Snow That’s Still White

Uma Krishanwal, Travel Writer, India

16 January 2018

As I felt lost in the breezes of high mountains, I found myself..  in SPITI!!

Often have I heard people telling me “You should visit this or that place. It does not feel like India”. And, often do I want to tell them how beautiful our country is.

“Incredible India”, a beauty in it’s own right. You need not go looking for beauty in India. You come across it while exploring the land! So,  we packed our bags and decided to hit the road, to explore. To one of the most beautiful places I have ever discovered. ‘Himachal Pradesh‘, a place with bewitching mountains and all the river valleys is known to  be India’s outdoor playground. An intricate topography of conjoined mountains makes Himachal a place to just simply explore.

We took this road trip in the first week of June’17. This narrative is from the fourth day of my trip, soon after we reached our dream destination ‘Kaza‘! Before reaching Kaza, we made our stay at certain destinations including Kumarsain, Sangla and Nako. AHH! Those splendid views from our rooms made me wish to live in the mountains forever.

If we had a thought in our minds that how beautiful the scene was from Kumarsain at night, then we were totally awed by the serenity of ice covered peaks in Sangla and Nako, really did make us believe that how near we were to our dream destination. The mountains followed us everywhere, everywhere we went! Most of the people don’t know about  a small village in Himachal, “Chitkul“. Here, I mentioned Chitkul because there is a spellbinding fact about the place. It is the last inhabited village near the Indo China border, sitting on the banks of river Baspa. The Indian roads end here.

So, I have been talking about my dream destination “Spiti Valley“. On the fourth day of our trip and after exploring a lot of beguile places, finally we reached Spiti Valley. On our way to Spiti, we had a difficult road. Stones falling on our vehicles and though we were a bit scared, but we already were prepared for all the hindrances that were going to be there. But little did we know that all these obstacle are gonna turn all of us into ‘storytellers‘ later on!

Spiti meaning ‘middle land’ is the land between India and Tibet. We stayed in Kaza, subdivisional headquarters of the Spiti Valley. After reaching Kaza, we had an idea for how long we are going to hold those ‘hot cups of coffee’ in our hands. Though Kaza is a small town but it isn’t that small, at all. And specially after you have seen villages with a population of 35 people, Kaza seems to be pretty big! A relaxing hub for all those who have been wandering since days, Kaza has it’s own market and food to offer.  For all the services that Kaza offers, it seemed to be far-fetched.

Ohh! I completely forgot to mention about a village named ‘Gue‘. While travelling from Nako to Kaza, we visited this place and the mind boggling fact about this place is not the lush green environment and those pretty little huts but the mummy that resides in a monestary in Gue. Yes! You read it right, a mummy and that too in a remorse village of India. The mummy is of a monk named Sangha Tenzin, who was found inside a tomb of Gue village.Been 550 years that the mummy has been sitting over there. The way they have preserved it is really applaudable. And also, you can see China standing on the lands of Gue!

Back to Kaza! On the first day of Kaza, we planned on going to Dankar,  a village and also a gompa in the district of Lahaul and Spiti. Dhankar, built as a fort monastery was built on the Central pattern. It was reported to have had 90 monks in 1855. With chilly breezes, the scene of bikers riding in a fleet was really astounding. After returning from Dankar, we decided on visiting the markets of Kaza. And there is some weird relation between us Delhites and momos ‘Dumplings’. Then itself, I had the best dumplings of my life! The next morning, we left for Kunzum la and Chandertal lake and many more on our list to be covered in a single day.

Beginning with Kunzum La (Kunzum Pass). The temple located at Kunzum La is dedicated to Goddess Kunzum. Tibetan flags and enchantments written on stones  all around this place can be witnessed. This place has a mystical feel to it with some real surreal views! Then we headed for Chandertal lake which is a 9 km trek from Kunzum pass but took us 4 hours to reach. Travelling on mountains does really need a lot of valour and patience! And I haven’t even mentioned the worst part yet! which is, we never could see Chandertal lake even after being 3 kms away from it because there was water flooded all over the place.  Though a picture can never do justice to what eyes could see but here it is..

Batal, a place few kilometers down from Kunzum Pass has an establishment of 2-3 dhabas. A  dhaba run by an elderly couple named “Chacha Chachi” dhaba is a very famous place for Chandertal bound tourist. The people are very welcoming and yes! One who has visited the dhaba can never forget that magical smile and the humbleness on the faces of that couple. Known to be the savior couples of Spiti valley. Those who have met Chacha Chachi, must know about what honesty and humbleness is, till now.

Then we headed for a place known to be ‘Chotadhara‘. We already had heard a lot about pagalnala, that we were feeling a bit anxious while moving towards it and the road wasn’t helping, AT ALL!  But there is a twist to my this story as well, which is not a happy one. We never could see the Chotadhara too because all the water dried up and there was nothing but just pebbles on the road. Not many people travel on this road but just a handful and we were lucky to cross them and getting directions from them. It really was one bumpy ride!

Finally, we made our way to Rohtang Pass and seeing the road, was such a big relief in itself.  And then we headed towards Manali, then after staying over there for a night. We left for Kasol, a village located in Kullu district. Before reaching Kasol, we made a visit to Manikaran Sahib, a gurudwara located on Parvati valley.  With Parvati river flowing besides, Kasol too has a view to enjoy and so did we. Camping on our last day and a bonfire was truly a tailor made ending for a trip like this!

Some 11 days to cherish my lifetime and views that I can never get out of my sight!