TO THE LAND OF SNOW:
A Walk to the Milam Glacier on the edge of Tibet.
– Ahtushi Deshpande
A 24-hour journey in a UP Roadways bus is not the most comfortable way to get to Munsiyari, I realise, as I count the numerous bumps on my head the morning after. I had been rudely awakened, several times during the journey – most notably around midnight, when the bus followed in hot pursuit of a rabbit, the passengers cheering on the driver. (The rabbit was eventually caught, put in a sack and locked up in the glove compartment.)
But when I step off the bus in Munsiyari, all memories of the bizarre journey vanish – the five mythological Pandavas stand proud before my eyes, their legend forever ensconced in the five majestic peaks of the Panchchuli range. Situated in a remote corner of Kumaon bordering Tibet and Nepal, Munsiyari was once a bustling entrepot of trade. On a trekking trail north-west of Munsiyari is the Milam Glacier, one of the longest in the region. The four-day trek to the village of Milam at the end of this old trade route to Tibet is dotted with abandoned Bhutia villages. In the wake of the India-China war of 1962, trade came to a halt and the hardy Bhutia traders migrated to the towns and cities below.
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