Saturday, September 12, 2015

Miyar Valley - Aug 2015

The Miyar nallah starts from a glacier in the Zanskar range and joins the Chandrabhaga (later the Chenab) 50 kms downstream at Udaipur. The access to the valley is from Udaipur. State transport busses run from Manali to Keylong over the Rohtang pass, a journey of 5 hrs and from Keylong to Udaipur, a journey of another 4-5 hrs. The Pir Panjal range ( which is crossed at Rohtang) blocks monsoon clouds. So the region north of it - including Keylong, Udaipur and the Miyar valley - does not get much rain in the monsoons. So July and August are good months to trek in this area. 

I started out to do this trek with a local guide. I had with me basic camping gear for two people - a two man tent, small multi fuel stove and cooking pot for two - besides my sleeping bag, mat and warm clothes.

Triloknath village 
Aug 5th:

Keylong to Udaipur

The bus for Udaipur departs from Keylong at 8 am. The road takes us past pretty and prosperous looking villages along the Chandrabhaga. Houses have steep corrugated tin roofs painted in bright colors.

We cross a bridge over the Chandrabhaga elaborately decorated with prayer flags and then climb up above the left bank to Triloknath. I have heard that the temple here is sacred for both Hindus and Buddhists of Lahaul. I decide to stop and visit the temple and take the next bus to Udaipur. Hindu's consider the deity to be Shiva while Buddhists consider it to be Avalokiteshwara. Prayer wheels and flags adorn the parikrama. Triloknath village built on a little mound appears like a fortress from a distance with houses built next to and on top of each other crowding in the temple.

Mamu da dhaba, Udaipur
I have a long wait for the next bus to Udaipur and have to scramble to get a seat for there is a huge crowd waiting for it. I reach in the afternoon and it is burning hot. Few people are to be seen in the main market. I walk up and down through the market, spot all the guest houses and settle on one above a provision store, agreeing to a  rent of Rs 600 per day. The proprietor recommends Prakash dhaba and Mamu dhaba as the best places for food.

After lunch at Prakash dhaba, I make enquiries about the Miyar Valley - availability of transport, accommodation, provisions, trekking guides etc in the valley. Several shopkeepers I talk to are from Miyar ( pronounced Miyad) valley. The proprietor of mamu da dhaba is the most helpful.

The road into Miyar Valley
There are two busses daily that do round trips into the valley - one leaves at 12 and the other at 5.30 pm. The evening bus return early next morning. There are no provision shops in the valley and I need to pick up all my rations in Udaipur. The only stay option is in the village of Shukto, close to Khanjar, the last village in the valley. Mamu tells me that he will try and arrange a guide for me after the bus comes in with Miyar villagers the next morning. He believes that I could as well just buy provisions and travel to the valley. I am sure to find a guide once I get there.

That evening, I walk a bit on the road into the valley that I will take tomorrow to see the narrow gorge and the steep cliffs on either side through which the Miyar exits and empties into the Chandrabhaga.

Aug 6:

Pradhanji, Khanjar
Udaipur to Khanjar (3450 m)

This morning, mamu tells me that he has not been able to find a guide. I  should just take the bus into Miyar and ask around in Khanjar.

I have made up a list of provisions for 2 people for 3-4 days and walk across to the kirana store just across the street from my room. My list includes dalia, rice, dalatta, oil, potatoes and onions, tea, sugar,salt, dry fruits, soya nuggets and milk powder and matches. All of this adds up to just over 6 kg in weight.

The storekeeper is kind enough to get 1 liter of kerosene for me from his personal stock. He charges me only Rs 25 for it. I learn that kerosene is not generally available in the market in remote areas of HP. I have been lucky.

Khanjar school with newly renovated toilets
On returning to the guest house, the proprietor alerts me to the presence of a man in the vicinity who is known to work as a guide . I locate the person in question in a shop across just the road. His name is Sheru and he is with a young man who I guess is a trekker. Sheru after learning of my plan agrees to find a guide for me. I have been twice lucky this morning. We part after agreeing to meet on the noon bus for Miyar. 

The bus makes it way slowly through the villages of Miyar valley - Shakoli, Chamrat, Karpat, Gompa and on to Tingrit. At Tingrit there is a police post where as an outsider visiting the area, I am required to fill details about my trip in a register. The lone policeman asks me to report again at his desk on my way out of the valley. After Tingrit, we pass Urgos, the largest village in the valley. At Chaling his native village, Sheru gets down with Pravir, the trekker from Delhi and tells me to go ahead till Khanjar and stay put at the village school. He will catch up with me in a couple of hours.

Fields of Khanjar village
An old man sitting next to me in the bus is interestingly from Khanjar. Back in the Udaipur bus stand, he had offered to get his son to accompany me on my trek if I needed a guide. He takes me to his house carrying my bag of provisions for me and offers tea and snacks. Though I spend considerable time in his house, I forget to ask him his name - I will call him Pradhanji for this narrative. There are few houses in Khanjar and Pradhanji's is by far the biggest. One of his sons is a Panchayat official and works in Udaipur. Pradhanji is expanding his house and has come back with some plumbing materials from Udaipur.

Standing on the porch of Pradhanji's house, I watch three young men engaged in some heavy earth and stone work making a new path to the entrance. They tell me they are gaddis (shepherds) from Dharamshala and have brought their flocks with them to the pastures of Miyar Valley. Having time on their hands they have taken up this daily wage work to earn some money. Pradhanji is a little suspicious of them. He warns me not to leave my bag around attended as they are not locals and nothing is known about them.

Pradhanji is an expert carpenter and I watch him for some time at work on his well equipped work bench. There is still more time to kill and I am hungry having missed lunch. I potter about outside Pradhanji's house followed by his curious little granddaughter who has learnt to walk - even up rough slopes of the hill - but not to talk yet. If Sheru does not turn up, my plan B is to ask Pradhanji for food and a place to sleep. 

Khanjar (3450 m) to Camp 1 - Sheru's cottage (3650 m)

Morning view just beyond camp 1
At dusk, Sheru turns up with Pravir and two other men - a gaddi and a man with a dog on a chain. The dog - a black mountain breed somewhat like a labrador retriever - has its tail tucked between its legs and is very scared of me. The man with the dog is Ranjit, Sheru's brother and my guide for the next few days.

Sheru is in a great hurry for we have some distance to cover to get to the planned night halt. I leave without being able  thank Pradhanji and bid a proper goodbye.

We climb above Khanjar past a beautiful site where a group of foreigners have camped. Sheru has some land and a cottage a little beyond and this is our destination. I quickly pitch my tent outside his cottage in failing light. The others plan to sleep in the shelter. Jakie is tied outside.

Sheru lights a wood fire and starts cooking. I ask about Jakie. It is a year old and has been with Sheru's family. The Gaddi wanted a dog and Sheru offered Jakie to him. Sheru says that it will be well looked after by the Gaddis and grow up healthy and strong, running free with the herds. I ask Sheru if Jalie will be returned when the gaddis leave Miyar. He says yes, but something in his tone makes me suspect that Jackie is being given away for good. After our dinner is over, Sheru makes rotis for Jakie who is hungry and hovering near the door. Before we sleep, he unchains him.  

Aug 7th:

Camp 1 to Zardong (~ 3900 m)

The next morning, Jakie is not to be found. The gaddi goes searching for him without any luck. Sheru seems unconcerned. He keeps saying that Jakie will not go anywhere. The gaddi however is worried. I hear him say that we have committed a sin - the poor dog still has the steel chain tied to him and will get stuck somewhere and die.

We heat up the food from last night and breakfast on it and pack the leftovers for lunch. Sheru stocks provisions in his cottage for the gaddis. Ranjit weighs a bag of salt for the gaddi using an ancient beam balance scale. We hit the trail by 8.40 am.

The path climbs up a hill on the left bank of the river, the high point being marked by a Chorten. Descending from the hill, we cross a little stream with gushing water forded by two logs balancing on boulders on either side. Yellow (or Citrine) Wagtails pose for my camera. Crossing a couple of young gaddis heading the opposite way, I stop for a brief chat. They are curious as to what I am doing alone here (we have scattered on the vast plain).

These gaddis, like the ones we met earlier call Dharamshala their home. They spend eleven months of the year on the road with their flocks taking them to different pastures. One month is all they get to be with their family back home. Their cyclical annual migration takes them many hundred km from Dharamshala to the pastures in Miyar and Pangi valleys and back through Pathankot. In the process, they are the first to cross the high passes in the Pir Panjal and on the range separating Miyar and Pangi valleys.

The valley opens up into a broad field of green with pink hues where strips of pink himalayan fleece have proliferated. Where old glaciers empty into the valley, the field is strewn with small stones. Streams meander through finding their way to the Miyar. A lone cow, separated from its herd stares at us.

Strips of Pink Himalayan Fleece and violet Himalayan Monkshood

We enter Luhling, a  valley of flowers. Small flowers in many bright colors with exotic names - yellow dandelion, dark pink himalayan fleece flower, blue geranium and violet monkshood - dot the grass. There is also a wild form of ajwain that grows abundantly. We enter a strech which is very rocky and hard on the feet as one keeps stubbing toes on small rocks. A pile of stones with Ram horns and colorful pieces of cloth tied to it marks the way. We cross a large flock of sheep with a single shepherd managing the flock and pass through a beautiful pasture - not even a single rock is visible anywhere.

Men with bags of kadu
Between two hills, a perfect triangular hill is visible in the background named Gompa, believed to be the sacred meditation spot of a Lama. We cross another stream with wooden planks for a bridge and then a shelter made of flat stone slabs with a large natural rock for a back wall - a gaddi got.

A little further, we come to a little lake and stop for lunch. A group of men carrying huge gunnysacks are heading towards Khanjar and stop for a rest. Their bags contain a jadi booti called Kadu. Dabur buys the root for use in its medicines. The root fetches Rs 600/kg. The men have been camping out a month in the valley to collect a bag each of the root - weighing 20kg. They would earn Rs 12000 for their efforts. I taste a sample and it is indeed bitter as the name signifies. It is apparently good for stomach ailments and used by the villagers as a home remedy. The lake was much bigger a few years ago, I learn. People opine that it has shrunk because the snowfall over the valley has been decreasing over the years.

Zardong in the distance
The path now moves close to the bank of the river. Looking upstream, in the distance, the valley seems to be blocked as it were by a gigantic rock fall. We are approaching Zardong, our camping site for the day. Zardong signifies a rock fall in Tibetan. We reach at half past four, 8 hrs after we started walking.It has been a very long and tiring day. According to our guide, we have walked about 15 km, skipping several campsites along the way.

Fighting for salt
We throw our bags and stretch out in a sheltered area adjacent to the rock fall. In no time, assorted cattle gather near us. A dzho calf starts liking the haversacks on the ground - for the salt in the sweat on the bags, Sheru explains. The cattle are left here to graze by themselves. Periodically, their owners bring salt for them. After chewing grass for days on end, the cattle hunger for salt says Sheru. The presence of humans means that they will get their salt feed - so the cattle leave their grazing grounds on the mountain sides and gather here on seeing humans.

It is hard to keep the cattle away. Sheru really feels for the cattle and dips into our meager stock and spreads the salt on rocks around the camp for the cattle. After that, there is a regular stampede for the salt - cows, buffaloes, dzho and even horses fighting with each other to get to the salt. The rocks are licked over many times - I cannot believe there is a single grain of salt left and still they keep taking turns to lick them clean,

We collect cow dung cakes - available in plenty here - and Sheru makes a stack expertly for the evenings cooking. The stack obviates the need for a chula.

Sheru's story:

On the way and at camps, I learn a bit about Sheru. He worked in a dhaba in Parvati Valley for many years and graduated to be a cook. He married a Russian girl who was at that time living in India. She had strong Tibetan features and could easily pass off as a local, he tells me. He has a son and a daughter. The girl lives with him in Challing village, the boy is in Russia with his mother. They have been away for many years and will visit India only when the boy has completed his schooling. They have invited him to come over to Russia, but he says he will not go.

Zardong in failing light
Somewhere along the line, Sheru joined trekking groups as a porter and then became a guide in his own right. He likes to go with small groups - even individuals - where everyone shares the lifting, cooking etc. In conversation it emerges that he was heavily into drugs, but he claims he is now out of it. Smoking is his bane. It is, he feels, decreasing his stamina. He wants to give it up.

Aug 8th:

Zardong to Phalphu (3950 m)

Zardong at sunrise

Today we are ready and on the move by 8 am. The path is mostly level and along the river. The first major obstacle is a stream which has to be crossed. The bridge, located a little higher up, has collapsed. The water flows fast.

Morning tea on a cow dung fire
A Maharashtrian family - a couple and presumably their daughter, all portly in build - have just crossed over and are resting on the banks. We crossed mules carrying their luggage and camping equipment a little while back. We remove our shoes and wade across, sinking up to our knees in the water. My feet are frozen and I want to rest. Ranjit advises me to keep walking barefoot as that will restore blood circulation and warm them.

Soon we are at the next stream. Again there is no bridge. This time, I try to cross by hopping over rocks. A skid and one leg is in water, the shoe completely wet. I also sprain my back it seems. There are yet more streams to cross. At the next one, I do the sensible thing - just take off my shoes and follow Ranjit's lead.

Snout of Miyar glacier
We walk past beautiful mountains and peaks before reaching our campsite. Sheru identifies this place as Phalphu, but it is also known as 'base-camp' by climbers. Ranjit has collected wild mushrooms on the way. He starts cleaning and dicing them for our dinner. It is early in the afternoon and Sheru takes us - me and Pravir - for a walk to the snout of the glacier.

Sheru points to a side valley - Chudong valley - towards the east of the main valley. That is the valley foreign climbers frequent, he says. It has numerous climbing peaks with interesting names - Gou Gou peak, Trident ridge, Castle Peak, Rachu Tangmu, etc. We walk over glacial moraine, choosing our steps carefully. At several points, Sheru sets up pointers for our return - making little rock piles or placing pointed rocks at elevated points.

We suddenly come upon a pool of crystal clear blue water. This is one of seven sacred pools - Kesar yong chep in Tibetan - that dot the area. Making our way through the moraine, we come to a second and then a third pool. We walk through a bed of sand with beautiful patterns made by wind and water and then reach the river at a point near the snout of the glacier. The going is heavy for there is no path and we have to walk on loose rock and rubble that can collapse beneath our feet.

Phalphu at sunset

The snout of the glacier is completely covered with moraine. We can make out the black ice of the glacier only in patches where the the moraine cannot find hold on the near vertical ice. The river gushes out from under the moraine as if from an underground spring.We carefully make our way on the moraine over the snout and along the glacier to a spot where the innards of the glacier are visible.

Ranjit and Sheru (right) making pooris
Dinner that evening is puri and a wild mushroom potato curry. We do not have a tava or belan, so the only way to make use of the atta we are carrying is by kneading into dough and then hand patting it into thick flat and roughly circular pieces which we deep fry in oil. The food tastes delicious and we eat heartily. That night, I have a very disturbed sleep and psychedelic dreams. I learn the next day that wild mushroom that we ate does have some hallucinogenic properties.

Aug 9th:

Phalphu to Gompa campsite (3850 m)

It is a cloudy morning. Some time is spent dividing up the rations. By 8.30, we are ready to go. I bid goodbye to Sheru and Pravir who are starting on a dangerous journey heading for Zanskar via the Kangla pass.

Ominous clouds at day break - Phalphu

The main thrills today are the crossing of the streams without bridges. I just take off my shoes, roll up my pants for the crossing. We hold hands and wade sideways through the water which now seems more forceful than yesterday. While crossing the last stream without a bridge, I slip on a rock just a step away from the bank and injure a toe. What seems a minor injury initially bedevils me for the rest of the trek.

Ranjit chasing the stranded Yak
Further on the way we see a yak sitting on a sandbar near the left bank of the Miyar. Ranjit remarks that the Yak has got separated from its herd - herds of Yaks can be seen on the far banks of the Miyar - and runs to the sand bank and tries to shoo the Yak across the river. The Yak runs into one of the streams of the Miyar and then gets carried down by the force of the flow before swimming to the sand bank just across. More persuation by Ranjit and the Yak set across the next stream again to be nearly carried away by the flow, but finally managing to make it to the next bak. The Yak has still not crossed the Miyar in its entirety, but Ranjit can do no more. When he gets back to the trail, he tells me that the Yak is from his village and not well - that is why it is finding it difficult to cross the river and got left behind by the herd. He plans to inform its owner so that he can come and attend to it.

It is 3.30 when we reach the Gompa camping site. It has been another hard day of walking. I am parched - we did not refill our water bottles at Zardong, the last spot with potable water. We have also not had anything after a breakfast of oats that morning. Ranjit wanders off in search of Gaddis from whom he plans to get food. My cooking skills are now put to test. Along with cooking, I also have to keep an eye on the cows that have gathered and are threatening to eat anything they can get to. They have already eaten the soap bar I left near the place where I cleaned the cooking vessels.

Cooking khichidi at Gompa campsite
I decide to make a khichidi with moong dal and rice and throw in potatoes into it. I fry the masala with potatoes cut small in an aluminum pot with lid and then throw in the rice and dal into the water. I am in for a big lesson. The water evaporates but the rice and dal just do not cook. I add more water and repeat the process without luck. The lesson I learn is that at this altitude, rice and dal cannot be cooked without using a pressure cooker. Sheru was carrying one - so we did not have a problem till this morning.

Ranjit returns with mushrooms he picked up. He has not been able to find a Gaddi Got. We eat the half cooked khichidi and are still hungry at the end of it. Ranjit now says he will try his hand at cooking. He spends the next hour making a alu-soya nugget sabji and rice - with results akin to mine. Even the potato remains uncooked!

Ranjit, Pravir and Sheru at Phalphu
Ranjit's story:

Ranjit is the youngest in the family while Sheru is the eldest. He is well built and strong but is very hard of hearing. The other brothers are spread in Kulu and Manali one working as a cobbler, another in a dhaba, a third a carpenter. Ranjit is also a carpenter by trade and worked in Kullu and lived there with his wife and family. He says that he was enticed to going to Goa by a friend to work on a large project. There he claims he was drugged and thrown on the street and not paid for the substantial work he had done. He was rescued by a good samaritan who nursed him back to health - he had completely lost his memory and bearings after the drugging incident - and helped him to return. Meanwhile his young wife died in a mysterious accident. That really upset him and he says he went crazy.

It seems that with the passage of time, some healing has taken place. He now lives in his parents house and says he is much better. His in-laws want him to come back to Kulu and be with his children but for some reason, he has resisted.

Ranjit's version of events is more or less corroborated by others. Sheru says that he had gone mad at one point after his wife died, but says he is much better now. But he is prone to some depression and stays aloof from others most of the time. Later I learn from Norbu ( of Shukto) that Ranjit in his bad period was prone to fits of rage. He even threatened to kill his own child by throwing it over the the balcony. Ranjit was taken by his family and cared for in Chaling. They have slowly nursed him back to better health.

Aug 10th:

Gompa Camp to Shukto

It starts raining at 4 am. We wake up and drag all our equipment in and go back to sleep. There is a lull in the rain around 8.30. We decide to move without breakfast. Soon the rain is back and over time penetrates my rain jacket. There is no use of a halt in between as we cannot light a fire to cook anything and there is no shelter on the route.

We reach the the stream which has a bridge of two loose beams resting on rocks on either side. The beams have been unsettled by the rain and four gaddis - two on each side are making adjustments to the rocks to stabilize the beams. Ranjit is already across. Seeing me, they motion me to walk across as they hold on to the ends of the beams. The two beams are at different levels, each wide enough to hold just one foot. I hand over my haversack Ranjit to carry across, not wanting the risk of the bag shifting weight while I am crossing.

The stream flows fast and furious after hours of rain. I take a look at it and start the plank walk. The gaddis advise me to take gentle steps. After each step the plank I step on wobbles and I wait to get my balance and for the beam to steady. The difference in levels between the planks makes balancing a little more difficult. Step after excruciating step and then I am across, with the help of hands outstretched to pull me over.

I stop and thank the gaddis. They are the ones who maintain the 'infrastructure' in these parts where no government officials venture. One of them is the same old shepherd who spent the first night with us at Sheru's house above Khanjar. I ask him if he found the dog Jackie. His face is crestfallen. He says no, the dog has probably gone back to Sheru's village, Chaling.

We reach Khanjar at 12.30 and stop at the school to get some shelter from the rain. The bus to Udaipur is not expected here till 2.30. Ranjit suggests that we walk to Sukhto, the next village.

Ranjit's cousin, her mother and Norbus mother
After a short walk we reach Sukhto and enter a house with the strong odour of sheep and cattle. The house belongs to Ranjit's cousin sister, a personable lady. We sit in the living room around the stove while she prepares tea and dishes out lunch for us. The family - that includes an extremely striking teenaged daughter and two young sons - have not eaten yet. Soon we are joined by Ranjit's aunt, an old lady with thick glasses. Aunt belongs to Pangi valley and has several children settled there and two here in Shukto. She says she splits her time between her different children.

We spend the next couple of hours in the cosy living space with the family.  We are joined by another old neighbour who comes in with a basket of freshly dug out potatoes. The two old ladies are engaged in a raucous conversation with much hand and head shaking while the cousin and her daughter listen in. The two boys have gone out to play. I ask the the aunt what the conversation ( in Bhoti) is all about. She says it is about the weather and how things have changed in the valley. Cousin sister is knitting a complex pattern in wool all the time. I admire her handiwork and she opens a trunk and pulls out beautifully knitted socks in different color combinations and made of pure wool as well as polyester wool. The wool is from their own sheep. The pair of socks she is currently knitting is for her third son who is a Lama at a monastery in Ladakh. The ones in the trunk are for sale. I buy a couple to take home.

It looks like the bus is not going to turn up.The rain today has caused a nallah near Chamrat to damage the road and that will be the reason. I ask Ranjit's sister if she can put me up for the night. She looks at me apologetically and says that they have only this living room and the entire family sleeps here. Shukto has one guest house and after getting out of my wet clothes, I make my way there with Ranjit.

View from Norbu's house, Shukto village

Norbu who runs the guest house is very welcoming. We sit in their typical Ladakhi style kitchen / living room and have tea. Norbu's father and a guest from another village are also there. Norbu's mother is the same old lady I met in Ranjit's cousin's house. She sits with a large pile of potatoes, peeling. The black potatoes are local produce. When I remark on the color, I am offered a plate along with a chatni. The potatoes taste delicious - I can't stop eating them. Rooms are available at Norbu's for Rs 500/600 for Indians and for Rs 1000 for foreigners. I decide to stay the night and try my luck with the morning bus. I bid goodbye to Ranjit with a hug. He has saved me from injury or worse several times in the last few days.

A Citrine Wagtail - ubiquitous in the valley
Norbu shows me around the house. The bathroom has a geyser, washing machine and dryer - but the electricity supply to the village has been cut off. The story behind it is that the government, citing a High Court order, has given notices to people on "encroachment" of government land in the tribal areas and then cut off electricity to the errant households, in this case the entire village, as a punishment. Norbu explains that their family settled here 70 years ago. Most people have proper papers for their fields and for their old homes. Recently they have started building new brick and mortar houses and these lie in what is nominally government land and this is the encroachment that the government is objecting to.

Norbu takes me to his terrace where I spread out the wet clothes to dry. Over some hot food and tea, I find out more about what he does. Norbu is a carpenter by training and has worked for many years in Manali. He proudly tells me that he has built this house himself with his father and two hired helps. I have noticed the beautiful wood panelling in the living room, evidence of his craftsmanship. Now he earns his livelihood from the guest house and a small car which he runs as a taxi service to Udaipur. The family owns cattle, mules and some farm land just as almost all the families in the valley do.

Pink himalayan fleece, yellow dandelion and
himalayan geranium
He has built up a relationship with some foreign climbers who use his guest house on their way in and out of the valley. One of his friends has left a collection of articles on climbs in the Miyar valley with him which I browse through. Then he tells me about a one of his dangerous activities. Foreign climbers often leave their expensive climbing gear - ropes, carabiners, pitons etc on the rock sides they have climbed. He has made several climbs alone to retrieve ropes and carabiners that have been left behind and descended without ropes himself. (Sheru had mentioned some days earlier that some villagers climb and retrieve the ropes etc without mentioning names) For a 60 m rope he has been offered as much as Rs 10000 locally, he tells me. He says he should not be risking his life but he is "lalachi". He also tells me that he has now figured a safer way to come down with the ropes.

Aug 11th:

Shukto to Sissu

I get up early and learn that the bus did not arrive last night from Udaipur so there is going to be be no bus to Udaipur this morning. I have the option of waiting till 2.30 for the bus or hiring Norbus car. He agrees to drop me for Rs 750. We start from Sukhto at 8.30. Norbu has to stop and shake hands and talk to numerous people on the way. We also have 3 to 4 others seated on the backseat of the small car. The car crosses the site of the breach without much difficulty and we reach Udaipur by 9.45 am.

Shukto - morning view
I have left a couple of books and some clothes with a shopkeeper near the bus stand. The old man who belongs to Shakoli, the first village in the valley, greets me with his characteristic welcome "Aao Baitho" (come and sit). He asks me if I also drank a lot and enjoyed with Sheru ... Sheru obviously has a reputation in these parts.

I catch the 11am bus for Keylong, getting off at Tandi and then catch the Keylong - Shimla bus. Before I get down at Sissu, the conductor comes and quietly hands me my camera. I had dropped it earlier while changing seats and was not aware of my loss.

An old couple in Sissu
There is no chemist in Sissu. A shop keeper points me to a government hospital just above the main road. I limp my way up the steps. My toe has now swollen up and I find it painful to walk. The hospital has several floors and many rooms in each floor, but seems completely deserted. I check several rooms and finally come upon a young woman in one, obviously getting ready to leave for the day. She tells me that the doctor has left for the day and after looking at my toe says that she can give me some medicines including an antibiotic. When she hears that I am allergic to penicillin, she decides to phone and call in the pharmacist and the doctor who fortunately are not far away. The old doctor has been selected for PG (post graduate) studies, she volunteers and the doctor who will see me, a fresh graduate from Punjab, has just joined work today. The doctor arrives and prescribes several medicines including an antibiotic and a tetanus shot though I have no sign of any external injury. I leave most impressed with the generous dispensing of medicines and the politeness and courtesy shown by these public servants, notwithstanding the doubts I have about their professional abilities.

The next morning, I am back in Keylong. It has now started feeling like home.


  1. wow... felt like trekking alongside with your narration .. good one sir

  2. Great write-up!

    I plan on doing the Kang La trek tentatively around July-end. Would you have the contact details of the guide (Sheru)?

    Based on write-up it seems that all provisions for the trek should be obtained in Udaipur itself. Are their other options further up the Miyar valley?

    Looking forward to hearing from you!

    1. I unfortunately don't have contact of Sheru. You will find him (or other guides) in Chaling, Shukto or Udaipur. All provisions must be got at Udaipur. Some stuff ( like chocolates, cereals...) you may want to get in Manali or Keylong. Write if you need more info... regards

  3. Thanks for your prompt response! What is the likelihood of getting transport from Udaipur towards Urgos/Shukto without having to rely on the 5:30 p.m. bus? Are there shared taxis or can one hitch a ride?

    Thanks again.

    1. There are two bus trips from Udaipur towards Shukto - one at around 12 noon and the other late afternoon.The Shukto homestay owner has a maruti that he uses to drop trekkers back. No regular shared taxi though. May get lifts in other vehicles but traffic is sparse and there are few cars in the Miyar valley villages.

  4. How many days should it take to do a trek in this valley?
    Is june feasible to cherish beauty

    1. Five days would be sufficient. Rohtang pass opens mid May to early June. That is the gateway to Lahaul and Miyar valley.

    2. Kindly share details of guide. And what are possibilities of finding network in valley

  5. Can you please share the contact details of the guest house at Shukto? Does the guest house have clean toilets (as I am planning to take my family till Khanjar and stay at Shukto)?

    1. Tashi Homestay. 9459988998, 9459904065. Toilets were clean. Norbu Chhering is used to hosting foreign climbers

  6. It's great to read your blogs.I have completed Kangla pass trek. Would love to meet you some day.

    1. Not many people go over the Kang La. Would live to meet you too! Which city do you live in?