Sonam Dhaba at Gramphu, Lahaul Valley, Himachal Pradesh
Places like Sonam Dhaba dot the Indian Himalayas, serving the truck drivers, travellers, BRO workers as well as the locals. On the long journeys through uninhabited parts of the high mountains, they cater to the hungry during the day and double up as sleeping pad for the tired during the night.
This one, located just after Rohtang Pass, provides an excellent stopover for those travelling far into Spiti or Ladakh. Having braved the tourist rush to Rohtang Pass and insane traffic jams above 10,000 feet, first timers are too surprised and struck by the emptiness of the place to even pause to believe the stark change and beauty in the landscape past the pass. Gramphu, the first stopover, allows them to settle in and let the fact sink in that they are indeed in one of the most beautiful places they could ever imagine.
The contrast between Lahaul, the northern side of Rohtang and the much touristed southern parts is immediately obvious. I wrote for an article in 'Timeout Tokyo' -
"Driving over the last mountain pass on our way at over 13,000 feet, we are suddenly led into no man’s land as we enter into the valley of Lahaul. Civilization and hustle bustle of the everyday world is left behind and completely forgotten in its silence. There are no houses, no people, no vehicles to give way to, or anything to remind of the world we have left behind. A narrow road barely good enough to drive reminds that we are still connected with the world, and also gives us access to the terrain that almost feels uncharted."