It was a bright smoggy Friday afternoon, here in our old Delhi house, when creativity finally knocked my door. It is peculiar because I was with my Punjabi mother, who insisted on how our balcony is 2 inches bigger than massi’s. Clearly!
But then suddenly, I found myself back again in the mountains, the endless sky of the eagle’s flight, the wild winds dancing with the fluttering prayer flags, the fluffy dogs, the cozy wooden homes, the warmth of midnight bonfire stories, the lovely mountain people, the starry secrets of the universe.
It was exactly a month back when Spiti called us home! And we saw another side of Himachal… The more bold, beautiful and barren.
Day 1: Arrival to Chandigarh and drive to kufri
Day 2: Kufri to Sarahan
Day 3: Sarahan to Sangla
Day 4: Sangla to Chitkul
Day 5: Chitkul to Kalpa
Day 6: Kalpa to Nako
Day 7: Nako to Giu to Dhankar to Mudh
Day 8: Mudh to Kaza
Day 9: Kaza to Key Monastery – Comic – Hikkim – Langza to Kaza
Day 10: Kaza to Chandratal
Day 11: Chandratal to Manali
Day 12: Manali
Day 13: Manali
Day 14: Manali – Delhi
Here’s what Happened in Spiti Journey:
Day 1: Arrival to Chandigarh and drive to Kufri (127.2 km / 4 to 5 hours)
We rose above Delhi and flew to Chandigarh. You know when four strangers pack their bags for Spiti, you are at the brink of an adventure.
- We stopped at Timber Trails in a place called, Parwanoo. Decent food. Clean Toilets
- The road after Parwanoo has been under construction for long now. Drive slow. (Of course I am not going to edit the fun part of it)
- Put on the local Himachali channel on the TV and try the local apple wine in Kufri. Ignore the Baba Ramdev channel.
Day 2: Kufri to Sarahan (147.5 km / 5 to 6 hours)
Sarahan is known as the “Gateway to Kinnaur”. If you are a first time visitor, like me, it will be completely understandable, if you decide to kill for a window seat. And this was just the beginning! We reached late in the evening, and the night sky welcomed us dearly.
Side note: Thanks for not killing me for the window seat, Tina. I love you!
- If you love mythology, the Bhimakali temple is a must visit. Even if you don’t love mythology and have time, just go
- Local wine available, only if you try hard enough
Day 3: Sarahan to Sangla (80 km / 3 to 4 hours)
When we reached Sangla, the weather turned gloomy. From a clear blue sky to a time-lapse of clouds. The mountain ranges decided not to raise the curtains.
Day 4: Sangla to Chitkul (23 km / 1 to 2 hours)
A stay in Sangla is incomplete without visiting the quaint hamlet of Chitkul. We started at ease, the next morning. Of course Sangla is beautiful, but one realises the depth of its beauty while heading towards Chitkul. I say so, because the road gives an aerial view of the Sangla Valley. It is a shutterbug’s paradise!
And thus we were off to Chitkul, depositing our network signals to nature. The route is a mélange. The Sangla Valley gradually turns into a rocky realm and then again opening up with the lush green abundance of nature.
Chitkul welcomed us with warm autumn colours. We clicked a jump photograph and acted all touristy! At times, cliched is fun, okay!
Chitkul is a place that will stay with you. Older than age, wooden cottages surrounding, little cobblestones. It is one of those villages you see on the postcards and wonder if they really exist.
- Chitkul is the last village before the Indo-Tibetan border
- Local alcohol available (Unless you are totally riding on bad luck)
- No ATMs
- Hike up to the Baspa river bank
- Let your soul wander around
Day 5: Chitkul to Kalpa (62 km/2 to 3 hours)
Riding on the so called “deadliest road” of the word, we hit Kalpa late afternoon. One word hummed my heart, Kinner Kaislash. The jaw dropping view of Kinner Kaislash, makes Kalpa a must visit. Unless, the weather is in a mood for clouds. And in our case, it was! However, I believe that too, is an experience.
- Kalpa is a “sit-there-and-enjoy-the-view” village.
- It has the warmth of one of the best sunset, sunrise and people
- We wandered in the narrow alleys and found an old monastery and a temple
Day 6: Kalpa to Nako (100 km / 4 to 5 hours)
The landscape from Kalpa to Pooh dramatically changes. It was while letting my hair dance mayhem, that I realized the landscape change, from lush green mountains of youth to the more matured shades of contrasting browns.
We were in for a pleasant surprise! When we entered, the whole village was dancing, hand in hand! Every soul was overjoyed, as if that’s the only emotion they’ve ever known. There was a wedding in the village! Nowhere did it feel like, as if it’s a wedding in just one family. It felt like the whole village is a family. Such is the warmth of people there, that even we became family.
I am still so moved by it, that I truly believe, if you haven’t attended a Kinnauri wedding, you haven’t ever partied!
- Attend a Kinnauri wedding-must!
- Visit the lake with your camera
- Do not miss the view from the helipad
Day 7: Nako – Giu – Dhankar to Mudh (122 kms / 4 to 5 hours)
We drove past yellow cottonwood trees and a clear blue sky to reach the Giu monastry. This is home to the famous mummy with the “growing nails” and naturally preserved body, believed to be 500 years old! It was definitely worth a visit!
We stopped at Tabo for lunch. It is famous for a monastery, said to be more 1000 years old. Far atop on the mountain side, you can also locate ancient meditation caves in Tabo. Though we did not spend a night in Tabo, a fellow traveller told me that the night sky is amazing!
This was turning out to be quiet an eventful day, because next up was Dhankar. Now picture this, a monastery carved on a mountain cliff at 12,7774 feet, overlooking the confluence of river Spiti and Pin. I kept my camera aside and slightly adjusted my dropped jaw. We spent a quiet evening exploring the Gompa and watching the setting sun turn the crimson sky more beautiful, by the minute.
We reached Mudh late in the evening. Soothing ourselves with some amazing local pizza at the Tara Guest house in their cozy dining room, was an excellent idea! We sipped some ginger lemon tea and spent the night with the Milky Way watching over us!
Day 8: Mudh to Kaza (55 kms / 2 to 3 hours)
This was sort of a rest day. We started at ease in the morning to reach Kaza. We ventured in the local market and bought some postcards, preparing for the next day, when we will visit the world’s highest post office.
- Wifi available! Really!
- Decathlon available
- Amazing night sky
Day 9: Kaza to Key Monastery – Comic – Hikkim – Langza to Kaza (62 kms / 3 to 4 hours)
We sat buzzing in the cab after breakfast in Kaza and set out to explore. All of us were excited to see the Key monastery! It’s ancient and preserved well, one of the rare combination in times so drunk on modernism!
Up until this trip, I did not even know about a village in India called Comic! One of the highest villages in Asia! It is closely connected to Hikkim, which is famous for the world’s highest post office! The postmaster is sweet! We sent post cards to friends-family and strangers. It is always amazing to see how travel connects us all, beyond blood and brotherhood. I guess everyone loves postcards! Moving further we hopped to the famous fossil village, Langza. The villages are nothing like we’d ever seen before!
Day 10: Kaza to Chandratal (51 km / 6 to 7 hours)
Chandratal, very honestly looked like marine drive, the other day. The place has lost its calm in the hullabaloo of the crowd. For whoever is reading is, I urge and hope you understand, that lungi dance doesn’t look really cool while splashing water on each other at Chandratal. Every mountain has some sanctity, let’s maintain that.
Day 11: Chandratal to Manali (48 km / rough roads, might just take long, more than 5 hours )
I thought the trip is over and usually the fun dies down towards the fag end. But hey, thanks to Tina who in the last moment popped up the idea of us going rafting! So here we are negotiating with rapids and rafting on Beas! What an amazing way to end such an amazing trip!
And amazing reminds me of the evening that followed! Don’t even get me started on how wonderful the evening was! We went to Old Manali! Need I say more? Old-Manali!
- You will fall in love with Rhododendron wine
- Cafe 1947 is as fun as ever. So is the singer there
I’d like to tell you something. A lot of people have taken this path to Spiti. A lot of people happen to live it, enjoy it, write about it and then call it clichéd. Point is, dear friend, no amount of travel documentation can make you experience it. You’ve got to go out there! Simple!