Spaces

I’m writing on a flip chart, recording some important bit of information during a rather serious conference. I look up for a moment and am transported to another dimension. Rippling sands and a tent on a land rover.

I’ve done this countless times, walked through the soft sands, ridden over the dunes on camels and in four wheel vehicles, lain under the shifting shade of an acacia or slept under the myriad stars of a breezy desert night.

It never palls – the magic is eternal and one can plug into this special feeling anytime. Just return to those timeless spaces that nurture the spirit and soar the soul.

When it’s combined with a meeting full of like minded people all focused on a social enterprise to make the world a better place – it just made for a memorable few days and renewed my faith in our world.

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Comforts of alone.

Much like the song from Sound of Music.

It struck me this morning when I woke to something prodding my shoulder – it was Maya’s little, old dog! Look at it and the heart gets both warmed and nostalgic. How very many stories that little dog tells.

Barre Moms’ old black and white comforter, the association obviously adds an extra layer.

Sheets she embroidered for my trousseau, which I finally decided to use. The dressing table at which I can still see her sitting.

A bookshelf full of my mothers collection of Georgette Heyer!

The glass warmer, Maya’s first knitting attempt. The stickers on the mirror, when Rifq thought Mama was great!

Photographs and decanters. The contents of which has most to do with comfort! But the memory is of my Grandfather holding it by the neck and carrying it to and from the drawing room every evening.

Perhaps waking to all these around me, makes for never being alone. I guess it’s why we surround ourselves with memorabilia.

Driving the same road – does it vary?

Some, but it’s the road from Manali to Leh and it’s magic stays undiminished no matter how often I travel it. There are more people on it, at Gramphoo the chai shop has got left up above the road and Koksar is almost merged, there are a few more dhabas. The meat curry was just as good and the overheard biker conversations just as lurid! The Lahaul valley is greener and more prosperous and utterly beautiful. Jispa is almost a township of many more camps and small hotels. The Padma lodge was nicely located and quite comfortable, though the camp across the road by the river looked much more inviting! Bara Lacha Pass brings back so many amazing memories, not least being of chocolate pudding and cream! The plains of Sarchu and the sculpted rocks beyond are timeless. The Gata loops and the spot where we crawled out from trekking the Tsarap gorge to be discovered by the nice Military policeman, oh so many moons ago. All so familiar, well remembered and so very relivable.The road to Ksokar is paved and what was an abandoned village is a thriving homestay enterprise, though I doubt any of the original owners are there. The lakes themselves have diminished, but the bird life still seems to thrive. Didn’t see the ubiquitous marmots – nor heard the whistles, but there were a lot more Kiangs than in the nearer past.Met some young people doing studies and comparisons – intense and interesting, sure we must have been so too at the stage…..now it was just nice to sit and stare, remember and build a new memory.The intention to go to Tso moriri was canned as some of the team was not feeling upto the altitude, but we drove to Leh via Mahe and enjoyed the drive. The Indus, that grand river, that always gives a thrill…the name evokes tales of travel, romance and adventure! I have never seen it like this – blue and green, such low water levels for this time of year. Lovely to look at but a harbinger of not nice things. Leh is a changed town that I am getting lost in, but it seems a lot of good, positive things are happening and so many young people doing interesting homestays, cafes and trips. The one’s that made it happen for us were Hajra and Mayas friend Jigmet of Mantra Himalaya with his happy cafe and interesting concepts. Behzad with his photography tours and super homestay in Nubra.A lovely meal at a really rather special restaurant called Bon appetite – Jigmet walked us up and up tiny alleys to emerge out into a lovely garden and quaint restaurant. It was dark but I am certain the views were spectacular. The food was excellent – lasagna, Mediterranean Nan was my favourite. Chocolate momos for desert.Driven over the Khardungla into one of my favourite valleys, Nubra. It is a gentle space of vastness. Cross the highest motor able pass into this Shangrila of spreading silver waters and sand. Striated and screed mountains and beautiful vegetation. It’s like land before time, a garden of Eden where all the so called super foods grow in wild abundance. Thorny thickets of ———-abound, Alfa Alfa is fed to cattle, hillsides of springing lavender scent the air. Wild garlic gets crushed underfoot as you walk. It’s an uncanny mix of sere brown mountains and this lush abundance. Clean, clear water and vividly blue skies. I cant get enough of it.We walked slowly up to the monastery where the Dalai Lama is coming next week to hold teachings. The burbling stream ran alongside, the myricaria and roses blushed pink and the lavender sprayed up in beautiful bushels of….I guess..lavender. Spires of poplars spear the blue, blue sky and the willow woven fences make most interesting dividers. You can fill your water bottle from the stream like in the old days. There doesnt seem to be the usual plastic blocking every water way and tree stump. I think I fell in love with a perfect spot. Dinner al fresco surrounded by wild garlic, swaying trees and lanterns, life does not get much better. I say that so often and how blessed it is to be able to do so.A drive across a river bed, a walk up a rocky outcrop in the middle of the river just short of Panamik and found a lovely lake in the middle. Came back to a marvellous picnic laid out by Sajjan and forgot his name. Perfect day – then the dunes at Hundar and hordes of people to see the camels and the dunes , but it is organised and clean most impressive. An evening around the bonfire with excellently crafted Rob Roy’s and a ‘Gajjar Chillum’! Most interesting and utterly hilarious. This is Behzad and Voygr hospitality and it was brilliant.The drive back from Nubra was very quick and we were back at our hotel in record time. The fatigue is setting in and I slept. Dinner at bon appetite again – Behzad invited Kendrup who is the warden at hemis national park and a snow leopard tracker cum conservationist. It was a tremendous honour to meet him and hear of all the work that is now happening in these amazing mountains with both the people and the other life that still manages to co exist. Good to know all these great people that add to the experience. Had an uneventful if beautiful drive to spend the night at the plains of Sarchu in a windy tent. I must say I do not fancy tent living any longer unless it is my own. Woke to rain on the roof and the thought of the Baralacha nalas made for a swift departure. Rained all the way but thankfully we crossed Bara lacha with just a smattering of slippery snow. The icing on the cake was an empty Rohtang it being Tuesday – pure bliss to not have to ask men, women, children in deep winter overalls, sweltering in the hot sun up high, avidly looking for non existent snow! Home by 4 with no crowds at all. Blessed that everything went so right.

Spring at the LAMA HOUSE

Last year this time, I was sitting in a mausoleum of a building with plumbers, carpenters, painters – a fleet of people tracking dirt and material across the beautiful wooden floors. Snow in the garden that needed so much work. And I thought, ‘what in the world did I take on?’

Today, there are daffodils nodding their early heads. The birds are warbling. Skies are blue.

This old Lama House is beautiful again, there are six lovely rooms for you to come inhabit.

 

I like walks in the woods, have the perfect picnic spots, the corners in my garden offer the best reading, writing, painting spots.

We bake lovely cakes and cookies – and do real coffee.

The whisky comes from some of the best parts of Scotland and even Japan.

Having lived a life of complete adventure – I can facilitate a climb across the mountains on a trek or a jeep safari.

I have just revived for myself the old world arts of water colours, knitting and embroidery – they are therapeutic and healing. In sync with the essence and energy of this home built by monks.

 

 

 

 

The best of the mountains happens here. Come join me.


Ladakh – A drive over high passes

I love this drive and have done it myriad times. Am doing it again this June with some friends – if there are others that would like to join us please call 9810184360 or mail :

I have copied below the descriptions I wrote years ago – this land stays the same and still touches the soul. This will be our itinerary:

22 June 2018: Arrive at Manali and stay with me at The Lama House.
23 June 2018: Day in Manali for acclimitization – a short hike through temple woods or a picnic and a relaxed day.
24 June 2018: We drive across the Rohtang Pass into Lahaul and stop for the night at Jispa on the banks of the Bhaga river.
25 June 2018: Drive on over the grand Baralacha la – and a wholly changing landscape to camp at Tsokar Lake.
26 June 2018: Tsokar to Tso Moriri – a lovely back trail through meadows filled with Yak herders to the beautiful lake. Both these lakes are breeding grounds for myriad birds and high mountain creatures.
27 June 2018: Tso Moriri to Leh. Hotels and hot baths and wander the shops.
28 June 2018: A day to visit some of the famous monastries, explore the town.
29 June 2018: We drive over one of the highest roads crossing into the Nubra Valley – where the terrain changes again and we see another aspect of these amazing mountains.
30 June 2018: In Nubra – exploring.
01 July 2018: Drive back to Leh.
02 July 2018: Fly out of Leh. ( If you are even thinking of coming book this flight – it can be cancelled but gets harder and more expensive as it gets closer)

No of persons on the trip 3 4 6
Costs per person 96870 89720 89780

I will send the details of what the costs include if you decide to come. Most of us don’t read so much in one go.


LEH MANALI DRIVE.
GRADE :MODERATELY DEMANDING

SEASON: JUNE THROUGH SEPTEMBER

This spectacular road through the highest mountains in the world is open for only 3 or 4 months in the year – from mid June through September – crossing the Pir Panjal, the Greater Himalaya and the Zanskar ranges, it reaches a maximum elevation of 5304m. Calling this a road, maybe conferring more than it’s due, that it is a drivable route: a grand testament of human endeavor is the truth. The 476 km journey over four high passes and some of the most awe inspiring terrain in the world starts from Manali, along the green valley of the Beas river, up the steep switchbacks of the Rohtang Pass at 3978m. The Rohtang forms the divide between the verdant Kullu valley and the stark expanse of rock and glacier, in the rain shadow of the Pir Panjal range.

From Rohtang, the road descends to the Chandra River and follows it to Tandi where the Chandra meets the Bhaga River, little villages with groves of poplar, willow, and potato fields irrigated by glacial streams dot the landscape. The road continues past Keylong (district headquarters of Lahaul) and the last town till Leh, 360 kms beyond. Following the Bhaga River through Darcha and past the pastures of Zingzingbar, starts the ascent to the Baralacha Pass (4892m). “The Pass with the crossroads on its summit” – this grand pass straddles the meeting point of gigantic ranges, offering passage down four different routes, along the valleys of the Chandra and Bhaga rivers and into Ladakh and Spiti.
A rough stretch of road descends to the pastures of Sarchu 107 kms from Keylong. Now begin the wide-open spaces, dotted with the amazing textures and colours of craggy mountain faces, the gash of the Tsarap river, with it’s mud sculpted sides. The awesome world of nature’s timelessness dwarfing Man.

Once across the Tsarap river starts the grueling ascent to LachulangLa Pass (5059m), 54 kms from Sarchu. The amazing shapes and colours as you reach the top compensate the hard drive, descend along a little stream to Pang. Beyond Pang, the road crosses the Sumskyal, a deep gash marking the edge of the great Kyangshuthang plains – a massive plateau at an altitude of 4500m. Across the vast expanses of this plain are chances to see the Kyang (Tibetan wild ass), the Nabu (Blue Sheep), lots of marmot, as well as the Pashmina sheep of the Shepherds of Rupshu.
We take an interesting diversion at this point, short of the Tanglangla Pass – at 5325m, the highest point on the highway. 136 kms short of Leh a dirt road east leads to the Tso Kar Lake. We camp at this lake and see the breeding Brahmini ducks, Grebes and Black necked cranes. From Tso Kar we take a little used dirt road past hot springs and meadows where yak herders and goat herds have their summer pastures and taking a circuit north meet the highway in the Indus valley, and onto Leh and the comforts of hotels and hot baths.

(Along the regular route, once across the plain, at Dibring, the road starts climbing across the snowy reaches of the Tanglangla and descends into more inhabited Ladakh, meeting the Indus river at Upshi. Passing the Monastries of Hemis, Thikse and Shey, The road reaches the Bazaar of Leh.)

Leh is located in the Indus river valley at a crossroads of the old trading routes from Kashgar, Tibet, and Kashmir. Its importance as a trading town slowed down with the partition of British India, and ended with the closure of the border in 1962 during the Sino-Indian war. Since the 1999 war with Pakistan, and the consequent development of the Manali-Leh highway, it has become a bustling tourist town, the sights to visit are the Palace and the monasteries, and a wander through the bazaar is essential.

We can do two trips out of Leh: to the Nubra Valley and the Pangong tso lake.

For Nubra we cross the highest motorable pass at Khardungla (elevation 5359 m or 17,582 feet). Khardong La is historically important as it lies on the major caravan route from Leh to Kashgar in Chinese Central Asia. About 10,000 horses and camels used to take the route annually, and a small population of Bactrian camels can still be seen at Hundar, in the area north of the pass. It is an area that has only recently opened to the world. Still only about 45 kms of the valley are accessible. It is a tiny bit of paradise, orchards and wild flowers, the bactrian camels, wide meandering river. A discovery, leading to the highest battleground of the world – the Siachin glacier.

Pangong tso lake: situated at a height of about 4,350 m (14,270 ft). It is 134 km (83 mi) long and extends from India to Tibet. Pangong Tso can be reached in a five-hour drive from Leh, most of it on a rough and dramatic mountain road. The road traverses the Changla pass, where army sentries and a small teahouse greet visitors. The lake is spectacular, we spend the night in a camp on the banks, you get to see breeding Bar-headed geese and Brahmini ducks. If you are lucky enough to be there on a moonlit night and brave enough to weather the cold, there is magic there too, as there is all over these mountains.
wind sculpted

 

 

 

The Lama House

IMG_0677Sometimes I wonder at how to say this? All my life my dreams have come true – in some form. I remember awaking one morning in the camp that I had on the banks of the Ganga thinking – this is one of my dreams – a home with mountains and the sea, it was not the sea but the grandest river in the world and it was a camp, not a permanent structure, however my home for more than 20 years. While in that camp (which I loved and enjoyed whole heartedly) I sometimes thought I would like a proper home in the mountains by the water again. I sit here today in this huge house, the stream gushes outside and provides us with pristine water. The house is what I would term a folly, built by a Rinpoche as an advanced learning center, on blessed ground on the principles of buddhism and fengshui – amazing energy.

How did I get here? I have a crazy, beautiful family! My brother, Girimer bought this property off the Rinpoche and let it lie. Some months ago I said, I would like a place to grow pretty flowers and organic vegetables, a place to write stories, make pot pourri like my grandmother did. A place where I can knit hot water bottle covers and people will enjoy warm toes.

Giri said, ‘do it, I have just the place’. Here I am, doing it, in just the place. The neighbours call it ‘The Lama House’, so do we. It’s a beautiful space, with astounding views and amazing energy. That I have been snowed in, dis electrified and dis

watered are some of the disadvantages of getting this place up and running. That it will be up and running and amazing in very short order is a given. That all my friends from far and near will want to visit – I hope. That I have an amazing neighbour who provides fresh milk and eggs, plus looks after the apple trees is a blessing. Doubling it is the fact that he pops up every morning and plants, kiwi tress, gladioli, cherry trees, apricot trees, daffodils and irises. Promises to help with my vegetable garden, suggest exactly how the compost pit must be and in all is a store house of all the knowledge that I need.

That I have had no time to write is something that will change. That dreams come true is a given.

CASA BELLA VISTA, Manali

Manali, located in a place of absolute beauty, is a tiny town that explodes with visitors come summer. However, the valley of the Beas river never fails to enthrall, the very drive up starts to make you smile as you come through the tunnel and the high mountains open up ahead.

I have been coming here for many years, first in an old standard herald driven all the way up from Coimbatore in the south. Later on the night bus with a backpack, ready to go exploring the many amazing treks and trails that this and the adjoining valleys offer. Then on driving safaris, crossing over the high passes and into the magic mountains of Spiti or Ladakh. Every time this tiny town was the beginning of an adventure and a haven at the end of it.

In this little town, tucked away out of the hub of the Mall and the honking horns, is this haven of tranquillity, good taste; whispering pines and mountain views.

We have two self contained cottages with 3 bedrooms each (one has a kids attic too), a drawing and dining room with a kitchen. You can be self contained if you choose 0r sample the amazing food at our restaurant.

There are also two stand alone rooms.  10 rooms in all and we are open for bookings. The cottages are great for family and friends. We offer a minimum 3 night package, you can’t come to Manali for less.

View more pictures at trip advisor.

Giri created the cottages and Marta, his spanish wife came along and created the most delicious menu of all the best foods that she missed from her Mediterranean home.

If you are looking for a great holiday place this summer. We welcome you.

Call or mail at: +91 9810184360

pavanemann@gmail.com