Rishikesh

Travel Route: Lahaul Valley – Losar – Kunzum La Pass – Chandratal Lake – Parvati Valley – Tosh –  Rishikesh

Lahaul Valley, Losar, and Kunzum La Pass  

The people of Spiti Valley are incredibly hospitable and friendly.  We have often been invited to share a cup of tea, a meal, and smoke on our walks.  But the most animated conversations we experience are with fellow Israelis, young or not so young.  Tomer enjoys practicing his Hebrew.  The percentage of Israeli travelers in this region, among the total number of international tourists is probably 80%.  It’s a wonder; how a country of 7-8 million people has so many travelers in one remote region of the Himalayas.

It is rare to have electricity during the day in Spiti Valley; at most, it’s sporadic.  At around 8 pm, the backup generators will kick in, and electricity will be on for a few hours.

Hot water is another tricky issue; if no electricity, then no hot water.  Thus, my new criteria for choosing a place to stay are whether a solar panel and a heated water tank are installed.

Wi-Fi is not available, but a trench is being dug for a 4G line along the roads.  Hence internet connection will arrive at Spiti Valley in the near future; one hopes

At 4580m elevation, Kunzum La Pass connects Spiti Valley with Lahaul Valley.  On the pass, vehicles perform a respectful circuit of the stupas.

Chandratal Lake

Chandratal Lake is a clear blue glacial body of water at 4270m elevation, surrounded by 6000m and higher snow peaks.  We hiked to the lake from Kunzum La Pass.  At the beginning of the walk, I was impressed by the landscape and flowers’ dominant pink color.  Later, the unexpected pouring rain shifted my focus on arriving at some cover.  We took the liberty to enter a shepherd’s shelter, the host was absent, but we made ourselves comfortable.

Parvati Valley and Tosh Village

We parted ways with our driver, Kuldep, after sixteen days together.  The plan was to separate our ways in Kasol, but I did not like its vibe.  So, we kept driving for another hour to the end of a dirt road and reached Tosh village.  We took a short walk up the hill where we found a guesthouse we liked.  Tosh is one of those places with no marking on the map, nor had I heard about it before.  We ended up discovering by simply arriving.  Saying goodbye to Kuldep, our driver and protector, filled me with anxiety.  I had to remind myself to stay in the flow.

On the following day, a nearby landslide sent tons of debris downstream a canyon, prompting Tomer and his fellow hikers to run away from the gushing water.  On the other hand, I was sitting on the guesthouse balcony, watching the day passing by.  I looked at the green forest, the white clouds, the progress of the construction site below, the mules going up and down the hill with loads, and the hotel owner, sitting just below my balcony chain-smoking chara (weed) all day long.

Rishikesh

It’s early morning, and our room window is merely a few feet from the Ganges River, fast-moving stream and strong current.  Across the river are the towering, famous Rishikesh Temples and Ashrams situated amidst a green jungle.  On the riverbank, a few men are bathing in the water.

The Lonely Planet calls Rishikesh ‘The yoga capital of the world’ because of its many yoga studios.   Rishikesh is a spiritual center that came to fame when the Beatles first visited in the 60s.

The most common yoga style practiced in all the 15 classes I attended in different yoga centers is the classical Hatha yoga.  It is the most ancient and traditional form of yoga practice.  No usage of props is encouraged.  The young and flexible instructors just expect everyone to follow.  In Los Angeles, yoga practitioners have numerous kinds of yoga styles to choose from.  Teachers tend to develop their unique teaching style, often creative and free of old dogmas.  I have been blessed to practice with a few of them.