The journey to Enigmatic Spiti Valley is from the spacious fields of barley, the lush green valley to cold desert with different shades of brown. It has the most breathtaking scenery that you would ever see. An area which can be narrated as interspersed valley with tiny hamlets and serene monasteries sitting precariously on mountain crags spread across its notched moonscape. The scattered villages include whitewashed mud-brick homes amid rugged mountains and barley fields. A valley is a Himalayan desert mountain valley situated at an average height of 13,000 feet in the north-eastern part of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.
This was a 9 day trip from 8th to 16th July with 10 people from different places. We relish the memories of Enigmatic Spiti Valley and the wonderful people we met on this trip. Shooting pictures of the stunning and picturesque valleys of the Sutlej, Spiti and Pin rivers, and up and over the majestic Kunzum pass, gave us the most joyful time of our lives.
Our group was unique in many ways wherein age difference did not matter. Khushjiv Ji, most inspiring gentleman to travel with, on whom the phrase ‘Age is just a number!’ fits perfectly! Possessing all enthusiasm and passion for photography, he displayed great creativity with his two camera bodies at all the locations; irrespective of time. The ardor of learning astrophotography, with a milky way shot on his screen would add spark to his already gleaming eyes!. Indeed, he had added a sense of youthful exuberance in the group. Cheers to his incredible vitality!!
Our journey was through some of world’s highest villages. We came across ancient monasteries (including a monastery over 1000 years old), experience the Tibetan way of life -through traditional Key monastery festivals- into Spiti’s history, culture & folklore. Witnessing the Key monastery festival was one of the best lifetime experiences.
Another uniqueness of the group was that photography got all the different professional personnel together. We had travellers, students, photographers, educationists and doctors. Dr Ravi Mathani, Kulu’s well respected ophthalmologist and Mathura’s gynaecologist Dr Vertika, as famous as Mathura’s peda, were in-the game of photography and travel with us. Both leaving behind their precious time and patients were all set to explore with their cameras in and out. Dr Ravi, a serene and methodological doctor with a heart of an innocent boy- was a perfect student, always learning photography at his best. Looking at his photos, no one would think that it was his first photo travel trip. Perfect exemplar for ‘Dream it, Wish it and Do it’! As the days passed by, we could witness his hidden talent. Dr Vertika‘s endurance and courage to travel different places is indeed a story by itself. She would stand true of a saying that great things never come from comfort zones. With all the medical challenges, she trekked to Chandratal as if there was an angel like spirit in her. Both the doctors showcased true entertainment by singing the exotic songs along with expression; the nights not to be missed!!
Everyone enjoyed each other company. All the stories, interacting with the people out there, made us realize that it is so easy for one to be happy! Intense Cold or the strong winds have never been a hindrance for anyone in the group. Everyone was always upright for all the morning brief discussion related to the next location and what to shoot on the way. We could sense the adrenaline gush in the veins.
Three Musketeers of the group with unique qualities in them of photography : Ranbir, a budding wildlife photographer and youngest of all. Incredible to see his passion and to open up with any discussions related to all the aspects of landscape photography. His earnestness to capture a wild animal would add a drive in all. Mr. Chandan, the trekker, website developer and the wittiest person of all – the second musketeer. His sense of humour was decidedly quirky. He Trekked many fantastic trails with inspiring tales. A cool man with a fire in the belly to learn and discover ahead. Third musketeer was our humble and cheerful person Mr.Lekhraj, Kulu’s popular landscape photographer. Everyone enjoyed his company and we’re delighted to take his inputs as well. The three inseparable musketeers were also named as ‘Life and cheer of our trip!’ by Dr Ravi.
Adding to the interesting list we had Rekha ji- the educationist, anexuberant and vehement traveller. Photography is her hobby and always anxious to understand all latest photography equipment. She has an eye for portrait photography, as well. We wish all the best for her upcoming exhibition.
The more days you spend in this enchanting place, more interesting things you will discover about the people and the place. We visited a village near Mudh. With innocence and no gratuity people invite into their homes. A woman called all of us for some homemade curd and tea. Beautiful place at its best décor and needs. In a sudden surprise to all, she greeted our captain, who is 6 ft. tall man as “Chotu”. We all burst out laughing and for sure will never forget this new name given to him.
We had planned to shoot and star gaze at all the different locations. We were with our tripods on the ground every night facing the sky and gazing the stars. The scene was indescribable; we could see hundreds of stars, Milky Way, North Star and many falling stars. We all wished that we could just stay there for a lifetime. To experience the grandeur of nature, just spend some time underneath a starry sky. The inky blue sky with infinite stars, hundreds of shooting stars, moon at the shore, mountain shadows and water reflections – this is the stuff that dreams are made of! Words can’t describe the feeling when you will have a stargazing experience.
Legend says that many centuries ago Enigmatic Spiti Valley – then a part of Tibet – faced a terrible drought. Rivers had almost dried and people were starving to death. To make the situation better, monks from various monasteries took to solitary meditation in caves in the Rocky Mountains. Historians believe that monks exercised a Tibetan form of self-mummification that requires meditation and starvation to preserve body without any decay. It is said that Lama Kanpo meditated himself to death in the Geyu village for the well-being of his fellow-men. The most mysterious and spooky part here is that when you look at the mummy you can still see the hair on his scalp and long fingernails. Locals say his hair and fingernails continue to grow. The more time you spend there the more astonishing it would seem. The Mummy Temple is a small temple room which is locked and the keys need to be taken from the Lamas in the monastery. It is a different experience altogether and one has to visit it to experience it!
We visited Tabo Key Gompa, Kibber, Komik, Hikkim, and Langza. Komik, the current record holder of the world’s highest village connected by a motarable road. It’s a small village with pretty sharp bends in the road. As one come down from the other side, a little below is the village of Hikkim which has another world record to its name – world’s highest post office. The Post office experience was lovely! The thrill of posting from the highest post office, the lovely stamps, the hospitable postman.
Moments where nature at its best, at Chau Chau Kang Nelda peak from Langza and the huge golden colored statue of Buddha , which is more than 1000 years old -near Langza looking down the valley. A scarcely populated village with just around 20-30 houses Living with the locals during the trip, the homestay made the travel experience infinitely humble. They served fresh traditional homemade food and took care of us in every possible way. These road trips bring us closer to ourselves and to nature! Drive through these scenic valleys. Next was Chandratal – a crescent-shaped lake makes for one of the most inspiring escapades. It is one of the key highlights of the 9 days Enigmatic Spiti Valley trip.
The best part of the trip was undoubtedly the warm, friendly, innocent and ever welcoming people of Spiti who lend the valley its divine soul. It is an offbeat haven for the soul seekers and a balm for the nature lovers! You will make the promise with all your heart to come back again and again with more memories. “Travelling leaves us speechless; then turns us into a storyteller” explorer’s words!