I guess sometimes the fondest memories are made on unplanned adventures.There are times when you prepare the whole itinerary with all the places to check off your list, cuisines to eat and things to try. And then there are instances where you never plan and just take off. So on that beautiful warm morning, I sat relishing on hot momos elated with joy that I was finally going to Spiti.
Ladhak’s lesser known neighbor, Spiti is a cold desert mountain valley in the north-eastern part of Himachal Pradesh. The name “Spiti” means “The Middle Land”, i.e. the land between Tibet and India. I sat in the bus, quite accustomed to the treacherous roads and drawing comparisons of the various landscapes of Himalayas I had seen till date. With Spiti river cutting through the barren mountains,this part of Himalayas seemed harsh and rustic.
Simplicity is ultimate sophistication
At Spiti the rugged mountains, silent praying monks, the minimalistic way of village life echoed the above quote throughout the journey. I can describe the snow capped peaks of Kashmir or thick dense forests or Uttarakand but words will not be enough to describe the rustic Spiti. Hence, I am sharing snippets of the journey through the ever changing hues of this beautiful cold desert.
Stop 1 – Tabo
Tabo is a silent quiant town which is home to one of the oldest working monasteries in the world. The Tabo Monastery is unlike other Buddhist monasteries seen and has a primitive architecture built out of mud and limestone. As I walked through the monastery, I couldn’t help but wonder how the monks managed to reach this place in the then inhospitable terrain and construct it. I guess that’s why the town has a inexplicable comfortable feeling which made us stay here for a night 🙂
Stop 2: Kaza
Kaza is the biggest town of Spiti and probably the most populated one. Half an hour walk from the main town takes you to the banks of Spiti and it was one of the most peaceful moments I had. Sightseeing in Kaza can be done in few hours.There is a path behind the Kaza Monastery which takes you to a viewpoint from where the town looks delightful.
Stop 3: Villages – Langza, Komic,Hikkim & Kibber
Spiti is completely surrounded by picturesque villages. We set out to explore these villages the next day and were completely awestruck by the beauty.
I have a thing for tiny little houses on the mountains. After gaining a quick altitude from 12000ft to almost 15500ft on the rockiest roads, I found myself at this tiny scenic farming village Komic which is touted to be world’s highest village.
On the way from Komic to Kaza ,there is the beautiful village of Hikkim which boasts of World’s Highest Post Office at 14567 ft. The Post office is downhill from the Komic-Kaza Road , so pay attention to your left as there are no signboards on the road.The panorama views of this village is enthralling.
Stop 4: Key Gompa
Perched on a hill at an altitude of 13668ft, Key Monastery gives you a surreal feeling of being part of some fantasy novel setting 😍
Is it a riverbed?
Has the river dried up?
Or is it the start of the river?
I wondered if it was something different as I saw this river network. My friend mentioned he had seen similar photos by Chris Bukard and it was none of the above. I made a mental note to check on this and turns out it’s called ‘braided river’. Braided rivers are those consisting of multiple small, shallow channels that divide and combine numerous times forming a ‘braid’ pattern. This happens when the volume load exceeds the river’s capacity and is usually found where land is flat and river moves slowly.See how travel makes you explore and invokes an eagerness to know the world around you.Geography seems beautiful to me now 🤓
Stop 5: Chandratal Lake
On our way back to Manali, we decided we would stop at Chandratal Lake!!! At 14,000ft, the turquoise (I still can’t believe the water color I saw!) cresent shaped lake surrounded by multicolored rugged mountains has to be one of most beautiful lakes I have seen. One needs to give oneself a good pinch to realise this lake is a reality and not a painting.
Next stop was Manali, and then to Chandigarh finally, where the journey would end. With water gushing through and little or no mud for grip this treacherous path troubled almost every biker and even cars sometimes.But everyone helped everyone else. Few guided the bikers on how to navigate, heavy vehicles waited for bikers to go first. People got down to lend hand to those who got stuck. There were no honks or angry callouts or any urgency to overtake.There are no strangers on the road, only friends you haven’t met yet👏. Every situation brings two choices – being kind and being negative. 🙏 to all travelers who choose to be kind and spread good vibes💞
Tips & Info:
- Spiti is the least populated region of India and can be reached either via Manali or the Shimla- Kinnaur route. I started from Shimla – Kinnaur and headed to Manali on our way back. Read about Kinnaur – Mythical Kinnaur.
- Be a responsible traveler. You will find villagers trying to sell you fossils for few hundreds.It is sad that this happens as I personally prefer to see these fossils in its natural ambiance.Kindly say no.
- There is a HRTC Bus to Kibber from Kaza but the odd timing won’t make it possible to explore all these places in a day.
- You have early morning bus (around 4 am I think) from Kaza – Manali.Alternately you can get a shared taxi upto Manali which will cost Rs. 1200 per head ( we were 10 of us).