumbai a much happier and joyful person. Kinnaur and Spiti had filled me up with memories of a lifetime.

So yes, I lost my heart in Himachal Pradesh, but then, I found myself! 🙂

PS:

Thank you Rushikesh and Breakfree Journeys for organising the most wonderful trip. We couldn’t have asked for a better experience!

We cannot do without thanking our drivers – Bakshi ji (who is a total stud), Vijay ji and Tenzin – for being such amazing drivers, staying with us throughout our road trip, putiing up with all our plan changes and transporting us so safely even through the most treacherous roads. We owe them one!

And last but not the least – Thank you Akshay, Anadi, Akash, Deven, Gandhalee, Ishaan, Samkit, Rushikesh for the being the best co-travellers I could have asked for and for all the amazing photographs! May the force be with you! 🙂

About the Author

10516666_10203728470644697_1083499404761072504_n

Kalindi Manek – poet, traveller, happy person. After trekking with us for several years she accompanied us on this epic roadtrip across the treacherous but wonderful roads of Himachal. She blogs at kalindishappiness.wordpress.com and tweets at @BannoKiSaheli 


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Backpacking

Serendipity – Finding Fried Fish in Gokarna!

Serendipity is amazing. And more so when you are on a No Reservations trip. For the recent Gokarna trip, apart from the train tickets, we had not booked anything. The idea was to arrive in Read more…

Backpacking

Manikarnika – The Gateway to Moksha

On the first day in Banaras, we walked down from Assi to Manmandir Ghat where we took a detour and arrived at one of the most recommended Lassi places – Blue Lassi. While we waited Read more…

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