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Day 4: Kalpa to Nako
The next day, we woke up to a beautiful, sunlit morning. We had been praying the last two days for a clear weather, so that we could get to see beautiful views of Himalayas and finally our prayers had been heard. We were so happy! The sight of snow capped mountains all around and the Kinner Kailash peaks glimmering in the sunlight was simply mesmerising. We left from Kalpa, after having breakfast. Our destination was Tabo, with stops at Nako and Gue Village. However, this wasn’t exactly how our trip our turned out to be.
Last day, we had entered the Sutlej river valley. As we continued our journey and went deeper into the valley, the views kept getting better and better. The mountains had now become almost barren, the water of the river muddy and and the valley so grand that it made even the mountains look small. The expansion work of the highway was going on under management of BRO. That is why the roads were bad in some stretches. A few parts were pretty narrow with a steep valley on one side, which made us skip a few heartbeats. Still, overall, the roads were good and we were having a lot of fun riding on them.
However, our fun ride was soon halted by a bad news. We were stopped at a police check-post on the way and told that there has been a landslide about 40 kilometres ahead and it would take around seven to eight hours to clear!!! At first I thought I didn’t hear it correctly. Seven to eight hours?!? It was around 10 AM and that meant it would be around 5 PM by the time landslide got cleared.
The policeman looked serious, however. He advised us to return and come back the next day. We had two options - go back to Kalpa and come back the next day or go ahead deal with whatever happened. We thought that going back would waste an entire day. If we continued, we would at least make some progress. Moreover, if we were lucky, landslide might get cleared sooner (frankly, somewhere in my head I was even thinking that there was no landslide at all). When we hit the landslide, we could wait for it to get cleared. If it cleared on time, all well and good. If not, we would return and stay in the nearest village.
Thus, we continued on our path and soon we were lost in the mesmerising views again. So much so that we completely forgot about the landslide.
Somewhere along the road we entered a village by the name Spello and saw an unusual number of parked cars for such a small village. We knew what was ahead. We too parked our car by the road and walked about a 100 meters to see the scale of the landslide. It wasn’t bad. It was insane! It seemed that an entire face of a mountain had come down. It was going to take a long time to get cleared. Maybe even more than eight hours! It was time to wait.
I must tell you, waiting for landslide to clear is really a test of patience. You are in an unknown place, with limited network coverage and nothing to do but wait. We went to see JCB ki khudai many times, munched on some momos and chai in a local restaurant, went down the valley to gauge the flow of river, tried to get a nap, and even sat and did nothing. After three to four hours it got really boring. We could se a couple of villages on some distant mountains and some roads that even google maps did not show. We thought of exploring them but then dropped it immediately in hope that road would clear soon. But, that didn’t happen.
It took almost eight hours to clear. By the time road was open again, it was 5 PM already. It was late but we were happy to be on the road again. After crossing the long traffic jam, we were running a smooth two-lane tarmac - commendable job by BRO!
As the day fell dark, we knew we were missing some of the most amazing views of the valley. We took a stop at Khaab bridge where Spiti and Sutlej rivers confluence.
Plan to reach Tabo was obviously out of the window. Our target now was to reach Nako. It was pitch dark and all you could see was road as far as headlights reached. We could not see even a hit of the deadly trench on the side of the road and at turns it was almost impossible to estimate the edge of the road. We were driving at a snail’s pace. It was pretty scary, especially at places where road was still under construction and narrow. It had grown chilling cold outside, even though we did not feel that much in the car. Slowly and steadily we were able to reach Nako.
As we did not have a booking at Nako, we were now searching for a place to stay. The narrow streets of the village were deserted. Thankfully, we had done some research before the trip and knew about Lake View Hotel, which is a hotel right in front of Nako lake and is a good option to stay. Somehow managing to navigate the tight roads, we reached the hotel. A room was still available and we took it.
Later that night, I went to the terrace and was completely blown away by the view of the beautiful start light sky. Millions of stars glittering like pearls and a hit of milky-way even with the naked eye was something I had never imagined would be so stunning. It was extremely cold, well below 0 degrees. I was covered in multiple layers and still feeling cold. But, no level of cold could hold me back from gazing at that view for a long time. Shalu was suffering from cold and did not stay on the terrace for that long. Later, I put our camera in time-lapse mode and went back to the room.
Day 5: Nako to Tabo
Last night we had entered Spiti Valley in complete darkness and hadn’t got a glimpse of the landscapes. When we woke up the next morning, we found ourselves in a completely different world! There were brown and barren mountains all around. Some distant peaks were capped with white snow with clear blue sky in the background. Perfect view of Nako lake was there right in front of our room and autumn colours of plants all around. We were in a desert but it looked more beautiful than the best of greenery we had ever seen. It was the first glimpse of Spiti and we were in love with it already.
We had breakfast (aloo parantha with a cup of tea) and went to Nako lake first. It is a small and beautiful lake right in the middle of Nako. The lake looked like a mirror with a perfect reflection of the village in it. Walking around it was an experience of it’s own. We could even spot some tiny fishes swimming in it. Lakes are sacred for people of Spiti. Going into the lake, swimming, washing, etc. are not allowed. Because of this the lakes remain unpolluted.
Later, we went to Nako's prayer wheel, which a short hike away from the village. At that altitude, even a short hike can be quite exhausting. We were feeling the lack of oxygen. Still, the views from that spot were worth the effort.
We were so in love with that place that we didn't want to leave. But, we had a long journey ahead and we had to continue.
As soon as we hit the road again, we were quite literally left speechless. I didn't know where to look - on the road or out of the windows? Every frame of the view on every turn of the road was a sight to behold for hours! A perfect road that should go on and on and on.
A little later, Spiti river joined us beside the road. The water was the perfect shade of teal and as pure as nature could offer. The sound of flowing river was soothing to the ears. There were some places where roads were very narrow and steep fall on one side. At others, there was smooth tarmac. But, in these extreme conditions we can’t really complain about road quality. They exist and that is more than enough!
We reached Gue Village a little too soon. Seriously, it’s true that good things come in short supply. That beautiful road ended too soon.
Gue Village has a natural mummy, the only one in India. It is of a buddhist monk Sangha Tenzin. It is about 500 years old but was discovered in 2004. It has an interesting story behind it. A long time ago, it is believed that people of Gue village were suffering from scorpion infestation. At that time, Sangha Tenzin sacrificed his life to save the village by naturally mummifying himself. The process of natural mummification is also quite interesting, you should read about it on the internet.
The mummy was not the only awesome thing around. The views were equally splendid. It was very windy and cold winds were bombarding us from all directions. There was a small cafe in front of the monastery where we had a cup of tea and Maggi. In that cold weather, and amidst those magnificent views it was perfect combination.
When we were leaving Gue, we had not thought that we were going to have the most beautiful road trip of our life. That trip was a beauty of another level. It felt like nature cannot get more perfect. The colors, the views, the landscapes were beyond imagination. There were magnificent mountains all around us, shining in bright sunlight. The trees were yellow and green, washed in colors of autumn. And above all was Spiti river flowing in purest of forms the nature can offer.
Whole time, we were looking out of windows with jaw dropped in awe of the beauty we were seeing. No even million words can do justice to what were seeing. You should see the video to get a feel of it - I have watched it a thousand times myself and never got bored of it.
Tabo was only 34km from Gue and the ride ended too soon. Why do all good things end so soon?
In Tabo, we stayed in the Phunstok Homestay, which we had found out about while planning the trip. It was a perfect place to stay - very cosy and well-maintained rooms. Not only that, Mr Phunstok made us feel like home. He served us an awesome tea, talked to us for a few hours and made us feel home. We, for sure, stay here whenever we would be in Tabo.
We headed to the Tabo Monastery next, which more than 1000-year-old monastery. Inside it, we felt like we had travelled back in time. It was only lit by natural like. There paintings and idols that had been preserved for over a millennium. The buddha statue in the centre was especially magnificent. It was amazing that they had stood the test of time so well. We were not allowed to take photographs in there, unfortunately.
Next, we went to Tabo's meditation caves which we reached after a short hike. The caves looked like something straight up from an Indiana Jones movie. It felt scary to even look inside, don't know how monks used to meditate in those caves in ancient times.
The sun was setting and entire view of the valley with Tabo under shadows of the mountains was looking almost like a painting. We returned after the sun had set. We had Spitian Thali in Norbu's Kitchen which is a must-try in Tabo.
We also met this super cute girl who played "Akkad bakkad babe bo…" with us. It was so lovely watching her. It bought back memories of our childhood. It was so amazing to know that what we used to play in our homes in Rajasthan is played by kids so far away in a completely different world! This is the beauty of India! Meet this girl at the end of the video.