By Divya Rai.
Editor's Note: Divya travelled with India Untravelled to Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh in June 2013, and shares her experience here.
The first thought that strikes you about Spiti is that it is not for the average tourist. The land of surrealism promises amazing adventures -- but only for those who have an adventurous streak in them. After all, “the traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.”
If you wish to go to Spiti, you must begin by carrying no images and expectations -- this will let you come back with a backpack full of your own set of unforgettable experiences. And what a great seto f experiences it is: the terrain, the views, the weather and the food leave a lasting impact on the sternest of souls!
Ours was a 6-day trip starting from Manali and we had been wisely advised by India Untravelled to travel solo (i.e. without bringing along people we already knew). This helped us bond with a new set of people who shared our hobbies and interests. In all fairness, taking friends along might even kill it for you.
Our group of 9 people was bound to Spiti from Manali and back to Manali again. Initially, I was very apprehensive about travelling to a land of no-cellphone-connectivity and rugged terrain. Little was I to know that, during the journey, these two factors would be the most important reasons for making my trip worthwhile.
We started from Manali on 22nd June. We were up even before the sun was, since starting early helps in dealing with the unpredictable factors that come bundled with a terrain like Spiti’s. It was an amazing, tiring yet fulfilling 12 hours journey to Kaza. We had taken Diamox [a medicine for altitude sickness] and acclimatisation wasn’t much of a problem. A few of us who were still feeling uneasy were better the next day when we reached Tabo, which is it a lower altitude than Kaza. There was also an option for a trek to the Dhanker lake, which all of us took and completed successfully -- despite various levels of fitness, or lack of it.
The most interesting parts of the trip were the home-stays in two villages -- Demul and Komik. One needs to be welcoming to the idea of living and experiencing rural-life for a day or two without comparing it to the one we lead in our cities. Or, even if you do, you need to question “why is it so” instead of being condescending about it.
Try and live the experience with all your senses: the sight, sounds, smells, temperature at various times in a day, at various places. Or the cool breeze and harsh sun against your skin at the same time. Not being camera-obsessed helps too -- in not missing the experience of observing it with your naked eyes.
To go from Demul to Komik, we undertook a Yak safari. Those of us who didn’t want to ride the yaks had the option of riding horses. It was a trek of 14 kms. Throughout the course of the journey, after every mountain or two, a landscape totally different from the previous one would unfold itself like the work of a magician. But then, is there a defter magician than Mother Nature herself?
All the while, it is imperative that you stay aware of your body’s ability to acclimatise and not ignore any subtle hints it might be trying to convey to you. Trekking, safari, cycling etc. must only be undertaken if you feel absolutely comfortable -- breathlessness or any other kind of discomfort must not be ignored.
A few of us chose to cycle from Langza to Kaza, which is 17 kms on a rocky landscape, albeit with a proper road. Since it is completely downhill, you really zip through the entire route and the 17 kms flash by sooner than you know.
We also enjoyed Spitian cuisine -- something you must try when you are there. The foodie in you will feel blessed. Give the local liquor a shot too!
Of all the monasteries we visited, Kyee monastery was (and is) my favourite -- possibly because of the quaint way it is perched on a mountain slope.
Kaza also happened to be the last stop on our Spiti trip. (You will see a remarkable increase in the level of ease with the thin air when you are back to Kaza from the entire trip, as compared to the first day.)
I plan to visit Spiti again soon since one trip is too short to familiarise oneself with this artwork of the Almighty. In the year 2014, the honourable Dalai Lama is slated to visit -- that would be an excellent time to go!
Author Bio: Divya is an entrepreneur with a passion for travelling and is, in her words, "currently footloose and fancy-free". Find more of her travel writings on her blog.