October 16, 2011

Borderline drive 3: thoughts en route to Kalpa

We load Haliatus and begin the drive to Kalpa. It is exciting because leave alone Maloo and me, even Harsha and Prabha are not sure about the route. It seems mysterious and slightly scary, but fun. As we begin the drive, I decide to jot down sights, thoughts and feelings. Here are some of the more interesting ones, written in my notepad in shaky handwriting. It would have become a poem if I had better skills!

Pink and white morning glories
A place called Katrine!
Pine trees, deodars...
A gurgling Beas, an unending road,
Paratha-filled stomachs and Kailash Kher
At Aut, a 3-km tunnel...ooooh!
There was light at the end of it.

Apple transport across hills
How many types of flora...even palms!
Road sinks because of landslide
It is dangerous, so stones piled to indicate to drivers
We leave NH and are now on the narrow roads
through villages of HP
Unbarricaded roads winding through grand mountains

No road now --- katcha!
No vehicles in sight...forest sounds!
Fresh mountain air on face.
A burst of violet blooms
Sunshine filters through pine trees
We are the only people on earth.
Rang de Basanti adds to ambience.

Suddenly, houses up on the hills
A chubby little boy in orange clothes looks busy
Then a school with the slogan...'come to learn', 'go to serve'
A cowherd talking on cell phone!
A pine forest breaks the view of the sky.
On the other side, terrace gardens.
It is warm now.

As Harsha steers expertly, we get tossed and turned...centrifuged!
Mules and horses tethered on roadside
A man works on cementing a new milestone!
Three young men in jeans
It suddenly gets cold again; jackets back again
Forest sounds continue, stomach turning.
Misty and cold; valleys and clouds beneath us.
Just wow! Vijay calls...call gets cut.

See jungle fowl...then suddenly,
Vultures feeding on dead cow. WOW!
So many of them! We stop and watch.
I hope the cow hasn't been injected with the banned drug.
We then see the red beaked blue magpie...
beautiful bird with long designer tail

We move on
Now we are IN the clouds!
Listening to Senorita
We are heading towards Tattapani
No words to describe this beauty--neither Keats', not Frost's;
No camera or painting can do justice to this.
Deodars are full of flowers--yellow
Delicate white cloriander-like flowers all along

A village and a little distance from there,
the hills, the hills!
We have been in the car for 7 and a half hours now!
Now, kacha road. Landscape dry, trees sparse.
Pine trees disappear, it is dry and warm.
Dirt track continues endlessly
Suddenly, a waterfall.

It is scary now...where are we going?
We took the wrong turn.
Cannot takea U-turn;
luckily, after an hour, it ends in a village.
We turn back. Spirits up, we continue.
A river appears...a welcome sight.
It is now River Behna.
We finally get to NH 22. Phew!

It is warm now and we have the AC on.
Another river appears...this is Sutluj.
Beekeeping on the roadside
Pine trees are back again; there are also Eucalyptus.

I stopped writing after this point...it became dark and we were on katcha roads for 2-3 hours--- very narrow; sometimes it seemed like there was no road at all. But then, we would see the lights of another vehicle before us, to prove that there was a road! We were driving at 10-20 kmph, with the dry, rocky mountains and one side and the steep valley below on the other. Very scary, and I tried hard not took look at anything! But there is trust in Harsha's driving...

Finally, after a long, long drive, we reached Reckong Peo, and were told that Kalpa was another 7-8 km from there. The whole town was sleeping, even the mountains on all sides seemed asleep. The drive to Kalpa was steep and we suddenly felt our ears clogging up. Hotel Kinner Villa, where we stayed, was the highest point. After climbing two flights of stairs (and panting!), we were in our room. Everything felt strange and new -- and cold!

We had driven for 15 hours.


In the morning, looked out of the window and found this:

It was worth every second of the 15-hour drive!

October 15, 2011

Borderline drive 2: Manali

Manali was 'Jab we met' country and the postcard-worthy landscapes and people were a delight. My own favourite definitely will always be dominating presence of the mountain on one side and the companionship of River Beas on the other. I will let the photos and captions speak...

Haliatus, Harsha and Prabha's Xylo.
The most important character on this drive!

The gurgling Beas was like a hyperactive child!

The Hidimba temple...

Not far from there is the Ghatodgaja temple, which is a tall pine tree--
my idea of a temple!

A decked up Manali beauty; she's smart too...
she charged me ten bucks for taking this photo!

A typical landscape as one drives around Manali.

A lone Sadhu lost in thought. Harsha firmly believes that he was fully doped.
"These guys live for the moment...:, he says.

Solang, an hour's drive from Manali. This is where parasailing and other activities happen.

The Hyderabad team at Solang.

The Vashisht temple...this wood-stone architecture is typical of the region.

We were fortunate to witness this procession...a local folk festival.

A Budhist monastery -- the region is dotted with them.

A prayer inscribed on stone. Artistic calligraphy.

Malini turning the prayer bells at the monastery.
I find the concept of prayer bells very charming.

And then, there's so much colour everywhere!

This, I think, is Guru Padama Sambhava

And these people are the borderline adventurers
--Harsha, Malini and Prabha.

It was very difficult to choose 17 photos out of at least 300. But these do capture the essence of our stay in Manali.

Please ignore the date on the photos...I had given Maloo my camera and had borrowed a cam (thanks, Vasanthi!), and the date wasn't set.

October 14, 2011

On the borderline drive with Harsha-Prabha - 1

It was a long journey to get to the point where Maloo and I got on Haliatus (Harsha-Prabha's Xylo). I went through the usual ups and downs...should I do the trip? Can I take the time off from family and from work? Am I being selfish going away with Maloo like this? And then I had to deal with the many whatifs that come to my very imaginative mind!

Now I am so glad we did this trip. It is great to, once in a while, drop everything and go off on a small adventure. To be with the fun-loving Harsha and Prabha is a chance to, literally and figuratively, sit in the back seat and not have to think or plan. I feel recharged and ready to take on everything that comes my way!

This was our schedule:
Day 1: Hyderabad-Delhi-Manali
Days 2 and 3: Manali
Day 4: Drive from Manali to Kalpa
Day 5: Kalpa
Day 6: Drive from Kalpa to Solan (near Shimla)
Day 7: Drive from Solan to Corbett (here we got off the car)
Days 8 and 9: Corbett
Day 10: Corbett to Delhi
Day 11: Back in Hyderabad

In Delhi, we spent a few hours with my cousin Sharmila, and then took a bus to Manali, where we met Harsha and Prabha in Hotel Picadilly.

This was (roughly) the route we took from Manali.

The aim was to drive across the Himalayas to Reckong Peo and Kalpa which are close to the India-Tibet border. From Kalpa, the original plan was to drive to Khab, which is the closest point to the border. But we were told that the roads were bad and that the army would not allow us to go to the border, so we spent a day in Reckong Peo instead, and then continued the drive the next day.

This road trip gave us many new experiences---visual, spiritual and emotional. There is much to write about, and many photos to share. I really don't know how to do this. I think I will do it in batches, so that it is easy for me to find the time to write, and easy for people to read.

The one dominating thought I came back with is that Himachal Pradesh makes one feel like an insignificant dot that can easily get blown away in the wind, and not make a difference to the world.

It is good to feel this way once in a while.