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Trek with the Gaddis
An adventure in the high Himalayas
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The Gaddis are a sheep herding nomadic tribe of Himachal Pradesh. They lead an interesting and lonely life. Each year, a Gaddi with his sheep begins his  journey in March/ April from western lowlands of Himachal and Punjab to Lahaul, Spiti and further on, on Pir Panjal range crossing over high passes of about 5500 Mts (16535 ft) and returning  in Sep/ October.

For seven to eight months every year, the solitary existence for these shepherds becomes a way of life. For a Gaddi, every day is a new day and survival is of the fittest. Gaddis believe in Lord Shiva and live in perfect harmony with nature.

On this trek, we followed a section of trail from Lahaul to Bharmaur that is usually followed by Gaddis in the month of September. They usually stay in Lahaul from beginning to mid-September before starting their return journey to reach Chamba before winter sets in.

Our trip started on a pleasant sunny day, last September. We were picked up from Chandigarh airport by mid-morning and transferred to Manali in a mean looking Mahindra 4 x 4 Jeep. The drive to Manali for the overnight halt was about 8 hrs. 

We set out early the second day, across Rohtang Pass into Lahaul Valley. A spectacular drive with great views of the Green Kullu valley on one side and the high Himalayan peaks of Lahaul valley on the other.  

There was a dramatic change in the landscape as we crossed Rohtang Pass - the green of kullu valley was suddenly replaced by the dry dessert of Lahaul valley. Our stay that night was in a small alpine tent in the Tandi valley.

Day three was set aside for acclimatization to the rarefied atmosphere of a little more than 8500 feet above MSL. However, we managed a drive up  to Khardong monastery, then a walk to Keylong and returned to our tents in Tandi for the overnight stay. 

Day four saw us packing our tents and departing to Pattan, the green valley of Lahaul, sprinkled with fields of green peas, hops, potatoes and so on... Enroute, we stopped at the ancient temple of Trilokinath, worshipped by both Buddhists and Hindus & renowned for its annual three-day Pauri festival. Post noon, we crossed over Chanderbhaga River to reach Rapey village for the night.

Day five – We started out early on a twelve km trek that took us about 5 hours from Rapey to Khurlu, a temporary shepherd camp at an altitude of 12795 ft. All Gaddi shepherds camp here for a few nights before going over the Kugti Pass. 

Day six was the testing day - a steep ascent from Khurlu at 12795 ft to reach Kugti Pass at 16535 ft. We then had to negotiate a huge glacial moraine and the final 1000 meters to the pass is a very steep ascent over snow and ice. 

This is the view of ‘Manimahesh Kailash’ – from Kugti Pass (16535 ft – Lahoul – Chamba)From Kugti Pass we descended to Lahes, another temporary shepherd camp area on the other side of the pass. Generally, the route down to Lahes is across the glacier. During August/September crevasses start to develop on the glacier and then one has to take a longer route on the ridge.  Our overnight stay was in tents at Lahes. 

Day seven saw us walking downhill to Duggi, over open pasture where Gaddi Shepherds spend few days before heading down on their return journey to Bharmaur and Kangra. The walk from Lahes to Duggi is about 3 to 4 hrs.  It started getting a little easy from day 8 – A moderate walk from Duggi to Kelang Temple to Kugti Village. A walk of about 4 hours..  Kelang Temple is dedicated to Lord Kartikeya and every Gaddi family in the foothills of Dhauladhar is supposed to visit this temple, at least once in their lifetime. Kugti, is the first Gaddi tribal village en route. Our Camp for the night was near the village. 

We started out early the next day to the road head at Dharol and met with our driver who took us to Bharmaur and Chamba. The ancient Chaurasi Temple  is in Bharmaur. We reached Chamba by late afternoon. I would recommend a leisurely stroll around the Chamba bazaar in the evening.. and the famous Laxmi Narayan Temple is very close. Our overnight stay was at a hotel in Chamba.

We explored Chamba in the morning and later in the evening drove to Pathankot to board an overnight train to Delhi, putting to close an amazing ten days in the high Himalayas..Thank you team Hammock.. That was a wonderful piece of coordination :)



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