We load Haliatus and begin the drive to Kalpa. It is exciting because leave alone Maloo and me, even Harsha and Prabha are not sure about the route. It seems mysterious and slightly scary, but fun. As we begin the drive, I decide to jot down sights, thoughts and feelings. Here are some of the more interesting ones, written in my notepad in shaky handwriting. It would have become a poem if I had better skills!
Pink and white morning glories
A place called Katrine!
Pine trees, deodars...
A gurgling Beas, an unending road,
Paratha-filled stomachs and Kailash Kher
At Aut, a 3-km tunnel...ooooh!
There was light at the end of it.
Apple transport across hills
How many types of flora...even palms!
Road sinks because of landslide
It is dangerous, so stones piled to indicate to drivers
We leave NH and are now on the narrow roads
through villages of HP
Unbarricaded roads winding through grand mountains
No road now --- katcha!
No vehicles in sight...forest sounds!
Fresh mountain air on face.
A burst of violet blooms
Sunshine filters through pine trees
We are the only people on earth.
Rang de Basanti adds to ambience.
Suddenly, houses up on the hills
A chubby little boy in orange clothes looks busy
Then a school with the slogan...'come to learn', 'go to serve'
A cowherd talking on cell phone!
A pine forest breaks the view of the sky.
On the other side, terrace gardens.
It is warm now.
As Harsha steers expertly, we get tossed and turned...centrifuged!
Mules and horses tethered on roadside
A man works on cementing a new milestone!
Three young men in jeans
It suddenly gets cold again; jackets back again
Forest sounds continue, stomach turning.
Misty and cold; valleys and clouds beneath us.
Just wow! Vijay calls...call gets cut.
See jungle fowl...then suddenly,
FIRST SIGHTING OF WILDLIFE!
Vultures feeding on dead cow. WOW!
So many of them! We stop and watch.
I hope the cow hasn't been injected with the banned drug.
We then see the red beaked blue magpie...
beautiful bird with long designer tail
We move on
Now we are IN the clouds!
Listening to Senorita
We are heading towards Tattapani
No words to describe this beauty--neither Keats', not Frost's;
No camera or painting can do justice to this.
Deodars are full of flowers--yellow
Delicate white cloriander-like flowers all along
A village and a little distance from there,
the hills, the hills!
We have been in the car for 7 and a half hours now!
Now, kacha road. Landscape dry, trees sparse.
Pine trees disappear, it is dry and warm.
Dirt track continues endlessly
Suddenly, a waterfall.
It is scary now...where are we going?
We took the wrong turn.
Cannot takea U-turn;
luckily, after an hour, it ends in a village.
We turn back. Spirits up, we continue.
A river appears...a welcome sight.
It is now River Behna.
We finally get to NH 22. Phew!
It is warm now and we have the AC on.
Another river appears...this is Sutluj.
Beekeeping on the roadside
Pine trees are back again; there are also Eucalyptus.
I stopped writing after this point...it became dark and we were on katcha roads for 2-3 hours--- very narrow; sometimes it seemed like there was no road at all. But then, we would see the lights of another vehicle before us, to prove that there was a road! We were driving at 10-20 kmph, with the dry, rocky mountains and one side and the steep valley below on the other. Very scary, and I tried hard not took look at anything! But there is trust in Harsha's driving...
Finally, after a long, long drive, we reached Reckong Peo, and were told that Kalpa was another 7-8 km from there. The whole town was sleeping, even the mountains on all sides seemed asleep. The drive to Kalpa was steep and we suddenly felt our ears clogging up. Hotel Kinner Villa, where we stayed, was the highest point. After climbing two flights of stairs (and panting!), we were in our room. Everything felt strange and new -- and cold!
We had driven for 15 hours.
In the morning, looked out of the window and found this:
It was worth every second of the 15-hour drive!