I woke up around 6 am this time without alarm. I guess, I did not felt the need of it anymore. Thinking what to do, I went outside to the balcony and took the fresh morning air. It was cold. The golden hour period had begun and anytime the sun could be seen rising from behind the mountains. I decided to do a time-lapse of the movement of morning sunlight on the snow white mountains, keeping the same composition which I did last evening. I gathered my belongings and started shooting.
Meanwhile, Karan had woken up too and he also joined me. A few moments later, Bimal ji too woke up. The time was around 6:45 am. Tea was needed badly and so I went upstairs to tell the owner. After quite some time the tea arrived and we happily, gazing the mountains from the balcony sipped it slowly.
We started to get ready for our next destination and meanwhile ordered the owner to make breakfast for us. Told him to make whatever was available in the kitchen room. We finally agreed on Butter toast and tea. We shifted all our luggage near reception and one by one started mounting on the bike. I was last to leave the room after searching that we had not left anything. Also, since my time-lapse was still running along with some charging left for my GoPro, I was last to make my bike ready. Once the cold start on the bikes were done and luggage had been mounted, we had our breakfast, paid the bill and left the place. The total bill came around 1900 which I paid him happily. I don’t know how he had calculated the bill for the food. But, we didn’t ask any questions. BTW, I forgot to tell you that I was the treasurer for the whole trip and we had pooled in equal contribution. It is always easy if a single person pays. We had kept it really simple. Whenever our money used to run out, we used to pool again.
We started around 8:30am, the distance to Kaza was around 140 km. We were going to visit Dhankar monastery along the way to Kaza. The roads from here on-wards were not going to trouble the way they did yesterday. It was gonna be mix of good and off road.
Soon, we reached the ‘Khab’ sangam. The holy place where the Sutlej and Spiti river meets. It’s a popular place for travelers and tourists and its on the way to Kaza. You don’t have to divert from the main highway. There is a huge bridge built over the rivers. Just before the bridge, around few mtrs back, you will get to see a yellow board on your left saying ‘Welcome to Hangrang Valley’. That’s the place where the Khab sangam occurs.
We stopped to admire the view and the sangam. We also took photos on the bridge and were met with fellow 2 riders riding pillion. They had come all the way from Indore, MP09. We too included them in our frame and vice versa. I gave them our Tour stickers which we had extra and after brief moment of time on the bridge we moved ahead.
We were heading towards Nako now. Roads were excellent and in another hour or so we stopped just before Nako to take some rest and click some photos. My ODO clocked 54,000 there. Nako is at considerable height of around 14,000 ft and so the temperature there was little colder as compared to what we came from.
We left around 10:45 from the place. We had to again loose altitude which made us feel better since the temperature came back to normal.
We then rode continuously till Tabo, reached around 1:30pm.
We took a halt in Tabo as it was lunch time and we were damn hungry. Tabo is not a big village and being off season almost everything was closed. Luckily, we found one home-stay offering lunch for us. We had to take help of the locals to find it. We settled for Chowmen, non-veg for myself and Karan and veg for Bimal Ji. The quantity given was so much that we were finding it difficult to finish it. But, with the spicy chutney which they gave along with it, I managed to complete it. Finally, we also had tea before we left the place. The tea was hitting us more strongly as we were drinking hot tea right after a spicy meal. Water was flowing through my eyes and nose.
Locals suggested us to visit Tabo monastery and proceed ahead but since we were running short of time and had to reach Kaza before dark, we promised them that we would be visiting while returning.
We left around 2:15 pm and headed straight towards Dhankar. Out of the 5 key monasteries in Spiti valley, Dhankar is counted as one.
There are 5 key monasteries in Spiti. Key, Komic, Tabo, Dhankar and Kungri. We were going to visit them all.
I would not only caution you about the patch of the road ahead of Tabo, but you can say the patch starts after your exit Kalpa. These mountains are different from the one you will see on-route Leh-Ladakh. Here, rocks/stones are constantly falling off from great heights. It is pure luck to drive on these roads and escape unhurt. While we were driving, a small stone just fell in the gap between myself and Karan. I have the recording too and maybe will post later on FB and Insta as a separate post. But, why am I writing this here is that I am making you cautious about the mountain conditions in SPITI valley. Don’t just focus on the road ahead, you need to look above also and check if any rock movement is happening or not. You might forget what I have said here but, BRO’s have since long time put up boards of ‘Shooting Stones, Tread with Caution’ almost every km of the stretch. A constant reminder to look 360 degree and proceed.
When we reached Dhankar found a newly built monastery there. The place was heavily crowded. Maybe, it was prayer time or some local function was about to happen. The locals guided saying that the original old one was still up ahead. It was just a km more from the new one. There was snow is this village since it being located at considerable height. Some of the snow had turned black while some was still looking fresh white.
To our dismay we found out the Old monastery doors to be locked and so there was no chance to go inside. No one was to be found nearby. We assumed that the Lama must be at the new opened monastery. We clicked photos from the outside itself and proceeded downwards. We did not visit the new one as there was large crowd gathered there. We did not wanted to interfere in between.
We left Dhankar around 4 pm and now were heading straight towards Kaza and nothing left to stop in between. But, at one location we did stop to admire a beautiful phenomenon. A small waterfall had frozen partially and the remaining water was falling below. The sight was just beauty. We did not get down for the photos, clicked it while we were seated on our bikes.
I was really low on fuel, and the first thing we did upon entering Kaza was fuel up. The fuel pump is special and is the highest outlet in the world. The outlet is run by Indian Oil.
After filling we clicked photos at the location..even pasted our Tour sticker on the petrol discharge unit. There is only single discharge unit for petrol and it is pasted on top right corner with all three of us names written on it.
We moved ahead of the petrol pump in search of secluded hotel, just as we found it in Sangla. We found some but they were locked. Even, the hotels which offered great view were locked. After careful glancing it came to know that all hotels in the city were locked and we had nothing left to choose but to look for home-stay options.
We returned back to the petrol pump, the location from where we started our search. Last year when Bimal ji had came to Spiti, he got a hotel just nearby to the petrol pump. So when we inquired with the lady owner of the same hotel, she said that it too was closed due to water issues. We had come to early in the season. Bimal ji had went in the month of June. We were waiting by the road side and just then a Maruti Alto came from behind and asked us if we were looking for anything. We told them we were looking for a stay and he then asked us to follow him.
Later on we came to know that he was taking to his home-stay. The roads were so narrow that one would easily forget his way back. At one point, we even had to cross school ground right from the middle of it. We came to halt at a point where he showed us his house but it was little on the downside, like it was located on a step where our bikes could not reach. We needed the bike to be as near to the house as possible. So we asked him if there was any other way to his house which he happily replied yes. After few twists and turn we were at this house, parked a few mtrs away and went inside to check out the conditions and get deal done. These boys were the only ones which looked like they would help us in getting a stay. Apart from them, we had not seen anybody chasing us for a stay, which usually happens in tourist cities.
It was a great home-stay with comfortable rooms and enough space to keep our luggage. We approved it immediately and the deal was finalized for 400 bucks inclusive of all . Stay, Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. They told us that they would arrange water for our toilet stuff in the morning. Running water here was like gold, very rare. We brought all our stuff and loaded inside the room. We did nothing for almost an hour. Just sat there and admire the view outside from our room window. They later on, also offered us tea so that we could feel refreshed.
We changed over-selves to normal clothing and just sat inside the room chatting and taking backup of the camera videos and photos. In that period, they also offered us their special butter tea which really tasted delicious and out of this world. You could really feel that overwhelming taste of the butter. They told us that it would provide the required heat in such conditions. We thanked them for the special tea. There was instant heat generated in our body.
It has started to get dark and I desperately wanted to go outside and do a night time-lapse. I saw that there was an entry to the terrace through a makeshift bamboo ladder from behind the house. Out of excitement, I took my DSLR in one hand and with tripod on another, began climbing it. I should have kept them in bag instead and climbed. At 3rd step, I was down on the ground. The 3rd leg broke and I fell down on my back. While falling, the lens hit the bamboo and my UV lens was cracked. Luckily, the lens was saved and it was due to the UV lens only. There was no damage on the tripod. I was scared. This was my second time banging the 30K lens in less than a month. First time, I dropped the lends head-on on the Pune-Mumbai expressway. I skipped the plan and instead decided to do the time-lapse from inside the window of our room. Earlier, I thought of keeping the DSLR at the entrance door of the home-stay but, there was too much traffic and I didn’t want to risk this time and damage the lens once and for all.
The DSLR kept on shooting while we enjoyed our RS drink. It had started to really get cold with our research prior to the trip showing temp dipping in minus side during the night. The family had provided us with enough bedding to counter the cold. Their service was really friendly. They treated as a part of their family. Later in the night, we were called for dinner in their dining room. We had a nice dinner of Mix Veg, Roti, Daal and Rice. Bimal ji and myself were little high on account of the RS. My severity was less as compared to Bimal ji. I was not accustomed to drinking and was taking only to counter the cold.
We were also accompanied by another set of travelers who had taken room adjacent to us. They has come hiring a car and were here to explore same like us. They were beer connoisseurs and also had a separate Insta page called ‘brew hoppers’ in which they posted photos of all the various types of beer they drank all over India. We chit-chatted while having dinner and shared respective stories to each other.
Finally, it was time to say goodnight to our traveler friends and also to the family. We thanked them for preparing such a delicious meal. We retired to the bed as fast as possible as we were really tired. I had to keep up little longer and my DSLR was still shooting. Finally, I decided to call it off as the cold was penetrating though the open window and I din’t want to ruin a perfect cozy sleep. And, so I shut the DSLR off, closed the window and slept without keeping any alarm!
I checked my phone , the time was 12:00am….