After wonderful journey from Shimla to Kaza through Jeori, Nako, Gue, Tabo & lot of other villages in Kinnaur & Spiti valley it was time to explore other places around Kaza and gradually head back. When you go from Shimla to Kaza, there are 2 ways to return back - one is to take the same route through some detours which I am going to explain in my future posts and other is to move ahead towards Manali & then head back to Delhi or wherever you want to go. In second option you don’t need to hit Shimla and folks who plan it well do the same way. We were traveling in a Santro car and road ahead was not very favorable. Also we had some time constraints, so didn’t want to risk things.
In today’s post I will be sharing about our explorations around Kaza, which includes visit to Kye Monastery, drive till jibber village which is supposedly world’s 3rd highest village, Langza, Koumik & then Dhankar along with some interesting experiences on the way to Dhankhar from Koumik.
We packed our bags early in the morning and Varun is saying bye to dogs we met in Kaza. He seemed to be a dog lover and these folks were following him everywhere. We just had tea before leaving our guest house and plan was to have breakfast in the market before leaving for Kye Monastery.
There is a Punjabi dhaba at the end of the road you see in above photograph. This road goes through the market and then you have take left after 300 meters. There are few cafes & dhabas on the right. Food was pretty good here. In Spiti, it's little hard to find fancier dhabas. You get very basic food in most of the places. I don't mean that I didn't like food at other places. In fact, I loved the food served in Spiti valley. There is very different taste of Spiti's water.
Here is view of the other side from main Kaza road. This photograph was clicked from the road above main bus stand and you can notice few tents installed in right bottom part of the photograph. That's Zostel infrastructure in Spiti.
Kaza is pretty big and this is main commercial hub of Spiti valley. Most of the stuff is brought to the Kaza and then folks come here for shopping. When it comes to shopping, I got to know that wood is very expensive in Spiti because of lack of trees. And wood is consumed in different forms - for building houses and for fire. There are special installments in the houses of Spiti where raw wood is burnt to keep the houses warm during winters when all these mountains are covered with white snow. All these photographs are clicked in summer so it's not pure white, otherwise it's white everywhere in winters.
As we crossed through the Kaza town while driving towards Key Monastery, we hit a point from where Kaza town was looking beautiful. We took a pause and thought of clicking few photographs. Above is one of the photographs of Kaza town from the road which connects Kaza with Key Monastery and Kibber village.
Soon after the Spiti river was again pretty close to us and now it was much wider than what we had seen in preview 2 days. And these bridges over the river were very fascinating for my travellingcamera.
Spiti is also famous for it's old & different styled monasteries. After driving for few minutes, we hit a place from where we could see the Key Monastery. There is a small village on the way which is gradually converting into bigger town with modern buildings under construction. This photograph is clicked from the same village. There is also a primary school in this town. I clicked few photographs of the kids doing morning prayer but haven't processed them yet. Will try to share those in one of the other posts about Spiti.
From Key monastery, you see brilliant views on the left. There is huge agricultural land with snow covered peaks & the Spiti river in background.
When we start listing down main places to visit in Spiti Valley, Key Monsatery is must visit place and is very well connected with Kaza town. Road condition is much better than the other roads which lead to Kaza from other parts of the country. Above photograph shows the gate for Key Monastery which is near the main road going towards Kibber village from Kaza. First we visited the Key Monastery and then planned to visit Kibber.
These were some lovely scenes but hard to capture them in real sense. This one is shot from the moving car. These ladies were socializing on the road-side with stunning views all around. If you notice, most of the ladies cover the whole face in Spiti and that's because of very harsh sun. And the sun-burns can be very bad in this region. Skin literally comes out because of the burns and kids & ladies take special care of that.
After visiting Key Monastery, we started heading towards Kibber which was a little steep climb in comparison to the climb we had to take for reaching Key Monastery. And I noticed this village at a distance, which is not kibber but some other place. It looked very beautiful from a distance and hope that above photograph give you some sense about the placement of these houses w.r.t. these huge mountains.
Finally we reached Kibber village and above is a closer shot of the Kibber village. These is an open place to park your vehicle and then roam around the village. We didn't spend much time inside the village but wanted to have tea break here. We noticed one shop but didn't want to delay our next journey towards Langza, so headed back. One needs to take the same road till a point and then again start the up climb for reaching Langza.
Here is a photograph shot from Kibber village but it shows some other village and I am not aware of the name of this village.
This drive from Kibber to Langza is very interesting & unique. One needs to drive on that road to understand what I mean by that.
As we were climbing up towards Langza, we noticed this road on the left side. It was interesting to see such a long straight road in Spiti Valley. It seems that road we see in above photograph takes you to other side of the valley and gradually it leads toward Manali.
Here is a little closer look at the straight road that I mentioned above. You can see it from the road connecting Langza with Kaza.
After the steep climb, we reached in pains on the top of the hill. We could see this huge statue of Budha for long time when we were driving towards Lagza village. What is see above is Lagza village. So Budhha is sitting on top hill near the village and all houses around are spread in surrounding hills of Langza. One can go close to this statute and drive down into the village.
As we reached Langza village and near the Statue, we thought of spending some time around these hills which were further surrounded by snow covered mountains all around. I loved these houses and if you notice there is a layer of grass on the roof and that's mainly for maintaining temperature inside the house, especially in winters.
Above photograph would give you some sense about the scale of each thing here. This statue is itself huge but against these landscapes it looks so small. Just notice the man standing next to this statue. And the shining sun is making overall setting more appealing.
After some time around Langza village, we headed towards Koumik and now the road condition was getting worse. These mountains had some snow and it was melting, so roads were little slushy and also there were plenty of sharp stones on the road.
On our way, our car got stuck in the slush once and when we took it out, we found that one of the tyre was punctured. We had only one spare tyre and we had to drive on such road for 32 kms. All of us were little silent and someone from us would try to crack a joke to distract. But from inside everybody was praying that we reach the tyre fixing station without more hickups. We didn't have an option to get the tyre fixed on that day, as there is no such shop between Koumik and Dhankar.
Here is another old Monastery at Koumik. If you notice & observe is closely, it's made up of mud & the stones.
Komic Gompa has pretty important status in Spiti valley. Interesting there were lot of vehicles at the time we reached and I am comparing that with people visiting other surrounding places like Langza and Key. That can be incidental and a perception that I made after reaching the place.
There is an Echosphere cafe in Koumic and I was super happy to find boards of Echosphere all around. I got to know about this organization in one of the TEDx events in Delhi and how this organization helps in building sustainable means of generating energy got this region through solar equipments and there are various initiatives.
We took our lunch break at Koumik and had sandwiches & Maggi kind of stuff with tea. We spent good 1 hr here and then it was time to head forward.
Landscapes were amazing around this whole stretch and there was a time when it got dark at 2pm. It start snowing and we felt like going out of the car, but preferred to keep moving as we had long way to go that day.
Gradually we go downwards when we have to hit the main highway connecting Shimla with Kaza. From that stretch one could see these farms surrounding by beautiful houses and huge mountain peaks covered with snow.
Above is the photograph of Spiti river flowing through high mountains of Spiti on both the sides and understanding the scale is more important here. Just notice is the man walking on the road. I am sure you can't even notice him, so imagine the grandness of these landscapes. After a week in Spiti, I started loving these hues.
Soon after we took another road and left the main highway to move towards Dhankar. Dhankar Monastery is located at a beautiful place and the drive is even more interesting with views of snow capped mountains on the left overlooking Spiti river.
Dhankar Monastery is also known to have been Nyingma-pa, Sakya-pa and Kagyu-pa, depending upon the religious allegiance of the King’s family. One of the major attractions of Dhankar Monastery is statue of Vairochana consisting of 4 figures seated back to back. It also houses a collection of various centuries old thankas and that's pretty interesting.
Dhankar village is situated at an elevation of approximately 3800 meters. The monastery complex is built on a high montain overlooking the confluence of the Spiti and Pin Rivers on the left. That's one of the main reasons that Dhankar gompa is considered to be located at a very special location. The monastery was built approximately one thousand years ago and now belongs to the Gelugspa School.
Dhankar used to be traditional capital of the Spiti Valley Kingdom during the 17th century and has some features dating back to the 12th century. Dhang means cliff in himachali language and khar means fort. So essentially Dhankar means fort on a cliff which defines the place quite literally. It was the palace of the early rulers of Spiti. The rulers of Dhankar also gave justice to the people and were famous for their harsh penalties until the British replaced them.
After reaching Dhankar, we had to find a good place to stay. There are multiple home-stays. First we went to the homestay which is at the beginning of the village and near new monastery. Charges were high w.r.t. the accommodation offered so we moved on. Finally we stayed in a homestay which was close to the fort and the highest peak of Dhankar village. We got a deal for 1200 rs for 5 of us. This included very good rooms to stay, dinner and the breakfast. Food served by our host Dolma was awesome. Breakfast here was my best meal in Spiti valley.
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If you liked this post and found it helpful, I would request you to follow these things when traveling -
1. Manage your waste well and don’t litter Use dustbins.
2. Tell us if you went to a place and found it hard to locate a dustbin.
3. Avoid bottle waters in hills. Usually you get clean water in hills and water bottles create lot of mess in our ecosystem.
4. Say big no to plastic and avoid those unhealthy snacks packed in plastic bags. Rather buy fruits.
5. Don't play loud blaring music in forests of jungle camps. You are a guest in that ecosystem and disturbing the locals (humans and animals) is not polite