It has been 10 years since I have been travelling to the remote Lahaul valley in Himachal. My endeavour with this mystique land began in 2003 when I embarked on a professional assignment. Though the assignment lasted only 2 months, thereafter began a never ending love affair between me and the hills. The journey this time around too was nothing short of sheer magic.
The journey began from Manali on an early October morning as I rushed to the bus station to catch the rustic Himachal transport Corporation Bus to Keylong. I barely managed to grab a seat as the bus was all set to depart. As the bus climbed through and crossed Mahri, some 30 km from Manali, the early morning sun gave away.
The view was breathtaking as the barren hills gleamed in the early morning sun. Soon we descended and reached Koksar, the first habitation in the remotely populated Lahaul valley. The two dhabas were ready with steaming paranthas and to my amazement, Thupsten Chaling, the dhaba owner recognized me. I have been savouring his paranthas during my brief stopover at Koksar every year.
The next stop was at Tandi, a small village where Chandra and Bhaga the two lifeline rivers of Lahaul valley meet. A tea stopover, Tandi is special for Lahaulis as it is the place which has the only petrol pump in the valley.
I reached at 11:00 am at Keylong, the district headquarters of Lahaul. My old friend Amar Singh was at the bus station to receive me. We headed to his home in the neighbouring village.
The traditional chang (Rice beer) is something which is truly appreciated by locals and visitors alike. As a mark of respect to the visitors, each one of them is offered Chang on their visit. I was no exception and soon I found myself in another world as I gulped down a bottle.
The day ended soon and after a traditional dinner at his home which comprised of Sattu and vegetables, I decided to call it off for the day.
The next day was special indeed as we planned a trek to Kardang Gompa early morning. A two hour steep climb and we were at the Gompa, a place of religious significance which I visit every time, I am in the region. The lamas were reading religious scriptures and after a brief halt at the Gompa, we started the downward trek.
The second half of the day was especially reserved for old friends whom I met at Tashi Daleg, a popular hotel in Keylong. We headed to Jispa, 30 km ahead of Keylong in the evening.
A small village, Jispa offers a true glimpse into the traditional life of the region. Women dressed in traditional dorus can be seen working in the field, even as the menfolk spend their time playing cards. I tried my hand at ploughing one of the fields but soon realized that this was not my cup of tea.
A warm handshake with my friends, the other morning and I was back to Manali to catch up with my busy life.