Stranded across the Rohtang

Travel time: October 1995  |  by Roshni P.

Heading to Kunzum La and further

We woke up at 11 AM and everybody hurried up to the gypsy. As we started the drive, it started drizzling. We were all pretty emotional to leave all this behind and make our way back to the crazy civilization with its rat race!

Soon the rainfall turned in to a snowfall. It is so nice to have those creampuffs fall down. I started singing (to myself of course!). The snow started getting heavy. Still there were no worries. Soon, the river froze in front of our eyes! I HAD NEVER seen that before. It was beautiful. The top layer froze and you could see the bottom layer moving. The streams on the hillside that flowed through the drainpipes started freezing. Each layer would freeze as it came out of the pipe – one above the other…. just like a softy cone! Nature was at its best!

Some tension was mounting as the weather got bad and the road became more difficult to navigate. It was a scene right out of a Hollywood blockbuster! Pradeep was at his best as he kept his calm and drove without complaining. But he let out a sigh as we finally managed to reach the Kunzum La – we could not see the road!!!!! Everybody got out and we started looking for the road. There was a snow shovel in the car. We finally managed to dig out the road marker. Roughly speaking, a road marker is a twelve inches tall stone slab on the side along the road. We walked in front of the car for sometime. We had to repeat our action time and again for 3 more loops down the pass. Finally the road marker was clear as we went lower and we all sat in the car.

Kunzum La is said to be a difficult pass and since we had conquered it, there was no doubt that we would soon be in Manali – having our dinner! But nature had other plans for us!

Gramphu forms a sort of a T-junction where the road coming down from the Rohtang pass splits in to two – one heading for Lahaul valley and the other for Spiti. Just when you are about to hit the T- junction, there is a little uphill climb - our Gypsy could not climb on. So, it was backed up and Pradeep tried to race it up but it failed. So, off we went, pushing it back and forth and back and forth. It took us 30 minutes to get it to climb on to the main road. Today that stretch may not look steep at all but that day, believe me, it was!!!

Luckily for us, a truck had come from Lahaul and headed up to the Rohtang, making fresh tracks for us! We were definitely having dinner in Manali! : -)
One and a half kilometres up, the tracks stopped – the truck could go no further due to heavy snow, he had taken a wise decision to turnaround and return to Lahaul valley. We had done it on Kunzum and so we were prepared to go on further. However better sense prevailed and we headed to the Lahaul valley. A little further is Koksar, where we found all vehicles lined up. Some of the truck drivers had started a bonfire some were cooking. We entered a Dhaba (local restaurant) and ate rice and dal. The kind man gave me an onion as I was having trouble eating such a simple fare. The border road organisation gave a brief update on the situation. The road would be cleared in 2-3 days. They needed to bring in snow cutters from Manali and Keylong. We also came to know that an MP (Member of parliament) had visited Keylong for election campaigning and he too was stranded. So this job would definitely get the TOP priority! The MP had returned to Keylong and he carried a wireless set.

It was settled that we would simply follow him around and so we drove to Keylong. The road was much better than what we had crossed but was not all that good. Along the way, we stopped at a temple of the guardian of Lahaul. We said our silent prayers and then tried to stick coins at his forehead. They say if you are able to do so then the god would be pleased and grant your wish!

We arrived Keylong in the middle of the night. Sweety found us a dormitory in the Tourist hut. The poor chap got up to make us some tea. We drank greedily at the generous amount he poured, as it felt like nectar in our parched throats!

The next day, we rested in Keylong – visiting the market. From our hotel, we would clearly see the peak of 'Our Lady of Keylong'. She looked so pretty! The whole day we exchanged our tales of life. I kept repeating my endless poor jokes for the umpteenth time! The boys in Keylong had formed groups and were hitting snowballs at the contestants face in the election campaign posters that hung high above – on the road. This was their chance of settling scores with the politicians for making empty promises! : -)

With nothing to do, we walked up and down the main road and the bye-road that passes through the town. We also tried to be in touch with the guy with the wireless set for any news of the pass. Finally we retired in our dormitory – talking about everything and nothing. The tourist hut keeper (the place had been officially closed down for the season) took such good care of us. It is times like these when you realize as to why you love this country and people so much? The greatness of the human heart is beyond any words!

I kept awake for most of the night as I listened to the orchestra being played by the assembly of sleeping men snoring away in harmony!

© Roshni P., 2003
You are here : Overview Asia India Heading to Kunzum La and further
The trip
On a recce trip to the newly opened Spiti valley, I learned why mountains are nobody's friends! From there on, no matter where I go, I am always prepared for the worst!
Start of journey: Oct 12, 1995
Duration: 14 days
End of journey: Oct 25, 1995
Travelled countries: India
The Author
Roshni P. is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 18 years.