TravelEnvironmentLife Style

Himalayan Detour: From Snow Leopards to Landscapes

Himalayan Detour: From Snow Leopards to Landscapes

My friends, Satish, Ashish, Raju, and I, fueled by a shared passion for wildlife, planned an expedition to Kibber, Himachal Pradesh, with the singular goal of spotting the elusive snow leopard. Kibber, nestled in the Spiti Valley, boasts a high density of these magnificent cats, and Snow Leopard Expeditions offered the perfect guided tour to maximize our chances of encountering them in their natural habitat. We envisioned trekking through the rugged Himalayan terrain, learning about conservation efforts, and ultimately witnessing the elusive predator in its snowy kingdom. Little did we know, our journey would take an unexpected turn, transforming into a different kind of adventure.

The Gang

Plan to Himalayan Adventure

Months of meticulous planning went into the trip. We booked flights, secured a tour package, and eagerly awaited the day we’d set foot in the Himalayas. Our 10-day itinerary began in Chandigarh, with a two-day drive planned to reach Kibber, nestled 450 kilometers away.

The Trip To Himalayan Adventure

Day 1 saw us arriving in Chandigarh, buzzing with anticipation. We rested overnight, eager to embark on the journey towards our snow leopard encounter.

Siddu

Day 2 unfolded with an 8:30 am departure from Chandigarh. En route to Rampur, we stopped for lunch at a local restaurant, where we were delighted to discover Siddu on the menu. This fermented steamed bun with different fillings and is authentically served with loads of ghee & chutney is a regional delicacy, and we relished its unique flavour and texture. Refueled and satisfied, we continued our journey and reached Rampur in the evening, settling into the luxurious Hotel Nau Nabh Heritage.

The evening saw us settling into the hotel, enjoying an early dinner before retiring for the night. Our plan was to leave early the next day for Kaza, a 10-hour drive further into the mountains. However, unexpected rains lashed the region throughout the night, transforming into a heavy downpour accompanied by dramatic lightning.

Despite the persistent rain, we rose early on Day 3, determined to continue our journey. We packed breakfast and set off at 5:50 am, hoping to outrun the weather. But fate had other plans. At 7:50 am, our progress was abruptly halted by a landslide blocking the road. Hours passed as we waited, hoping for the path to clear. Finally, at 2:45 pm, we decided to seek refuge in a nearby hotel. We checked into Hotel Himalayan Heritage in Badhal, enjoying a warm meal and a brief respite from the journey’s uncertainties.

Padam Palace, Rampur

News arrived around 5 pm that the landslide had been cleared, but driving after dark in the mountains was not advisable. We settled for another night at the hotel, hoping for a smoother journey the next day.

Day 4 began with a familiar disappointment. The landslide had returned, blocking our path once again. We lingered at the check post, gathering information from locals and our tour operator. Communication with our counterpart in Kibber was impossible due to damaged power lines caused by the landslides and avalanches. Uncertainty hung heavy in the air.

After hours of waiting, we reluctantly returned to Hotel Himalayan Heritage, only to find it fully booked. The kind manager offered us accommodation at his other hotel, Bushahr Heights, located 20 kilometers away in Sarahan. We arrived at the hotel, situated next to the ancient Shri Bhima Kali Ji Temple, at 9:00 pm, exhausted and unsure of what lay ahead.

Day 5 dawned with a frigid temperature of -2 degrees Celsius. The biting cold seemed to sharpen the senses, making the surrounding mountains appear even more majestic in the pale morning light. I got ready and ventured out to explore the Shri Bhima Kali Ji Temple, which stood adjacent to our hotel.

The temple, dedicated to the fierce aspect of Goddess Durga, exuded an air of ancient wisdom and tranquility. The intricate carvings on its wooden facade whispered tales of devotion and resilience, echoing the spirit of the mountains themselves. Stepping inside the temple, I was greeted by the soft glow of butter lamps illuminating the sacred space. The air was thick with the scent of incense, creating a sense of peace that seemed to transcend the harsh realities of the world outside.

Shri Bhima Kali Ji Temple, Sarahan

I spent some time in quiet contemplation, marveling at the intricate murals depicting scenes from Hindu mythology. The vibrant colors and detailed artistry seemed to pulsate with life, offering a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the region. As I sat there, the biting cold outside seemed to melt away, replaced by a sense of inner warmth and serenity.

Leaving the temple, I felt a renewed sense of purpose and calm. The challenges of the journey seemed less daunting, replaced by a quiet acceptance of the present moment. We had tea and local delicacy called Gujiya at a near by shop. Gujiya is is a cherished sweet delicacy mostly enjoyed during festivals and celebrations. Its crispy, golden shell encapsulates a rich filling of khoya, nuts, and aromatic spices, symbolising sweetness, prosperity, and togetherness within the community. We also enjoyed some warmth from the bonfire as well outside the shop. We left Sarahan at 9:00 am, returning to Hotel Himalayan Heritage for breakfast.

However, the news at the check post was a stark contrast to the serenity I had just experienced. We learned that the operator clearing the landslide had tragically lost his life in an accident. This somber news cast a shadow over our day, reminding us of the fragility of life and the unpredictable nature of the mountains.

With Kibber still out of reach and our hearts heavy, we made the tough call to turn back. After rescheduling our flights and grabbing lunch, we set off on the return journey to Chandigarh, with a planned overnight stay at Hotel Pandora in Kufri.

Leaving Hotel Himalayan Heritage at 3 pm, we encountered yet another landslide in Rampur, causing further delays. Taking an alternate route suggested by the authorities, we finally reached our hotel in Kufri at 10:00 pm, exhausted but grateful for safe passage.

Day 6 marked the final leg of our unexpected journey. We left early to avoid traffic, enjoying breakfast after crossing Manali. Reaching Chandigarh airport at 1:30 pm, we had time to relax before our 4:40 pm flight back to Mumbai.

Summary

Though our expedition did not unfold as planned, it became a unique adventure nonetheless. We witnessed the raw power of nature, the resilience of the human spirit, and the beauty of the Himalayas, even amidst unexpected challenges. While we missed the snow leopards this time, the mountains left an indelible mark on our souls, reminding us of the unpredictable nature of life and the importance of adapting to changing circumstances.

This Himalayan journey may not have been about spotting elusive cats, but it became a testament to the power of friendship, resilience, and the ability to find beauty and adventure even in the face of unexpected detours.

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7 comments

Satish Pisharody March 14, 2024 at 8:29 am

Very well written article, Ajay. Made the trip come alive for me! Also briought home the point that even an aborted trip can be enjoyable if you go with flow and remain positive in the face of adversity. Thanks for documenting this!

Reply
Ashish Kawale March 14, 2024 at 9:09 am

Very well narrated. We didn’t encounter the elusive leopard, but certainly discovered the beauty of Himalayas in winter. And the whole journey did turn into an adventure with all of us spending time together. We will go back next year and we shall see the snow leopard.

Reply
Jogi Prajapati March 15, 2024 at 12:43 pm

Very well written. The Raw power of Nature can test all our abilities and learnings of the life. Teaches us how small we are in front of Nature, and to be humble and grateful of what we have.

Reply
Sanjay Tipnis March 15, 2024 at 5:29 pm

Your article is a captivating narrative that uses vivid imagery to bring your unexpected Himalayan adventure to life. You honestly share the challenges and lessons learned, making the piece relatable and insightful.

Reply
Madhavi S March 15, 2024 at 5:31 pm

Your article is engaging and well-written. You paint a vivid picture of your Himalayan adventure and share your experiences very well.

Reply
Susmita S March 15, 2024 at 5:40 pm

Your article effectively portrays your Himalayan adventure, capturing both the beauty of the region and the challenges faced during the journey.

Reply
Romiit Raaj March 15, 2024 at 8:49 pm

So Amazing,I am so glad to read your personal experience with your dear friends.
Though you didn’t find snow leopards in the trip but you found so much more.
Wish you all the very best always
Romiit Raaj

Reply

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