Spiti Valley is known for its vast barren lands. Here, the clouds dance over the rugged brown landscape. Farmers let their cattle graze in the little patches of greenery. Fluttering prayer flags are found along the impressive monasteries. Stupas are nestled between the mountain valleys. Cold winds and warm smiles, both can be found in this northeastern part of Himachal Pradesh.
I took a 10-day road trip with my friend Kunal to explore the quaint villages of Spiti Valley. We drove from Chandigarh and through the Kinnaur district. The 10-hour long drive offered spectacular views. I remember witnessing the most gorgeous sunset on this drive and soon after I spotted the moon rising with its own grandeur. As we drove towards Nako, one distinctive change that I noticed was the gradual change from Hinduism to Buddhism. Spiti essentially is like a tiny part of Tibet that was transported to India. Villages of whitewashed mud-brick houses cling to the mountain edges and overlook the quaint valleys.
From Nako we proceeded towards Tabo. Tabo is home to the famous Tabo Monastery, which is over 1000 years old. The artistic paintings and the serenity of this place were simply stunning.
We spent some time at the majestic Dhankar Fort and Monastery nestled between the rocky spurs at a top of a cliff. We drove around the villages of Kaza, Ki and Kibber, which was once the highest village in Asia. Our days consisted of waking up to majestic mountain views, eating at local dhabas, and sighting at various spots. Every now and then, we met monks in their crimson and orange robes. The innocent smiles and eager eyes of little children were our welcoming sights after short hikes to ancient monasteries.
Now the whole of Spiti has the most unnerving and treacherous roads in the entire world. Cruising through flowing rivers and having to drive through a waterfall that is merely slowed by a couple of rocks. These were the things that truly gave us a real adrenaline rush. It’s the narrow and uncertain paths that activated our “flight or fight mode”. Numerous sections of the road are frequently washed away by landslides and hence travelling here means truly braving through your fears.
I recall gazing at the stars at night as I camped beside the Chandratal lake. We had passed through the Kunzum La pass to reach this place. As I lay there, in complete awe of the milky way, I remember thinking that it’s these moments of witnessing Earth’s enchantment that make travelling truly rewarding.
The breathtaking sights, taxing hikes, and the venturesome long drives will always remain etched in my memory. Spiti will always stay close to my heart.