2016 was the last time I was in Himachal Pradesh. 2004 was the first, last and only time I was in Spiti in the state of Himachal Pradesh. The last clientele that was in Himachal Pradesh was travelling in 2022. And in 2023 in autumn I have more clientele there. I thought: I really needed to go back and revisit places already seen and explore new places. Spiti is at the top of the list. And so the plan now is to meet Eva (who was also in Ladakh in February 2023) in Shimla in mid-September and we tackle the Spiti round together.
I don’t know yet how long it will take and what exactly I will do afterwards.
What I like about Himachal Pradesh is that it is mainly mountainous and then has so many different areas. With 55650 sq km it is about as big as Baden-Württemberg + Saxony-Anhalt together. It has the nickname Dev Bhoomi = Land of the Gods – interestingly just like Uttarakhand, where I was a year ago. There are mainly Hindus, whereas the regions of Lahaul and Spiti are predominantly Buddhist. But first back to the plan and the history.
In 1992 I had my first opportunity to visit Spiti. It was not open to western travellers at that time, but I had met an official gentlemantogether with a temporary travel partner named Therese from Ireland, who invited us to come there. We first drove to Batal from where we hiked to Chandertal Lake and back. I had never seen anything like it! A dry lunar landscape like no other! And then a sparkling blue lake in the middle of it. I felt very, very far away from home and everything I knew. After that, we should have gone on to Spiti – and I didn’t go! I could have been one of the first tourists in Spiti! But it was too much for me at that time – especially the dusty bare landscape. I myself, and those who still know me, will hardly believe it with my preference for dry mountain deserts, but back then it was different. I went to green Dharamshala and saw the Dalai Lama there for the first time. That was something too.
1999 the second attempt. I had read the book “Die ochre Border” by Justine Hardy and would have loved to hike the Pin Parvati Trek she described. But not alone. I couldn’t find a travel partner and thought that it should at least be the Spiti circuit. I went to Shimla, to Sarahan, to Sangla, to Rekong Peo (the usual stops we are going to again now), realised that Rekong Peo is not pretty, but that I would have to stay there all alone for more than a day to get my permit (it was Sunday), did not feel well, boarded a bus – and went back to Dharamshala. I didn’t meet the Dalai Lama there, but Esther and Anna and we had a very good time together.
2004 the third attempt, this time with company, namely my father. We had planned to do the Spiti circuit, but failed due to external circumstances. The monsoon rains had caused the Sutlej River to swell to such an extent that a large piece of road near Nako broke away, which would not be repaired until the following year. But we travelled to Spiti anyway! Up around via Manali and the Kunzum Pass to Lossar, Kaza and Taboo. And then the whole thing back again and on to Ladakh. At that time I had half liked Spiti. It was just as dry, mountainous and Buddhist as Ladakh, but something I still can’t put my finger on didn’t make my heart skip a beat.
Since then, I haven’t attempted it again, but have thought of it several times . And now I will hopefully finally make the round and am very excited about my memories and new discoveries!
Here are a few pictures from 2004 – scans from slides/sw film.
If the planned Spiti round is done, there are plenty of options open! I could travel to Manali through the Altai Tunnel, which is new to me, or via Keylong to Zanskar or towards Kishtwar, there is the Hampta Pass trek to Manali (or even Pin Parvati, but that might be too long?), I would like to get to know the area of the Great Himalayan National Park better, as well as hiking possibilities near Dharamshala – oh, far too many possibilities for a mere 6 weeks of travel…..
And then there’s Dussehra on 24.10, which is celebrated hugely in Kullu and which already thrilled me in 2012. Big question: repeat or participate in another place? Besides, I hope to meet some acquaintances and also many nice new people. Himachal Pradesh as a cultural area is also very exciting and diverse and I hope to expand my knowledge properly.
Unfortunately, Himachal Pradesh is one of the areas in India where the monsoon always causes severe damage. This year too, so much rain fell that over 150 roads were so badly damaged that they had to be closed and over 400 people died in connection with the monsoon damage. It seemed doubtful about my travel plans, but I was assured that most of it would be repaired by then. They’re really fast at that in India – unless it’s very difficult terrain. The road near Nako, where there was repeated damage, has now been rebuilt in a large curve around it.
A dream would be to have a little more to do with the shepherds, the Gaddis and others. Here is a small Article with Film. I was once told that when the shepherds leave for the high pastures in spring, they also have to deal with altitude problems. However, they have a remedy for this: they take pebbles with them from low areas and when they get problems, they suck them in their mouths and everything gets better! I wonder if I’ll try Hamburg Elbe pebbles?
In any case, I’m really looking forward to it and very excited to see what this trip will be filled with!