Keylong: An Invocation

Tripoto
24th Oct 2020
Photo of Keylong: An Invocation by Swa-T

Rudyard Kipling observed that once the true smell of the Himalayas creeps into the blood of a man, that man will at the last, forgetting all else, return to the hills to die.

After spending the last 6 months within the 4 walls of my home, mostly working, occasionally lamenting and conservatively dreaming, I could not have imagined myself to be 600 kms away from home, at a height of 10,000 ft. above sea level, during the fall of 2020.

As the evenings in Delhi started to cool itself down, I packed my bags and left for a mini workcation. Tucked in a quiet resort on the banks of river Beas in Kullu valley, I did not know there would be a before-n-after day in my life soon.

Photo of Neeralaya, Kullu, Himachal Pradesh, India by Swa-T

I had been keenly waiting to visit Keylong for a while now and on the upcoming weekend I set out for it. Keylong, the administrative centre of Lahaul and Spiti district, is 100 kms and approx 2.5 hours away from Kullu. Driving through Manali on NH 3 and after crossing Solang Valley, I reached Atal Tunnel with ease.

Photo of NH3, Himachal Pradesh, India by Swa-T
Photo of Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India by Swa-T
Photo of Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India by Swa-T
Photo of PALCHAN BRIDGE, Solang Valley, Burwa, Himachal Pradesh, India by Swa-T

[Fact-sheet: Inaugurated on 3 October 2020, and built under the Rohtang Pass in the eastern Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas on the Leh-Manali Highway, Atal Tunnel is an architectural marvel; an Indian pride. At a length of about 9 kms done in roughly 10 mins, it is the longest tunnel at an elevation of 10,000 feet in the world.]

Photo of Atal Tunnel, Burwa, Himachal Pradesh, India by Swa-T
Photo of Atal Tunnel, Burwa, Himachal Pradesh, India by Swa-T

River Beas kept me in good humor up until the tunnel's south end and turned away as if it had run its full course, while I drove through the tunnel devoid of the outside glory. Out of the tunnel's north end, just under a few minutes, the landscape changed dramatically, and I wasn't prepared to see what I saw. River Chenab was my next homie.

Photo of Atal Tunnel North End, Atal Tunnel, Burwa, Himachal Pradesh, India by Swa-T
Photo of Leh Manali Highway, Lower keylong village, Keylong by Swa-T
Photo of Leh Manali Highway, Lower keylong village, Keylong by Swa-T
Photo of Leh Manali Highway, Lower keylong village, Keylong by Swa-T

Another 45 kms from the tunnel to Keylong, I got lost in the landscape and the stunning backdrop my phone camera was failing to catch. I took a pit stop at Tandi to tank up the fuel (be mindful, the next gas station from Tandi is 365 kms away).

Photo of Tandi, Himachal Pradesh, India by Swa-T

Fixated on the views and obsessed with taking as many shots I could, I was overwhelmed with the sight of stark muddy mountains standing tall and wide against its snow-capped kin, nurturing the color changing pines and poplars, and canoodling waterfalls flowing down from its nooks and corners here and there.

Photo of Keylong: An Invocation by Swa-T
Photo of Keylong: An Invocation by Swa-T
Photo of Keylong: An Invocation by Swa-T

An hour later I entered Keylong and pulled over ahead of the Bazaar. While I strolled aimlessly through the closed bazaar, I felt a sudden clam while crossing the paths of the relaxed fellow countrymen soaking up the forenoon sun, sun-burnt cheeked children and a few adrenaline soaked travellers in their SUVs roaring their way up ahead to Leh-Ladakh.

Photo of Keylong, Himachal Pradesh, India by Swa-T
Photo of Keylong, Himachal Pradesh, India by Swa-T
Photo of Keylong, Himachal Pradesh, India by Swa-T
Photo of Keylong, Himachal Pradesh, India by Swa-T
Photo of Keylong, Himachal Pradesh, India by Swa-T
Photo of Keylong, Himachal Pradesh, India by Swa-T
Photo of Keylong, Himachal Pradesh, India by Swa-T
Photo of Keylong, Himachal Pradesh, India by Swa-T
Photo of Keylong, Himachal Pradesh, India by Swa-T
Photo of Keylong, Himachal Pradesh, India by Swa-T
Photo of Keylong, Himachal Pradesh, India by Swa-T
Photo of Keylong, Himachal Pradesh, India by Swa-T
Photo of Keylong, Himachal Pradesh, India by Swa-T

An hour later, I sat by a sweet shop and sipped my milky tea, which I absolutely detested, while my mind was still confused trying to process what it was witnessing.

Unfortunate with time running out, I left for Kullu and was once again taken in with the landscape on my way back.

Photo of Keylong: An Invocation by Swa-T
Photo of Keylong: An Invocation by Swa-T
Photo of Keylong: An Invocation by Swa-T
Photo of Keylong: An Invocation by Swa-T
Photo of Keylong: An Invocation by Swa-T

I stopped by the Sisu Lake en-route, which was bubbling with tourists lining up for the next boat ride. I was immediately drawn away to river Chandra flowing on the other side of the lake, waiting patiently for its next admirer.

Photo of Keylong: An Invocation by Swa-T
Photo of Keylong: An Invocation by Swa-T
Photo of Keylong: An Invocation by Swa-T
Photo of Keylong: An Invocation by Swa-T
Photo of Keylong: An Invocation by Swa-T
Photo of Keylong: An Invocation by Swa-T
Photo of Keylong: An Invocation by Swa-T

I reached my hotel at the break of dusk and a deep sense of quiet prevailed. I understood well what Kipling meant and I am sure now that I want to be just such a person.

Photo of Neeralaya, Kullu, Himachal Pradesh, India by Swa-T