I woke up from a long warm night of comfortable sleep only to go out of my dorm and feel the cool wind in my hair. The weather was amazing and I was still pinching myself to remind the traveller in me that I was in Spiti. I woke up so happy and refreshed and couldn’t wait to see what Spiti had in store for me. My dearest friend Rashi had told me about her friend Vishal who is from Kinnaur but based in Zostel Kaza who turned out to be a big part of my entire adventure in the mountains. I freshened up, grabbed a bite and set out with Vishal in his Dhanno (a beautiful 1998 Gypsy King) and asked him to take me anywhere as I just wanted to marvel at the beauty that was Spiti.
He took me to the village of Key and their masterpiece, the Key Monastery. It was a beautiful route, some 14 Kms away from Zostel. I was shown around Key Monastery and its beautiful sacred prayer rooms. The monastery is located at the top of a hill at an altitude of 13,668 ft and is just such a sight! A lot of travellers stay here for a night or two to experience the lifestyle of a monk. They are also invited to attend the meditation and the prayer sessions in the mornings. One can also cook along with the monks and have a jolly good time for as reasonable as 250 INR a night.
When Vishal and I were at the top of the monastery drinking tea, I suddenly felt snowflakes on my face. I look up and it’s snowing, just a little but snowing! It only snowed for a minute but it was such a happy moment. My first day out and it snows! What a welcome, Spiti! We then went back inside, donated a small amount of money for the little ceremony that was to be held in the evening for Buddhpurnima. When we got out of the monastery, we roamed around for a while and went to the backside of Key Monastery that has beautifully built tri-statues of Buddha in gold.
There we met this sweetheart of a man who was about 77 years old and wanted a picture with me! He also told us about how some 60 years back, they would trek from Rampur to Spiti when there were absolutely no roads. His name was Sirku because according to his mother, he wasn’t a dark skinned child but someone with a heart of gold aka Sirku. How sweet, no?! People in Spiti are so enthusiastic about telling others about their stories, adventures and the good times- it almost connects you with them immediately because they allow themselves to be so transparent to anyone and everyone that they meet! It’s true how a place reflects of its people.
While on our way from Key to Kibber, Vishal took me to a spectacular grand canyon-esque gorge between the villages of Chicham and the backside of Kibber. It was such a gravely dangerous spot but the thrill of being there was just on an another level! We sat there for a while, chitchatting and admiring the beautiful village of Chicham tucked away on a hill glistening with green fields. You can leave a comment if you’d like the coordinates to this spot and I will reply with the google maps’ location.
After we left from the gorge on our way to Kibber, Vishal showed me the metal bridge that was under construction which is going to by the highest bridge in Asia. It will cut down the distance of about 30 kilometers from Kyoto that falls on the main highway from Manali to Spiti. It was genuinely just very scary to look down from the bridge. In a few minutes from then, we reached Kibber. What a cute little village! It’s at an elevation of 14,200 ft and has about 80-100 houses, a high school, a post office, a community TV set and a civil dispensary. The trek to Parang La(18,300 ft)starts from just above Kibber. It is also one of the villages where Snow Leopards can be spotted in the winter. Kibber is also one of the highest inhabited villages in the world.
After looking around for a while and enjoying its beauty, we stopped at Rainbow Guest House and Cafe for lunch. The owner was a friend of Vishal’s so he sat down with us to talk to me about where I’m from and what I do and of course, about Spiti. He fed us some deliciously fresh Tibetan momos and noodles.
Once I was done with lunch, I rushed out to play with the kids that were running about in the field right next to a school. Seeing me with a camera, they all got so excited that they wanted to click me and not the other way round and started running behind me for the camera. Apprehensively, I handed over my camera to one of the girls who was very eager to click some pictures of me with the other kids and in an instant, everyone started posing and smiling like they’d done it all a thousand times for so many travellers! Tumbling, dancing and running in those green fields with these little ones was so refreshing.
Later I helped them all with headstands and they were so proud of themselves. Ah! These were the friendliest kids I’ve ever met on my travels. Leaving them behind, I was taken on a slight offroad above Kibber present where is the cremation site of a Lama(one of the holy heads in the Monastery). He breathed his last in 1983 and whilst being cremated, the smoke from the funeral found its way to the north towards a mountain and erupted into spring water! It’s called the Chashmepaani by the local villagers and is a holy spot which I was lucky to have visited.
Afterwards, we went offroading to a village called Gette which has only 5-6 houses to catch a glimpse of the bird eye’s view of the Key Monastery.
On our way to this particular vantage point, I got so lucky! We spotted around 13-15 Himalayan Ibex (blue sheep) and I was over the moon! I couldn’t believe Spiti had been so generous to me on my first day out. They aren’t the friendliest sheep and will not come close to you at all so we only watched them as they flocked past our vehicle to graze in the lush meadows of Gette. Sadly they ran away very quickly so I couldn’t get a clear picture neither from my phone or the camera.
We spent some time at the vantage point, feeling the wind in our faces and marvelling at the landscape.
Prayer flags fluttering all over the place from little houses to vantage points, people as warm hearted as nowhere else, a glacial river by it all, majestic mountains to marvel at and weather as wavering as its eerieness- this is Spiti. If it were a human, I’d probably call it extremely melodramatic. Landscapes change within seconds, rain turns into snowfall and a sunny day delivers the heaviest overcast in a few hours.. so dramatic Spiti, so dramatic! With these thoughts at the back of my head, ended day 2 but I knew it was only the beginning of an adventure of a lifetime..
To read about my Day 1 in Spiti incase you haven’t already, here you go: Day 1: En route to Spiti Valley
To be continued..