If I recall this correctly then the first time I’d heard about Spiti
was when I’d travelled to Manali with family about four years ago.
Lahaul – Spiti is
how they spoke of it.
Land beyond the already breath-taking Manali with its
pines and snow-capped mountains; and far beyond even the tourist ridden Rohtang
Four years later, in what seems like a random placement of events (i.e. where Spiti wasnt even under consideration to begin with), I found
myself packing my bags to travel to this still relatively unheard of place.
“Spiti? Where’s that?” they’d asked; every single one of them with the
exception of a select few. Spiti, I’d heard myself say, is Ladakh’s lesser
And for someone who’d already travelled to Ladakh twice before, charmed and mesmerized with the picaresque-ness of the place that was a
desert at an altitude, Spiti would be similar, I’d thought to myself (what with the images found all over the internet alluding to the same notion).
Spiti translates to “middle land” and is quite similar to Ladakh in
terrain and climate, although it’s a lot more greener. It is
accessible from Manali (through the world’s worst road - I can and will testify to this in my next post) and Shimla (through the
world’s most dangerous road) between the months of April-May until October-November.
People in Spiti are followers of Tibetan Buddhism and it’s no surprise that you’ll
chance upon a monastery – some dating back to more than a couple of hundred
years ago – around every cliff in the Valley. Legend has it that one of the earliest monasteries to be built is going to be the last one to fall - even though as you read this it's currently pegged as being one of the most dangerous structures in the world given its precarious and delicate situation!
Villages in Spiti are sparsely populated with some as little as 3 people (Kalamurti). The average population seemed to hover between 30 - 50 and the maximum I came across was 67 (Fukchung). The total population of Spiti however is just about 10500.
In spite of its resemblance to Ladakh in every sense of the term I realised that I couldn’t
shake the vibe I seemed to have caught from Spiti…
Where Ladakh was welcoming
and warm despite the aridness, Spiti seemed aloof and hostile. And
where Ladakh wowed you with the sheer magnificence of its imposing mountain
ranges, Spiti couldn’t seem to be bothered whether you were wowed or not.
And as ironical as this may seem, the local people have been ever so gracious and hospitable in both Ladakh and Spiti ensuring that whoever shows up at their doorstep (even unannounced) is treated well (read: fed and kept warm under a roof).
If there ever were a fable of Ladakh and Spiti it'd be this: Once upon a time, two siblings were separated at birth. One of them was picked up by the gods and grew up to love and be loved by everyone. The second wasn't as fortunate and grew up among mere mortals therefore never knowing or experiencing kindness and warmth!
Anyone who has visited both places will be able to tell this difference.
Spiti does turn out to be a lesser tamed version of Ladakh - the unruly kid who neither got its way nor buckled under pressure to conform.
In the past week, I've been tried and in return Spiti has been tested. Fun has been had albeit in a very twisted sense. More deets to follow shortly.
So for now to whet your appetite on the mystery that is Spiti, here are a few of my clicks --
The road trip - onward bound to Spiti via Rohtang and Kunzum Pass
Day 1 at Kaza
Day 2 at Tabo
Lugging it to Pin Valley courtesy a landslide that washed away roads
Farm fresh apricots and hitch a ride on a tractor courtesy a flat tyre
Guest house at Pin Valley
Witnessing the Bhuchen performance at Pin Valley
Homestay at Demul
Homestay hosts - the local village doctor aka Amchi and then the trek/yak ride
The second homestay at Komic and the return to Kaza to visit the Kee Monastery after a brief stopover at Langza
"...The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils."
~ William Wordsworth
Continues with iDemystify | En route Spiti with Murphy...
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