Over the high passes – another Himalayan drive


Teddy and Hari

An age has passed since I drove with the man that taught me how to manage the brake and accelerator together while releasing the clutch. My Uncle Teddy or Teddy Sahib as he is rather universally called, is a bit of a legend on mountain roads and trekking routes in Lahaul & other parts of Himachal. Those, who rally, drive off road and live the good life salute him.

A man larger than life, who explored every new road through the mountains the moment it opened. He had many times trekked it before. He taught us how to camp and cook out, to fish, to hunt and to make pickle.

His son, my brother Hari, follows in his father’s footsteps and has been India’s rally champion – he now tests cars, organises rallies, leads off road trips, does driving stunts for movies too. Generally a chip off the old block with additives.


Add to the mix two old friends visiting from England, Dave and Myra – Dave has just retired from being a well loved teacher. He is planning a cycling trip through Europe as soon as he goes home from visiting with us. Dave & Myra came trekking with Teddy Sahib in the early 80’s – they have four children (now grown) all conceived in India. Also two young men a friend and a young accolite of Hari’s; Bantu and Samar.

We are on a recce of a much travelled route, just not recently, so needs must check what new it offers.


Cars & CyclesSo our day starts with fixing the radios in the cars, checking that we have all the gear that we need, tow chains, umbrellas, winches are working – those large red jacks that pull you out of ditches are serviceable. Two bicycles are loaded onto the bike carriers – who knows when we might need to cycle for help or just cycle out, and our journey begins.

We are going back to Spiti, via Narkanda, Sarahan, Sangla into Kaza and out over the Kunzom and Rohtang into Manali.

3 Aug 2014

Dave, Myra and I drove from Gurgaon to Chandigarh. 0900 from Gurgaon, 1300 in Chandigarh. Uneventful and fast.

4 Aug 2104

When you drive with Teddy Sahib and Hari, it’s all about the journey – so from Chandigarh to Thanedar we have come. 1000 hrs at Chandigarh – 1900 hrs at Thanedar (199 km). Coffee and stretch your legs, attend a ‘bhog’ in Simla, stop for lunch at a newly discovered dhaba, check out an orchard for sale enroute at Fagu, stop to see if an old hotel said to be renovated is actually so. It is, by the way, the Tethys hotel near Narkanda is much improved and stay able – with spectacular views.

Now we are sitting by a fire at the Banjara Orchard Resort in Thanedar, it is a place I recently discovered and very much like – so this is my introduction to the tour. We have met a couple cycling the route we are driving, and shall perhaps show them a new route tomorrow – a back orchard trail to Sarahan.

5 August 2014
Seetal van homestayWe discovered a lovely home stay this morning – 5 kms short of the Banjara Orchard retreat a little road goes steeply downhill and winds around, take a sharp left into a gate and like all worthwhile hill places to get to, drive steeply down through the orchard, take a few hairy hairpin bends and arrive at this charming little home stay – all local himachali architecture, beautiful interiors – wood and slate, 7 nicely appointed rooms and bathrooms and the views. A real find, they have a quaint cottage for families too, and a tiny little cottage all on it’s own in a corner for all on your ownsome chilling.

To Sarahan behind trucksWe drove that lovely route which takes off just after Rampur Via Gaura and Mashnoor to Sarahan. It is a village road, great in bits and nothing in bits, but the views are lovely and you drive through the forests and villages, get stuck behind trucks loading apples and generally take twice as long as normal. With Teddy Sahib’s commentary which ranges from pro or against depending on his state of well being – which deteriorates if he is still in the car when the whisky hour approaches.

Sarahan templeWe had lunch and visited the Bhimakali temple at Sarahan, it is huge and beautiful – the goddess is said to grant wishes – so I made them as usual, we need to figure what timeline they will appear in. That they do is quite a constant.

Then we drove the amazing Sutlej gorge, watching it get deeper and deeper, with the battlements of rock and the showering waterfalls, the road that cuts right into the sheer mountainside – a marvel of engineering. The dam works have ruined a beautiful river and it’s valley, but one just has to look a little higher and it is still a spectacle. The road is a ruin after a point and it is a challenging drive. The dam work has created a huge slide on the way to Sangla, so one

has to climb a 17 km detour up the mountain and down again to avoid a 3 km stretch.

Sutlej Gorge1

sutlej 1

It got us in after dark so we missed the splendour of this valley of the Bhaspa – but it is spreading out my window now – orchards, pink fields of something the locals call ‘Ogla’ and they make a roti called Chilta, with the flour. Flowering beans and potatoes, wild flowers spreading a rainbow on all sides and the river running by. There is really nothing in nature that dresses itself better than the high mountains, they change colours and acccoutrements, but are beautiful in all weathers.


Sangla fields

6 August 2014

We decided we were not going to do another long haul today, with the condition of these roads it would take us forever, so instead of going all the way to Kaza we would stop at Nako. The well laid plans of mice and men – I shall get to that a little later.


First we went up to Chitkul to see what the drive was like since we had last done it. It was beautiful, with these straight up mountains of sheer rock, stratiated in crazy patterns, in building block layers, and as you get closer to Chitkul, the Bhojpatra starts appearing and whole hillsides of thyme, scent the air. Chitkul itself was unrecognisable. It has developed hugely, there are only a few of the old wooden houses, still sprawling up the top of the village. The temple is completely new, the old Tibetan carved and painted gate that formed the entrance to Chitkul from the north is gone, in it’s place is a newly constructed cement gate, but they have put the guardians in on the sides in glass cases, even the overhead guardian is there, so the welcome and blessing is intact as is the beauty of the whole valley; flowers layered up and down every available space, the huge, steep, sheer rock mountains interspersed with trees clinging to unlikely crags.

Chitkul Temple


Dave, Teddy Sahib and Hari took turns cycling down to Sangla – the road conditions actually meant that they were most often faster than the cars.

Cycling from Chitkul

Cycling Sangla






Then started the hair raising drive up the second bit of the Sutlej gorge, there is a deal of dam work all along this beautiful river, they are of a certainty destroying it. The roads are absolutely non existent – 20 kms an hour, with sections that are still slipping and dropping rocks or have slid and you have to take massive detours like yesterday. In all this, as I said before – you look up or down and that raging river, and the sheer rock faces are the same – and so far, so is that poor river – a force to reckon with – till these dams turn him into a damn lake.

falling rocksSutlej 2







So we reach the check point at Aksa and discover or rather had forgotten, that foreigners need an inner line permit for that section upto Sumdo. How flummoxed were we and what a staunch guardian of the gate was the gentleman in the booth. We have had to retrace our steps through rock falls and mud slides all the way back to Recong Peo, where obviously the offices were already shut – so a drink to learning and the patience required on all great drives in the mountains!

The Inner line

7th August 2014

We spent the morning sitting under a tree in the carpark outside the office of the District Magistrate at Rekong Peo waiting for him to sign the permit. Then he went off for a meeting and the little man helping us followed him. There were a french group and three motor cyclists waiting – also two or three bicyclists. Teddy Sahib, who was convinced that under Hari’s organisation we will get no food and no drink anywhere, went off around the bazaar and found samosas. Complained all the time that with all these apples growing on the trees, there are no apples to be had for love or money. Just then the boys arrived with a bag full of apples and a charger for Dave’s camera which they have borrowed from a shopkeeper. He has given it them from a new camera, on condition that they return it in Chandigarh. This can only happen in a place like this. Dave, to complete the story has left his camera charger at home.

We finally got the permits at 1200 hrs, which is when we started off. First we had to find the petrol pump, to which the Teddy Sahib took umbrage again. ‘All you young people, no organisation, we have been sitting for so long, this is when we should have done all this. Now we will reach so late and no one will stop to eat. That is why I bought the samosas.’ He was fine once we got going – the road was a nightmare, but the scenery was so spectacular. Through the rest of the Sutlej gorge, watching it change from a raging river to a spreading high mountain river and then narrowing again into a narrow, narrow gorge as it came closer to it’s confluence with the Spiti. Confluence Spiti SutlejThe actual confluence is a spectacle of sheer rock, you cross the bridge over the Sutlej and suddenly the road becomes smooth and the gorge feels like you could touch the other side – and you are climbing up and up for a long time till you top out and the high mountains of Spiti spread before you in all their colour and majesty. Huge swirling rocks churned like cake mix by the forces of nature towering into a blue Spiti sky.textured mountains

precarious orchards

Green Spiti


We stopped at what used to be little Nako village around a pretty little lake, today it is an expanding Nako village with a thriving agricultural trade – currently in peas. I have forgotten to say that what used to be sere brown, now has large pockets of green – new apple orchards, fields of blossoming potato and peas suddenly appearing around bends, nestled under where a stream or snow run off provides irrigation. The Kinner Camps in Nako is prettily located and has comfortable tents, with very good food. Lunch, that we had at 1700 hrs.

Nako village


Then we decided we were heading to Kaza, it was beautiful watching the light on the mountains change, the moon came up and added a completely other magic. We drove up through dark villages meeting a few headlights en route. Hari shot ahead, not minding the bumpy road – his passengers only the boys. I on the other hand, with Teddy Sahib, Dave and Myra – went more paced. Myra was feeling the altitude – not enough water. But she held out bravely and we finally got to the Deyzor Hotel in Kaza at about 2100 hrs. Hari already had the bar open – it was a very welcome drink after a truly tremendous drive.

8th Aug 2014

spiti from my window


I woke this morning to a sight that lifts my very soul, the amazing mountains of Spiti skirted by green poplars framed in my window. The one thing I always do in my favourite places is sleep with open windows and curtains undrawn, so the dawn and the pictures outside my window come right in to start the day. And what a day it has been. We are staying in a charming little hotel called the Deyzor – who knows what it means, but the proprietor is a lovely young man, passionate about the life he is living and working very hard to provide a service. (Any and all who happen to go here, do not ask for discounts, it is value for money.)

So we were given a great breakfast – porridge, variety of eggs, pancakes and pressed coffee – which is such a bonus.Spiti river


Then started our wild adventure – we were to drive to Hikkim, the highest post office, Kaurik monastery and Langza village to check out home stays. However, half way up – Hari saw an opportunity to go off the road and climb straight up the mountain, so of course we did just that, got spectacular views, had Dave gripping his seat in an agony of uncertainty. That both Dave and Myra just took it in their stride is kudos to them. I of course had theTeddy Sahib to guide me, he is very conservative with his advice, whether it is trust in what he has already taught or a belief that he is no longer heard, I am not sure. However, if you ask, he will offer – and it is a stupid person who does not ask when you have the master beside you – so he offered, ‘miss the stones that will hurt your car, not too fast, the rubble will get kicked up – and 1st gear low, or second will do.’ Thus we reached the zenith, took amazing photographs and then dropped down like we would have a dune in the desert, except here there is no sand that acts as an automatic braking device – never the less, we made it.

Off roading Spiti


We then finally found Kaumik and visited the old, typically Spiti monastery. Entrance, long hall with rooms on either side for the monks and the main monastery directly ahead, up the stairs. It was lovely, lonely and serene. The old monastery does not allow women, so only Dave got to go see the preserved snow leopard in there.climbing offroad

Kauric monastry




Kauric 1

Next we descended to Hikkim and the post office – a beautiful village with traditional homes, the landmark fields of waving crops, homes with juniper edged roofs, washed white. The postmaster is delighted, but can’t find his stamps – so his wife offers tea, while he hunts up the stamps. Dave finally posts his cards and we move onto Langza village to a charming home stay run by an old lady and her grand daughters. She gives us a great lunch of dal, rice and homemade, delicious ‘dahi’, supported by Maggi noodles. A traditional home, the rooms have the low cots with the Tibetan carpets and nothing is changed from how their home would normally be. The same central room with its stove and low seating with tables in front for eating and relaxing. The outhouse of dry pit latrines traditional to these dry, high mountain areas still works.

Hikkim PO

Langza Homestay






There is a marvellous trek to be done on this route,staying in the traditional homes and it seems many foreigners have discovered this. We met a french group staying at Langza and others in Kaza planning to go up. It is nice to see the traditional being put to a good economically viable venture.

We came down to go play at some offroading in the river beside the bridge and so ended a day of much fun and enjoyment.river offroad


I have not mentioned that at every step what makes this purely magical is the amazing scenery around you. This valley is easily one that I rate the highest on my places to go back to and rejuvenate your soul.

Ki monastry

9th Aug 2014

Kaza to Manali, 199 kms on my gps – easy driving on rubbish roads. We got to the pass in record time, payed obeisance and Myra and I decided we were going to bicycle off the pass. We had no figured that these were big boy bikes. I tried riding it for a spell only to find that if I had to put my feet down in a hurry – I would probably split my body or seriously damage it. They were way to large, we could not get off the seat without hitting the bar, so caution prevailed and we let the men do the riding. It was a murderous road. I honestly don’t know when it was last fixed, we just bumped and ground our way over the boulders – through free flowing ‘nalas’ and on and on till we crossed the Rohtang and hit both the mist and a good road.

Kunzom passKunzom flags







The change in terrain from Spiti to Lahaul is instant, it is greener and you start to see the shepherds with their precariously perched herds – on incredible slopes. All seeming to be quite happy where they are.

Cycling off the pass

Before leaving Spiti we stopped at the Chomoling nunnery, where they recognised me as the person who came with the ‘Jehudi’ women. We had spent a day and night at the monastery, helping in whichever sphere absorbed them during the ‘Queen of the Desert’ tours.

For me entering and leaving Spiti is like a prayer – blessed to come back there and asking a blessing to come back again.

Chomoling little nunsat the top(offroad)

10 Aug 2014

MANALI: More family has arrived, Maya, my daughter, on a bus from Delhi. Girimere, my brother, and Karandeep, a family friend, arrived with their monster bikes that they are riding across to Leh. Lunch at Martin’s, a cafe in an apple orchard that only provides Sunday lunches and beautiful surroundings.



Teddy Sahib and I then went to inspect a camp site up the Raison road at Baira Gram, it was an hours walk up and down in this acute heat and humidity that the valley is facing. A lovely spot which would need some development.

After the hot walk, a much needed tea with Uncle Jimmy and Aunty Bala (the Johnsons) at their beautiful home. A building that I consider the most beautiful hill home of all.

We wound up with a dinner of delicious trout at Pia’s – Johnson’s Cafe.

This was to be the end of our tour, but; ‘ So, Pavane Bhen,’ says Hari, ‘ it’s a long weekend coming should we go to Dalhousie?’ ‘It’s a boring long drive,’ I say reluctant to stop at Dharamsala. ‘Over the Sach?’ Hari, with a very naughty twinkle. Obviously, how does one resist that.


11 & 12 Aug 2014

Over the Sach, has to be quite the most spectacular drive that I have ever done.

Road to Sach2


Obviously we had to climb over the Rohtang again – long delays because we were accompanying Girimere and Karandeep who are riding their monster bikes up to Leh. So their kit had to be packed properly, then some leak fixed and who knows what else – however – it was hugely worth it to see the big smile and pure joy that emanated from my brother Girimere once he got on his bike and was ready to go. This has been one of his dreams. So we saw another dream driving off and followed them over the Rohtang. The pass was totally empty for a change. No traffic jams, even the Rani Nala is not acting up. Smoothly over and we stopped at Koksar for meat curry and rice with Pandit ji. Then onto the petrol pump at Tandi where we all refuelled and parted ways. We went up into the Pangi valley and the boys continued to Ladakh.

Giri in glee


The Pangi valley – a place of greenery and huge agricultural development. Everywhere you look are fields cut out of the mountains growing potatoes, peas and currently being harvested cauliflower. There are streams and waterfalls everywhere, the road follows the river Chenab or Chandra Bhaga all the way and is really not as bad as the section from Kunzom to Rohtang – less murderous for sure. The mountains change in every valley – these are sheer rock with tree cover and not the erosion that we were seeing earlier – spectacular and beautiful – what was great to see almost all over is the prosperity of the people due to the agricultural push. There are water channels in all directions tapped off every bitty little stream.

Green Pangi


We drove and drove well into the dark to finally arrive at Cherry Bangla to find some hundred people had taken over our booking as well as all else including a forest of tents pitched on the lawn. It is a great comfort to be driving with Hari and Teddy Sahib on occasions such as these. Hari who was way ahead of us, obviously, drove on and found another little rest house in the village of Sach. We even got a dhaba opened up who cooked us great daal, rice and the inimitable pudina and chilli chutney. Our rest house required the spreading of all our clothes on the rather dodgy sheets, thankfully it was warm and we did not need the even more dodgy quilts. The breakfast was compensatory the next morning, great parathas and egg bhurji and we set off to climb this amazing pass.

Road to Sach 1Road to Sach 3


It was 15 km to Kilar and then a little beyond you get to see this narrow slit in the rock wall across the river – it is the way up to the Sach pass. You go down and down to cross the bridge across the Chandra Bhaga (Chenab) and then start climbing this steep road up the very narrow valley of the Sach nala. Sheer rock sides, with waterfalls washing down in sprays that acted as a car wash many times.

Road to Sach

Dhabas below SachGravity defying villages perched on pinnacles of rock, sheep on steep meadows and a death defying trail along the other side that would make for an amazing trek. As we got closer to the top, it starts to open and the meadows begin to spread below just before the glacier starts – then you can see the piles of bald moraine between the spreading snow fields. This is the only one of the passes we crossed that still has so much snow. We stopped for lunch at the usual dhabas, just short of the final climb to the pass. Walls of snow on either side, large water crossings, the most brilliant pass crossing in a long time. Sach PassA small temple at the top where we all went and offered a prayer for thanks and safe passage onward. And the climb down, once past the snow – it was a spread of meadows covered in all the hues of flowers that are found in the high Himalaya.Off SachFlowering meadows A smorgasbord of scent and colour that we just stopped and stared at. Then it was an uneventful and regular ride to Dalhousie, via Bairagarh where there is a nice rest house, past Tissa where we used to camp in the woods as kids and then past Chamba & Khajjiar back home on the hill of Bakrota above Dalhousie.

Blue poppyHome Dalhousie













Zanskar: the name evokes magic! Just an amazing trip and so doable, I took an 82 year old lady and she loved it. The drive is a spectacle, the river is so beautiful, the camp spots, the little villages, majestic textured cliffs and gravity defying hanging bridges….Please my friends, don’t miss it, come with me.

The trip runs: 20 th to 31st August 2013.

Drong Durung Glacier

Day 01 : Fly Delhi – Leh (3466m ; 11,370ft). Transfer to hotel. Rest, hydrate and acclimatise. Overnight Leh hotel.
Day 02 : Leh. Acclimatise and sightseeing. For the more energetic a visit to a few monasteries such as Shey, Thikse and Hemis will be arranged. Or choose to realx and walk into Leh town, to its exciting market and outdoor restaurants. Overnight Leh hotel.
Day 03 : Drive Leh – Kargil (3201m ; 10500 ft ; 9-10 hrs). We drive from Leh to Mulbek – Kargil, through a spectacular moonscape. We drive over the Fotu La (14,000 ft), a high mountain pass and exit the Indus valley. Enroute, we do a photo stop above the Lamayuru monastery belonging to the ‘Red Hat’ sect. Overnight Kargil hotel.
Day 04 : Drive Kargil – Rangdum (12,000ft). A spectacular drive past Panikar and Parkachik,with magnificent views of the Nun and Kun massifs (7000 metres),hanging glaciers and large meadows.We drive till Rangdum Gompa (12,000 ft).Camp overnight.
Day 05 : Drive Rangdum – Remala (3635m ; 11,925ft ; 6 hrs). We drive to Remala, which is the starting point for the rafting trip on the Stod river, a tributary of the Zanskar river. We drive over the Pensi La (14,500 ft), which enables grand views of the Zanskar peaks at the bottom of which is the Drung Durung glacier that feeds the Zanskar river, 40 km below, into which we flow trip the next day. Overnight tented camp.
Day 06 : Rafting expedition begins at Remala. Raft till near Karsha Gompa, near Padum. (3496m ; 11,466ft ; 4 hrs) We raft 30 km in 4-5 hrs which includes a break for lunch and hot beverages. We are surrounded by 6000 metre high peaks. River section today includes a Class II section, a good introduction for first timers as well as to the river in general. Settle into camp by afternoon, we can take an optional hike to Karsha Gompa.
Day 07 : After a late morning start, we raft from Karsha up to Honyo / Pidmo (3361m ; 11,025 ft ; 3 hrs). This stretch is approximately 25 km with Class II and III rapids. Another easy day to get used to the river, the altitude and hone our paddling skills.
Day 08 : After packing camp, we raft 25 km to Nyerak (3286m ; 10,780ft ; 3 hrs) a Class III section. The gorge narrows in on the river – this indeed is a Grand Canyon in its own right. We stop for the day to pitch camp in a gorge below Nyerak village.
Day 09 : Rest day at Nyerak. Take a hike to Nyerak village or relax under the cool shade of the willows at our Campsite. Wash up at the campsite stream and enjoy the day off.
Day 10 : Todays 35 km rafting section takes us from Nyerak to Lamaguru (3190m ; 10,465ft ; 5-6 hrs including scout and lunch) through the core of the Zanskar A classic white water day with continuous Class III rapids, and a few Class IV rapid where the river squeezes between a gap of about 18ft. We stop for lunch near a huge waterfall and continue to camp at the confluence of Markha river with the Zanskar. Rock formations, spires and an amazing palette of colours add to the trip today. Camp.
Day 11 : We raft 40 kms of Class III/IV white water from Lamaguru to Nimu (3154m;10,345 ft ; 3-4 hrs) today. We raft past the village of Chilling and exciting rapids as the Zanskar plunges out of the canyon to meet with the Indus at Nimu. We end our trip at the confluence of the Zanskar with the Indus. Drive an hour back to Leh. Last minute retail therapy and a hot shower! Overnight hotel.
Day 12 : Transfer to Leh airport. Fly Leh – Delhi.

THE COST : Rs. 67000.00 per person. Which does not include airfares to and from Leh. But takes care of everything from arrival in Leh to departure.

Call or mail me for details: +91 9810184360 / pavane@mhe.co.in

One last night in Spain

Just spoke to Anjali while sitting sipping beer and listening to great old time music being played in the plaza under the floodlit Walls of the Alhambra … With a moon shining down. What does one do with so much overload?

Just figuring that I think romance is a soul thing, not necessarily a sharing thing. This night was so full of romance, it was soul searing and utterly beautiful, but you know what came to mind? I could not think of wanting to, actually, share it with anyone. Because it was so perfect to me, it may not be so for another and that would so take away from it.

I sat watching people walking up and down, across from me the plaza was full, the fountain sparkled, and beyond the river was a forested hill crowned with the food lit castle. There was a man with a guitar, another with a harmonica and one with a violin, they played besame mucho, the lambada and so many other remembered oldies. I sat there with a grin and a Jerez amontillado. Finally decided – ok enough already, let’s go home and sleep, so started walking away, just before I was to leave the plaza turned one last time and what do I see but the moon behind me shining on this whole vista, so I just sat on the parapet and soaked it all in some more, the breeze, the sound of the water, the music and the magic of the night.

I truly sat there thinking: who is the one person that I have known in my life that I could/would have  wanted to share this with. Honestly, not a one who would have enriched this more than it was. Yes for sure one of you, my old langotias or my girls would have shared it and savoured, but as in, would someone to be with have made this more, no.

Ladies, my bestest friends in the world, I missed you, a trip like this around one of these countries begs to be done with us. 

Of Cardinals, Kings and Toreros

La giralda, one of the largest cathedrals of the world, right up there with St. Peters in Rome and St. Pauls in London. Such an amazing structure, incorporates parts of an old mosque, it is Gothic and Moorish, all mixed up like every thing else in this city. I have been circling the outside everyday and being amazed. Today I went in to see what there was to see. It is grand and has the usual bloody history of cardinals and kings. Rich, rich in every corner, large, imposing and though an amazing structure it did not have the peace of a church, the Walls and stones were too steeped in gore and stories. Who ruled? Kings or Cardinals, it was a thin line of power, there where wheels within wheels, whispers, betrayals and Conspiracies. I wish the walls could tell. Guides have such a rote story that I never listen, one has to be very lucky to find one who actually knows the history and not one who has just learnt up the regular babble to spout forth.

There is romance and history and so many stories, some I know and more to be read at leisure and put in perspective now that I have seen the sites.

I was then on my way to the river and the bus stand to buy my ticket for tomorrow, but everything is so on top of each other and I just get so lucky that I found myself at the plaza de Los Torros. La Maestranza in Sevilla, Is the oldest bullring which was first used for bullfighting in 1765.

Though I don’t think I ever could watch a bull fight, it is such a huge tradition here that I had to go see where and how it happens. So, to see again… The guide was a young girl whose English sounded distinctly Spanish, I actually understood her Spanish better than the English!

A tradition that emerged to keep soldiers busy when they were not at war. Right up alongside jousts and hunts along came the bull fight. Did you know that if a bull ( that poor beset animal, that is hounded and poked half to death before ever the toreador gets to him) actually kills the man, the bull is then killed and his head is mounted, not only his, but also his mother’s because she bred a killer!

On entering that ring I can see how it would truly be a spectacle to observe, with the colour, pomp and show. However I will give it a miss, would probably sit there weeping my eyes out like Malu’s Kanika. That it is an art form, I do not doubt, that the toreador has to be an artist trained and brave, too is a reality, however who talks about the bravery off that poor animal, his bewilderment and agony? Somehow it is not man that emerges larger here, the torero has help, that bull is alone in the field with a million men yelling all around him and stupid men on prancing horses poking and prodding at him. By the time that prouncing, dancing man gets there the poor animal is hugely beset and quite lost, what chances? What sport? Cannot see!

I did eventually get to the bus station and was very glad that I had not left it for tomorrow, such long queues, would have miscalculated for sure and missed the bus!

Honestly necessary to beware of pick pockets and what here they call the Romanies, and we the gypsies. They look like us – unfortunately – foreign us, if that makes any sense. Like every pinch faced person you would avoid at any of our big city stations.

I walk miles in this city, in the heat, and then I do the good Spanish thing and go up to my air-conditioned, little room and have a siesta. I should actually have it like myriad others under an orange tree ‘en alguna plaza’, but somewhere I have to draw the line between a teenage backpacking fantasy and my real, today self. The air-conditioning is most welcome.

This evening I got nice and lost for about half an hour trying to find another of the recommended tapas bars in la plaza de Los terceros. Have become so familiar with the little pedestrian streets that when I hit equally little, trafficked ones, I got lost. Just being amazed that cars could actually drive through.

However all these lovely people here soon had me walking straight and right into exactly where I wanted to be, sitting under orange trees in a tiny square, drinking great Sangria and eating delicious Tapas at a bar called La Huerta, they specialise in veg tapas, a delightful oxymoron. Recommended: Pavia de bacalao, a fried cod and Quiche de Puerros, leak quiche, also Queso con marmalade de pimientos rojos.

Got home early. The square in front of the hotel is one that I had not sat in and wanted to from the first day here. However there is so much to see and discover in this city that it is necessary to wander. I am here now, there are lovely tiled benches all around, the lit up tower of La Giralda peeps above one corner, more orange trees and the typical little fountain. How utterly charming does it get? I guess this is what people travel the world for, the charms that we discover.

There are a number of restaurants that share space on the square and it all seems to work effortlessly. A tiny bodega in the corner has only two tables but the kids who work in there are charming and have become friends – telling me where to go and what to see. The waiters in my hotel are friends too and sneak me beers while I sit here writing to tell you all my news.

I am going to miss this place. I am either too easy to please or else I am finding the most amazing people and places, either way, what a blessing.





The Grand Canyon of the Colorado!!

A trip that I am definitely going on, come with me.


Monday 18th April 2011 – Thursday 5th May 2011
(Arrival and departure dates into and out of Las Vegas Nevada)

It is the most famous river trip in the world…. And with good reason. Journeying for 14 days and 226 miles down the Colorado river is the smallest part of this trip. We get a chance to explore the Grand Canyon from within, with its scenic side hikes and spectacular waterfalls. You’ll camp on expansive sandy beaches retracing the expedition of Major John Wesley Powell in 1867 and visit ancient Indian ruins. There is frequently a two-year waiting list for a commercial trip and up to 18 years for a private trip. We are so happy to have this departure date and very much hope you will be able to join us on a trip of a lifetime. April is a wonderful time to raft the Grand Canyon. The Canyon is greener than normal and water flows are excellent.

“Now the danger is over, now the toil has ceased, now the gloom has disappeared, now the firmament is bounded only by the horizon, and what a vast expanse of constellations can be see! The river rolls by us in silent majesty; the quiet of the camp is sweet; our joy is ecstasy. We sit long after midnight talking of the Grand Canyon, talking of home.”

Powell’s Journal, Major John Wesley Powell

Your Fun Filled Itinerary!

Day One:
You’ll be met on arrival at Las Vegas airport, Nevada by our trip leader who will take you to your hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. No matter how tired you are from your long flight from India, this place will wake you up! It’s Disneyland for grown ups! Settle in for a good rest before we make our way to Arizona tomorrow and that one step closer to rafting the Grand Canyon.
(No meals included)

Day Two:
We’ll leave Vegas around 10 am and take in the gorgeous drive to Flagstaff, Arizona (4-5 hrs). We will drive past the Hoover Dam, which holds up Lake Mead at the end of the Grand Canyon. This was an amazing engineering feat in itself, but when you consider it was built in 1936, it is truly sensational. Flagstaff is typical small town America but has a number of fantastic restaurants and bars to explore at your leisure. We will have a pre-departure meeting prior to dinner and pass out some equipment for your trip. This will be your last chance to purchase any last minute items for your trip. The crew will have Chums (glasses retainers) hats and caps.
(Included: Breakfast)

Day Three:
We meet for breakfast early! At 7.30am we’ll take the gorgeous drive to our rafting put in point at Lees Ferry (3 hrs), just below Glen Canyon dam. You’ll be outfitted with the remainder of the equipment, given a full and comprehensive safety talk as well as paddle instructions. As we float off downstream, you are about to embark on one of the best river journeys in the world. The History as well as geology of this area is astounding in its beauty.
(All meals Included)

Days Three To Fifteen: (Zero to Six hrs a day)
Each day we run amazing rapids such as the famous Crystal, Granite and the original Lava as well as awesome blast rapids such as Hermit! White sandy beaches, gorgeous side hikes everyday. Many people never get to sample the beauty of the Grand Canyon from within…. For those of you who have seen it from the rim, that in itself is a stunning experience, set amidst gorgeous granite and marble walls, we sleep on beaches with just the river in the background to send us to sleep. We visit ancient Indian ruins high above the river and view the scenic beauty of this canyon. We run the rapids and see where Major John Powell ran these rapids and this gorge in the late 1800’s in wooden dories. Similar boats are still in use in the Canyon!
There is ample time to adjust to river life during the trip. You wont need watches, cell phones or to worry about anything. This trip offers 100% relaxation.
We have no “fixed” itinerary for this trip, preferring instead to set ourselves up for hikes and ruins that we can do as a group. This adaptability allows us to remain on our own and away from other groups that may be in the canyon at the same time to us.
All meals included days three – fifteen.

Days Sixteen:
Your trip on the river finishes at Diamond Creek where we are met and taken back to Flagstaff (3-4 hrs) for our post trip meal. You have reason to feel proud of yourself! You have completed one of the best river trips in the world. We overnight in Flagstaff at the Grand Canyon River house. You’ll get the chance to look at some of your DVD of the trip and decide if you would like to purchase this. We’ll prepare you an amazing Cajun Boil tonight, a meal traditional to the area and a great way to spend your last night in Flagstaff.
Included: All meals

Day Seventeen:
We depart Flagstaff for our drive back to Las Vegas. Tonight, it may well be a great idea to all go out for an amazing meal at the revolving restaurant on top of the Stratosphere for the best views in Vegas. Bring your nice clothes… they have a dress code!
Included: Breakfast

Day Eighteen:
After breakfast, you’ll be dropped back at the airport for your flight back home after a trip of a lifetime.
Included: Breakfast

Cost Details : US$ 5500

What Is Included
• Transfers to and from Las Vegas Airport. We request that you are there on Day One, two days before your rafting trip departs (as described above). Transfers are also provided from Flagstaff to Lees Ferry (the start point) and from Diamond Creek back to Flagstaff after the trip.
• Accommodation for 2 nights in Las Vegas (one before and one after the rafting trip) and 2 nights in Flagstaff night (before and after the river trip) in a tourist hotel. On your last night in Flagstaff we will stay in The Grand Canyon River house, which is more basic than the pre-trip hotel, but we will give you an amazing meal, which is traditional in this area. This will be on a share twin basis with somebody else on the trip. Single supplements available for Vegas and Flagstaff hotel ONLY USD$170.
• All transfers to and from the river.
• All meals from breakfast on Day Three to dinner on Day Sixteen. Also included breakfast on Days two, seventeen and eighteen. We can cater for most dietary requests, just let us know!
• All rafting equipment, including the best in buoyancy aids, helmets, and spray jackets.
• Tented accommodation whilst on the river.
• All camping equipment including camping mattresses and sleeping bags* If you feel the cold, bring plenty of layers, because it can be cool in the evening..
• Qualified and experienced guides. The crux of our trips, we have a mixture of local and overseas guides who are extremely professional and are some of the most experienced guides in the world. These guys and girls make every effort to make your trip memorable and fun for you whilst at the same time ensuring your safety. They all hold advanced first aid qualifications and in the unlikely event of an injury they have the expertise and professionalism to deal with it.
• All necessary permits and licenses.

Please Note: Not included are flights, visas, departure taxes, travel insurance, inoculations, video or DVD of your trip, alcohol, personal items or gratuities. You will also need to budget for meals in town, which are not included in the price and any extra accommodation outside what is provided.

Holiday Options & Extensions
If you are interested in having a few more days (or weeks!) in America then the choice is endless. Depending on your available time there are everything from trips to National Parks, to an insight into the Vegas nightlife. We can recommend the following and suggest if you are interested in any of them to have a chat to our office staff who will be more than happy to give you the cost and low down on the different activities.

Las Vegas
If you are looking to stay on longer or arrive earlier than your scheduled days, we can arrange extra nights at a cost of $25 per person per night if you book early. Single rooms are $50 per night. The bright lights, oxygen filled casinos are an amazing place to visit in our opinion for a short period of time. Check out only places you have seen on TV, ride the roller coaster at New York, New York, or visit Caesars Palace and the MGM Grand. For advise on where to stay and what to do there, please contact our office teams in the UK or US.

National Parks
The US has some incredible National Parks to explore in this region. If you want to extend your stay in the USA, may we suggest a trip to the incredible Zion Park in Utah. Alternatively, check out Canyon lands or Bryce Canyon. This is truly breathtaking scenery.

Mountain Biking in Moab
For those of you fat tire enthusiasts, we can highly recommend a few days up on the slick rock landscapes of Moab. Mountain Biking trails abound here for the recreational, the hardcore biker.

Grand Canyon Flight
If you want a bird’s eye view of the trip you have just completed, there are plenty of options for a helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon. These leave from Vegas or the town of Grand Canyon. Contact us if you would like details or make a booking.

Grand Canyon Skywalk
The Hualapai Indians recently completed the ambitious project of constructing the Grand Canyon Skywalk over the edge of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Walking on reinforced glass 4000 feet above the bottom of the Grand Canyon is not for the faint hearted, but you will be rewarded with out of this world views.

Getting There:

Ensure you have got a VISA before traveling to the United States. This should be organized well in advance before your planned travel date. No responsibility or refund will be given to participants who have not completed the relevant VISA process or are denied entry into the US.

Plenty of regular flight options exist to the US from Delhi and Mumbai. Your best connections will be to Los Angeles and an onward flight to Las Vegas from there. United, Continental and Air India all offer flights.

Climate & Water Levels:
Water Flows are controlled by Glen Canyon Dam and as such flows are consistently good from April to September. Its the only river we do anywhere in the world that the tide goes in and out! Temperatures are usually between 25-40 degrees Celsius with nighttime temperatures 10 – 20 degrees lower. Rain? We never know for sure when it will rain. It is extremely impressive if it does… the waterfalls and side streams are amazing. Bring a rain jacket just in case, but we also provide a spray jacket for on the river. We also suggest a thermal top. Even if it’s warm, the river is VERY cold. Under 40 degrees Fahrenheit!

The Grand Canyon is a relatively recent surface feature etched into the face of a far older world. The Colorado River drainage and the Grand Canyon have developed in the past 40 million years but the rock strata the river cuts though represent more than a third of the earth’s 4.6 billion year history. Our trip leaders and guides are on hand to provide you with their immense knowledge in this area.

There is a wide variety of wildlife on the Canyon if you keep your eyes peeled! You may see Desert Bighorn sheep, bobcats and mountain lions, or smaller species such as lizards or the infamous rattlesnake.

Exploration History:
The Indians were the first settlers in this area and there are still many Indian Reservations in this area. We’ll experience first hand the history of this area by visiting ancient food granaries and other historical relics. We’ll see and possibly meet Hualapai and Havasupai Indians.
Major John Wesley Powell was the first major explorer of the Colorado River. His diaries make excellent reading if you have the chance to get a copy to take on the river with you. He ran the majority of the river in wooden dories with the help of relatives and colleagues. Some left part way through the expedition on foot, and were never seen again. You will see examples of dories on the riverbanks left there from the early exploration days of this great unknown.

Beer Kitty:
We provide water and lemonade during the day. All hot drinks are provided. Generally on all our other trips people put in for a beer kitty. Work out how many beers you would like each evening and we will collect the money the night before the trip. Let us know your preferences for the trip, beer wine or marguerittas! We also suggest you bring a plastic bottle of your favourite drink and we’ll take it with us. Please let us know prior to your arrival if you require any special mixers for your drinks.

Please let us know if you are interested in this before the trip and we will organize some fishing licenses for you. You can catch trout, carp and catfish. Fish and chips anyone?

Dress Code:
Dress is casual around camp. Obviously get out your “glad rags” for the post trip meal in Flagstaff and Las Vegas! Due to the temperature fluctuations between the river and the outside temperature, we recommend long light trousers to cover your legs during the day, as well as a long sleeved business shirt. Make sure you also have a good wide brimmed sunhat for on the raft during the day.

Personal Equipment:
After years on the river the guides have found exactly what is necessary to feel comfortable on the raft by day, cozy around the camp at night and totally in style in town before and after trips! Therefore our equipment list will mean that you will be perfectly attired and outfitted for your whole trip and well under the baggage allowance – river guides are famous for being light travelers (one has to be when a kayak is often in tow!). A full list of what we recommend will be sent to you upon booking conformation. We find that most people already have in their possession what is needed for a rafting trip and very little if anything in specialized equipment is needed to be bought. Perhaps the only thing that we specifically recommend for America is PLENTY of sunscreen.

Visa Requirements
Please ensure you have a machine-readable passport or one of the new biometric passports. Visitors from the following countries do not need to apply for a visa before arrival into the United States providing you are traveling for less than 90 days. Andorra, Iceland, Norway, Australia, Ireland, Portugal, Austria, Italy, San Marino, Belgium, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, Liechtenstein. Slovenia, Denmark, Luxembourg, Spain, Finland, Monaco, Sweden, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. There is no cost involved for these nationalities, however upon entry into the United States you will be required to have your photo taken and be finger printed.

Exchange Rates
The US remains relatively in expensive for certain items, notably food and fuel. Exchange rates at the time of printing are 1€ is equivalent to $1.10 and £1 was equivalent to roughly $1.48. $1 buys 45 Indian Rupees

What Is Supplied
• Tents on twin share
• All river running equipment
• Spray jackets for on the river.
• Sleeping bag with sheet
• Eating Utensils
• Ground cloth and foam pad
• All meals while on the river
• A small pelicase for your camera
• Waterproof duffel bag
• Shuttle from Flagstaff to Lee’s Ferry and from Diamond Creek to Flagstaff at end of trip
• Music for the trip.

What You Need To Bring
• Camera and plenty of film or spare memory card for your digital camera. We also suggest extra batteries.
• Small pillow
• Personal toilet articles:
• Large brim hat with chin strap, or baseball cap with tie on strap
• Towel & washcloth
• 2 pairs shoes (we suggest a pair of hiking boots and a pair of Chaco Sandals [chacosan.com]
• Toothbrush & toothpaste
• Sunscreen SPF 50+ /moisturizing lotion/ lip balm SPF 50 +
• Soap & shampoo (biodegradable)
• Light coat/windbreaker or sweatshirt (Spring trips need heavier coat)
• Other t-shirts cos we are bored with the other smelly one!
• Rain coat
• Shirts -long & short sleeved, only fashionable items. You will need a loud Hawaiian shirt for the post trip meal….
• Long sleeved business shirts are good for sun protection
• 2 pair eyeglasses or spare contacts with tie on strap such as Chums (we have these available for purchase)
• Pants (of quick drying fabric work best)
• Sunglasses with tie-on strap such as Chums (we have these available for purchase.)
• Shorts
• 2 medium sized plastic water bottles (for taking on hikes) We recommend Nalgene or Sigg What is also a good idea is a Camelback for hikes which can carry a bladder of water plus some clothes and snacks for hiking.
• Karabiner for attaching water bottle to raft
• Swimsuit (s) please note guys…. No banana hammocks
• Flashlight or Headlamp + extra batteries.
• 2 sets of thermal underwear. Long sleeved tops and bottoms. One set for the river and one set for the evening.

Fitness and Safety:
The Colorado is a great trip. There are no specific requirements for this trip although we do recommend a reasonable standard of fitness to get the most out of the trip. The side hikes are great. At times we will do some loops away from the river and meet up with the rafts again downstream from where we left them. We recommend that you exercise regularly; running, walking or swimming, a month or two before the trip, to maximize your fun on this amazing river. Please let us know, quietly if you wish) if you have any medical conditions or are taking any medications that could affect you throughout the course of the trip that you think we should be aware of.

Please remember that things do change, prices go up and down, activities stop running or change format and weather can send the best laid plans out the door. We will do our best to provide what is described above but please take into consideration the nature of the journey that you are embarking on and the country that you are traveling in and understand that a certain degree of flexibility is necessary!

The key to you any great adventure are the guides that accompany you. Not only will your American team guide you safely down the river by day, they’ll transform into amazing chefs and entertainers and give you incredible insight into local wildlife, customs and history. Here is a sample of who may accompany you on your trip.


Full name: United States of America
Population: 290 million
Area: 9.63 million sq km
Capital City: Washington DC
People: 71% Caucasian, 21% African American, 12% Latino, 4% Asian,
0.9% Native American
Language: English, Spanish, Native American languages
Religion: 56% Protestant, 28% Roman Catholic, 2% Jewish
Government: constitution-based federal republic (apparently)
Major industries: Oil, electronics, computers, automobile, manufacturing, aerospace industries, agriculture, telecommunications, chemicals, mining, processing and packaging.
Time Zone: Eastern Time GMT –5
Central time GMT –6
Mountain time GMT –7 (Arizona) Presently –8 Due to UK Daylight Saving
Pacific standard GMT –8

Electricity: 120V, 60hz
Currency: US Dollar
Exchange Rate 1 USD: 45.7 Indian Rupees
1 USD: £0.675 pence
1 USD: EURO0.81 centimes

Average cost of a meal: Budget US$ 3-10
Mid-range US$ 10-15

American Slang

How y’all doing: How are you
A whole ‘nother: Something completely different
Air head: lacking in brains
Blow a fuse: Lose your temper
Rugrats: children
Y’all have a good day now!: Have a nice day
Blow chunk: Vomit
“Chill, dude!”: Relax please
Da bomb!: An expression of good stuff, as in “That gig last night was da bomb, dude!”
Limey: English person
Ya’ll: (Southern US) you all
24/7 : 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Pond : The Atlantic Ocean
Dork :A person without social graces (“dweeb, nerd, geek”).
Dude: Cool person
Drop the ball : to mess something up.

Did you know?

The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long. The rock strata that the river cuts through represents more than a third of the earth’s 4.6 billion year history.

Major John Wesley Powell was the first person to explore the Colorado River in 1869. Normal Nevills began commercial river runs in 1938.

Cancellation Policy:

Final payment are due by December 10th 2010. If payments are not in on time, trip will be cancelled or any spaces not paid for will be cancelled.

All cancellations lose $750.00 deposit. All deposits are Non-Refundable.

Passengers who cancel cannot be substituted for new passengers. Payments are non-transferable.

All passengers who cancel will be charged cancellation fee.

All cancellations within 120 days prior to the trip forfeit the entire tour cost.
We are strict with our policy and strongly suggest your clients purchase travel insurance prior to your trip. For best coverage clients must purchase insurance within 14 days of paying their initial deposit.

We require a minimum of 12 paying guests and a maximum of 16 paying guests. If minimum numbers are not reached by August, an option exists to book onto another trip on the 8th – 25th May 2011 with the same itinerary as above. This will be on a Space Available basis.