Saturday, 13 February 2016

Working in India: Ponda Views (Part 4)

One of the great things of living in the Himalayas (or at least their foothills) for two years was the views that greeted me every morning when I left my room in Ponda for work. Views like this:

Looking southwest from my room at Ponda.
And the winter version:

Ponda view in winter. Precipitation would fall as rain below the snow line.
In the two photos above, you can see a large bare patch at the bottom, just to right of centre. This is a large landslide. Just above the bare area, several abandoned houses still stand, amidst what I suspect is the remains of a small apple orchard. The snow-covered area up and slightly to the left is another, smaller, landslide. Landslides were common, and frequently interfered with the roads and telecommunications to the area. Here is a closer look at the slide:

Large landslide seen from Ponda. It has grown over in the years since it occured.
Following are some of the other views from, and around, the Ponda camp where I lived for two years.

Wisps of fog would often stream over tops of ridges on the mountains around us.

View looking north over the expatriate camp. The camp was built on the side of the hill, and required several lines of retaining wall to provide enough level space for the camp.

Close-up of the mountain ridge in the background of the previous image.

A young boy poses for a photo with the mountain south of Ponda in the background.
Large fire across the valley from Ponda.
Man-made forest fires were not an uncommon sight in the spring, as local residents tried to renew the grazing areas for their sheep and goats by burning the grasses. These fires often got out of hand, like this one, and continued on into adjacent wooded areas and could burn for days. In the absence of wind from the sides, the fires would tend to go straight up the mountain until they ran out of fuel near the top or where the treeline ended, whichever came first. This fire was just south of Ponda Camp, but on the opposite side of the valley, and was probably the largest fire that I witnessed during my time in India. Goats and their human keepers were some of the most destructive forces in the Himalayas, besides Mother Nature herself. The goats would strip hillsides of vegetation, causing severe erosion, and their owners would light fires like the above. Trees would sometimes be killed by these fires, and when the dead trees could no longer hold onto the side of the mountain, they would sometimes come tumbling down. In one case while I was there, one of these falling trees hit a bus on NH 22, and knocked it over the side killing (if I remember correctly) upwards of 20 people. The driver who took me back to camp that night had passed the accident and tried to help - his shirt was spotted in blood when he returned to the office.

Satluj River looking north east from Sholding. The green water of winter would give way to increasingly brown waters in the spring and summer, as the river went from maybe 300 cubic metres per second to roughly 2000, and sometimes up to 8000 cubic metres per second in a flood.

One of many sunsets I witnessed there.

Power transmission lines take power west from one of the hydroelectric projects further up the river.

Bands of cloud made for interesting photography on many occasions.
While I don't miss the isolation, I do miss these views.

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