It was our third day in Kaza. We had managed the last 2 days very well, having spent quality time exploring the places in and around Kaza. The third day in Kaza included a visit to Pin Valley and return but, since having lost a day to puncture in Chitkul, we had to squeeze the plan. Key monastery was also pending. Day before yesterday when we had gone there late in the evening, we could not find anyone there who could help us explore the monastery or at-least could tell us the details about it. You people come in the morning, that’s what some guy near the village had told us.
Today was the last day we would be staying at this beautiful homestay. All these days we never felt separated and were treated like a part of their family. They knew that it was our last day in Kaza and in respect to that they had prepared special Kinnauri Bread which they served us with Rajma beans. Since morning, before we woke up, they were out in the courtyard in the freezing cold and were rolling the bread for us, only so that we could taste something different and unique. Really, salute to their dedication and hardwork. It was not easy to start working before the Sun came out nicely. We had our last breakfast of Kaza and headed out towards Key Monastery. It was really difficult leaving the beautiful family and even really difficult for us to leave the city. Our return journey had officially started.
We left the homestay around 11 am. It was our third time travelling in the direction of Key monastery. On reaching the gompa, we could see some tourists already present there and having a look at the gompa. We parked our bikes and went inside into the room which were allowed for the tourists to see. The room was not big enough and smelled heavily of the burning incense. At the centre was a statue of the deity and the wall were full of posters and paintings of Buddha. The head lama was present there and he briefed us about the history and the daily chores in a short and terse manner. Photography was strictly prohibited and so we were not able to take photos. We roamed around the place for few minutes and then started to head back towards Kaza. We had also thought of seeing the Kaza monastery on the go.
The Kaza monastery is situated right besides the only petrol pump available there. We reached the place in around half and hour. The monastery looked like closed but soon we could spot the lama who was opening the doors of the gompa. He allowed us inside and for a brief moment of time we were just admiring the beautiful paintings, the statues and overall decorum of the gompa. It looked like a big hall and arrangements were made in the centre for the monks to sit and chant the mantra. I was visualizing in my mind how the things would have looked during a full attendance with all the chanting and prayer going on. I wanted a first hand experience of that thing. We came outside the gompa and clicked few pictures. In the same time, we met some fellow travelers like us who had come to visit Spiti. They were younger than us and probably group of 8-10 people. They had known each other through social media and had collectively organized the trip. Some of them were instagrammers while some of them youtubers. We gave them our trip stickers as a remembrance of us and exchanged goodbyes and wished them luck for their trip.
We knew there was a souvenir shop just at the exit of the city and planned to buy something before we left the city. We had seen the magnificent design of the cup in which the homestay family had served us tea. Since then, it was lying in our ‘cart’. All three of us purchased the unique cup. Myself and Karan bought Spiti t-shirts too along with Tibetan flags and some packs of incense sticks. At the last, we bought the Key monastery stickers which we all pasted on our bikes just as a reminder of the trip.
Karan was running out of cash and so we went to the market where ATM was located. We also packed ourselves with us some biscuits and groundnut ‘Chikkis’ to eat them along the way. After the cash was withdrawn, we headed straight towards the Pin valley. You can say, Pin valley was almost halfway between Kaza and Tabo. For us to enter Pin valley, one had to cross the bridge and enter into the other side. The sign board at the entrance of the bridge said, Mud Village: 31 kms, supposedly the last big village of Pin Valley. We were not having liberty of time and decided to go only half that distance and return back. Our intention was not to deeply get the feel of Pin valley. We just wanted to see how it looked different from Kaza. For exploring Pin, you need at least a comfortable 2-3 days to explore. There are even Snow Leopards here! and again we wished we could spot one while on our way. The roads were semi off-road and the valley and river to our left. We we almost riding at level with the river ‘Pin’. Pin was like that. There was more snow here as compared to Kaza. There were some villages we could see at far which were completely under the blanket of snow. The road to the village required us to divert from the main road. So it was either the continued straight road or this twisted off-road leading to the village. I checked the village name on my map, it read Tangti Yogma. Since the location of our return on the Pin route was not fixed, instead of proceeding ahead along the route, we instead, decided to visit this village. We climbed down the main road and were now almost riding on the bed of the river. Since it was still winter season, the width of the river had not increased. There was a makeshift bridge made up of wood and metal columns made for crossing to the other side in order to go to the village. Parallel to it, a new cement concrete bridge was being erected. We were not sure of the condition of the bridge, what if the bridge collapsed? There was no one near by to help us or even to hear our screams. The wooden planks were nailed to the metal columns and at some location, the nails were protruding out. Bimal ji went ahead walking on the bridge to inspect the condition, and suddenly the event which happened at Chitkul came in front of our face. It was a no go. A bike without puncture was more dearer to us than a visit to the village and hence we decided to move back towards the main road on the Tabo-Kaza road. It was end of our Pin valley exploration. We came back on the maid road, ate some biscuits and Chikki as we were really hungry. It was 4 pm in the evening. We still had 42 kms to Tabo.
It was a matter of just hour and a half as the roads permitted us to go above 40 kmph. Finally we reached Tabo city at around 6 pm . We asked at the same hotel where we did our lunch 2 days back about the homestay. They directed us to some place near to the Tabo Monastery. Tabo was not looking lively and considering very less settlements out here, we wondered if we were getting any accommodation for the night or not. The place suggested by the lunch-home was also shut and so we had to move ahead in the same direction and look for a homestay. There were many sign boards indicating the homestays available but, none of them were open. Finally, after searching in the inner lanes of the city we found a one with only a single room available. The rests were already booked. We will manage, that’s what we told the owner and negotiated a deal. We would be paying only for the stay and opted to eat outside. That way it was much cheaper around 1300 bucks. Tea would be served free from his side.
The room was quite elegant, just like what we had got in Pooh. We freshened ourselves. I reached out to the roof of the hotel to capture the time-lapse. Full moon was tomorrow and now itself only it looked like one. This time I decided to take time-lapse of the rising moon from behind the mountains. But, somehow I got late in setting up the camera and the moon had already showed its face to me. Still I went ahead. It had got pretty dark and as we had decided to skip dinner at the homestay and have it at the same place where we had lunch earlier. Fearing everything would shut down quite early, in no time I was back into my room and off we went. But to our dismay, by the time we went there, the food had already finished and they suggested another place which was just at the entrance of the road to the monastery. We went there almost at brisk speed for we feared that the same condition might get repeated.
We were walking on the road with lights being poured by the moonlight. The city was in total darkness and the only light source was the moon. Rest everything got silhouetted under the strong light source. The cold had not pitched in that much and it almost looked like our normal city weather. It was really a different kind of feeling having walking on the middle of road with moon shining on us. It looked like midnight but the time was only 7:30 pm. We were able to find the hotel and moved in. It was a make shift hotel with not even proper flooring. We were their only customers at that time. Maybe, rest of the people had finished the dinner and retired to their homes. We ordered omelette initially followed by Thali for all three of us. We were not disappointed and the food was really delicious. We forget all the surrounding things and just concentrated on the food. The road to homestay was not far away from the hotel. In fact, we had taken a complete circle around our homestay in search for the hotel. Within minutes we were lazily sitting in our beds and relaxing ourselves. There were some books kept on the table nearby. And being an avid book lover, I started to glance through all of them. There was an extra bedding put for us since the bed could accommodate only 2 people.
We decided to sleep early as tomorrow there was much traveling to do. We had to visit the beautiful TABO monastery before we moved ahead.
We had planned to reach Rampur by tomorrow’s day end.
The time was 9:40 pm. The moonlight had completely taken over the city with dry apple trees silhouetting against the sky….