Kinnaur and Spiti, a journey that changed my life! 

18th May 2018
Photo of Kinnaur and Spiti, a journey that changed my life! by Soham Chakraborty
Day 1

On the First day of the trip, we started early from Delhi, as we had a long way to go to Shimla. We were a group of 6 students, and we booked a car from Delhi for the entire trip. It might have been cheaper to use public transport, but if you are a big group, you can share the costs of a car, and it is really convenient. On the way, you must stop at the famous Sukhdev Dhaba enroute Chandigarh, for some delcious paranthas and lassi! We took a couple of more tea breaks, and also stopped in Barog, to visit the family members of one of our friends travelling with us. Considering all of this, we could reach Shimla only by 9 pm at night. We stayed at the Shimla Kali Bari, where you can get to stay at Rs. 150 per person, although it's not very clean. However the early morning views of Shimla from the temple are a bonus!

Day 2

I've always loved Shimla since when I was a kid, but we did not spend much time in Shimla as we knew our destination was far! Today we had to travel around 250 kms to Chitkul, and started at around 7 am. Now people usually stay in places like Narkanda, Rampur, Rakcham or Sangla enroute Chitkul to divide the distance travelled. However we had less time and hence we all had to do some hectic travelling everyday. But once you are at the end of this travelouge, you'll know for yourself if it was worth it! We stopped at Rampur for some lunch, and took a few tea breaks before reaching the army check post of Chitkul at about 6 pm. Once you take a right turn from Karcham, towards Chitkul, the sceneries start changing rapidly. I would describe Chitkul as a small piece of Paradise on Earth! It is at an altitude of 11,500 ft. and it got to sub zero temperatures at night. We stayed in a homestay in the village, that had cost us Rs. 400 per person and had an amazing dinner at Zostel. At night it was time to start astrophotography, and the milky way from Chitkul was mind-boggling!

Day 3

On Day 3, we had to bid farewell to Chitkul and we were all motivated and encouraged for the rest of the trip! Today our plan was to reach Kalpa and spend some time there before heading out to Nako. We could not spend a night at Kalpa again due to the small time frame. We headed back to Karcham and travelled for 60 kms before we reached Kalpa. We had our lunch at Reckong Peo, just before Kalpa which is the district headquarter of Kinnaur. We visited the Kalpa Monastery and spent some time drooling over the majesty of snow clad mountain peaks and masala chai!

Kalpa is a treat in itself, and I definitely suggest a night stay here. We left Kalpa at around 2 pm as we had to travel for another 90 kms. Now here was some insane adventure! There was an earthquake on the way and throughout the secluded road, there were a hell lot of shooting stones, one of which also made a crack in our vehicle's windsheild. We were extremely anxious and stayed glued to our seats, fingers crossed. After travelling amidst extreme tension for a few hours, we reached Nako at about 6 pm. Nako is one of the last villages in Kinnaur and is located at an elevation of 12,000 ft. We stayed in a hotel just by the serene Nako Lake. It was pretty cold outside and sadly, we did not have the energy left to go out and shoot the night sky!

Day 4

The next morning we had a quick hike to the Nako Monastery which is a treat to the eyes. Today our destination was Mud Village in Pin Valley National Park, at a distance of nearly 130 kms from Nako. Well, a lot of people usually skip Mud in their Spiti itinerary but believe me, DO NOT do this! Mud is one of the most beautiful places in India and you definitely need to be here!

As they say, the journey is always more beautiful than the destination. There was a lot on the way too! The first stop we took was Gue Monastery which is almost at the border of China and preserves the mummy of Shangha Tenzin, a monk from 996 CE. Next up, we stopped at Tabo. Tabo is a relatively larger village in the Spiti district. The Tabo Monastery is mesmerizing and we were so enchanted by interacting with the locals and witnessed an inter-village cricket match in Tabo.

From Tabo, we went on to Dhankar. Dhankar has a fort and a monastery. Right before you enter the village the view from the road will give you chills (pun intended)! From the monastery you can trek for a couple of kms to the Dhankar Lake which we had to avoid as it started getting dark and we wanted to reach Mud.

We travelled the last bit of our journey today and reached Pin Valley National Park. We stayed at a homestay in Mud Village. Mud has no phone connectivity and gets pretty cold at night, being at 12,500 ft. We had some maggi and thukpa, obviously accompanied by chai and stayed out of our homestay for some astrophotography. Here is a snap taken by my friend Kushpreet who was with me in the trip.

Day 5

It was Day 5 of our dream trip and we walked down to the banks of the Pin river from Mud. The village looked outerworldly in the morning and we felt extraordinarily happy and excited for the rest of the trip!

The plan for today was convoluted, as we wished to visit the villages of Langza, Hikkim and Komic before heading on to Kaza for the night. However, just as we left Mud, we became aware of the low fuel quantity and hence we went to Kaza first to fill the fuel tank. Remember, after Reckong Peo, the first place where you can get fuel is Kaza. From Kaza we first headed towards Langza, aka 'fossil village'. The local children approach you trying to sell some fossils that they get in the local mountains. We had a cool time playing and enjoying with the children.

From Langza, we went on to Hikkim, the village that boasts of the highest post office in the world. Here as well, we had a gala time with the local children and we posted postcards to our homes from the highest post office in the world! Next up, we headed towards Komic which is the highest motorable village in the world, a record that was previously held by Kibber which we were to visit the following day. In Komic we felt like we were on the top of the world at 14,000 ft. Here are some photographs of the beautiful children of Spiti!

From Komic, we finally headed back to Kaza. Kaza is the district headquarter and the biggest town in Spiti. There are some amazing cafes in Kaza, and the overall aura of the place is fabulous! We could not find a place in Zostel, and hence we stayed at some other hotel in Kaza Khas (the main town). We also got some souvenoirs from Kaza. On the way to Kaza, I was able to capture one of my best photographs from the trip!

Day 6

It was Day 6 of our trip, and honestly we had initially thought about staying in Kaza itself for the day. However since Kaza to Manali is a long long way, we changed our plan and decided to stay in Langza instead, which is 60 kms ahead of Kaza. We had some delicious breakfast in one of the cool cafes of Kaza and started for the day a bit late at about 11 am as we had relatively lesser distance to cover today. The first stop was one of the highlights of the entire trip, one of the most prominent places in Spiti, the Key Monastery. Believe me, all the hype and hustle about this place is absolutely worth it! Key Monastery is surreal and I have no other words to describe it. It is located at an elavation of 13, 700 ft, and is a home to more than 400 monks. We spoke to some monks and they were pretty welcoming and made us feel at home!

Once we reluctantly bid farewell to the Key Monastery, we headed to Kibber, the second highest village in the world. We stopped there for some snacks and then crossed the famous Chicham Bridge. The road today had in store some sceneries that are unimaginable, to say the least. With every turn that the car takes, you visualize a new world! The desert landscapes of Spiti, the natural sandstone structures, the winding roads, the blue sky, and the song Aaftaab by The Local Train: it all added up to a scintillating experience!

By the time we reached Losar, it was about 5 pm. The sun was about to set, and it had in store some mesmerizing and colourful sceneries! We got a homestay for about Rs. 400 per person and the owner, Mr. Tenzing was telling us stories about the village and the hardships of life there. At night we had a soothing campfire, and relaxed a bit as we were almost frozen at night when temperatures went down to -10 degrees.

Day 7

The next morning, it was time for adieus! We had to bid farewell to Spiti, but not before crossing the gigantic Kunzum La pass at 15,100 ft. and the Rohtang La pass at 13,300 ft. The 19 km road from Losar to Kunzum La is treacherous, to say the least. However morning shows the day, and this was just the begining of the adventure that was yet to come. We started from Losar at 6 am as our destination was Manali, 150 kms being the total distance. It took us a couple of hours just to reach Kunzum Pass, 19 kms ahead!

From Kunzum Pass we started at about 9 am, and hoestly we were a bit worried as we had only heard stories about Chhota Dhara and Bada Dhara! Another 13 kms from Kunzum through snowy roads and insanely cold temperatures, we reached Batal at about 11 am and had amazing paranthas in the famous Chacha-Chachi Dhaba. The next 30 kms of the journey from Batal to Chhatru were extremely tiring. There is no 'road' as such and we just drove through a river bed for miles! Look out on both sides, the sceneries are insanely beautiful but the road is definitely going to tire you out.

We crossed the Chhota Dhara after getting down from the car and helping out our driver in crossing the most difficult point of the entire trip. We reached Chhatru finally at about 2 pm. We had some lunch at the couple of food joints that are set up in Chhatru. The next 19 kms were again through moderately bad roads to Gramphu, the point where the Kaza-Manali road meets the Leh-Manali Highway.

From Chhatru, we ravelled for another 15 kms to travel the Rohtang Pass. However it took us a long time and once you reach Rohtang, you will feel that you are back to crowded daily accustomed city lives. Once a beautiful and serene place, Rohtang has now turned into a commercial hangout hub for tourists, with high levels of pollution and heavy traffic being a routine. We started from Rohtang at 5 pm for Manali, finally getting some nice roads. Manali greeted us with a 7 km long traffic jam and we could reach our hotel only at 9 pm. We kept our luggage and freshened up, all exhasperated and exhausted. We still managed to go to the mall road, grab some dinner and drinks and get back to doze off after what had been one heck of a day!

Day 8

It was hard to believe, but our dream trip was over and it was time to go back home. We left Manali for Delhi at about 9 am as we had to cover another 550 kms today. On the way we bought some delicious mountain fruits from Manali.

The Spiti Valley trip cost us about Rs. 11,000 per person including travel, accomodation and food. We did not go with any travel agency and just hired a car from Delhi to Delhi. There were six of us and you can cut costs further if you can get a couple of more people. Homestays and food are available in every place in Spiti, and pre booking is absolutely not necessary. Please be careful about clothes as it does get pretty cold and get excess fuel if you are driving to Spiti as petrol pumps are rare. I have been to the Himalayas some 15 times now, but the Spiti Valley trip was different. It was not only a few days away from the hustle bustle at secluded high altitude villages in one of the most beautiful regions of the world, but trips like this shape up your personality and the way you look at things! The amount of satisfaction is unprecedented and the only thing you feel once you come back is a longing to be back sometime soon! That's exactly how I feel and I end my Spiti travelogue with a Cheers, and a promise to be back to Spiti as soon as possible!

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