NOTE: DON’T MISS THE LINK TO THE FLICKR PHOTOSET AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST! Himalaya means snowy mountains (just like Sierra Nevada) so it was natural that I’ve been wanting to check out Himachal Pradesh in northern India out ever since my friend Jenny Scott told me about the Parvati Valley a decade ago. Turns out that my friends Jason and Erin were going to be visiting India for 3 weeks, so Jason and I met in Delhi to head into the mountains while Erin (aka Schneids), relaxed at at my place in Goa at the beach.
Jason had just spent two and a half days in the hospital in Jaipur with typhoid and it showed when I first laid eyes on him in Paharganj. He was emaciated, pale and greasy and the shithole that is Paharganj wasn’t helping. He’s a pic of the dirty Delhi alleyway outside our hotel.
Our 9 days in the Himalaya was just what he needed. We breathed fresh forest air, swam in clean clear rivers, climbed snow-dusted peaks and made friends. By the end of the trip, both of us felt healthy and restored.
There is so much to say about this trip that I would have to write for hours to share it all. We hunted for yellow berries along the river Tirthan with Audaz, ate Cendrella’s organically grown strawberry Jam, heard Lobu sing traditional Pahari songs, waded through fields of wild marijuana, and wandered through remote villages that see only a few outsiders in a year and still grind their own flour using watermills.
The wildlife of the Great Himalayan National Park did not disappoint. As we climbed the forested slopes, pairs of bright blue monal pheasants would take off and glide down the valleys while hoots echoed off the rocks and trees. Pine martens scampered across the fields. Herds of friendly goats munched on the mountainsides as enormous griffon vultures soared above and below us.
At first we had planned to just rent equipment, but our uber-guide, Ankit, informed us that you need a guide to enter the GHNP. Somehow we ended up with a guide (Ses Ram), a cook (Dilip), and two porters (Lobu and Prathap). They showed us things we never would have found, cooked us insanely good meals (they actually hauled around a pressure cooker) and just generally spoiled us. By the end of our trek, we had laughed and played music with them around the campfire and were so glad we didn’t go it alone.
The local villagers were extremely friendly and offered us chai whenever we arrived at their village. We sat among carved wooden houses with slate roofs and attempted to talk with them (with Ses Ram as our translator) and promised to send the pictures we took back to them. We even witnessed a yearly celebration of the departure of the godess Galadurga from the village of Karongcha complete with bugles, drums and singing.
Most of our trip was spent trekking, but we did have a little time at the end to explore the area by bus and ride bikes from Manali to Kullu. The Kullu valley is filled with wheat fields and apple orchards and surrounded by snowy mountains. Of course there is the omnipresent Indian garbage problem, but here it is easy to be distracted by more beautiful things.
Since I don’t have the time to tell all the stories, definitely check out the photo set that I have put on Flickr for the trip here: