A meandering solo drive around Himachal


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Onwards to Spiti

"At last they entered a world within a world - a valley of leagues, where the high hills were fashioned out of mere rubble and refuse from off the knees of the mountains - surely the Gods live here - this place is no place for men"

- Rudyard Kipling on Spiti in Kim

In Kipling's days, Spiti was probably barren and remote. Now its a magnet for BCMT members, bikers of every sort, and a whole host of other travellers ! Yes there are lots of us, but in many places it can evoke the charm which captivated Kipling.

Yes, Spiti is magic. Whether you just do the tried and tested circuit or trek from Kibber to Tso Moriri, everywhere it is magic. So, when I can sample the magic without the ardousness of a trek, why not. I did only the standard route. After all I am a "senior" BCMTian, in age if not in badge !

The once dreaded Malling nallah has been tamed. Just like the roaring rivers of India, which in recent times have been reduced to a trickle, so too Malling nallah.

First port of call, Gue, of course. But no mummy photo; let he be undisturbed. This is better !


(see the mummy, sure, but also look at this)


Most travelers to Tabo skip staying here , dash in and out of the monastery and move on to Kaza. I didn’t know Tabo would be so pretty, and when I saw its charm, decided to tarry. What an excellent choice it turned out to be.


(a really charming place)​

The Tabo Monastery is lovely, of course. It is the oldest monastery in the region. It was set up by a Buddhist King Yeshe O'd in 996 AD. It has been renovated multiple times, the last of which has led to a new monastery. Splendid wall paintings decorate the walls.

The morning prayer session at the Tabo monastery is at 6.00 AM. I got up at 5.30 AM in sub zero temperatures to go there. Today it was an individual prayer session and not the group chanting that is often more absorbing to the layman. As it’s a monastery, there are basically young (very) monks and a few old supervisors. It's an experience in the cold sun to listen to the chants of the Manjushri Mantra - Om Ah Ra Pas Tsa Na Dhi Dhi Dhi Dhi Dhi ......

(the morning prayers)


(better to bask in the sun and chant than be cooped up inside)

Boys will be boys everywhere. The littler ones tried their best to play truant or gossip, leading to constant reprimands from the master. A few teenage monks however recited with obvious fervor. I don’t think its a good idea to push boys as young as 7 or 8 into a monastery, but then who am I to judge.


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Onwards to Dhankar. The former capital of Spiti. This is half a fort and half a monastery. The history of the region over the last 300-400 years is that there have been innumerable wars and these monasteries have all been sacked. First it was the Dogras , then it was the Sikhs , then it was the Brits. Man seems to be capable of waging war even in the most inhospitable, desolate, but beautiful parts of the world. There were hardly any people here and there’s nothing of material wealth – so what are you fighting for ? I just can’t understand.

I went mid morning and so not in time for prayer. The temple itself was closed and there wasn’t a lama in sight. But I found somebody who opened it for me. Stunning vistas everywhere that I wondered how you can devoutly meditate or study when you are amidst such beauty. Maybe when you live here, you take the beauty for granted and it just becomes ordinary.

There’s a small café adjacent to the monastery. I sipped some hot tea while gazing into the mountains. Its easy to be moved when you are close to a place of worship, in such a splendid location.

(bird's nest as befitting a fort/monastery)


(the colourful deity)

All the hanging around, waiting for the "rain rain go away" , meant that the meandering in Pin Valley had to be curtailed. But, I did, at least, make a token appearance in Mudh.

The road had deteriorated after the rains and the inevitable landslides and it was slow going. But the rewards were all there. The lovely Pin river. The majestic setting of Mudh. Maggie at Tara's ! Didn't stay at Mudh and explore Pin Valley though.

(just this one "stock shot" of the Spiti landscape enroute Mudh)

(Yes, this has featured in BCMT before, but what a charming sign)

(the usual hanging bridge over the Pin ......)


(..... and of course I had to stop the car , get down and go right to the middle !)

(You can have this view ......)


(..... or that)


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Wonderful log. Spiti valley is enchanting place. It just casts a spell on traveller or log reader. have done this circuit 2 times but still want to go and spend month exploring most of places at leisure. Last time met couple who were covering spiti walking and another couple cycling. It's also my dream but i know it's not possible.

Waiting for next part.


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Wonderful log. Spiti valley is enchanting place. It just casts a spell on traveller or log reader. have done this circuit 2 times but still want to go and spend month exploring most of places at leisure.
So true. This place makes you want to come back again and again.

Lovely thread and nice stories

Some more details about the hotels you stayed spl the one in Batseri
Thank You. The place I stayed in Batseri was just Hotel Batseri (expensive but beautiful). Homestays are also possible there which would be much cheaper. Banjara Camps are also nearby.

Wonderful, thoroughly enjoying the pics and narration of the Magic Land,
Thank You.

Wonderful. Spell bound. Now this thread is kindling me to go to Spiti next year.
Yes, Spiti has this kind of an effect, isn't it. The same happened to me. I read about this place in earlier travelogues and was pulled like a magnet.


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Finally, we all land up in Kaza. I did too. Kaza, to my mind is far less charming than Tabo. Yes, I know its only a base to venture further but still. And yes, I did fill up the tank at the "highest retail outlet in the world". And no, I am not going to put up a photograph of that !

(enroute to Kaza is of course nice)

(but Kaza is best viewed from a distance)

There is obviously a monastery here, the Sakya monastery - after all this is deep into Tibetan Buddhist country. And of course I went to the morning prayers, this time at a more civilised hour of 8.00 AM. The prayers were a group chanting by the monks, complete with blowing of the conch, crashing of the cymbals and the beating of the drum. It was a great way to start the day, warming the heart, inspite of the bitter cold. They didn't allow photos, and respecting that, I didn't take any.
Off I went to all the usual villages.


There was some festival going on in Key Monastery, the place saw a steady steam of Altos and the "car park" was filled with them. After the obligatory photo, I quickly moved on. Hordes of cars are better seen in Bangalore !

(Rangrik seen from the road to Key on the opposite bank)

(the obligatory photo of the Key monastery)

(look down and you see how much you have climbed)



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The Village Tour


Kibber was lovely. Probably because half the population had gone to Key. I gave a lift to a couple of them too to help in the exodus. The thing that charmed me about Kibber was the school (see photo below). I wanted to enrol. But the girls were giggling too much. I was disturbing them and moved on !

(approaching Kibber)

(what a lovely "classroom" )


(my companion enjoying the lovely backdrop to Kibber)

And then onwards to Chicham, which I liked most of all. A quiet charming village cut off from everywhere. Just a year ago they commissioned the bridge that made a road journey possible. Else from Kibber, you reached the gorge over which the bridge stands now and then operated a rope pulley yourself to get across to Chicham ! And yet they have passive solar houses and a greenhouse there. Fascinating.

(lovely Chicham)

(city dwellers must hang their heads - they do this in remote Chicham)

(without this bridge you would have to haul yourself on a pulley across the gorge)



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About 200 million years ago, where India is now was largely an ocean - the Tethys ocean.

The landmass of India was somewhere near Australia ! There was a super continent called Pangea; today's familiar continents did not exist. When Pangea began to split up, India started to move towards the continent of Asia that was forming, at the rate of some 15 cms per year. At about 50 million years ago, the Indian and Eurasian plates collided, the Eurasian plate buckled and the Himalayas were formed. The Tethys ocean got closed off, disappeared, and the ocean floor got lifted up into the Himalayas.

How do I know this ? Because you can easily see marine fossils around the village of Langza. The fossils are mostly of ammonites, who were marine predators with a shell, were prolific breeders and became extinct around the same time of the dinosaur extinction. The fossils found in Lanza are about 100-150 million years old. Some children came up to me and offered to sell fossils - this is unfortunately a common ocurence and tourists do buy them for souvenir value. It is illegal in India to do this, but it happens all the time. Of course, I didn't buy. I instead gave the children some sweets and shooed them away, but I did take a photo of what they were offering.

Langza is a charming village of about 150 people. Just about 30 odd houses. It is centred around a giant Buddha statue of some vintage. The village offers the best views of the Chau Chau Kang Nilda peak (6300 mtrs , 20700 ft). I stood for sometime gazing at the peak and then moved on.

(pretty Langza)


(no to the fossils being peddled)


(the magnificent Chau Chau Nilda Kang)


The highest post office in the world. This claim I am ready to believe. Although the Mongols inventd the postal system and the Brits brought it to India, nobody has taken to the post office as much as Indians. Even in this day of email and instant communication, the post office holds its own, at least in rural India. And in the mountains of Himachal it is often the only means of communication. Yes, the Hikkim post office is special.

The drive to Hikkim was truly wonderful. Snow had fallen and there was snow on both sides of the "road" (no asphalt, just a dirt road). I was so captivated by the drive that I kept stopping every 50 mtrs just to stare - and so took forever to reach the village.

Another small village of 200 or so souls, dotted with homestays and absolutely charming , made even more so by the snow all around. Breathtaking vistas. From where the car has to be parked, down to the village street and the post office is a steep path. At this altitude, I was not ashamed to huff and puff for what I would have sprinted at sea level. A few boys decided to show me how it is done by running up and down and giggling uncontrollably at me puffing like a steam engine !

Every tourist drags the post master out and takes the obligatory photo; I decided to spare the poor man. An enterprising villager had set up a small kiosk near the place where you have to park your car, knowing that huffing and puffing visitors trudging up from the post office might be partial to a cup of tea. I was no exception and sat a good half an hour sipping the hot liquid and chatting with him.

Hikkim was memorable.

(wow, a drive like this when winter has not yet set in)

(Hikkim - those gradients are killing)

(the charming "cafe" - buy the scarves !)

(with views like this, the house must cost a million dollars !)


I am the "top" of my trip. Komic advertises itself as the highest village in the world you can reach by a motorable road !

Very likely not true. Wenquan at 4870 mtrs on the China National Highway to Lhasa, should surely be the highest village connected by a fully motorable road. Even La Rinconada in Peru, the highest permanent human settlement at 5130 metres has a road, if you sort of stretch the definition of motorable. But then we should not quibble. What's in a few metres. Komic is HIGH. 4587 metres. That's enough.

As usual there is a homestay here. There are in all the villages. Their target seem to be the guys I cannot fathom , who are all over BCMT - those who come to see the snow leopard in winters ! It's minus 20, you live in prehistoric conditions, you trek for miles at high altitudes, trudging through the snow and falling on your backside on the wet ice , suffer a frozen derriere and at the end of four seasons and 76 days of effort you see a light shadow at a distance of 2 miles which might be the swish of the tail of an alleged snow leopard !!

As you can see, I am goading all you seasoned experts !! Just in fun - what's life if you aren't a bit naughty !

(what a drive - never expected such luck in early Oct)


(a monastery even here)

(really ?)