It is the start of the journey that stays with you the most, probably because you are aware of every ticking second!
I remember the jitters the night before and how D had to calm me down. With a sprained ankle and a strained shoulder, the physical weakness had almost convinced me that I call it off. But then everything that could go wrong already had – so only good was remaining!
So there I was in Manali in the company of these two awesome people I met on the bus. There was also another girl I had met – all of 19, dropped out of college and now dedicated to teach at a school located in a remote village. I met another girl who was just back from Spiti (her second solo trip) with a story similar to mine. The difference was probably how spirited she had become through her experiences over the last few months. I am hoping I have started a similar transformation!
The ride to Spiti was interesting. We were a heterogeneous group with barely any overlaps if we had to plot ourselves into a venn diagram. So a trekking guide, investment banker turned teacher, architects, marketing professionals and a consultant (that’s me, unfortunately) made for crazy discussions. There was also a Croatian travel writer – the coolest, the oldest and the fittest of us all!
Breakdowns and bladder stops. Lunches and languid walks. Chocolates and changing landscapes. Every turn brought new sights. We had a rainbow following us for a while, flowing on the fields or up and down along the mountain ridges.
We made stops at Kunzum Pass (15000 feet), Losar (perhaps the first village in the valley) and then Hansa (a small village but for the welcoming ceremony of the lamas that we were very lucky to catch). We made it to Kaza (administrative HQ of Spiti) in good time to relax and catch the blazing sunset over sumptuous momos!
The first day was acclimatization amid breathtaking views of a landscape that I will never be tired of. I visited Kee Monastery, Kibber and Chicham Gorge. It started the series of so many firsts I was about to have – every time I thought it cannot get better than this, there was magic awaiting round the corner.
The second day, before starting the trek, there was a stop at Langza (famous for its fossils) where I had a session with the local potter. I managed to make a cup with a lot of help and a slightly sore right leg. The trek to Komic spans about 10 kilometers dotted with meadows and fields and the unyielding majestic spread of Spiti. Hikkim falls on the way which is the highest post office in the world where I gleefully posted three cards.
Along the route, fresh peas were a constant snack. Every time there was a field, a smiling farmer handed freshly plucked peas – the sweetest I have ever had in my life. Maybe that is why even the locals are so kind and so giving. They spend their whole lives in that unforgiving land, putting long hours just to be able to survive and yet… Not a sour face or a bitter complaint. Always smiling, always sharing! They were happier than most of the people I have met in the city… Content in the simple life and truly immersed in the spirit of community living.
I headed straight to Komic Monastery on reaching. The valley at sunset was breathtaking – golden fingers caressing the green pastures. Rejuvenated with the view, the headache and exhaustion melted away with the sun. I was staying with a local family in Komic. Three noisy children and one mischievous baby did not deter the woman from making me feel at home and fussing over dinner and chai. Oh the chai! I have never had so many cups and varieties of chai as I had in those 10 days – lemon, mint and sea buckthorn were my favorite. That night – spent in the highest motorable village in the world – I slept deeply and peacefully.
It had been a wonderful start! Even better than I had imagined… And my imagination is wild 😀