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Earthian

Posting this travelogue late, due to unavoidable health issues, but hey!- Better late than never. That didn't sound too good.:o

This is a travelogue about a trip we made to the Kullu and Kangra Valleys of Himachal Pradesh during October 2020, self-driving from Ahmedabad. Yes, we covered some other areas of HP too but the bulk of our stay was in these two valleys, known as “The Valley of the Gods”. Let me assure you-The description is

spot on.

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The Mission and planning:

Last year, during October, we drove to the Kumaon side of Uttarakhand and spent a heavenly 23 days there. You can read about that trip here: A Drive to the abode of the Gods. This year we had originally planned to do the trip during end of March, but the Covid lockdown put a spoke in our plans. Apart from a couple of day trips with a picnic lunch to nearby (~100kms) isolated places, we were mostly confined to our house and the urge to move out became stronger as the lockdown progressed. It became clear that one had to learn to live with Covid-19, till a proven vaccine emerged and the population inoculated. While responsible behavior mandated social distancing and wearing of protection devices, apart from avoiding unnecessary travel; after much debate we decided that we could travel responsibly and God willing ensure that we brought about no harm to fellow citizens or for that matter, to ourselves.

Last year, only my wife and I had made the trip to Kumaon, but this year we invited a couple of our friends to join us and they immediately accepted. This was in September 2020 and all four being senior citizens, it was imperative that we do the planning carefully. Stay options needed to be vetted carefully and the route so planned so as to minimise pit stops. All of us underwent health checks and though not mandatory, got ourselves tested for Corona Virus, two days before we departed. The normal medicine kit got bigger with two small oxygen cans, oxygen meter, and medicines for treating Corona Virus of doubtful therapeutic value.

Food became an important issue and two bags stuffed with all kinds of dry nasta ( dry snacks), durable theplas ( Similar to rotis)and bhakris (baked thick rotis), precooked dry ingredients, sweets and other stuff. We have stopped using disposable plates and glasses - as far as possible - and stainless-steel quarter plates, spoons and small steel tumblers were also packed. Water bottles have been our bete noire, but in absence of practical alternatives, we had no alternative but to carry water bottles. 2 cases - 24 bottles ~ 25 kgs. We figured that we would use these for the long distance travel and also fill them up for reuse whenever feasible. As usual, we carried bed-sheets and thin – but effective – coverlets. No space for pillows this time since there were four travelers instead of the usual two. Apart from our personal stuff, I had my camera bag, tripod and trekking sticks, along with a small backpack for carrying stuff for side trips. 

 

The other stuff carried for car maintenance were puncture kit, compressor, duct tape, additional tools, towing rope, jump start leads, spare tube, engine oil. The GLE was due for service and 10 days before our trip, it was fully serviced along with replacement of engine mount bushings, filters and brake pads. Bloody expensive! (That’s another story).

 

The route plan was:

A’Bad - Jaipur - Kasauli - Tirthan Valley - Kasol - Palampur - and back. The return route would be finalised depending upon our appetite for further meandering, our general mood etc. After doing an exhaustive DD on various home stays, we finalised 5 nights at Tirthan Valley in a homestay right by the Tirthan river; 4 nights in a beautiful homestay right on the banks of  Parvati river; and 5 nights at Palampur in a plush resort. There could be pit stops within Himachal and we decided to do that on the fly.
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The plan was to leave at 0630 hrs on the 11 October and the previous night, we all got together and stuffed the bags, cases, water bottles, food and stuff in the car, taking care to ensure that RVM line of sight was not blocked. I estimate that we must have lugged about 150 kgs. It was overkill definitely. 


A’Bad - Jaipur – Kasauli

 

We reached Jaipur at 1630 hrs and checked in the Jaipur Mariott, which we use as a pit stop in our journeys North. The hotel is well managed and the rooms extremely comfortable. The best part is that they pack a hearty breakfast for travellers like us. We had told them that we would start at 0700 hrs and would like Puri- Sabzi ( fried pancakes and potato curry) packed in the SS tiffins we had brought along with us. They packed the Puri-Sabzi, threw in some sandwiches, some muffins and fruits. Good service.

We had an early dinner at the restaurant, watching a cricket game and it was off to bed by 2100 hrs.

We had not unloaded all the luggage at Jaipur. Just a small backpack containing the essentials for a night’s stay and clean clothes for the next day. It was comparatively easy to stuff the small cases in the boot and we were off to Kasauli. Though Google Maps recommends the route via Delhi ; we were forewarned to take the route via Rewari, Rohtak and Panipat. The roads were excellent and we made good time.

In view of the Covid situation, we did not stop for leak breaks at Petrol pumps or wayside restaurants ( as we normally do)but preferred the open, arguing that it was safer. Similarly, since the hotel had done us proud by packing a good spread; we had sandwiches for breakfast and puri sabzi for lunch, thereby we avoided stopping for any food. We made good time and arrived at Kasauli by 1600 hrs. However, thanks to the eccentricities of the GPS triangulation system in the mountains and Google Maps, we spent an hour searching for our place of stay, Glenview Manor part of the  Welcome Heritage hotels.

 

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Everywhere you see the houses nestled among the hillside enveloped within the trees. Makes a great sight.

We had planned for a two day ’sort of pit stop’ here since we didn’t want to push ourselves too hard. It was a okay hotel with not too many guests. The rooms were comfortable, but there was nothing heritage about the property.  Still, it was good to relax and generally chill out. We preferred not to go out anywhere.

Next: Narkhanda-Tirthan valley.

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Thanks for posting this TR, look forward to reading more about your stay in the hills.

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Earthian
1 hour ago, Treepol said:

Thanks for posting this TR, look forward to reading more about your stay in the hills.

Thank you, Treepol. Will continue shortly....

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Earthian
Posted (edited)

Kasauli - Narkhanda - Tirthan Valley


We started out after breakfast from Kasauli at around 1000 hrs. We planned to go via the more scenic, but possibly worse, route to Tirthan via Narkhanda. 
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There is no doubt. The views were beautiful and we cruised along enjoying the scenery and the atmosphere. I normally drive with the driver side window open so as to be able to hear traffic coming from the opposite side and take preventive action. Most of these small roads can just about allow two small cars to pass each other. No way a big SUV can pass. These roads have wider ‘lay bys’ at regular intervals so one can tuck into these and allow the traffic to pass. The code in the mountains is the person who has the nearest lay by tucks in and waits. It is a code and discipline practiced by most locals and happily most outsiders too, except for the occasional idiot with an excess of testosterone. I am usually quite harsh with these idiots, making them back up.

As mentioned earlier, we had not booked any accommodation for the night at Narkhanda, preferring to see how the land lies. One of my friends recommended the Forest rest house at Narkhanda, and my experience has been that the FRH have normally 5 star location, even though the maintenance may be found wanting. I quickly accepted his suggestion and soon we were on our way to the FRH at Narkhanda. It was a huge disappointment. The Forest authorities had leased it out to a private contractor and the whole place was a mess. Very shabby with unclean bathrooms. It was not a FRH, but a trekkers camp. Worse, the “restaurant” was very dirty and smelly. And the last straw: The location was not so great too. It was already 1600 hours since we had stopped at various locations to take in the sights. 

Going forward was not an option since it gets dark by 1700 hours and so we hunted out a homestay called “The Wilderness”, which I had researched earlier. As expected the whole place was empty and it was a beautiful property. The hostess, recently back from studies at Oxford, to help her father run the property, was delightful and we thanked our good fortune in finding an excellent place.

 

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The room had a balcony and I was thankful of that wanting to shoot the night sky in relative comfort. However, much to my disappointment, the balcony faced North ( for an excellent view of the mountains, no doubt) and the Milky Way, and the Galactic center in particular, was visible for two short hours in South West! It was pretty cold and not wanting to trudge up unknown territory in the night, I solaced myself by shooting the night sky to the North.

 

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Narkhanda, situated at an altitude of 2700 meters is a skiing resort and is also famous for apple cultivation of Satyanand Stokes fame. Nowadays, cherries are also grown here. It is a nice place and we were unhappy that we were staying only one night here. Unfortunately, our accommodation at Tirthan was booked and paid for and we did not have the luxury of modifying the program.

The next morning, I got up before sunrise to shoot the landscape. The mountain range was pretty far out and we had been spoilt by the ranges and peaks at Uttrakhand, which one could almost reach out and touch. Still, it was a very pleasing sight and very peaceful. After a nice, sedate breakfast sitting out in the veranda overlooking the mountains, we again headed out to Tirthan Valley via the famous Jalori Pass. 
 

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Narkhanda - Tirthan Valley

The roads are not great, but the views make up for it. The majestic Sutlej river flows through the valley and it’s a great sight. We drove slowly, taking in the incredible expanse of nature all around us. No doubt about it. If you want to truly see India in all its glory, you would have to travel by road. We must have made umpteen stops till Jalori Pass.

 

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We reached Jalori pass and parked the car by a small tea shack. The range could not be seen due to the cloud cover. The pass was not very crowded and there were but a handful of cars. We spent some time walking around and taking in the atmosphere. A  trek of 6 kms leads on to the beautiful Serolsar lake, but unfortunately we had not planned for it and hence couldn’t do it.

Soon we were on our way to Tirthan Valley and reached our place of stay- Sunshine Himalayan Cottage- by 1430 hrs.
Next: Tirthan Valley

 

 

 

Edited by Earthian
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Tom Kellie

~ @Earthian: Thank you for this delightful trip report.

 

The excellent images, maps, and comments provide clarity and context.

 

This is an education for me. It's greatly appreciated.

 

      Tom K.

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Earthian
1 hour ago, Tom Kellie said:

~ @Earthian: Thank you for this delightful trip report.

 

The excellent images, maps, and comments provide clarity and context.

 

This is an education for me. It's greatly appreciated.

 

      Tom K.

Tom, It is such a delight reading your comments here on ST. Missed you. Thank you for your kind words and let me warn you: There is some drama at the end of the trip report.

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Earthian
Posted (edited)

Tirthan Valley:

The Valley is quite narrow and the Tirthan river passes through it. There are many homestays and stay options-some of them right beside the river. 

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One of the best attractions of this valley is the Great Himalayan National Park. Unfortunately, it was closed due to the Covid situation. Unlike other parks, GHNP can only be accessed by foot, which I feel is a great boon. Other national Parks have been exploited and commercialised beyond belief and the pristine environment ravaged and cluttered with thrash.

Our home stay was a nice wooden cottage right by the river. It had 6 rooms and a nice sit out overlooking the river. I spent many a morning lazing (dozing) with the roar of the river creating a stuporous effect.

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The roar of the river is to be heard to be believed. 24x7..on and on, ceaselessly. It awes and delights at the same time. Here is one of the guests meditating in the river, while basking in the sun. Idyllic!

 

I am afraid Tirthan Valley is going the over exploited tourist place route. There are rampant encroachments along the river. Some of them on the river bed!. The river has been cleverly diverted and the land encroached. At least that is what i felt. In Gujarat, there are local laws which prohibit building any structure within a certain distance from the river banks. I am sure such laws would be there in HP too. However, money talks and encroachments happen. In Gujarat too. If there is a cloud burst in the mountains, it would be a Kedarnath waiting to happen.

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The place where we stayed seemed to be on authorised land and there was a Government of HP trout farm right beside it. This home stay was also one of the few properties that had a dedicated parking available.

 

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Edited by Earthian
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Earthian
Posted (edited)

We had a very pleasant stay at Tirthan. Absolutely idyllic. No fixed agenda. Get up in the morning, go for a walk, talk to the locals, have a leisurely breakfast, get ready and drive to some nearby attraction. Have a frugal lunch, read a book or snooze, bond with the other guests, have an aperitif or two before dinner and then off to bed by 2100 hrs. here are some pictures that I shot with the phone during one such morning walk:

 

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If I am shooting the night sky, then I would take off between 1830 hrs and 2000 hrs to some vantage point. At this time of the year, the galactic center is hardly visible and if you do have a vantage point (elevated) then you may possibly see it for 45 minutes or so. The galactic center would start becoming more visible after March 15 in the Northern Hemisphere.

 

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One day we drove to a small village called Sarchi- about an hour away. The road was  single track in places and bad in patches. We drove to the end of the road. A quaint village.

 

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Edited by Earthian
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Earthian

Tirthan Valley- Kasol:

 

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We enjoyed our homestay at Tirthan valley. After a delectable 5 nights, it was time for us to move on. Accordingly, on the 20th October morning, after breakfast, we were on our way to Kasol. Unlike in Uttrakhand last year, we did not encounter any landslides or road blocks in Himachal. Spoke too soon, I guess. The first order of the day was a road block which was being cleared.

 

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The route was picturesque and the roads okay. The roads in Himachal are wider and better than those in Uttrakhand- particularly the state and village roads. Apart from local cars, Chandigarh, Punjab and Haryana registered cars were the most commonly seen. A sprinkling of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh cars. In our 20 days, apart from the states mentioned above, we saw two Gujarat cars (A’Bad, Surat), two from Maharashtra and one from J&K. No other state cars seen. At least by us.

 

We stopped for a tea break at a tea shack. There was this small weaving machine, used to make small mufflers. We bought some lengths. The couple running the stall were cheerful ( in spite of the Covid hardship being faced) and did multiple jobs to earn. They had cows, traded in walnuts, had some small land holding,  did weaving and ran the tea stall. The tea was delicious and attributed to the quality of the milk of their cows- which led to my wife asking for a cup of milk. We sampled the walnuts – they were being sold by the piece Rs 5/- apiece. Never heard of walnuts being sold on piece basis, but seems common in HP.
 

We took our time reaching Kasol, stopping every now and then and taking in the sights. I often tell people to enjoy the journey and not be fixated on just reaching the destination. What is the use travelling by car, if one is in a mad rush to reach his destination? 

We reached Kasol in the afternoon and arrived at our homestay. It was a beautiful property, on the banks of the Parvati river. We had the entire first floor ( 2 bedrooms, dining, kitchen, sit out) for ourselves. There was a care taker-cum-cook who would provide our culinary requirements.
 

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A litter of puppies and their mother welcomed us to the cottage.

 

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We put our feet up in the sit out overlooking the river and relaxed.
 

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Shortly afterwards, i could smell smoke. In the slopes of the valley behind us, there was evidently a forest fire. What started small soon became quite big and as it grew dark, the flames were quite prominent.

 

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There was some talk that the locals set fire to the grass and shrubs to encourage new growth of grass. This is particularly done when the rainfall is sparse, as had been so this year, it seems.

I was not convinced. However, in the morning the fire was out.

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A fascinating report from a lovely region of India.

Beautiful photos and helpful maps.

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Towlersonsafari

ver interesting report with lovely photos @Earthian

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Earthian
15 minutes ago, TonyQ said:

A fascinating report from a lovely region of India.

Beautiful photos and helpful maps.

Thank you, Tony. All well in your neck of the woods, i presume?

2 minutes ago, Towlersonsafari said:

ver interesting report with lovely photos @Earthian

Thank you, Towlersonsafari. More to come and as i said before, some melodrama in the end.

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Earthian
Posted (edited)

Kasol:

Kasol is known as a backpacker's paradise. It also has a large presence of tourists from Israel who stay for long durations in the villages surrounding Kasol, most popular of them being Tosh and Malana. In Kasol, it is common to see signboards and menu cards in Hebrew and many cafes boast of providing Israeli, Italian and Indian food - in that order! The advent of Covid-19 has blunted the influx of tourists this year, which is being felt keenly by the various service providers – Taxis, hotels, restaurants, small shops etc.

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I went down to the river and took some shots. It was a peaceful place-quiet except for the chirping of birds and the roar of the river. Anyway, that is not noise. After breakfast, we decided to take a chakker (round) of the place and stepped out. Kasol is as such a laid back place and in these Covid times and early morning ( 1000 hrs is early in these parts); it seemed that most of the town was still asleep. We moved around aimlessly and decided to ask the taxi Union Office about places to see in the neighbourhood. Manikarna, Tosh and Malana was the reply. Parking is a big problem in these places and the roads are very bad. It would be better if you hired a car. There were some drivers hanging around with no customers and we decided to give them some business.

 

We got a Tata Sumo for going to Manikaran and Tosh. It started out well, but just when we were crossing Manikaran, there was a sharp bang. The bushing of the leaf spring had snapped. Joginder – our driver – stopped the car and got a mechanic within minutes. The car was jacked up and a strong 1.5 feet long tapered log of wood was hammered between the leaf spring coupling and the top of the shaft pin. That’s it! I had thought that it would take an hour or two, but it was over in 10 minutes. I balked at riding on this makeshift repair job, but Joginder looked so crestfallen and when he promised me that he would attend to it properly when we were in Tosh, I agreed.

The road to Tosh was exceedingly bad and after about an hour and half, we reached the end of the road. The parking lot was full. We got down and started walking towards the village and onwards to a waterfall.

 

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Look at the rooms that have been made in this small village.  While Malana and Tosh have similar offerings to the pleasure seekers, Tosh is more accessible since the road comes up to the village. Malana on the other hand, is isolated and an hour's trek is required to reach the village from the nearest road point. Malana is the oldest democracy and has its own laws, rules and regulations. More on that later.1390215178_tosh-1-3.thumb.jpg.81228d3a515b931afa0370a36ed3c7bd.jpg

 

It was a typical Himachal village with people going about their business except for two significant changes. There were homestays and hotels everywhere and small cafes and restaurants.

 

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The 20 minute walk turned out to be more. We had walked up for half an hour when we saw the waterfall about half the distance away. Oh well! What’s in a waterfall? Took some pictures and turned back.

 

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The foreign influence is evident in such places with Jim Morrison café, Pink Floyd café, and Che Guevara posters

 

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Edited by Earthian
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Atravelynn

Falafel and Pink Floyd.  Fascinating start!  Hopefully no more breakdowns on your trip.

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So interesting! I wonder what brings Israelis there in particular?

 

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3 hours ago, Atravelynn said:

Falafel and Pink Floyd.  Fascinating start!  Hopefully no more breakdowns on your trip.

Shaksouka, Malala omelette & Che Guevara deep in remote Kumaon- fascinating. I knew young Israeli’s post their mandatory army service and payout would come in large numbers to Goa for long periods of time ( till the cash ran out) but had no idea this occurred in North India in the Himalayas as well.

Thanks for a very interesting report @Earthian Always enjoy your writing and pictures. 

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7 hours ago, janzin said:

So interesting! I wonder what brings Israelis there in particular?

 

 

6 hours ago, AKR1 said:

. I knew young Israeli’s post their mandatory army service and payout would come in large numbers to Goa for long periods of time ( till the cash ran out) but had no idea this occurred in North India in the Himalayas as well.

 

Yes, that is what we were told. After their mandatory army service they come to Kasol to chill. Needless to say, Malana Cream is in high demand and available everywhere.

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Manikaran:


On the way back from Tosh, we stopped at Manikaran. The famous Manikaran Gurudwara was closed due to Covid-19 ( some staffers tested positive there), but the Ram mandir and that of the residing goddess Naina Devi were open. The name (Manikaran) has an interesting myth behind it.
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We did not take any hot water bath in any of the kunds, but did see one. The sulphurous smell was evident.

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We paid our obeisance at the Ram mandir( Ram temple) and were invited to partake of prasad which consisted of Rajma (Broad beans), Chaval (Cooked rice), a sweet preparation and rotis if you wanted them. The Mandir surroundings is undergoing renovation and there was cement and dust everywhere.

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Manikaran may be a special place for the devout, but we did not see anything special about it. The lack of people and pilgrims made the place look woebegone and even the eating joints looked listless and deserted.

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There was the usual trash dumped at a convenient spot and i wondered why the Government or the local body for that matter did not levy a small fee from visitors to tackle the menace.

 

After aimless wandering for some time, we repaired to the parking and took our Taxi back to Kasol.  The next part would see us checking out the newly opened Atal Tunnel, going up to the fabulous Rohtang pass, checking out Malana (!) and then going to a different valley. Hope you liked the report till now. Leaving you with a teaser picture of what's to come.

 

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Edited by Earthian
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Atravelynn

Somehow I missed the first post that contains your photo that perfectly depicts what the Valley of the Gods would like like.  A night shot, no less!

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Atal Tunnel- Rohtang Pass:

 

The advantage of staying put at a place is that you do not have to adhere to plans made earlier. If you are feeling lazy, relax at home. If you are feeling feisty, go out for some adventure sports. If you are feeling like a drive, take the car and go.

We had 4 nights at this great homestay in Kasol, but could have stayed for more than a week, if it had been possible. On the 22nd morning, we left early to check out Manali and Atal tunnel. We took the highway to Manali and reached Manali by 0900 hrs. Since it was quite early, we stopped for breakfast at an Udipi (Southindian) café.

 

We were on our way to Atal tunnel and I cautioned the others not to take photographs ( even from a moving car) since there had been a government order banning the same from the Manali side. The roads were new and smooth as butter.

 

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Soon we were at the tunnel where the speed limit in the beginning was 40 kmph, which increased to 60 kmph after a kilometer or so.  Shortly, after 9 kms,  we exited the tunnel and stopped by the side where parking (and taking photographs) was allowed. There were many cars  with the same idea and I spent some time taking pictures.

 

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There were two enterprising men who had set up a fast food joint out of their cars. Hope they don’t litter up the place.

 

 

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I asked the police personnel about the road to Rohtang and the answer was that barring a few kilometers, the road was new. No, the road to Chandra Taal was very bad and yesterday a SUV had got stuck there. It would take 4.5 hours too, one way. So that was out. Rohtang it is. I was cautioned to watch out since the weather was worsening. Mausam biged rahi hai. My wife gave some theplas (Fenugreek rotis) and dry fruits to the police personnel having the unenviable job of noting down the particulars of those passing through, in good weather or bad. They were embarrassed, but gratefully accepted.

The drive to the Pass is exceedingly beautiful and I must have stopped on numerous occasions just to take the scenery in. There was sparse traffic.

 

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Near the Pass, we came upon a large film crew shooting for a movie. Seems that Nagarjuna, of Andhra movies fame, was shooting. We stopped on the road and watched it for a while. Since none of us had seen a Nagarjuna movie, there was not much inclination to go nearer or meet any actors.

 

And then we were at the pass. Not even a handful of cars and a lone tea vendor, hopefully looking at us.  We ordered tea, more to encourage him, rather than the need for it. Took the mandatory photos posing with the Pass marker and we were back on our way. 

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Instead of returning the way we came – which would have been shorter and with better roads- we decided to go back via the old route to Manali. The roads were quite bad, but the scenery was exceedingly beautiful.

 

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We missed out on exploring places further up since it would have required a night halt and we were not prepared. If we had stayed at Manali, then these excursions would have been quite doable. Secondly, there were conflicting reports about the demeanor of the villagers towards tourists particularly due to the Covid situation.

While we were returning we overtook a party of cyclists who were returning from the pass. We encouraged them and offered water, which they politely declined. As we neared Manali, the road meandered through thick pine forests and it was a beautiful sight with small waterfalls and springs bubbling away.

 

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Having had nothing to eat since our breakfast, we scouted for a good eating place and in the end, landed up back at the same Udipi restaurant we had visited in the morning! Oh well. At least we would not have any surprises. It was pushing on 1500 hrs and we wanted to reach Kasol before sunset – it had been a long day. Normally one drives about 100-150 kms in the mountains- we would be doing close to 265 kms today. I wanted to have a look at Naggar, but the others were tired and wanted to go back home. So without any further ado, we hoofed it directly to Kasol, reaching by 1700 hrs.

A nice hot water bath, a stiff aperitif or two and a simple khichidi-sabzi-dahi dinner (lentil+ rice + Curry+ yoghurt). That is the life!

 

Malana:

 

The next day, we got up late (by our standards ie at 0730 hrs ), dawdled over breakfast and stepped out by 1000 hrs. We went to the Taxi Union office and booked a taxi to Malana. The roads were bad, but not as bad as Tosh. The good  part is that the roads in Himachal are not as narrow as those in Uttarakhand, particularly the small state roads. One has to drive slowly and backing up due to a vehicle coming from the opposite direction is only occasionally. But then in Uttarakhand we went to non-touristy places and hence probably the roads were worse.

We stopped for the usual landscape shots and proceeded to a dam which was newly constructed on the Malana river.

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There is a road being constructed to link Malana village, but there seemed to be no progress. All for good, I suppose. Malana, being isolated, has its own laws, rules and regulations and all inhabitants need to follow them. Making it easy for outside access would corrupt the culture. Not that everyone is enamored of their antecedents and culture. The locals ( non Malana) feel that the Malana villagers consider themselves an elite race and are similar to orthodox brahmins as far as caste consciousness and practice of untouchability are concerned. 

 

Still, recreational drug tourism is a money spinner and the per capita income of a villager is said to be around Rs 25 lacs per annum ( US $ 35,000/-). We avoided the Malana Magic Valley trek. Neither we were in a mood to trudge up an hour and a half to the village. One needs to camp near these places or in these villages and do these treks.

 

 

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We stopped at a small eating joint opposite the Malana Village trek gate. We had some refreshments, shot the breeze with some boys from Mumbai, and departed back. Altogether, a very chilled out day. Good we took a taxi.:D

 

Kasol – Palampur:

 

Our 4 nights were over at this beautiful homestay, right alongside the Parvati river. Our next destination was the Rakkh Resort at Palampur. Accordingly, on the 24th morning, after breakfast, we set out for Palampur.

The highway via Mandi is undergoing widening and is very, very bad. Alkali dust everywhere. One would be eating. The dust thrown up by the vehicle in front.  The traffic was also heavy. It was the worst that we had encountered in HP till now. Actually, there is a different route, albeit narrower road- but much more picturesque and cleaner. Anyway, we were in it- nothing to do but lump it, grit your teeth and carry on.

There was no chance of stopping anywhere, thanks to the dust that surrounded one. Still, we managed a pit stop in a relatively cleaner and dust free location and had some hot pakodas. Cheered us up considerably.

By and by, we arrived at Baijnath and I suddenly recalled that this was the site of a famous Shiva temple. No sooner had I uttered it, we saw the sign for the parking to the temple. Sheer luck….or was it divine providence? All the bells of the temple were wrapped by cloth to prevent anyone ringing it and then transmitting the dreaded Corona Virus. Funnily enough, Parikrama (Circumnavigating the shrine) was not allowed due to the Covid situation. If one could have darshan, partake prasad, then why not parikrama?

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After taking some pictures, we were off to Rakkh resort.

The road after Baijnath improved considerably and we enjoyed the scenery and winding roads. By late afternoon, we were at Rakkh Resorts.

 

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This property is just under the magnificent Dhauladhar range.

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We spent 6 days at this resort. It was just perfect. The resort was sparsely occupied and our cottages were very good, with a nice sit out and view. The only problem was that it was quite a steep trudge from the entrance to the cottage. The Management encourages people to enjoy the outdoors with all kinds of activities, but were considerate enough to allow us to use the battery operated golf carts to go up our cottages.

 

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The resort is being managed by a young lady and I must place on record that the resort is quite efficiently managed by her and her team. Moka, the activities guide is a knowledgeable birder too and I spent one morning checking out the birds in the vicinity. Our routine was to get ready and go for breakfast at about 0830 hrs and over breakfast, decide where we would like to go (or not).

 

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We went to Dharamshala and McLeodgunj one day and I must confess that I found them quite disappointing. Parking is a huge problem and if it was difficult during these Covid times; imagine the state when tourist flock here in full bloom. Most of the museums and Dalai Lama offices/palace were closed and we made our way to the Bhagsunag temple.

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St John’s church in the wilderness was a nice church with beautiful surroundings. Unfortunately it was closed too.

 

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We went to Bir Billing one day. Rather, we went to Bir – the landing site of the para gliders. It was a nice place with glider after glider landing. There were the Pros, the novices – who were talked down by radio by the instructors; and there were the thrill seekers who did the flight in tandem with a professional. My wife was in two minds- she badly wanted to do try paragliding and she was afraid too. In the end, she skipped it. But on our way back she resolved to do it when next given the opportunity.

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We checked out a tea factory and some local pottery artists one day. Went to a nearby Buddhist monastery – closed though. All very idyllic and chilled out.

 

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Thus ended our stay at this beautiful place. It was Oct 29th, 19 days after we had started out from Ahmedabad. We had not made any plans for return yet and I asked the others what they wanted to do? Go further some where else or return home?

We had been pretty lucky till now, having enjoyed a nice trip during these troubled times, without any mishap and the consensus was that we return back. We wanted to come back via a different route and we decided to come back via Jullundur – Bathinda- Jodhpur- A’Bad route, with pit stops at Bathinda and Jodhpur.

We stayed at the Radisson in Bathinda- the only hotel which seemed  to our requirements. Far from it, though. The hotel seems to have fallen on hard times due to the Covid situation, and though the rooms were all right; the hotel maintenance and surroundings were seedy and poorly maintained. The staff strength had been pruned by 50% and the rest had to double up to do other chores. Still, it was one night and the Chef at the restaurant tried to make us feel at home by dishing up his best ‘homely’ food.

On the other hand, in Jodhpur we stayed at ITC’s Bal Samand Lake and Palace property- a tried and tested one and we didn’t have any surprises.

 

The ending: The drive over.


Thus ended a drive to the Valley of the Gods. We had travelled a little over 3800 kms.   Apart from the mandatory puncture that we have in all our trips, there was no issue at all with the car. Luckily we had the mandatory puncture in Gujarat – about an hour after we started out- and it was quickly attended to and put behind us.

 

 

Edited by Earthian
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The aftermath:

 

There is an unpleasant aftermath that i need to share, though in all fairness, it may not be correct to call it an "aftermath". I am going to copy and paste it from one of the other social media sites (IndiaMike) i participate in:

 

There would be a lot of formatting and typing errors ( This was written during May 2021)

 


Part -III: Stroke: A bolt from the Gods:

 

This is the concluding part of my trip report to HP during October last year. No pictures and maybe a trifle macabre. Mods are free to remove it if found. Distasteful. Kindly excuse spelling and formatting errors since left fingers are not (yet) nimble enough. I am told by my physiotherapist to try and adhere to my normal schedule and yes- typing trip reports on IndiaMike would help!! So here goes.


So after a great trip , we safely came back home on the 2nd of November 2020 and went about our daily routine. Things were going. Fine when on the 19th November, a bolt struck me literally from the blue.
ON the 19th morning, I had just finished my shower when I got an excruciating pain on top of my head and my legs gave way and I was wedged between the toilet seat and the bath tub. I was trying to wear my bathroom slippers and couldn’t do so. My wife, wondering why I was in the bathroom for a long time called out and I managed to tell her that it was an emergency and that she should use the master key and. Open the bathroom.
Note1: We have a master key which opens all rooms. Life saver, literally.
She did so, found me fallen and asked our daughter for help, but both together. Couldn’t. lift me.
Note 2: Keep. Weight under control. 112 kgs is bad.
The neighbours came and somehow managed to drag me to the adjoining dressing room. 108 was summoned and my wife called some friends and my ex boss. In the meanwhile, the ambulance personnel, recognizing the symptoms, explained that I had suffered a stroke and speedily took me to one of the best hospitals in Ahmedabad, at the behest of my wife. Concurrently, my ex boss, after learning the ambulance personnel’s initial diagnosis, alerted the neuro team at the hospital.
Note 3: work for good companies and good people.
Note 4: Map the available hospitals near by with proven specialization. Cardiac, neuro etc.

By this time I was unconscious and I am told that on arrival at the ER, I was speedily taken for a scan and. When the worst was confirmed, taken to the OR, after taking the necessary consents. Craniotomy was performed (half my skull was removed) and the blood cleaned. The skin flap was loosely fixed and I was shifted to the iCU.
In the meanwhile, my daughter had contacted my son in NJ, who managed to get a ticket on united leaving in 4 hours and due to the emergency, the covid protocols were also. Waived, I believe. By the time I got to the iCU, he had landed in New Delhi.

The first thing. That I noticed on awakening, was that my right hand. Was shackled to the bed and my left hand was useless. It was a frightening moment.
Note 5: patients are normally shackled to prevent. Them removing the Intubation. And other stuff.

The nurse told me that no water would be given for 8 hours ( vomiting can take place leading to complications with intubation and all. and yes-I had a raging. Thirst. Small sips of water or moisten the lips would be allowed. God send.

One cannot speak with a parched and dry throat and intubation. But The nurses understood that water was required and proactively Told me the bad news. Managed to tell them to put a moistened gauze piece on my lips, which gave a bit of relief- for atime at least.

My wife came in and told me that all was well- under the circumstances-and that they were waiting in a room just above the ICU. My son had arrived but had quarantined himself, as per guidelines.

My stay in the ICU for 12 days was surprisingly tolerable. Most of the time, I must have been in a stupor, I guess. I had a tube down my throat, a nasogastric tube (ryles tube) for medicines and liquids, I had a catheter, I had different sensors and monitors attached to different parts of the body.

I jokingly told my son that they had violated all my orifices except my A*** hole. Oops. Spoke too soon, I guess!

Note 6: Best not to make jokes such such as the above As I was soon to understand.

My intubation was removed within 24 hours and then it wasn’t so bad. My pleas to my son got the Shackles removed too, after I promised that I would not mess up. The tubes or try and remove them.

Physiotherapy had started immediately. I understand that the earlier you start the better. The medicines, lack of movement and lack of proper food had given arise to constipation and after non violating pills and stuff failed to work, it was enema. So now all orifices were violated.

 

As mentioned previously, the 12 days went by fairly smoothly and I did not face any particular hardship save for the small niggles and naggles. The saving grace was that only every other joint, muscle or bone were aching. The rest were fine. As is common everywhere, the lowest category in the totem pole did most of the grunt and dirty work. The higher you were, you could lord over matters and dish out orders. The lowest category were “attendants”. But it was inspiring to see that they did not complain. In fact most of them took over additional responsibilities-within limits.

A daily routine was established and I quickly became on first name terms with most of the care givers. Hospital food is hospital food and though I was allowed unrestricted “full” diet, my appetite was very poor and I wasted most of the food. I dropped 14 kgs in 22 days. Not a recommended way to lose weight though. Once a day I would get an “outing” in a wheelchair around the ward. Very welcome diversions. I would loiter near the nurses central desk and watch the happenings. Phone rights were restricted ( in fact not allowed in the ICU) and my son would give me the summary of calls and messages. Anyway my hands were quite weak and it was an effort to lift the iphone. You learn to appreciate the importance of fitness and health during these times. I spent 12 days in the ICU and then I was transferred to a private room-much more comfortable and nice. The good part about the private room is that one person of your family can stay with you ( they were suites) and occasional visitors were allowed. Not that I wanted them-particularly during these Covid days. One of my friends would come everyday at 0630 hrs with hot filter coffee-much better than the instant stuff the hospital was providing and I used to look forward to his visit.

Compared to the ICU, the private room was akin to a stay in a 5 star hotel. The care givers were assigned patients/rooms and got to know about your idiosyncrasies and requirements. Though the private room had a separate, private toilet and bathroom, I was not allowed visiting rights, much to my chagrin. Initially that is. After a week or so, I was allowed and my first shower (bucket and mug bath) was enjoyable. Small things. But important. Bonding with the family was possible and I spent many an enjoyable hour playing Ludo ( and always losing) with the family. Possibly I became closer to my children than ever before.

My son took pains to remind me at every opportunity that I had been given a rare second chance and I agree. I was indeed very lucky to have received timely and competent care.

 

I was anxious about my missing skull, but it didn’t seem to bother the doctors who said that there was no hurry for cranioplasty and we could wait a couple of months. IN fact they recommended it. My son left for the US since it was clear that no procedure would be performed in the immediate future and after 10 days in the private room i was discharged and came home. WE hired a full time male nurse.
There. Is no doubt. Leaving the hospital and recovering at home was a welcome change. I started recovering faster and started doing small personal chores on my own. At first, the lack of half the skull was unnerving and I worried about what would happen if I fell or banged it at the wrong place, but in time, my anxiety level diminished. Johnson, the nurse was very competent and I even started going for morning walks in safe areas. Did 3 kms in one session, though it took me more. Than an hour to complete. It.

The PT encouraged me to do small chores and play the drums, if i was inclined to. I did. And it was very frustrating. My timing. Was off and my dominant right hand was far stronger than the weakened left hand and hence the sound was off too. Very, very frustrating. I. had developed a frozen shoulder and could not play all the drums. (roll)

This is not only going to take effort but time too. The PT is a young man, fresh out of college ( maybe 2-4 years experience) and while pushing you to try and achieve greater scope, is careful not to injure anything. Slow going, but there is progress.

During one of my routine visits to the hospital, the surgeon felt that the
Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) needed to be regulated which would involve putting a “shunt” in the brain which would regulate the amount of fluid and in case of excess divert It (shunt it) to the abdomen. In order to spare me the trauma of repeated operations, he advised that we do it along with cranioplasty. My son was duly informed and arrived on the day of the operation. Two, very competent, OT nurses took me to the OT and next when i woke up i was in a bed in a line in the ICU! My head was hurting real bad and i was hallucinating too. Probably the after effect of the anaesthesia. The effect of the pain and the hallucination put me in a bad mood and i am afraid i behaved quite badly with the ICU attending doctor who explained That i would feel better in another five minutes. And it was true. The good news was that i was out of the anaesthetic effect and the bad news was that my head was hurting. My bed was wheeled to a slot and hooked up to the vitals and monitors.
A dedicated nurse was assigned and for the first time, I fully understood and appreciated the care and work they need to do to take care of ICU patients. It is a laborious job and full time.
This girl must have weighed half of what I weighed or even lesser, but. It was a treat to see her bravely tackling the laborious jobs and she was smart enough to get some attendants to help whenever required.

I was supposed to stay in the ICU only for 24 hours or so, but the doctor extended it to 72 hours to be on the safe side. After 3 days I was back to my suite and in familiar surroundings- almost like coming home.

I stayed another week in the room , mostly for the surgeon to check if the shunt was working properly. A couple of adjustments were done with the remote(!) and then they proclaimed me good to go. Being in no mood to look a gift horse in the mouth, I made myself scarce asap.

Its been 45 days since the cranioplasty and shunt fixation and touch wood-everything is okay. I am scheduled for a routine visit only in July now.

Thus ended my drive to the valley of the Gods, though it would be unfair to link up this event with the drive to the valley. Thank you for bearing with me and my poor formatting and language.

The above ends the copy-paste from the other site.

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@Earthianwhat a lovely report with so many glorious colourful photographs. Thanks for sharing 

 

and then to read of your troubles at the end.😱 It is something many of us fear as we age but to read of your real life experience of it was really alarming, but nevertheless,  fascinating. (I have a healthcare background). What a terrible shock it must have been for you and your family. So pleased that you are recovering steadily and that writing your trip report is aiding your physio.😉

 

enjoyed your notes to self in the text.😂

 

please continue to take care of yourself and thanks again.

Edited by wilddog
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@wilddog

Glad you liked the TR. It's been just over a year now since my hemorrhage  and i am nearly as i was before the stroke. I drive the car, go about my morning exercise routine, and everything is normal....except that my taste buds seem to be screwed up, possibly due to the medicines. Still, cannot complain. Life is good and as my son keeps telling me-a rare second chance.

One point of worry is that my weight is again slowly creeping up. Need to work on that.

Thank you for your encouraging words and concern. Appreciate it.

Edited by Earthian
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Good to hear. So are you planning your next trip now?

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33 minutes ago, wilddog said:

Good to hear. So are you planning your next trip now?

Want to badly. This Omicron has upset things a bit. If all goes well, will visit USA during April, that is assuming the virus scare has petered down. Want to do Tanzania too. List keeps growing.

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