Often Spiti is overlooked over Ladakh. But the lucky few who have wondered their have witnessed the secrets of the mountains.
The route to Spiti is equally adventurous. Whether you take the road from Manali or Shimla, you will encounter the grandeour of the mountains.
I decided to start my journey from Shimla. Shimla, one of our favourite hill stations has been bearing the tourists for long. The main market felt like a crowded fish market, I could not wait to leave.
It takes two days to reach Kaza, Spiti's main town from Shimla. Buses ply early in the morning from Shimla reaching Recong Peo, a small village, by evening. You have to spend the night at Recong Peo and take a early morning bus to Kaza the next day. But remember to wake up early in the morning and get your tickets. Or you may have to stand hours without a seat. There are few buses, and it is a tough competition between the many locals and the lost tourists.
My journey from Shimla started with rain, but you can trust the Himachal Pradesh Road Transport. They are advanturous but very competent. The bus brisk through the road into the mountains and valleys, with the apple orchards watching the show. In the mountains the journey is often as beautiful as the destination. From Shimla everything starts green, mountains covered with trees. Soon The terrain changes to dry desert mountains. BRO, Boarder Road Organization, has mercifully curved the mountains to make roads connecting the small villages. No use wondering which side of the bus to sit, as the bus keeps turning left and right sharing the beauty with all. The roads with it's bends, competing with the river could keep you busy for hours. After 10 hours in the bus, and a few snacks stop we reached Recong Peo. It's a small village, and you can see the snow peaked mountains from there. There is not much to do, except walk around and enjoy small talks with the locals.
Early morning the next day I left for Kaza, another 10 hours to go. This time there was a landslide and we were stuck for few hours next to a river bank. Once the road cleared out we were back. In the mountains, landslides are so common that everyone just uses the time to stretch out and relax. By the time we reached Kaza it was late in the evening. Walking around, I found a simple guest house, Kunzum Guest house. The owner was kind enough to put me up in one of the rooms, which was cosy and comfortable.
I spent few days in Kaza. Walking around the valley, visiting the monestry and trying to trek the Rocky mountains. Kaza had an amazing assembly of locals and tourists. Many Indians and Westerners have made Kaza there home. Organising social welfare programs to running small cafes.
Kaza is the center to Spiti, and most buses ply to neighboring villages from Kaza. My next stop was Key Monestry. Located on the top of a mountain with breath taking view. The monestry hosts tourists in few of it's rooms for basic cost. We got three meals a day along with tea, and let's not forget the view and the calm surrounding. You would also meet amazing people there, monks, tourist and many locals. We watched the sunset everyday sitting on the long steps of the monestry. At night, we watched the night show from the terrace, sky full of stars, some shotting across to complete the show. During the day you can trek around the monestry, or climb the next peak for a breath taking view. I did climb the mountain, which was painful but worth it. You can chat with the monks and also help them out in the kitchen.
My next stop was kibber, one of the highest altitude villages in India, it was surely cold. The villagers were as usual nice, and the kids always excited to meet new guests. I meet few fellow travelers, and we decide to go for a trek. We trekked to a neighboring village crossing a newly made bridge. Watching us exhausted, the villagers offered us tea, chatted with us, but most often wondered aloud what we are doing in the middle of no where. We just smiled, did not know how to explain to them what we have lost in the city. Is it our goodness, the ability to smile at a stranger, enjoy the simple life, love or just be happy. I spend the next few days there but soon the cold got to me, chasing me back to the low land.
There are many treks in Spiti. Some well know, and some you can make on your way. Spiti is beautiful, but transportation is the snail. May be that's good, many are kept away from this hidden treasure for the fear of the journey. But if you manage to make it, you would wonder why you waited for so long..