Spiti Tales- High altitude Villages

Finally, we are in Kaza- the district headquarter of Spiti.  We ended up spending two days here and explored the nearby villages. Kaza is the biggest town and commercial center in Spiti.  It has the only fuel station in the entire Spiti valley,  a cyber cafe, and erratic mobile network. After spending days in the remote, serene Himalayas it was like coming back to the chaotic city life.

We started early and went on the now familiar road.  Spiti river, our delightful companion also joined and took us through the valley to the villages.

Spiti Valley and Spiti River

 

Spiti River – shimmering and tinkling like a silver anklet

Along the way, there are interesting artworks curated by nature.

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Our first stop was Dhankar village which was the erstwhile capital of Spiti. The main attraction here is the magnificent Dhankar Gompa perched high on top of a hill. At a staggering height of 3,894 meters,  Dhankar gompa is awe inspiring. From a distance, the entire complex looks fragile and in fact, this is one of the 100 most endangered sites in the world.

 

Is this for real?

Dhankar Fort is the tallest structure and Dhankar Gompa is seen below

Dhankar Fort

 

Dhankar means fort on a cliff and this monastery is more than 1000 years old. I can’t imagine how they managed to build such a  gravity_defying structure in that period. You have to leave the vehicle and walk up to the monastery.

That day it was closed for repairs. So we missed the trek and the dizzying views from the top.   Why is it that most revered places of worship are at such heights and terrains?

After a long stretch of barren mountains, we came upon green patches and a cluster of houses.

Desolate and remote

Compact houses and farmlands

The Spitian villages are sparsely populated.( The 2011 census says  33,224  is the total population).  They all have a monastery, traditional mud houses, and farmlands.   Agriculture, livestock, and tourism are their main source of income. Barley, potato, and peas are the main cash crops.  Summer months are for farming and preparing food and fodder for the harsh winter. In winter everything comes to a standstill and people are confined to their homes.  It is hard to imagine how they are coping with their limited resources.   Apart from the motorable roads, there is hardly any signs of development.

Whitewashed mud houses with prayer flags

Traditional houses and new concrete buildings in Kibber Village.  Some have converted to Homestays where you can stay with a local family.

 

Langza is another picturesque village.  It is known for the fossils of marine animals and plants.   We saw two young girls trying to sell the fossils they have collected. Though it is illegal, there are no stringent laws to regulate this.  A huge statue of Buddha is seen overlooking the valley.  Ideal spot for the obligatory group photo!

Buddha at Langza Village

From Langza the road climbed higher and now we are in Komic Village.

I don’t dispute the altitude!

 

Komic Monastery is relatively small.  A few monks were in the prayer hall chanting.

 

Komic Monastery

The post office in Hikkim is claimed to be the highest post office in the world. Having read about it in travel journals, I was keen to go there.   A steep trek through loose gravel takes you to a nondescript house.  Nobody was seen outside. We took some photos and went in.  The small dark room was teeming with tourists.  Mr. Rinchen Cherring,  the branch postmaster was at the center of the melee handing out postcards, stamps, envelopes and patiently answering queries.  I also bought postcards and deposited them with reverence. One was addressed to myself and I  received it after one month.What an exciting journey for a postcard!

Mr.Rinchen Cherring and his charming post office. It remains closed for 6 months in winter.

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On the way back from the successful Mission Postcard, I met a group of children.  Their school was closed and they were out to play.   It was refreshing to see them making do with what they have.They don’t have fancy toys or the latest gizmos.  We bartered smiles. I like children who don’t live in a fantasy world with superheroes.

Pick up the sticks.

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Kee Monastery was the last stop.  Imposing structure and spectacular setting but I decided to skip it.

Kee Monastery- The biggest monastery in Spiti

A school was seen nearby.  After the morning dose of extreme solitude, the school seemed the perfect getaway. And I wasn’t disappointed. It was a riot of colors and laughter out there.

The School near Kee Monastery.

Running amok

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Zen and the motorcycle.

That night I dreamt of a boy zooming down the mountain on a motorbike with his red robes billowing around.

 

 

33 thoughts on “Spiti Tales- High altitude Villages

  1. Thank you for the delightful journey through the Spiti region. Without the vegetation we are so accustomed to the places look rather desolate. I wonder too about how people over a thousand of years ago were able to build the monasteries on such amazing altitudes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow Sidran how beautiful are your photos – what an amazing place – untouched by man – no internet/Foxtel etc but these lovely people manage – shows how lovely that is and how these things are not a necessity in our lives; kids smiling without them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. How fabulous. I’m always impressed by your next stop on the road. The Buddha at Langza Village is gorgeous. Perhaps revered places of worship are at such heights as they are closer to a spirit that is above us, something we reach for that is higher than man could ever climb to. It would be an advantage to start at the top of the earth. Just a thought.
    As usual, I find the children the most empathetic part of the post. They are the next generation to take care of the place. I wonder if any children grow up and leave for a bigger city? Thank you for a wonderful tale and travel, Sidran! Oh, yes… the nature’s art slide show was amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The impossible heights could provide the much-needed isolation for meditation and protection from the enemies. I think it also challenges the earthly mortals as only the faithful and fit can scale such heights. As you say, one might feel closer to the higher power up there.

      I also wonder what the children want. How many of those young monks would continue the monastic life?
      Besides installing huge Buddha statues, they should use the funds also for building hospitals, schools, and bridges.
      Thank you very much, Resa.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a beautiful post !!!

    Incredible images and informative notes… Spiti is still in my bucket list and yet to set my foot in this stunning Himalayan landscape.

    I missed quite a lot of posts here and need to do some catching up 🙂

    Have a beautiful day 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanking you for taking us for a beautiful tour, I have virtually climbed to worlds highest village. Buildings stand in such mountains shows rich indigenous architecture and bond between mother nature. Same remind me rural areas of middle east, Yeman, etc. I enjoyed the rich nature very much, nice photo collection. Thank your sharining with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wonderful images of your journey, Sidran; without them it would indeed be difficult to appreciate the remoteness, peace and tranquility of the lives of those living their lives in this manner.
    I loved the children; they reminded me of life many years ago when life was slow, and children found pleasure in the simple things of nature, and each other! Thank You for a wonderful insight into Spiti.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The mountains let us feel how insignificant and small we people are! But I have great admiration for the people who live there in harsh conditions and how they survive! I think the summers there are not that warm because of the altitude, how cold should it be in the winter at such a height !? We as civilized population would hardly survive there, some perhaps not at all! Their life-world can not be included for people like us! But the views are breathtaking and spectacular! Also how the buildings there have been realized in these circumstances, so remote and can hardly be reached is almost impossible to grasp and a question !? I also think that this place looked very different 1000 years ago and perhaps also a bit more accessible or lower at sea level, given the fossils of marine animals found back there, makes me suspect that this place once is located below the sea level. I also have some admiration for your courage that you have gone through this journey in harsh conditions! Thank you for sharing your travel experiences and information about it!
    Sincerly, Heidi

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A post to show the magic of nature and the Spiti Valley and Spiti River ~ peaceful looking land and how the mountains and life are woven together into one show the power of both nature and man. Your photos and thoughts about Dhankar Fort impresses the harmony of these two “powers” living together. A tranquil and wonderful life, bringing out the best in the people in this area. How I wish to visit one day… Cheers to a great spring season ahead and happy travels.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Sidran — Which month were you traveling in? I see the post is from January but can’t believe that’s when you were there. I’m really interested to go to Spiti now, so curious about the timing. Also, did you hire a car to take you through the valley? If so, where did you hire it? Sorry to ask you to go into possibly tiresome details, but I’d really like to make this trip sometime. Thanks in advance!

    Liked by 1 person

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