Every frame in this three day trip to Keylong, seemed almost too perfect to be true …as if the whole image had just popped straight out of a picture postcard.
We started at 3 AM from Manali and headed out towards Keylong in pitch darkness. Keylong was put on the table as the closest we could’ve got to experiencing a landscape similar to Leh-Ladakh. Since the roads up to Ladakh hadn’t been opened up yet owing to the heavy snowfall this year, our 10 day trip was actually now split wide open for alterations and modifications. We thought that if we couldn’t actually get to Leh, we’ll try and get as close as possible. We as in, ‘The List People‘. Finally three after years of college, that phase has come, where people start leaving in pursuit of chosen careers and further education. We wanted to check this trip off our list that we made over two years ago. :)
We crossed the scenic Rohtang Pass (13127 feet) to reach Keylong located in Lahul –Spiti district. Keylong is located at a height of 11055 feet and is just about 359 kms short of Leh. There are two routes to get to access Leh via road, one is the Delhi-Srinagar-Leh route and the other is the Delhi-Manali-Leh route. Keylong falls on the second route in the state of Himachal Pradesh and is a popular stop over for acclimatization during the 16-hour journey from Manali to Leh.
At twilight, I opened my groggy eyes to see where we were, and what I saw took my breath away. For as far as my eyes could see, we were surrounded by majestic snow-clad mountains and along the valley the serene River Chandrabhaga flowed quietly throughout our drive. The entire view was surreal. Sonnets and colours cannot do justice to this kind of exquisiteness. As you stand there and soak in everything that your eyes possibly can, you invariably try to come up with analogies and metaphors to describe this outstanding portrait of nature. After a while, all that goes away and all you are left with is a feeling of absolute gratitude, a sincere sense of thankfulness that you are here, at this time, experiencing this moment.
Take a look at this beautifully shot video as we were passing through Rohtang. Thanks so much Rahul, for uploading and sharing it and most importantly shooting it, despite the heavy amount of yak-yak-yak in the background! It really is spectacular. :)
The best part of our three day stay at Keylong was the food. :) We ate at a tiny Buddhist place – Sonia’s Tea Shop, tucked away into quiet little lane. Sonia didi churned out the best aloo parathas, omelette and the local favourite noodle soup- Thukpa and of course steaming hot ginger tea. One thing I noticed across Himachal is that, they make awesome chai everywhere. They don’t reboil tea once made, every time it’s a fresh brew and I’ve had litres literally on this trip. :) I ensure that food snaps are always taken, there’s something very refreshing about looking at them. It almost instantly brings back the taste….. :)
Apart from a couple of local monasteries, there isn’t much to see in Keylong. But if sightseeing is what you are looking for, this may not be the right place for you. It’s the kind of place you come to stay for at least for a week or a month. The environment is very conducive to reading, writing, painting and amazing conversations with a cup of chai in hand. I’d started ‘My experiments with Truth’ almost six months ago, but never got around to completing it, but finally wrapped it up here. [Confession : was reading the abridged version of Mr Gandhi’s autobiography for kids. :).]
This quiet town transforms into a tourist centre buzzing with activity in the months from May to August. This is the peak business season for local teashops and hotels. The rest of the year Keylong is almost cut off from the world as snow blocks all road passages. During winters, the temperature here drops almost up to -25 ◦C. Government does provide transport services via helicopters from Keylong to Manali at a subsidized rate (Rs 1500/-) for the locals, but that’s still very expensive and hence used only in emergencies. So this exquisite little town is available to the world for only three months in a year. It was nice to come into a place full of smiling faces everywhere. We were amazed by the service at our guesthouse. I would highly recommend Nordaling Guesthouse to anyone planning to visit Keylong. [Ask for the ‘forever smiling’ Surinder Bhaiya :)]
Nothing about this 8 day trip up north went as planned or anticipated. But in a way, I guess that’s what made it so amazing. Keylong has to be the most beautiful place I’ve visited so far and it has come to be a teaser of sorts for Ladakh. So Leh-Ladakh is definitely on the list for next year. :)