A meandering solo drive around Himachal


Well-Known Member

What is Sea Buckthorn ? Prior to going to Spiti I had no clue and would have guessed it to be sea animal (what brilliant imagination). But I learnt that it's a shrub whose leaves and fruit are both delicious and medicinal. And when I saw a bottle of it at Deyzor I asked about it and that's how I came to learn about Lobsang Chhomo in Mane. Sure enough, I went to the village of Mane to meet her.

Lobsang decided a couple of years ago to start a village self help group, exclusively of women, to supplement their incomes. She had no capital, no business knowledge - just sheer enthusiasm and energy. She now has about 250 women spread around 25 villages to make what they normally make anyway - food and clothing products and she transports them to this shop in Kaza, sells them to visitors and distributes the income to the women.


(Sea buckthorn juice concentrate)

This is a sample of products they sell - apple jam, apricot jam, apricot oil, a form of black peas, dried yak cheese, barley coffee and, amazingly, sea buckthorn juice concentrate. That's how I came to discover what a sea buckthorn is. Of course I had to buy a sample of as many products I could sensibly take.

Lobsang is a delightful lady willing to chat on anything. I went to her home and she graciously invited me in and served me tea and snacks. She runs a women's self help group, where there is no internet, no email, no real form of communication, no transport facilities, with village women and she is making a success of it. Wow ! If you to to the Kaza market, their shop is there. Pick up an item or two - it will help the village women.


(the lady in her home)

Mane itself, is a small village near Tabo. Not at as high an altitude as Hikkim or Komic , but still its a high altitude village and with stunning scenery around. There is the beautiful Manirang lake nearby which you can trek to.




Well-Known Member
The end of the journey

My romp through Himachal was coming to an end. Its been a month and I had seen only a sliver of it, but as always, you have to pick and choose. Himachal is not a small state, deceptive though it might look on the map. Fun fact - Himachal in terms of surface area is more than Punjab and Haryana combined (maps show only the length and breadth, but never the height)

As with every visitor to Spiti, I wanted to stand on the banks of the Chandrataal too. But all the crazy weather had deposited metres of snow at Kunzum. Both Kunzum Pass and Chandrataal were closed -and only a few days before, the Air Force had to airlift stranded tourists.

I had never planned on coming back via Manali. That route is not for a sedan. I returned back the way I came.

And so it was back to Shimla.

The Mall is still a charming reminder of the British Raj. Is there any other street in India which is pedestrian only ? There's a nip in the air, but it has not yet become cold here. Perfect weather. The visitors are obvious to spot - they are all holding cameras. The locals are gaily attired.

On the Mall, the charm is obvious. The colonial era buildings. People are sitting in the park benches chatting. The shops have retained their character - its not a chaotic shopping district. Cafes are lovely. The Simla Club. The Cecil, more than 100 years old as a hotel. Of course there were many people on the Mall, but it wasn't crowded. I went into a cafe and ended up having the most gorgeous coffee gazing into the skyline of Shimla. One whole month without coffee is too much for a good South Indian !

(better than other hill cities in India)

(when the sun is shining it looks even better)

(the charm of the mall)


(the old colonial era buildings)

As I sipped my coffee, the sun was going down. It was the perfect way to end my trip to Himachal . I reflected on the stunning vistas I had seen. I reminisced the difficult and the charming drives. I thought about the nice people I had met . And I remembered the experiences, which even if they fade away over time, will never be forgotten.

I said a mighty prayer of thanks. The car performed magnificently. Not a squeak, even when asked to do things a sedan should not be asked to do. My companion has been the true hero. I have been blessed with good health without a trace of AMS, that I feared. And luck has been with me all the while for which I am eternally grateful.

The sun has gone below the horizon, and the lights have started to twinkle. I am sunk in my thoughts. How many more such trips would I be able to make ? I am unlikely to pass this way again, but I hope somebody dear to me will, and may the mountains be as kind as they have been to me.

The coffee has lifted me up. The camera comes out one last time for a photograph of the twinkling lights of Shimla.


I give a long lingering look. And then turn back. It is time to go home.

Thank you for reading this travelogue and safe journeys wherever you are going.


New Member
A lovely read. Maybe we can talk about it also. I am at Bangalore too and would love to catch up with someone who could motivate me for a similar trip ( or join me for one !! )