Life is like a box of chocolates!
You never know what you gonna get!
As a child, summer holidays have always been about chocolates to me. I had a special uncle who used to visit India during the summers. He had many adventurous stories to share and not to mention, a generous sense for gifting. So, I used to force my parents to take me to his house every time he was in India.
To be fair, I was more excited about the gifts than the stories he had to share. The gift was often an elegant-looking, sleek package hiding the best of the surprises inside: neat compartments containing an assortment of chocolates in different shapes and colors.
Every bite was a delight!
Some were crunchy!
A few were soft!
Some were nutty!
A few were sour!
I used to spend an entire evening exploring the different flavors of the chocolates. As I grew up, the excitement for chocolates diminished but the concept of exploring the new remained. Instead of unboxing chocolates, I started traveling and unboxed new experiences with people and places. Hampta Pass was one such assorted Himalayan dream box that surprised me with its sweet, serene, and scenic beauty.
Hampta Pass –
With the lush greenery of Kullu region on one side and the dry and desolate topography of the Lahaul region on the other, the Hampta Pass is an assortment of surprises like trees, flowers, grasslands, rains, silky streams, snow, and boulders. Hampta Pass amazed me at every step.
Every day, I walked on trails that had unique natures, textures, and forms. I felt as though I was entering a different time zone of a different world. It made me wonder about the first man who landed on the moon. Imagine the feeling of the first step on a land with less gravity. The phrase, ‘out of the world experience’, must have been coined from this situation. The Hampta pass Trek was one such otherworldly experience with its versatile landscape.
Now, put on your thinking caps and trekking shoes as I walk you through the wonders of Hampta Pass.
- The walk through the forest
- The walk through the grasslands
- The slush walk
- The walk through the clouds
- The walk through the river
- A walk through the flower lands
- The walk-on rock
- The snow walk
- Last stop - Chandra Taal Lake
The trek to Hampta Pass begins from Jobra and ends at Chikka on Day 1. The first 2-3 km of the trail is covered with oak and maple trees. The majestic trees envelope and embrace both sides of the pathway and lead a non-linear trail line in-between them. The tracks are intersected by curvy roots, shadows from the leaves, and moist logs covered in moss.
As soon as I entered the forest, a deep sense of connection emerged within me. The roughness of the roots, spongy feeling from the moss, and the patterns on the leaves were enthralling. Sometimes the trees formed a fence, creating a gateway on the tracks. Stretching my legs and moving ahead through them was like entering the magical realm of a fairyland.
The walk on the grasslands –
2 km into the forest, the trail opens up into a vast valley painted in different shades of green, grey boulders, and a translucent white-colored stream of the Rani Nallah River running between them. When I was there, the grass was covered in water droplets from the rains. When the lower part of my high ankle shoes rubbed or stepped on the grass, I heard a mild squeak and a delicate popping sound effect. I felt like an SFX artist from the movies. I deliberately dragged my shoes and created funny sounds until Chikka for the next 3 km.
The slush walk –
On the second day, the trek begins from Chikka and ends at Balu Ka Gehra. We cover a distance of 5 kilometers in 6-7 hours. The initial 2 km of the trail was filled with slush because of the rains. The loose sand and water combined to create a slippery track.
These tracks reminded me of football games from school. We loved playing soccer during the rains. The splash from the puddles, the falls from the slippery surface, and the stains of dark brown sludge on shoes were the marks of a time well spent. The inner child in me came out full swing and enjoyed every bit of the trail. When I had to ascend, the grip from our shoes loosened and I gradually slid backward. I even tried the famous moonwalk and fell down twice. After finishing two kilometers, the path gained elevation and a rocky trail extended ahead.
The Walk through the clouds –
The monsoon clouds of the Hampta Pass are kind and down to earth. They often tend to occupy the lands and evenly spread their gentle whites throughout the valley. This phenomenon creates whiteouts in the land.
Walking through the clouds was enchanting. When my trek mates and I stepped through the whites or a horse came out of it, it had a cinematic impact. The character from the novel "Phantom of Opera" rang a huge bell in my brain buds. The captivating clouds engaged us throughout the trek this way.
The walk through the river –
After crossing almost 2.5 kilometers, a grand torrent of the Rani Nallah River intersects with our path. It is the gateway to the flower meadows of Jwara. Until now, I walked on grass, moss, and slush. The river crossing did not appeal to me much in the beginning. But, when I was instructed to remove my shoes by the leader, an excitement arose inside my heart.
For the first time, I felt the texture of the ground with my bare feet. I fixed the shoes inside my bag and immersed my feet in the river. The glacial chillness sent a wave of current through my feet eventually evenly spreading throughout my body.
At every step, I could feel the smooth flow of water brushing my feet and a gripping cold making them comfortably numb. As soon as I came out, my trek leader instructed me to settle down and warm up for the journey ahead.
A walk through the flower lands –
The trails running out of the river bank on the other side lead you to a marvel - the flower meadows of Jwara. A thin streak of the trail ran between the vibrant strokes of flowers. My bold walks automatically converted into one with caution. I was concerned about the small flowers.
I didn’t want to step on them. If the color spectrum had a pallet for flowers and a platform for showcase, they all were present at the meadows of Jwara. The pace of my walk slowed down and I savored my time there with a scrumptious meal and some pleasant scenery.
4 km into the flower meadows, the trails become flat and run parallel with a wide stream of the Rani Nallah River. This stretches for the next kilometer until you reach the second campsite, Balu Ka Gehra.
The walk on rock –
The most challenging part of the trek happens on the third day. One has to trek for 9 km from Balu Ka Gehra to Shea Goru campsite via Hampta pass. All the fun elements like the moss and slush come to an end and lofty boulders and rocks take their place instead.
In the first 3 km of the trail, I had to strain, stretch and take wide steps to make my way through steep, round-shaped rocks. I found my momentum getting disrupted with lung-breaking twists and strenuous turns. I pushed my limits, trusting in my leg strength to get me through this section.
The snow walk –
Nature has its own way of balancing things. After navigating 3 km on the boulders, you are in for a pleasant surprise. The next kilometer is a gentle, flat stretch covered in soft snow.
When I stepped on the soft granules of ice, the strain and pain on my legs faded away. Systematically, I walked across the surface like a penguin. While walking, I turned back and witnessed my strong shoe impressions on the snow. It reminded me of many memories and experiences from the past. Finally, I crossed the snow patch and landed on the Stunning Hampta Pass beyond which lay the campsite of Shea Goru.
Last Stop – Chandra Taal Lake
On the fourth day, we have an early start from Shea Goru and reach the last campsite, Chattru. Chattru is about 5 km away and takes 5 hours to cover. This is undeniably the easiest day of the trek.
Like an old bullet engine, my legs warmed up and picked up speed. I slid through the gravels, jumped on the small patches of grass, and strolled down with a good pace and spirit. As soon as I reached the campsite, my trek mates and I boarded a cab to the stunning Chandra Taal Lake.
Though the drive was amazing, I felt a sense of restlessness. I wanted closure for the journey. When the cab reached the spot, I hopped down and started to walk towards the Lake. The intensity of my steps and the pace finally slowed down at the lake. My legs and I settled down with silence and indulged ourselves in the tranquility of the lake.
Be it a connection with nature or an overwhelming feeling of freshness from experiences, my constant search for new things will continue the course of my walks. Hampta Pass is one of the many Himalayan milestones that reminded me of my actual nature. My quest and taste for the distinct will continue and stay tuned to get a fresh dose of experience for my next travel tale.