Leaving Dhankar and its stunningly picturesque views was not at all easy! But what lay ahead seemed as promising as what we were leaving behind!
Pin Valley National Park
So off we were again, this time to a National Park! A National Park at an elevation of 11,500 ft was something a bird and wildlife lover like me could not miss at any cost! The highest point of Pin Valley is at 20,000 ft!! Dhankar to Pin Valley is only about 32 KMS, but that was only to the entry point. The National Park itself is huge and goes on for several mountains!
Traveler Tip: Never judge the distance by the KMs in the mountain ranges, the winding roads take quite a while to cross. For example, the seemingly tiny distance of 32 KMs from Dhankar to Pin Valley took over 1.5 hours!
There were so many vibrant and colourful birds we met on the way. And once we entered the park, the landscape changed and the mountains donned brown, yellow, green and purple hues!
Pin Valley has several small villages, including a village which had just one house and one tree! We stayed in a village called Mudh. Mudh is where most travelers stay and is also the starting point for 2 of the most popular treks in Spiti Valley – The Pin Parvati trek and the Bhabha pass trek. The culture in the villages here is that of Home Stays – the most popular one unequivocally being Tara Guest House. And for good reason!
While the stay is basic, the food is out of this world!! The Banana milkshake was to die for! The mixed veg parathas, the spitian pizza, the momo chutney (i still dream about it!), fried maggi, ginger mint tea – we relished them all! The guest house is run by a family and is always full.
There is a trail in the park which takes around 1.5 hours if you walk like us, admiring the view and capturing the birds along the way.
There were many small waterfalls flowing in the park and there was a particular one where a bridge was built for people to walk by as the waterfall flowed from underneath it. We settled ourselves at the edge of that bridge for a long time enjoying the serenity and the sound of the water flowing with so much force!
While the Pin Valley National Park is famous for snow leopards and their prey the Ibex, we didn’t spot them because they are always at a very high altitude and come down only in extreme winters when the shrubs get covered with snow. Considering that we went in what we may call the summer season, there was no chance of spotting the ghost of the Himalayas as it is called though we did spot Ibex-es at other places 🙂
Next morning, it was time to move to a completely different terrain from the National Park. We were headed to Kaza – the headquarters of Spiti Valley! The minute we entered Kaza, we were greeted by an extremely lively vibe. And so many people! We had only been to tiny villages so far and it was quite surprising to see the concentration of people and tourists alike in Kaza. We stayed at the Spiti Heritage hotel which was an extremely cozy place to stay in.
We got our tank full from the highest petrol pump in the world! (12,270 ft).
We reserved that day to exploring Kaza, the markets, the food and speaking to the locals.
Speaking of food, Kaza is a foodie paradise! With so many cafés and restaurants, we were at a loss on how to fit in all the amazing places in our itinerary! We ate every meal at a different place! Here is a listing of what you just cannot miss in Kaza:
Sol Café – For its coffees, chocolates and cookies! The day we went they even had a movie screening, where they charge Rs. 200 and give you popcorn, a juice and chocolates. The screening was in an inviting room full of cozy bean bags. As luck would have it, we were the only ones who had come that day and we got a private screening of sorts! The movie was The Ron Clark Story and I cannot describe in words how much I loved it!
A Taste of Spiti – serves fuision food of Spiti and the world. There are items like Kaza Falafel with black bean hummus, cheese potato herb momos, Himalayan Garden burger with chips, black pea quesadilla etc (you get the drift)
Hotel Deyzor – this one was our absolute favourite!! It served Italian food and the pasta we had there was even better than the Mumbai 5 stars!
After stuffing in all that food, we went back to our hotel and spent some time reading under the stars in the compound. A blissful experience!
Langza is a beautiful village located at 14,500 ft having a population of 150 people. Our driver suggested that we leave early since we were going to a high altitude and there were chances of spotting ibex on the way when they come out for food. And sure enough we spotted so many of them – some of them even posed for the camera! 😉
Not only was the drive to Langza a gorgeous one, but also the village itself was alluring! One of the unique things about Langza is that it is known as the fossil village. It consists of so many fossils that you see small kids carrying it with them and show it to any tourist they meet! I had a wonderful time chatting with the kids and knowing about their lives, the way they see it!
Spiti has some very rare fossils, some of them even millions of years old, and are a critical link to understanding the evolution of our world. Buying and selling of fossils is banned by the Government to help in preserving the sanctity of the place and use them only for research.
Another thing for which Langza is famous is the huge Buddha statue built in the village.
After a fun-filled morning of kids and fossils, we left for our next destination – Komic.
On the way to Komic, we spotted a tiny hut run by two 13-year old kids. We ordered some tea and maggi and look at the view!
I would sacrifice the 5-star food for such a view any day!! The girls even had some fossils on display for tourists.
Komic is famed to be the highest motorable village in the world! It is situated at a height of 15,027 ft (4587 mt). It is said that there is a village in Bolivia which actually surpasses that height, though the sign board at Komic definitely claims otherwise.
It is a tiny village consisting of 10 houses and a monastery – and a beautiful one at that. It would also logically follow that the monastery is the highest in the world as well. The monastery has a stuffed body of a snow leopard hanging just inside the door. Women are not allowed inside beyond that point.
Komic also has the world’s highest restaurant 🙂
Hikkim is another small village in the Spiti Valley located at a height of 14,400 ft. It is very popular for having the highest post office in the world!
The post office doubled up as a residence to the employees of the post office. They stay there during the summer months when temperatures are bearable. The post office is shut during extreme winters.
We sent post cards to our loved ones from the world’s height post office!
There was Cafe Himalaya right opposite the post office where we wrote our post cards and sipped barley coffee and relished fried momos (the best we’ve had in a while)!
Such an amazing time I had, rich with unforgettable experiences! Some of the moments were nothing short of magical – the simplicity, the fresh mountain air, the high altitudes, the clouds and the sky! Signing off this post with one such moment:
See you next week with the final post!