Rohtang La or the Rohtang Pass is the gateway to the Lahaul -Spiti valley from the Kulu valley. This pass is significant in many ways. At 13,054 feet it serves as a sharp geographical and climatic divide. It divides the sub-humid Kulu valley with its green vegetation of pine and deodar trees from the arid Lahaul valley with very little green cover. To the south of the pass, River Beas emerges from underground as a small spring and flows southward as a roaring river fed by the melting snow. To the north of the pass flows River Chandra which is one of the streams that feeds another important river of India, the Chenab.
It rained the first few days afer we reached Manali and the road to the Rohtang Pass remained closed due to landslides. On further enquiry we got to know that at no given day is it a smooth ride to the pass. Rains make the road slushy and the large amount of tourists driving up to the pass cause a traffic jam. This is the road that leads to Leh and Ladakh, and this is also the military route during the summer months, used by the Indian army to take supplies to Indian soldiers at the Indo-Pakistan border. Considering all these we have to take a chance, go as far as we can in the car, and trek the rest of the distance. We were prepared to do that, and that was the least I could do, considering that I so much desired to visit Kardang Gompa or Kardang monastery, 8 kms from the town Keylong in the Lahaul – Spiti valley. We were discouraged from doing this owing to heavy rains in the region. We could be delayed for days if roads got closed due to landslide. We had our return tickets booked and had commitments to come back to. So we decided to travel into the lap of the Himalayas another time !
Our drive to Rohtang La took us five hours, the road as expected was bad. Cars got stuck in the slush and we waited at various points till the traffic cleared. I had nothing to complain, the view of the Kulu valley from that point was breathtaking. I took photographs and painted.
We reached the Rohtang Pass and stood on this large clearing where rolls of mountains appeared to take a deep breath before rolling on again. This is a flat surface, wind swept, to the south is the green Kulu valley and to the north the mesmerising Lahaul valley. The beauty was too much to take, we had to slow our palpitations with a cup of tea and what better place for me than this: if I can’t make it to the Buddhist monastery I was glad to have my bowl of noodles and Tibetian tea from the Buddhist Dhaba!
We drove down the Lahaul valley for a few kilometres, parked our vehicle near a glacier that broke into a fast running stream, with a beautiful view of the Chandra river, dark and muddy, flowing deep down the gorge. We walked around, the cold breeze was stinging and blew at a high velocity. It carried away my paper a couple of times as I painted, my son ran and got back the paper. There was no one around , just my husband, my son and me with the mountains and the river.
Up there all clouds rain, we were warned. As we sat near the freezing glacier the sky darkened for a brief while and we thought there would be a heavy rain that would run us into all kinds of trouble. Providentially it didn’t rain but the sky for an hour remained a magical turquoise blue of a young night.
On our return from the Lahaul valley we stopped at the stupa on the Rohtang Pass, many faithful hearts have left prayers here. The prayer flags fluttered in the breeze, the wind had brought down the poles that carry these flags. A prayer the colour of ruby lay close to where I stood: I added my prayers to this flag.