Day 1 – Rider Mania
Welcome to Kaza Town
Kaza is a sleepy town and it serves as second capital of the Lahaul-Spiti District. During winters, when Lahaul Valley shuts down, administration shifts to Kaza. We got into a nice hotel and then we started looking after our wounds. When we removed our helmets and looked at each other, we could not control laughing because our faces were swollen and we were looking like distant relatives of pigs. Hot water and oil (gasoline) are two important aspects of human life, hot water because it relieves you of your muscular, mental, physical, psychological and cosmic pain. And as far as gasoline is concerned, after Manali you get petrol only in Kaza and that is 200 fucking kilometers in snow desert. Post Kaza, petrol is available in Pooh, another 132 kilometers in the hilly terrain with River Spiti and Sutlej inviting you to wash your sins.
Look at the key and the lock too
We inquired about availability of petrol in the Kaza town and slept happily knowing that the petrol pump actually operates. Post bathing and first-aid session, I realized that I was running high on fever. With swollen wrists and swollen face, I could not think of anything else but sleep. However, sleep becomes a rare luxury at times and it was one of those times when I could not sleep. Thinking of tomorrow’s journey made me sick and that resulted in two large+one neat of ‘The Old Monk’, which further made me sick in my head and soul.
*Fuck you Old Monk, that’s the dirtiest drink ever made.*
Early morning, I saw naked mountains and something painted on them. People have dared to paint something on the eroding mountains, which looked like this:
Post breakfast, we inquired about places of tourist interest in the vicinity and started our journey towards the Key Gompa [Gompa=Monastery] and Kibber Village, highest motor-able village of the region.
Packing and unpacking eats up a lot of time and it is always advisable to carry least possible clothes. One riding gear, one tourism gear and that will suffice. There is something I have learned from my past experiences [Read Here
], while in such areas, take only that much luggage which you would be comfortable while carrying on your back अर्थात, पहाड़ो में उतना ही समान लेकर चलो जितना पीठ पे उठा के चल सको, क्यूंकी गाड़ी कभी भी धोखा दे सकती है | We were carrying at least two bags extra, which we were never going to open throughout the trip.
The sight at the petrol pump was not pleasant because people were lined up in front of the petrol pump. We evaluated our petrol resources and decided to come in the afternoon, after all the sightseeing business.
Kibber village is 13 kilometers uphill from Kaza and one the way lies the famous Key (KI) Gompa. On our way we realized that someone has stolen petrol from our motorcycles. At least 4 liters each from both the motorcycles. And it started the Oil Mania. All of a sudden we all had a collective realization moment, ‘Petrol is oil of Life, either fill your tanks in time or save it.’
Kibber, Highest Motorable Village in Spiti Valley
The Kichham Bridge, (Jhoola Pull)
We were still hopeful because petrol pump was supposed to run 24X7. Happily, we reached at Kibber. Kibber is a sleepy town, just like every other town in the region. We met a guy from Mandi, who was a PGT Maths teacher in Kibber Senior Secondary School. And here goes his story.
Mr. Yash with ‘The Jai Pal’
Yash, PGT Mathematics joined his duty just eight months ago and in those eight months, he had served as a Presiding Officer in the Village Panchayat Elections, Principal of the school (twice), Education Consultant of the Region and he is just 27 years old. Too many achievements at a tender age of 27. He told us a very strange but bitter fact about his school. There were 23 Teachers+5 Non Teaching Staff in his school against a strength of 22 students, 22 students in the whole school. The task of calculating student : teacher ratio is up to you, my mind failed me. Yash has got only one student for himself and that even after persuading the kid to study maths and requesting his parents to let him study maths, because mathematics is a beautiful subject, says Yash.
: Every second person [we met] in Spiti Valley was from Mandi
, be it shopkeeper, teacher, bus conductor or hotel owner.
Kichham is another village in the vicinity of Kibber, which happens to be a village of its kind. It has highest Jhoola Pull (swinging bridge) of Asia. We decided not to go there because petrol was the last thing we could afford to burn. So like conventional tourists, we decided to come back to Kaza.
Trivia2: In Spiti Valley, the eldest son gets paternal property, while the youngest son gets to go into the monastery. Simplified, if A and B are two brothers and B is the younger one, then B has to be admitted into the Monastery to become a monk. A will get his father’s property, land, money, gold, car, horses, yaks and everything else. In case, B decides of not becoming a monk, his father will have to pay a fine of INR 40k [or may be more, post sixth pay commission] and earn bad name in the society as well. I could not inquire much into it but my wild guess says that most of the families send one of their kids to the monastery and the other one lives happily ever. In case there is brother C, who is the middle one, he will have free choices and free life, except paternal property will come to him only through the elder brother.
We got to know that the Indo Tibetan Police Force[ITBP
] has found mummy of an ‘Old Monk’ in 1960s. We tried hard to inquire about its location but petrol and its scarcity occupied our mind and we forgot about the Mummy. Petrol pump at Kaza is unlike other petrol pumps and no prizes for guessing, it is a Government Operated petrol pump. As soon as we reached Kaza, we were told that the pump operator has gone for lunch and will come back at 5 and that was the safest bet, he can even choose not to come back, this was another piece of info given to us by a local mechanic. We tried hard looking for petrol [black market you see] but found nothing. We still had three hours to wait for the pump operator and we had nothing to do. Kaumik, an Indo-China border village was just 26 kilometers away from there but the ‘what-if
‘ clause made a mess of our minds and lives. What if the pump operator does not come back? What if we run out of petrol half way? And thus we decided to wait.
After waiting for half an hour, we got the news that the pump operator has decided to bless us. We happily reached at the petrol pump and saw the golden liquid flowing into the round mouthed opening of our bikes. The pump guy was brisk with his calculations, I have studied a book on Vedic Mathematics, which claims to make your mind work faster than a computer. That guy would look at the meter reading and tell you the exact amount to be paid, well with a scope of (+/-) 5%. Simplified, he was far better than me, or rather all of us put together in calculations.
In the end, things went right, or rather as they should be and we started our journey one more time. The next destination was Tabo Monastery, the oldest monastery of the region built in 996 CE [what is CE btw?]
And just the way I missed talking about Dhankar Gompa, we actually missed visiting it as well. However, dryness of the dry valley forced us to take frequent breaks to seek water, tea or anything that looked like liquid. At Shichling Village, during one of the tea breaks, I inquisitively asked about a building on top of a mountain and to our surprise, we were told that ‘that’ was the actual capital of Spiti Valley, when the Emperor existed, he would rule his kingdom from the top of that building. Kingdom of dust, ice, dry mountains and ‘sun burns‘?
Enroute Dhangkar Gompa, The Ancient Capital of Spiti Valley
Dhangkar ‘Lord of The Rings‘ Gompa
The Dhangkar Monastery
We traveled in the reverse direction for another 26 kilometers and reached at one of the most beautiful and dangerous locations of the trip. To reach inside the Gompa, first you need to travel on ‘Lord of the Rings’ like roads and when you reach there, you have to climb unstable stairs that shake at the thud of your footstep. I was expecting the head monk to look like Gandalf
People, Dhangkar Gompa is in ruins and it is by the grace of God , that it is standing. Gompa has nothing inside it, this is what I felt but at the top of it, you see air, you actually see air and you see nothing because it is located at a very high altitude. Looking down will send shivers down your spine. Sit silently, walk calmly and even breathe silently because the whole building is at the verge of falling down.
Enroute Tabo Monastery
Legendary Tabo Bridge | Just Like The Legendary Tandi Bridge in Lahaul Valley
And then we reached Tabo Monastery. And from there started another mania, the Pillion Mania, all the way to Kinnaur District.
Distance Traveled: 100 kilometers Travel Duration: 8hours
Kaza>Ki>Kibber>Ki>Kaza>Schichling>Dhankar Gompa>Shichling>Tabo Monastery