Saturday, September 6, 2014

'ROAD TO HEAVEN' - A Voyage to Spiti Valley

After our trip to Leh-Ladakh during July 2013, the mountains were calling again. The Himalayan range has been always once-in-a-lifetime experience for nature lovers. The infinite sights of the snow-capped highlands, the rugged planes, and the never ending curves of the roads provide an out of the world and an equally challenging experience. We could see only a part of the Ladakh during our 10 days trip last year and wanted to visit the southern range of Zanskar Valley; but finally decided to visit SPITI VALLEY in Himachal Pradesh, which was also in our priority list this time.
Our journey started on the night of 28 June 2014 from Bangalore to Delhi by train and from there   took an overnight HPTDC bus and reached Manali on the morning of 01 July. Since we had booked a taxi through phone before the departure, it was easy for us to find a decent, budget accommodation in Manali for the first two days and also plan the next one week programme with the help of the taxi driver.

Misty hills at Manali
Mighty Beas River

Before leaving to the long journey up the hills, we decided to see around Manali and get acclimatized to the weather conditions. The day was cloudy, misty and drizzling between. We visited the historic Vasisht Temple complex which is generally filled with tourists, most of posing for photos holding a pet Rabbit for Rs.10 which is a good business for local people…! Later we trekked up the hills to Jogni Falls which is around two kilometres away through the pine tree forest.

Jogni Falls

Post-lunch we saw the famous Hidimba and Ghatotkach Temples which are dedicated to the mythical characters of Mahabharata.  Evenings spent in walking around the busy streets of Manali town.

Vashisht Temple

Ram Temple

Devotees playing drums

Hidimba Temple

Misty Morning at Manali, Water Colour on Paper
Proceeded to Naggar, around 20 kms away from the town which is known for the Roerich House and Museum where the renowned Russian artist lived for many years and painted his celebrated Himalayan paintings. Later saw the Naggar castle, and a remote hamlet called Jana. The village has a lot of traditional houses with stone-block roofs and one of the oldest temple built with wood believed to be around 500 years old. We could also taste the local food at a Dhaba for lunch.
Naggar Castle

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Traditional Lunch in a dhaba at Jana Village

An ancient village temple with wooden construction
Stone roofing of village houses 

A Panoramic View of Jana Village 
Farm Land of Jana Village

'Clicks' at the Cliff
Old lady at Jana Village
After Manali, our first destination was Keylong. We had to cross the tricky place called Rohtang Pass to continue anywhere towards Spiti. We planned to leave early in the morning, but the news we got in the previous evening about the landslide at Rohtang delayed our departure. The news in the morning was quite encouraging and our driver told we could start around 9am. The incessant rain generally makes the journey difficult at the Rohtang Pass with frequent traffic jams. We were quite lucky because it was just half an hour wait in the traffic at the peak…it was still raining and we could see a long queue of vehicles piled up on the opposite side. We didn’t stop at the pass because of rain and icy breeze. 

View from the Manali-Rohtang road
Beas Lake 

Traffic at Rohtang Pass

BRO workers helping a motorist on the waterlogged road
After Rohtang the journey was quite easy on the Manali-Leh highway. Still it’s a tough road with the glacier water gushing down the hills and flowing on the roads making it difficult for the motorists. Our driver Mr.Jaipal was quite experienced with his Tata Sumo and familiar with the conditions. During the journey we could witness some of the most isolated places with each village having more than 15-20 kms distance in between. One such village was called Kurith with a population of just 30..! We reached Keylong by evening having wonderful sights of the mountains on the way. The evening spent with walk on the streets and tasting chowmien and ginger-lime tea.

Sissu Lake

Street at Keylong

Refreshing Mint Tea
Left Keylong early in the morning for a long journey to Kaza. We had to take the same road back up to Grampoo and take a diversion towards Kaza. The entire day was spent on the road with spectacular views and breath-taking landscapes all along the way. We have to cross the peak Kunzum Pass to reach Kaza, the capital of Spiti Valley and the road becomes even tougher from there. The journey was tiring with lots of short breaks and photo sessions in between. Reached Kaza in the evening; spent time in the local streets, market and went for a much needed rest.

Tea Break at Batal Dhaba

Stupas at Kunzum Pass

Lossar Village
 Lossar Village woman with her Baby

Stupas at Kaza
Street at Kaza town
View from Kaza Town, Water Colour on Paper
It was a day to visit the Monasteries. In the morning started with Kaza Monastery within the town; it’s quite typical of any modern Buddhist Monastery with grand interiors and colourful Tanka paintings. Later proceeded to Kee Monastery, which is around 10 kms away from the Kaza town. Kee is one of the most famous and historic monastery situated at hilltop and visible from a long distance. It provides a spectacular view from all sides. Kibber village and monastery was the next which is further 10 kms away. It’s a typical Tibetan traditional village and colourful in its outlook, the houses are flat-roofed and situated on hills; the villagers mainly cultivate Potato and Peas.

in front of Kaza Monastery
A colourful interior of Kaza Monastery
Intricate carvings on the door-handle 
World's highest fuel station at Kaza
Wild flowers of Spiti
Kei Monastery

inside Kei Monastery
an old monk at Kei
Buddhist Manuscripts 

Kibber Village
Villagers at Kibber
We returned to Kaza and post-lunch continued towards Tabo which is a very remote and isolated village having very less population. It has a historical importance for Tibetans mainly because of one of the oldest monasteries there. The Tabo Monastery dates back to 996 A.D. which is considered being very traditional in style, having unique in its architecture built mainly with wood and mud. The interiors are full of traditional paintings and sculptures based on Buddhist history. Almost the entire walls and ceilings are covered with paintings; most of them are in deteriorating stage, still it’s a must see place for those who are fascinated in history and art and architecture.

Tabo Monastery

Evening light on snow-capped mountains 
at the Ancient Meditating Caves of Tabo

Spiti River
Left Tabo around 10 am after another visit to the monastery, and proceeded to Dhankar which is another historical monastery on the hilltop. It offers a picturesque view as we approach the place from a distance. It also houses a new monastery nearby.

A spectacular view of the Dhankar Monastery

Stuffed and preserved body of a sheep at Dhankar

A prayer wheel
Carvings on the wooden pillars 
Candle stands in Dhankar Monastery
New Monastery, Dhankar
Travelled towards Lossar, a small village on the way back and stayed there for the convenience of our trek next day to Chandratal Lake. Evening spent with a visit to the local monastery and chat with local people who were very friendly in treating guests.

Getting ready for a photo-shoot...!

Early in the morning travelled to Kunzum pass which is 20kms away, where we were received by Tashi Tenzin, who was our trek guide along with his pet dog Bishu..! Started our trek at 8.30 am from Kunzum and walked on the hills all the way for 8kms to reach Chandratal. The journey was challenging as the hills were steep and slippery at times. There was a bright sunshine and cool breeze all the way and it was an outstanding view with mountains and glaciers all around. Our guide was narrating his experiences and the many stories about heroics of the security forces and the life on the Himalayas…! After a tiring walk, we reached Chandratal around 12.30 in the afternoon, spent time in relaxing, photo-ops and light lunch.

Before the trek at Kunzum Pass with guide Tashi Tenzin and his pet Bishu

A shepherd hut 

Bishu gets playful on the banks of Chandratal
at Chandratal Lake
Left the lake around 2pm for another long walk in a different route to reach Batal, which was almost a 15kms trek. Although the route was comparatively easier, we had frequent stoppages in between with tea breaks at the local shepherd huts and chat. At the end of a very exhausted, yet productive day reached Batal around 6.30pm; stayed at the Tenzin couple’s dhaba-cum-homestay with hot tea, soup and dinner for our rescue. The night was quite chilling with temperature dipping.

A long walk back....
Negotiating with rocks, glacier water and cold breeze....
A wild horse grazing 
With Tenzin Couple at their Batal Dhaba
The Himalayan sojourn was at its last stage; we said goodbye to Mr. & Mrs. Tenzin and continued the journey back towards Manali. On the way, the weather was clear. We had a good time at Rohtang Pass. The sun was shining bright; there was no hint of rain, just a cold breeze. The roads were free with hardly few vehicles. The snow cover at the peak provided us good opportunity for photo-session and fun.

'Bye, Bye' Spiti....!

View from Rohtang Pass

Tea Break at Rohtang Pass

Spotted a vulture on the Rohtang-Manali road
Reached Manali around 4pm; the town was crowded as usual with tourists thronging at eateries and shopping centres. We had another much needed rest for the night.

Our journey back to Delhi was scheduled for the evening and we had half-a-day time with us. Visited Solang  Valley for short time and returned to Manali town…Explored the afternoon with walks within the lanes and markets of Manali. Our bus left at 4.30pm for another long night journey back to Delhi.

Solang Valley, Water Colour on Paper
Reached Delhi in the morning; we had the train Rajdhani Express scheduled to depart at 8.50pm from Nizamuddin to Bangalore. Reached Bangalore on 12th morning loaded with memories, stories and giga-bites of images.

Harish, Praveen, Umesh, Urmila

Venu, Urmila


Anonymous said...

awesome pictures. i visited spiti last month, but your pictures are simply amazing!!

Miss Mansi said...

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