Today, I got up a bit late. Today was kinda first time for me not taking a morning time-lapse. Kaza was really cold in the night and having slept late and without any alarm, I required my minimum 6 hrs sleep. I generally avoid sleeping far than that. Whichever time I sleep, I add 6 hrs to that and try to wake up at that time. I woke up today around 6:30 am. Doing the morning chores was really a tough task. When I went to bathroom, the whole water had frozen. I was just not in the mood for dry toilet. I thought I will endure the pain. I had to break the icy layer and take out the water into another bucket. Don’t ask me what happened after that. For a few moment I thought some part of my body was missing.
I demanded hot water now, at least for brushing my teeth. First two mugs, I just poured them onto my hands to thaw them. After few minutes, some lively movement was seen. Other people to followed the same. Karan was hell-bent on doing it dry. I told him go ahead.
After some time the owner handed a cup of hot tea to us and it was a great relief to our hands as compared to our inner body. The tea tasted good. We were soon going to be served with the breakfast. Till that time whatever sunlight was falling in the veranda, we tried to grab it. Our travelers friends were already ready and set their foot out to visit the places around Kaza. They too had the same itinerary like us for today.
At around 8:30 am we got our breakfast. Today, the breakfast consisted of Parantha, scrambled eggs and Achar along with tea. We had a good amount and then retired to our rooms to do the packing. We decided to keep the luggage at the room itself and take only the necessary stuff. We had decided to end our day in Kaza only and not at any other place. We prayed to gods about our bikes safety and headed out. The time was 10 am. We spent quite sometime basking in the sunlight even after the breakfast. We were just not ready to go before we’d warmed up considerably.
Our first stop was the Langza Buddha which was 16 km from here. The route towards it was same, as one would go towards Key monastery. Langza Buddha is situated at a comfortable height of 15,000 ft. While we started our climb we could see snow on the sides of the road. There wasn’t any snow on the road but, on the sides it was in large quantity. The real beauty of the Spiti had just started. The scene was so beholding us that we stopped frequently to admire the surroundings and took pictures. There was no hurry to reach anywhere. The places to visit today were in a closed loop circuit of 30 km only and we had a whole day to cover them. We were taking our own time. It was colder here and strong gale was blowing, probably might be due to considerable flat open land.
We reached the Buddha statue around 11:30 am. From very far away, we could judge its enormity. The statue was going to be huge. Till now, we had only seen it on the internet. We reached near the statue, parked our bikes and began taking picture of it. The sight of the Buddha looking down on the valley was just out of this world. Far across, the Snow mountains stretched as far as the eyes could see, all of them covered in snow blankets and Buddha having this eyes on the entire valley. If one does not fall in love with this place, you can thrash me. A perfect place for meditation, we thought. The place was so silent and you could only hear the wind noise and some birds chirping in between. Apart from that there was no sound to be heard. There were settlements just beside the Buddha, but it was complete silence. Just imagine that you are at 15,000 ft and with such a beautiful view of the valleys and a Buddha statue. You wont even come to know how the day passed by. Such was the power of that place. The fast-moving clouds just added icing on the cake of scenery. Without clouds the sky doesn’t get its identity.
With this, we first started off by taking time-lapses. The frame was captured from behind the Buddha statue and kept for around 1 hr and so did Bimal ji and Karan. They were even recording time-lapses with their action cameras. When the cameras were busy recording, we just stood there and admired the view. We knew for sure that this moment was not coming again. We tried to absorb the scenery as much as possible. The chilly wind was wrecking havoc on us. It was bone freezing cold. But, we knew, to gain some we had to lose some. We then shot from the front side of the Buddha. It was during this shot that I mistakenly captured the Himalaya’s greatest and largest carnivore bird, the ‘Himalayan Griffon’ flying right over the head of the Buddha. At first I did not know that it was him but, after I zoomed on it after taking the picture, my doubts were cleared. I then tried to take a solo pic of him flying ahead of the scene but, he was so quick at that height, that by the time I was seeing through my eyepiece of the DSLR, I was not just able to locate him. He must have been flying around 18,000 ft at that time and he was fast a bullet. His wings helped him to attain such speed and if you google him you will eventually come to know just how big that bird is. First interaction with ‘Himalayan Griffon’ took place yesterday night during the dinner when our other traveler friends told us about their bird sighting story in Chitkul. One of the guides in Chitkul helped them to spot one.
We later moved ahead and now were on our way to Hikkim. The time was 1 pm. The roads soon turned slushy. The melted snow on the roads had caused the water to mix with the mud and become slushy. It was fun and challenging to drive. The winds had not left us, which prevented us from removing our gloves often during breaks. Since the roads were connected through a circuit, half way back on our journey, there was one road towards left which went ahead straight towards Hikkim.
On our way, we could see abnormal foot prints on the ice and highly doubted that it was none other than the marks of the elusive cat. We just wished we spotted it somewhere nearby. Our eyes were just scanning the places left to right even while riding. There wasn’t any traffic from up ahead so, little off focus on the road up ahead was an OK. Plus it was like flat land, so no worry of falling. There were many foot marks on the snow and their sheer numbers made us worry as to how many of them lived here. Their main homeland is believed to be in ‘Kibber’, a place, not very far away from here. But, you never know if they just decided to explore new places like us. More on the elusive cat will be followed in my next day blog. We clicked pictures by dragging our bikes entirely into snow just to get that feel that we were driving in complete snow covered roads. But, we were lucky, as no snow was to been seen on the road. Had it been there, it would have been very very challenging as risky to drive.
Even though there was a single road to Hikkim from that place, I had opened up Maps.me app and put the village location onto it. But as we approached the village the app started to go haywire and somehow we went ahead and were just going. Just as we sensed that something was not wrong, luckily, we got a few women walking by the side of the road, asked them about the location to the village to which they said that it has been left behind. While coming this way, we had seen some small settlements of 5-6 houses on our left sides which we didn’t know actually was Hikkim. I think there wasn’t any board announcing the village name. From the distance we could also see the logo of the Indian Post office. Initially we had thought that the highest post office was located in Komic but, in fact it was located in Hikkim. The village was on a down-slope and we had to come from the other way in order to enter the village from the slope side. Bimal ji was waiting far away on the road while we entered the village. We went to the post office after parking our bikes and found it to be closed. Only cattles were to be seen around and no village people .We thought no one was there, but in some time a few of them did managed to get outside. Don’t know it was because of us or something else. We took photos by the post office gate and returned to our bikes. By that time, Bimal ji too came to the spot and then he went solo to take a selfie of him with the post office.
It was lunch time, and nothing could be seen on the road where we could actually eat something. But smartly, knowing this, before leaving Kaza, we had bought some biscuits and water and kept along with us. We ate them and then moved forward. Somehow, we decided to skipped Komic as our early assumption was that Komic had the world’s highest post office and now since we had located that in Hikkim itself we thought of returning back to Kaza for a good lunch. We would then head for Key monastery. But we had totally forgotten the information the home-stay people had given us last evening that there was a monastery in Komic and that the Lama there had kept a dead snow leopard there which was stuffed with something similar to grass like material. We earlier had decided to visit the place but, now somehow we didn’t knew how we missed that information and it popped us in our minds only when we had conversation with the home-stay people in the evening. They were too excited to know what all we did during the day and the places we visited. We left Hikkim around 3:18 pm and headed down towards Kaza.
At Kaza, the first thing we did was to have a good amount of lunch. We ate at a small hotel which was directly opposite to the only Indian Oil petrol pump. We had a non-veg momos for starter and then a veg thali for all three of us. The thali included Sabzi, Roti, Rice and Daal. It tasted really delicious and since it was served hot, the taste was something different. At around 4:30 pm we left for Key monastery.
The monastery was not far away from Kaza, just an 8 km drive. The roads were good and it took no more than 15 min to reach at the foot steps of the monastery. After we entered inside, we didn’t find anyone at the monastery, not even a single Lama. We just read the informative hoardings put up there related to the gompa and returned to the bike parking area. We were just clueless as to where did the lamas go. Maybe they went to the city for some work, this was just our thought. We later heard that the lower levels of the monastery is which houses the cells for the lamas to live. They must be in their cells relaxing or chanting when we visited the gompa. There was this special frame of the Key monastery captured from the mountain behind it. The frame was rooted deep in my mind and since it was sunset time, the light was perfect to capture it. I knew that time, that wasting more time would be a sin. When I was at the gompa, I’d searched the place on the mountain from where the frame could be captured. So when we were about to leave the gompa, I told Bimal ji and Karan that without the frame being capture we just wouldn’t go back to Kaza. They agreed and since it was good uphill hike in the treacherous windy and cold conditions, Bimal ji and Karan decided to stay at the base while myself along with my DSLR and tripod started the climb. The climb was really taking a toll on me and was testing my stamina levels. I had to stop 3-4 time before I could reach the top safely. There was no hard ground to walk upon, it was all laden with pebbles which rolled from above, that made it quite risky and I had no interest in breaking my bones. I did not stop much over there and apart from taking photos, I also managed to click a small time-lapse video. The gompa was stationery but the beautiful clouds made it more scenic and adding to that the wonderful sunset happening behind.
Cold was at its peak and winds still hadn’t abated till now. I somehow managed to reach the base and we decided to head back without taking any more frames. We left the gompa around 6:45 pm and arrived back to our home-stay around 7:15 pm. There we met our friend, Sumo. He was cute little pump being raised by the family. He was fluffy as a polar bear. He started playing with us the time we’d checked into the home-stay yesterday. I forgot to mention him in my previous blog. But today, it looked like he was waiting for us to come home and as soon as we arrived he came running at with his tail wagging. He was just not ready to leave our room and peeping into what ever he could find new. I think he was longing for our company and didn’t had friends to play with.
We changed back to our night clothes and got ready for drink. We had the same RS which was left from yesterday. We were just revisiting the moments and activities for today. We were having gala time. Time went by and it was time for our dinner. Today, the hosts had prepared Veg Momo’s for us. They had told us yesterday only regarding the dish. We’d happily nodded. The Momo’s were steamed which we had with the spicy chutney of tomato and red chillies. Later on, they even served us with fried Momo’s which also tasted delicious. We all ate happily discussing traveling topics and future trips. Today, we were joined by the famous bicycle rider who drove all the way from Jaipur till Spiti. He too was staying in our home-stay. I wondered, even though Kaza had some many houses, how come everyone was staying at our place only. Looking at it from a point, it was a good thing for us only having getting to meet awesome traveler friends. I had mentioned him in my previous blog. It had taken him 16 days just to reach at this spot. All this doing Solo! Hat’s off to him. He had the same plans like all of us in Spiti and was hesitant to go on bike to the upper areas of Spiti due to less amount oxygen. So, we all of us chit chatted on traveling topics and enjoyed our dinner. Beer lovers, a bike-cyclist and we, riders, what a combo. We learnt so much from each other and congratulated to their life’s journey.
The discussions continued even after our dinner had finished. It was time to say good night to my fellow traveler friends. Tomorrow was going to be more or less same journey for us. I forgot to record the time but I guess, it was very late. We retracted to our beds and slept.
Outside, I could hear the local dogs barking and chasing away the Red Fox! They are the only reason for the dogs to get violent.