The morning was splendid after a good sleep buried in layers of heavy quilts in a mud room. When i looked at the windows they were all frosted which indicated how much the mercury had fallen in the night . The sun was coming over the nearby peaks as i made my way outside. The cold was immense and to my delight i had a glimpse of the red fox as they sauntered along on the nearby mountain slope. I braved the morning chill as i tried to click a few visuals for the next 30 min or so while the sunrays gathered strength and spread warmth into the morning.
The villages like Sagnam and further ahead have evolved their own way of existence through the decades, though tourism has started to touch them and with every year there is a marginal increase in the road connectivity yet the old ways are still visible especially when once visits in off season like the deep winter when the age old practices are once again followed and bought to the fore as the strands of modernisation fail against the onslaught of nature. The posting of decent and competent medical services is still a major concern. The doctor that was posted out here was on her first appointment, a young married lady who was in panic mode as she had arrived just before the winter had set in and had never seen something like this and away from immediate family in the dreary months of inter starts playing on the mind, the lure of the cities and glitz is too strong and most make all possible ways to leave away these kind of appointments.
The mud houses that are in the traditional mould are the best way to counter the cold in places like these for the brick and mortar house gets chilled like a tomb. I realized this as the warmth within a mud wall was exemplary compared to the chillness in a brick room where the cold was just seeping in while out here the mud was acting as a insulator and holding onto the warmth being generated within the room. Definitely something to think about as to how should the construction be in sync with the region where the constructions is taking place.
The priority agenda was to start the vehicle as we realized that the mercury had indeed fallen very rapidly through the night. One look at the spare diesel confirmed our worst fears as the diesel was not flowing and had coagulated in the night. So for the next three hours or more we struggled to get the vehicle started by using a number of methods that included lighting a fire beneath the fuel tank of the vehicle, pouring hot boiling water through the engine cooling circuit, heating up the fuel lines and waiting for the sun to also warm up the engine itself.
Finally, after sustained efforts it was close to noon by the time we got the vehicle going. The destination was kaza and if possible i would be dropped at Langza while the vehicle would be driven back down to kaza town. Pin valley in winters is super cold and we realized that we had a close shave in getting the diesel vehicle out here.
Kaza was reached uneventfully and after a light lunch we pushed on towards Langza which was situated 14 kms away and with an increase in altitude of more than 1000 feet compares to Kaza. The route was entire uphill with snow piled up on either side of the road in heaps. I had heard about winter white spiti but never imagined it would be so much of snow.
Unfortunately, the road became non navigable 500 mts short of Lanza town and i decided to forego the option of staying out here for now i was not sure if i wanted to reach the settlement and then find out that maybe all home stays are presently closed. The possibility of Komic and Hikkim too closed as seeing the depth of snow reaching to around three to four feet , i did not want to trudge 7 kms .
After spending some time near to Langza we finally turned back deciding to spend the night at Kaza town. The place i stayed was run by a scintillating individual by the name Urigan Dongthoth in short UC. We bonded really well as we shared a common love for the outdoors n mountains as well as trekking. I spent my evening in his room itself modelled on the lines of the Ladakhi ethnic homes instead of being cooped in my hotel room. We shared a great many a tale late into the night. This is one of the plus points of travelling to off heat places and that too in off season. i have met some great individuals and begun a great friendship on these sojourns of mine.
The next day morning we were off towards Kibber village, as we reached the turn off for the village we met two individuals who were sitting in the snow with binoculars. UC spoke to them and they pointed out to a narrow ledge on the opposite mountain where sat a snow leopard. These individuals were trackers and were tracking the leopard on behalf of a client. They pointed us towards a narrow ridge of land ahead of chichham village where a herd of IBEX were on their migration movement towards the far end of their territory. UC and I immediately set off on a rapid trek towards the place and i think it must be said that sometimes fate decrees how things turn out . My first sighting of a IBEX other than seeing on the internet and I was treated to such a grand spectacle , for next hour i was surrounded by these magnificent creatures as they wove their way around me and UC as we went busy with clicking them to our heart’s content.
After an hour or so we turned back and made our way to the vehicle , and from their we decided to go to Ki Gompa and thereafter attempt a climb towards Gete village from behind of the Gompa.
UC leading the way i set off and it was a memorable attempt as we reached high up the mountain face with the entire snow covered Spiti Valley spread out in front. After an hour of trek, we reached the final ridge and here we aborted the climb and turned back. The last ridge was not clear with the heavy amount of snow and we did not wish to take a chance, the descent was scary if I may say so and gingerly descending we eventually reached back to Ki .
Thereafter we returned back to Kaza for a simple lunch of rice and dal and thereafter bid goodbye to UC, happy in the knowledge that i made yet another friend on my sojourns and thereafter we set off on the return leg of my sojourn with the destination being Tabo village and Kesang Homestay.Tomorrow we would make the run to Reckong Peo , exiting the fabled spiti valley and its mystical lands and almost in all aspects ending my sojourn to the Spiti Lands.
Notes to self.
Someday I hope to take the diversion from Ka Loops, crossing the Spiti river and taking the Leo-Hango-Chulling route which would result in bypassing Ka bends, Nako and its heights shortening the distance by around 15 kms as one would reach Chango.
My first experience of a Ladakhi toilet and it was surprisingly very clean and hygienic with no unpleasantness what so ever. A unique concept very essential in the mountain places where sanitation is a major issue. Needs to be adopted all over Uttarakhand and Himachal too.
The hospitality of offering a cup of tea, this practice is so heart-warming, practiced even to this day in the remote villages high up in the mountains, where a stranger is welcomed into the home with a cup of tea and thereafter at regular intervals offered tea in the midst of a conversation. Even in my visit to Ki Gompa, after the visit, was taken to the tea room and a monk so graciously poured me a cup of hot tea.
Places to stay in winter
|Kalpa||Hotel Apple Pie|
|Tabo||Kesang Home Stay|
|Sagnam||Homestays , look for general provision store|
It is highly important and this article of mine would provide useful tips for all those who are planning a trip in deep winter.Please click on link below