HIMALAYAN ESCAPES

The Himalayas comprise three almost parallel ranges interspersed with largeplateaus and valleys, some of which, like the Kashmir and Kullu valleys, arefertile, extensive and of great scenic beauty. Some of the highest peaks in theworld are found in these ranges. The high altitudes admit travel only to a fewpasses, notably the Jelep La and Nathu La on the main Indo-Tibet trade routethrough the Chumbi Valley, north-east of Darjeeling and Shipki La in the Satlujvalley, north-east of Kalpa (Kinnaur).

Physically, the Himalayas forms three parallel zones: the Great Himalayas, the Middle Himalayas (also known as the Inner or Lesser Himalayas), and the Sub-Himalayas, which includes the Siwalik Range and foothills and the Tarai and Duarspiedmont (an area of land formed or lying at the foot of a mountain or mountain range). Each of these lateral divisions exhibit certain similar topographic features. The Great Himalayas, the highest zone, consists of a huge line of snowy peaks with an average height exceeding 6100 m (20,000 ft). The width of this zone, composed largely but not entirely of gneiss and granite, is about 24 km (about 15 mi). Spurs from the Great Himalayas project southwards into the Middle Himalayas in an irregular fashion. The Nepal and Sikkim (a state of northern India) portion of the Great Himalayas contains the greatest number of high peaks. The snow line on the southern slopes of the Great Himalayas varies from 4480 m (14,700 ft) in the eastern and central Himalayas of Nepal and Sikkim to 5180 m (17,000 ft) in the western Himalayas. To the north of the Great Himalayas are several ranges such as the Zaskar, Ladakh, and the Kailas. The Karakoram Range lies on the Tibetan side of the Great Himalayas.

The Great Himalayan region is one of the few remaining isolated and inaccessible areas in the world today. Some high valleys in the Great Himalayas are occupied by small clustered settlements. Extremely cold winters and a short growing season limit the farmers to one crop per year, most commonly potatoes or barley. The formidable mountains have limited the development of large-scale trade and commerce despite the construction of highways across the mountains linking Nepal and Pakistan to China. Older trails, which cross the mountains at high passes, also have limited trade and are open only during the summer months.

The Middle Himalayas range, which has a width of about 80 km (about 50 mi), borders the Great Himalayan range on the south. It consists principally of high ranges both within and outside of the Great Himalayan range. Some of the ranges of the Middle Himalayas are the Nag Tibba, the DhaolaDhar, the PirPanjal, and the Mahabharat. The Middle Himalayas possess a remarkable uniformity of height; most are between 1830 and 3050 m (between 6000 and 10,000 ft). The Middle Himalayas region is a complex mosaic of forest-covered ranges and fertile valleys. While not as forbidding as the Great Himalayas to the north, this range has nonetheless served to isolate the valleys of the Himalayas from the plains of the Indus and Ganges rivers in Pakistan and northern India. Except for the major valley centers such as Srinagar, Kangra, and Kathmandu, and hill towns such as Simla, Mussoorie, and Darjiling (Darjeeling), the region is moderately populated. Within the Middle Himalayas the intervening mountain ranges tend to separate the densely populated valleys. The numerous gorges and rugged mountains make surface travel difficult in any direction. Few roads or transport routes exist between towns, partly because it is expensive to build them over the high, rough terrain. Only major population centers are linked by air and roads with principal cities in India and Pakistan.

The Sub-Himalayas, which is the southernmost and the lowest zone, borders the plains of North India and Pakistan. It comprises the Siwalik Range and foothills as well as the narrow piedmont plain at the base of the mountains. The width of the Sub-Himalayas gradually narrows from about 48 km (about 30 mi) in the west until it nearly disappears in Bhutan and eastern India. A characteristic feature of the Sub-Himalayas is the large number of long, flat-bottomed valleys known as duns, which are usually spindle-shaped and filled with gravelly alluvium. South of the foothills lies the Tarai and Duars plains. The southern part of the Tarai and Duars plains is heavily farmed. The northern part was forest inhabited by wild animals until about the 1950s. Most of the forests of this region have been destroyed, and much of the land has been reclaimed for agriculture.

Plant and Animal Life

The natural vegetation is influenced by climate and elevation. Tropical, moist deciduous forest at one time covered all of the Sub-Himalayan area. With few exceptions most of this forest has been cut for commercial lumber or agricultural land. In the Middle Himalayas at elevations between 1520 and 3660 m (between 5000 and 12,000 ft) natural vegetation consists of many species of pine, oak, rhododendron, poplar, walnut, and larch. Most of this area has been deforested; forest cover remains only in inaccessible areas and on steep slopes. Below the timber line the Great Himalayas contains valuable forests of spruce, fir, cypress, juniper, and birch. Alpine vegetation occupies higher parts of the Great Himalayas just below the snow line and includes shrubs, rhododendrons, mosses, lichens, and wildflowers such as blue poppies and edelweiss. These areas are used for grazing in summer by the highland people of the Great Himalayas.

Animals such as tigers, leopards, rhinoceroses, and many varieties of deer once inhabited the forested areas of the Sub-Himalayan foothills and the Tarai plain. As a result of deforestation the habitat of most of the wildlife has been destroyed. They are now restricted to special protected areas such as the Jaldapara and Kaziranga sanctuaries in India and the Chitawan preserve in Nepal. There are few animals in the Middle Himalayas because of extensive deforestation. In the Great Himalayas musk deer, wild goats, sheep, wolves, and snow leopards are found. The existence of the Yeti has been reported by highland Sherpas in Nepal but has eluded discovery by several expeditions.

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NATIONAL PARK & SANCTUARIES

Suggested Sketch Itinerary

Program 1: Jeep Safari to the Rooftop of the World)

Day 01 Arrive Delhi
Day 02 In Delhi
Day 03 Delhi / Manali drive
Day 04 In Manali
Day 05 Manali / Jispa drive
Day 06,07 Jispa / Sarchu drive (camp at the highest point)
Day 08 Sarchu / Leh
Day 09 (Visit Shey, thiksey & Hemis monasteries)
Da10/11 Leh / Hunder (visit dunes and ride a double Bactrian camel)
Day 12 Hunder / Leh
Day 13 Leh
Day 14 Fly to Delhi
Day 15 Departure

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Program 2: A summer in Kumaon

Day 01 Arrive Delhi
Day 02

In Delhi. Overnight train to Kathgodam,.

Day 03

Arrive Kathgodam and drive 2.5 hours to Sonapani.

Day 04

In Sonapani. (Enjoy nature walks in Himalayas and visit villages).

Day 05

Sonapani / Vijaynagar

Day 06

Vijaynagar / Munsiyari

Day 07

Start small trek to Khaliya top.  Overnight in tents.

Day 08 Return to Munsiyari.
Day 09

Drive to Binsar.

Day 10

Drive to Kathgodam and connect overnight train to delhi.

Day 11

Arrive Delhi in the morning.

Day 12 Departure

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Stay at

Mary Budden Estate, Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary

Neerlaya, Kulu

Rokeby Manor, Landour

Two Chimneys Gethia, Nainital


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