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TAKE THE ROUGH WITH THE SMOOTH

A Comprehensive Touring and Trekking Guide to the Indian Himalaya: Including Sikkim and Bhutan By Manmohan Singh Bawa, Leomann Maps, £ 13.99

T his book is a fitting climax to Manmohan Singh Bawa’s years of friendship with the mountains and his cartographical and literary efforts. A more complete guide to the Himalaya than I have seen yet, it includes the Indian sub-Himalayan, Himalayan, Zanskar and Trans-Himalayan areas divided into region-wise chapters for planning treks and even armchair rambles. With Bawa’s excellent maps trekking Banderpunch, Phawarang, Phabrang and Kedar Dome is going to be easier for middle-aged mountaineers.

There are easy treks, difficult ones and some treacherous, but Bawa accurately informs one of the highlights and pitfalls of each. A helpful index converts the book into a ready reckoner of treks. Had this book not been meant primarily for foreigners I think Bawa would have added several more interesting treks around Pangong Tso and Chumar in Ladakh, for instance, or to Chango, Pooh and Namgia in Kalpa, and Jadh Ganga in Garhwal.

That its target is a foreign audience is one of two limitations of this otherwise excellent book. The second is that Bawa has not warned of the lawlessness that has reared its ugly head in Kullu valley over the past five years or so.

Bawa’s well-researched book has information that will be new for even experienced trekkers. He has advice on which months to trek in but a few paragraphs on weather from the south side of the Himalaya to the north side of the Ladakh range would have been helpful for trekkers. Bawa has useful information about the location of PWD and state government rest houses. Perhaps he could add that in many of these regions villagers have now opened their homes to trekkers.

Some journeys that were impossible for trekkers till now are mentioned in this book. Tomorrow’s treks are not. And this is where Bawa’s dedicated maps help. Each of the ridges that he has so painstakingly drawn has passes and peaks waiting for the adventurous.

At last the Northeast India has appeared in a book on treks. Bawa has described treks in the western-most districts of Bomdilla and Tawang, but there are exciting possibilities in other districts as well.

All over these mountains, new roads have removed dull stretches. Perhaps an unintended advantage of this book is that its photographs and notes can help mountain lovers record the changes that are sweeping through the Himalaya.

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