So Spiti is always a place I will associate with Serendipity. For me, the two names are interchangeable because of the series of events that led me there. Mainly, bumping into a distant cousin of mine (whom I had never met) at the guest house I was staying at in Solang Nala. I had pretty much decided not to venture over to Spiti because of my time constraints and also I was a little wary making it there by myself because it is such an arduous journey.
Goes to show – never be fixed in your thoughts or actions, the only constant is change. When I got back from my magical journey to Beas Kund, my cousin Tampi offered me a trip to Spiti to tag along with him while he took take of some business. I am SO HAPPY I said yes – now Spiti is embedded in my heart as an absolutely ancient and holy space. And what better person to go with? The citizens of Spiti believe that Tampi had spent much time there in previous lives, hence his attachment and devotion to the preservation of Spiti.
So off we go! 3:30am the next morning and I am giddy in our 4×4, ready for a whole different type of adventure. I know nothing of Spiti, and Tampi keeps me entertained the entire journey with folktales and legends of this strange place. He has even written a book called Spiti through Legend and Lore, and has worked to preserve the magic of this place. I am cursing myself for leaving my copy in Delhi…these posts would be a lot better informed if I had it with me! ah well…
So our first hurdle is Rohtang Pass, a mountain pass that connects Kullu Valley with Lahaul & Spiti. Situated at about 13,000 feet, it offers a view all the way to China! OK OK just kidding, that is what they tell the tourists haha! Above is the silence and peace of the pass as the sun is about to rise. I was lucky to experience this place without the obnoxiousness of tourism creeping in, and to imagine what it must have been like before it was ruined. To the right is what Rohtang is normally like – covered with so many humans, they look like ants. Do you think Bollywood has influenced this scene or what! Tampi and I had great fun making fun of the tackiness of our surroundings
Nothing like honoring a great mountain pass with….snowmobiles!!! and donkeys, and trash, and tubing…
The locals like to make idiots out of all the tourists, convincing them to buy full snowsuits, fur coats, and ridiculous boots. In the middle of the day, all that is required is a long sleeved shirt!
You can always tell the newlyweds – the woman is wearing a full red snowsuit with painful heels and her chooras( wedding bangles). Tampi and I had great fun laughing at everyone…
And we had too good a time cracking up at this guy…a little unsteady on our ‘snow legs’ are we? I wonder if he knows he has a huge stain on his butt…
This guy has to embed his name forever in the snow. Or maybe he is professing his love to his girlfriend by showing the immortality of their bond by writing their initials in the snow…until it melts and gets washed away of course!
Ok enough of the trivialities of Rohtang – Let us move onward into Lahaul valley where the mountains are unforgiving!
Coming down from Rohtang Pass we enter Lahaul Valley. At first the way is narrow and winding along the Chandra River, but it soon opens, inviting us to gape at its splendour. The valley formed by the Chandra River is known as Rangoli. It is a wild and desolate valley, with vast stretches of snowfields and glacial formations. It is uninhabited until we reach Khoksar, the first shanty village in the valley.During summers there is a rich growth of alpine flowers, beautiful potato fields and numerous water channels . Herds of goats and sheep can be seen grazing around.
And here is one of those crazy glacial formations that we have to drive through. Did I mention it is the end of July here? The road is very precarious to Spiti (about a 12-15 hour journey), and already we have to slow down from hitting a boulder at Rohtang. A 4×4 is no match for nature! Maybe that is why man feels the need to buy bigger and bigger cars…fear of the unknown.
The Chandra River is not subtle. She is mighty and fast, the color of steel blue. Chand means the moon in Hindi, and like the moon, she causes turbulence and is ever-changing. Very appropriate for such a terrain!
More of the open majesty of the Lahaul Valley. Did I mention it just gets better from here? It seems the more ‘far out’ you go, the more ridiculously bizarre the terrain gets.