IT professional in Mumbai. Loves travelling and photography along with reading and writing.
"Wander and travel, leaving your homes and cocoons. See and admire the beautiful world. The foreign lands may be too far, but our nation offers mesmerizing colors to see!" Today, I realize the meaning of this beautiful poem by poetess Shanta Shelke. The ones fell in love with travelling; do not need to be told. And if the journey is through the great Himalayan ranges, the joy cannot be held in a mere memory card! They say, many a men get lost in the jungles. The roads lay their riddles and perplexed men come to the same place, like they are caught up in a vortex! Chakva! Well, I never thought that I’ll be caste in one, every year, when I visited the Himalayan ranges in Uttarakhand four years ago. I visited the Uttarakhand, Kashmir, Leh-Laddakh and recently, Himachal Pradesh. The Himalayas has a snow-magnet, as they say, to hold you immersed with his beauty. The roads here are not forgotten, but we often tend to forget our roads to come here. The humongous and mesmerizing nature here gets us perplexed and amused. A want to lose ourselves in the nature keeps growing. Alas, not everybody feels the same! These experiences are the ownership of the ardent.
The nature expands before us in two contradicting forms. The first form unleashes its beauty veraciously, while the other harmonizes its exquisiteness in chiseled boundaries. Lahaul-Spiti is blessed with the previous. The natural resplendency is abundant here, without giving its effects to the seasons. Though we are responsible for natural imbalance, Mother Nature is forgiving and loyal. The nature, here, is no exception to this. If you approach as a human, with humanity, it showers you with marvels. But you have to be true to yourself to accept these gifts. “Anant-haste kamala warane, deta gheshil kiti do karane.” (How much can one grab with mere two hands if the lord showers his blessing with thousands of them…) is true, here! Himalayas is the snow-clad heaven on earth. Last April we planned our trip to Spiti valley via Shimla. Lahaul Spiti lies in the impassable Himalayan valleys, yet is a well recognized tourism spot. “Spiti” means the middle ground! The borders of India and Tibet meet here. But despite of the political borders, we are taken aback by the boundless beauty this middle ground offers. There are two entrances to this dreamily beautiful place. First is the Manali-Rohatang pass which leads to Kaza via Kunzum pass and the second is Shimla-Rikangpio which leads to Kaza via Kalpa-Nako. Since we planned our trip from Shimla, we could see both these doors.
Kaza -The head office of Kaza-Spiti valley is in Kaza. Village Kaza, which resides on the banks of Spiti river, is blessed with Buddhist monasteries and temples. This is a good place to stay owing to the facilities like roads, gas stations, bazaars and home-stay. It is surrounded by tourist spots like Tabo, Kibbar, Langza, Penn valley, Key monastery and Kaza-Kunzum pass.
Tabo –About 45km away from Kaza, this 1000 years old village, resides on the banks of Spiti River. This ancient monastery was found by Rinchen Zangpo in the year 996. Tabo monastery is the biggest in Spiti valley and is sacred to the Buddhists. Some of the architectural marvels here are build in soil but are preserved owing to the scanty rainfalls in this area. The paintings in these temples are strikingly similar to the paintings in Ajantha caves in Maharashtra. That is the reason why this place is called the Ajantha of Himalayas. There are natural caves in the mountains surrounding this village.
KIbbar, Kaumik, Langza –Kibber is the highest village connected by tar roads, in the world. A statue of Lorad Buddha is built upon a hillock in Langza. This statue of the peace messenger, Buddha, looks mesmerizing against the white snow clad mountain ranges and clear blue skies. Tibetan architecture and homes are fundamental in these villages, so many a times all the villages look all the same!
Penn Valley –This is my personal favorite in the Kaza adorns owing to its elegance and beauty. The 45 km long trek to Bhava pass, begins from Mudh, a village sitting in the lap of Kungari glacier. This place is crowded with the mountaineers. Snow leopards and Ibex are found in its National Park.
Dhankar Monastery – A 1000 years old and about 3370m higher from the sea level, Dhankar monastery lies at a distance of 7 km from Tabo-Kaza highway. The monastery has access to road and has a small museum.
Key Monastery –It is on the road from Kaza to Kibbar. At a walking distance from this monastery three bronze statues of Lord Buddha are caste. Ge-lu-pa founded this monastery in 11th century. Every August, thousands of Buddhists visit this place during the Kalachakra festival.
Kunzum pass –Kunzum pass is the entrance of Spiti valley from Manali. We began our return journey from Kaza to Manali via Losar – Kunzum pass. All the vehicles circumnavigate (pradakshina) around the Kunzum Devi temple before they could resume their journey. We can see the beautiful river Chandra and shimmering snow-clad mountains from Kunzum pass. A road to Chandratal forks out as we travel through this pass. A glacier near Kunzum pass is the fountainhead of Spiti River.
Chandratal –It is indeed one of the most beautiful lakes in the Himalayas. Since it spreads in the shape of moon, hence it is named Chandratal or MoonLake. River Chanrda descends into the Lahaul valley. The real inspiration behind planning this journey was the amazing photos of this lake. But we couldn’t visit this place owing to landslides which blocked to roads from Khoksar. I think we were left devoid of this experience, just to serve this as a purpose to visit again!
After Kunzum pass, a cold desert lays till we reach Manali. But this desert is an open treasure for us, photographers. And the treasure offers winding roads on the banks of milky white Chandra River, surrounded by snow clad mountains. Chandra accompanies us till Grafu village. Chandra and Bhaga rivers fountain from the Baralacha pass. Bhaga enters the Pattan valley to the west, whereas Chandra heads south into the Lahaul valley. Later she turns west to meet with her sister, Bhaga, near Tandi village; and together they are known as Chandrabhaga; or commonly, Chinab. The Lahaul-Spiti visit was planned last year when we were returning from Leh-Laddkh to Manali, via Sarchu; just for the sake of observing this beautiful Chandrabhaga River. But we have to spare 10-12 days to soak in the beauty of this area. July to September is the best period to visit Spiti valley. But this is no place for picnic. Only the wanderers, with the heart to see and click the unleashed marvels of nature, are the rightful visitors of this vale. Within 10 days we could see the mesmerizing and yet perplexing nature. We lost our humanly pride to the humongous snowy mountain ranges. We built a fountain of purity and joy, in our weak and diseased minds, borrowing the sanctity of the nature. Sometimes I think the Himalaya is an alchemist! He hypnotizes us and makes us visit him then and again. And we, bow before him, promising to visit again!
How to reach: Chandhigadh-Manali-Kaza (495km, stay at Manali.) Chandigadh-Shimla-Kaza via Sangla (750km, stay at Shimla, Sangla, Kalpa, Tabo.)