The Exquisite Jispa Valley

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The beauty of Jispa Valley was a welcome sight after a harrowing day that started at Manali and escalated at Rothang Pass.  As I swung my legs off the bike, I wondered how we managed to reach this place in one piece. The route we took before we descended to the valley were interspersed with breathtaking sceneries and horrific road conditions where my death flashed before my eyes a thousand ways; hurled to the bottom of the cliff, crushed under a truck, dragged by a raging stream and all other horrors my mind could conjure.

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My nerves were soothed momentarily as I gaped at the splendour before me though when I closed my eyes to sleep all the horrors of the day came back to me scrambling on top of each other giving me a panic attack. My heart raced, and I felt the onset of altitude sickness, good that we packed all the recommended medicine. Sandeep gave me a pill, and I went into a dreamless slumber.

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I woke up to a beautiful morning in the valley, feeling refreshed and optimistic. The worst must be over. Or so I hoped.

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After tea and breakfast, Sandeep, Nadeem and I walked towards the stream at the foot of the majestic mountains barricading the vale. There it dawned on me how incredibly beautiful this world is, how exquisite these hidden gems were.

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Nadeen then told us it was time for our acclimatisation exercise, an activity essential to our survival once we drive higher later on towards Leh. So we scaled one of the pretty hills in the valley. I lagged behind as usual. Sandeep tried to motivate me as much as he could, but I often get distracted with the breathtaking view below us.

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It was a pity that we could not stay longer in Jispa; this beauty was just one of the pitstops to our final destination, so before the morning was over we continued our journey towards our next stopping place, Pang La. But I was glad that we also stopped for a while in a pretty village in Darcha though it was just 7 kilometres away from Jispa.

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I enjoyed the hot lemon tea in the dhaba where we took a break. It was a nice change from the usual Indian tea with milk. The locals, I noticed, seemed to look more like myself than my Indian companions.

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As we leave Jispa Valley behind, the feeling of terror mixed with amazement I felt on the way there was multiplied a thousand times on our way to Pang La.  Still unaware of the perils that lay before us, I felt ecstatic as I ride behind Sandeep, enjoying the crisp cold wind on my face, and the sight before me which was indescribable in its awesomeness and magnificence.

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The Wanderer

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I am a nomad at heart. I can never sit still in one place for too long. I feel like living somewhere else again. Discovering a new culture, a new way of life. It doesn’t satisfy me just to see the sights. I wanna live like the locals of the place I want to visit and stay for a few years. I want to learn their history and their language. How they think and how they feel. A yearning I cannot stifle no matter how hard I try. Sometimes I find my compass in a book. A preview of what is in store for me or us. So darling, where should we go next?

-JofelynMK

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Weekly Photo Challenge: From Above

I am a mountain baby. I grew up in a community on top of a hill. A cliff on top of a mountain is my sacred place. An borderless space to breathe, to contemplate and to rejuvenate. Some of my fondest adolescent memories are those solitary moments I sat on the edge of a mountain looking down at a small village below. At one particular cottage with a garden of yellow roses, in between mango trees. I remember the air up there was always crispy with a bit of chill. And that the village and the surrounding forest was sometimes blanketed with fog. 20130505-141344.jpg

Now that for many years I became a city dweller I have never been at ease in the plains. If not towards the sea I keep running to the hills.

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I love heights. This is at Tanglang la pass at 5300 plus meters in the Himalayas. Second highest motorable road in the world.

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An oasis in the desert in Ladakh.

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From the top of a volcanic hill in Coron, Palawan.

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Fresh water lake on top of that volcanic hill.

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Halfway Tungnath Trek in Chopta, Uttrakhand

Conquering The Terror Called Rothang Pass in the Himalayas on Two Wheels

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Rothang Pass. No two words can send my heart in a flurry of panic. I realized I have not known physical fear prior to hearing about this place. Until now the lingering memory of the horror I felt after crossing that treacherous peak is so vivid I still think twice about navigating back there every time an offer comes my way. Even on a four wheel drive and even if what lay beyond is paradise. The dread that grips my heart is a vise severely difficult to pry.

What does fear tastes like? It tastes of bitter sour bile regurgitating on your throat from a deluge in your stomach induced by a rampaging tornado that is your heart. It dries your mouth. It numbs your body. If empties your mind. Zombified by fright, leaving Manali behind, we climbed 13,000 feet of snaking, snowy, slippery, wet and extremely anorexic roads towards Rothang Pass. It was the first mountain pass but the most dangerous one we have to overcome to reach the Himalayas. Dangers from melting snow, crumbling roads, stupid drivers and bad luck.

I felt trapped seated behind my husband. There was no choice but to hang on while I contemplated on the possibility of survival upon falling down those surrealistically vertical cliffs. Not a single tree to break my fall. Braving a peek downwards I concluded that chances were nil. Though once in a while snatches of heaven broke the monotony of anxiety. Here and there snow whipped lush green foliage ornamented the mountain side. Generous spray of water falling, melting snow cascading down the rocks. Breathtaking beauty I could not fully appreciate. My concentration was dedicated to the minimization of my breathing as to not upset the balance of our two wheeled drive. The one controlling the bike was confident as we sped up leaving a trail of SUVs full of tourists, being driven rowdily as if we were on a busy intersection in Chandi Chowk. Without a slight consideration that one wrong turn can send them plummeting into the abyss. Present too was that infernal honking agitating my already jarred senses.

Despite the pandemonium of military trucks, cars, people and herds of sheep I could almost see the top as we continued our ascent. Thinking relief was due I finally relaxed. But I was just about to loosen my grip on my husband’s waist when all of a sudden we found ourselves face to face with frozen solid snow walls after an abrupt turn. My husband lost his balance. We skidded on a sleet blanketing the asphalt. We were pinned under the bike in the middle of the road. I stood up immediately while my husband tried to lift the fallen beast to stop the oil spilling from the tilted fuel tank. I saw him struggling as his feet kept slipping on the icy gravel every time he tried to put upright the muscular motorcyle and climb it. I stilled the panic rising in my throat. The instict to survive surpassed the fear I indulged in throughout the ride. The scene below made my whole body trembled. I dismissed it. Quick thinking was required. Fast approaching was a procession of all the cars we left behind. They saw us but none cared. None would stop for us. They’ll not sacrifice momentum for our safety. I understood. I grasped the rear end of the bike to keep myself from sliding while my right foot checked the road for dry spots. Sans snow, sleet or ice. I made sure the soles of my boots gripped the ground firmly . I suggested to my husband he can straighten the bike over at my side. Agreeing, he pushed and I pulled. In no time we were safely on the side while cars whizzed by us. The drivers looking dumbfounded but not one was sympathetic.

Back on top of the humbled beast, relieved to be alive a nervous laughter escaped from me. Elated that the accident did not result in fatality. My husband patted my thigh and whispered. ” Are you okay honey?” I nodded happily and hugged him from behind. He thanked me for staying calm and clear headed then we rode on to struggle more against huge boulders, water and ice. Once or twice the bike got stuck and I had to pushed, shove and nudge but the apprehension was no longer the same. Once terror was faced and dealt with, one realizes it is not as horrifying as one imagined. Four more passes we had to cross. One higher than the other. Each filled with different tales of horror but similar to anything else in life we could not have reached heaven if we didn’t go through hell.

The Challenge

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The Prize

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And This

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©JMKhapra

Conquering The Terror Called Rothang Pass ( Himalayas)

 

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Rothang Pass. No two words can send my heart in a flurry of panic. I realized I have not known physical fear prior to hearing about this place. Until now the lingering memory of the horror I felt after crossing that treacherous peak is so vivid I still think twice about navigating back there every time an offer comes my way. Even on a four wheel drive and even if what lay beyond is paradise. The dread that grips my heart is a vise severely difficult to pry.

What does fear tastes like? It tastes of bitter sour bile regurgitating on your throat from a deluge in your stomach induced by a rampaging tornado that is your heart. It dries your mouth. It numbs your body. If empties your mind. Zombified by fright, leaving Manali behind, we climbed 13,000 feet of snaking, snowy, slippery, wet and extremely anorexic roads towards Rothang Pass. It was the first mountain pass but the most dangerous one we have to overcome to reach the Himalayas. Dangers from melting snow, crumbling roads, stupid drivers and bad luck.

I felt trapped seated behind my husband. There was no choice but to hang on while I contemplated on the possibility of survival upon falling down those surrealistically vertical cliffs. Not a single tree to break my fall. Braving a peek downwards I concluded that chances were nil. Though once in a while snatches of heaven broke the monotony of anxiety. Here and there snow whipped lush green foliage ornamented the mountain side. Generous spray of water falling, melting snow cascading down the rocks. Breathtaking beauty I could not fully appreciate. My concentration was dedicated to the minimization of my breathing as to not upset the balance of our two wheeled drive. The one controlling the bike was confident as we sped up leaving a trail of SUVs full of tourists, being driven rowdily as if we were on a busy intersection in Chandi Chowk. Without a slight consideration that one wrong turn can send them plummeting into the abyss. Present too was that infernal honking agitating my already jarred senses.

Despite the pandemonium of military trucks, cars, people and herds of sheep I could almost see the top as we continued our ascent. Thinking relief was due I finally relaxed. But I was just about to loosen my grip on my husband’s waist when all of a sudden we found ourselves face to face with frozen solid snow walls after an abrupt turn. My husband lost his balance. We skidded on a sleet blanketing the asphalt. We were pinned under the bike in the middle of the road. I stood up immediately while my husband tried to lift the fallen beast to stop the oil spilling from the tilted fuel tank. I saw him struggling as his feet kept slipping on the icy gravel every time he tried to put upright the muscular motorcyle and climb it. I stilled the panic rising in my throat. The instict to survive surpassed the fear I indulged in throughout the ride. The scene below made my whole body trembled. I dismissed it. Quick thinking was required. Fast approaching was a procession of all the cars we left behind. They saw us but none cared. None would stop for us. They’ll not sacrifice momentum for our safety. I understood. I grasped the rear end of the bike to keep myself from sliding while my right foot checked the road for dry spots. Sans snow, sleet or ice. I made sure the soles of my boots gripped the ground firmly . I suggested to my husband he can straighten the bike over at my side. Agreeing, he pushed and I pulled. In no time we were safely on the side while cars whizzed by us. The drivers looking dumbfounded but not one was sympathetic.

Back on top of the humbled beast, relieved to be alive a nervous laughter escaped from me. Elated that the accident did not result in fatality. My husband patted my thigh and whispered. ” Are you okay honey?” I nodded happily and hugged him from behind. He thanked me for staying calm and clear headed then we rode on to struggle more against huge boulders, water and ice. Once or twice the bike got stuck and I had to pushed, shove and nudge but the apprehension was no longer the same. Once terror was faced and dealt with, one realizes it is not as horrifying as one imagined. Four more passes we had to cross. One higher than the other. Each filled with different tales of horror but similar to anything else in life we could not have reached heaven if we didn’t go through hell.

The Challenge

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The Prize

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And This

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©JMKhapra

A Patch of Paradise in The Himalayas

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painting by Jofelyn M. Khapra

 

Twin engines roared mightily into the desert and echoed all around disturbing the silence of no man’s land. Infinite sandy hills rolling in the distance. Cadmium yellow landscape contrasted by cobalt blue sky breaking the monotony. The wind hissed as it passed by me. I clung tightly on my husband’s waist. The vastness of the arid place threatened to engulf me. We rode on destination unknown. The desert whistled a lonely tune.Then all of a sudden it sprung into view. An oasis carved down below. My companions parked their muscular bikes. Standing by the cliff we wondered how can this fecundity thrives on this sterile land. Our eyes followed the water’s origin. An eternal flow of snow melting from the peaks of the Himalayan mountain breast feeding this garden of Eden.

 

What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery

© JMKhapra

* I painted this landscape when we went on a bike trip to Ladakh in the Himalayas.

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