On the morning of September 21, 2013, I woke up to the sound the falling rain. When I stepped out of my room, this was the sight that greeted me. It is here that I will request you to backtrack a bit and read my previous post, if you haven’t read it already.
I was at Sangla’sKinner Camps in the Kinnaur region of Himachal Pradesh. Our tour group had arrived here the previous afternoon and we had had a great time exploring the neighbouring Batseri village and walking along the River Baspa till rain forced us to return. Though we were a little concerned about the sudden change in weather, we were also quite sure that the next day would dawn bright and sunny.
Bright? Sunny? It was dark, grey and cold and I could actually see fresh snowfall on the distant peaks. As I stood there wondering about the weather, Doreen, our tour organiser and manager, came around to ask us to be packed and ready to leave. Since the weather forecast was not encouraging, Pawan, our driver, had suggested that we leave Sangla at the earliest. The next hour was a rush as we packed and got ready to leave. While we had a hurried breakfast, our bags got loaded into our 3 vehicles.
As I got into my vehicle, I noticed that Pawan’s normally relaxed and mischievous face wore a worried look and I soon realised why. The road leading from Kinner Camps to the main road was not tarred or metalled and what was a passable dirt track had turned slushy with the rain. And combined with a very steep ascent, the ride to the top could be a tricky one.
It was a silent group that got into the vehicles and the only sounds were that of the falling rain. With a prayer on everybody’s lips, the vehicles took off. The first two vehicles made it to the top without any incident.
“Ready?” Pawan, our driver asks, smiling mischievously at me.
I am sitting in the front seat with Pawan and have a view of the road from the front windshield and the side window. I visibly gulp at the steep descent in front of us. We are in the Sangla Valley, just past the town of Sangla in the Kinnaur region of Himachal Pradesh, and have to negotiate that steep descent to reach Kinner Camps, where our group will be staying the next two days.
I look back to see the reaction of my travel companions, but there’s none — they’re all snoozing. I don’t blame them for it has been a tiring journey from Kalpa. A distance of 40 km has taken us almost 4 hours over impossibly bad roads, and past huge thermal power plant projects with the River Baspa as an almost constant companion.
I nod nervously at Pawan and he takes off and within minutes we are at the entrance to Kinner Camps, which is at the end that descent. After thanking Pawan, I get out of the vehicle to find that my legs feel a little shaky. That’s when I realise just how nervous I was during the ride. Though I consider myself to be a good and hardy traveller, 5 days on the Himalayan roads have made me look at road travel in a new light. Respect.
We are welcomed by the staff of Kinner Camps and led straight for a sumptuous lunch. By the time we finish our meal, our bags have been unloaded and waiting outside our rooms.
It was a lovely dream where my 10-day trip to Fagu, Sarahan, Kalpa, Sangla,Narkhanda and Chail in September was relived all over again. I usually don’t remember my dreams when I wake up, but this one was so crystal clear and real that I’m pretty sure that I must have spoken in my sleep !
I dreamt of the trip of many firsts — the first time I visited your state, the first time I saw the mighty Himalayas, the first time my under-graduate and post-graduate classes on Himalayan Geology came alive, the first time I saw apples on trees, the first time I tasted a yellow plum, the first time I saw the confluence of two rivers … and so much more.
I dreamt about the rainstorm you welcomed me and the group I was travelling with. And how in the space of a few hours, we went from hot and humid Mumbai to cold, almost freezing, weather in Fagu. That night, I slept under two blankets and had a heater in the room.
I dreamt of that first morning I woke up to in Fagu. Clouds had covered the entire valley and I delighted in watching the clouds vanish like wisps of vapour as the sun rose in the sky to reveal the distant snow-clad peaks of the Himalayas. And closer, much closer, was the vegetation associated with the Himalayan ecosystem. Not that I could identify any, but still… 🙂