Travel

Spiti with a group of strangers? Yes Please!

Everyone that knows me knows that I day dream of seeing new places every single day. Yes almost everyone in the world loves travelling and yes a lot of people travel a lot especially now that the resources and opportunities are everywhere! However, I live for this. I am either reading about travel, researching about a new place, planning my next trip, writing about the recent one or gazing at travel photos on Instagram. I love the fact that people are travelling more and more, I encourage my friends all the time to go and see a new place – you can learn so much if you travel right. 

A junior from school, Disha Kapkoti started a venture called The Doi Host a couple years back. I had been following her venture for a long time and quite liked the idea of her hosting a small group and taking them to beautiful offbeat towns and villages in India. For the longest time, I was unable to join any of these trips hosted by them due to… well, LIFE! But, I knew I would join them one day and I promised her that.

I was ecstatic when they announced 3 consecutive trips to Kinnaur-Spiti for May and June 2019. Kinnaur and Spiti sees snow even in May and since I hail from Nainital that welcomes snow every year, I am not bullish about snow! That is how, I settled for the June 1st batch. When I was booking the trip, Disha let me know that she was scheduled for a mountaineering course, therefore the June trip will be hosted by her partner Sambit Dattachaudhuri. She put my apprehension at ease ensuring me that Sambit is a better travel companion than her! This was February, three months before the trip and I couldn’t wait for June…

When the day arrived, I had butterflies in my stomach just like every time I travel. However, this was something new, because this time, for the very first time, I was travelling with a bunch of strangers. I was eagerly looking forward to this new experience!

I reached Kashmere Gate bus station and met Sambit and 8 other travelers, people from different places of India – Calcutta, Bangalore, Pune, Surat, Chennai, Hyderabad and Delhi. All set out on a journey together to explore the serenity and beauty of the lush green and rocky mountains cape. 

Itinerary :

Day 1 – We reached Shimla in the wee hours of the morning, our 11 seater van was waiting for us at the bus station at Shimla. I took a seat next to a girl named Michelle from Calcutta (just the beginning of a new friendship) The driver, Angroop bhaiya was a pro just like most drivers from the mountains are, a friendly chap with a charming smile. We made a pit stop at Narkanda for breakfast before heading out to our first destination – Kalpa.

The road from Shimla to Kalpa offers some beautiful views of Apple and Cherry trees. We started seeing the Kinnaur Kailash Range while approaching Kalpa and my was dropping lower by the minute. Even though I had not slept in the last 24 hours, I wasn’t ready to sleep in the van and miss these breathtaking views! After an 8 hour long journey, we finally reached our guest house at Kalpa – the snow clad range was visible from our window! Even though all of us were tired and wanted to pass out, we still headed to the terrace first to take in the view of the range. 

Day 2 – After a hearty breakfast, we set out to the famous Suicide point near Roghi even though every turn of the road at Kalpa looks like a suicide point. The entire stretch upto this point has a vertical slope downwards. 

We halted at the village of Spillow for a quick bite. We weren’t allowed to buy chips at any time during the trip because the plastic packets of chips are not disposed off, leaving the trash on these beautiful mountains. Thanks to Sambit for making sure no one was buying anything that can pollute the environment. 

Khab Sangam was another short halt for us. This is the confluence of Spiti river and Sutlej river.

Khab Sangam
Khab Sangam (c) Himadri Negi

Our next destination was the village of Nako which is located near the Indo-China border in the Trans-Himalayan region of Kinnaur district and is also the last village in the district. This was the view from our balcony as soon as we reached and I knew instantly that our stay in this gorgeous little village is going to be peaceful with beautiful views of the mountains.

The village is a small one and the inhabitants have created their own little world within it, a world that is slow and simple. Taking a walk in the village is an experience in itself. Away from the hustle bustle, village life is welcoming.

Nako Lake is a prominent feature here where it borders the village. If you are lucky with the weather, the sky will make a beautiful backdrop for you. 

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Nako (c) Himadri Negi

If you are a fan of sunsets, walk up to the the hill that overlooks the lake to experience the color of the mountains change.

Sambit had told us that on a clear night, we should be able to see the Milky Way and as luck would have it, after dinner, we went up to the Nako monastery and were able to see the Milky Way which felt like a dream! I had not seen anything like it in my entire life!

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. On my recent trip to Kinnaur and Spiti, I saw the Milky Way not once or twice but three times!! ✨✨✨ . . This jaw dropping picture is taken by our host who is also a very talented photographer and now a friend @sambitdc He showed us Jupiter and it’s three moons, Saturn with its rings and also the gorgeous Milky Way! ✨✨✨ . . PS: Not that anyone asked, but I am the one on the extreme left pointing towards the night sky ✨✨✨ . . . . . . . . . . . #Travel #Nako #Kinnaur #Spiti #Himachal #himachalpradesh #Skyporn #tripotocommunity #LonelyPlanet #traveling #travelling #travelblogger #travelingram #travelgram #nightsky #Milkyway #beautifuldestinations #travelguide #wanderlust

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Day 3 – The next morning, we visited the Nako Monastery where we met Lama ji who enlightened us about the history of the village and the alterations made to Tibetan Buddhism in all these years. 

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The Lama ji at Nako monastery has taken more than two years to warm up to us. He refers to himself as Pagal Lama in front of us, which is quite an accurate name given that he's very hyperactive. Hailing from a monastery in Kullu, we were fortunate enough to meet him on his last day at his stint at being the monastery caretaker. To his great relief, he will now go back to resume his studies. For the past two years, bit by bit, he has told us the things he knows about the monastery and it's history often followed by the statement 'Hum bhi student hai na. Hum bhi seekh raha hai' / 'I am also a student right? I'm still learning'. He now trusts @sambitdc often with the keys to the gompa which Sambit counts secretly as a personal achievement. Last month Lama ji even let him lead a group of travellers around the monastery, telling him to recount all the information he has imparted to him during our trips. Nako Monastery has been especially special for us because of this self-proclaimed Pagal Lama. #thedoihost #hippieinhills #monk #monastery #spitivalley #visualambassadors #indiatravel #travelandexplore #indianphotography #condenasttravellerindia #lonelyplanetindia #himalayan #dslrofficial #himgeo #igworld_global #wanderxwonder #thevisualyatra #himachal

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Road trip to Kaza – The terrain was changing as we traveled further up through Kinnaur entering the Spiti Valley. The green mountains were replaced by rocky barren mountains and I could not take my eyes off!! 

Crossing the small villages of Liti, Sumdo, Tabo and Dhankar we made a small halt at the Lingti Valley near the river which changes here to Spiti river from Sutlej river. The view is beautiful and it makes you want to sit and spend a few hours here.

Our night stay was planned at the small town of Kaza.

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Kaza (c) Himadri Negi

Once we all chose our rooms and changed, we set out to wander about the town. While some were busy buying souvenirs, a few of us started our hunt to buy something to keep us warm during the night. Seabuckthorn squash and White Rum came to our rescue. Sambit had already told us a whole lot about Seabuckthorn which is basically a type of berry found in the area, the syrup/squash of the berry has a lot of benefits. Apart from mixing it with alcohol, you can also mix it with water and drink it regularly. 

Also, this was the view from the window of my room at Kaza.

Kaza
Kaza (c) Himadri Negi

Day 4 – Angroop bhaiya took a day off since his home was near Kaza and he wanted to visit his folks. He sent his friend Giacho to drive us for the day. Giacho bhaiya lives in Pin valley which is quite close to Kaza, so he knew the town pretty well. 

I was all pepped to see a different landscape and was not let down at all!

Our first quick stop was right before Langhza village – to be honest the scenery and the cattle made us shriek with excitement and we HAD to stop! 

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These are times of instant gratifications. The joys of getting what you desire on a click, on a tap. It annoys the living hell out of us when movie tickets we want are sold out, when restaurant we want to order from is shut or things on our Amazon cart are sold out. When you travel remote, your desires become secondary. As your hosts the maximum we can provide for is what you need, not what you desire. It's a matter of luck that you see a red fox playing by the river side, or you see a clear night sky with a brilliant milkyway view, or you get a clear day to see the peaks you read about. Nature does not adhere to our notions of what we deserve. This is the wild; here we get what we get. #thedoihost #travelindia #tripotocommunity #indiatravel #india_gram #spiti #himachalpradesh #himalayas #roadtrip #himachal #indiatravelgram #spitilife #travelgram #condenasttravellerindia #natgeoindia #lonelyplanetindia #outdoors #outdoorsjournal

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Langhza Village – This beautiful village is popularly known for two things, one is the statue of Lord Buddha overlooking the beautiful valley and second – fossils!

Fossils dating back a couple of hundred million years ago are mined and sold – usually  by the local children who would come running to you and try selling you some. However, you should NOT buy them as it results in destroying key links in the ancient geological history of the Indian subcontinent.

Hikkim village which is famous for the world’s HIGHEST post office and is 46 km from Kaza, the nearest town connected by road. You can get postcards from the town and get them stamped here at the post office. I’d suggest you write the postcards beforehand so you don’t waste time sitting here and writing them out, also make sure you know the address of the person you are sending the card to because this is a no connectivity zone, so calling your friends to ask them their address is out of question! 

TheDoiHost was sweet enough to give us 3 postcards each, which we all wrote to our loved ones and sent them from here.

The World’s Highest Village in the World connected with motor-able road was next on our list. At an altitude of 4587 meters, Komic also owns the World’s highest Restaurant where we ate some delicious sandwiches with some warm seabuckthorn tea.

KOMIC
Komic(c) Himadri Negi

When you think of Spiti, The Key Monastery is probably the first place that comes to your mind and why should it not be! It is the most photographed place in the area. If you walk further up from the monastery, you will be able to get a really good view with an amazing backdrop if the sky is a friend of yours!

Here is a picture of my friend Michele with a travel companion she picked over me during our hike (Sambit says it is just an easy walk up a tiny hill and refuses to call it a hike while the rest of us are panting)

While sharing the itinerary, Sambit will always keep a place or two out of it and then surprise you by showing you something you weren’t ready for and your jaw is sure to drop! One such place was Gette, and if you are able to find this spot, consider yourself lucky! Details in the caption of this gorgeous picture.

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Gette in Spiti was a pleasant surprise for us. On one of our initial trips to Spiti, our driver Angrup Bhaiya casually mentioned that we can go to Gette on our drive back from Kibber and Kee. Little did we know that he had offroading plans. The rain had washed the narrow zig zag route uphill to Gette from the main road, so he chose to drive straight up and later give us a roller coaster ride down. After spending a approximately half the year with him in his car, we know that he is the safest driver to have. But road to Gette is always such a thrill for us and for him. The view from there? Imagine being at the roof of Spiti. The Spiti river can be seen for meandering kilometres and crossing Kee and Kaza. Swipe right to see the view of Kee Monastery from Gette. #thedoihost #tripotocommunity #traveldiaries #spiti #gette #view #travelphotography #travelindia #indiatravel #indianphotography #photographers_of_india #naturephotography #photooftheday #incredibleindia🇮🇳 #himachalpradesh #himachalgram #_hpics #instagram #follow #condenasttravellerindia #natgeoindia

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Since, we covered all the ‘World’s Highest’ locations on this day, why would we miss out on the Asia’s Highest bridge? At a whopping height of 13596 ft this suspension bridge known as the Chicham bridge connects Chicham and Kibber villages. 

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We were travelling to Chicham Bridge on one of our recent trips in May earlier this year, and unexpectedly enough it started snowing. Even these parts aren't known for receiving snowfall in mid May, so our driver bhaiya was as astonished as we were. The temperature was freezing with a negative wind-chill. We were also lucky enough to spot some Ibex running around in the midst of the snowfall that slowly turned blinding. Chicham Bridge is the highest suspension bridge in Asia. Located at an altitude of 13,596 feet, it took almost 15 years for the bridge to come into fruition. The gorge below is over a thousand foot drop into a tributary of the Spiti river known as the Samba Lamba Nallah. #thedoihost #earthfocus #india_gram #lpindia #NGTindia #potd #travel #yourshotphotographer #natgeo #india #himachal #himalayas #architecture #symmetry #nikonindia #hippieinhills #mountaneering #indiapictures #tlpicks #ngtdailyshots #natgeoasia #kmhoe

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You can also travel towards Chandrataal from here, but we were here in June and the roads to Chandrataal were not yet open. 

Driving back to Kibber, we saw Ibex and Blue Sheep. Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1922 and is home to a variety of these rare animals. If you are here in the winter, you might be able to see red fox and snow leopards too! 

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An adult and a baby Himalayan Ibex enjoying each other's company in a heavy snowstorm spotted on the way to Chicham. It's still snowing in the high mountains of Spiti, something seemingly impossible in the month of May. Himalayan Ibex are usually resigned to staying on the Chicham side of the river. The locals told us that it is a highly unusual sight seeing them on this side of the river so far into summer. The reason is the lack of fresh grass due to the most powerful winter seen here in decades. The weather around us is changing drastically, and it is here where you see it's effects the most; not only on the humans inhabiting these regions, but also on the animals that are a vital part of the ecosystem of these high mountains. Shot on #Nikon #tripotocommunity #india #beautiful #himachalpradesh #himachaldiaries #travel #indiatravel #incredibleindia #himalayasin #winter #snow #snowlife #white #spiti #spitivalley #whitespiti #ibex #bluesheep #wildlife #snowstorm #globalwarming #climatechange #savetheplanet #earthfocus #hippieinhills #YourShotPhotographer #MyNikkor #NikonAsia #discoverwildlife

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Day 5 – After a very long and adventurous day 4, we set out next morning for Tabo and made three detours on the way; to Mud in Pin Valley, Lhalung Monastery, and Dhankar Monastery – the two of the oldest monasteries in India. 

16th century old Dhankar Gompa, built as a fort monastery on the Central Tibetan pattern is quite popular among travelers. 

Since I practice Buddhism, I was excited about visiting the monasteries. This is the Urgyen Sangnag Choling monastery which was consecrated by H.H. Dalai Lama in 2004

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. I’ve always wanted to shave my head, become a nun and study Dharma. When I was younger, I had a long conversation with a nun who lived in our school’s convent. She explained to me how they live and how difficult a road it is. When I was 13, I started practising Japanese Buddhism and I haven’t looked back since. It has been a soulful journey to say the least. I am attracted towards monasteries, I’m attracted to any place that is peaceful, any place that radiates positivity 💕 . . This is the Urgyen Sangnag Choling monastery in Spiti which provides a place for many monks to live, practice, and study Dharma . . . . . . . . . . . . #Travel #Langza #Spiti #Himachal #HimachalPradesh #wanderlust #dametraveler #beautifuldestinations #tripotocommunity #Travelgram #travelphotography #travelblogger #travels #traveltheworld #traveldiaries #potd #Travelawesome #explore #instatravel #traveltheglobe #travelingram #traveling #travelling #traveller #traveler

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We were welcomed at Tabo with fresh mint tea by the owner of the home-stay.  A short walk in the village leads to the Tabo monastery which was founded by the Buddhist king (and royal lama) Yeshe O’d in 996 A.D. 

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Tabo Kaza (c) Himadri Negi

At night, we walked up to the Tabo caves (these were used for meditation in the past, however I doubt anyone had used them recently).

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Tabo (c) Himadri Negi

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We came across an abandoned house near these caves (only to realize the next morning that a man lived there!). All of us sat at the doorsteps of the house during a chilly night to stargaze. This is where we got another view of the beautiful Milky Way along with Jupiter and Saturn – lets just say it was a magical night.

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The view of the valley and the night sky together is a surreal sight in Spiti Valley. This photo was taken around midnight from the caves above the town of Tabo. Our whole group was huddled together up there trying to spot satellites in the night sky. Some of the identifiable celestial bodies in this photo are Jupiter, the brightest light in the sky, and Saturn, rising above the horizon right at the center of the image. And of course you can see the whole of the Milky Way stretching itself out above the valley. Exposed for 25 seconds at an ISO of 1000 on a 14mm cine lens. Shot on a #Nikon D750 #thedoihost #tripotocommunity #starphotography #star #nightsky #nightskyphotography #instagram #instacool #cosmos #india #india_gram #indiatravel #incredibleindia #milkyway #spitidiaries #spiti #himalayanpictures #himachalpradesh #theworldatnight #instahimachal

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Day 6 – After visiting the Tabo monastery again in the day light, we drove to the Geu Monastery.

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Gue (c) Himadri Negi
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Gue (c) Himadri Negi

It is popularly known for a 500+ years old mummy. The mummy is believed to be of a Buddhist monk or lama named Sangha Tenzin who was mummifying himself in distant India after a scorpion infestation.

GUE
Gue (c) Himadri Negi

It was time to drive back to the sleepy hamlet of Kalpa. In the evening, we took a walk into the village of Kalpa and saw a Kinnauri temple which commoners are not allowed to enter and also witnessed a rare ritual concerning spirits and demons from a little distance (I shall not write about it here and offend anyone)

Day 7 : Post a hearty breakfast, we drove back to Shimla, my heart sinking with every passing hour as the trip was ending. Angroop bhaiya and his beloved Van parted ways with us when we reached Shimla. We sat together in our hotel one final time that night and talked about these wonderful 7 days and how we’d all stay in touch and visit each other.

Day 8 : Next morning, we headed straight to The Brew Estate in Shimla which is probably the coolest place in town to while away your time sipping away some chilled beer. It was the perfect way to end a beautiful trip.

Thanks to both of you for giving so many of us an experience of a lifetime and so many memories to cherish!

Thanks to this AWESOME bunch of wonderful people that was super friendly and made this trip a memorable one!

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Gette – Spiti (c) Himadri Negi

A special and a HUGE shout out to Angroop bhaiya for being such a PRO at driving and also being extremely sweet answering questions about the villages and his hometown. Here is a picture of him with his van 🙂

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Everyone say Hi to Angrup bhaiya! If you've travelled with us to Spiti then you've already met him and you know how nice a person he is. The traveller we travel in is of course also his. He lives in the village of Morang, deep inside the heart of Spiti Valley. Apart from being a study in confidence and concentration while he's driving he's always up for a chat about anything you'd like to talk to him about. If you're coming with us on a trip to Spiti then expect to meet him. He is one of the many inhabitants of the valley who we collaborate with on our trips. #golocal #thedoihost #people #humansofindia #storiesofindia #storiesofhimalayas #tlpicks #nikon #mynikkor #himalayas #organic #wanderlust #travelgram #travelphotography #indiapictures #travelandleisure #earthfocus #beautifuldestinations #globetrotter #india_gram #hippieinhills #tripotocommunity #thevisualyatra

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If you wish to see some videos from this trip, you can view them on my Instagram Story Highlights 

If you wish to book a trip with The Doi Host, check out their website and trip calendar!

Have you been to Kinnaur or Spiti? Please suggest some of your favorite places I should visit if I am ever there again!

Thanks for stopping by 🙂

6 thoughts on “Spiti with a group of strangers? Yes Please!

  1. This makes me nostalgic! My grandfather was a forester in these mountains in the 1920s to the 1940s and planted apple trees among others – maybe some of the trees you saw where from his nurseries?! He used to go into camp as far up as the Tibetan border with my granny and my mother who was only a baby at the time. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. That’s wonderful! My article wasn’t complete and was posted in error when you first read it, do read the rest of it.

      Thanks for sharing about your grandfather! Have you ever been to the place?

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