Why I love India #8: Mountains - Himachal and Ladahk

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September 22nd 2010
Published: November 30th -0001
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Approach to KulluApproach to KulluApproach to Kullu

This Ashram across the river (and only accessible by boat) is a picture perfect as one rides up towards Kullu besides the Beas River.
“How can words express the feel of sunlight in the morning - in the hills - away from city strife…..”
“Fields of forest green where the mountains touch the sky - a dream come true - I’ll live there ‘till I die…..”

During August 2010 I had the extreme pleasure and adventure to accompany my good friend Mark on our Royal Enfield Bullets for a month touring Himachal Pradesh and Ladahk in northern India. There will no doubt be other blogs on this trip to come - but this blog is simply to celebrate the mountains.

Words cannot express the feel. Some of the pictures might. Is it just some of us or is it universal - that feeling of contentment experienced in mountains. I suppose that those who live in mountains become a little used to it all (I checked this out with a local friend in Bangor Valley, Kullu - and yes, it does all become invisible to an extent, he says). But I cannot escape the belief that just living in the mountains - amongst such beauty - must affect one’s inner spirit and wellbeing (a process of automatic osmosis
Waterfall splendourWaterfall splendourWaterfall splendour

Again on the approach to Kullu and falling into the Beas River

Leaving the plains of India (Punjab) and starting to climb the mountain roads towards towards Balispur, one just feels an enormous weight lifting - and the physical experience of starting to breathe that mountain fresh air is overwhelming. Of course there are SO many trucks to contend with on Indian roads - and the intensity of awareness needed while riding a bike on these roads is all engrossing - but past all that and those moments of open road and a chance to lift the head and SEE the mountains unfold is just magical.

The approach to Kullu riding alongside the great Beas River has to be one of the nicest - scenic - rides on this planet. In August this was lush with new growth - and the steep and narrow gorge just intensifies things. With monsoons hardly finished - the strength of the waterfalls was also amazing.

I prefer by far being amongst the trees in the mountains - however once we got over Rohtang Pass and then Rahaul Valley (which is also just gorgeous and green at this time of year) we started to get into the more stark and barren areas above
Morning MistMorning MistMorning Mist

The view looking northwards from Manali
the tree line (Darcha). Passes as high as 16,600 feet took us ever further into what I guess is really the edges of the Tibetan Plateau. But…. mountains there are equally amazing - and of course the glimpses of the snow caps are spiritual lifts to this Australian boy who really does not see REAL mountains in his home country.

Spiti Valley was a special mountain treat - to be amongst such old Tibetan communities and Gompas and Stupas with mountain backgrounds and deep gorges and vivid colours was just great.

Taking the narrow gorge out of Spiti travelling east - one reaches the enchanted town of Narco (in Kinnau district of Himachal). Again - so scenic with it’s mountain backdrop. Sangla Valley got us back well and truly within the tree line - just beautiful riding up to Chitkul and it’s snow-peaked valley end.

Fast becoming one of my favourite places on earth (OK - I have many places yet to visit on earth) is Jibhi in Bangor Valley, Kullu. This was my second time here - staying at a Guest House (Doli) where the owner and his family are fast becoming real friends (Rana and
Top of Rohtang PassTop of Rohtang PassTop of Rohtang Pass

Looking northwards after climbing the treacherous (mud galore) Rohtang Pass from Manali. On the road to Leh.
Gudu and Narendra). Suffice to say I spent 11 days based here - taking day walks in the enchanting pine forests that surround the place. Flowing fresh streams and waterfalls, the smell of cedar in the mountains, such friendly faces along the way, and AMAZING Kullu architecture (rustic wooden structures filled with stone infill and topped with rough slate slabs). The sweet smell of strong ganga in full flower along the way and of course (all over Himachal) … apple harvesting season. Apple trees laden with beautiful varieties.

I love the 'coolness' of being in the mountains after hot Indian plains - how you can cuddle up at night under a Kullu shawl - and sleep soundly without mosquito nets or having to have a fan on.

Whether walking or riding - there is something magic when you come across herds of sheep and goats being shepherded to pasture by nomadic tribes (or sometimes just local villagers spending some time high in the mountains).

Beautiful Himachal. Such a special place.

Mountains are soothing - refreshing to the spirit - they bring us back to mindfulness of the simple things and the wonder of nature.

Snow peaks Snow peaks Snow peaks

Bring it on - first glimpse of snow peaks (late summer so not full on) looking northwards above Rohtang Pass and approaching Lahaul
a word about "Gladys" - my Royal Enfield Bullet (Electra 350cc) - she is just made for mountain riding - maybe not the mud and the rocks and the river beds and the dust - but there are some great roads too - smooth tarmac with fantastic corners to just cruise around - this bike handles so well on a good road.

Oh - and did I mention the hot springs in Parbati Valley and at Vishist (Kullu)? !!

Sorry about ALL the pics (!!!!) - and there are plenty more where these came from.......

Additional photos below
Photos: 41, Displayed: 25


Sheep and GoatsSheep and Goats
Sheep and Goats

One of the beauties of mountain life - the herds of sheep and goats being brought to pasture by summer nomads.
Distant treasureDistant treasure
Distant treasure

Mark and our bikes - looking north in Lahaul
Approaching LadahkApproaching Ladahk
Approaching Ladahk

Tibetan type architecture begins to show with fabulous mountain backdrops
Above the tree lineAbove the tree line
Above the tree line

This is Darcha - just past Lahaul and getting into Ladahk on the way to Leh.
Lake (tal) - Baralacha PassLake (tal) - Baralacha Pass
Lake (tal) - Baralacha Pass

Mark besides lake on way to Leh on Baralacha Pass.
Switchbacks Switchbacks

Some of the 21 switchbacks climbing Baralacha Pass.
Top of Baralacha PassTop of Baralacha Pass
Top of Baralacha Pass

Yours truly and Mark.
Leh valleyLeh valley
Leh valley

Looking down at Leh and surrounding mountains from Gompa (old monastary) above Leh Palace.
Keyong in the morningKeyong in the morning
Keyong in the morning

On way back to Spiti from Leh - Lahaul Valley (Keylong).
Kumzum PassKumzum Pass
Kumzum Pass

On the way into Spiti Valley.
Kumzun PassKumzun Pass
Kumzun Pass

From the top of the pass.
Chicham - Spiti ValleyChicham - Spiti Valley
Chicham - Spiti Valley

Further on from Kibber - we had to take a small steel crate on a cable (flying fox style) across a very deep gorge to get here - 6 people in that crate the size of a fruit box!).
Key Monastery Spiti ValleyKey Monastery Spiti Valley
Key Monastery Spiti Valley

Key or Kye Gompa (monastery) just below Kibber.

2nd October 2010

WOW factor = stupendous
Thank you Paul for sharing your sensational trip..............never apologise for the piccies - even though your account of the adventure can 'take us there' the photos are extraordinary for those of us who luv to watch. Hugs
2nd October 2010

Great blog, wonderful trip!
2nd October 2010

Just finished your blog. Maybe because it is first thing in the morning (Sunday, early) and I haven't even had my morning cuppa yet, so I am still in a dream-like state but I felt the mountain magic through your words and pictures. These days I go through Galson Gorge and Berowa Waters a fair bit en-route to Central Coast, so that's the closest I get to a mountain on a regular basis. And even that is refreshing and wonderful. The bike sounds a treasure.
3rd October 2010

Did you see that doc "Long Way Round" and then "Long Way Down" with Ewan McGregor and his mate Charlie?? Well all I can say is "Ewan, eat your heart out!" Your adventure looks amazing Paul. I want to go there. x
5th October 2010

breathtaking doesn't begin to describe...
How brilliant Paul! Wish I'd been flying along those mountain roads behind you (or in front, or beside...). lots of love, Maggie xxx
5th October 2010

Fabulous and Breath taking views.
9th December 2010
Key Monastery Spiti Valley

Visiting the Key Monastery
Is there any other way to visit this place other than on a motorbike? I'm planning to visit this monastery but I can't find any information on how to get there... Any help feedback would be appreciated. Thanks, Tausif
6th May 2012

BQS its incredevel
shanti shanti??????????????

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