My travels through the Himalayas VI – Simla to Spiti via Kinnaur

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Travel to Tabo Monastery in Spiti – Ajanta of the Himalayas

This is the last post in the series on My Travels Through the Himalayas. I hope you have enjoyed travelling through these majestic mountains with me. Do continue reading the blog for posts on other topics.

Sutlej River and the Mountains, Before Rampur

The most exotic places in Himachal lie in the Lahaul-Spiti District, which covers some of the highest areas in the state. Rohtang Pass, covered in the last post, is at one end of Lahaul. The road from Simla via Kullu and Manali to Rohtang Pass bifurcates at the base of this Pass, one going towards Leh, while the other turning eastwards, traversing through Kunzum Pass into Lahaul, then going into the Spiti Valley, which is a cold desert in the Middle Himalayas, touching the Tibet border and turning southwards to include Kinnaur and coming back towards Simla via Rampur. Thus, it forms a circuit, which can be traversed from both sides. It was my dream to cover the entire circuit, but unfortunately, this dream remains unfulfilled, partly because of my severe asthmatic condition. I have gone from Simla till Rohtang La on one trip (see last post) and in another, I have covered the distance from Simla to the Tabo monastery in Spiti valley. Thus, the high-limits of Kye and Dhankar monasteries, Komik the highest village in Asia, Kibber, another high-altitude village in Spiti, Kunzum Pass and Lahaul are the areas I was not able to cover during my stay in Himachal, partly because I felt my lungs wouldn’t be able to withstand the stress of high altitude of this region, whose average height goes above 14000 ft and some of these places are close to 18000 ft or even more. However, even leaving this strip of Himalayas, my trip from Simla till the Tabo monastery in the Spiti valley was an exotic one and full of adventures.

Tabo is a 10th century Buddhist monastery in the Himalayan cold desert, in a small flatland amidst the high mountains. It has remained continuously inhabited and has a fine collection of sculptures and wall paintings, because of which it is called Ajanta of the Himalayas.

As in the previous cases, Dr. Bapat, Prof. Kailash Patnaik and I hired an Indica and decided to drive to Tabo from Simla, following Rampur, Kinnaur and Nako village along the Indo-Tibet border. We were warned by the local Himachalis that we should take a sturdy vehicle on this arduous journey, as the road was really bad. But we felt for three people an Indica would suffice and on the way we realised just how bad and dangerous this trip could be and what a mistake it was to go in a small car on this journey. I advise all who want to go on this trip, to take a sturdy vehicle such as a jeep, spare tires, a full tank with spare fuel, a Himachali driver who is familiar with the terrain and enough contact details of people in the areas one is travelling through. Without enough preparation, this trip can turn out to be really dangerous, as it was for us. On the other hand, if one takes proper care, it can be a really exotic and wonderful trip for the traveller.

Rudyard Kipling said about the cold desert of Spiti that this was a region where gods lived. And sure enough, if any place can be enchantingly beautiful, bewitching and dangerous all at the same time, it is the Himalayan desert. This is a place where only gods can live. There are long stretches along this Himalayan terrain, where there is no sign of life – not even a blade of grass grows in these stretches. Mountains rise at almost ninety degree angle on both banks of the emerald green Spiti river, which flows thousands of feet below and is thus inaccessible. Its waters are freezing cold in which one can’t even dip a finger. Spiti is a tributary, which meets Sutlej – a great river coming from Tibet  – on the boundary of Kinnaur. One can see the difference in the colours of two rivers – grey Sutlej and emerald green Spiti, meeting at this point. This region lies in the rainshadow area and hence, receives no rainfall. In some places, where there are gaps between the ranges and there is a small flat land, there are small villages, whose source of water is the snow from the mountains.

We started from Simla and as we proceeded eastwards towards Rampur, a village on the boundary between Simla and Kinnaur districts, we were overawed with the tall mountains, standing straight along the bank of Sutlej. The colours of rocks changed as we crossed areas which had different kinds of minerals in the rocks. In the photograph above, you can see the area just before Rampur. The sharp curves of the narrow road, cut into the rocks, are visible in the photograph. The rocks are hard and hence, road is very narrow, cut at a height of about 10,000 ft towards top of the mountain and there is no railing on the side of the valley. During rains there are frequent landslides and accident here is fatal.

We stopped at a restaurant in Rampur to have lunch. Prof. Kailash was beginning to feel unwell. This stopping proved good for him. After lunch, we proceeded towards Ribba village in Kinnaur, where we had planned to stop for the night. On the way, we came across a huge hydro-electric plant that was being built by channeling the waters of the Sutlej river through a dam. A long stretch of several kilometres had turned into a muddy track and it was difficult to cross this area for us. Finally, just before sunset, we reached Ribba. Dr. Balkrishan, a research scholar at Simla, had a friend called Dr. Gopi Negi at Ribba who was teaching at the local college here. In addition, he seemed to come from the most important family here as the local political representative was his relative. He had made good arrangement for us in the Ribba guest house. He also gave us a good dinner. He told us that Ribba was famous for its vineyards – at a height of about 10,000 ft, where rains were scarce. They grew grapes with snow water and made local grape wine from it, called “Anguri” (i.e., “wine from grapes”). The villagers use it for personal consumption because of cold environment and it is also used for rituals such as worship rites and marriage ceremonies. It is not for commercial sale, but the Himachalis get it from Ribba informally and it is quite popular in Himachal. Grapes, Anguri and apples are the products of Ribba. We all got a bottle full of Anguri as gift from our host here. I brought it back and preserved it in my refrigerator in Simla. Months later, some research scholars at the IIAS went looking for Anguri in Simla but couldn’t find it. They mentioned it to me and I told them I had a bottle in my house. They came over to my house and had a nice Anguri party!

Mountains of Kinnaur

Ribba also has a famous Himalayan peak called Kinnar Kailash in its backdrop, seen clearly from the guest house, eventhough it’s actually far from Ribba. We were told in the evening that we must wake up early and see this peak at sunrise. It is actually a cluster of three peaks together and the central one is called Kinnar Kailash. For those who are not familiar with Kailash, it’s a high-altitude peak in the Himalayas and is difficult to climb. It is sacred to Hindus as well as the Buddhists and pilgrims who can manage, go to this peak and circumambulate it. It’s an arduous trek. There is a lake there called Mansarovar, where pilgrims take a dip. There are many legends related to Mansarovar and Kailash in Hinduism. Because of its sacredness, people in many other parts of the Himalayan terrain call their own high-altitude peak as Kailash. Many local Shiva temples all over India are also named after Kailash, because it is supposed to be the place where Lord Shiva resides. Most famous of these is the Kailash Temple at Ellora in Western India.

Kinnar Kailash, Seen from Ribba Village, Kinnaur

We were told by our host Dr. Negi in Ribba that Kinnar Kailash is actually a name used by the outsiders. People of Kinnaur call this peak as simply Kailash, because they consider it as equivalent to Kailash and they also go to circumambulate it. The snow from this range feeds the Ribba village, hence their attachment for this peak is natural.

Ribba Village, Kinnaur

We had the occasion to see another aspect of religious and cultural life of Ribba after taking photographs of Kinnar Kailash. We requested our host that we wanted to see the vineyards and he generously took us around to show the different kinds of vineyards. Then, he suggested we also visit the temple of the local deity Kasuraj. Religion in Himachal is very different from the way it exists in plains. People worship the mainstream Hindu deities, but every Himachali village has a patron deity of its own and the people really have allegiance to this patron deity. S/he is treated as a close family member, to whom people can approach to relate all their problems, they can reproach the deity for any problems they have in life, they demand their wishes to be fulfilled and they also share their joys with this deity like they do with their family members. Apart from this, they worship the mainstream Hindu deities, Buddhist deities and also other folk deities. It’s difficult to decide in Himachal where one religion ends and where another religion begins, as religious boundaries are blurred here. The social categories such as caste and tribe also don’t exist in Himachal in exactly the same form as they do in the plains. Therefore, the sociological categories of hierarchies and social groups which apply in plains don’t really apply in Himachal. One has to be very conversant with the local customs of Himachal to really understand the Himachali society, which can be simple and complex at the same time.

Kasuraj, Deity of Ribba Vilage, in a Worship Ceremony

The patron deity of Ribba is Kasuraj and that morning the villagers happened to be taking out their deity for a special ceremony. We were fortunate to see this ceremony. We went over to the temple, which was made in traditional Himachali style of carved wooden structure with slanting slate-tiled roofs. God Kasuraj’s icon was covered with bright loose clothes and he had long, thick black hair on his head (see image above). The temple complex was sprinkled with Anguri and the villagers – men and women gathered there with bottles of Anguri, flowers and incense in their hands.

The people who were handling the deity’s icon brought him out and shook it up and out several times. Then, he was placed on the ground and the villagers began to make their demands, wishes and reproaches to him. This even included women who came out and scolded him for giving the snowfall too early, which was spoiling their apples and grapes. They asked him to stop the snowfall immediately.

Temple for Kasuraj, Ribba Village, Kinnaur

Worshipping Kasuraj with Local Grape Wine and Flowers

There were musicians who sounded the drum for Kasuraj. Most interestingly, there is a Buddhist monastery in Ribba as well and the monks from the monastery also came to the Kasuraj temple to participate in the ceremony (image below). We were told that the Buddhists participate in Kasuraj ceremonies and even worship Kasuraj and the Hindus also worship and participate at the Buddhist monastery. Unfortunately, the old monastery was burnt down when we went there and the monks were housed in a makeshift monastery, so we could not see the original monastery.

Drum-Players and Buddhist Monks for Worship of Kasuraj

After the religious rites were over, one of the Buddhist monks (image below –  man in a yellow jacket) stood up and began to give a speech talking about how all people should co-exist together and help each other. We were told that he was a political leader of the village. The villagers sat down and listened to his speech.

This ceremony showed many layers of Himachali religion. It showed the local  village religious rites, the intermingling of Buddhism with this local village religion and also that the temple in Himachal can be a place for religious, social and political activities, all mixed together in a religious ceremony.

Buddhist Monk Giving Speech at Kasuraj Worship Ceremony

Finally, it was time for us to leave this exotic and interesting village in Kinnaur, because we had a long way to travel up the higher ranges than this village. We were headed towards Nako Village, which lies on top of a Middle Himalayan range that lies along the Indo-Tibet border. One has to go through the straight-standing mountains of Kinnaur, on a winding road which is mostly a mud track and can cave in at any moment, with Sutlej flowing thousands of feet below. The mountains really looked bewitching along this route.

Kinnaur, Himachal

 

Road to Nako Village near Indo-Tibet Border

Confluence of Sutlej and Spiti Rivers

Finally, we reached the boundary of Kinnaur, where Spiti river meets Sutlej. In the image above, you can see the grey Sutlej current in the foreground  near the shadow and the green Spiti in distance, meeting Sutlej. There is a hanging wooden bridge maintained by the army here. Just before this place is Pooh, an army checkpost beyond which foreigners can go only if they have special permit. This confluence marks the place where Spiti Valley begins. It is technically a valley of the Spiti River, but it is at a height of more than 10,000 ft all along.

We were entering into this cold Middle Himalayan desert now, but we didn’t know about it!

Road to Nako, near Indo-Tibet Border

Finally, crossing the barren, bare mountains and dangerous mud-track, we reached Nako village on top of the range which divides India from Tibet. Nako has a lake and a Buddhist monastery, datable to about 13th century CE. The village is surrounded by snow-clad mountains. Tourists come till here, so one can find many Indian and Tibetan restaurants in the village. Apart from restaurant business, people also engage in stepped agriculture. We reached here about 3pm and stopped for lunch.

Archana by the Nako Lake, Indo-Tibet Border

Nako Village, Indo-Tibet Border

After lunch, we decided to go to the monastery. The monastery here also has wall paintings and there is a newly-built museum near the monastery. Unfortunately, the monastery and the museum were closed, so we couldn’t go inside. But I did manage to photograph some shrines with stupas inside (called “chaityas”) which are datable to the 10th century CE.

Professors Kailash and Bapat near the Gateway to Nako Monastery

Stupas at Nako Monastery

Leaving Nako, we proceeded further into Spiti, as we were still far away from our destination. Now we were driving along a road cut into the rocky surface of the hard mountains at a height of more than 10,000 ft. These are barren mountains standing on both banks of Spiti, which flows thousands of feet below. Looking at these ranges, somehow I got the feeling that these peaks were alive and I was mesmerised!

Spiti - Cold Desert in the Middle Himalayas

Spiti River, before Tabo Monastery

Suddenly, as we approached Tabo monastery, our car descended down the slopes and we surprisingly came across a flat surface at this high altitude. We were driving along the Spiti river now!

Spiti River, before Tabo Monastery

As we approached the monastery, I noticed the grass on the slopes was red in colour, because it couldn’t make chlorophyll in this harsh environment. People had also planted poplar trees for firewood along the slopes.

Tabo Monastery, Ajanta of the Himalayas

Suddenly, we came across the Tabo monastery, built on this flat plain at a height of more than 10,000 ft and surrounded by snow-clad mountains. It is surrounded by cultivated fields and has a bank and several restaurants of Chinese and Indian food. There are also places to stay and one can also stay at the monastery. After seeing the barren mountains for hundreds of kilometres, we were seeing signs of life here, though this was a small community of people.

Painting at the Tabo Monastery, Spiti

A young monk opened the doors to the cells and showed us the sculptures and wall paintings. There are stupas made in the courtyard and the structure is made of stone blocks and plastered over with mud.

At the Apple Orchards, Chango Village, Border of Kinnaur and Spiti

All this while, our journey had been quite good. But now began the adventure. We were supposed to spend the night at Tabo, but somehow I didn’t feel quite good staying in this desolate place amidst barren mountains. I wanted to get back to a place where there  were more people. So, I suggested we should go back to stay at Recong Peo, the headquarter of Kinnaur, for the night. My companions agreed and we began to drive back.

Leaving Tabo after a few kilometres, the first tyre of our car got punctured. The drive changed the tyre and we proceed back. When we reached in an uninhabited place where there was no one present, the second tyre got punctured. Now we didn’t have a spare tyre. For quite some time, we waited as darkness descended. Then we saw a truck coming from the opposite side. The driver left the car with us and went in that truck back to Tabo to get the tyre repaired at a shop we had noticed  when we had driven to Tabo. He reached the shop before it closed and got some temporary patch up done, but there was no vehicle in which he could come back to the car. Meanwhile, it became dark and we were stuck in that isolated place, on a narrow mountain road and no sign of life. We could hear only the echo of the river flowing below. After a while, we saw a truck full of workers, who climbed down and began to repair the road. At least we had company now, but still there was no sign of the driver. Finally, he saw a truck coming and took a lift in the truck to reach back to us. By now it was night time. So we began to get worried and also in our tension began to think what we should do next, because it was not possible for the driver to go on in such a terrain in the night and we couldn’t stop at that place. Finally we decided to find a place to stay for the night. I asked the driver to go forward, while the other two wanted him to stop. The driver went forward on this road and then we found that there had been a landslide and the road was blocked, because it had been damaged and never repaired. So we could not go forward. We turned around and saw a light twinkling in a lonely house. We stopped and shouted for the owner to come out. He came and we told him we wanted to stay for the night. He said he had only one room. If we could adjust in that, we were welcome. So, we adjusted the driver in the living room and three of us went to this spare room. I said to my companions they should sleep on the bed while I would sleep on the ground. We asked for mattresses and quilts and went off to sleep. In the night I felt the chill in my back, eventhough I had slept with my leather overcoat on.

In the morning, we got up and decided to take a look around the area. The lady of the house said she will prepare breakfast for us and then the driver could go with her to the market where she was going to sell her apples and he could get the tyre repaired.

Archana in the Apple Orchard, Chango Village

We talked to the house owner and came to know we were in the Chango village, which has amongst the best apple orchards in Himachal. This house itself was amidst an orchard. He took us around to show us his orchard and we took photographs. He told us they got water from the snow to grow the apples. We went out and saw that there had been a snowfall on the mountains around Chango and then I realised why I felt the chill in the night.

Archana by the Spiti River, Chango Village, Kinnaur-Spiti Border

Despite the problems we faced, we really enjoyed being in Chango, looking around. Spiti river flowed at a few minutes’ walk from the house, so we decided to go till the river. I dipped my finger in the river and found how cold it was!

Chango Village, Kinnaur-Spiti Border, Middle Himalayas

A “village” in the mountains can mean just a cluster of a few houses – often less than a dozen. A village of 25 houses is a big village in the mountains. These villages often don’t have any marketplace. People have to travel for miles to get their provisions. However, Himachal produces seven times more electricity than it consumes and it sells electricity to Delhi and other states. As a result, every house in Himachal, even if it lies on top of a mountain, has electricity and power cuts are rare. Every village also has a school and a hospital at a close distance and the literacy rate in Himachal is much higher than in most other states of India.

We found that Chango had less than a dozen houses and there were actually some people living in the caves in the rock surface. This was a village where lived people who sold apples, houses had electricity and some even lived as cave-dwellers!

Spiti, Middle Himalayas, Indo-Tibet Border

Finally, our driver came back after repairing the tyre and we started from Chango, travelling along the same route of Spiti desert. This time I decided to photograph some of the mountains from our fast-driving car.

Spiti, Indo-Tibet Border, Middle Himalayas

Spiti, Indo-Tibet Border, Middle Himalayas

We thought our troubles were over, but not quite. We drove through Nako on top of the range and stopped at Pooh to have tea and snacks around 3pm. The driver also got another spare tyre here.

But this time, the trouble came not in the form of a punctured tyre.

We started from Pooh and had to cross Sutlej to go to the other side, where Ribba village lies. There is a wooden hanging bridge here, maintained by the army. The road on one side ends near the bridge and one has to cross over this bridge to pick up the road and go further. Sutlej river flows deep below and there are sharp-pointed rocks coming out of the icy cold waters of Sutlej here. One can’t afford to fall into the river here.

When we reached this point, we found the bridge was broken. Traffic on both sides had stopped because it couldn’t move till the bridge got repaired. We had arranged to spend the night at Recong Peo and we had to cross the river to reach there. The army workers were repairing the bridge and they said it would get repaired by 4pm. So, we began to wait. They went on till 8pm and then said they were going to come the next day and continue their repair work. Now, we were stuck on this side, with no habitation around where we could stay. Pooh is just an army checkpost with some shops. There was only a teashop on top of the cliff, which decided to do business and sell rice and dal along with tea. So, we got our dinner here. But there was no way we could cross over and go to the other side. I called up my brother in Bombay and told him I was stuck there. He said he didn’t know anyone at Pooh. Prof. Bapat called up his brother-in-law in Dharmashala, but he too couldn’t help. These were our last calls as the batteries of our phones ran out after this and we couldn’t charge the phones.

We had no option but to spend the night sitting in our seats in the car and wait for the bridge to get repaired. We resigned ourselves to our fate and waited inside the car, getting ready to sleep. Meanwhile, we saw that this was not a problem for the mountain people. There was a marriage party on the other side, which saw the broken bridge and decided to cross the narrow wooden plank placed across the broken portion. Bride, groom, musicians and the entire party, with their nimble feet, walked across the broken bridge, came to this side, went up to have some food and drinks and took a lift in a truck to proceed for their marriage ceremony! This was a problem only for us the plains people.

Meanwhile, our relatives passed on the information to other family members and they got worried. There was also news on TV in Simla that there had been snowfall along the Indo-Tibet border. People watched the news and thought we were stuck somewhere in the snow! Besides, we had been smart enough to tell our friends in Simla that we were going to the China border. So everyone at Simla thought we were lost somewhere in the snow. Prof. Patnaik’s relatives called at Simla and were told he was missing somewhere in the snow near China border. They tried calling us but could not get through as our phones had stopped working.

In the night, there was again snowfall on the surrounding mountains and our car became freezing cold. We managed through it all and waited for the morning. In the morning, we went up to the cliff and found there was a charging point in the shop. So, I charged my phone there and we called up Simla. Message was sent to our host Dr. Negi in Ribba village again. He crossed over the narrow wooden plank just as the marriage party had done in the night and came this side. He caught hold of our hand, asked us not to look at the water below, walk by the railing, taking one step at a time carefully and cross over that wooden plank. Finally, we crossed the bridge, leaving our car and driver behind, who came after the bridge got repaired.

Our friend from Ribba had got a taxi on the other side. We got in and reached Recong Peo. Reaching Recong peo, we took a sigh of relief.

Recong-Peo, Kinnaur

At Recong Peo, we had a heavy breakfast, charged our phones, got money from ATM and started for Simla again, now sure that we were going to reach.

Not so easy. Two hours before Simla, we came across a landslide, where cranes were working to break the rocks into smaller pieces and throw them down. We had to wait here for two hours. Finally, around 9pm in the night, we were back in our homes, safely in bed.

During this journey, several times it appeared we were not going to reach Simla. But we reached safely back home. Next day, we went to the IIAS and found we had become the talk of the Institute. Everyone wanted to hear our adventurous story and we had to narrate it several times! Even the Himachalis said they hesitate to travel to Tabo. We had obviously made a memorable journey, although Lahaul was not included in it.

Coming Back to Simla

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Comments
25 Responses to “My travels through the Himalayas VI – Simla to Spiti via Kinnaur”
  1. manchitra says:

    What an adventure Archana. I would not take up such a journey. I had goose bumps while reading it , the predicament you were in during the lanslides, the night you spent in freezing car. But looking back you had a great time. Thanks God for all this youl could reach back in single piece.

    Loved all the photos. The river confluence -awesome. The snow capped mountains captivated my heart. Thanks for giving a good post.

  2. Archana says:

    Hi Chitra,
    Thanks for your comment. yes, if we had known the dangers involved, we wouldn’t have taken this trip and would have certainly prepared more before starting. But here were many circumstances w could not control even if we had prepared. While coming back to Simla, we stopped at Narkanda near Simla for tea. Some of these mountains are visible from Narkanda. Looking at those peaks, we wondered if we had really driven to those peaks and come back!

    I would certainly advise people to make proper preparations before they go on such a trip and they should go in a group, taking a doctor along if possible. They must have contacts of people in the area and take a local Himachali driver who knows the terrain and may also know the villagers.

    Taking all care this can be a memorable trip. It is certainly the most memorable trip of my life, though I am thankful to god we came back safe and sound! 🙂

  3. sm says:

    beautiful pics
    well written

  4. Archana says:

    Thanks, SM,

    Welcome to the blog!

  5. manchitra says:

    Archana,
    The trip to Kedar – badri itself was creating anxiety in my mind. !00% I will not take up this kind of trip I am not adventurous. 🙂 After our Badri trip with in a few days there was a landslide in Chamoli district and many were stranded I don’t think I have guts to face all that. I appreciate you.

  6. Archana says:

    Thanks, Chitra!

    Recently, my family went to Kedar-Badri and asked me, but I declined as Kedar-Badri is at a high altitude and I being asthmatic, was not sure I would be able to manage.

    I appreciate that you could manage Kedar-Badri!

    Broken roads in bad conditions, sudden changes in weather, motion sickness, landslides etc are common features in the Himalayan travel. One really has to be careful and make preparations before travelling in the Himalayas.

    Another really difficult trip is to Leh which I never took and will never take. One of my friends went there and came back with sores on his hands and bleeding nose. One really has to take care not to get stuck in such trips.

  7. Archana says:

    Himalayas look beautiful and romantic in photographs and from a distance, but life there is really harsh and travelling for plains people who are not adapted to mountain life is really tough. When one goes there, one realises the harshness of life there. But if one takes enough precautions, these journeys can be the most memorable one can have!

    I myself will never go to Tabo again and I don’t advise anyone to go on this trip unless one is prepared to face the worst. There have been cases of people disappearing in Spiti. So, we were really fortunate to come back safe and sound. Anything and everything can happen there.

  8. GR Bapat says:

    Dear Archana, Nice write-up indeed. I felt as though I went through the adventurous trip again.
    regards,
    Guru Rao Bapat

  9. Archana says:

    Thanks, Prof. Bapat!

    Yes, the memory of this journey is etched in my mind forever! 8)

  10. manchitra says:

    Archana,
    My son used to get wheezing attacks when he was young and we visited Kedar – Badri whhen he was just 4 yrs. Many advised me not to take my son to Himalayas. But my husband was very confident nothing would happen and i also went. After reaching there I could see many moving around with small Oxygen cylinders and I was told “: Higher altitude pe oxgen ki kami he’ I called all Gods I knew . God’s grace nothing happened to my son as the air was pure. We enjoyed the trip though at times we too had anxious moments. Many teased me also as to why I was taking the pilgrimage when I was so young. The lesson I have learnt is, it is better to visit these places while young and fit

  11. Archana says:

    Hi Chitra,
    That’s right, one should take difficult trips when young because the body is able to take it.

    Your son was really lucky, perhaps also because he was so young, his body could adapt well.

    My asthma is pretty severe. I have to take the inhaler every day and after each of these Himalayan trips I fell badly ill. When I reached Rohtang, I felt giddy and could not even walk a step. I had to sit down and watch everyone playing with snowballs, skiing and sledging. Even my sister’s 2 yrs old son was able to move around, so you can imagine what a challenge these trips have been for me!

    When I came back from Chanshal, I had to be given oxygen and injections in Simla and I was ill for a month. Rohtang is at 13,500 ft and Chanshal is at 14,000 ft. So I guess 14,000 ft is the maximum height I can manage and event then I am bound to fall ill when I come back. Even after Tabo trip I was seriously ill for some time.

    Both Badrinath and Kedarnath are much higher than 14000 ft. That’s why I didn’t want to take the risk. There was a case here some time back, when an asthmatic student went mountain climbing on a snow-clad peak in Himachal. He didn’t want to climb as he was not sure of himself, but his friends insisted he should keep up the team spirit and climb. Half way through, a snow blizzard started and this student had a bad asthmatic attack. He was not able to take even a step. Weather was bad and these students were climbing a precarious cliff. They were able to hold themselves with difficulty and it was impossible for them to manage this asthmatic student, who fell down in the snow. They came back as they couldn’t go further, leaving him on the mountain. Later they went back to get him, but by then the snow had completely covered his body. he was just left to die there because his friends couldn’t help him. Even his body was not found for a year. After a year, a foreign tourist was climbing the same peak when the snow had melted. He spotted the body and came back to report to his university, because he had heard of this case. Then his body was brought back.

    After this incident, I was very scared and didn’t want to go even to Rohtang and Tabo was certainly a great risk I took.

    My illness after all these trips showed that I should not go to such heights. In those severe conditions, sometimes one’s companions can’t help because there is no help around and even they are not able to help themselves much. So, one has to be careful.

  12. manchitra says:

    Thanks Archana I loved your reply. There are so many things we learn from others experiences. I want to visit Kulu Manali. Is there lot of trekking to do or we can move around in vehicles. Would like to know.

  13. Archana says:

    Hi Chitra,
    It’s a pleasure to receive comments from you!

    Kullu-Manali are no problem. You can drive around in a vehicle through these towns and also in the surrounding areas (please see my post on Rohtang Pass to get the details of the surrounding areas – https://archanablogging.wordpress.com/2010/06/19/simla-to-rohtang-pass/). Manikaran is near Kullu, apart from the places I have mentioned. It’s sacred to Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs. There is a lake there and shrines for all three religions.

    Himachal Tourism has guest houses and hotels in both these places, but they usually fill up fast, so you have to book in advance or book a private hotel.

    If your son is still taking medicines, it is better to carry enough supply when you start, because medicines sold in these towns can be fake.

    But since you can cover Rohtang Pass from Manali, you have to plan in advance if you want to go upto Rohtang. It’s closed from October to April because of snowfall. Besides, if you are taking your son along, it’s better to consult a doctor and take all precautions. Besides, the last leg of this journey will be on a ponyback. Oxygen is rare on Rohtang.

    Both my sister and her husband are doctors, so I could have the courage to go upto Rohtang with them. If you can take a doctor along, it’s best, otherwise do consult a doctor before leaving for Rohtang. If anyone has high blood pressure apart from asthma, it’s not advisable without consulting a doctor.

    But Kullu and Manali are not much problem. Manali is approximately at the same height as Shimla and Kullu is lower than Shimla and also warmer. The nearby areas are a little higher, but I think it should be fine. Besides, vehicles go everywhere in and around these towns.

    If there are any more questions, I’ll be glad to respond. Please don’t hesitate to ask.

  14. Archana says:

    Hi Chitra,
    Do contact me if you want to know more while planning the trip.

    I’m glad to know your son has got over his asthma.

    My asthma gets almost cured when I go near the sea. Goa is especially good for me. I wish I could live there. I love the sea much more than the mountains! 8)

    Happy Diwali to your family and you too!

  15. Archana says:

    Hi Chitra,
    I have been to Chennai and some other parts of Tamil Nadu during my research on temples. I know it’s quite warm and humid there because it’s close to Equator. Goa is much better. I think it has been beneficial for your son!

    A house in Goa is beyond my means, so I can only dream about it!

    Perhaps your ancestral house is still there, where you can stay for some time in a year.

  16. balkrishan Shivram says:

    Thanks for this cogent and pleasing piece. Gopi Negi, the person who had facilitated you at Ribba got disappointed after reading this piece. “Instead referring me ‘host’ she could write my name”, he muses. His family in chorus happy to read that his village brand “Anguri” is getting popular. Ribba villagers in fact are envisioning patent for “Anguri” because of its inimitability.

    • Archana says:

      Hi Balkrishan,
      Thanks for your response. I have inserted Dr. Gopi Negi’s name in three places in the post after reading your comment. I didn’t know Anguri was inimitable! I think they should patent it before the Western countries do. 🙂

  17. Global says:

    This is an interesting and informative post. I enjoyed it very much! 8)

  18. Ann Wilson-Rawi says:

    Hi Chitra,

    Thank you for this wonderful blog and photos of a place I shall doubtless never visit.

    I do need your advice if you dont mind … My father was born in Simla and i very much want to see his birthplace. I am 66 years old and live in England. I have never visited India but might well go to visit my cousin in Delhi next year.

    I will go to Simla if i can organise it but I worry about how that would affect my asthma which is moderate – i have to use the preventative inhaler morning and night. Do you think i will be okay at my age and never having done a long haul travel before .. will Simla be kind to me?

    I read that you would like to live in Goa. I am pleased to say that after 50 years in London I am able to move to the seaside, probably Worthing in West Sussex, though I am not sure yet.

    Best wishes to you and your readers from Ann in England.

  19. Dr.N.Savino says:

    wonderful piece of information for those who love travelling. Thank you Archana and party

  20. manchitra says:

    Archana , Thanks once again, We have only Kulu Manali in mind. I told, I am not adventurous. My son has grown up and he got over the problem too. When I plan again I would come back to you.
    Happy Diwali.

  21. Archana says:

    Hi Chitra,
    Do contact me if you want to know more while planning the trip.

    I’m glad to know your son has got over his asthma.

    My asthma gets almost cured when I go near the sea. Goa is especially good for me. I wish I could live there. I love the sea much more than the mountains! 8)

    Happy Diwali to your family and you too!

  22. manchitra says:

    My son you know, is in Goa only. He is studying there. We have our house in Chennai , even though it is coastal town the weather there is horrible. I too loved Goa. wish even I could live there. After al l our roots are also there. I loved the beautiful place too.

  23. Archana says:

    Hi Chitra,
    I have been to Chennai and some other parts of Tamil Nadu during my research on temples. I know it’s quite warm and humid there because it’s close to Equator. Goa is much better. I think it has been beneficial for your son!

    A house in Goa is beyond my means, so I can only dream about it!

    Perhaps your ancestral house is still there, where you can stay for some time in a year.

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