For the earlier part, click here.
The next day started lazily in Zostel,Kaza as we were hung over due to last night's vodka & our beloved "Angoori". It was kind of a sad start that we finally finished our "Angoori" we so preciously (also cautiously) saved right from Rakcham itself. But alas!!! All good things has to end and so was the case with Angoori.
The whole of Zostel was sleepy & groggy as it was quite a wild night yesterday for everyone due to the incessant flow of booze, strumming of guitars & R&B/reggae party that continued as late as 2 pm at night. We finally dragged ourselves out of of our bunks around 06:00 hrs & got ready by 07:00 hrs. Today we had plans to cover Kaza, Ki Monastery, Kibber, Chichham, Langza, Hikkim & Komic. Though the places were not distant, we still decided to start early as we wanted most out of this last day we had in Spiti Valley.
The morning hang over was cured by a cup of Lemon Tea prepared by the in-house chef of Zostel (Bless the jolly old fellow!!!). A local caretaker or I should say helper even volunteered to wash our ride a bit as it was all dusty & murky with days of toil on the rough roads. Even though, we gave the good man almost 200 rupees, he refused to take even a single penny and rather made us promise to come back to Spiti Valley once again. A promise we made crossing our hearts since no one who has seen Spiti shall ever say "NO" for a second time.
Finally by 08:00 hrs, we packed our bags, loaded them in our car & were all set to leave Zostel for Kee Monastery. Even though we were a bit hungry, we decided to hold on our breakfast as we wanted to savor Kee Monastery first. En route to Kee Monastery, luckily we found a Garage where we checked for our tires & also any nitty bitty problem if there were any with our ride as we wanted it to be in perfect condition for the most daring part of our ride to Chandratal next day. It came with a lot of grumblings and scathing remarks from the girls as they were in no mood to wait, but me being the pragmatic one, decided on the contrary.
Enroute to Kee Monastery, we got to know that a festival of some sort was going on in the Monastery & we were excited to see the same as loads of locals from villages as far as Lhalung, Komic were walking up to it. The curves & bends on the roads finally gave us views of the magnanimous Kee Monastery. It was a sight to behold!!!! Perched atop a hillock, the Kee Monastery was a towering structure amidst the rugged mountains & an ode to the whims of Man to have created a structure of this magnitude in such extreme conditions centuries ago with basic tools of trade.
After a minor break for some clicks, we finally reached Kee Monastery around 09:30 hrs and began our walk up towards the Monastery. Following the Gelukpa Sect of Buddhism, Kee Monastery is of a much grander scale compared to both Dhankar & Tabo Monastery & much more mainstream being in close vicinity to Kaza. We were unable to control our growling stomachs & had aloo paratha and tea before our visit. We were in time for the Morning Prayer(yet again!!!!) and were lucky enough to sit along with the praying Lamas & lose ourselves in reverence of The Enlightened One. Finally when the prayer session was over, we went ahead & visited the other part of the Monastery being accompanied by a young Lama.
It was really astounding how much priceless treasures are held within the Monasteries of Spiti valley & the young Lama was kind enough to give us a guided tour of the entire Monastery explaining the history of the Kee Monastery & its origins. We were than treated to scented Tea prepared by the Lama Himself in the Monastery kitchen. It was really an honor for us to have seen the insides of the kitchen that has served over generations of Monks calling Kee their Homes. Buddhism really had a deep impact on me throughout the whole trip. Finally around 11:00 hrs, we bade farewell to Kee & headed towards Kibber.
One interesting thing I saw in Kee was an Old Age Home where old people can stay voluntarily & take part in the activities of the Monastery on a day to day basis. My Mom being the travel freak as me (thanks to her for inculcating in me the spirit of the wanderer) always complains that her Job life takes a toll on her and post retirement she would like to visit some secluded place for a couple of months and experience Zen. Post the trip, I told my Mom regarding this her eyes lit up & she was excited at the prospect & was up for it. She is willing to spend 3-4 months in Kee & experience life at the grassroot level & find her own Nirvana (One she lost the day I was born :-P). Don't call me heartless guys for thinking of Old Age Home, it's rather a place I would suggest you all should ask your parents to visit & take a break for a while from their daily life. They too need bliss after all they have done for us.
We left Kee around 11:00 hrs & headed towards Kibber which once was famed as the highest inhabited village of the world. Kibber is like any other village of Spiti valley, mud baked houses, stupas, pasture & farming all around. The difference lies in the fact that it has expansive meadows & the panoramic views all around is quite spectacular. We got to know from the locals that Kibber becomes a bustle of activity during elections with polling booths in the Primary School and locals of other villages coming to cast their votes. The whole of Kibber was full of cultivations of what looked like Barley & potatoes which is a staple for the locals. I would also like to mention that the treacherous Spending a while in Kibber, we then headed towards Chicham village.
Prior to the trip, I got to know that Chicham village has a self pulled ropeway that takes you from Chicham to Kibber. Earlier Chicham was isolated from Spiti valley & the only source of communication is through Kyoto village which is a 3 hr trip. Now with the sheer ingenuity of the locals, they have constructed a ropeway through which they can move from Chicham side towards Kaza side (in Kibber) in only a matter of few minutes across a 110 mt deep gorge, by means of the ropeway & save themselves some precious time. So it was kind of a must do in my bucket list to visit the place only for the experience. Heading ahead, we finally came across the vantage point from where the ropeway starts towards Chicham. The gorge deep down had a bone chilling effect on me as am afraid of heights. But the rush of the hour & kind of "YOLO" swag setting over me, I dared to do undertake this death defying act of "Madness". I recalled some sweet memories of my life, thought of my family, my friends, the love of my life & finally with God's name got into that grilled iron basket cage that shall be my "Vahan" across the Gorge pulled by means of ropes. The guys standing on the edge of the cliff smiled at me & asked me "not to worry" as "nothing shall happen". Maybe the beads of sweat on my "Ever increasing' scalp and the petrified looks on my face made Him say so. Finally, with a deep breath I got into that cage & closed my eyes. The monet I sat on, the guys let go of the rope and it whizzed towards the Chicham side at a steady pace churning my "Alo Paratha" in my stomach. I dared to open my eyes & I have to say, the beauty of the place and the deep gorge simply let me go of my fears. I couldn't help myself & let go off a yell to have overcome my Acrophobia. Pretty much within a matter of few minutes I crossed over from Kibber side to Chicham side & back again to Chicham side. By the time I got down, my legs were shaking & I was in a state of disbelief at what I just did. Later on, I got to know that the yelling I did middle of the ropeway, was misinterpreted by my friends to be yells of horror & I got a nice dose of chide from my friends. Finally all of us did rounds of the ropeway one my one & bid adieu to Chicham.
It was nearly 13:00 hrs and we still had left Langza, Komic & Kibber to cover. Also, we were hungry & needed food desperately. Returning back towards Kibber, we realized that there were no eatery anywhere on the road neither in Kee. The gravity of the situation made us return back to Kaza for lunch. I would not suggest anyone to drive rash, but the need to save time, made me do so & I reached Kaza from Kee around 14:00 hrs. We quickly had a lunch of Rajma Chawal and immediately headed towards Langza as it is known for it's high probability of finding fossils there. We reached langza around 15:30 hrs & were blow away by the immense expanse of meadows in front of us. The views from the Langza meadows was quite an experience with snow caped peaks all around & mountains in multitude of colors speaking for its own. We headed towards the Buddha statue & got nice views of the entire landscape. What will it take to live among the locals forever????
While walking towards the Buddha Statue, one of the girls from our group found a fossil of a shell. It was really a surprise that someone can find a fossil in such a casual manner and it got the rest of us into a Rat Race to find the next one. It was really a funny scene with all of us on our fours hunched up & looking for fossils. The kind of idiocy on our part drew the attention of a few local kids who came and asked us, "Fossils chahiye???". We were like "Hell yeah!!!! We do!!!!". The kids asked us to wait for a few minutes and at a speed to put Usain Bolt to shame, sprinted to their Homes and came back with polythene bags full of fossils. We immediately delved deep into our wallets for the cash and brought 2-3 fossils from each of the kids for 20-30 bucks each (yeah!!!! that's the going rate of the ancient creatures of the Tethys Sea!!!!). The 100 bucks we spent may mean nothing to us for buying the fossils, but maybe it shall help them in a manner. We gave each of those 3-4 kids some chocolates & biscuits & their eyes lit up. A pack of Good Day or a Munch may mean nothing to us urban animals, but the look of sheer awe and happiness on their part melted our hearts. I made a promise that day, I shall be back to Spiti again some day. Not as a road tripping traveler, but to do something meaningful for the locals. We finally left Langza around 16:30 hrs & started on our drive towards Komic bidding farewell to our lovely kids & with a heavy heart.
The drive towards Komic was a frustrating one for a bunch of vomiting girls ahead of us in a "Tempo Traveller". At frequent intervals, they used to shove out their head from the Tempo & barf out and being immediately behind them we had to bear the brunt of their belchings. Being a narrow & mountainous road, we we unable to overtake their car and had to maintain a safe distance from their vehicle. Finally, after around quarter of an hour we reached Komic-WORLD'S HIGHEST VILLAGE!!!!! The views of the Valley from Komic was overwhelming & Hikkim Village below Komic was exuberating a lush green hue in its manifold. We visited the Tangyud Monastery in Komic but unfortunately there was not a living soul to talk to as the entire village had gone to Kee Monastery for the festival. We spent around half an hour in Komic and then headed for Hikkim around 18:00 hrs as sunset was nearing & we had to leave at the earliest.
We had the hindsight of leaving towards Hikkim earlier than the group of girls as we didn't want to be victms of their belch attacks again. By 18:30 we reached Hikkim and headed straight towards the Post Office which is the world's highest Post Office. We wrote letters to our loved ones & had a glass apiece of "Chang" (locally brewed alcoholic drink) in a small eatery. We left Hikkim around 19:00 hrs as the Sun was already going down. While coming towards Kaza from Hikkim, we got the rare opportunity to see some rare Himalayan Ibex kids frolicking around in the mountains & we got some good shots. Another thing checked off our bucket list, we were in a less hurried mood as we were all revelling in the fact that a very few get to see the rare Himalayan Ibex. Finally we reached Kaza around 19:50 hrs & immediately checked into Hotel Deyzor for the night.
We freshened up a bit & went out to explore Kaza a bit. We filled our vehicle with fuel for the journey to Manali via Chandratal and went Souvenir hunting. On our way we visited the Kaza Monastery following the Sakya Sect of Buddhsim. The Kaza Monastery was rich in decorations and grandeur and had a rich feeling of the whole place. After our visit to the Kaza Monastery we headed for our souvenir hunting. We got quite a few souvenirs for our journey back home. Later on, we visited a local bistro near the bus stand serving hot & piping Mutton Momos. I don't remember the name of that Bistro, but trust me guys, they served the best Mutton Momos I ever tasted. It is white in color, near the kaza Bus Stand & is "Something Cafe" quite popular with the abroad tourists. A must visit in Kaza.
After having our fill of Momos, we headed back for Hotel Deyzor, where we retired for our night for our onward journey to Chandratal Lake.
Continued in The Middle Land-IV.