Travel story contributor: Gayatri S
It is true that there are places on earth to which one travels to only to come back with a backpack of memories, lingering taste of sumptuous local cuisine and a camera full of photographs . Well, the exact same thing happened to me when I went for a six-day trek to Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh. Trust me when I say that through this blog, I time-traveled. I do hope that you’re able to see Spiti through my eyes and may be even add it to your travel list and visit it some day!
For now, this is my story:
Packing for a 6-day trekking trip to Spiti Valley was probably one of the best decisions I made in my life. Starting before sunrise from Manali, the trip to Spiti goes through the ruggedness of the mountains with no mobile connectivity towards Kaza. In 12 hours of time, one arrives at Kaza and acclimatization is a gradual process throughout the entire trip. The weather is calm with light breeze. After Kaza comes Tabo, which is of lower altitude than Kaza, slightly warmer. At Tabo, tea shacks serve such yummy tea made of fresh tea leaves that loiters in the entire atmosphere. Sipping the warm cuppa and biting into the freshly baked bun in the cosy environment, I am even more excited to make it further!
As the sun sets and since it was getting dark, it was time to wind the trek for the day. Going into a homestay at Demul village, I never imagined that I was going to experience a slice of the pahadi village life first hand! The green pulse and roti with salad that was served for dinner was relished in a jiffy.
The sounds and smells of the valley is unique and none of it should be missed in the pursuit of clicking images. The sunrise was magnanimous. A warm cup of yak milk in the morning got me back into my energies after a lovely sleep. From Demul to the next village Komik, the route is tricky. Many trekkers take the yak ride or trot over a horse. For the next 14 kilometres, we are given a fair idea of how puny we are, in front of the power of mother nature. Every mountain and each hillock was special, as the dawning sun broke its rays lavishly on the slopes. The village folks can be spotted grazing sheeps and yaks in groups every now and then.
Komic Village | Photograph Credit: Team BHP.com
Our group of trekkers arrived at Komik by afternoon. Amidst the small village that overlooked the mountains in Komik, we see a batch of thatched huts and a lot of trekkers going in and out from. As utopic as it sounds, those were refreshment counters providing free refreshments by the locals for the trekkers who come by. Such an interesting endeavour! I grab some chulha roti and beans cooked in spicy gravy alongside a pack of orange juice. Unfortunately, I learn that only selected guides and homestay owners can avail the service of these free refreshments for their clients; everything was commercialized just like any other tourist destination.
The rest of the evening was free for us trekkers; as many of us dump our luggage at our arranged homestays, clicked photos, went into the homestay kitchens to learn some pahadi cuisine, played football with the local kids and no matter how much we tried to take a nap, we just couldn’t. Only because none of us were tired after all that trek! As our guide had mentioned, acclimatisation is gradual and can only happen if you take time to travel through! The night though, brought in cold breeze, warm dinners and amazing celebrations! What an eventful day!
On the third day, during the journey, Dhankar lake trek came up as an option available to be pursued. From Dhankar village near Komik, this trek is around 3 km to the lake and at an altitude of 13,570 feet above sea level. A splash of water from the cold river sends instant freshness into one’s nerves, loading the energy back into get going, again! The river is calm and serene and the air so pure, that it makes me believe that mother nature indeed has magic in her hands. Dhankar trek was a cake walk as compared to the intensity of the treks from the previous days and was over in a few hours.
Dhankar Lake | Photograph Credit: One last year of freedom
During the walk back to the homestay village from Dhankar lake, we awed at small burrows, creepers with exquisite flowers and the little lives that occupied the surroundings. Robin Birds chirped, large mountain squirrels scuttled across and local women cycle across with piles of twigs and branches as firewood for their homes. Twilight was yet to come and there are small teashops on the road that lead to the village, which serve herbed butter buns and tea brewed from yak milk. A sip and bite is all you need for that relaxation.
Nights take us into another homestay by a local, Mr. Khalon Thapa, a middle aged happy-go-lucky- man who sparked curious conversations around the bonfire and barbecue party he’d arranged.
Albeit there are yak rides available, as I hear, the options to cycle ride from Langza to Kaza are plenty. The road is a downhill ride, however, it’s well built and hence, it takes much lesser time than one could think. For a local flavour of travel, the yak and horse are always available at one’s disposal.
As we move on the next morning, not so far away from Komik, I come across a peculiar sight. A beautiful building, perched on the slope of a mountain grabs my attention, as the sunrays fall on it strategically. My guide tells me that it is the Kye or Key Gompa monastery, the famous centuries old Buddhist temple that marks one’s entry into Spiti valley.
Key Gompa | Photograph Credit: Trip Tease
The valley is huge, with the Spiti river flowing behind the monastery. The monastery thereby demands magnanimity and grandeur. The monastery has amazing paintings and stucco work, intricate murals, a variety of thangkas, amazing wind instruments very unique to the culture and ancient Buddhist manuscripts. Because this monastery was under constant attack from the Mongols as history says, an unlikely array of ancient weapons are also on display. Inside the monastery complex, a volleyball court sees the young crimson clad monks having their share of fun. In the prayer halls, older monks close their eyes in calm, mediate, chant or recite the holy book.
A variety of wind instruments unanimously move with the breeze, spilling beautiful tones, making the corridors and walls whisper a million stories, every evening.
From Manali, There are regular bus services to this valley of Spiti, at a distance of roughly 210 kilometres. After prayers are over, the smaller monks; the ones with the maximum energy dart out into the grounds, to play football. As the twilight arrives, settlements of campers in the valley light up their bonfires. Stars peak in, just to sneak a picturesque moment.
A truly enthralling experience of travel for any nomad is the one that is encountered in the Himalayas at every nook of it. The ruggedness of the terrain, the snow covered fir tree tops, fresh thinning air as the trek rises, the wild berries and flowers on creepers, dusty roads that have sharp pin turns, unpolluted rivers, the lip-smacking Spitian valley cuisine, the aromatic apple orchards, ever smiling monks at every turn, vast saffron farms, the lazy yaks, the welcoming Spiti folk who’d win you over with their hospitality, warm bonfires and tents while sipping a hot cup of valley tea, topped by a star studded sky, lending a thousand stories from the valley.
Life is good here, every day.
Faces of Spiti Valley | Photo Credit: Ami
If you too would like to explore Spiti, do have a look at this link!