I, Srishti am going to be writing a daily account of my days in Spiti. Hope you follow along because I have decided to keep my laziness at bay for this incredible place. You will not be bored.
I have always wanted to venture out in this subzero region for the longest time and experience the fragility of its ecosystem. I was very apprehensive about spending a month in Spiti before I reached here for some reason unknown but I knew I had to do it. So I packed my bags and decided to leave my beautiful Old Manali after 4 nights of procrastination and headed out for Kaza.
I had decided that I will be using public transport in the beginning itself but after my research and talks at the Himachal Tourism Office, I found out that the route was officially not open to tourists- it was open only for the locals. The kind people at the office guided me through and recommended me to visit Hotel Kiran nearby on the Mall road in Manali to check the status. When I reached there, I could see tons of tempo travellers all around with Kaza/Spiti/Incredible Spiti stickers on them so I was a little convinced that it’s all going to be easy breezy. I headed to their reception and got in talks with this incredible driver (who became my caretaker) called Mr. Kunga. He mentioned that travelling from Manali to Kaza in a tempo traveller would cost me INR 1000 which I thought was so very reasonable as it was not a short journey. He then proceeded to add that we would leave around 6 am and reach at about 3 pm if the traffic conditions are normal.
Now, there are two ways to reach Spiti. One, you can leave via Shimla towards Sangla Valley and enter Spiti through Nako and Tabo. The second route is via Manali where one needs to cross Rohtang and head east for Batal.
I chose to go via Manali because I wanted to experience the lush green mountains of Kinnaur after a cold sandy Spiti. Both the routes are similar but the chances of landslides are more via Kinnaur Valley. It is the bikers who mostly prefer to ride via Sangla.
We started with 7 people in all in the tempo traveller towards Kaza at 6:30 am. and were stuck in the inevitable slowly moving traffic before the Rohtang La checkpost.
Right after one crosses Rohtang Pass, one must gear up for no roads, only mud & rocks and tons of water streams & falls.
The 14 hour long journey wasn’t the most comfortable but I wouldn’t have had it any other way- when lush valleys, rocky mountains, gushing rivers(the Chenab and Spiti rivers), snowcapped peaks and dropping temperatures are your constant companions, what else do you need!? There wasn’t a single sight during the journey that didn’t make my jaw drop..the landscapes would change within minutes and the sun would play peek-a-boo; it was all so incredible that it felt funny just wondering about why I was so anxious to go on this adventure in the first place.
We crossed Chhatru, Batal (our pit stop being the Chacha Chachi Dhaba) and then the mesmerising Kunzum Pass.
The locals always stop at the Kunzum Mata Temple before heading in either directions and always recommend tourists and travellers to do the same. That place has such an eerie yet positive vibe..I could stay there for longer if it weren’t so cold. When I finally reached Kaza after 5-6 more hours, I was at the top of the world. We had reached Kaza! I was in Kaza! I was in the heart of Spiti Valley!
My dear Mr. Kunga then dropped me at Zostel Kaza. I had made so many amendments to my bookings that I wasn’t sure if they’d have a dorm bed for me but they did and that is when and where I found these two idiots Shashi and Ameya – meet my first friends I made in Spiti!
We started conversing over how it was Ameya’s first solo trip and how he’d found Shashi in Manali and they hung together till Spiti. Sadly, they were leaving the next day so we spent a good amount of time chatting about all things crazy and beautiful!
They were so overwhelmed by the end of their time in Spiti that it felt bad to even let them leave! You’d be surprised when I tell you how Ameya basically saved my life. As I was only carrying two very thick sweaters for my entire trip , this sweetheart of a guy lent me his windcheater since he was going to leave the next day and didn’t need it anymore! When I woke up the next morning, they were gone but Shashi had left a postcard for me which was the sweetest gesture of all and I was so happy I met these two! I can’t thank my stars enough. Will be couriering Ameya’s jacket back to him in Surat as it was bought from his savings and means a lot to him. Also, according to him, since he couldn’t travel, he was letting his jacket travel for another month along with me haha!
To be continued…