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Spiti Valley: An escape from the busy city life
Few days back, I found myself amid the announcements and madness of New Delhi railway station, waiting for my train to Kalka. I glanced at my ticket, and strangely, felt completely free from my mundane office work. I had been to Kalka and Shimla before, but this time I decided to go beyond the mainstream. Mountains are my haven and I could only think of one location - Spiti valley, The Middle Land, where the real adventure lies, weaved with the humbleness of life. The journey begins Delhi to Kalka Distance: 270 kms Time Taken: around 6 hours With blaring horn of the train, I said good bye to this chaotic city. After six hours of an engaging journey, I reached Kalka railway station from where I boarded a toy train to Shimla. After 5 hours of passing through beautiful landscapes, innumerable tunnels and bridges, I finally reached Shimla in the evening. A magical night in Shimla I stayed at a hotel near Shimla railway station to pass the night before leaving early for my Spiti valley tour, the next day. I took shower and opened the door to the wooden balcony of the hotel and was amazed at the sheet of twinkling lights covering the mountains in front of me. I stood there for an hour absorbing the view and painting it forever somewhere in my mind. Road trip to Spiti: Stepping into Kinnaur valley Shimla to Kalpa Distance: 225 kms Time Taken: around 9 hours In morning before starting for Spiti, which is situated at a very high altitude, a friendly hotel worker suggested me to take medicine for acute mountain sickness (AMS). And I did that without thinking twice as I didn’t want to ruin my unusual escape. Passing through Narkanda and Rampur on NH-22 highway, crossing over the streams, endless pastures and meadows below the lofty peaks, I finally reached Kalpa - a picturesque place, surrounded by snow-capped peaks. Here you'd catch a sight of the Kinner Kailash peak. I took some time to spend with the locals and exploring the village. In the Lap of Spiti Reckong Peo to Kaza via Pooh, Nako and Tabo Distance: 200 kms Time Taken: around 10 hours From Reckong Peo a daily bus runs to Kaza. It carries passengers and news from the world (in the form of newspapers and couriers) to the secluded hamlets of upper Kinnaur and Spiti. Brace yourselves as road is in poor condition. The place felt like Hobbit's Shire, where there are grasslands, white mountains and a desert of stones as far as the eye can see. It will take some time to come out of your awe of the view and realize that the oxygen present around you is not in the amount that you are used to. With landscapes changing drastically since I started from Shimla, I found one thing constant throughout the route i.e. serenity. Riding along the left bank of Spiti river, I passed Tabo, which houses one of the most significant Buddhist monastery, The Tabo monastery. When I arrived at Kaza, I made sure that every part of my body was covered with woollen before venturing into the frigid air outside. Homestay: Hospitality at its best After a tiring yet enthralling 10 hours of travel, I searched for hotels in Kaza, one of the remotest and most beautiful villages of Spiti, nestled in the lap of Trans Himalayas. After an abortive search, in the end I decided to spend the night in a homestay on this part of the Tibetan Plateau. If someone really wants to feel what Spitian life is like, then they must spend time with the local family there, experiencing their way of life, their food and the harsh conditions in which they live at such a remote place. People live with limited resources there and yet satisfied with what they have got. Langza to Kaza Trek - An escapade into a different world Mr. Lhamo (owner of the homestay) woke me up just after the blissful sunrise in the valley. The mesmerizing view brings the feeling as if something was long hidden from your senses and now when you witness it, you feel privileged in a blessed way. The family had prepared Tibetan Pastries and Butter Tea for the breakfast. After having breakfast, I was excited for my next adventure. Being a first timer, I vaguely knew about the route so Mr. Lhamo suggested me to take a ride to Langza. As we waved hands towards each other, I boarded a ride to Langza, which is at a distance of 15 km from Kaza. Langza is famous for fossil hunting. I saw people huddled among the rocks searching for marine fossils, collecting them as decorative pieces for their homes. The place also bestows you an astounding view of Chau Chau Kang Nelda Peak. You wonder at the diversity of life that the place holds. After some wandering in Langza, I was standing in front of a 1000-year-old Lord Buddha statue looking down the valley. I stood there for a while and felt the peace raining upon me. I decided to start my trek from here. My plan was to trek from Langza to Kaza passing through Komik and Hikkim. For a short stretch of the trek, I saw people enjoying their ride on the back of colorfully adorned yaks. The bell around their neck jingled, breaking the only sound of the howling wind in the place which is completely disconnected from the crowded world. I passed through wind-carved mountains, arid stretches of land with patches of green grass, whitewashed hamlets, and fluttering prayer flags. The landscapes changed so drastically that it’s hard to imagine that you were on the same trek on which you have started. After a 9 km long stretch, I reached Komik which is famous for Tangyud Monastery. Tangyud is one the highest motorable monasteries in the world. I decided to take a halt there for a while to get back my lost breath. I came across some monks who told me that Tangyud is one of the two monasteries left by the Sakya sect in Spiti valley. After some time, I was back on the trek again with my next stop as Hikkim. It was a 4 km long trek from Komik. I visited the highest post office in the world - the place for which Hikkim is famous for. On my way to Kaza from Hikkim, I saw ruins of the new Komik monastery. I also visited a co-educational school and it felt overwhelming to see the students rhyming after their teacher. While I was struggling with my fear of heights in the narrow sections of the trek, I saw the tiny little place from where I started my journey. After a 16 km long peaceful and scenic trek, I reached Kaza. I spent the night again in Mr. Lhamo's homestay, eating noodles with crisp, fresh vegetables floating in the broth and absorbing his experiences. Visit to Mudh - the last motorable village in Pin valley A new adventure awaited me next morning in the desert mountain valley. Post breakfast, I packed my bags and offered my gratitude to Mr. Lhamo for their hospitality. Later I visited Sakya monastery which was completely energizing and rejuvenating experience for me. Amidst the buddhist hymns and prayers, I meditated and it gave a sense of divinity and bloomed positive energy inside me. After spending some 'me' time, I left for Mudh - the last motorable village in the Pin Parvati Valley. Mudh is around 50 km journey from Kaza which is accessible by road. The route takes you through small villages and rugged terrain complemented with beautiful rock formations. In Mudh village, I saw Himalayan ranges glistening in the sun, women working in their pea fields and children hanging around. The population there was so low that animals (mostly cows and horses) outnumbered people. This was the last part of my blissful journey. I was craving for some more holidays when people told me about the magical Pin-Parvati trek which starts from Mudh village and I left the place with a forethought of my next destination. Since Spiti is a repertoire of undiscovered places, therefore the meagre time I had was not enough to comprehend the immense diversity of the place and I promised myself that I would embark upon the journey to Spiti again and do justice to the place.