Friday, May 30, 2014

The Spitian aftermath

A sensible friend asked me, ‘why are you doing this?’ without any mistrust, only curiosity. My answer, ‘I just feel like it.’ That was a month before I left for Kaza from Bombay. I was not sure of very many things at that point, only that I was going to experience Himachal like never before.

En route to Kaza, Kunzum La Pass. My second favourite place in the world.
In April 2013, I got in touch with Ishita Khanna of Ecosphere and expressed my interest in volunteering with Ecosphere. The idea was to travel around the villages of Spiti and possibly contribute to the place, in some way or the other. Two weeks in August would be my time in the highlands of the trans-Himalayan region. That seemed too little time even then.

I met Sonali, my co-volunteer, the morning we left from Manali to Kaza. Once we reached Kaza, I did not know how my pre-planned route through Langza-Komic-Demul-Dhankar-Tabo would change me. In these places, we stayed in homestays, got a real taste of the local lives, walked the mountains, listened to strangers, laughed at desperation and embraced being overwhelmed.

Sonali in Kibber
This was my first solo, backpacking trip and it was special to me at many levels. One of my primary lessons from here was not taking anything for granted in life. I learnt to be grateful for space, sun, my legs, patience, humour, electricity, water, chai, great friends and family and the present. While I was essentially involved in the village activities (like plucking green peas, cutting grass for fodder, herding cattle, learning pottery and helping in the kitchen), we did get a chance to walk around and explore the place. The trek from Langza to Komic is memorable, primarily because it was not a distance I had done before. It brought to me landscapes and capabilities of my body that I had never known of. We crossed the post office at Hikkim (from where I sent postcards back home) and sat by a small lake. This lake brought me some visual respite. At that point in time, I was quite anxious of my trek onwards and the break by this lake gave me the energy to keep going.

A little above the Hikkim post office lies this serene lake
Another significant day was the say we left Demul for Tabo via Dhankar. The drive was gorgeous! It is unbelievable to see the terrain change from grey high reaches of Demul to brown historic Dhankar and finally, the fertile green Tabo. Dhankar is a photo-perfect place. I wish I had spent more time though. Once we approached Tabo, I saw plants of sea-buckthorn for the first time and people talking on their mobile phones! I must confess, I experienced a mild culture-shock in Tabo when I saw the television!

Our drive from Tabo to Kaza
As my time came to an end, I was hoping to stop by Chandra Taal, Lake of the Moon and walk around it on a clear day. Unfortunately, of all my days in Spiti, this one had to be the day when the rains came down. I remember how my repetitive prayers of making the clouds vanish fell unto deaf ears and as my jeep pulled over the lake, the drizzle got heavier. However, the weather did not deter the breath-taking first glance of Chandra Taal—so overpowering is her beauty. I was there only for a couple of hours. But my halt in Chandra Taal seemed to be that one blanket under which I warmly enveloped my two weeks in Spiti.

The phenomenal Chandra Taal on a rainy day
Sometimes I still find myself in that room in Manali where I sat down quietly; trying to comprehend the noise that came from my window, trying to work my mobile phone and trying to grasp my surreal experience in Spiti. And then go back to the mountains of Demul, the peace of Chandra Taal and the spirituality in Kunzum La. A lot of things make sense after those two weeks and yet, a lot of things don’t anymore. It is a change that can only be experienced.

About the author: Perpetually bitten by the travel bug, Amrita has travelled across twenty states in India; Nepal, Switzerland, Italy and Paris. She shares her experiences best through writing, photography and blogging. She engages in all types of outdoor adventure, explores the local way of life, listens to stories strangers tell her and is a firm believer of serendipity and constant change.

She blogs at , tweets at @Amrita_Dass and you can write to her at: 

No comments:

Post a Comment