Fleeting Moments Photography Captured to be re-lived... 2017-07-09T06:56:32Z http://www.fleetingmoments.net/feed/atom/ WordPress http://www.fleetingmoments.net/wp-content/uploads/ngg_featured/cropped-Cover_IMG_9787_3001-32x32.jpg GT <![CDATA[Lahaul-Spiti]]> http://fleetingmoments.net/fm/?p=3126 2017-07-09T06:42:59Z 2016-07-31T06:30:12Z Those who love mountains know this, once you visit them they always beckon you back. Ever since my first tryst with Himalayas, which was a trip to Leh-Ladakh back in 2005, I have always wanted to see more of this vast and magnificent landscape. Was blessed to do the Mt. Kailash – Manasa Sarovar trip back in 2014 and in the month of July 2016 made it to Lahaul-Spiti.

Arun Bhat, a good friend of mine and a well renowned photographer who runs Darter have been organising photography trips to Lahaul-Spiti for the past 4-5 years now. Had booked my trip to Lahaul-Spiti, back in 2013, with Darter, but had to drop out in the last minute due to a personal emergency. So this year, I did manage to join Darter on their Lahaul-Spiti trip and was ably led by Manish Lakhani, a great landscape photographer, and someone who has spent a lot of time in Leh-Ladakh-Spiti regions of the Himalayas.

The scenic Spiti Valley is God’s special creation. It’s breathtakingly beautiful. Spiti literally translates to ‘The Middle Land’. It derives its name from its geographical location in between the Indian peninsular mass and the Tibetan plateau. The Spiti has imprints of Buddhist culture. It has the oldest monasteries of the world in Ki Monastery and Tabo Monastery, a favorite of Dalai Lama.
Spiti is located at an altitude of 12,500 ft above the sea level. This barren cold desert of the mountains is eye-catching destination to a city dweller like me.

Himachal Pradesh formed the district of Lahaul-Spiti in 1960 by merging two separate districts, Lahaul and Spiti. Before the two districts were merged, Kardang was the capital of Lahaul, and Dhankar the capital of Spiti. Kaza is the capital of the merged district now.

Kunzum la or the Kunzum Pass (altitude 4,551 m; 14,931 ft) is the entrance pass to the Spiti Valley from Lahaul. It is 21 km from Chandra Tal. This district is connected to Manali through the Rohtang Pass. Spiti is more barren and difficult to cross, with an average elevation of the valley floor of 4,270 m (14,009 ft). It is enclosed between lofty ranges, with the Spiti river rushing out of a gorge in the southeast to meet the Sutlej River. It is a typical mountain desert area with an average annual rainfall of only 170 mm (6.7 inches). It is the fourth least populous district in India.

Here is a brief outline of our itinerary:
Day 1: July 16th : Arrive in Manali, prepare for an early morning start the next day
Day 2: July 17th : Drive from Manali to Kaza, close to 230 kms, via Rothang Pass and Kunzum La. The longest travel, in terms of time, for the entire trip. Stay at Kaza.
Day 3: July 18th : Explore Kaza and visit Key Monastery in the afternoon. Stay at Kaza
Day 4: July 19th : Visit Langza and stay at Langza
Day 5: July 20th : Visit Dhankar Monastery and Dhankar Lake. Back to Kaza.
Day 6: July 21st : Head out to Chandra Tal. Overnight at Chandra Tal.
Day 7: July 22nd : Head back to Manali.
Day 8: July 23rd : Head back to Delhi and eventually towards Bangalore.

There are numerous bridges that one has to travel on these beautiful, rugged mountain roads. The cover photo of this blog was shot on the way back somewhere between Kaza and Losar. Losar, by the way, is known for its export of peas.

This travelogue will not be a day to day tale, but has been organised around the major destinations of this trip. Below are the 8 posts about each of the destination.

The cover photo of this post was taken on our way back from Kaza to Longzar:

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GT <![CDATA[Key Monastery]]> http://fleetingmoments.net/fm/?p=3188 2017-07-09T06:43:35Z 2016-07-18T06:30:41Z Key Gompa (also spelled Ki, Kye or Kee) is one of the iconic Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, which is 400 year old and is located on top of a hill, at an altitude of 4,166 metres (13,668 ft) above sea level. It is one of the most beautiful monasteries that is not only easily accessible by road, but also the one that lends itself well to be photographed, because of its location. Key is made up of multiple levels and is pretty large and can be seen from miles, sitting on the ledge, on the eastern bank of the Spiti river. Once you reach the monastery and make you way to the rooftops, you also get an idea of how vast the Spiti valley itself is. I was awed by its sheer vastness and grandeur.

History of Key Gompa is one of sheer resilience. Since the 17th century, it has withstood multiple attacks, earth quakes and major fires. Kye Gompa now belongs to the Gelugpa sect and along with Tabo Monastery and Drangtse Monastery, it is part the three monasteries that belong to Gelugpa sect in the Spiti region. It is the largest monastery in Spiti Valley and accommodates nearly 250-300 monks, who reside within the sacred walls in winter, and stay with their parents or brothers, working in the fields, or employed in carrying travellers’ goods, during summer.

Vast expanses of the Spiti Valley. On our way to Key Gompa, from Kaza.

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Sunlight lit Key Gompa as seen from the Key village, situated downhill from the Gompa:

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Every village has 3 deities that guard and protect them. Here is the Key Gompa and the 3 deities of the Key village. Not really sure why the deities are distant from the gompa itself.

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View of the main entrance to the Gompa and the road turn back towards Key village:

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View of the three deities and the Spit valley, towards Kaza. Key village seen at the lower sections as well:

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Sun sets over the valley:

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Another view of the sunset:

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View of the Key Gompa and the valley from the southern side:

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This was shot three days later, on our way back from Kaza to Chandra-tal. View of the Key Gompa from the western bank of the Spiti river.

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Image-gallery from Key Gompa:

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GT <![CDATA[Langza]]> http://fleetingmoments.net/fm/?p=3279 2017-07-09T06:44:31Z 2016-07-19T10:33:16Z Due to the vastness of the “Middle Land” and the entire region being sparsely populated, all human settlements here are isolated amid their own beautiful surroundings. But the one that awe stuck us and left us speechless was this hamlet that was set amidst green pastures and surrounded by snow-clad mountain, was Langza.

This remote village, situated at an altitude of 4400 meters in the upper region of Spiti, is surrounded by many snow clad peaks and the tallest among them being the Chau Chau Kang Nilda (CCKN), which in local language means the princess of the sun and the moon. The CCKN towers over the entire landscape at 6603 meters. A giant statue of Lord Buddha overlooks the valley from the highest hillock in the village.

Langza is divided into 2 sections, namely Langza Yongma (Lower) and Langza Gongma (upper). This Buddhist village belongs to the Sakyapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism and house a population of 150+ people in about 30+ households.

The mainstay of this village in the olden days was mud craft. Vessels of all shapes and sizes were produced here and supplied to the entire valley for household use. This craft has dwindled over the ages and the current mainstay is primarily agriculture. This region receives no rainfall from monsoon and the summer months are spent growing barley and sweet peas. Barley is one of the staple foods and the sweet peas are exported out of this regions. Families also rear livestock, which provide them with milk and meat. Donkey’s are reared and used for transportation. Summer is also the time for taking out sheep / cattle and donkey for grazing in the high altitude meadows.

Winters are long and inclement at Langza. Langza remain disconnected from the civilization during winters; only a few brave souls stay in their mud house during that inhospitable weather. Livestock can’t be grazed during these months and are cared indoors as well.

As summers arrive, the transformation of snow fields to green pastures is truly overwhelming and Langza opens its door to a few fortunate visitors.

Timelapse of Langza:

Langza Village:

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Fields of barley, sweet peas and snow covered CCKN that towers over Langza:

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A close up of CCKN:

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Lord Buddha at the top of the village:

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View of the Langza Gongma:

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Barley grass:

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Livestock grazing:

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Donkeys grazing in the high altitude meadow:

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Sunset over Langza:

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That night was guru-purnima and the full moon bathed the entire valley in this amazing mysterious light.

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Image-gallery from Langza:

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GT <![CDATA[Dhankar Monastery]]> http://fleetingmoments.net/fm/?p=3316 2017-07-09T06:44:58Z 2016-07-20T14:06:28Z Dhankar Gompa (also spelt as Dankhar, Drangkhar or Dhangkar) is both a village and a Gompa, in the district of Lahaul and Spiti in India. It is situated at an elevation of 3,894 metres (12,774 feet) in the Spiti Valley above Dhankar Village, between the towns of Kaza and Tabo. The complex is built on a 1000-foot high spur overlooking the confluence of the Spiti and Pin Rivers – one of the world’s most spectacular settings for a gompa.

Dhang or Dang means cliff, and Kar or Khar means fort. Hence Dhangkar means “Fort on a Cliff”.

Dhankar is supposed to be the oldest monastery, but unfortunately was not able to get that title due to lack of records / papers and Tabo Gompa got that distinction. Dhankar, like Key Monastery and Tangyud Monastery in Spiti, are built as a fort monastery on the central Tibetan plateau.

Here is the Dhankar Gompa at the top of the spur and the village spread around in the lower sections:

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A new monastery, as seen below, at a short distance from the old monastery, now houses all the monks. Couple of monks are assigned to guide the tourists at the old monastery and for its upkeep.

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Dhankar Gompa in all its glory …. Pin river (on the left) joining the Spiti river on the right. What a location to build a glorious Gompa !!!

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Close up of the Gompa :

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View of the Spurs and the Dhankar village, with building being built using concrete and steel:

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View of the green fields, opening up the endless vistas from Dhankar:

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Image-gallery from Dhankar Gompa:

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GT <![CDATA[Dhankar Lake]]> http://fleetingmoments.net/fm/?p=3359 2017-07-09T06:45:43Z 2016-07-20T14:36:29Z Dhankar lake is situated above the village of Dhankar at the height of 4136 meters (13570 feet) surrounded by dry, aried mountains on one side but opens up to distant snow capped mountains on the other side.

The hike to Dhankar Lake begins from a non decrepit path just outside the old Dhankar Monastery and throughout the hike the monastery plays hide and seek with you as you follow the serpentine path caressing the mountainsides. Depending on how fit you are, the trek is moderately difficulty and it should take you an hour to hour and half to reach the lake from the Dhankar monastery. What makes it challenging is the fact that you need to ascent about 1000 feet on a path that is strewn with loose rubble and small boulders.

It rarely rains in Spiti as it is cold desert, but it snows every year leading to landslides and mudslides on these slops. This makes the path strewn with loose rubber, so one needs to be a little cautious and one has to have a good pair of hiking boots / sandles and one should not forget to carry enough water on this trek.

Most of the time on our way up was spent trying to click the Dhankar monastery and the confluence of the Pin river with Spiti rivers. Every turn on the way takes you higher and every time we stopped, the scenery looked different and beautiful. Stopping for photography was also a great excuse to catch ones breath on this steep climb.

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Slowly but steadily we finished our ascent and were a little disappointed to end up in an arid desert like landscape and no water in sight. But then we realized we had another 10-15 minutes walk to get to the lake and once you get there….it is a sight to behold.

With a small gompa on it’s bank, the lake is beautiful. Good amount of crystal clear water spreads over a large area. Lake is surrounded by the barren hills from the sides,and beyond the other side of the lake, clearly visible snow-capped peaks of Himalayas. Such a magnificent setting that it simply fill your soul and is an absolute paradise for landscape photographers.

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If the setting was not enough, we had two more beautiful experiences. We were sitting by the lake and taking it all in, when out of the blue wild horses* came out of nowhere for a drink.

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There is something about horses. Add them to any landscape they make the landscape even more beautiful.

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We were busy photographing the horses and we heard something scrambling on the barren hills. We look back and we see a huge flock of sheep and goat, running down the steep slope and they seemed so happy running down that hill. I guess they were so happy to see the water at that time of the day or may be it was just pure joy of being in such a location. One can never know for sure.

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In no time we all surrounded by thirsty livestock as they made their way to the lake to quench their thirst.

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The stragglers then followed in a nice line and then the cool looking Shepard was with them as well:

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The sight of livestock and the horses earlier, by the side of a high altitude Himalayan lake made this trek and the day a magical one.

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Reluctantly we started to make our way back to Dhankar gompa. A beautiful sunset behind the gompa and the great beyond, kept us company that evening.

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We were a little tired by the end of the day, but what a fabulous day it was and what a way to live a day.

Image gallery from Dhankar Lake:

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GT <![CDATA[Chandratal]]> http://fleetingmoments.net/fm/?p=3530 2017-07-09T06:47:05Z 2016-07-21T14:26:38Z Chandratal is a spectacular sweet water lake, located in the midst of dry arid landscape of Spiti. The lake is in the shape of a half moon and aptly called as Chandratal (Moon Lake). The water is crystal clear, and boasts of different shades of blue as the day progresses. Chandratal is the source of Chandra river, which later confluences with Bhaga to form Chandra-Bhaga and is later on called the Chenab as it continues its journey into Pakistan.

Chandra-Tal:

Even thought Chandratal is situated at an altitude of about 4200 mts, one can leisurely walk around the entire lake, whose circumference of about 3 kms, in about 2-3 hours. The main camp sites, which are located about 2 kms away from the lake were crowded and one definitely gets the feeling that this spectacular landscape is slowly getting commercialised. When we visited the lake in the late afternoon / evening, we saw such huge crowds and were wondering about the impact of so many humans on this fragile eco system.

Drive to Chandratal from Batal is about 14 kms and is one of the most narrowest on the entire journey. It is a spectacular drive along the Chandra river, with Chandrabagha range on once side of the river and the road on which we were traveling on the other side. The road from the campsite to the actual lake was even more hair-raising.

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The tallest snow covered peak behind the Chandratal is Chandrabhaga-14. I guess they could not come up with a name, but named the peak sequentially along with the name of the valley.

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We stayed in tents that night and it was one of the coldest nights of the entire trip. Could not sleep the entire night, because of the cold and the altitude. But the sheer beauty of Chandratal and its surroundings more than made up for the loss of a nights sleep.

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Due to the high altitude and lack of sleep, many from our group were reluctant to go to the lake the next day morning. But for the few of us who did venture out, we were welcomed by sheer blue waters that stood still like a mirror. This was the most stunning setup one can get to shoot reflections.

Chandrabagha-14 and surrounding mountains and moon reflecting on Chandratal:

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Just the reflections on the lake:

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CB14 reflections on Chandratal:

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Image gallery from Chandratal:

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GT <![CDATA[Spiti Valley]]> http://fleetingmoments.net/fm/?p=3533 2016-12-27T14:38:20Z 2016-07-22T14:28:45Z Image gallery from Spiti-valley:

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GT <![CDATA[Enroute – Spiti]]> http://fleetingmoments.net/fm/?p=3536 2016-12-27T14:38:47Z 2016-07-24T14:32:13Z Image gallery enroute from Manali to Kaza and back:

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GT <![CDATA[Manali-Rothang]]> http://fleetingmoments.net/fm/?p=3541 2016-12-27T14:41:30Z 2016-07-24T14:35:36Z Image gallery from Manali and Rothang pass:

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GT <![CDATA[Kanha National Park – Birds]]> http://fleetingmoments.net/fm/?p=3117 2016-07-07T04:00:11Z 2009-11-07T03:55:23Z My first visit to the forests of central Indian plateau and its national parks. Spent five days roaming the jungles of Mogli, Bhalhu and Bhageera and experienced the famous national parks, Kanha and Bandhavgarh. Went along with a group of enthusiastic wildlife photographers, as part of the ‘Tiger Photography Safari’ organized by Kalyan Varma. The unseasonal showers did play spoil sport. Nevertheless it was fantastic being in the jungles of Jungle Book and I do plan to return to these forests to do more landscapes and hopefully photography tigers, which remained elusive, this time around.

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