I spent more than three weeks in Spiti Valley exploring its dusty and rocky hills and driving almost 6 to 7 hours a day. I was hopping from one guest house to another, sleeping in small rooms costing only Rs 1500. It was a frugal existence, the food was basic rice, dal, vegetables, pakoda and tea and, of course, Maggi. The valley has also huge areas of farmland which is fertile as the Spiti river runs through this ancient kingdom at Kinnaur meeting the Sutlej River. The Sutlej rises from Mount Kailash in Mansarovar from the Rakas Lake. The important tributaries of Sutelj River are the Bapsa, the Spiti, the Nogali and the Soan. The Sutlej finally drains into the Indus in Pakistan.
Places like Chandra Taal look especially divine beaming with pure energy and a rare freshness that can only be found in the heavens. I am sure the Mansarovar experience will also be similar. Rudyard Kipling called Spiti “A World Within a World”. It’s rugged and a jagged terrain. One could spot an eagle or dove hovering in the sky. I would often stop over at a good view point to take appropriate pictures. Its divinity is omnipresent in its large monasteries predominately Buddhist faith. It is simple yet a proud nomadic race. There is an abundance of fresh water. Most villages and small habitats have a shop or two selling knick-knacks and FMCG. With cascading glacier falls to emerald ponds and lakes, Spiti has a preserved its ancient richness. It is like a kingdom frozen in time still waiting for people to discover it. From foreigners to casual Indian tourists, you could meet all types of people here on the way. From army personal to tech company honchos, Spiti was quite an attraction as I could see.
Yes, then there was the sky, vast blue sky with white clouds floating on it like sheep wool or dandelion dust. The air was crisp but thin at times. Walks around the valley did me good as I sat down with the local shopkeepers to talk about the place. “This is a wonderland sir. What is the need for internet and mobile communication here? After all, people come here to escape all that. Here in the valley, you forget all your troubles as you can see divinity in its very soul. Sir, you will lose yourself here or should I say, find yourself here” Most people survive on tourism here renting out rooms, opening shops, driving vehicles, farming or just running the monasteries in the area. You will find petrol stations here but this time, there was a huge diesel shortage which costed me an entire day of travel.
This desert valley has more than 30 Buddhist Gombas and also houses the Rohtang Pass at around 13500 feet. The nearest airport is at Bhunter and you can take a train from Chandigarh or Yoginder nagar. By road, you can come via Manali through the Rohtang pass. Its culture is Tibetan and Ladhakhi and distinctively nomadic.