The day was expected to be the most relaxed day of the entire trip. The plan was to cover places near Kaza, namely Langza, Hikkim and Komic, which are all close to each other. I woke up late, got ready, had breakfast, all at a leisurely pace and left at 10am. The diversion to these places comes soon after crossing Kaza town, towards the right. I missed the turn initially and ended up on the road to Key-Kibber, but soon realised it and came back to the take the turn. As I was riding up, I was flagged down by a lady who had a small baby tied to her back in typical Tibetian style. She wanted a ride to Langza and was with a group of other women, who were all walking slowly and were also looking for a ride. They were all from Langza and had come to Kaza the previous day to attend the Spiti mela that had happened in Kaza the previous evening. There are public buses that go to these villages, but they are very few and far between. These three villages are all at an altitude in excess of 14000ft. and it is a steep climb from Kaza, which is at 12000ft. I can’t imagine how people of these villages manage to actually attempt to travel to their village by walk, even if it is only for part of the distance. At that altitude, I was finding it hard to walk even 10 metres uphill.
View of Kaza town and the valley, from the highway just outside town
Interesting work of art just outside Kaza, made with used plastic bottles
My motorcycle struggled a bit with the steep climb and bad roads. It was first and second gear all the way through, as we made our way to Langza. The views progressively got better and many snow capped peaks made their appearance. The lady informed me that one of them was Shilo Peak. Soon, the village came into sight, as did another taller and attractive snow capped peak. This is the Chau Chau Kang Nilda (CCKN) peak that is 20000 ft. tall and looms over the Langza village. The village is spread over two areas, one lower and one higher up. The highlight of the village is a tall Buddha statue that is at the edge of a cliff, overlooking the mountains ahead. The village has a nice charm about it, with vast expanses in between the village and the tall mountains on all sides. The lady I gave a ride and many other people from the village worked on road repairs and maintenance in the area near the village. They are employed by the local administration and helps them earn additional money. Otherwise, the 155 people who live in the village entirely depend on farming, which can happen only for 6 months during the warm season. I had a nice chat over a cup of tea with one of the locals who ran a homestay (nearly all homes here also work as homestays). He told me that they mainly grew potatoes, peas, barley and occasionally some dal. He explained that the yield was low this year owing to lesser snowfall in the winter and water paucity. The winter months are spent mostly indoors taking care of the cattle and spending time with family. The villages are also often cut off from civilisation when the snowfall is heavy. It is very hard for us city dwellers to even imagine how these villagers spend their winters, limited to being indoors with no phone or internet, for several months at a stretch.
The quaint Langza village, with well spread out houses. The CCKN mountain looms behind.
The tall Buddha statue at Langza
Village houses at Langza surrounded by farms, stocking hay and other needs for the winter season on their terraces
Next stop was Komic. On the way, I spotted a fox that quickly crossed the road at a fair distance and ran away before I could pull out my camera and click. Komic is at an even higher altitude at close to 15000 ft. Billed as the highest inhabited village (a claim which I believe is false), Komic only has a monastery and a few houses. The monastery was of a reasonable size with 30+ rooms for monks to stay, though I wonder how many were actually occupied. I quickly made my way down to nearby Hikkim, which has a claim of its own, to have the world’s highest post office. The post office has become a popular tourist attraction and a lot of visitors including many biking groups were hanging around there, writing, posing and then posting letters to their near and dear ones. I posted a couple too. The letters are expected to reach distant cities after 10 days, but it is nice to see a working post office in such a remote and high altitude area. Each of the three villages has a population of less than 200, but have basic schooling facilities, which is again impressive.
Restaurant at Komic
The old looking Komic monastery
Roads connecting these high altitude villages. That is Hikkim, as seen from Komic.
The popular post office at Hikkim
On the way down from Hikkim to Kaza, there is one point where one gets a splendid bird’s eye view of Kaza city and the valley from high up in the mountain. On reaching Kaza, first task was to find lunch as it was past 2:30pm. Thankfully, not only did I find lunch at a hotel/restaurant called Traveller’s Den, but it also had a working wifi connection (at 2G speed). Otherwise, internet rarely works in Kaza, even at BSNL 2G speeds. Post lunch, I made a quick stop at the monastery and this time it was open. There was some kind of a puja going on with chanting and the young monks lighting up lamps, closely monitored by a senior monk. Post that, I spent some time wandering around the market and buying a few essentials for the trip. I went back to the hotel, but not before filling up petrol for the ride to Chandrataal and until Manali, as there are no petrol pumps on the way. There was a cricket match on TV which kept me busy for most of the evening. I had dinner at the hotel itself and also spent time chatting with a Bengali group of 4 middle-aged men, who had also checked in at the same time I did the previous day and were traveling in the same routes as I was. They were traveling in an Innova and were also planning to visit Chandratal the next day.
Bird's eye view of the Kaza town and the surrounding valley
Spiti Valley Is Highlighting Plastic Menace With This Unique Art Installation Made With Discarded PET Bottles
Discarded plastic bottles have been put to good use with this unique art installation made from plastic pet bottles that reads ‘I pledge to say no to plastic bottled water in Spiti’ Himachal Pradesh, Plastic Waste
New Delhi: Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh – a traveller’s paradise has now one more attraction in its kitty and that’s the life-size art installation made from discarded plastic bottles and wrappers that travellers leave behind while visiting the valley. The installation has been put up by a 29-year-old travel blogger, Shivya Nath, and few other volunteers who spent 3 weeks in the valley last month in a bid to raise awareness about the harmful environmental consequences of using plastic water bottles in Spiti, that’s regarded as an eco-sensitive high altitude mountain desert. The idea behind the art installation that reads ‘I love Spiti’ was simple, just like all around the world, people take photographs with “I Love New York” and “I Love Amsterdam”, the volunteers decided to join the bandwagon and make “I Love Spiti” art installation, but, with a twist. The Green volunteers unveiled the masterpiece last month at 12,000+ feet in Kaza, the administrative capital in collaboration with Ecosphere, a social enterprise that emphasises on eco conservation, responsible mountain travel and adventure.
Instead of drinking “Himalayan” water bottled in the plains – which leeches chemicals if buried, reused or burnt – we can refill our bottles with filtered real Himalayan water across hotels in Kaza and homestays in the upper villages, says Shivya Nath in a Facebook post.
As per the research done by these volunteers, an estimated 3,00,000 plastic bottles are dumped in Spiti every season.
In the absence of recycling centre in the valley, the only option there is to burn and bury the PET bottles, but, the harmful chemicals in plastic bottles can affect the groundwater and soil. So, to drive home this point, the Swachh volunteers built this thought-provoking masterpiece.
Apart from the art installation, the volunteers are hoping to have a sizeable number of hotels, restaurants and cafes across Kaza equipped with water filters and filter-fitted bottles, to cut down on bottled water use. They also hope that by next season Spiti will have cute sign boards made with discarded plastic bottles indicating water refill stations, and posters that reveal shocking facts about plastic bottled water.
Green volunteers at work
Image Courtesy: Shivya Nath’s Facebook Page