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 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 rocks show a range of colors and some of them have striations. Wish we had a geologist in our group!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I had not even heard of Nako before coming here and now I am leaving with pleasant memories of a small, peaceful village.