I arrived in the Pin Valley at the end of September 2000. This region in the northwest part of the Indian Himalayas has only been open to tourists for the last few years. I finally managed to reach there with a friend, a guide, a cook, and some pack ponies to carry our gear. We had just arrived and set up camp outside the village of Guling. I was standing on top of a new concrete addition to an old Buddhist monastery. Below me, about 2 kilometers away I could see a lot of movement. I took out my binoculars and much to my delight I saw it was a large gathering of ponies and people.

I ran down to our campsite where my guide announced that there were some men from Bhutan, the mountainous Buddhist kingdom to the northeast of India, who had come to buy the famous Chamurthi ponies. Being a horse lover since childhood, I couldn't possibly miss this sight and ran down the hill to the town. Jannaca riding

When I arrived the place was buzzing with activity and dust. There were ponies everywhere along with their owners, as well as all the local villagers who couldn't resist such an interesting spectacle in this normally quiet place. Three Bhutanese gentlemen were there to purchase ponies to take back to their country to improve their breeding stock. There was a lot of lively bargaining and discussion in the age-old tradition of horse trading.

   
 
   

While it was winding up I took the opportunity to jump on a few ponies to try them out. I wasn't familiar with riding a pacing horse. I was immediately impressed by how comfortable and smooth their movement is for such a small pony. They seem to glide over the uneven ground and spare the rider any discomfort just by the nature of their unusual gaits. I found that as soon as I mounted one, they were off with only the slightest prompting.

I then spent several days in this area trekking, camping and visiting some of the small villages in the Pin Valley which are not yet accessible by road.Pony grazing in Spiti To discover a culture that not only uses the horse as its major form of transportation, but also reveres them, was an inspiring and exciting experience for me. I fell in love with this plucky and intrepid pony, the Chamurthi.

I have been living in the Kullu Valley in Himachal Pradesh, India for the last 25 years. This area is not far from the Pin Valley, but Spiti was closed to foreigners for many years due to its proximity to the Tibetan/Chinese border. I had heard about these particular ponies for a long time and had longed to visit there. Once it was opened up to tourists I finally managed to go, and the trip surpassed all my expectations. Not only are the ponies lovely, the people friendly and charming, but the whole valley is suffused with a mystical, meditative atmosphere. Perhaps it is the altitude, perhaps it is the ancient Buddhist faith that permeates the place, but the affect on one's psyche is palpable. It is certainly one of the special, enchanted corners on our globe.

Jannaca Chick      

   

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