Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Tabo – Dhankar – Kaza – Kye – Khibber – Kaza (11,980 Ft)

DAY 5 - TABO- DHANKAR- KAZA

Finally, we are in Spiti. Till now we were in Kinnaur region of Himachal Pradesh. I was the first one to be up in the morning. I reached for my camera and was out of the hotel to explore the small and silent village, Tabo. It’s primary attraction is the Tabo Monastey and that is where I headed. The town itself is an island of peace and tranquility, secluded from the rest of the world.


Tabo Monastery Entrance
Tabo Monastery Entrance
The monastery was a stone’s throw away from our hotel. High up in the Himalayas, elevated at 11,000 ft, the monastery here is the lifeline of this peaceful village. Indian and foreign tourists make their way to this village to visit the over 1000 year old monastery, a World Heritage Site. In fact, Tabo came onto the tourist map when the monastery turned a 1000 years old in 1996.


New Monastery at Tabo
New Monastery at Tabo
 Tabo Monastery is said to be one of the Dalai Lama’s favorite. Unlike the other monasteries this monastery is much understated in appearance. This monastery is more spiritual and not so eye candy.

The old monastery consists of mud gompas which was surrounded by dry mountains of the region. Inside the monastery there are no lights. You are advised to carry a torch or use the torch light from your mobile phones. The interior architecture of the monastery is breath taking and beautiful with numerous wooden pillars and paintings of reincarnation of Buddha. Just when you enter the old monastery you can buy small Buddhist trinkets and postcards as souvenirs from Tabo.


Tabo Monastery
Tabo Monastery
As we roamed in the courtyard, I just thought that 1000 years ago people went through so much of hardship to come to such a remote place, under such hard climatic conditions and build this monastery.

From the monastery you can see the caves where the monks went to for solitary meditation. It is said that some of them are still used by monks for meditation. If you are game, you can trek and use these caves for meditation as well.

You will find a large – “om ma ni padme hum” written on the mountain face. You will also find colorful prayer flags flying on top of every house. As we took a round around the place we saw small kids playing soccer… and that too not just kicking around the ball, but dodging and controlling the ball deftly. People amongst us were facing problem breathing and here were these kids, running around and playing soccer gleefully… wow…

We were also fortunate to see a glimpse of a wedding taking place in Tabo.


Enroute Dhankar
Enroute Dhankar
After visiting the thousand year old monastery at Tabo, we started towards Dhankar. Dhankar is another small town but at a much higher altitude than Tabo and has a very old monastery. The drive to Dhankar became more and more beautiful. It overlooks the fusion of two rivers – Pin & Spiti. At Dhankar, there are two monasteries – New Monastery and old monastery. The old monastery is an endangered site as it is very old but has stood the test of time. The monastery is simple and looks beautiful from afar, perched on a hilltop.


Dhankar Village
Dhankar Village
Dhankar Monastery Entrance
Dhankar Monastery Entrance

New Monastery at Dhankar
New Monastery at Dhankar
After the visit to the monasteries we decided to trek few kilometers uphill to reach the high altitude Dhankar Lake. The trek can be a problem for few because of lack of oxygen at such an altitude. The lake is grand and the trek is highly rewarding. Preeti and Taashi stayed back and the rest of us decided to venture on to the trek. 


Dhankar Trek
View while Trekking to Dhankar Lake

Dhankar Trek
Another View
Not used to exercise at this altitude, we were soon panting while going uphill. We had to take a 1 minute break after every 3-4 minutes of uphill climbing. However, we eventually reached the shimmering emerald green Dhankar Lake. There is a stupa near the Lake where you will find numerous colorful prayer flags fluttering in the wind.


Dhankar Lake
Dhankar Lake
Dhankar - Trek to Lake
In the middle of Nowhere
We decided to relax and enjoy the lake for a while before heading downhill. The calmness of the lake soothed us and we were willing to spend hours here. After a while, we decided to head back and saw a group of horses near the lake. It was a sight to behold.


Horses near Dhankar Lake
Horses near Dhankar Lake
Once back to Dhankar Village we headed to the restaurant in Dhankar Monastery for lunch. We were very tired and hungry after the trek.

Post a fulfilling Chinese lunch we headed to Kaza – the head quarter of Spiti district. We were staying in Kaza for three nights and seeing many small villages nearby – Kye, Khibber, Komic, Langza and Hikkim. 


Enroute Kaza
Enroute Kaza
By the time we reached Kaza, the sun was about to set and we were tired. We checked in our hotel – Sakya Abode and decided to rest. The attendant brought us hot tea and we were in seventh heaven. We were informed by the attendant that the hotel is the first hotel of Kaza and is built in accordance with old architecture. It is made of mud and is thus cold resistant. 

We all sat in one room and played Uno. Post dinner, the hotel manager gave a home-made remedy (ginger, garlic in boiling water) to Nikhil and Nikki who were facing breathing problem while sleeping.


DAY 6 - KAZA- KYE- KHIBBER- KAZA

As usual I was up early and decided to go for a stroll. But this time I had Pramod and Nikki to give me company. Just 2 mins walk from our hotel was Kaza Monastery. It was beautiful. Our timing for our early morning visit was bang on. Just when we entered the monastery two monks started blowing shanks (conch shell). It was a call for all the monks to gather at the monastery for prayers.


Monastery at Kaza
Monastery at Kaza
We saw monks of all age and build running to the monastery from all the directions with cups in hand. I think after the prayers they will all be given hot tea and snacks. Once all the monks were settled in the monastery they started chanting and we could just stand there and listen. Their chanting brought peace in our mind.

After listening to their chanting for some time we decided to continue our walk and saw seven stupas right infront of the monastery. Moving forward we saw the highest petrol pump in the world of Indian Oil.


Stupas infront of the monastery
Stupas infront of the monastery
After strolling for some time and witnessing the village waking up we headed back to our hotel.

After a good shower and garam garam aloo ke parathe we headed for Kye and Khibber Village. The drive between Kaza to Khibber is surreal. The mountains are huge and you can see different shades of colors covering the mountains. After a small drive (as compared to the drive we have been undertaking) we reached the village – Khibber. It was a very small village at a picturesque location. If I am not wrong, at 14,200 ft it is one of the highest inhabited village and the highest polling station in the world. 


Enroute Khibber
Enroute Khibber
While we were walking in the village and heading to the monastery in Khibber we realized that the village is empty. All the houses are locked and there is practically no one. May be the entire village have gone to their small patches of land where they grow vegetables for themselves.


Khibber
Khibber

Houses at Khibber
Houses at Khibber
After walking in the village and facing little difficulty in finding the monastery we finally reached the monastery. The monastery is nothing to talk about, but the view from there was mesmerizing. As it is situated at 14,000 ft plus altitude you might find it difficult to breathe.


View from Monastery
View from Monastery
After Khibber Village we headed to one of the most awaited place in our itinerary – Kye Monastery. After going mad for fifteen minutes clicking pictures of Key monastery from afar we gave up.


Kye Monastery
Kye Monastery
At Kye, we were given tea by monks and just like at the monastery in Kaza we saw monks chanting in Kye Monastery. The view is beautiful and left us spell bound. We just didn’t want to go back. We wanted to stay here, see the vast expanse of mountains and the river passing through it. It was stunning and left all of us speechless. Just at the entrance of Kye monastery if you walk downhill you will find a small place where 3 statues in golden color are erected. Go there if not for the statues, then for clicking a picture with Kye monastery in the back ground.


Three statues in Golden near Kye Monastery
Three statues in Golden near Kye Monastery
Once back to Kaza, we all headed to the main market for lunch and some shopping. In Kaza, you can buy souvenirs and gifts for loved ones. Kaza market is colorful and spacious. The items here are expensive due to high transportation cost. I found a nice place selling jackets at really economical price and another shop from where you can buy your trekking gear. I bought a couple of shawls from a shop here.


Vibrant Market at Kaza
Vibrant Market at Kaza
The market was full of shops selling colorful dragon printed mugs, cups with cover, thermos, caps, mufflers, wollen socks, sweaters etc. There were a couple of shops selling souvenirs and handicraft items but were very expensive.

After loads of shopping we headed back to the hotel. Like yesterday we again made ourselves cozy in one room, called for coffee and started playing UNO. (Uno by now has become our favorite game in this trip).

Today for dinner the hotel has made authentic Spiti food. It’s more like steamed cooked food. The soup served was delicious. The main course not so mice but if you are fond of momos or steam cooked food you will like it. They had also given a potato curry which had pasta like thing in that. It was yummy. Remember the chutney served is very spicy – be careful.

Post dinner and the ritual hot water with ginger and garlic (today’s was stronger than yesterday) for Nikhil and Nikki we called off the day.


Points to Note:

  • Book an Innova or a Xylo for a comfortable travel. As the roads are bad travel in Sumo or Maxx can be cumbersome.
  • Although the distance between places (at times) is not far because of the rough terrain it takes a considerable time to go from one place to another. So plan accordingly.
  • It is advised to start your day early and reach your destination while it is daylight. Please avoid driving once the sun sets. Driving in dark can be very dangerous.
  • Please carry warm clothes including sweater, jacket, cap, mufflers, socks and gloves. Wear shoes and not sandals or chappals.
  • Be easy on steps and while walking. Avoid brisk walk or running at high altitudes as the oxygen level is low.
  • If you are feeling mountain sickness have chocolate or popcorn. It helps. Make it a point of sipping in water regularly.
  • Please don’t litter and maintain the beauty of nature.
  • Do stop over at Dhankar to see the monastery and have lunch while appreciating the view.
  • Dhankar Lake is a three to four kms trek uphill. It is not meant for everyone. Trekking at high altitude is a very serious affair. Only and only if you think you are fit go ahead else the moment you start feeling uneasy stop and rest. Once you feel better start trekking downhill. 
  • In Kaza we stayed at Hotel  Sakya Abode. The rooms were a little small but were built in accordance with old architecture. It is made of mud and is thus cold resistant. The staff and restaurant of this hotel is excellent. Must stay at Kaza. 
  • The monastery and the temple at Kaza is a three mins walk from the hotel.
  • Don't forget to stop over and appreciate the views. After all the journey is as important as the destination.