One state in the Himalayan foothills of northwestern India is the ancient homeland of Hinduism -- Uttarakhand -- and another state is the new homeland of Tibetan Buddhism -- Himachal Pradesh. In 2006 I began research for a trip that would take me to both states and, since they're adjacent, I assumed that I could visit both in the three weeks or so that I allotted myself.

As the planning went on, however, it became clear that what looked like a short drive from one city or site to another on a regular map looks entirely different on Google Earth -- it seems like a road follows contours rather than leaps over mountains. It just doesn't pay to drive from Badrinath in Uttarakhand, for example, to Shimla in Himachal, a hard journey of three full days, skipping the lovely hill stations in southeast Uttarakhand, just in order to "do" both states in the same trip.

So, in 2007, I visited the pilgrimage sites of Haridwar and Rishikesh and Gangotri and Badrinath and then the hill stations at Almora and Munsyari and Kausani and Nainital.

In 2008 the journey was to have taken me to the beautiful valleys in Kinnaur and the mountain landscapes and Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Spiti and then to the isolated valleys and high passes in Ladakh and ending at Lake Dal in Kashmir. Alas, conflict eliminated Kashmir, storms wiped out Kinnaur, and my ambivalent health in Spiti made driving the passes to Ladakh foolhardy. I settled for the hill stations in Himachal -- not really a settling, because they are lovely and fascinating and photogenic in their own right -- but not exactly what I had planned. Stay tuned for the "some day" trip to the mountains and monasteries in Ladakh and paradise in Kashmir!