“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert
Far far away on the bank of a spiraling river is a small world away from the world where people are warm, welcoming and helpful. The bustle stays for half of the year and then it gets covered with snow.
Amidst the cold desert of Lahaul and Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh is a town called Kaza. Rough terrain, high altitude, low oxygen level, magnificent mountains in the inner Himalayas is a challenge that must be accepted at least once in life time. Once, Rudyard Kipling visited there, awestruck by the view, described this place as ‘a world within a world’.
At an elevation of 3650 metres, it is surrounded with mountains. The city has a bank, a petrol pump, a post office and a market that offers food, souvenirs, clothes, trip advice and immense support by the local people. Scarcely populated township of Kaza has a rich Buddhist culture and houses one of the oldest Buddhist monasteries of the world.
Colourful and magnificent Sakya Tangyud Monastery also known as Kaza monastery stands in the middle of the city like a colourful crown that beautifies the city even more. A gaze at the magnificent statues of Lord Buddha fills you with a prolonged calmness, curtains and drapes of vibrant hues leaves you mesmerized with its simplicity, monks playing drums and bells inside this monastery magnify the soothing effect of the chanting of holy buddhist prayers. The vibrations so smoothly mix with the air around you that when you inhale the peace, the humdrum of life escapes your body and mind.
With motorable roads reaching to Kaza has brought foreign culture which is now infused with the already existing Buddhist culture. Foreigners from all across the world hike and trek to this place and this have resulted in establishment of a lot of cafes in the city. These cafes offer cuisines from various countries of the world out of which Israeli, American and Chinese cuisines are the most demanded. Local shops offer thukpa and momos in a traditional setting and a local form of tea sans milk.
There is a chance of being left disconnected from the world once you enter the border of the Spiti district. The only cellular network available is BSNL. Local market offers wifi per hour and you can use it to upload your pictures on social networking sites to flaunt this little world. Hotels are available at cheaper rates.
The roads around the city are not well constructed but they go parallel to the bank of Spiti river thus, worth a drive. Bikes are available on rent that can be taken to explore this faraway land.
Once you hit the road you must drive to Chichum and try the infamous Chichum jhoola (a ropeway) to treat yourself with some adventure and adrenaline rush. Once you step into the jhoola, heart thumps inside and you can clearly hear it loud. Hands shiver as you slowly glide on the rope. With gravity pulling your jhoola, it speeds up and stands still right at the middle of the ropeway. Dare to peep under the jhoola, you will see 300 feet deep valley and flowing tiny stream of river Spiti. With those shivering hands a rope is to be pulled to reach back to land. This becomes a milestone in your life where you conquer fear and stand victorious.
Another place that cannot be missed is key monastery which is at least a thousand years old and is claimed to be the oldest in the world. This monastery proudly homes some very old paintings depicting the stories of birth of Lord Buddha and his various avatars.
Kibber is one of the most scarcely populated villages with only 77 families residing in it. You will be astounded to see green fields of pea crops amidst this cold desert. Far from the world it is unexpected to find a wildlife sanctuary right in the middle of this village. If you are lucky you might spot blue sheeps grazing in fields on some hill near you. These sheeps are rare and are found in cold deserts only. During this roadtrip, you will come across some amazing naturally made caves on the mountains which are known to be used by monks and nuns to meditate.
The best months to visit this faraway land are from June to September except the monsoon season. It takes courage and patience to reach this isolated world that has so much to offer. Once you take this trip you will have plenty of stories to share with your friends and folks.
“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta