Today we left for our visit to Key monastery, Chicham bridge and short halt to Kibber, to enquire any batches for trek to Mt Kanamo. We had good luck as a batch of 6 boys were departing for the trek, the very next day. And we could join them at much discounted rate. In morning it was near the road while entering to Key monastery, we met again to the crazy filmmaker students, confused where to head next. Although arguing and blaming each other for delays and stuffs, they were surely having blast of an unplanned trip. We came back to Kaza, bid farewell to our bike, loaded our backpack and headed towards the bus stand to hop on the last local bus to Kibber in evening.However luck would have it, while loitering around the bus-stand for tea we came across the same crazy students, only to get offered for a special tea the boy was preparing at a nearby shop. Amused we went and were stunned to find the boy was making the tea in an elaborate manner. The owner was running across to fetch whatever ingredients he demanded for. But the wait was worthwhile. He made a lip-smacking tea with tinge of ginger and cinnamon. And the boy was proudly lecturing the owner about what the real tea tastes. Funny are the incidents when reminisce. The bus reached Kibber just before it went dark and there in the hostel we met our guide Kezang and 6 other fellow trekkers.
An account on Tigerwalah's Snow Leopard Expedition:After much research/ following up/ anticipation/ wait and preparation i finally landed at Spiti Valley in search of Grey Ghosts. It was our first ever snow leopard expedition so both excitement and expectations were pretty high. One the very first day of our arrival at Spiti we were blessed with sighting of a male leopard on kill- what a start i must say. Did spend almost entire day watching this old male as he guarded his kill on a mountain slope. From a photo perspective it was not such a great photo opp but who cares, a first is always special.I had the opportunity to watch this old male with distinct facial markings on multiple occasions over the next 3 weeks. As per locals this male aged 10+ years approximately, was sighted very frequently around Kibber ( our base) and was father of most of the cubs in the area. Words may fail to describe him but he probably had seen it all- change of weather cycles over years, fought and defeated intruding males, explored and expanded his territory year after year. Signs of ageing were visible on him and most trackers anticipated that this probably was his last season and he might not be sighted next season. Little did we know that this prediction will come so soon, few days after my return from Kibber he fell of from cliff in the gorge while hunting an ibex, resulting in death of both ibex and this old male...End of an era in the valley. I will definitely miss his presence next season when i return.Other highlight of the trip was sighting of mating pair of leopards, having missed them previous evening we planned to return to the same area the try our luck. Early morning snow fall was not encouraging however we decided to go anyway instead of waiting in our rooms. Reached the location after a long drive through heavy snowfall and steep hike from our drop point, our hearts were filled with joy when our tracker after scanning the gorge through his binocular pointed towards a cave- said Shen ( snow leopard in local language). Still getting used to of tracking the ghost with perfect camouflage in similar backdrop i took a while to figure out two grey dots barely visible at the opening of cave across the valley. It was still snowing and as per our guide the chances of them coming out were very bleak, something none of us wanted to hear at this point of time after having crossed so many hurdles. Almost after 1 hour of no activity they suddenly came out of the cave, first the female and then the male and they started mating in open. Like all cats the intercourse was brief however the female was slightly more aggressive towards male post mating ( an interesting observation for me). This behaviour continued for next 5-6 hours while we watched them sipping chai and eating from a safe distance ensuring the cats were not disturbed. Someone up there was definitely watching out for us as this interaction turned out to one of the best behavioural observations of trip. First a male on kill, now a mating pair our guests were getting greedy for more....the illusive mother and cubs what else?Luck was definitely on our side next morning as well when Tenjing our lead tracker radioed back -- 'cubs being sighted at a gorge 3 km from our camp'. We were on the move in no time and reached the spot after 45 minutes of hike through knee deep soft snow. Cubs were sitting in the open, mother was probably away resting/ hunting somewhere. Initially there were only two cubs and soon the third one joined in, it was such a joy watching little fur balls exploring the territory boldly and confidently the entire day. While the cubs were starting to get playful we had to return back to the camp as sun started to set and sighting time was over.Needless to say that group was thrilled with all these sightings across 8 days of their stay at Kibber and we descended back to Rampur as i had to welcome group II at Rampur for Snow Leopard Expedition :IIWhile group one was smooth sail group II had its fair share of adventures - a landslide which delayed arrival at Kibber by day and half as we are forced to stay on the way before roads were reopened, an avalanche on our way delayed our journey back to Rampur as well. Second batch had some great sightings as well mostly of the old male on several occasions during our stay. Mother and cubs had ventured far away from the valley and remained elusive for rest of our stay .All in all we had sightings of 8 different individuals during our maiden expedition to Snow leopard along with sightings of Red Fox, Golden Eagles, Lammergeier, snow cocks, chukar partridges, snow finch, herds of blue sheep, Ibex etc.Already looking forward to snow leopard expedition scheduled in Feb 2021, drop us a mail on firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to join. Check out detailed itinerary in our fixed departure tours section here.
On my first day in Kibber, I met Lama Ji who was a monk in the Ki monastery and knew the whole of terrain inside out. I accompanied him for a casual walk till Chicham Bridge and ended up spotting more than half of the wildlife including the mighty Himalayan Ibex, Blue sheep and the Red fox, all of them are endangered. However, there was still no signs of Snow Leopard!
I was aware of ‘lugdi’ drink mentioned in movies. A drink which is generally available in Himalayas, that too in local houses. Well the local houses thing I got to know a bit late. Until that point of time, I already had asked many people for that. For those who are not familiar with this drink should know that it’s made by many processes with rice. And on my way, I found out that there are 3 types of lugdi made, especially in spiti. So, I was at a homestay in Kibber, Spiti and asked that lady for this, she said she will make it today and will give a portion to me. In the night at around 9 I asked her again, she said she was looking for me, but some wrong person took that. I sadly said okay, because I so wanted to try that drink. 2 hours later, while enjoying with fellow traveler at the top floor, this lady arrived and said I made it for you. She handed me a 2 litre bottle of lugdi. I was shocked, first by the gesture of this lady and secondly, by looking at lungdi. It was white in colour and because it was made at home, was totally raw. The taste was not so good, but it made me high more than whiskey. We all chilled there while having that and sharing stories. Next day was the day of extreme hangover. Movies can teach you things which are important, and lugdi was one of those. Our taxi driver told us that how people here collect woods for 6 months, just to survive in winter. And how lugdi make this thing a bit easier. He got a bit emotional by the feeling which ‘life’ gives to everyone.
Our journey From Kibber to Nako was another great sightseeing of Chicham Bridge which is said to be Asia’s Highest Altitude Bridge.