Why is travel the need of the hour?

Taking the road less traveled is always a better option. The route was called Tribal Triangle; we took two weeks and did it backwards. We took a small detour to Ladakh to meet a friend half way. This route was opened only about two years back and people are yet to take complete advantage of it. Having said that, we did not meet any other traveller for the first 1500kms.

We spent the first night in Mcleodganj and did not explore it at all. It was in, out and a meal. While we had set our GPS to Keylong, the road left us awestruck that we had to stop and chill almost everywhere, it was only after sunset that we reached Shatrundi Check Post. We were determined to go ahead till Khillar the same day, however, we were advised by the officers at the check post to stay overnight because of the extreme road conditions. This was the very place where the Chamba Massacre of 1998 took place and as we sat around the bonfire and indulged in conversation, I felt the pinch of adventure a road trip entails.

Early next morning we set off on a route filled with glaciers and mountain passes. Sach Pass was the first— 800 sheep, two shepherds and their dog welcomed us. We asked them about the road conditions and where to find food, because food is my best friend while up in the mountains, considering the fact that I am always hungry there. As we stopped to pay our respect at the Lord Shiva temple, they proceeded to their village.

Enroute Khillar- Monalisa B
Keylong was to be our destination but mountains and puncture go hand in hand and we had to stop at Khillar before we could travel further. Khillar, with only two hotels, was a really small town and did not have much happening; the most crowded place was the bus stop. With no network for two days now, I was quite enjoying the serenity. The river Chamunda was flowing adjacent to the town and we took a room with a view of it. My friend kept joking about the presence of other energies in the room. The next morning I woke up with a swollen lip and even though painless, I had to agree with him with a grin. These are discomforts you encounter while taking routes hardly partaken because the touristy facilities lack in most places. As a citizen of a developing country, it was not much of a shock for me but my first world friend had to be reminded of it. Both being travelers, we took every incident with a pinch of salt.We were behind schedule of reaching Keylong by two nights. By afternoon, we finally reached Keylong and were starving for food, Internet and money and we got all these here. Buying lip balm was also high on the list. We were looking forward to camp at 5521metres, a first for the both of us.

Sarchu was the last village of Himachal Pradesh and was a highly sensitive area. Check posts are common when you cross borders, obviously, but this one was extremely strict and had a huge signboard prohibiting travelers the use of satellite phones, which confirmed the sensitivity. You could be fined or worse, taken into custody in suspicion of being a spy.

We chose the last camp for the sole reason that we will be a little closer to our destination, Leh, the next day. There are numerous camps all along the way for travelers to rest before they proceed higher. Acclimation is vital in these areas and because people don’t take it seriously as much as they should, they tend to get nauseous and lose their appetite, which leads to dehydration and severe headaches.We kept strong and left with the first light.

Leh was two days of being a tourist. Sightseeing, hogging and souvenir shopping were the only things we did. My friend was unwell, but that did not obstruct his touring skills at all—traits of a traveler, I reckon.

Photo Credits: Lorenzo Gallori
Morning walks are the idyllic way of starting your day in the mountains. And if you are walking around Pangong Tso, you can well imagine the grandeur of this particular walk. Only 1/3rd of this lake is in India and its magnificence will leave you bewildered. We walked and still in tourist mode, clicked a lot of pictures. We drove and found another spot from where the lake was as breath taking.That day, we were almost 473kms away from Keylong and as a friend awaited us there, we were partaking a 16-hour journey to travel further with her. That night, social media updates, stories and lots of food were the perfect scene as we prepared for a whole new valley the next day.

We would be on the road every day for about 8 to 10 hours and finding spots for lunches and munchies was our primary objective. Stopping at innumerable spots for photos or to simply stare into the oblivion, we increased our travel-time by an hour or two. It was all worth it definitely. That night we camped at Chandrataal and took a morning walk for five hours around it. I was completely baffled by its surrealism.

Our SUV punctured its tire on the way to Kaza, a village called Losar. Without electricity for the last two days, the mechanics could not help us, but a kind gentleman gave us a lift in his hatchback, squeezed in our tire, and later, drove us back. With a brilliant start to the day, we were quite disheartened with the turn of events, but as we set off, the sights soothed us and upon reaching the Kaza, we found rooms and met another kind gentleman who was letting everyone without network use his phone for free. Regaining our faith in humanity, we were elated to explore further and get to meet more kind souls in Spiti.

Photo Credits: Maryann Tauro

Conveyance around Spiti is not feasible. There is just one bus from Kibber to Kaza and none that comes back. So as a solution, all locals always ask for lifts here and there. We met many heart-warming people and had an exquisite English breakfast in one of their restaurants. Walking in the pea and wheat fields around the village was quite a walk. It was just so enriching, a walk always ends in bliss, I have realized.

We had to choose between Nako and Tabo for the last night in Spiti. Going with the flow was our choice and after that hearty meal in Tabo, we decided to go ahead till Nako because of the lake and after our previous encounters with lakes, we will always choose a lake. It was late afternoon as we explored a little for the obvious reason of finding spots and as we saw a spectacular sunset, we reached Nako and the Lake View was the best we could ask for.

A scrumptious breakfast with apple jams was the highlight of that morning. Apart from that, my friends rebuilt the wall of a resident because he nonchalantly said it would take a week and we had to go further. The trip was coming to an end and so was my mission to showcase India to a foreigner. When I saw the contentment, I can well believe that I did a marvelous job. Considering that this was my friend’s first time in India and the other’s first trip to the mountains. The “marvelous” person who drove us around, his first too, on that route and my first trip to the valley; it moved everyone on some level. The most important lesson I learnt was that we should never lose the faith in ourselves and in the universe’s way to answer our questions. It is only through travel that life’s most valuable lessons are learnt as easily as breathing. The goodness in you flows out. Let it flow. I pledge to travel, no matter what.

Originally published here
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