My journey to Spiti in 4.2k (Part I)
Spiti had been a dream destination ever since I was introduced to this charming desert in 2016. I Googled up various places there, the culture and I was very intrigued by it. On a fine Monday morning, I texted my friend saying that we should do a stunning crossover trek to Kinnaur-Spiti, also known as the Pin Bhabha Pass. I knew that this trail would be really enthralling and very adventurous as people usually end up in Spiti via car or bus.
I started my journey from Delhi to Kafnu (Kinnaur) along with a friend. Life happens when you come out of your comfort zone and I was ready to embrace the difficulties and challenges. And trust me, the Pin Bhabha Pass trek is not for the faint hearted; it is a very difficult trek. If only I had known, I would have prepared myself better, but since the trek was about the stunning crossover from Kinnaur to Spiti, I couldn’t control my excitement and packed up my bags as well as possible to the glorious desert.
The big day approached and I had to cross a steep gully which was nearly on a 75-degree angle. God, I was actually about to climb a glacier! My lungs breathed the wind of the pass, while my eyes felt as if they were popping out because of snow blindness and treading on the snow. There was a sense of sudden rush of blood to the head. Deep down, I felt an adrenaline rush, my foot, palm all carried sweat.
It was four hours of treacherous climbing to reach the summit. The trail was slippery and every time I looked down, it seemed like gravity was pulling me back. But there was no option of injecting the notion of fear. The only thing that kept pushing me was the beautiful landscape around me even though enjoying the beauty of nature didn’t suffice my limits of going farther to reach my destination.
I was welcomed by two big boulders right beside me (I was moving forward; the boulders were on my right) which were humungous. I didn’t know what to do at that point of time. Everything was so bone chilling cold around me; my legs succumbed to numbness due to the continuous rainfall in the Himalayas and also while crossing the major glaciers.
With my injured foot, numb hands, and my body carrying a 6 kg backpack, my only way to fight this moment was to not think of what could happen on the way. I had given up thinking about death while climbing the extremely steep Himalayan mountain. Oxygen was minimal, I was panting as if my heart and lungs were about to burst. After four hours of struggle and toil, I stood at the top of the pass. My one thought: God had been very kind to me for letting me escape death.
Reaching Spiti was not a piece of cake, but once I crossed the Pass and entered Spiti, I got emotional and looked around me. What I saw was spell-binding – a landscape that was pure white heaven. The feeling that my dream of reaching Spiti had come true was so surreal. The vast measureless mountains and barren landscapes of Spiti is something that will be etched in my memories forever.
For the next few days, I stayed in the capital city i.e. Kaza where I had pitched my tent as I had decided not to take up a room. After exploring Kaza, I went to Key Monastery by bus. Key Monastery is 14 kms away from Kaza, and 5 kms from a small village known as Chicham where Buddhist monks preach children about the notion of wisdom, peace and other religious Buddhist chants.
The Spiti River is easily visible from Key which gives it a captivating view. I spent most of my time watching the landscape, sitting in the monastery and interacting with travelers from other parts of India. I missed my bus which was scheduled to arrive at 9 am as I didn't want to make an early exit from there.
I was exploring everything around me since there were no means of transportation to get back to Kaza since buses were only available at one time i.e. 9 am. Thus, I hitchhiked until I met a stranger on a bike who gave me a free ride to Kaza bus station.
From Key Monastery to Kibber (a small village in Spiti, 5 kms away from Key), I hiked and went to explore more hidden places. Sunsets are really amazing and eye catching in Spiti. After Kibber, I headed towards Chicham:
another village in Spiti where I had no place to stay. While traveling in a bus, my friend asked an aged Tibetan man if we could be accommodated at his place. His soul was embracing, filled with extreme warmth and affection. Spitians are very welcoming; you will see a smile on their faces always. He fed me delicious food (yak and goat meat) and we enjoyed good hospitality for three days.
The next day, I took a bus from Kaza to Kunzum Pass to visit Chandratal Lake. In my 22 days of expedition in the Himalayas, I had crossed three passes, several valleys and did two treks - a total of 70 kms. First was Pin Bhabha Pass and second was Chandratal Lake Trek, which starts from Kunzum Pass (9 kms).
My Chandratal Lake stories were the most happening ones. Himachal is known as Devbhoomi because of its pure and pristine environment. It is an extremely religious and holy place with a mixture of Hinduism and Budhhism.
Especially in Upper Himachal, Buddhism prevails. Camping near Chandratal Lake is an offence. One has to abide by the rules and camp 2 kms away from the lake.
I and my friend pitched our tent illegally near the lake, knowing the fact it would lead us to pay a heavy amount of Rs 10k. Either you camp away (with your own tent) from the lake and pay Rs 500 or pay Rs 1k (without your own tent) - a kind of business. I was left aghast as to why would I pay for something which I already have. Well I didn't really care, but a few tourists complained about us camping near the lake. So, they called the police to check on us and what we were up to. I mean, how dare we were camping near the holy lake! Believe it or not the gaddis (Shepherds) came up to us and tried to refrain these locals who were in charge of the lake, and helped us out to resolve the matter. But they were reluctant for the negotiation and kept on pushing us to pay the money.
We said "Hamare pass paisa nahi hai, 10 hazar kaise du aapko?” (We don’t have money, how do we pay 10k to you?)
To be continued…