Incredible Spiti, A world beyond!

Photo of Incredible Spiti, A world beyond! by wanderingbudha

'Spiti', the word was enough, and the world was not! A dream nurtured for all the reasons undefined, that was Spiti for me! Having traversed across Ladakh region, I believed Spiti has nothing more to offer, but still something was always pulling me towards Spiti. Years passed, and places covered, and I always put my Spiti itinerary on the back burner. However, I always wished to take this shelved plan out in any autumn, sooner or later. For autumn Spiti is beautiful, at least I believed so!

On a golden morning of October, the traveller in me decided to make the most impromptu journey ever, travelling to Spiti the next day, to the land of myths and magic, among the wilderness of mountains and valleys unfathomable, and stars, a million of them talking to us from times indecipherable. Beyond the rat race of mundane city lives, beyond the sphere of aspirations and ambitions, beyond the beauty of a spontaneous decision and the difficulties of an unplanned itinerary , beyond the uncharted roads to the roof of the world, beyond the world of whimsical realities, breathed Spiti, the world beyond...

Day 1

Shimla, undoubtedly the most popular hill station of India

Photo of Shimla, Himachal Pradesh by wanderingbudha

An early morning bus starts at 4.30 am from the Shimla ISBT to Reckong Peo. It is safer to book tickets online from to ensure a seat for your nearly 10 hour long journey. The bus journeys through some of the beautiful locales of Himachal Pradesh including Kufri and Narkanda with roadsides spread with apple orchards readying for harvest. Later on, after a short break at Rampur, the road starts towards the beautiful Kinnaur region with beautiful hill cut roads and snow capped peaks decorating the horizon.

Alighted at Reckong Peo, I inquired about the means to travel to Kaza, the capital of Spiti and I was informed that two buses ply from Peo in the morning to Kaza. The timings are 5.30am and 9.00 am. The time was already 2.30pm, an I decided to move to Kalpa, the picturesque hamlet of Kinnaur region just 7 km away, with a plan to catch the 9.00 am bus the next day.

There are buses at specific times to Kalpa, but the day being a holiday I could find none. Hence I shared a cab with some fellow travelers to reach Kalpa. One afternoon is enough to explore this small village of mesmerizing wooden temples, the holy and mighty Kinner Kailash ranges and to savor the world's tastiest Kinnaur apples.

The Kinnaur apples

Photo of Incredible Spiti, A world beyond! by wanderingbudha
Day 2

I missed the 7.30 am bus from Kalpa to Peo, and had to walk two miles before I was offered a lift to catch the crucial bus to reach Spiti. Luckily, the bus was not crowded and I got a ticket, and a window seat, for window seat is a must because the journey ahead is the most beautiful one in India, if not in the world!

Travelling in an HRTC bus through the most treacherous of roads is an adventure of a lifetime!

Photo of Incredible Spiti, A world beyond! by wanderingbudha

The bus started climbing up and it would feel as if one is travelling towards the sky, leaving the earth behind. The most surreal sight I had ever had, that was the view from the window of the bus, literally lost in the magnetic beauty of the vast mountains and the azure sky, spreading endless in front of your eyes, and not the highest resolution can reproduce that magnificence ever!

As magnificent as it gets!

Photo of Incredible Spiti, A world beyond! by wanderingbudha

Often, you are on the edge of your life!

Photo of Incredible Spiti, A world beyond! by wanderingbudha

Soon the bus reached Nako for a quick lunch, and the autumn colours began to show up before us to add luster to the beauty of the landscape.

Soon, one could feel the lack of oxygen in your lungs and the altitude sickness strikes. But the board "Welcome to Spiti Valley" appeared in the deserted trans Himalayan highway and the spirits of any traveler is at an all time high. The lofty mountain peaks have already started casting its shadows in the valley, but the turquoise blue waters of the Spiti river, miles below, continues its journey, unyielding to the end of a tireless day. And I could breathe Spiti and feel it, the raw and wild beauty that enchants anyone like a magician! The sojourn is already justified, I felt!

The bus stopped at Tabo at 4.30pm , for sipping a hot cup of tea. Kaza is just 2 hour away and I could make it in time to search for an accommodation. The freezing cold already began biting me, and I was used to the breathlessness. However, the next big challenge was in the making, and finally the driver informed that the bus will go only the next day, as it faced an issue with the brakes. With just five other local passengers, I was standing there, in the middle of the deserted highway. Thanks to the other passengers who offered me a stay at their friend's place, but I had a very tight schedule and had to reach Kaza at any cost.

There are none other than the driver himself trying to fix the bus

Photo of Incredible Spiti, A world beyond! by wanderingbudha

Half an hour felt so long under the chilling cold blanket of Tabo. It was already dark and luckily I had the contacts of one of the fellow travelers from the bus who invited me to stay overnight at his friend's house in Tabo. No sooner had I decided to adapt to the situation and ring him than a car came speeding towards Kaza. I was offered a lift and reached Kaza by 9 pm.

Day 3

My all expectations went with the wind in the morning. The weather has dramatically changed and visibility was nil with thick fog covering the entire valley. To add fire to my already spoiled mood, the news reached that my return journey through Kunzum Pass towards Manali will be hampered since Kunzum Pass received a heavy snow fall the previous night.

The entire valley submerged in thick fog

Photo of Incredible Spiti, A world beyond! by wanderingbudha

I could also not rent a bike as I planned since I did not carry any gear for impending snowfall. The sense of clock ticking carried me to the taxi union office, where I could arrange a day tour of nearby locations with two other fellow travelers. So the plan was still on..

The Budha statue of Langza, with the fog engulfing the whole valley in front

Photo of Langza, Lahaul and Spiti by wanderingbudha

Langza is popular for the Budha statue overlooking the Spiti valley, but the inclement weather corroded the view. The place seemed wild and raw with only a few travelers. Langza is rich in fossils of marine life dating back to around 200 million years. Yes, you heard that right, that is the incredible story of Langza, which was submerged under the Tethys ocean until the birth of Himalayas after the collision of the Indian and Eurasian plates about 50 million years ago!

Situated at a height of more than 15000 feet, Komic shot into fame being the highest inhabited village in the world!

Tangyud monastery in the village of Komic

Photo of Incredible Spiti, A world beyond! by wanderingbudha

The place famous for its post office, the highest one in the world! It aready began snowing heavily, and hence we moved onto our next destination, the village of Kibber.

The highest post office in the world!

Photo of Incredible Spiti, A world beyond! by wanderingbudha

The village where snow leapords can be spotted in winter. Kibber has homestays and restaurants solely for the purpose of tourists, but Spiti valley was already going to hibernation that the village was not live at the time we visited.

The Chicham bridge

Photo of Chicham Bridge, Chicham Khas by wanderingbudha

A relatively new and the only man-made wonder travellers come to in the Spiti, is the Chicham bridge the highest one located in the world at a staggering altitude of

13500 feet. Take a stroll through the bridge to get amused by the very deep gorge below. This bridge connects the villages of Kibber and Chicham.

The bridge overlooks a very deep gorge below

Photo of Incredible Spiti, A world beyond! by wanderingbudha

The next destination was the Key monastery and though the poor visibility of the valley was a dampening my spirits, the first snow fall of the valley was more than enough to rejoice my arrival at the Key Monastery.

The Key Monastery in the first snowfall of Spiti this year

Photo of Incredible Spiti, A world beyond! by wanderingbudha

Bathed in fresh snow

Photo of Incredible Spiti, A world beyond! by wanderingbudha

The monastery offers a very basic accommodation, I came to know about, and so decided to bid good bye to the cab driver and my fellow travelers to stay there. The monastery has strict rules and will invite you to have dinner with the monks before the sun sets, at 6 in the evening. The sky was slowly clearing itself of the clouds and the fog, and a million stars began appearing. A hundreds of years old monastery perched on a giant Himalayan mountain, with the whole milkyway above you and you are overcome with the feeling that literally, "you are on the top of the world"!

All good things in the world are wild and free!

Photo of Incredible Spiti, A world beyond! by wanderingbudha
Day 4

It seemed the weather was finally giving up to my prayers, and the day opened itself with the blessings of the sun. A bright sunny day, and Spiti was in its full spectacular grandeur. No time to plan anything new, I hired a bike and rode towards Mud, the unexplored beauty in the Himalayas.

'Off the road' to Mud

Photo of Mud village, Mud by wanderingbudha

The road was not tarmac laden, quite an off road, with no tourists. But the weather was on my side, and I covered miles and began riding uphill when the weather changed all of a sudden. The sun hid behind the veil of snow, and it started snowing with a storm. I came to realize that the tourist season is long over, with not a single soul on my way if I needed help. Going back was not an option, and again the eight kilometers felt like eight hundred! The Mud approached, and it was all snow in Mud.

Mud village going into hibernation

Photo of Incredible Spiti, A world beyond! by wanderingbudha

In the cold desert of Spiti, Mud is actually a green oasis lying in the picturesque Pin valley. However, the winter has arrived before me in Mud, and Spiti again appeared before me in its raw and wild avatar. The snow fall was over, and the light was to be seen. To reach Kaza before the day end is necessary, because the road to Manali is still not open and to return to Shimla takes an extra day. Giving my thoughts a rest, I rode my bike, in the company of loneliness, lost in the mountains, wild and free..

The road not taken!

Photo of Incredible Spiti, A world beyond! by wanderingbudha
Day 5

My search for any vehicle that could ferry me to Shimla was fructuous when I got a seat in a tempo traveler for a sum of 2000 INR, that took me to Shimla, in a tedious 14 hour continuous journey that would have normally taken two days otherwise. On my way back, I was informed that the Manali route was opened in the evening, and so did my hope of returning to this magical land again!