Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Life as a Local


I wheezed my way to Butit’s place, which was going to be my home for the next 3 nights.
Man, two months of Yoga doesn’t prepare you for a hike at 4200 m!

The entrance to Butit’s house was a small green door that was grossly inadequate to accommodate an average built Indian man. All the winter layering only added to the woes. The door opened to a dimly-lit passage, which smelt of spices, dust, and cow-dung. Bending was the only way to avoid banging my head on the ceiling. A heavy backpack and bent back made me gasp for air. The passage seemed overcrowded with 3 adults and 4 backpacks.

‘Please don’t expect any luxuries in the homestays. Houses in Demul are basic. That’s how you live like a local in Spiti.’ Ishita Khanna, founder of Ecosphere had warned us before we left Kaza.

Cheap stays on my travels don’t bother me. On the contrary, whenever my accommodation crosses the 3-digit mark, ‘traveler-not-tourist’ inside me feels betrayed. Yet that unending passage, which though only a few meters long, rattled me. I was reminded of my Economics class, where I would check the watch every 15 minutes, only to find merely a minute had passed. Time never stood still before or after that course; that is till I had traversed this passage. Walls constricted, ceiling slipped lower and the floor edged upwards.

CLAUSTROPHOBIA!

Screaming and running out of her house loomed large when Butit turned to climb the stairs and arrived in yet another passage – roomy and well-lit. Man! I was relieved.

In the front was Butit’s room.

It was not only her bedroom but also the kitchen, study, dining, and living room, all combined into one, as I would come to know later. Mattresses were spread across the length of the floor on three sides. At the center was a stove, which was also a room-heater. The ropes with an overload of clothes were tied along bright yellow walls, which were decorated by two Shahrukh Khan posters often found in road-side barbershops. The window served multiple purposes, primary of which was communication between people on the inside and those on the street.



To my right was a dry toilet.

Basic homestay, remember?

The dry toilet was a tiny room with a door, no windows, and a hole on the floor. You were expected to have a good aim to ensure your business passed through that hole. The skylight let the warm gases exit the toilet.

To my left was my room.

The only indulgence I yearned for was a place to straighten my back. I had surrendered all hopes of a comfortable stay. But when I opened the door, what stared back at me was heaven!

The room was several notches above my expectations: two beds with thick blankets and real mattresses, colonizing more than half the room; neatly tucked floral bedsheet and matching pillow-covers; two chairs and a table – with a jug and a flower pot; pink walls and blue ceiling; half the walls covered with bamboo mats; the only window opening to the view of fields.

Gazing at my room, I would have beaten Buddha in experiencing gratitude. For a person, who constantly grapples with thankfulness, this emotion was an epiphany. I never appreciated my fully-furnished 2000 sq. ft. flat in Gurgaon. Forget appreciation, I never even noticed it.  But at Demul, something novel happened, and I wasn’t sure why!

Was it because I was tired?

Or was it because I was far from home – traveling – and expecting a transformation that comes with it?

Or was I not grateful – simply relived looking at a clean room after a long day?
Answers to those questions eluded me. Probably, the answer wasn’t what I looked for. I was in an inebriated space: slightly overwhelmed and happy high. Before that feeling ebbed and was replaced by something mundane, I wanted to cherish it. In an all-knowing world, I wanted a few mysteries to stay: mysteries, which were pleasant! Mysteries, which were entirely mine.

I dumped my backpack on the floor and crashed on my bed. My tired limbs were rested but my mind was hyperactive, absorbing the Spiti I had come to acquaint myself with. Butit brought Maggi and tea, which I wolfed down in minutes.

Before I could lay and contemplate about the shift of my axis, Takpa barged in.

Takpa Tenzin was our tour guide. Around 6 feet in height, he had broad shoulders and healthy physique, quite like the folks of mountains. Like how magenta robes become the part of monks’ body, the green-blue chequered jacket had become Takpa’s extended skin. The disheveled hair and light mustache suited his triangular weather-beaten face.

He usually had a joke for every situation – though lame, it managed to crack everyone.

‘Don’t be a Gama. In the land of Lama’, he warned those, who tried to be over-ambitious while hiking.

He apparently knew 75% of Spiti, which was around 7500 people and was 56 years of age.
‘WHAT? 56? You don’t look that old’, I remarked, aghast.

‘Maybe it’s the mountain effect – preservation of age’, someone else acted wisely.

Only under the influence of a few beers did he reveal that he was 37. But till then, we had stopped believing him.

On one of the days, when we went for high-altitude trekking, and we all struggled, including the avid American trekker, Takpa came to our rescue:

‘This is not a rally. Enjoy the valley’.

So, we enjoyed the valley.



His evening visits had become a ritual. He would come, crack a weighty remark here, a witty remark there, eat a little, drink something, and share the plan for the next day.
Life as a Local' lets you stay with the local people, observe their routine, help solve their problems. Tomorrow, we are going to dig ditches in the fields.’

Dig ditches? How will that help? I wondered.

‘Spiti is a cold desert. We barely get any rainfall here but ample snowfall. So, the trenches you work on, get filled with snow in winters. The snow melts in summers and increases the water-table.’

***
Geared with picks, shovels, and fervor, we marched towards the fields. The prospect of making a difference to someone’s life thrilled me. I never tried that near my home, but while traveling, it was different.

‘Experiential travel’, they say. You can write about it.

‘Take rest whenever you are tired’, Takpa instructed.

We took his instruction to heart. We rested after every 8th strike to the ground – strikes that made absolutely no impact on the depth of the ditches.

The zest stayed high, with the girls taking the charge. Though it was not so long-lived. The stark contrast between efforts and results sneered at us: the gusto went downhill, starting from the masculine side.

The girls tried to motivate us to get up, pick the shovels, and remove the dirt.

That didn’t work.



So, they resorted to insults.

That worked.

By the evening, when the job was done to our satisfaction and to Takpa’s dissatisfaction, we left the field, fantasizing about a hot shower and a warm bed.

‘Can we get some hot water?’ I asked Butit.

She didn’t seem to comprehend. My request seemed so axiomatic that I hadn’t prepared for an explanation. So, I repeated:

‘Can we get some hot water for a bath? We are filled with dust.’

‘OK’, she replied, with a mixed expression of reluctance and displeasure, which only a person slogging over the weekend can show.

What the hell! Haven’t we paid enough to take a bath at least? I thought, feeling a little annoyed.

But ignoring the hiccup, I went and chatted with Norbu, Butit’s son, who was aware of Gmail and Facebook despite no internet connection in Spiti. One of his books read:

Every child is special. You are extra special because you are a child of Himalayas.

‘I want to go to Delhi,’ Norbu said.

‘Why? What a terrible place, full of smoke and dust and smog and filth,’ we retorted.

‘But it's big and I want to see a big city. Till now, I have only been to Kaza a few times.’

‘What will you do there?’

‘What do YOU do there?’

Stumped!

Our chain of the conversation was broken when from the window I saw, a tiny woman afar, walking with a large tank on her back. The tank was three quarters her height and was held by a rope. She wiggled her way uphill and skittered downhill. My adrenalin was high just by looking her stride, nervous that the tank will fall, and her water will go down the drain along with her effort.

‘Damn difficult life. These guys toil really hard’, I said, receiving a whole-hearted agreement from my room-mate.

‘That is mummy’, Norbu said.

WHAT!

Flashes of how I struggled to reach Butit’s house just the day before shimmered in my memory. And now, she walked the same distance with a barrel full of water so that we could take bath.

We were silent for a while, the quiet broken only by the clanking of the utensils Butit used to prepare our meal.

‘Water is ready.’

Bathing felt lucrative earlier but now I was reluctant and displeased. Water, such an inconspicuous item, never drew so much reverence or guilt. Every mug of water crashed against my skin and jolted something inside the ribs.

For the next two days, I washed my used utensils, helped peel potatoes, talked a little less, listened a little more.

I didn’t take a shower for the rest of the trip.



Yash travelled with Ecosphere on our Life as a Local program. Follow his adventures on Instagram @angryfatman

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

I Love Spiti





You know times are strange when people prefer bottled “Himalayan” water packaged in the plains and transported to the mountains, instead of drinking the real deal - filtered Himalayan water in Spiti! 

Many people continue to purchase bottled water with unquestioning faith - a perception that it is safer and of higher quality. Advertisements and visuals in popular media have us believe that bottled water originates from the purest springs high up in the mountains! However, this is extremely rare, and often untrue.

Most bottled water comes from sources similar to the municipal water supply which goes through additional filtering. Ultimately, what makes the water special (and expensive) are its branding and packaging!

Each time you drink out of a plastic bottle, you risk the possibility of ingesting the chemicals used to make the bottles. These chemicals can leach into the water over time - especially in old plastic bottles that people reuse and/or those that have been exposed to heat.


What does this mean for a region such as Spiti? Let’s dive in with some shocking facts about bottled water in the ecologically fragile Trans-Himalayas:

  • Tourists leave behind over 3,00,000 plastic bottles each year. These are just conservative estimates!

  • An average tourist consumes 2-3 bottles per day that accumulates in landfills, riverbeds, fields, or everywhere throughout Spiti

  • Bottled water comes into Spiti from the plains. During transportation and also while being displayed, these bottles are exposed to heat constantly. This often causes bottles to leach BPA (Bisphenol A) – a chemical known to cause cancer – into the bottled water.

  • Bottled water has less oxygen than groundwater. We need all the oxygen we can get in the high-altitude regions of Spiti!

  • Plastic bottles take a minimum of 500 years to decompose! We might think we’ve done our bit by discarding bottles in a dustbin, but they typically end up in a dumping ground next to the Spiti River

  • Reusing plastic bottles isn't an alternative either. Single-use bottles leach harmful chemicals into the liquids stores in the bottle. The nearest recycling center is about 500 km away in Punjab

  • If burnt or buried, the bottles release harmful chemicals into the air, groundwater, or soil, ultimately polluting local food or water. These chemicals cause cancer, heart disease, hormonal imbalance, and other serious ailments.


Plastic waste discarded near the Spiti river


Give us a mountain and we’ll climb it!

In 2017, Ecosphere and a group of passionate volunteers banded together to start the #ilovespiti campaign. It was a campaign born out of love for Spiti and collective dismay at the increasing amounts of plastic waste in the Valley.

Through the I Love Spiti campaign, Ecosphere aims to:

  • Educate the community, local businesses, and travelers about the impact of plastic on one’s health and the environment

  • Collect as much recyclable waste off the mountainsides of Spiti to send out of the valley for appropriate recycling 

  • Reduce the use of plastic bottled water by providing drinking water refill points across the valley

Interventions in Spiti

To Inform and Inspire

Confronted by a mammoth task but determined to move forward, we set out to engage key stakeholders for discussions on sustainable solutions to the plastic problem in Spiti.

Local community: We discovered that most locals in Spiti have been reusing plastic water or fizzy drink bottles to store milk, Arak (the local liquor), and water. We met with local women’s groups and Anganwadi workers to educate them on the harmful chemicals that leach from the bottles into the liquids over time. To illustrate the message clearly, we conducted a live demonstration of an empty bottle exposed briefly to the heat of a candle.

Over the years, pregnancy and heart problems, cancer, and other diseases have been on the rise in rural Spiti – exposure to toxic chemicals through plastic could well be a contributing reason. A viable alternative for locals is locally-available stainless steel containers to store liquids. Ecosphere continues to conduct awareness drives with locals. 

Travelers: At the same time, we also actively engaged with the buzzing traveler, backpacker, and biker communities in Spiti. Our volunteers put up posters at various sites to make travelers aware of the impact of plastic and improper garbage disposal. 

The World’s Highest InstaMeet

We took to social media to spread the word and garner more support from across the world. With the help of volunteers, we brought together a passionate group of locals and travelers for the highest InstaMeet in the world at 12000 ft! It was a wonderful and thought-provoking session on Responsible Travel and how to eliminate plastic waste from the Valley. 

Art for a Cause

The I Love Spiti Installation


In 2017, our amazing group of volunteers took their passion for the cause further – with an artistic declaration of enduring love for Spiti in the form of an art installation. While similar to public art installations on Love across the world, the I Love Spiti installation is special since it was made from discarded plastic bottles and led by volunteers. 2018 saw volunteers build more such installations.








When you’re traveling to Spiti next, stop by to view the installation at the Kaza gate on the way to Kee Monastery. Each time tourists pass by or take a picture with the installation we hope it inspires them to make a positive impact and leave Spiti pristine and plastic-free.


Collection drives and recycling 

We initiated collection drives of plastic bottles littered across the valley which were sent down to Manali for recycling. In 2019, we collected over 2000 water bottles with the help of volunteers. 



Watch this video for glimpses on what we were able to do and how you can Make a Difference on your travels to Spiti.

Water Refill points 

In 2019 we set up 5 water refill points at key tourist destinations in Spiti to provide safe, filtered drinking water for people traveling through Spiti.

Ecosphere Water refill points in Spiti:

  • Kaza: Taste of Spiti, Sol Cafe

  • Kee: Kee Monastery

  • Komic: Spiti Organic Kitchen

  • Dhankar: Dhankar Monastery

  • Most family-run homestays across Spiti are also equipped with water filters




Ecosphere provides all our travelers with lifestraw/reusable stainless-steel bottles on our trips, while we continue working towards setting up other water refill points across Spiti. We hope our travelers continue using these bottles for their journeys elsewhere too :)


Turning Trash to Treasure 

Where there’s a will, there’s a way! Apart from the I Love Spiti installation, we were able to get creative and repurpose trash in other Ecosphere projects too.

Did you know that the interiors of Ecosphere’s Taste of Spiti restaurant in Kaza are made from discarded waste? 

The ambient vibes at Sol Café are made possible by our travelers, but some credit for the warmth also goes to an insulated window made from plastic bottles. 

Likewise, we’ve been able to use trash as insulation material in several of our greenhouses across Spiti.

What you can do 

  • Carry a reusable bottle and refill your bottles as much as possible at every hotel/ homestay. This will help save you money and help the environment.

  • Before booking your travel, hotel, homestay, or guesthouse in Spiti, ask in what ways they contribute to environmental conservation in Spiti. The best way to make businesses care is to demand it as their potential customers. 

  • Volunteer with us in Spiti or virtually – to take this project to the next level 😊

  • Carry your non-biodegradable waste back from Spiti and dispose of it in a city which has some form of waste management or recycling

  • Try out the local cuisine, fruit, and snacks instead of pre-packaged goods that come wrapped in plastic. You could also carry compact reusable containers and fill them with snacks of your choice for the duration of your travel 

  • Take a photo with Ecosphere’s I Love Spiti installation and pledge to say NO to plastic bottled water in Spiti

  • Encourage your fellow travelers to do all of the above!

‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has’ - Margaret Mead

Increasing amounts of plastic waste is a gargantuan world crisis. The odds may seem stacked against us, but everything we do as individuals counts!


Thursday, July 16, 2020

My Mountain Cuppa - Journeys through Film





Picture credits: Janusa Sangma

Those who love the mountains always find a way to get to them. But the pandemic has put a halt to all travel plans. Now all you can do is indulge in reminiscence, ‘Last year. This day. The best mountain view.’ And slowly, even those memories are fading away.

But we don’t want you to forget the mountains or fall short of mountain dreams.  So get ready to be transported back to the hills with these captivating mountain movies. They are magical, they will take you where you have been or where you could be. They are the stories of passionate travellers and true mountain lovers.  

Are you ready with your cuppa?

Everest (2015) 

If you haven’t seen Everest then we highly recommend it. This film is based on Jon Krakauer’s bestselling book Into Thin Air, which captures the real events of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster. Through beautiful story-telling and direction, Everest highlights the survival attempts of two commercial expedition groups led by Rob Hall and his rival Scott Fischer (played by Jason Clark and Jake Gyllenhaal). Krakauer was, in fact, a part of Hall’s expedition as a journalist for the Outside magazine. Sadly, the expedition turns into a tragedy due to sudden turn of events.

This film also reveals how amateur mountaineers join such dangerous expeditions and put their and other climber’s lives at risk. Also, did we forget to mention the recent Everest traffic?


Into the Wild (2007)

Christopher McCandless. Sounds familiar? Into the Wild is based on the true story of Christopher “Alexander Supertramp’ McCandless. Emile Hirsch, through a spectacular performance, portrays McCandless who set out on a journey without any money and hitchhiked across North America into the Alaskan wilderness. McCandless stayed in the famous Fairbanks city school bus for 114 days before dying. And just recently, on June 18, the Alaska National Guard airlifted the bus out of the wilderness via a helicopter, stating that the bus had turned into a dangerous attraction for adventure seekers. 

Into the Wild is a perfect example of a wanderlust losing its way. Watch. Learn. Unlearn. 

  
Poorna (2017)

Not many have heard of this Indian film, yet it is a must-watch solely for the inspiration that one draws from it. This film revolves around the story of the youngest girl, Poorna Malavath, belonging to a Telugu-speaking tribal family, who climbs Mt Everest. It is a simple and straightforward tale of an incredible journey. Watch it for woman power, for much-needed motivation and for the love of mountains.


 Picture credits: Janusa Sangma

Highway (2014)

Written and directed by Imtiaz Ali, this film showcases North India in its most raw and honest form. The journey of the actors, Alia Batt and Randeep Hooda, is beautiful and leaves you wanting more. Watch this film to get immersed in the majestic locations of Aru Valley in Kashmir, Spiti Valley in Himachal and also, Punjab and Rajasthan. Highway is a delight for travel and mountain lovers. Also, the music of this film is one to watch out for.

Mountain (2017)

The mountains we climb are not only made by rock and ice but also dreams and desire. Narrated by William Defoe, this movie is a perfect combination of mountains and poetry. Through breathtaking cinematography, director Jennifer Peedom takes us around the world and displays some of the tallest mountains in its full glory. There is certainly a relationship between humans and mountains, and Mountain displays it wonderfully well. Watch this documentary movie and see what really goes on behind the climb.


Seven Years in Tibet (1997)

This film has the hills, war-drama, the beautiful Brad Pitt and the spiritual life of the 14th Dalai Lama, who is still a boy. The biopic is based on the life of an Austrian climber, Heinrich Harrer (Pitt) and Peter Aufschnaiter (Thewlis) who start their journey in British India (now the area of Gilgit-Baltistan administered by Pakistan), end up in a Dehradun prison and escape to Tibet, Lhasa where Harrer becomes a close friend to the young spiritual leader. Wonder what that would be like?


Wild (2014)

There must have been times when you felt like just packing your bags and heading into the wild? Well, this is a story of someone who did just that. Wild is based on the real-life story of Cheryl Strayed who sets off on a 1,100 mile Pacific Crest Trail after her mom passes away.

Reese Witherspoon plays her character to perfection sporting ill-fitted hiking boots and a huge backpack. Something that speaks the story of most first-time hikers. But Wild is just not that. This movie takes us deep into so many emotions that Cheryl experiences on the road to self-discovery and acceptance. Watch it, if you haven’t already.

The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)

What began as a fun journey with a friend, later turned into a revolution. Yes, we are talking about the famous Ernesto "Che" Guevara (Gael García Bernal), who goes on road trip across Latin America with his dear friend Alberto Granado (Rodrigo de la Serna) and learns about the political injustice.

The Motorcycle Diaries is a biopic of the written memoir of 23-year old Ernesto Guevara, who would years later become the famous Marxist guerrilla leader and revolutionary Che Guevara. Director Walter Salles not just captures the becoming of Che but also, takes us through the Andes mountain range, Machu Picchu and even the leper colony in Sao Paolo. What’s not to love about this movie!

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

In the mood for a dramedy that's also a travel film? Then The Darjeeling Limited is excellent viewing! Directed by Wes Andreson, this film will take you on a road trip across India. Mostly shot in a train, it’s a story of 3 brothers who decide to go on a spiritual journey to rediscover their lost bond. The tight space of the train is beautifully matched against the open Indian terrains. This film has the quirk, the bustle, the magical Rajasthan and of course, beautiful landscapes.


 Picture credits: Janusa Sangma

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

Walter Mitty is a visual delight for all the wanderers out there. It’s a movie that speaks to those stuck in the rut of corporate jobs, wanting to break free from the mundane. We can’t imagine anyone better than Ben Stiller playing the part of Walter Mitty.

This movie is real and unreal at the same time. Going from daydreaming to actually living the life one sees on movie posters! The wanderlust in you will love this movie. After all, who doesn’t love to chase that perfect picture and while on the journey, witness the beauty of Greenland, Iceland, and even the Himalayas!

Avatar (2009)

Avatar is an epic science fiction film that takes you on the journey of self-discovery, revolving around imperialism and ecology. Even though this film is not about travel, it is set against the beautiful backdrop of the Hallelujah Mountains and holds a very important message. Writer, director, producer, and co-editor James Cameron gives us a glimpse of a harsh future where humans have depleted all the natural resources, leading to severe energy crisis (something, that is already happening). 

The peaceful blue-skinned humanoids fighting it out to protect their home to the selfish reality of mining expansion, this film throws light on mechanized warfare. Given the times we live in these days, it’s important to sit back and think, ‘How can we really protect our future?’

Gringo Trails (2013)

In the end, we want to leave you with Gringo Trails. This documentary film traverses Bolivia’s Salt Flats, Deserts of Mali, Thailand’s party islands, and the mountains of Bhutan. It illustrates the effects of travel and tourism, both negative and positive, on the environment, communities, and culture as a whole. 

Touching upon different points of view, it shows how due to the growing travel scenes across the globe, even the most remote areas have now become home to millions of travelers. This film also shares interesting examples of sustainable traveling, ecotourism initiatives, and travel policies by different countries. Something that will inspire all us to become thoughtful travelers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=113&v=QK6lbS_wG3c&feature=emb_logo

About the Author:

Priyanka Thakkar is a wander woman at heart, loves deep conversations, and believes in the power of goodness. Her love for writing made her take up copywriting as a profession and today, she leads a creative team in an ad agency based in Gurugram, India. 

She loves to travel and every year, like a ritual, goes on a long vacation to nurture her soul. So far, she has covered 12 amazing countries and counting. She believes that travel can expand one's life and transform any heart. Follow her journey @travelpritara 




Friday, June 12, 2020

No Money No Cry, Under the Spitian Sky



Everyone makes life-changing decisions. I’ve made a few myself but the one I am about to share is closest to my heart.

I had this dream to travel across the whole country without having to spend a dime. In order to do so, I planned to barter my life-force in exchange for grasping our beautiful country with my senses.




Setting out with a flag of India, a pre-historic Nokia phone, and a heart filled with hope and faith in humanity

And this is where my unbelievable journey to Spiti comes in!

Murphy's law says "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong." Well, it applies to travelers as well! I was excited to set foot in Spiti after 65 days, a place which took me over two-and-a-half days to reach by hitchhiking through the world’s most treacherous routes via Indo-Tibetan Borders.

As a traveler on cashless travel, my priority was to find food and shelter. And to find them, I ended up investing a lot of my time! I was initially referred to a hostel by my friend’s brother. But the person with whom I concurred with was not present there at the time. I spoke to the other management and partners of the space, and they said they couldn’t accommodate me nor could they give me much work. 

So instead, they referred me to this Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) called "Spiti Ecosphere”. I reached the place on foot and spoke to the staff. They owned a café (Sol Café) in the main bazaar and also a restaurant (Taste of Spiti) with homestay accommodation. I felt that arriving at Ecosphere was the chance of certainty.

As a lost traveler, I went into Sol Café and met with a humble, passionate, and kind lady, Ishita Khanna - the founder of Spiti Ecosphere.' I shared my story with her and she decided to help me out with no hesitation! She gave me the opportunity to contribute to various Ecosphere projects and initiatives.

I found myself with food, shelter and to barter for it, enough work to tire myself over the day. From photography, cooking, painting the walls of the buildings, and housekeeping - I did it all! They gave me the tools and I gave back with whatever skills and manpower I could.



There was a great deal of work, fun, and laughter. People jokingly began calling me “cashless” for obvious reasons – and the nickname seemed to stick…



I spent 18 days there and I realized that life is much simpler at Spiti Ecosphere. It was my first time working for an NGO, and I felt alive and focused like never before.

During my stay, I learned about sustainable traveling, which means leaving zero waste and negative impact during traveling, while contributing positively to the nature, economy, and culture of a place instead.

Daily life was simple there. I would get up in the morning, freshen up, have breakfast, do any work which needed to be done, have a pleasant walk in the evening with the manager, have some snacks, visit another hostel and occasionally catch up with some friends.



On my way back, I would stop and stare at the unbelievable Spiti night sky, even when the temperature was freezing! Every once in a while, if luck would have it, I experienced fresh snow falling on top of me.

During my stay there, I captured the interest of many people in the restaurant and café. Of all the travel stories they had heard, mine turned out to be the most amusing! I had a great time meeting and chatting with them each evening!



Looking back on those days of #missioncashlesstravel - especially now during lockdown - made me realize how it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life! And who knows when I will be able to experience such unforgettable and spontaneous adventures again! 



Ishita Khanna, Norbu sir, Takpa, Lobzang, Nawang, and Neema - thank you all for your kindness. I will always be grateful to everyone in Spiti and my Spiti Ecosphere family.

Farewell notes 💜







About the Author: Abhitej, a.k.a Cashless a.k.a Teja, traveled to Spiti and into our lives exactly 3 years ago, with the lines “I was told you will be able to help me”. But in truth, it was Abhitej who gave back to us and to Spiti a thousand times more. Here's hoping our paths cross again!