An Escape to Spiti-A story of love for nature
Exploring places is always my favourite hobby! My passion for travel allures me to discover places and their hidden languages, culture and habitat. At least twice or thrice a year I make it a point to hit the roads to explore places. This year I have travelled to one of the most untouched beauty on earth- the Spiti Valley in the month of April. As one of my most long desired destination, Spiti turned out to be a virgin beauty with its post-card perfect backdrop. You can say, travelling to Spiti was one of my dreams and now I feel myself fortunate enough to visit that place. After visiting Spiti valley, I understood that it is a large box full of treasure and you need to come here with ample time if you are adventurous enough to explore every nook and corner of it. As our travel plan included other places of Himachal as well, so we had only four days left in our hand to cover this place and thus was unable to explore all the chapters of this heavenly beauty. Nevertheless we had some of our best time here and explored the adventurous and picturesque landscapes on Earth.
Our trip started with Simla as the starting point of our travel chart. Oh! I am so sorry all the while I mentioned “Our” in my travel story but forgot to say that I covered this trip with a group of six people. As our Delhi-Kalka mail from the Old Delhi railway station started off towards Kalka, our heart throbbed with excitement to cover the places of Himachal. Kalka in Haryana serves as the northern terminus to move passengers from Kalka to Shimla. Frankly speaking among all the places of Himachal, I was especially eager to visit Spiti valley. As if my eyes were waiting for that piece of beauty to capture it in their lenses. Nevertheless, other than Spiti we covered some of the ravishing places of Himachal, each having its own flavor and beauty. Shimla, Manali and Kullu were there in our travel chart but I had already visited these places in my childhood so I was much more excited about Sangla, Kalpa which are parts of the magnificient Kinnaur district and Spiti which were unknown to me. Obviously I did have some of my best time in Shimla, Kullu and Manali but I felt that these places have changed a lot than what I have experienced during my childhood visit. As our world is changing fast, likewise these places also with a blow of commercialization have been urbanized much. And I felt, that commercialization will not leave these small places on the lap of the mountains also. The experience in Sangla, Chitkul and Kalpa was simply mesmerizing and mostly their beauty was tempting me much to reach my long craved destination.
As the clock struck 6:30 in the morning, we started our journey towards Spiti from Kalpa by car which is a distance of about 197km. We loaded our car with enough food and water and packed ourselves with heavy woolens to head off towards Spiti-the land of chilled breeze. Our driver told us that the roads towards Spiti are very undulating and sometimes it might appear to you as a narrow escape. Hearing this I felt much more adventurous and was eagerly looking outside the windowpanes to experience those rocky paths. As we travelled those roads I felt that visiting Spiti is not only thrilling but covering these roads are also much more exciting. Our car was taking narrow turns through the laps of the mountains surrounded by scenic landscapes and undulated terrains. Sometimes at the top of those alps amidst the clouds we could see the snow clad top where Spiti valley was waiting for us. Every time we were getting a glimpse of the snow-topped mountains, we were reminded that Spiti is coming closer to us. Our car was going down that rock cut arches which were naturally formed to portray an umbrella like structure and I didn’t miss a single chance to capture those unique formations. Mountains have some divine rules as well which mostly are followed by the drivers there. Whenever you pass by some small temple in the road you need to stop your car there to have some prasad,tika and some holy blessings so that the undulating roads doesn’t cause much trouble to you. While passing by those rocky terrains I noticed that every place we were crossing holds some new and different chapters of beauty with the changing texture of the mountains. As we were moving towards Spiti, the high rise mountains were becoming more dry and rocky. The breeze where becoming so chilled that we were bound to close all the windows of the car. The chilled breeze where making a ghostly sound surrounded by the mysterious beauty. This part of the earth did uphold to us a different story with no greenery and less plantation. The barren mountains with white snow strips, the valleys with apple tress blossoming with pink flowers under the pastel blue sky with splash of white clouds where creating a magical scenario. All these portrayed Spiti district of Himachal as a post-card perfect place. Lahaul and Spiti district popularly known as Spiti valley is a chilled desert of Himachal Pradesh cradling between India and Tibet located high in the Himalayas. As we planned to stay in Kaza, the capital of Spiti, we crossed pass by Nako and Tabo. We entered Nako, the starting point of Spiti district and could instantly feel the essence of the valley. There we found a small dhaba located at the edge of a mountain and our driver suggested us to have our meal there as after this we might not get any food joint till we reach Kaza. It’s a small dhaba run by a lady who greeted us with warmth and made us feel at home. She runs the dhaba by herself and sells some of his homemade apple juices in empty local beer bottles. After ordering our meal we thought to explore the place and stepped out of the dhaba. We discovered a staircase which leads to the bare roof of the dhaba and we climbed up there to explore it. It was a great feeling there! We could see the whole landscape of Spiti from the bare roof and the spine chilling breeze gushing past our face was creating a different feel. We all were shivering in our woolens but still were enjoying every bit of it. We found something very interesting at the roof. There were some slices of apples kept on a paper for drying under the sunlight. We quickly picked some dry slices and it tasted so nice. These slices of apples were in the process of making apple juices from them which the lady sells at her dhaba. After contenting our appetite we drank some apple juice and we liked it so much that we bought some few more bottles to enjoy it during our stay in Kaza. Bidding a sweet goodbye to the lady we started our journey towards Kaza. After leaving Nako, we entered Tabo and we could see the glimpse of Buddhist culture everywhere. The Tibetan flags waving with the chilled breeze and the Tibetan scribbling on the rocks where relaying the huge influence of the Tibetan culture on Spiti because of its proximity towards Tibet. With zero pollution, utmost peaceful surrounding, few houses, less population and innocence of the people there, Spiti is really an untouched beauty far away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It felt that as if we have reached some other part of the universe which is just out of the world. Everything was so pure and fresh there that you can just smell and swallow the breeze as well.
Finally we reached Kaza and our car halted in front of a petrol pump which is the last petrol pump of India from the north-eastern side just a few kilometers away from Tibet. There are less numbers of hotels in Kaza as this part of India has not come in the grasp of commercialization and I really thanked God for that. Heavens are not to be commercialized. The best part of our travel was the snowfall. As we were searching for the hotels, the snowfall started and we were thrilled. The snowflakes all over us just acted as a catalyst to enhance the excitement of our trip and we felt an inner accomplishment. While in the mean time we booked the Dyzor hotel. There is power cut problem in Kaza but some of the hotels have their own back up. According to me Dyzor is the best hotel in Kaza though it was not having its own back up. But the creative handmade decorations of the hotel just amazed me. We were not there to enjoy electricity. We were there to enjoy the virgin beauty of Spiti and these creative decorations just added some spice to enhance its taste more. Karan, the owner of the hotel is a superb guy with passion for adventure and a wanderer as well. He has vast and in-depth knowledge about various places round the world and Spiti of course. Amidst all of this, the snowfall was still continuing and we could see the entire world outside the hotel covered with snow, as if someone has painted it with white postal colour. We couldn’t control our urge to enjoy the snowfall and after completing with all the check-in formalities of the hotel we came outside underneath the sky sprinkling snowflakes on us. It was a magical feel. As if my childhood fairytales of magical places were coming live in front me. I felt so emotional that as if tears of happiness would just roll down my cheeks. We strolled across the streets singing our favourite songs and enjoying the snowfall and took some snap shots as well. One thing is must to mention here that those who are fond of landscape photography, Spiti is an ideal place for them. And as I like to capture the beauty of landscape with my camera I took some best snapshots. The photos of Spiti do not require any special effects of editing. The natural colour of the place makes the photos best at its own. Anyways after getting drenched with snowflakes we sat in front of a heater which Karan arranged for us and enjoyed the hot pakodas with coffee. Forgot to mention an important member of the hotel and my cutest friend Hachi, Karan’s pet dog. A white furry dog with a friendly behavior and a sweet gesture. The interesting part was that he used to eat pakodas as well! I miss Hachi so much now! Anyways, the next day we started our sightseeing trip in Kaza with a tour map made by Karan. He guided us to explore the undiscovered places of Spiti which are not much known to the tourists. And our wanderlust provoked us to have some more adventure while exploring those undiscovered places. The little trouble we faced was to convince our driver. As those places of Kaza were the interior part of Spiti and are not much known to the people. So initially our driver was creating a little fuss. But if you have a strong desire of travelling then the world can’t stop you from exploring. In Kaza, there is lack of oxygen in the atmosphere because of less number of trees and thus I kept an inhaler with me in case of any emergency. But the thrill was so much that we didn’t require that. But we kept in our mouth a little piece of raw ginger which helps to keep your body warm which was much required in such spine chilling breeze of Spiti. Yesterday’s snowfall has made the weather much colder but we enjoyed it. Firstly we went to explore the wild division of Spiti which was famous of its snow leopards and blue sheep. Our driver got a little bit confused while finding the wild life division and took a wrong turn which leads us almost to the top of a mountain, all its paths covered with snow. But we didn’t miss the chance of taking some beautiful snapshots from the top of the mountain and also found some pugmarks of leopard on the snow. We had some snow time by hitting each other with snow balls and then left the place. At last we found the wild division and the point as guided by Karan from where the blue sheep can be seen. Blue sheep were some rare species to us which are used for farming there and we were eager to catch those with our binoculars. This interior part of Kaza was completely serene and was packed with a different beauty which can’t be described by words and can only be experienced. At last we could capture some blue sheep with our binocular and with our accomplished mission while returning from the place we saw a fox as well. From there we visited the famous Kee monastery of Spiti. The touch of Buddhism are there everywhere in Spiti, starting from their culture, language and lifestyle. The Buddhist monks in Kee described the history of the religion to us and we explored each of its room. The monastery is situated at the top of a mountain and we can even see the roads leading to Tibet from there. We saw some liitle Buddhist disciples who are also a student there playing cricket and we joined them in their game. After having some play time we headed off towards a place at a much higher altitude than Kaza where we can hunt for some stoned fossils as guided by Karan. But the tragic part was that we couldn’t reach there as the road towards it got blocked because of shooting stones. With some incomplete wish we came back to our hotel and planned that there are more places in Spiti which needs to be explored the next time we come here. Thus we planned to come here between August to September as that is the fall season and the best time to cover Spiti. After returning to hotel we explored in and around the place by walking and in the evening enjoyed our snacks and coffee with some music. After having some delicious warm dinner we hit our beds to relax our body after the day’s activities. The next day we got prepared to leave Kaza with a heavy heart and promised ourselves to come here once more. This place is full of so many unexplored beautiful places that few days are not enough to cover those all.
I am waiting to visit spiti once more and am eagerly waiting to write another piece of my travel story and will name it Spiti story-Part 2. So, wait for Part-2 which is soon to come!
Wrriten by Ms. Jayatri majumdar