Rudyard Kipling has rightly called Spiti Valley as a world within a world, and there are no reasons to not believe it.
There i was, leaving Losar on that starry night. Our safari crawling ahead,like an ant below the sea of stars.By this time we all had turned into self proclaimed victims of what they call mountain sickness. Our heads were bursting like we had migraine, and we all felt we would puke the moment our car stopped.
The huge mountains seemed like monsters gaping at us in the dark night, with only headlights guiding us through the narrow treacherous roads. In about two hours we reached Kaza, the capital of the Valley and we felt relieved.Our Driver had some friends there and he had arranged a room for us in a small hotel.We dumped our bags, and just fell on the bed.It was a difficult night. I woke up every two hours, wincing in pain,unable to change sides due to back ache and only to find my brother awake and in the same condition.
At 7 am in the morning, my brother couldn’t take the discomfort any longer and he left out to find a medical store, to get us some medicines for AMS.But there were only two stores in the town, and both were closed. He asked a local passing by the street about where he could find some medicines for AMS, and unlike every city we live in today, this guy actually walked my brother all the way to the only civil hospital in Kaza and left him at the emegency ward saying here’s where you will get your medicines.
It definitely was another world. He got the medicines and life felt a little easier.We all got ready for the day and opened the door of our room to the balcony. And this was the view.
We went out for breakfast, and stumbled across this new place in Kaza, called Hotel Deyzor which is run by a Delhi based guy called Karanbir singh bedi. Karan is a journalist and an adventure traveller who gave up on citylife and the regular job he had to settle in Kaza. He has a small cafe and guesthouse there and runs his own adventure sports agency for survival.(FYI ; its the only place in Kaza that has internet, if you are lucky enough to have electricity at the time you visit his cafe) We savored the food served to us while being inspired by his experiences of hitch hiking across several countries and breaking records in his way. You need to be an incorrigible dreamer to achieve something like that. We all are usually stuck with emotional and financial insecurity.
We did some local sightseeing and headed to Dhankar Monastery. Situated at an elevation of 13000 ft in the Spiti Valley above Dhankar village, between the towns of Kaza and Tabo, the complex is built on a 1000-foot (300-metre) high spur overlooking the confluence of the Spiti and Pin Rivers – and is said to be one of the world’s most spectacular settings for a gompa. Dhankar monastery is about a 1000 years old and in a very desperate need of restoration.
I am assuming it was a deliberate attempt to keep all the monasteries in white so that the cerulean sky and the stunning brown landscape stand out. In places like these, you directly converse with god. The winds act as a messenger as you stand with your souls naked and freed of all bonds.
Spiti is amongst the coldest places in India, with the lowest temperature being -37 C in Winters. You need a lot of muscle to just walk from here to there. (please note that being fit is a must if you wish to travel Himalayas).At first you will only feel the
difficulty of life here, It not something we all can imagine, no network , no internet ..electricity for a few hours. one hospital. One road. But there is more to life, there is an unparalleled purity to life here…because the chase for materialism has no place here.Life is not arrested by man-made things, it remains arrested by Nature.
We came back to Kaza, and started walking to the local market. Typical tibetian stuff, Spiti apples and a lot of Momos.We hogged at a small cafe in the market. We ordered momos, thenthuk, Thukpa and pancakes! and everything costed us less than hundred. Those pancakes were bliss! I dont think i can ever have such nice pancakes for just 40 rupees!There was no rush, and customers complaining about late delivery was not entertained here. Eateries here have a simple logic : they serve food to make their living, there’s no business. There is a board put up saying ‘Food will take time to come, you can enjoy talking to each other till then’.
We walked down to the river, collecting twigs and dry sticks to light a fire. The darkening skies looking down at us,oss emanating a beautiful purple hue, spread across the mountains. The vastness of the mountains make you think of the things that matter the most to you, things that you need in life, everyone else doesn’t matter.
The next morning, we left for komik village, which is rumored to be the highest motorable village in the world at 4587m (15,000 ft) through Langza. Komik is probably the only place to have a proper cemented road access. The village has a population of only 114 creatures. There was a monastery inLangza that had a life size statue of budhha on the roof, spectacularly visible as you drive by. We spotted a lot of wildlife here. Musk deers, Himalayan blue sheep, Yaks and thick furred cows. The fluttering flags across the snow capped peaks was a sight to behold! the Monks served us warm tea from the monastery kitchen, along with double rotis (for me it was a pizza base) along with wildberry jam and yak ghee. It was a relief from the cold, i must say. We played carrom in the open area outside the hot water bath set up by Ecosphere. Surprisingly, Komik has a Primary school, with only 4 kids studying there. Running the school costs around 25k per kid , but luckily the government bears that cost to keep the school going.
I got engaged in small talk with the help in the Monastery Kitchen. He told me about how they store food for winters, or go down to serve in Kaza as it is unbearable with temperatures ranging below -15 degrees. They grow cabbage and Potatoes in their paddy fields there. He even asked me for medicines for cold,as its very difficult going down to the kaza civil hospital everytime , without any vehicles. Living here would be an adventure for any of us, a struggle…but it was his whole life.
Komik is also known for its fossils here, although buying and selling them is legally not allowed here. We got them as souvenirs from the monks there, who happily posed for our lenses there. We thanked them for their warm hospitality and drove our way down to Kaza, picking up few Local women and driving them down to Kaza hospital.
We took a short lunch break at Dezyor, and left for losar after that. We didnt want to do Manali straight.And like the unpredictable Himalayan weather, we cut thru a big storm approaching Kaza. We managed to just escape it.
In Losar, we stayed at the same home stay where we had lunch after ChandraTaal. Warm cottage, even warmer beds. I miss the quality of sleep had there. The owners, were so warm, that they didn’t have their dinner, until we came down and asked for ours. It was a contemplative night, we talked about, not the most pressing things, but about the things that were pressed deep down our souls. Spiti was something i will never forget…an experience i will always cherish, and i wish to come back..i still have a lot more to discover in Spiti, a lot more to find about myself.