Spiti Tales- Mountains, valleys, lakes, and bridges.

After bidding farewell to the divine Kinnaur Kailash, we set out for  Tabo. This route is known for landslides and we knew the photo stops would be considerably reduced. We passed through Akpa, Morang, Spello and Pooh.The road conditions varied from smooth tarmac to narrow mud tracks.  On the way, there are some lovely bridges and waterfalls. This stretch has some of the finest bridges  I have ever seen, ranging from Bailey, suspension to massive modern ones.

The good roads

Mud roads.Don’t miss the Mummy rock. Pc: Ajay

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The Border Road Organisation (BRO) is responsible for the maintenance of these mountain roads and frequently we came across people engaged in clearing the rock_  strewn paths. They have put up a number of quirky sign boards all along the route doling out safety precautions. ‘If married, divorce speed’, ‘ Be gentle on my curves’,  ‘Mind your brakes or break your mind’ and ‘Be Mr.Late than late Mr.’  are a few I remember now.

Our first halt was at Khab. This is where the mighty Sutlej which originates from Tibet meets Spiti river coming from the Spiti valley. The landscape is barren, arid and vast. The greenery has almost vanished. Mighty mountains lead us to a narrow tunnel with overhanging rocks.  Though technically we are still in Kinnaur I  feel we have entered the surreal land of Spiti.

The gateway to Spiti

Khab Bridge adorned with prayer flags.

The confluence of Satluj and Spiti rivers. Satluj is muddy brown and Spiti river is ash gray.

The rocks show a range of colors and some of them have striations. Wish we had a geologist in our group!

This rock reminded me of a gargoyle with cold, evil eyes.

Rock art Pc: Ajay

Boulders perched precariously

Our convoy.

 

Khab has another significance. Shipki La-the high mountain pass and border post on the India-China border is about 40 km from here. You require special permits to go there.

A slice of the sky Pc: Mangesh

Face off! Mr.Snub nose and Ms.Sharp nose.

From Khab to Hangrung valley

From Khab, the road ascended through a series of switchbacks. There were no other vehicles in sight. It was like going into an alien, remote land. All we could see were the mountains in different colors and dimensions. The landscape is like Ladakh except that Ladakh is always bursting with tourists.

Ka loops

A patch of green.

The next stop was Nako -a beautiful village and often a night stop for the travelers. Nako is an important center of Buddhism. There are two main monasteries (gompas) and many temples in the Nako village. Guru Rinpoche is believed to have meditated in the caves seen up in the mountains.We could not go inside the monasteries as they were closed to the public.

Old Nako Gompa

After a quick lunch, we went over to Nako Lake. After the rocky, dusty, barren terrains, the shimmering lake was like an oasis. It looks more like a  large pond.

Enchanting Nako Lake

Nako lake is a natural lake and remains frozen during winter. The water was crystal clear and green reflecting the trees around the periphery.  The tranquility and silence all around was overpowering.  Though Nako has become quite popular on the travel circuit, there were not many people around.  I can imagine how this place would look with a bunch of noisy, selfie_ obsessed tourists.

Circumambulating the lake

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The walkway around the lake leads to the Nako village and its cluster of houses made of earth and stone. Fodder and firewood are piled on the wooden roofs and most houses have a pen for their cattle.   Prayer wheels, colorful prayer flags, and cairns with inscribed mantras seen among the winding lanes reflect the age-old Buddhist traditions.

Nako Village homes

A pen with no inmates

All peace and quiet here.

Where are the people?

I wanted to peek inside.

Mani stones

Prayer wheels and Mani stones

The premises are kept very clean. But where are the people?   Most people-both men and women work in the fields.Their main crops are peas, potato, wheat, and barley. The Himachal government has provided many houses with solar panels and they also have a helipad to transport people in case of an emergency. New concrete buildings are coming up beside the traditional homestays and small guesthouses. I did not see a school or a hospital.

Two sisters were seen out there enjoying the sun.IMG_5245IMG_5246

I had not even heard of Nako before coming here and now I am leaving with pleasant memories of a small, peaceful village.

 

 

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Spiti Tales- A glimpse of Heaven

Warning – This post is image heavy.

Duly fortified after lunch,  we went out to explore the orchards around the hotel at Kalpa, Kinnaur.  This region is known for its apples, apricot, almonds, and chilgoza. Wherever we turned, there was something fresh to eat.  It was a pleasure to have the fruits without stickers.1

 

There were a lot of tourists and bikers staying at the hotel. The tourist season starts from March and in winter most of the hotels in the area remain closed as the temperature can drop to -15  degrees.  There are a couple of hamlets,  temples, and monasteries in Kalpa which are worth a visit but today  I want to do nothing but commune with nature.

Kinnaur Kailash Range Pc: Ajay

 

Kalpa is at a height of 2960 meters and I am gazing at mountains at 6000 meters. The majestic Kinnaur Kailash Range has  Raldang, Jorkanden, Kinner Kailash and a  17m rock pillar Shivling peaks. I couldn’t make out which is which.  All the peaks are enveloped in the clouds.  The glaciers stood out like thin white lines.

In mythology,  Kailash is the winter abode of Lord Shiva. In the month of August,  devotees take up a difficult trek to circumambulate the sacred mountain.

It was 18:30 and dark clouds were still hiding the peaks. I was content gazing at the vastness of the sky and the mountains. And then the clouds lifted and we could see a golden peak glowing with dazzling rays.

Glowing peaks and dark clouds

The next moments went by in a flash.I watched spellbound. The celestial light seemed to glow brighter each moment. It was a divine experience and words fail me.

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The ethereal display lasted for about 5 minutes and the clouds reclaimed their spot.

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All of us were in a euphoric daze. My friend was in tears. Someone said they could see Lord Shiva atop the summit. There must be an explanation for the sun rays lighting up that peak but today I am going to believe in miracles and don’t want to be rigidly scientific.  I don’t think my pictures do it full justice. The following images are from Ajay.

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After this soul stirring experience, I could see a change in the group.  Yes, the mountain has cast a spell on us.We became more open and friendly. What a special day this has been!

The next day we were up early and lined up in the balcony hoping to see the sunrise. Alas, the mountain was unwilling to take off the fluffy cloud caps.  I guess they were playing peekaboo.

Morning hues

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Hide and seek

I wish we had more time to stay and watch the clouds play.  Unfortunately,  we weren’t able to spend as much time here as I would have liked.  By 9:00, we were ready to hit the road.  Spiti is getting closer.

Leaving the blessed land of Kinnaur