Monday, October 31, 2016

Spectacular Spiti : Kaza and beyond

(Page 4)

Day 5 - Aug 9th , 2016

This day was meant to explore places in and around Kaza. We left Kaza by 6.30 AM and our next pit stop was a village called Komic.

Kaza :

Its mountainous terrain and pristine locales attract visitors who want to indulge in adventurous activities and spiritual well being alike. It is the base camp for trekking, mountaineering and other adventures.

Pin-Parvati, Parang-La and Pin-Bhaba are some of the popular trails which start from Kaza. A gentle stroll to villages around Kaza can also be an interesting experience.

Rangrik village as seen from Kaza
Kaza can be accessed from Kinnaur Valley and Lahaul Valley. Though the Kinnaur Valley route remains open throughout the year, the Lahaul Valley route remains open only during summers as the Kunzam Pass closes during winters.

Winters in Kaza are severe with the temperature plunging to sub-zero levels. Locals remain within the confines of their households and venture out only if absolutely necessary.

Kaza boasts of high mountains with snowy crowns, crystal clear rivers, streams and barren splendor interspersed with patches of green. Kaza is known for its colorful festivals and the Sakya Tangyud Monastery.

The early morning light made the whole Spiti valley to glow in gold. The village of Rangrik as seen from Kaza.

The route from Kaza to Komic is very scenic, as the journey traverses through high altitude villages , green pastures , snow peaks , monasteries.

Kanamo peak : 

This white peak towers 5964m above sea level. Located above Kibber and Ki gompa, the holiest mountain in Spiti. Ka means white or auspicious and Namo means hostess or a lady so Kanamo means the mountain is a good omen or simply a white hostess.

This beautiful peak can be seen while travelling from Kaza to Komic village. We then spotted a Himalayan Red Fox crossing the road. I had not carried my telephoto lens, and hence missed the opportunity of shooting it.

Langza :

Nestled between the mountains in a bowl shaped area in the Spiti Valley is a small remote village named Langza. This village is situated at an altitude of 14,500 feet above sea level in the Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh in northern India.

At the first glance of the village, one will instantly notice a huge Golden coloured Buddha statue which is believed to be around 1000 years old.

As the tourism in this region has increased in the past few years, more and more houses have turned into home stays providing the travellers with accommodation and food options.

The main occupation of the people of Langza is agriculture. They grow peas and other small crops in the region. Apart from agriculture, tourism and homestay business is gradually increasing.

Komic :

The next visit was to a village called Komic. This village has the record of being the "World's highest village with motorable road". This village has a small monastery and few houses in its vicinity.


Hikkim is a small sleepy hamlet which is around 2-3 kms to the village of Komic. From a far distance, Hikkim looks very similar to Langza and can be easily misunderstood. But the village is entirely different.

Hikkim is famous for two reasons. 

1) Highest post office in the world
2) Highest poling booth in India

Since this place had a record of being the world's highest post office, we thought of sending a post card back home. However, the post office had been locked and the person incharge was farming somewhere nearby. With the help of local kids, we found him and fulfilled our wish to send postcards.

Engaging with these kids is very much fun. I got to know a lot about their lifestyles and much more about the place. In return, we gave them some chocolates.

We visited the house of a Lama at Hikkim, where we were served with one of the best ginger-lemon tea, that I had ever had. This place is also a home stay where tourists can halt.

I really admired at the simplicity and hospitality of these wonderful human beings. Seeing such selfless people makes us think how cruel the urban people are.

With a heavy heart, we bid these lovely people and kids goodbye and returned to Kaza for lunch.

There is a shortcut route from Hikkim to Kaza. You need not touch Langza while returning.

The whole expanse of Spiti valley can be seen from the top. The city of Kaza as seen from a bird's eye view.

I had to recharge my batteries before we left for Key and Kibber. While having lunch at the hotel, I put them for charge and made sure both my battery and stomach were fully charged.

In the meanwhile, Tanzin suggested us to visit Chicham village before visiting Kaza. This lies on the Kibber - Kaza route.

Kibber :

We left Kaza by 2.30 PM and headed towards Kibber. Kibber was earlier the highest village with motorable road before Komic.

Houses are constructed in the Tibetan architectural style, as the land in Lahul and Spiti is mountainous and quite prone to earthquakes. The rooftop is loaded with dried branches or twigs to serve both as a cushion and insulation during snowfall

Agriculture is the main source of livelihood. Potato farming is common. Occupations include animal husbandry, working in government programs, government services, and other businesses and crafts that include weaving. 

We then proceeded towards Chicham village, where the highest bridge was being constructed. 

Highest bridge under construction

Chicham village as seen from Kibber

Key :

Our next visit for the day was to Key monastery.

Key Gompa is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery located on top of a hill at an altitude of 4,166 metres (13,668 ft) above sea level, close to the Spiti River, in the Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh, Lahaul and Spiti district, India.
It is the biggest monastery of Spiti Valley and a religious training centre for Lamas.

Key monastery is probably the most visited place in the Spiti valley. This may be due to its close proximity to Kaza, and also due to its religious significance.
The group of buildings surrounding the monastery is truly an arhitectural marvel. The monastery is built on top of the hill, and small houses surround the main monastery.

This place has a lot of historical importance as well. This was under attacks by several kingdoms including Mongols as well.

Key Monastery was destroyed by invaders and rebuilt several times. It was also caught by fire and has suffered extensive damage due to an earthquake. Having been rebuilt several times, temples and other buildings appear to have been stacked haphazardly. The monastery appears like a fortress.
There are no much eateries at Key. You might have to carry yourselves or have to reach Kaza.

A agricultural field seen near Key monastery.

Spiti river as seen from Key monastery

A young monk was seen playing near his home, and I got few opportunities to shoot some photographs of him.

After cherishing the sunset from Key, we headed towards Kaza to mark the end of the day. This was one of the most beautiful day of the trip. We got to witness the varied flora , fauna , culture , people , monuments & food of the Spiti valley.

The day ended with yet another sighting of the Himalayan Red Fox. This time, I made sure to carry my telephoto lens. Though the lighting was very bad, I managed to get some record shots. All were handheld at 6400 ISO (now imagine the lighting condition) :) 

It was a great sighting of this cute animal. It is difficult to spot this, as it is highly camouflaged and is quicker than the shutter speed of the camera.

We returned back to Kaza with a box full of wonderful memories of the Spiti valley.

A small stroll along the Kaza bazaar and a sumptuous dinner made us hit the bed early. We had few more experiences that were waiting to be unfolded the next day, that made us wonder about the next journey

Useful information / Tips to the travelers :

1. There are many hotels which provide you with accommodation at Kaza

2. Number of eateries at Kaza are also on the higher side. You get to eat Indian , Chinese and other continental dishes.

3. Schools , hospitals, government offices , markets , Gompas , monastery and Petrol/Diesel stations are available here.

4. The best time to visit Kaza is from June to September. However, you can visit any time of the year.

5. Transportation to Kaza can be by private hired vehicles from Manali or Shimla.

6. Only one government bus runs per day from Manali to Kaza.

7. Mobile signals are very weak, and only BSNL works

8. Electricity is very scarce , so charge your batteries when available.

9. Manali to Kaza route will be closed in Winters. However, Kaza can be reached by the Kinnaur route from Shimla even in winters.

10. Small homestays offer you with basic accommodation and food at Komic , Hikkim and Langza

11. Government run bus facilities are very limited to these remote places.

12. "Hotel Spiti Valley" is the name of the hotel where we stayed during our visit to Kaza. It is a decent hotel and pocket friendly as well. Food is provided at an additional cost

13. Do not miss to visit the Kaza bazar to purchase the souvenirs of the Spiti valley

14. No shops are available at Langza , Hikkim or Komic. You will have to purchase anything that you require at Kaza itself.

Thanks for viewing
How does the last village at Pin valley look like ? Click on the below link to know more

Journey to Kaza
(Page 3)
Pin Valley
(Page 5)

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