Delhi to Spiti Valley
Traveling to new places and meeting different people is an exciting adventure every time! Some places always leave their mark on your soul. The journey to this magical land did the same to me. The beauty in the barren, rugged mighty Himalayas, has touched my soul in a way that will forever remain with me. Let me share with you the details of the amazing journey.(
(Delhi to Spiti Valley)
Seven people, from seven different places, got together for a sudden trip to Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh: a much-needed escape from the routine, rule-bound lives! Spiti valley is quite a less-explored treasure in the laps of the mighty Himalayas, by the river Spiti. It’s barren, rugged appearance is in huge contrast with the lovely, hospitable and warm people of this land.
The gang met in Delhi and kick-started our journey. Excited about the much-awaited trip, we all boarded a bus to Chandigarh from Delhi. Hurray! Our trip had begun!
DAY 1: Saturday, 23rd June (Delhi to Spiti Valley)
We reached Chandigarh in the very early hours and our real journey would begin from here. We had arranged an Innova and our driver, Vishal, turned out to be a very friendly person. Around 6:30 am we started from Chandigarh. We wouldn’t be covering many spots on the first day. We had planned to take the route via Shimla on our onward journey. Primarily, our plan for that day was to reach Kalpa by night.
We had our lunch at Narkhanda, a small town near Shimla. The crisp and refreshing chill of the mountains were already luring us! The small yet very old eatery in this small town, with a very cozy ambiance and piping hot (okay-ish) food! The sandwich there was great though!
After a really long journey with a few stops on the way, we finally reached Kalpa. Kalpa is a small town in the valley of the river Sutlej. By the time we reached, it had already become dark. Our hotel was at the peak of one of the hills. As we wound our way up a hill to our hotel, the first glimpse of the mighty snow-capped mountains greeted us. I have been to Kashmir and Sikkim earlier and had seen snow-capped mountains before, but this was special. I had never seen the snow-capped majestic mountains drenched in moonlight before! There they stood, grand and poised – dazzling in the moonlight against the dark night skies. There was something very soothing and welcoming in the crisp breeze and as I stared at them from the balcony of our hotel, they seemed to smile back at me, as if telling me, ‘This is just the beginning, just wait and watch, there’s so much more in store!’
DAY 2: Sunday, 24th June(Delhi to Spiti Valley)
After an unforgettable, fun night-stay at Kalpa, we started for Tabo the next morning. There were not many points to be covered, and our target was to reach Tabo by evening. Kalpa is a beautiful town. The treks to Kinnaur-Kailash usually start from here. The view of the beautiful snow-covered peaks and the fresh green pines greeted us with a good cup of coffee.
As we crawled our way up into the lap of the Himalayas, the greenery slowly gave way to rugged mountains and rocky roads. We would be slowly moving to the leeward sides of the Himalayas, i.e., the sides which receive no rainfall at all. That is what makes them barren. The best thing about mountains is the delicious yet very simple food. I personally love aloo parathas, and the local shops just provided us with succulent parathas and curd for breakfast, along with chai.
We visited the Nako monastery, Nako lake during the day. This was a small, vibrant and active part of the Nako village with many people, and local eateries around. We continued our journey and the last place that we visited was the Geyu monastery. The vibrant colors of the monastery stand out among the postcard-perfect backdrop of crystal clear skies and sunkissed mountains. It is a very small monastery and has been added to the tourist list because of an age-old mummy preserved there. Anyway, after clicking photographs and filling in our lungs with icy cold, fresh and pristine air we headed for our homestay.
The homestay was hosted by a very simple family who served us to the best of their capacity. The house was beautiful! I loved the wooden flooring, the huge windows, and the sloped roofs. And the warm smiles of our host and their adorable kids made the atmosphere even cozier.
DAY 3: Monday, 25th June (Delhi to Spiti Valley)
It was a beautiful view we woke up to. With the cutie-pie running around in the house playing with all of us, while his parents made us breakfast, the day began with a very cheery note! Really, children are so pure; their innocence touches our souls, no matter how culturally different we are or what language we speak: love just connects! Looking forward to a very busy day, we started for the Tabo Monastery.
Well, this day will be etched in my memory for a really long time. The Tabo monastery is the oldest monastery, over a thousand years old. I had never visited a monastery before, and was honestly not really looking forward to visiting so many monasteries! (there were too many listed on our itinerary, and Geyu monastery had given a different kind of impression :P) But, wait!
As we walked inside the 1000-year-old monastery, it was as if we had just entered a totally different era, through a wormhole! The reverberating silence and the tranquility in the surroundings lured us inside the prayer chambers. The calm, cut out the chaos, the noise, the mess of the busy world that we are so used to. The charm and the serenity of this ancient place tugged my heart-strings and touched the depths of my soul. There was something about that meditation hall amongst the strange-looking deities which adorned on the old walls of the monastery. I am sure that for each person visiting the place, the experience would be something different, and something personal. I really did not want to leave that place, but there were so many more places to go.
Winding around the rocky mountains, we made our way to the village of Dhankar. The mesmerizing view of the azure blue skies, the rugged mountains, the valley down below with patches of greenery here and there near the river bed, was an enchanting package all together. The clouds cast their shadows on the mountains, and that added to the shades to the landscape.
Our next stop was the monastery at Dhankar. This monastery was also had that age-old welcoming charm and was on top of a mountain with a breathtaking view of the valley. The tranquility in the air, the warm smiles of the monks and the simplicity in the air around was magical. We climbed to one of the highest points near the monastery and was welcomed by a fairytale panorama. After having hot Maggie and coffee for lunch, we continued our journey.
We were climbing to the higher and higher motorable roads, at altitudes of over 3800 meters. We fuelled-up in the world’s largest petrol pump and made our way to the village of Komic, the highest village connected by a motorable road. There were small shops and another monastery there as well, but the highlight was the gorgeous view of the picturesque valleys from such heights. We also stopped at the world’s highest post office, at Hikkim. The people in the post office were busy buying postcards and sending the postcards to their friends and family from the highest post office. We also sent postcards from there and brought back a few as souvenirs. We were 14000 feet above sea level! The simplicity of the people living in this place was so pleasing and automatically made me very genuinely happy. We had stopped at the Buddha statue at Langza, also called the ‘fossil village’. There was nothing special there, other than a huge golden statue of the Buddha, and a tiny coffee shop which served coffee in dragon-printed coffee mugs! But it was evident why the Spiti is a cold desert, vast stretches of sheer emptiness lay in front of us. It would indeed be a sight to behold when the entire place is covered with snow.
After a hectic day, we reached Kaza, where we’d be staying for the night. It is a beautiful little town with very cozy cafes and small eateries. We had a delicious dinner in one such cafe. The owners of the cafe had a cute and huge St.Bernard dog. It was a very good dinner, after all the maggie, coffee and alu-parathas we were having throughout.
After dinner, we walked backed to our hotel. The crisp chilly refreshing mountain breeze was luring me out for a walk, and thankfully another friend joined me. After a nice walk on the dark mountainous roads were back for the night. We were served dinner once again in our hotel, which was very good too, and we finally retired for the night.
DAY 4: Tuesday, 26th June(Delhi to Spiti Valley)
We woke up to a beautiful morning in the laps of the Himalayas. Wow, I wish I could just stay in this pretty town for a few more days. I am sure I will go back there one day, and enjoy early morning walks, soaking in the morning sun and having a delicious breakfast in the pretty cafeteria. Anyway, we have to keep going when we have a plan. Sometimes it makes me wonder whether having a plan is actually good or bad!
Our driver Vishal greeted us with his toothy smile and told us that the most difficult roads lay ahead of us that day. We would be driving to Chandrataal, a pristine lake in the Himalayas. The roads were being developed and there would be water crossings on the way, when we probably would have to get down from the car and walk while the car crossed such crossings. That did not smother our enthusiasm in any way though! we were all very excited and began our journey.(Delhi to Spiti Valley)
The journey was spectacular! Each winding road revealed even more beautiful sceneries. The sun-and-cloud-play added colours to the fairytale land! The shades and hues of the mountains kept on changing as we climbed higher and higher towards Chandrataal.(Delhi to Spiti Valley)
Our first stop was the Key Monastery, which was also a very old and beautiful monastery. But personally, I loved the monastery at Tabo, which I have all intentions of going back to, if possible, another time. The young, radiant students draped in long robes and the kids playing in their robes is indeed a sight. The atmosphere in the monastery was very peaceful, and an old, musty scent of warmth and discipline wafted through the cool morning breeze. We did not spend a lot of time here as we had a long way to go that day.
The roads were beautiful. The structures on them were mostly formed by the wind, and it is amazing how pretty these structures had evolved to be. In some places, the roads narrowed down and in some places, the rocks formed a canopy over the roads. The work being done by the Border roads organization was indeed amazing. if not for them, driving to Chandratal would remain a dream only. Each and every frame was picture perfect and more beautiful as we approached Losar. Losar is the last inhabited village on the India side of the Indo-China border en-route to Kunzum-La.
We crossed the village and stopped at one last point before heading to Chandra Taal. This place is one of my favourites on the entire trip. There was an old temple there set in a breathtaking, picturesque landscape. It had started snowing mildly and the chill in the air was awesome. There was a curvy, rocky path, just like in books leading somewhere into the snow-capped mountains. We walked that road in the biting cold weather, with the frozen raindrop-like needles hitting our faces. I don’t think I’ll forget that little trek on the curvy uphill path for a long time. Somethings in life can only be associated with memories, because it’s not always that we can capture the magic of the moment with a camera! Sometimes, its best to breathe in the beauty of nature and appreciate the marvel of mother nature. As we sat down to rest for a while, I just realized how much high up on the mountains we have come! The snow-capped peaks seemed to be just a stone’s throw away, as if calling out to us! We came back to the ‘magnetic’ temple (there was a rock on which coins get stuck to, if you wish for something with all your heart, earnestly and hold the coin against the rock!) and continued the last lap of our journey to Chandrataal
We reached the Chandrataal camp when it was almost evening. The car took us to the lake almost, and we had to cross one water crossing on the way. The rivulets fall like a waterfall and there’s loose gravel along with ice cold water. This one wasn’t very broad, and we could easily cross it in no time.(Delhi to Spiti Valley)
It was a 15mins walk till the Moon lake or Chandra Taal. This was the last point of our journey. Surrounded by the Himalayas, like sentinels, this lake had crystal clear water and such an amazing charm about it.
The next lap of our journey was traveling back to Manali, via Rohtang pass. The roads were dangerous and there were many water-crossings on the way. Due to some medical emergencies, we had to travel during the night so as to reach the Manali sooner. Even though we were worried, this chapter of the journey added some more thrill to our trip. We drove on through the dark, cold night through rocky, rain-beaten, twisted roads. We had to get off the car and allow it to cross the waterways, while we waded across them, barefoot- in the freezing cold waters! Our driver very carefully reached the resting point for the night. It was raining heavily, and we stayed in tents. The pitter-patter raindrops on the tarpaulin tents and a lot of chitchat and ghost stories wrapped up the thrilling journey and all the adventure of the day.
DAY 5: Wednesday, 27th June
We reached Manali and stayed in a beautiful hotel in Solang Valley, yet another place I would definitely visit again. We lazed around the whole day, letting the lush greenery and the contrasting beauty of what we had just experienced, sink in. It was indeed an amazing journey, and each one of us had something special to take back with us. I could go on and on, describing every detail of the trip and all the rantings in my head! Maybe I should have split the post into multiple parts! Anyway, apart from giving us a bagful of memories and friendship which we will cherish forever, the mountains change you, in ways you cannot imagine. To know it, you have to experience it.
So, what are you waiting for!
The beautiful valley of Spiti and the mighty mountains are calling out to you! Pack your bags and get going!
Picture creits: Madhurima, Debottam, Ritamay, Arnab, Bela, Anindya, Chayan