The Remote Lands of Spiti & Nubra. (Northern India 2006, 2009 & 2011 )
At last they entered a world within a world – a valley of leagues where the high hills were fashioned of mere rubble and refuse from off the knees of the mountains. … ‘Surely the Gods live here!’ said Kim, beaten down by the silence and the appalling sweep and dispersal of the cloud-shadows after rain, ‘this is no place for men!’
Rudyard Kipling – Kim
We tend to think of India as being a land of ‘richness’ – the splendours of the Taj Mahal and the palaces of Rajasthan; the tea plantations of Assam; the rich plains of the Punjab; the ‘Relics of the Raj’ of Delhi & Calcutta.. There is, though, another India, one which even now comparatively few visitors travel to – the remote borderlands of the Northwest, bordering on Tibet & Sinkiang.
I first visited the northern region of Ladakh in September 1990 – a remote Buddhist area nestling against the border with the Sinkiang region of China. In those days comparatively few people visited the area. There was a limited system of roads into the country and just a few flights. Nowadays this is a much more visited area with regular flights into Leh, the capital.
‘No place for Men’ tells the story of two visits to the area. In 2006 I visited the remote Nubra valley and the ‘vastness’ of the ‘Changtang’ region, leading to the spectacular Pangong Lake. The lake which lies at an altitude of 14,000′ is 83 miles long, but only just over three miles broad at its widest part. Before we visit Nubra we spend time in the strange land of Spiti – a land of greys and browns but with areas of cultivation and a population that follows a ‘pure’ form of Buddhism. This is a strange & mystic land, nestling against the Tibetan border and completely different from most expectations of India.
The two areas are some distance apart – the only way for us to travel between them is the spectacular mountain highway that runs from Manali in the Kulu valley to Leh.
No trip to Northern India is complete without a visit to Delhi and, in this case, to Shimla – the old ‘Summer Capital’ of the Raj.
‘No place for men’ is the story of two visits to these areas.
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