The first season of Rohan Thakur’s immersive audio-visual treat WayBackHome draws to a close with the release of the finale episode following him to the icy heights of Leh. Spanning twelve episodes in its wildly successful debut season, the series has been filmed in seven valleys around the entire lower Himalayan ranges, with the show utilising the art of storytelling in a way that hasn’t been witnessed before, a first-person account taking us through the narratives of real people and their passions.
Straddling its founders’ myriad interests to include travel, adventure, lifestyle, people and a pronounced soft spot for music and stories, WayBackHome is a comprehensive Himalayan travelogue documented in a cinematic manner ensconcing the grandeur of the snow-clad giants featuring as its picturesque backdrop, while at the same time warmly and honestly embracing the spiritual connotations behind journeys. A sense of self-discovery is explored side by side with the process of travelling from one destination to another – ultimately evolving into a celebration of both, replete with original scores crafted carefully by Rohan.
Post by Homegrown.
After having last checked in with the project with ‘In Numbers: Breaking Down Way Back Home in an Infographic’ back when their fifth episode came out, we were incredibly curious to know what the rest of the journey traversing the mighty mountains had been like. We caught up with Bharati Bahrani, writer and creative director of WayBackHome, with a quick round of countdown questions to get a glimpse into some of the highlights.
A. 5 favourite meals on this journey
5 craziest landscapes you’ve seen during these travels.
B. 4 most memorable moments
The climb up to Malana in total darkness!, Chham dance in Rewalsar Holi in Sangla, Fossil Hunting in Langza
C. 3 people you met on this journey that you won’t forget easily.
D. 2 things that kept you going throughout.
E. 1 major insight you had through/because of this experience.
It is very, very important to try and find happiness in the little things in life. One need to live in the present moment, and enjoy the ‘now’ to the maximum!
Here’s a quick recap of the last 12 episodes, in case you missed them, to give you a gist about what the series is all about:
And here’s each individual episode just for your perusing pleasure, with a little bit of context for good measure to take you on the journey with the WayBackHome team:
Episode I - Kullu Valley
The journey begins – Rohan travels from Delhi to Manali, to find his hometown covered in a blanket of snow. He explores the narrow alleyways of the bazaar eating thupka and momos, eventually making his way to the streets of Old Manali where children were sledging down the snowy slopes.
An integral part of every pahadi’s life during the winter is keeping warm. Rohan discovers the process of ‘tandoor’ making and the joys of bathing in hot Sulphur springs. He then shows us his favourite spots in and around Manali that include the local pine forest, a special picnic spot by the river and the ultimate chill spot – ‘Jogni Falls’.
Episode II - Kullu Valley + Parvati Valley
Having spent the formative years of his life in Manali, Rohan is extremely passionate about skiing. In this episode he travels to Solang Nala to see locals and tourists enjoying themselves in the snow, and also to have a couple of runs down the slopes himself.
He travels to the mysterious village of Malana in Parvati Valley to see how the villagers celebrate the festival of ‘Phaguli’ - the local New Year.
The episode ends with a short hike up to ‘Bijli Mahadev’, a small temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. This marks the end of the time spent in Kullu, and beginning of the real journey into the winter wonderlands of his home - Himachal.
Episode III - Mandi + Kangra Valley
Rohan makes his way to the holy town of Rewalsar where the Buddhist community has come together to celebrate the birthday of the Great Master Padmasambhava. The main event of the day is the ‘Chham’ or the ‘Devil’s Dance’ where a group of monks adorn elaborate costumes and masks and dance in perfect synchrony with one another to depict tales of Great Buddhist Masters.
He then makes his way to the ancient Kangra Fort, which lies nestled in the foothills of the Dhauladar Range. From here he travels to the quaint town of Bir where he discovers the joys of village life and the thrill of jumping off a cliff and soaring in the sky!
Episode IV - Kangra Valley + Chamba Valley
One of the main goals of this journey was to go off the beaten track and try and discover new places and experience new things. While travelling around Kangra, Rohan hears of a temple that remains submerged in the Mahrana Pratap Sagar Lake for most of the year, and only emerges from the water during spring. He hops onto a boat to look for this hidden temple and finds a surreal sight waiting for him.
He then drives deep into Chamba Valley to the remote town of Bharmour, from where he embarks on an action-packed journey to the village of Kugti – the last village in Chamba Valley.
Back in Kangra, Rohan spends a relaxing few days in McLeodganj before trekking up to Triund where he pitches his tent under the star-filled night.
Episode V - Sangla Valley (Lower Kinnaur)
Leaving the foothills of Kangra behind, Rohan starts climbing higher towards the Sangla Valley in Kinnaur. While exploring the stone paved pathways of Kamru Village, Rohan stumbles upon a procession in which the local deity is visiting different households to bring in the New Year. It is a day filled with various rituals and ceremonies that ends in a party with a lot of singing, dancing and drinking!
The party never ends in Sangla Valley as the New Year celebrations are followed by the festival of Holi. Rohan marches along with a parade from village to village as they perform skits and sing and dance while gathering an audience as they move along. After five whole days of making merry the villagers bring out their deity to culminate the celebrations and to pray for a good year.
Episode VI - Upper Kinnaur
In Kalpa, Rohan yet again witnesses the celebration of the New Year, but this time around things are a bit psychedelic! Bejewelled men and women dance to trippy beats as the ‘Mountain Fairies’ watch on.
From Kalpa, he drives further up the valley to the village of Nako. Everything changes along the way. The landscape flips completely from lush, green grass covered slopes to bear, brown gigantic jagged mountains. The way the people look and talk, what they eat and wear, even the religion changes as Rohan travels higher into the Himalayas.
Episode VII - Spiti Valley
The vast panoramic views in whitewashed Spiti give one the feeling of being a tiny, insignificant speck floating in the Universe. The majestic Kee Gompa stands proud on top of a hillock looking out at the vast valley below.
Rohan travels to the Upper Belt of Spiti to one of the highest villages – Kibber, where he stays with a retired teacher, and learns a thing or two about the harsh living conditions in the region. He then moves to a village called Dhankar where he gives high altitude organic farming with yaks a shot!
Episode VIII - Spiti Valley
Spiti Valley sizzles with mystic magic! One can actually feel the energy pulsating in the air. Rohan spends a day at the magnificent Tabo monastery. The pyramid like structures enclose statues and paintings, which are in almost perfect condition and give one a glimpse into the past. He is then invited to spend a special “ladies-day-out” with the women of Lari.
The last stop in Spiti takes the crown for being the most spellbinding place of them all – Langza, “the Home of the Gods”. It is one of the highest villages in the world and certainly the most mesmerizing! Out here people believe in the forgotten sect of Tantric Buddhism. Rohan was fortunate enough to witness a Tantric ritual that involved communication with the supernatural entities.
Episode IX - Lahaul Valley
Rohan treks across the mighty Rohtang Pass to enter Lahaul where his family’s roots truly lie. He visits the village of Tholang where his grandfather was from, and is surprised to find that it is no longer a ‘village’ but rather a collection of concrete blocks amidst potato fields. Even though Lahaul remains cut off from the rest of Himachal for almost half the year, it is probably one of the most affluent areas of the state. But most of the Lahauli’s have left the home behind in search of better opportunities.
Rohan then heads out to the tiny little village of Teeling where his mother grew up. He meets two old aunts of his who take care of the family’s home and fields. Like everyone else, his family too has left Lahual far behind in hopes of finding a brighter future.
Episode X - Lahaul Valley
The grand Mahakala Puja performed at the Shashur Gompa is a treat for all the senses. Monks draped in maroon robes chant verses in Tibetan accompanied by banging cymbals and bellowing horns. Hours pass by as one sits transfixed by the sounds.
In Upper Keylong, Rohan explores an ancient Lahauli home to find out how people lived in the good old days. He ends his trip in Lahual at the Khangsar Khar, a long-forgotten castle that lies sadly dilapidated in the heart of the valley. As is the case with most of Lahaul, empty rooms and corridors lie lined with cobwebs and no one to look after them.
Episode XI & XII
Rohan is in the his closure mode as he recalls and reminisces his entire journey over the past few months all, he is just lost in the vastness of the Valley and takes on a bike ride across to clear his mind. He also explores the influence of religion in the valley and the why it’s become an international tourist destination. He is also intrigued by the architecture in the towns and gets inquisitive with an expert on the subject.
Towards the end he also experiences a traditional Leh funeral ceremony and wonders thoughts into mortality where his purpose is sort of defined as to what he needs to do with his life and what his calling is, at this juncture the shows flashes all the memorable moments in the journey and concludes.
Inspired by the mountains and curious to explore his roots further, Rohan has channelled these passions into creating his own original scores to accompany the WayBackHome videos, giving them a personal touch that is quite priceless. Here’s the playlist for the series:
Way Back Home will be back very soon and from what we hear, Season 2’s going to be departing from the mountains and taking to the seas, as the team explores some islands close to the Indian coast. Follow WayBackHome to stay updated on their travels -
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