Spiti: Adventures in the Trans Himalaya | Travel Book Review

A riveting account of Shri Kapadia’s visit to the barren yet amazingly beautiful and hitherto unexplored regions of Spiti Valley. And no, this book was not a result of one single visit.

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Spiti Adventures in the Trans - Himalaya
Spiti Adventures in the Trans – Himalaya | Buy at Flipkart

This book is an outcome of author’s several visits to this snow desert spanning over a period of more than Ten Years (1983-1993)

Shri Kapadia is a well read man and the Appendices at the end of his every book speak about exhaustive research he does in his works. This book clearly evokes the majestic Spiti landscape and given the road connectivity of the modern age, compels the reader to pay a visit to the valley.

And as the author puts it, once you have landed in Spiti, nothing can stop you from going there again.

The book starts with the history of Spiti and it comes as a surprise to me that Spiti was always under the siege. The rulers from Tibet, Ladakh, Bushahar Empire, and even the Sikh rulers from the planes had been attacking Spiti Valley. The first four chapters, there are 17, tell us about the history of Spiti Valley. How it always remained an easy target for all the invaders rulers. The story behind its name and early accounts of British explorers. The likes of General Cunningham, Peter Holmes, Harcourt have walked on the lands of Spiti long ago.

The author, known for his penchant for historical accounts, extends his Introductory message to the fourth chapter. There are many stories from the past, among which my favourite is the story of first elections in the Spiti Valley.

Because of inaccessibility, Spiti Valley couldn’t become a part of the first Indian General Elections of 1951-52. Same thing happened in 1957. That irked an MP and he filed a case challenging the outcome of the elections. And that’s how elections were held in the valley for the first time.

A party travelled on mules from Shimla to hold elections at Kaja and in the Pin Valley. This interesting journey and the first reaction of Spitians to democracy is well told in the book Men and Mules on a Mission of a Democracy by Parmanand Sharma.

Its not before the fifth chapter that you embark on a real Spitian adventure. Unlike other of his books, this book is an easy read because of lesser use of mountaineering/climbing jargon.

It feels like reading a good travel blog that not only describes the landscape setting but also provides deep technical insights, which are easy to understand.

The Legends of Shilla and Gaya

In case you are wondering, Shilla(6132 m) and Gaya(6794 m) are two of the most prominent and popular peaks of the Spiti Valley. Many folk stories and legends have been woven around these two peaks.

The author subtly busts the myth of Shilla being the highest peak of Spiti. The story of an unnamed khalasi (porterclimbing the Shilla in 1860 is an awe-inspiring read.

How we overestimated the height of the mountain by 1000 m and why it took 100 years to correct that mistake is a different story altogether.

The author first landed in the valley in 1983. Those were the days of baburaj and Inner Line Permits. For the young generation, that reaches Spiti in every season without any permit will find all this ludicrous. But that’s how the ball rolled back in 1980s.

Kapadia’s encounters with an Intelligence Bureau Official is an amusing read.  Then there is story of scholars from Bangalore and Hyderabad researching on the eating habits of iBexes in the Spiti Valley. Some research topic there!

You’ll find several such interesting stories in the book, no matter whichever sub-valley of the region you are exploring.

Manirang climb and Parilungbi exploration are my two best favourites from this book. Manirang is the Jewel Mountain of the Valley, and Parilungbi is a mountain in the other country (Tibet), literally.

This book has 240 pages, among which 48 are maps/illustrations, that makes 20% of the book in images.

The Appendices run 29 pages long, which account for 13% of the book. There are as many as 48 references in this book.

Kapadia is a man of details, for sure.

One may add that, once you have found the road to Spiti you will never keep away for long

You may like to see this Travel Calendar in collaboration with Trigarth Studio. And if you like what you see, please buy one!

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