Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Spiti Valley, India

 The Spiti Valley was beyond all expectations. The Spiti valley is located in the North eastern part of the Indian State Himachel Pradesh.It is a desert on the roof of the world,a shangri-La of legend, cut off from the outside world by soaring himalayas and deadly mountain passes. A land where fifteen years ago no foreigner was permitted to enter. Close to the politically sensitive India/Tibet border the Spiti valley has been a restricted area since the forming of India. To this day all vistors must apply for a permit to enter in the mountain village of Rekong Peo, a small town surrounded by tall mountains in the Kinnaur valley which you must go through in order to enter the Spiti valley.

When I traveled to the Spiti valley I was in the company of Jeanette and Philine, Jeanette and I were on our big India Nepal trip and we met Philine in Manali who decided she would also like to try to make the trip to the Spiti valley. We met in Shimla, the old summer British capital back in the times of Indias colonization by the British. After meeting in Shimla we took a bus early in the morning the next day and headed for rekong Peo in the Kinnaur Valley, a 12 hour bus ride on treacherous moutain roads. Most of the roads were cut directly out of the cliff face. We stayed in Rekong Peo for a day to get our permit to enter the valley.

Key Gompa

Untitled The Next day back on the bus, only this time no seats were open which made the ride a lot more uncomfortable. Sitting in the aisle on a mountain is ok for the first couple hours, after ten its hell. The road from Rekong Peo to Kaza, the hidustan-tibet highway, is well known as one of the most dangerous roads in the Himalayas, which is saying something. I thought the mountain roads through the Kinnaur valley were treacherous, if they were trecherous then I have no words to describe how insane these roads were. Rock cliffs falling hundreds of meters into freezing Himalayan rapids, giant hills of scree, landslides, falling boulders, washed out sections. Before we had even reached the Valley it felt like we were on an adventure.
When we finally arrived in the Valley it was another 2-3 hours on the bus to the Main village of Kaza. Kaza isnt a big village but its a great place to meet people and get information about the valley. We found a place to stay in the village for about 2 dollars a night which was pretty decent. We stayed in Kaza a couple of days just to help ourselves aclimatize and then we headed for the village of Kibber which is the highest all year round inhabited village in the world. It was here on the third day of being in the valley we really started to feel the altitude sickness. Bad headaches, dehydration, weakness, lack of appetite. Luckily none of us had a very serious case of altitude sickness and it didnt slow us down too much. I felt its effects mostly in the evening.  That night we had delicious tibetan potato momos made at a locals house, so tasty.
Untitled After a night in Kibber we started the trek back towards Kaza which we planned to cover in 2 days. We stayed over night at the ancient Key Monestary, an incredible tibetan buddhist monestary that is perched high on the side of the mountain next to the Valley. The Place was built more than a thousand years ago and housed ancient paintings and sacred religious texts brought over from tibet over the last thousand years. Tea and meals with the monks was so much fun. We were called to meals and tea by the sound of a conch shell horn. One of the younger monks showed us many of the sacred inner rooms of the monastery which housed thousand year old scriptures and Thangkas (Tibetan paintings) which had been brought over from Tibet over the last thousand years. Some rooms were so sacred that outsiders were not even allowed to look in, which I really like because it leaves some mystery, which there ought to be in a thousand year old temple deep in the Himalayas The monks take there meals in an ancient kitchen, along one wall there are big stone wood fire stoves. On top of the stoves huge blackened metal pots 3 feet across and two feet deep are used to cook for for the 300 monks that stay at Key. A few of them had been learning English and loved having someone to teach them. Having already been an English teacher many times in the past I felt right at home. My time at key monastery was definitely an unforgettable experience. I think someday I will return and spend some more time there. I can only hope it doesn't change too much.
Kinner Kailash Range The next day we were back on the road trekking down the valley with our heavy packs. We arrived back in Kaza before sun down. The next day we decided to hitch a ride further down the valley to another Temple called the Dhankar Monastery. We camped near a lake in the mountains not far from the Monastery. The Valley had such a harsh yet spiritual feeling to it, something that I cant really put into words. Definitely one of my most memorable travel experiences.

1 comment:

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