I first went up to the mountains in October '62 when I was six months old. That was to
our family home, Phoenix Lodge, in Dalhousie. Phoenix Lodge is a magnificient
colonial edifice of hewn stone and cedar wood construction,
standing in it's own mixed forest of Ban Oak and Deodar(Cedar). All my childhood
summers, and some winters, were spent at Phoenix Lodge and the neighbouring forest
reserve of Kalatop. When I was 10 years old my father took us to Brahmour, the
ancient capital of the Chamba kings. This was way back in 1972 and Brahmour was
then the sort of place where nobody had seen a car - because there was no motor road!
Later, I started doing treks with friends in interior Chamba and a favourite became the
short, but stiff, trek upto the lake at Kailash Manimahesh, one of Lord Shiva's many
mountain residences. I have seen returned to Manimahesh many times to shoot for my
1977 was my first eye opening trip to the Trans-Himalaya.... I flew into Leh as a
tripod toter on a film shoot. For somebody used to thinking of the mountains as
reasonably friendly places, the Trans-Himalayan austerity came as a shock. The whole
place was like something out of a fantasy...eerie monasteries on high pinnacles, desolate
landscapes where the eye finds no indicator of scale, no trees or bushes.... to further
confound matters the extreme clarity of the rarified atmosphere makes distant objects
seem very close indeed. But, as if to make up for an extremely hostile landscape, are a
very warm people. Over the years I have developed an enduring fascination with the
Transhimalaya which has led to repeat visits to Ladakh, including one memorable one
in the winter of 1995 when we travelled to the Great Lakes of eastern Ladakh in minus
twenty degree temperatures. Over the years shoots have also taken me to Zanskar,
Lahoul, Spiti and recently transhimalayan Sikkim.
In 1985, I went to Garhwal for the
first time while shooting "Himalayan Experience". For me it was a different sort of
mountain experience. To go up in a motor road to nearly 11,000 feet, bang! almost to
the foot of the Neelkantha glacier ... and the mountains themselves - much bigger and
higher than what I had been hitherto used to. Garhwal over the years has become
another favourite and a visit in late October to almost any of the higher areas, is a
memorable experience. Ofcourse if mingling with the pilgrim crowds is your thing then
summer is nice too.
The eastern Himalaya remained closed to me till 1995 when my
current series "Himalaya Watch" took me to both Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. The
Eastern Himalaya was very necessary to round off my Himalayan Experience. Lush
tropical forests reaching upto the snow line, the very antithesis of the western deserts.
Hundreds of species of exotic orchids alone. On the minus size are the near
impenetrable forests and the Leeches. The famous Tiger Leech of Tawang is found
upto 12,000 feet and is an absolutely huge monster. Longer than most people's finger,
they climb up your legs or drop down from trees and bushes that you scrape by, and are
absolutely ubiquitious. More than any thing else they are the biggest dissuaders to
thoughts of walks into the bush.