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Published: June 20th 2017
Himachal Pradesh June 2017
“I am not the mind. I am neither intelligence nor egoism. I am the joy of intelligence. I am Shiva, I am Shiva.” Adi Sankara
And so.... I have wanted to return to Spiti Valley again after first visiting there together with my mate Mark on our Royal Enfield motorcycles in 2010. There were places I just fancied spending more time in... and new places also.
I live in a rented house in Inner Seraj Valley... just 6 km before Jalorie Pass in Kullu District of Himachal Pradesh. A great 'take off' point for Spiti, which I figured would take me just two days riding north to reach, approaching from the eastern side of Himachal via Rampur and returning via Manali on the western side (or more in the middle of Himchal). Now having said I was keen to return, I also remembered that it was not that easy to do... some roads to and from Spiti and within are just not deserving of the word 'road'. Some are actual flowing rivers.... others are huge boulders arranged to resemble a road. And so on. In
addition a new friend and his wife had opted out of coming with me in the last week... and I was not so keen to travel those treacherous roads alone.
So I was well into dissuading myself... if the weather was bad, I told myself, then I would postpone and maybe leave it for another year. But then... I woke up on the predestined morning to find that the past week of intermittent rain storms had cleared. The gods in this Bhoom Devi
('gods country' as the valley I am in is called) had spoken.
It's funny how sometimes one discovers a place by pure luck. I was sitting in a friend's dhaba
at Sojha just up from my house two days before I was to leave. On the wall was an impressive photograph of an amazing looking temple complex. I inquired as to where this was and was told it was the Bhima Kali (also previously known as Bhima Devi) Temple at a place called Sarahan... just 40 kms past Rampur (and up the mountain). So … I decided there and then that this would be my first stop on the trip.
And I was not disappointed. The place is magic. The weather was clear both the evening I arrived and the next morning... and so the snow capped himalis
were in full glory for both.
Sarahan is the more recent name for Shonitpur mentioned in the Hindu text called the Puranas
and Sarahan Bushahr has been the summer capital of Bushahr kingdom, with Rampur Bushahr considered the winter capital. The temple houses both Hindu and Vajrayana Buddhist statues and has décor reflecting the Tibetan trade that came through the nearby Indo-Tibetan Road.
What I did not appreciate was that I took the usual sealed road up to Sarahan for about 10 km before being told the bridge was out and I would have to go back and take an alternative donkey track up to the village. This meant an extra 25 km to my trip (and donkey tracks are not fun on a bike). But all was good on arrival. I found a clean and cosy guest house room for 400 rps (about US$6) and began to explore the town and temple and surrounds (e.g. the Royal Palace just on the outskirts of
I met a young woman on my exploration and she represents to me a fairly new development in India... highly articulate young people with solid education and work backgrounds who 'take off' to explore their country as simple backbackers. This woman was 31, from Bangalore, and had quit a quite lucrative IT job where she had been for 9 years to travel on and off in between doing photographic documentation for a company involved in electrifying small remote villages. In addition she has been married for 5 years and often travels with her husband but also alone (and this is not so usual still in India). I find this phenomenon inspiring and reassuring: these young people are very aware and concerned about the direction India is going in terms of environment and social equity. Sure in the last 7 years the number of Indian tourists self-driving to remoter areas has increased astronomically... but these young travelers, often alone, are another kind of 'animal' entirely. We spent some time taking in the sights and eating a meal together. Of course I did not have to rely on Hindi... her English was impeccable.
After a leisurely morning taking in the snow-peaks across the way, and having risen for sunrise over the temple, I slowly packed (and began to appreciate the fact that I had taken so little gear on this trip), and rode off north into Kinnaur's spectacular scenery towards the village of Nako, my next intended stopover.
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