After fossil-hunting at Langza and posting cards from the highest post office in the world at Hikkim, it was time to move on to a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery located on top of a hill at an altitude of 13,668 ft!
The Kee Monastery is the one which we see on most of the postcards of Spiti Valley. Located atop a hill with the backdrop of slanting mountains and clouds hovering on the mountains – the monastery is indeed a sight to cherish!
It is the biggest monastery of Spiti Valley and is also a training center for monks.
We saw some kids of the monks there playing around outside the monastery 🙂
Traveler Tip: There is a climb that you can do from outside the monastery that leads you to another view point from which you can click the Kee monastery. The view from there is quite breathtaking too.
Kibber is a village located around 18 kms ahead of Kee and at an elevation of 14,300 ft.
It is a typical village with around 80 houses and lush green fields – lush green fields is something that we did not see very often in the Spiti Valley thus far.
Kibber is also designated a wildlife sanctuary but to be honest, we did not see any animals. Considering that there were so many villagers living there, I do not foresee a lot of wild animals wandering there (logically speaking).
We did see a lot of beautiful birds though – From Hopoes to finches to goldcrests!
Next day early morning, it was time to leave our Kaza abode and set sail. We passed by the pretty village of Losar – said to be the last livable village near the Indo-China border.
The route to Losar was nothing short of fascinating:
We traveled by the Chicham bridge which is Asia’s highest bridge at 13,596 ft.
The village was very pretty. Tourists sometimes do an overnight stay here to catch glimpses of the amazing landscape it offers.
Losar sunsets are also supposed to be quite pretty. We had a meal of Rajma chawal and maggi at one of the tiny dhabas there.
While exiting Losar, there was a police checkpoint, where they checked the no. of tourists going forward. This was because there was no further village ahead and considering the closeness to the border, a record was being maintained of tourists exiting from here.
Kunzum Pass is a high pass located at 15,060 ft which connects the Spiti Valley with the Lahaul Valley and Kullu Valley. There is a Kunzum Mata temple there where travelers seek blessings before moving on.
There were beautiful snow capped mountains in the backdrop and the wind was ferocious. A picturesque location all in all.
It was time to finally go to a much awaited destination – Chandrataal or The Moon Lake.
There was again a dramatic change in the landscape and the hairpin bends became more and more sharp. The roads also became dustier and extremely wobbly.
After a bumpy ride, we finally reached the tent area of Chandrataal. So here, there are no hotels and no villages. Just one small area where visitors can stay in tents. It was a lovely sight. We chose a Swiss tent for out overnight stay – Swiss tents have a washroom attached to them. Once we had settled in, we went to the lake.
There is a point till which vehicles are allowed and then you have to trek. This is to ensure that there is no pollution near the sacred lake. The trek was absolutely beautiful and worth every bit of panting that happened at the high altitude. The first glimpse of the lake simply blew me away! So pristine, so blue, so amazing!
The Lake is called Chandrataal because it resembles the shape of the crescent moon. It was nearly impossible to capture the whole lake even with a wide angle lens. So I took a panorama:
We hiked to the top of a mountain to get a view of the lake from a higher altitude and trust me, it was completely worth it! With minimal tourists on top, we spent some precious minutes sitting there and adoring the view. I have never seen a bluer lake, at least in India! Sharing some more pictures of the sacred lake:
The hike back was equally alluring and we hoped we could have been at this lake for the entire day from dusk to dawn!
Traveler Tip: The lake is said to change its colour every few hours of the day and in the morning you can see the mountains and sky reflected in the water. So it would not actually be a bad idea to stay for day more and view the beauty of the lake at different times.
Once back to our tent-area, we walked around in the chilly weather and waited for sunset. Sunset, here, was more dazzling than words can ever express. The orange sky where the sun set between the mountains with colourful tents in the foreground made for a precious sight which I will cherish for a long long time!
Dinner was a simple affair of dal, roti, subzi and rice – simple but satisfying.
we settled in our tent for a while reading in the little time that was left before lights went out. When I say the tents had electricity, I mean one bulb per tent from 7.30 PM to 9.30 PM. during the day time, there’s natural sunlight and post 9.30 you either sleep or stay in the dark 😛
Traveler Tip: Remember this means no charging points or anything. And considering the fascinating charm of the place, you will click a lot of pics (I guarantee that) and hence phone batteries are not going to last. This is when those gadgets called power banks will come in useful. Remember to keep them charged!
Sunrise next morning was equally stunning. Considering the bad road to Manali, we were to leave at 5.30 AM and could witness the sunrise. I am going to share an especially peculiar picture – where a snow clad mountain peeked out of all the fog and the first rays of the sun falling on it made the peak golden!
We took a chai-break at the hut of the famous Chacha-chachi, who have won the award of the President a few years back for helping a lot of stranded tourists during a particularly bad weather incident.
We now moved towards Manali and as I mentioned earlier, the roads ahead were supposed to be quite bad. Well, I later found out that there were no roads at all!!!
It was a collection of nalas we had to pass through with huge boulders lying around. You need to be much more than an expert driver to navigate those and my heart was in my mouth the entire time. We really heaved a sigh of relief when the crazy path was over.
But just before that path started, we had a view of the Chota Sigri glacier which is the entrance to the Baba Sigri glacier – which is the second highest glacier in the world!
We were in the part of Lahaul Valley now where the landscape suddenly started turning greener and greener. We could see flowerings and streams all around us.
We finally reached Rohtang Pass from where the Kullu Valley starts. A beautiful location which was completely covered in fog. We stopped by, had some wonderful coffee and admired the view for a while. We then set off toward Solang which is around 15 kms before Manali.
The mountains now became as green as it could possibly get! We felt we had completed a full circle from the green Kinnaur Valley to the brown Sangla Valley to the yellow Hangrang and Spiti Valleys to the green-again Kullu Valley!
We reached Solang and decided to stay in a cottage this time. Solang valley is less crowded than Manali and beautiful fog covered pine-tree ladden mountains and a lake. What it also has is a lot of adventure sports like Paragliding, ATV bike rides, horse riding, zorbing etc.
We spent a cozy time in Solang where our trip was going to end – thinking back of all the amazing times we had had on this trip – adventurous yet peaceful, simple yet unique!!
I am not going to post the usual Manali pictures here – leaving Solang with this picture though:
Leaving Solang and heading toward Chandigarh for our flight back home was one of the most difficult journeys to take – I had a lump in my throat and couldn’t speak for almost half of the morning. We had our mobile network back but what would we not give to go back to the place which was devoid of mobile connectivity but gave us a direct connect to our inner self! These are the trips that bring in revelations and realizations that help you understand yourself better. The inner peace and closeness to self that the introspection sessions here bring would impress even the great Master Oogway ( 😉 )!
At the end of such trips you feel rich in the true sense of the world. Monetary riches are only for those who cannot get the richness of such heart melting experiences.
This trip will ensure that you feel “Mountain – sick” once you’re back in the mundane city life. Its been over a month since we got back – but the mountain sickness lives on…