Autumn Colours in the Himalayas

I write this post after having had a glimpse of the beginning of autumn on a forest walk near Naldehra in Himachal Pradesh. Among tall pines, an unreal shade of red shined through. I was intrigued; it was also coincidental that very same day as I read Pico Iyer’s Four Seasons in Kyoto for him to describe 22 September as the official day of the beginning of autumn in Japan.

“Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn.”
– Elizabeth Lawrence

That was a cue for me to make a autumn post (experienced over the years) recollected with anecdotes of heartfelt moments. Isn’t that the best way to remember autumn? When it is time to let go of some old memories, reminisce about life and prepare ourselves for new experiences. Autumn is a season to reflect, on life gone by. It is a time to quietly prepare the heart for the inevitability of loss and to realise that nothing in life is permanent and that only through our sad days do we realise the joys of good days.

Nature has devised it all so perfectly. The gentle crumbling of leaves beneath our feet while on a walk in the woods asks us to slow down and listen to the heart. A quote only has meaning when our soul calls from within ‘We wander for distraction, but travel for fulfilment.’

Memories of autumn / fall from the mountains

(Most of these photos have been clicked from an iPhone 5s)

While walking under the Devdhars of Old Manali.

The weather was crisp and there was pin drop silence in the streets. A gaggle of little puppies gathered and made squealing noises prompting me to stop. I was a tiny speck among the huge devdhar trees which were hundreds of years old and a golden orange invitation reached my eyes. Even though my camera was shaky at that time due to a lens issue, this remains one of my favourite photographs of fall.

An army of poplars : On the Manali – Leh highway near Sissu in Lahaul in November.

It was by fluke that I had landed in a remote village in Lahaul when I was not supposed to be here. The Manali – Leh road was officially closed (15 October is the official closure) and Rohtang Pass was snow bound. I was safe with local Lahauli acquaintainces and had a jolly good time listening to Lahauli folk songs in the sumo crammed with 10 other people!

The crunchy leaves and golden colours of autumn. This was clicked from a moving vehicle and I can only wonder how amazing this photograph might have been had I a chance to compose and capture with a dslr! Contentment is happiness. 😀

The pristine colour of water, amplified even more by the autumn glory of the leaves.

I am literally swimming in a sea of memories right now and my brain cannot remember if this is a photograph of Beas river or Parvati river or Malana river. It was a moment when time floated aimlessly and I couldn’t care less where I was going. All I knew was I had barely any money in my pocket, strangers were happy to give me rides and I was happy to be alone. Perfect recipe for happiness.

Crimson autumn of Turtuk : Standing and shivering on this hallowed land in Baltistan.

A common factor among my journeys has been the unplanned forays in what is commonly thought to be imperfect weather for exploration. I think a major part for the explorations can be attributed to luck. I was very pleased when everything went alright in January’s Ladakh for me to reach Turtuk.

At the legendary Bheem Pul near Badrinath in Garhwal, Uttarakhand.

I was whistling away on the street in Rishikesh when a random yoga class person on a random conversation mentioned Badrinath. I was on the 5 0′ clock bus the next morning. It was blissful in October, I went on walks near Mana village and savoured the pretty colours of autumn, perhaps the Gods were with me, in this fabled land.

A dream home : It could very well have been anywhere in the world, New York in Autumn maybe; except that it is our very own Himachal.

Endless walks in the Himalayas, to keep the heart going and the body warm. I eat a lot when I am on the road and make it a point to walk everywhere. It ensures that the locals will always say hello, make conversation and perhaps invite me home for a peek of local life and culture.

Coming back to the home : With an organic kitchen garden, it could well be my dream home – this colourful tree has to be the defining factor!

A lady fills water from beneath a frozen stream, the trees are bare. The ground is filled with brown leaves and a carpet of white.

An opportunity to visit the 16th Century Phyang Monastery was reason enough for me to say yes to Tsewang’s offer of paying for the homestay while the taxi ride came free. I spent two full days soaking in the simple life at his humble home while intermittently marvelling at the dazzling colours of fall with the humongous Phyang Gompa in sight on the nearby hillock. The weather was understandably cold in January, but the warmth of the family made for a memorable experience.

Clicked on the way to Naggar from Manali. Fallen leaves, chatty hearts, nip in the air – all recipes for quiet solitude.

Something had happened that day. I was supposed to meet a Himachali girl in Naggar and a bus wouldn’t come. I tried hitching rides but that didn’t work out too well. That left me trying to make it with hurried strides!

Peaceful walks among the trees, very very vintage feels.

In the summer months, Parvati river is in a rush; in fall/autumn the waters trickle down slowly revealing a collection of pristine colours.

I had returned to Parvati Valley to seek blessings at Manikaran and a chance phone call had resulted in walking along the serene Parvati river to a cute wooden place in Kasol. Life can be perfect sometimes, my best memory of Kasol is staying in this lovely place by the river, in an apple orchard, with a dog and horse for company. Crisp mornings filled with mist and hot steaming glass of pahadi chai in hand; while afternoons would pass in the warmth of the sun, hanging on a hammock while reading a book.

Read : Tranquility in the hippie land of Kasol

The crunchy sound when the feet collide with the ground and in the middle is a fallen leaf. The fabled beauty of Khajjiar.

I could barely bear the cold in Khajjiar; it was more than I had expected. The road from Dalhousie had been snowed out too and we were lucky to have made it in one piece after making the long detour from Chamba and finally reaching Khajjiar by foot after changing various HRTC buses. Mesmerised by the stark beauty of sunset and the magnificent wood carvings at Khajjinag Temple.

An ultimate photograph for bike lovers. I think this was clicked in Jibhi, in Tirthan Valley.

“Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.”
― Lauren DeStefano.

Nothing is as delightful as a fine autumn, when the trees are bare, and red leaves are strewn across the road, winter is almost here. The days are so calm and the heart revels in contentment and satisfaction.

One year in October, I had booked a train ticket to Pathankot. Unsure about where to go, I got down instead in Ambala in the middle of the night. It was a whimsical decision; what followed next was pure hara-kiri. At Chandigarh’s Sec-43 ISBT, I have no idea why I did what I did and got into a 4 AM bus to Mandi. It was utter stupidity to arrive in Manali in darkness after spending almost 20 hours for hardly 300 kms!

Life changes with the seasons and next day I was happy with all the follies that I had committed. After all, autumn colours teach us how to live.

Read : Travel memories of 2015

Clicked from a Homestay in the tiny Tibetan colony of Bir.

After making it through uncharted Gaddi territory of Kugti in the region of Bharmour in Himachal Pradesh when it was totally snowed out, we were happy to enjoy the warmth of autumn in Bir. Even though a tranquil abode was found in a tiny hamlet, it was desirable to have a comfortable experience than walking for miles together for a meal, and hence we came to Bir. This tall tree stood right outside the balcony, withered leaves against the backdrop of lower Dhauladhars in Kangra Valley.

Check : A guide to Bir

A riot of colours : From a 250 Rupee room in Old Manali.

I think the following quote should be apt for the above photograph : ‘Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.’

As I finish the post, the radio aptly plays ‘Aage bhi jaane na tuuuu, peeche bhai jaane na tu… Jo bhi hai, bas yahi ek pal hai.’

Translation : We don’t know what lies ahead, forget what has been left behind… Live life in the present

For more travel stories, anecdotes and experiences connect with me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.


35 Comments Add yours

  1. arv! says:

    What a lovely set of autumn pictures. My favorite ones are of bhim pul and khajjiar, even though it’s tough to pick from these lovely pictures! Looking at your pictures …. It’s easy to fall in love with the Himalayas!

    1. Thanks Arvind bhai for the compliment! It was just the perfect time to remember these memories and share them with photographs. Thanks for checking.

      1. arv! says:

        Indeed.. This is a perfect time to post the autumn pictures. How about creating a post – Autumn across different states in Himalayas?

      2. Thanks for the amazing idea. Will have to dig out more pictures then, lets see.

      3. arv! says:

        Will look forward to them then!

  2. Prajakta says:

    The beauty of these photographs made me cry! So so good!

    1. Aww, thanks for the heartfelt appreciation!

  3. Some of the best autumn pictures ever seen. Such beauty, such colours. Thanks for sharing these 🙂

    1. Thank you so much budding writers for the appreciation. Glad you liked the post 🙂

  4. Such an evocative post!
    I’ve been itchng to get out but stuck due to various problems… hope I can sort it out by the second half of ths month…

    1. Thanks dear… Wish all the luck to you.

  5. maverickbird says:

    Gorgeous photos and travel memoirs.

    1. Glad you like them Svetlana. :)) Your Kashmir post prompted me to pen down one of my own.

  6. Beautiful pics – looks like a magical area 🙂

    1. Many thanks Jenny. The Himalayas are wonderful and an absolute beauty of nature.

    2. Or rather an absolute beauty created by nature. 🙂 Grammatical error in the earlier reply.

      1. Yes, nature never fails to impress 🙂

  7. Ananya says:

    These photos bring out all the fond memories of Himalayas for me 🙂 Great photos.

    1. Many thanks Ananya. Glad they could rekindle happy memories.

  8. audeshpande says:

    Shubham, your writing is what I go back to after a tiring day! It just soothes me and puts a smile on my face! Thank you!

    1. Woah! You have no idea how big a smile I have on my face right now 🙂 Thanks man. Right now in Guwahati, looking forward to explore the North East at my own pace.

  9. 2GHUMAKKAR says:

    Nicely compiled !! Pictures are awesome. Will try to surely explore all the places you discussed 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for the appreciation! :)) Best of luck with all the travels 😀

  10. RA says:

    What lovely piece. Loved it.

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