I woke up to the sun spilling into my room through the glass window. The first thing I saw after opening my eyes that morning was a valley bathed in sun, flanked by snowcapped mountains and a seemingly tiny waterfall flowing into a gorge and further into the Chandra River. And I immediately fell home. Ah, Sissu!
Dressed and loaded on breakfast, I made my way out of the homestay I was staying at and walked the 2 short kilometres to the Sissu Lake down the Manali-Leh Highway. Turns out, there are several camps by the lake where one can choose to spend a couple of nights. I also saw several paddle boats stacked one on top of the other in a shed by the lake.
Camping and boating in Sissu were now shut for the season because warm days were slowly being replaced by strong winds and the advent of winter was clearly visible in the yellow-orange leaves on the willow and poplar trees and the crunch under the feet.
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What's In Here
Lucky encounters by the Sissu Lake
As I was going walking around the lake, spotting butterflies here and birds there, a sudden movement across the ground caught my attention. As I paused, I saw a tiny brown coloured ferret-like creature which I later learned was a yellow-bellied weasel.
Mustela kathiah as it is scientifically known, this is a rare, small carnivorous animal and only very few sightings have been recorded in India. It has a wide range in India starting from the Himalayas in the north, going all the way to north-east India through Nepal and Bhutan. Known to be a nocturnal animal that mainly preys on rodents, through my host at Tandi, I also later learned that Lahaulis consider seeing this shy and fast creature to be very lucky. We then shared pictures and videos of our sightings with each other and bonded over our mutual weasel luck!
Before I headed on to start the hike to the waterfall, I surveyed the area real quick to get an idea of the path I was supposed to take in order to get to the waterfall. I started from the Sissu Helipad, crossed a powerhouse on the way and finally ended up at a bridge through which I could cross the river and get to the other side. As it turned out, where the bridge was, there were also a few houses and shops connected to the highway road that I could’ve taken instead to save time. Another shortcut to the lake, I later realized, started from the back of the PWD guesthouse at Sissu where some flight of stairs made way directly to the lake below. But time was all I had.
Dance of the Elements
I continued my walk on the other side until I reached right across the helipad and then began climbing. On the way up, I saw several cabbage fields that had already been harvested and boxes full of cabbages ready to be loaded into a pickup truck and transported.
I met some farmers who told me that the fields I was crossing were in fact owned by the owner of my homestay. I continued climbing across fields, through ridges, with wild grass and flowers keeping me company until I felt the first sprays of a gushing waterfall on my face. After finding the last climbable spot near the fall, I sat there watching the sun play games with the wind and the water, throwing in a rainbow every now and then.
This dance of the elements made me feel like I wasn’t alone here, after all. It is moments like these make me feel so much more connected to my home, this planet, Mother Earth and it is because of this connection, I never feel lonely when I’m solo. I could close my eyes at any point and feel Life around me, keeping me company wherever I went. And just as I opened my eyes, I saw the mighty, holy Gepang Goh peeking at me from behind a few hills, as if looking down at me and confirming my contemplations.
Raja Ghepan and Gephang Goh, Sissu
The Ghepan Peak or Gephang Goh is a beautiful mountain peak overlooking the village of Sissu in Lahaul. At 6,050 meters above sea level, this peak can also be spotted from Rohtang Pass but is best visible from the village of Sissu. This mountain is not only spectacular to look at, but also has a deep religious significance to it. Lord Gyephang/ Gephan/ Ghepan is the most important deity for the people of Lahaul Valley. It is believed that Raja Gephan was the father of goddess Parvati and Sissu also has an entire temple dedicated solely to him. The Ghepan Peak is considered to be the Lord’s abode and a trek to the neon blue Ghepan Lake- or Alyas Lake as it is locally known- is a lesser-known trail that starts from Sissu.
Way Back Home
As I began my walk back down, I turned to glance at the waterfall one last time before it disappeared behind the meadows and I felt a deep sense of gratefulness. Walking by the banks of River Chandra, in a valley open and wide, a realization of my insignificance in this Universe captivated me, and all I could think of was how thankful I was to be there, at that moment surrounded by a vastness, reminding me how much these small moments matter in the small place I have on this planet. And in that insignificance, I felt the presence of something much bigger than me, looking down on me and having my back, always.
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A twenty-something solo adventurer, Avantika finds comfort in learning about various cultures, its people and listening to age-old folk tales. When not on the road, she can be found cuddled up with her dog in her room, with a book in her hand.