The Valley Green

 

Mountain range surrounding Leh, Ladakh; As seen from the Shanti Stupa, Leh

The day after we arrived in Leh, we had the morning to ourselves. #PoshGoondas were free to amble around town; try and get some Indian money out of the ATMs (that’s another story for another day); or do a bit of sightseeing which Jatin, I and Kalpesh decided to do. Nimish was off Snow Leopard spotting.

After visiting the Leh Palace, we went up to the Shanti Stupa. A nice, serene, spiritual location. Although walking barefoot on the sun baked tiled floor was a task. Perched at an elevation, we could look down on various sections that made up Leh, ensconced in the Valley. With it being a dry day, the skies were pristine blue, the clouds snow white and the land saturated in arid browns or lush green. The view of the fertile greens snaking along the valley, appeared to look like a tree lined river finding its course as allowed by the Mountains, as if standing guard. And this scape overseen by the snow capped mountains in the yonder. Such stark terrains, coexisting. Perhaps in co-dependence. Another of Ma Nature’s tapestries.

“Over every mountain there is a path, although it may not be seen from the valley.”
/Theodore Roethke

Snow capped Sentinals

 Mountain range surrounding Leh, Ladakh.

We rode into Leh the previous evening. The general feeling on reaching the hotel was bittersweet. Glad that we had an amazing experience leading up to arriving into Leh and without any mishap or untoward incident, more importantly. Saddened to a degree since Leh was the ‘end’. A couple of days and we would need to fly back to reality. To the concrete jungle. To the rat race. This was, in my opinion, the measure of the quality of the time we spent, on our own and with each other, over the previous few days. Either when riding, or just gazing in amazement at what Nature can really get up to.

Nimish and I were up early(ish) armed with our cameras. I found Nimish on the terrace of the hotel building. The terrace afforded a clear view of the Leh Skyline on one side. The other side looked towards the town but was shielded by trees and hotel/homes reaching up two maybe three stories. Needless to say our attention was drawn toward and captivated by the ‘Skyline’ side. And what a breathtaking skyline it is. We kept swapping lens, positions, zoom in, zoom out whatever we could to try and capture what we were seeing. I don’t believe the images do justice.

Amazing how Nature can take a handful of colors – just the Browns and Blues and the intermittent White – and create such an indelible painting. It was wonderful to see the wind blowing wispy clouds over the peaks, gently caressing the Snow, as if trying not to smudge the painting. A picture of gradients rising from the dark, arid rock merging into the soft white snow through to the wispy white and finally to the vivid deep uniquely blue skies. The image may not fit into the ‘photography rules’ – rule of thirds, leading the eye etc. But it is striking nonetheless. Hope you like it.

Nomination:
With this image I nominate a determined spirit, a great person, and a wonderful photographer, Siddharth. We spent a day together as we rode, or rather, ‘traveled’ out together from Kaza. Enough for a bond to be created. His images are truly inspiring.

“Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing”
/Barry Finlay

The Spiti

 
Along Spiti River, just before Kaza, Himachal Pradesh. India.

This shot has been a favorite of mine on many fronts. The memory surrounding it primarily. The composition. The colors. Usual suspects that make up an image. But for me, specially so.

We came to this point on our #PoshGoondas ride after a fairly wet, drenching ride from Nako, via Tabo Monastery. As we ate up the kilometers, the skies cleared up to show off the uniquely blue tint, white clouds and some decent but dirt/gravel roads. The arid, yet mesmerizing landscape we passed through practically tore us between enjoying the ride or stopping every minute to capture Nature as we had never seen before. This particular spot was where the Spiti River was at its widest. As we turned a corner, the world opened up. Spirit River in a wide delta area with sand banks and rocks interspersed, dotting the waters and creating mini wakes, as the water flowed around, past and over them. The road along one shore, and mountain along the other, lined with lush green Trees along bottom. Suffice to say, we spent quite some time enjoying the vista, trying to capture as much as we could into our mind’s camera.
It was easy to cross the river on foot at most sections along sand banks and rocks. The elevation still left us breathless on any sort of exertion and we tread slowly but surely towards the middle. Beyond this point the river flow was stronger and deeper. This spot was about the furthest I could go – trying to get close to the middle for a good composition. Taking a picture low over the water and looking out through the valley; I had to get a shot. I had to bend low and compose the shot through the the tilted LCD screen. This pressed on the lungs and added to the breathlessness caused by the elevation. Few quick shots and I was done! That or being prone in water gasping for air.
In my mind this shot really does justice to the expansive mountains, valleys and the enormous skies! Add to that, the smooth – almost machined smooth – rocks on the river bed. The brown dull waters, the shinning smooth colorful rocks, the lush trees leading the eye through the valley with its brown arid mountains and up to the blue skies protected by the white-gray blanket of clouds.

The spot; vivid and memorable.
This image; a favorite for years to come.

“There will always be rocks in the road ahead of us.
They will be stumbling blocks or stepping stones;
It all depends on how you use them”
/Freidrich Nietzche

 

Restrained Alacrity

  

 

Restrained Alacrity

“Life is a blank canvas, and you need to throw all the paint on it you can”

This was taken during a short 131 mile ride around the North Georgia Mountains near Dahlonega. This is by the side of the Dahlonega Reservoir / Lake Zwerner. One of my frequent riding route passes right by and I cannot pass by without stopping for a few minutes.

Abode | Heavenly

DSC00703e

Abode | Heavenly

Sarchu, Himachal Pradesh, India

Sarchu (also known as Sir Bhum Chun) is a major halt point with tented accommodation in the Himalayas on the Leh-Manali Highway, on the boundary between Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh (Jammu and Kashmir) in India. It is situated between Baralacha La to the south and Lachulung La to the north, at an altitude of 4,290 m (14,070 ft).
The high winter snow fall blocks both the passes during the colder winter month, cutting off access to this valley. The summer ‘season’ months attract a beehive of Tent camps along a stretch of few kilometers on either side of the ‘highway’ – single tar track. Due to the temporary / seasonal business and to safeguard Nature’s beauty, the Tent Camps cannot have any concrete constructions on the campsites. This can create a big stumbling block towards any level of comfort and amenities. Traveling north into Sarchu, this spot is the first real experience of the impact of the High Altitude.

Transient

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Transient

Kaza, Spiti Valley, India

Kaza is the district headquarters of Spiti district in Himachal Pradesh. It is accessible from Manali and Shimla. The road from Shimla (via Rekong Peo) is in theory an all-season one, while the Manali road via Rohtang and Kunzum passes is passable only in summer. There is only one Government bus service from Manali to Kaza but the road is pretty inaccessible with frequent landslides along the way. Due to lack of proper roads in this section of the Himalayas, it is advisable to hire a private MUV (Tata Sumos) from Manali to reach Kaza.

Himachal Road Transport Corporation buses link Kaza with Manali and Rekong Peo. The Rekong Peo connection passes through landslide area at Malling Nullah, with transhipment (crossing on foot and being picked up by a bus on another side) being frequently the only way of passing the landslide.

The route from Manali via Losar crossing Kunzum La and Rohtang La along the Chandrataal river is perhaps the most beautiful. The road surfaces are very poor – the entire stretch has never been metalled/tarred. But on asking a local person about the road quality, he’d say that the road is a “good road”. You will have to cross about a score of streams flowing across this State Highway No. 30 which could be about a couple of feet deep.

(information from: Kaza)

Stupas of Belief II

Stupas of Belief II

Stupas of Belief II

In ancient times, Buddhist Stupas (structures said to contain ‘relics’ – typically remains of Buddhist Monks, and used as places of meditation) were piles of rubble or stone, until royal patronage was extended. These Stupas were then upgraded as structures. Buddhism is quite common in the Ladakh and Himachal Regions of India and Stupas are very prominent across the landscape. Locals or travelers express their piousness, gratitude or prayer and arrange such small heaps.

Seat for Reflection

Seat for Reflection

Seat for Reflection

Tandi, Spiti Valley, India

The village is situated above the confluence of the rivers Chandra and Bhaga in the Pattan valley some 7 kms away from Keylong. Tandi was founded by Raja Rana Chand Ram under the name of Chandi which over the years got corrupted into Tandi.

The rocks seemed to me to be an inviting seat, marked by the vibrant green bush. A seat laid out for a private, personal viewing of Nature’s strokes; in the landscape and in the ensuing painting of the skies as the day slowly dimmed into dusk into nightfall.