Monsoons and the Himalaya’s

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I thought to start with the story of our monsoon roadtrip to the Himalaya’s it would be apt to begin with a picture of prayer flags. Before we left we did talk to a few people about our plan and most of the times everyone would immediately show concern about the rains, landslides, bad roads and how it was a very bad idea, not out of anything else but out of worry for us. Its kind of a catch 22 situation, you know they care for you, you know they want you to be safe and yet you must ignore cause it cannot be explained to them that its not such a bad idea, that things can always be worked out, that people live in the Himalaya’s in the monsoon and travel there and that nothing happens if you just be careful.

 

Its sort of important to stay on course and not budge, because once you set out of home let me assure you, you are in for a trip of a lifetime. The Himalaya’s are in a totally different mood during the monsoon, they seem to have bathed, they seem to be breathing clouds, they seem like they have been put through some filter that is just amazingly fresh and pristine. If the Himalaya’s were people, they are probably living their lives at their best during the monsoon.

 

It is fresh apple season, the streams are full, the nullah’s are overflowing rapidly and ferociously, crossing them is a thrill in itself, the hills and pines seem to be cooking clouds all the time and its time when you just sit, gape and gasp at the changing weather. You are admist clouds for a minute and another minute you could have a scorching sun on you.

 

The 20 days we spent there were pretty much without any dangerous incident, we didn’t go looking for trouble and I would say the Himalaya’s in the monsoon are a perfect destination to travel. I would actually prefer the monsoon over the summers for a trip to the Himalaya’s, even for us guys from the plains. Not only is the temperature perfect for us but the amount of freshness that is oozing there during these months has probably increased a couple of years of our lives!

 

So stay tuned for more stories and pictures of the Himalayan Monsoon Roadtrip and before I go, here is one more eye candy!

 

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Mela – Kasol Diaries II

At the outset I must apologise for the digression, I have been travelling a tad too much and so this series had taken a break in between as some other things attracted my attention. Yea, I took a road trip to the Himalayas again after the April trip to Parvati Valley, and another road trip to Pune the last weekend. :mrgreen: But well it looks like I am logged back into home now for a while and so my beloved blog should come back to its full gusto.

 

So, whilst we had some unbelievable hospitality experience in Lapaas and stayed in a traditional house at an incredible height with locals, we left that abode after a day and headed to a mela in Buhad. We reached around 6’ish to Buhad, apparently the villagers are trying to manufacture a road which was  evidently not well engineered as we saw Amar struggle to make hair pin turns that were impossible to execute unless he reversed and retried twice! Eventually we persuaded him to park the vehicle at some place and took up a stiff walk of about an hour through apple orchards, and some wheat fields and well a bit of woods too we reached Buhad. The scene on the route was something like this :

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That is why you should always make an effort to walk up the slopes, there always are incredible views from the higher altitude!

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The fields were enviably green and this green colour does so much to help the panting, puffing me on the slopes! I absolutely am given an adrenalin rush which aids getting my heavy body up the mountains!

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and then we came across this lady returning from a hard day’s work, its about time for the mela to begin and she is headed back home. Watching the idyllic yet hard working life of the locals on these slopes in itself is a blessing. Their lives are so much more close to nature and simple that you sometimes really wonder if we urbanites are living a better life full of no hard work and gyms or these folks who work hard and then relax whilst we are gymming! 😛

 

Anyways taking in the sights and capturing some of them in my camera we finally made it to the village of Buhad, as we walked through the scattered houses and narrow lanes between fields we could sense the people being in a festive kind of a mood. The kids were chasing each other or blowing balloons, they had all sorts of toys in their hands from dolls, tops, guns, they’d be chasing each other. The males all seemed to be dressed quite formally with their hats being adorned by ‘Jau’ (barley) shoots, that are specially grown inside the houses to give them no sunlight so that they are yellow and not green. The women folk also seemed to be not working for a change, they seemed to be all sitting about and talking, some even smoking! 🙂 As we made our way into the small chowk, which made itself into a market for the day, this was the sight that had me melting at its mere sight!

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Hell yes, they were making garma garam Jalebi’s and Pakoda’s for the people visiting in the mela’s. What is amazing is that they have an arrangement where in people from neighbouring village come to make these snacks so that the village folks are all free to just enjoy! They all simply participate in the fervour that is prevalent during the mela. They all greeted each other, hugged and in general the atmosphere was very jovial and funny. You could hear laughter from all corners! They would come to their temple to offer their respect to their devta, who would soon be brought out from the temple completely decorated in a Palki (Palanquin) which would be put on the shoulders of the villagers whilst they dance with the weight of their devta on their bodies!

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All dressed and ready to mingle, the Jau(barley) shoots adorn their hats, which is grown inside the house and not in the fields, which means it gets no sunlight and hence is yellow and not green. This is considered auspicious and is offered to the God as well as put on the head as its supposed to bless you.

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The devta(God) is brought out on a Palki like this and then begin the festivities!

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Even the skies approve of this Devta(god) and seem to be sending in a ray of approval! 🙂

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A close look at the Devta!

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Its time to dance, this way the whole valley is being informed that the festivities have begun… Rush to the dance floor!

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The dancers then join in!

 

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Kids at their best are seen doing this! 😀

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The ladies in their traditional gear!

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Those who dont dance are equally engrossed in watching!

All in all its a total festive atmosphere, if you think this is it? No!?

 

Well whilst all of them are mingling, there are people like us and other villagers who come to visit these villages on the day of the mela. As a system, on this day all guests in the village are to be treated by the hosts. So one fellow named Rajinder who was chatting with us and Amar invited us to his house as we were meant to head back to Kasol, he said atleast we must have tea at his house before we left the village. He was so insistent about the fact that we guys had come from all the way to Gujarat and cannot go without seeing the hospitality of the folks of Buhad!

 

Eventually we headed to his house which was amidst a field and an apple orchard, cut off from the world, we reached his house and found that in one room his brother’s friends were all parked and eating and talking, in another room the women had all gathered up!

 

Soon enough we were having tea and pakoda’s. As that came to being wiped off the plate, would you believe it if I told you the guy came up with some 8 bottles of beer and a bottle of Royal Stag! We were like, we came for tea! He wasn’t listening, after the drinks were parked came bowls of Chhole, Rajma and Kadi with some superb Bhatura’s which were being served straight from the frying pan! To think that this guy didn’t even know us, the number of times he would get up from the party to get things for us was unbelievable. I would tell my best of friends during such a gathering to get water for himself and here was this guy, hosting people he didn’t even know and ones he might not probably ever meet again. Running errands like mad, amidst that he regaled us with his stories, he was one of the funniest man you could ever meet too. We laughed and laughed till it was 12 in the night. The guy kept insisting you sleep here tonight and go home the next day, eventually he was called for dancing in the mela and we were able to sneak away humbled to the core.

 

Can you quite comprehend this!? A total stranger takes you to his house, serves you like the best of hosts would, insists you stay a night in his house, generous and gracious, humble to the core and friendly at heart. Would we ever do something like that to someone in the city!?

 

Think it over and do let me know. Also let me know if you guys loved reading this, I loved recounting that day all the much whilst writing this post. 🙂

 

I will leave you with one more image of a local house in Buhad on a Glorious day when I took part in a local mela in a distant village in the Himalaya’s that is not even connected by road!

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Kasol Diaries – 1

Every time I have visited the Himalaya’s I have been awed, apart from being awed at the sheer magnanimity and vastness what has always fascinated me are the small houses and settlements I would see on some pretty steep mountains, I would always wonder, why on earth was someone living up there and why not somewhere lower, perhaps they liked the view or perhaps they liked to stay away from the noise and dust of the lower altitude. Why on earth would someone live up so high where he/she would have such a task taking and bringing things down.

So this year instead of trekking to meadows or cliffs where there was no one, we were trekking to the many little hamlet’s in the lap of Parvati Valley. We were actually looking forward to getting a closer look at the lifestyle of the locals, see them whilst they carried out their daily life, the villages where you couldn’t drive to but had to undertake stiff climbs to reach.

What soon struck me when we stayed with a local in Lapaas was how simply calm they were. Oh yes they were courteous, knew about the world, internet and all that but the simple relaxed frame of mind they all seemed to be in. They never were seen rushing, they would carry on the work in their apple orchards or paddy fields or cutting grass for their cattle in the most easy manner. Whenever I would stop panting for air during my climb and if someone would be crossing us, there would be a “Namaskar” or a “Ram Ram” or an even more concerned “Thak gaye kya”greeting always around. They were always ready to have a chat till you had caught your breath and were ready to resume climbing again. Off they would go on their merry way. Wonder if we city folks would ever have time for others like this.

Coming back to our stay in Lapaas, apparently our friend Amar had told us that he has told one family that we would be coming to stay at their place. When we reached there, we delivered some of the biscuits we had brought for them from the shop at the road below and we were served with Hot Chai with even better biscuits that they already had! Resourceful! The family we stayed with was of 4 members, of which the daughter was not around as she had gone to Kullu, the remaning three Mother, Father and son greeted us with utmost humility and welcomed us. The house was a little away from the main settlement of Lapaas which pleased us a lot, also it had a location to die for, describing it is a little difficult as I lack the vocabulary to describe its serenity & grandness thats where my photography comes in handy. Here are a few pics of that place.

The home where we stayed was perched aside on this hill with valleys on two sides and beyond the valley were snow peaks.

The home where we stayed was perched aside on this hill with valleys on two sides and beyond the valley were snow peaks.

That picture I think tells you about the location completely, at the bottom is the house and the terrace outside the house was where we would sit all day soaking the sun and talking no end!

That picture I think tells you about the location completely, at the bottom is the house and the terrace outside the house was where we would sit all day soaking the sun and talking no end!

Sigh, how I miss the place already. The family we stayed with served us with endless cups of tea, loads of talk about their life, the son was pursuing his 12th and was planning to do B.Tech after that. We wondered if he liked the city life (he studied in Kullu) and the  answer was a negative. He was actually fond of living here, he said he would like to do some proper study and see if he gets some career near by so that he doesn’t have to go to far from his home.

The one thing that struck us was, whilst we may wonder why are people living so high up, its like they have always been high up there. Thats home for them since many generations, its as natural as it can be, they never ever come to the question of climbing a slope for something or not. Yes, modernity has invaded their spaces too, they too have mobiles, internet and tv and whilst maybe say 50-60 years back they never needed anything from the town, now they do need a bit of supply from the town. Perhaps they are not as independent as earlier when they managed to get everything they needed without going to the town, yet, home it is for them.

We walked about the village of Lapaas in the evening visited their temple, which is again located in a superb place, apparently next day there was a mela to happen in Lapaas and the family kept insisting we must not go without seeing the mela. The gent in the family also told me it will make for wonderful photography opportunities.

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We had already committed to attend another mela in Buhad, a slightly bigger settlement which promised an even bigger gathering but we thought we could still stick about till noon and see and immerse in a bit of the festivities the next day.

 

As night fell we returned to our house and in the moonlight the snow peaks looked absolutely ethereal.

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Long shutter click of the night view from Lapaas

As chilly as it was our hearts were warmed by the sheer humility and the glee with which our hosts were talking with us. Chatters we all were till we all realised it was time for dinner. We were served an amazing meal of mutter paneer, aloo gobhi, rajma chawal and salad! Sitting and eating with them was a moment that will stay with me. Not only was the food delicious but the way the hosts went out of the way to make us comfortable and ensured that we all ate to the full was unbelievable.

The hospitality they were indulging in was beyond us city folks, complete strangers, invited to live in their house, sleep in their beds, eat in their vessel and all with genuine smiles and affection.

We slept with our tummies full in this traditional wooden house which was amazingly warm compared to how cold it was outside.

 

The diary continues….

 

Paragliding at Khajjiar

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This very popular meadow near Dalhousie, Khajjiar is sometimes a turn off due to too much crowd, however, it still is a magical landscape to photograph. On a cloudy day the sky turned magical for us to shoot some stunning photo’s of the place and the sky, which was marred with some paraglider’s who must have been having an unbelievable view I am sure!

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Whew!

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Ominous clouds above him! 🙂

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I am sure the flyers are enjoying a hell of a time!

Beloved Blue Mountains!

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I guess we have all read the mountains being described as blue somewhere or the other and frankly till a long time in my life I used to think its only poetic and that no such thing ever existed, that it was just a figment of imagination of some writers and they probably felt mountains being described as brown or green or black wouldn’t make them that exotic and wouldn’t bring that many people to the mountains and hence they used the adage “Blue Mountains”

Over the last few years I have been fortunate enough to be able to make a regular trip to the Himalaya’s and have been lucky enough to witness some vast mountain ranges, I have actually seen and realised that Blue Mountains exist! 🙂

There is something about these slopes on the surface of the earth, these high rising mountains lining up one after the other that just amazes me. Especially when you can find a spot to sit and actually gaze at the sheer enormity of the place they call The Himalaya’s you should consider yourself truly blessed to be able to absorb all this by your eyes. The above picture was taken when we were actually leaving the Himalayas and returning to the plains, I have always been enchanted by the mountains and will probably never ever be able to see the Himalaya’s enough in this life time and hence am always kind of sombre when leaving the mountains.

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Looking at the rear view or the side view mirror and realising and almost bemoaning the fact that I have to leave the mountains almost makes me sad, I sometimes get lost in the gazing and that it is almost fatal on a road trip! Thankfully the mountains have always been kind to me and always ensured and sent me back safely. I long already having come back just 10 days before to go back. I surely must have been somewhere there in the mountains in my last life, if there was any such thing!

Hut on a ledge!

In Dalhousie, we stayed at a humble homestay named birds and chirps, true to its name, it had a lot of birds around it, apart from the birds, there was this house on the edge of the mountain which really caught my fancy. I didn’t manage to go around to the house to check out what sort of views they got of the valley as their house seemed on the bend of the ledge. Regardless the house made for some good pictures especially with the sun setting behind it in the evenings and the clouds deciding to make unique patterns in the sky!

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Every evening, the residents of the house would all get together around this cot and chit chat and gaze around. I can seriously assure you, these guys although they live here are not at all bored of the view or perhaps never get enough of it! The thing about not going there or not interacting with them I can actually keep imagining what all they were thinking, doing or loving about the place.

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Here are some other hues of the same hut! 🙂

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