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Trans Himachal – Part 3 – Adolescence [Sangla to Kaza]

We had to pit stop for the night at Chango, we cannot make it to Tabo, its too far, and no traffic lights for sure.

Our tourist map we got from the Himachal Pradesh tourism department hotel wrongly said chango was 300 m higher than nako, and we never settle for anything less. So we wrongly chose the highest.

The panorama was changing. Trees gave into smaller trees and then into shrubs. that was Chitkul. Herbs, grass, took over at rekong peo which slowly vanished to leave vast barren mountains in front of us. It was intimidating. I knew something was changing when we left the Sangla valley. I knew nothing about it.

We were gaining a lot of height, we were climbing up the mountains. As always the road followed the river.

Every mountain had its own stone, own texture. Most were very brittle. therefore the rivers had cut through deep between them. It was quiet intimidating driving between huge walls of barren mountains which looked like they could slide any time. It felt like crossing a border, coming back may not exactly be possible at all times.

Both Rishi and me were quiet for a long time.

Monjo called. She had her own story to tell, just before the I had to go off grid. I will get back to delhi. Right now I have to go.

We entered the Spiti valley and i could now see the mountains at the eye level. I forced to stop to see the sun set under my foot.I looked at the shadows rising from the valley engulfing one mountain after the other till that last tip of that distant mountain looses its red and yellow glow. It is going to be all dark. I wanted to see the sun in the eye at that moment and compose a symphony for the apocalypse. It felt like it will not rise again.

We still had distance to cover before we could settle.It is dangerous driving in the dark. We had to go. I played some music about wolves in the heaven.

We were on the outskirts of chango when that lovely red apple cheeks face drove the wolves out and filled it with some angel smiles. She and her mother needed a lift to the village. she had studied in Rampur and understood English.

We chatted for a while, i was admiring her, she was blushing at all the attn she was able to gather from the city boys. Mom and the goat sat confused. Goat didn’t say anything, mom tried to. she shut her out. I tried to get the number and learnt that mobiles worked for only 4 hours a day. eh? Hold the thought, i shall discover decipher and decrypt you tomorrow. I did manage to get an invitation to see the village and monastery in the morning. She waved us bye, it was good. We stopped at Chango. We could then rest.

Chango looked beautiful early in the morning. It reminded me of my maternal village. More beautiful was the monastery and the writing on the mountain as seen from the village. I did not go to the monastery, it seemed too far for me to walk. I had to get back in time, Rishi was still sleeping in the guest house. I remembered I did not have nay way of contacting the ‘red cheeks’ and I had not fixed a time or place. I am always so flowing, time and places do not matter to me and sometimes I pay the price of thinking like that. I did not remember her name either, too difficult to remember. I think she ate a lot of apples.

The villagers were just getting up, the cows were just getting out and the sunflowers were just starting to smile. Each village house had a farm in front. I remembered my plans of self sustained living had never taken off.

Breakfast was served with a insight into local social fabric. our cook-cum-restaurant-owner hated people having fancy modern western name. He was worried about them loosing their culture. I was starting to get worried too, I was starting to love their culture. He also told us that the village stayed together with everyone taking care of each other. Personal relations had a higher meaning over there. Inter village marriages were less; Marriages, as such, were less; our cook got married after he had 3 children. I realized ‘red cheeks’ would not have worked out for me. I left the place with a heavy heart and wet eyes looking at the rear view mirror.There were grey mountains in the mirror.

The road was almost non existent except places where the terrain was flat between the mountains. Maps were no good. No GPS either. Nobody to ask directions from, but I wanted to take a diversion for Dankar. It was at a greater height, and had another monastery. However, Rishi was discouraged. we had taken a wrong diversion and were stuck at a very bad road earlier. We settled to go to Sangam, another diversion. There was a national park of Himalayan animals, hmmmm….. interesting. I agreed because it was the end point of the trekking route from Khirganga to mud, a 8 day 110 km strenuous trek. I had a plan to do that, i wanted to come close to it. But it looked like it was not on the cards either. we could not go further from the place were the road disappeared into the river bed filled with big stones. The Alto was the limiting factor. on top of that we had almost burnt the clutch plates trying to rescue the car. I could not work the stones to get the car out. Along came help in Buddha’s country. 6 of us pushed the car to firmer ground. We waited for the clutch plates to calm down.

We could only stop at Tabo. The sun was starting to burn us. I could not find the sunscreen I bought from peo. Tabo was a plain, architecturally simple monastery made out of mud and leaves one thousand+ years ago. Yes you got me right, 1000 years ago. I have photographs to prove it. A marvel, I must say. Some of the buildings had flat roofs and other conical ones. I wanted to sleep on the terrace of the float ones and look at the million stars in the clear sky at night. I wanted some music. Rishi woke me up.

Something with Rishi was not right. something was up with him, first time in the trip I had seen him not so calm.

He reconciled with himself at aunty’s shop outside the monastery where he wanted to buy a silver ‘om’ pendent for someone. eh? I could not understand. Never the less I got myself a rotating payer sayer that monks used. Food and water was sparse we were not hungry either. At that high altitudes you tend to loose your appetite, but its very important to remember to eat. we did not. Instead we headed to Kaza. The sun continued to burn us. we did not have enough water. If we rolled up the windows of the car we would be microwaved. We could not turn the ac on, the car did not have enough power. My legs were begining to feel the burn. I was getting irritable, so was rishi. certainly we were not thinking straight.

When we reached Kaza, we immediately drove out, it was very crowded with the independence day celebrations. we found some fresh cool water flowing in a garden at a restaurant on the outskirts of the town. Rishi first and then I lowered myself in that. It felt sooo soothing. This is what we were missing. why did we not just jump into a flowing river? why were we tolerating the sun so much? we certainly were not thinking straight.

It was nice to see so many people again in Kaza. Israelis are the most visually beautiful of the lot. They mostly gathered around the place were you hire the bikes, do they never get burnt from the sun? The market in kaza was huge with mostly food grain and essentials selling all over. Hand made stuff were available at a lot of make shift shops around the market. Restaurants mostly served Israeli food, we settled for some chowmein and some thupka. The town had a freaking German Bakery. I had forgotten the sun then. I got a lot of stuff along with some chocolate balls.
Somehow we were so used to the vast open space and solitude that we did not want to stay over in Kaza.

We had to go.

Rishi always wanted to stay in Kibber. All I wanted from Kaza was the chocolates balls from the Germany Bakery. I was fine and happy. Rishi was pepped up again; we had washed away all the sun from our skin. We were driving uphill on a road which was not on any of the maps. I grinned.

I was looking at the sun was setting on our left – the evening claiming us slowly. I had no connectivity, I was off the grid. I looked far into the sun. Waiting for something. I hated that feeling, it made me feel soo low, soo low. I wanted the sun to explode then.

Round the corner, was one of the greatest sights I have ever seen. I had no idea at the beginning of the journey that I was going to see this. I just stopped; I was just looking at it for I do not know how long. The Kye monastery. I did not even know the name till I went to its gate. I had seen a picture of it before though. It was a beautiful building perched on top of a hill, coloured in bright yellow, red and black with a white background. It seemed to have been built in segments during different times in some wonderful era I guess, but now it was one single building with one entrance to it. The entrance itself was so beautiful and well made, I saw some people photographing it. I went in.

I had the camera, I was trying to shoot Rishi spinning a lot of prayer wheels, I wanted to capture all wheels moving. Someone passed by and asked if I got a good shot, I answered no. I think I saw the whole place through the camera lens. I kept photographing everything, everything was so beautiful. everybody else there were doing the same. eh? everyone is just clicking pictures and most of them have like killar cameras. what is going on? whatever, I moved into the main prayer hall. there was a group that was being guided by a priest, and a lady crying in the corner, hopefully guided by God. Someone else also just sat there. Rishi joined in. At first, I joined the guided tour, but I did not have the patience. So I joined the photography brigade again.

Rishi came alarmed and murmured something into my ears, I didnt pay attention and then he said it a little louder. Apparently, all the other ‘Tourists’ were not tourists. The place was closed for the tourists for the day. They were all professional photographers, maybe some big and popular names – I don’t know. They had acquired a special permit to shoot inside the kye, which has been beyond reach for any other camera. and somehow, by some divine strength, I with my puny camera and over dirty shorts looked like one of them. Well, i took it as a compliment and continued my photography. Rishi insisted we leave lest we get caught. Hey come on buddy. I clicked the last few when I heard someone saying, thats it for today. I didnt stop long after that.

Moral of the story my friend, is that I, your friend, I have a few photographs with me, which nobody else has and nobody else is supposed to click. I remembered the mountains welcoming us on the great Himalayan express-way.

It was time to go.

- Anushlie.

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