2013, The Year Gone By – The Year of Mountain Passes

I know I am late. This post would have made more sense had it been done in 2013 itself. But the last week of my 2013 was spent in a train. No, at one of the highest waterfalls of India maybe. Or probably 120 feet below the earth surface in an ancient cave. Ok. The last week of 2013 and the first week of 2014 was well spent in the ancient villages, caves, and forests of Chattisgarh, that’s all I know. But we shall talk about that later.

The primary focus of this post is 2013. The year gone by. The year that helped me cross 6 Himalayan Passes.

A Dull Beginning to 2013

The last trip of 2012 was nothing less than a fairy-tale. I traveled across the border, from India to Pakistan, on foot. Alone. Today my passport bears a visa stamp of Wagha Immigration Office and I intend to get it stamped again, from the Karachi Officials this year. Come April and you I will get to know if I am going to Pakistan again or not.

The first five months of 2013 were quite dull. And it was not before May that I hit the road again. The long awaited Rohru – Shillai trip happened and it was a tough ride. The road that connects Himachal’s Apple belt to the rest of the world is ignored. Despite poor road conditions, here are Five reasons why you should travel on the Rohru-Shillai Circuit. And because I wasn’t traveling much, I decided to write reviews of Travel and related books. Here you can find all the Travel Book Reviews I have written so far.

Shillai HaripurDhar Road
Meanwhile In Shillai!

A Love Affair with Chamba!

The second half of 2013 was mostly spent in Chamba. Atop the high and mighty Himalayan Passes. Walking through the lost paths of Chamba that once connected the Jammu Region to Chamba without much hassles.  I almost landed at the source of the Siul River at the Chamba – Jammu border near Langera but then I didn’t want to scare the terrorists hiding in the Bhaderwah Jungles. Actually it was the other way around and moreover you need a permit to cross this (Padhri Gali Pass) pass. So next time you want to visit Bhaderwah via Chamba, get your permits at Kihar or Sanghni. More details here.

Indrahar_Pass_Trek_Chamba_View
Lovely – Enchanting – Chamba

And then from the Inter-state border, I landed directly at the International Border of prime importance both from the security and history point of view. Dera Kartarpur (a few miles from Indo-Pak border in Pakistan) where Guru Nanak breathed his last. A site to behold because people line up just to catch a binocular -glimpse of the Gurdwara located across the border. I pray that 2014 onwards they are allowed to cross over and pay their respects. Hope sanity prevails soon.

Across the Border, Dera Baba Kartarpur
That White Spot on the Horizon – Across the Border, Dera Baba Kartarpur

A couple of months later, I traveled to Chamba again. And again. And again. So much so that I visited the Manimahesh Lake thrice in a week. From three different approaches. Once via the conventional Hadsar Bharmaur approach which looks easy but is not. Secondly via the beautiful yet forgotten Sukh Dali Pass. And third time over the treacherous Jotnu Pass that completes the Parikrama of the Holy Chamba Kailash. And every time I experienced a different aspect of Indian life and its great traveler spirit.

The Sacred Chamba Kailash Peak
The Sacred Chamba Kailash Peak

Solo Trekking in the Himalayas

I walked solo a lot in 2013. Across the Rohtang Pass in April. My first trek of the Dhauladhars’ across the Jalsu Pass. The Sukh Dali Pass. Chamba Kailash Parikrama. To Saho that was celebrating its 1000 Years of existence. And believe me solo traveling makes you infinitely happy. Beyond measure.

The Har Gaon Ki Kahani program also caught my attention and I ended up traveling to 5-6 Har Gaon Ki Kahani locations. My favorites being Saho, Sangrah Heritage Village, and Ghatotkach’s Court of Justice in Mandi.

Two other important events of 2013 were meeting Jango and Rijul. Jango, a Himalayan guide who is an encyclopedia in himself. And Rijul, a young man who has made these Himalayas his second home. Rijul walked across 16 passes in 2013. And that includes two Trans-Himalayan passes namely the Pot La and Shiv-Shankar La!

I had the good fortune of meeting Jango in Dharamshala. And I was lucky to trek in the Himalayas with Rijul. Across the mighty Darati Pass in the Pir Panjal Himalayas. Read: Surviving a flash flood in the Himalayas

A Proud Moment, Atop the Darati Pass
A Proud Moment, Atop the Darati Pass

Together we tried to cross the Bohar Pass by the end of the year. But that didn’t happen. We tried thrice but it just did not happen. The Himalayas will wait next year too. And we shall go.

Meeting the Saraswati

A long cherished dream was accomplished in December last year. The so called mythological river Saraswati was no more mythological for me. I visited the Origin of this river at Kathgarh, Yamunanagar in the Shivalik Himalayas. It was an overwhelming experience for me.

It was a wonderful travel year. 365 days of absolute joy and ecstasy.

What are your plans to make your life better? If you don’t have any plans, try traveling.

It dispels illusions! 🙂

Have a wonderful 2014 folks!

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