A Travellerspoint blog

March 2011

See As We Saw - Pin Valley - Part V

Memories captured in our lens as we sojourned on a 14-day-long Jeep Safari meandering through the sacred Himalayas in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh...

sunny 7 °C

Part V of this photo essay covers our drive through the remote and heavenly Pin Valley in the cold desert area of the Spiti Valley. Starting off in the morning from Kaza en-route we visited the Kungri Monastery and thereafter went on to visit the Dhankar Monastery and finally drove till Tabo.

The Pin Valley of Spiti is considered the most beautiful in the region and undoubtedly its beauty kept us thoroughly spellbound. We drove through some spectacular landscapes and never seen before sceneries. The Pin Valley was declared a National Park in 1987.

With its snow laden unexplored higher reaches and slopes, the Pin Valley National Park forms a natural habitat for a number of endangered animals including the ever-illusive Snow Leopard and Siberian Ibex. Rare birds like Himalayan Snowcock, Snow Patridge, and Tibet Snowfinch also abound this area. The Pin Valley National Park's height ranges from an altitude of 3600 meters to over 6000 meters at its highest point. Due to this high altitude and extreme temperature, vegetation is very sparse consisting mainly of alpine trees and patches of Himalayan cedar.

On the Himalayan Highway Again
Post our breakfast we stared off from the Circuit House Kaza making our way out...

Simply Awesome
The landscape looked simply awesome...

Words are not coming out to describe the views...

Nature's Canvas
Could not hold ourselves but to press the shutters...

Barren yet Heavenly
Strange and bizzare shapes of the mountain formations all through the way...

Close Up
A close up shot of the strange formation...

Cameras are unable to do justice at the gigantic scale and proportion these mountains actually looks to the naked eyes...

We were thoroughly spellbound at its beauty...

Grazer's Gaze
A lone grazer gives us a penetrative gaze as we drove by...

Enchanting Pin Valley
Gradually we took a right at Attargo where the Spiti River has to cross to enter the enchanting Pin Valley...

Welcome Arch
An colourful arch welcoming us to the Pin Valley...oops could not get the angle right!!!

Meandering Along
The Pin river, the tributary of the Spiti river with its turquoise water meanders through the valley making it even enchanting...

Landscape or Moonscape?
The landscape was out of the world, is it the moonscape?

Beyond the Valley
Snow peaks flank up high beyond the open valley...

Pinkish mountains around the serene Pin river creates an amazing sight...

Nature's Tapestry
Another of nature's tapestry at it best....

Cutting Through
The Pin river cuts through the valley amidst mesmerizing settings...

The View Behind
Spellbound & mesmerised we boarded down from the vehicle and sat for about half an hour soaking in these awesome views...

Walking Amidst High Mountains
Just took a walk in the high mountain road...

Pose a While
Mitali posed amidst the backdrop of jaw dropping surroundings....

Snowclad peaks amidst dry barren landscape and a true blue sky...

Idyllic Settlement
A small settlement across the river in its idyllic settings....

Opening Up
As we moved ahead further the valley kept opening up further....

Tea at Gulling
We stopped by at the small village of Gulling for a cup of tea. The signboard reads population of this place 135...

Stone House
Captured this shot of a typical Spiti Valley stone house at Gulling...

Rosy Cheeks...
Two cute infants crossing the road in their rosiest of cheeks in Gulling...

Running Up the Slopes
A group of wild alpine goats climbing up the slopes as we were approaching Kungri Monastery...

Kungri Monastery
We finally reached the gates of the Kungri Monastery...

Kungri Monastery is of the Nyingma sect of Tibetan Buddhism. In fact Kungri is Spiti's second oldest monastery, built around 1330. The gompa consists of three detached rectangular blocks facing east.

Oldest Shrine
We first visited the old ancient temple situated towards the extreme left of the Kungri Monastery campus...

Holy Chanting
We sat indise the inner sanctum and prayed to the Lord, alongside the young lama who was chanting...

Inner Sanctum
View of the colourful inner sanctum where we bowed our heads, we could feel the vibration inside...

Wall Paintings
Ancient wall paintings showcasing the Buddha in it various manifestations, sadly the monk informed that due to internal seepage the colours are fading out gradually...

Mitali totally engrosed in deep meditation...

Seat of the Dalai Lama
The monk informed us that during the Kalchakra, this was the seat of His Holiness the Dalai Lama...

Meditating Buddha
Colourful statue in a meditating posture inside the Kungri Monastery

Another vibrant revered statue inside the Kungri Monastery...

Colourful and vibrant paintings adorn the walls of the monastery...

Mythological Representation
Another painted wall of the monastery telling many a the Buddhist mythological stories...

Soaking a While
After a round of prayers and meditation we sat outside and soaked in some solitude...

Thereafter we started off back on the roads and made our way towards the Dhankar Monastery in the Spiti Valley...

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Posted by sabyasachi 01:09 Archived in India Tagged spiti_valley pin_valley kungri_monastery pin_valley_national_park dhankar_monastery Comments (2)

See as We Saw - Spiti Valley I - Part IV

Memories captured in our lens as we sojourned on a 14-day-long Jeep Safari meandering through the sacred Himalayas in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh...

sunny 8 °C

Part IV of this photo essay coveres our drive through the mesmerizing Spiti Valley. Crossing over the mighty Kunzum La pass situated at a height of 4452 meters and paying our obeisance to the revered Kunzum Mata Shrine, we gradually drove into the awesome Spiti Valley. Situated near the the borders of Tibet, Spiti is basically a cold desert mountain valley located high amidst the Himalaya mountains in the north-eastern part of Himachal Pradesh. The name "Spiti" signifies "The Middle Land", i.e. the land between India and Tibet.

The area is very thinly populated. In fact, this region is one of the least populated regions in India. People are mainly Buddhist and Spiti Valley is dotted by many an ancient Buddhist monastery or gompas, including, the sacred Ki Gompa, Kbber Monastery, Dhankar Monastery, Khungri Monastery and Tabo Monastery. Affinity to the ever closer Tibet region is very vivid be it the simple lifestyle or the culture followed by these hardy mountain people.

Serene Losar
The hamlet of Losar as we moved

This region is less explored and in fact we came across a mere handful of determined tourist, unlike hoards of tourist, making a mad rush in places like Shimla or Manali. The Spiti river flows through this dry arid region providing the much needed "water of life". It would be difficult to summarize the beauty of this place in a few meaningful words. The landscape though arid is sheer heavenly. With deep blue sky and high barren mountain all around, passing by this serene valley, with the Spiti river meandering through, was perhaps the utmost serene trip I had in this lifetime - it touched my very soul.

The first place we touched after crossing Kunzum La was the cute hamlet of Losar. It was early afternoon as we entered Losar, starting out earlier in that morning from Chatru. The white coloured with black and red stripped square & rectangular shaped homes of this place caught our eyes.

Unique shaped house typical in the Spiti Valley...

Losar - as in all other places located in the deep Himalayan interiors, hotels have not creeped in that much except for a few odd guest house run by the locals. Naturally, the best options available for accomodation are the government-owned Circuit House, Guest Houses etc. We have observed during this trip that these government accomodation are very well maintained, neat and most importantly located at the best spots.

We moved into the Circuit House, Losar, but was disappointed not to get any available rooms. The local MLA alongwith his entourage was had occupied all the rooms. The caretaker however suggested that we should try in the Irrigation Department Inspection Hut which we did and were lucky to get a cozy room. Placing our luggage we ventured out to explore Losar.

Lady of the Mountains
A local lady poses for a picture so sweet.

She in fact took me inside her home to give me a feel of how they live. The ground floor houses their livestocks of yaks & cows, while climbing up a ladder took us to the upper floor wherein the family lives. To capture mnatural light they have small wooden glass windows. In fact, she mentioned that they have to stock up everything inside as the winter months are very harsh to venture outside. It gets all covered in snow. Losar situated at height of 4080 meters above the sea level experiences bitter cold in the minus range.

Three cute children peeks out of the window as their Mom shows us around...

Home not House
Another view of the local homes in the backdrop of jaw-dropping views...

Quiet Losar
View of the hamlet of Losar in the backdrop of snow-capped barren mountains

Refuge for the Night
The inspection hut at Losar where we stayed for the night.

The caretaker of the Inspection Hut, Palchan was a sweet person and he cooked us a hot and spicy dinner. In fact, at my request he arranged a bottle of localy-brewed barley wine which Thakur Bhai relished and I too tried a few shots - very potent indeed. It was very cold outside and as dusk set in, the Himalayan wind outside continued and staying indoors, we sat besides the heater and chatted with Palchan about their customs and traditions. Having an early dinner, we hit the bed accompanied by the sound of the howling Himalayan wind that continued all throughout the night...

Health Drink...
Next morning Palchan at breakfast prepared a local delicacy drink consisting some powdered barley, mixed with milk and yak butter. It surely was very filling and tasted very good...

Post our breakfast we moved out of Losar and our target for the day was Kaza after visiting enroute the Ki Monastery and Kibber - the highest village of the world...

Barren mountains stood ahead of us in the bizzare shapes and sizes...

Stark Reality
Another view of the valley surrounded by arid liveless mountains...

Nature's cut
It was as if someone has cut through the surface...

Autumn is Here, Winter not Far
Some greenery with yellowish hue amidst this barren world as we passed by the village of Hansa, announcing autumn has arrived...

The Fall Look
The leaves of the few trees that we saw has all turned golden...

The Himalayan Highway
A lone jeep moves across the Himalayan highway as we approached Rangrik...

Bridge over the River Spiti
The Rangrik bridge over the Spiti river...

Termite Mounds!!
No these are not termite mounds, mother nature's natural sculpting...

Purple Haze
A purple, pinkish hue can be seen in these dry mountains creating an amazing sight...

Thats Mitali
Amazed by these ou of the world sights, we alighted down from the vehicle to soak in as much possible...

Sturdy Wheels
Thakur Bhai's Tata Somo stands upright in the backroup of these speechless surroundings...

Lone Man, Soul Destination
I walk down the lonesome highway amidst these pristine settings...

Colourless Effect
Captured a black and white which resulted more of white and less of black...

Precarious Bends
Driving has to be very controlled considering the high precarious mountain roads...

Snaking Through
The Spiti River cuts through these ancient mountains and surges ahead ...

Golden Buddha
A statue of the Buddha sitting in solitude in this peaceful and serene enviornment...

Peaceful Surge
The Spiti River with its numerous streams surges ahead peacefully as we approached the Ki Gompa...

Ki Gompa is also spelled as Ki, Kye or Kee. It a Tibetan Buddhist monastery located at an altitude of 4,166 metres (13,668 ft) above sea level. It is the biggest monastery of Spiti Valley and a religious training centre for Lamas. In architectectural parlance Ki falls in the 'Pasada' style which is characterised by more stories than one and often plays the role of a fort-monastery. Ki Gompa is said to have been founded by Dromtön (Brom-ston, 1008-1064 CE), a pupil of the famous teacher, Atisha, in the 11th century.

Ki Monastery
The Ki Gompa sits atops a high ridge, as we approached...

Cold Desert
The rocky dry mountains all around in its mesmerizing setting near the Ki Gompa...

Way to the Lord
A direction board show us the direction - right was Ki Gompa and straight was towards Kibber...

Welcome All
A welcome arch as we approached the final lap towards the Ki gompa...

Just Ahead
The Ki Gompa seems just ahead as we snaked through the curved roads to reach her...

A Look Behind
Captured this picture of the place as one looks behind, as we approached Ki gompa...

The exterior view of the Ki gompa as we started trekking to reach her gates...

At the Doorsteps
We reached the main gate of the Ki gompa after a short trek...

Awesome Valley
Awesome view of the Spiti valley from the top of the Ki Gompa...

Golden Prayer Wheel
A golden Prayer Wheel pointing it's way up to the heavens at the upper most level of the Ki Gompa...

Holy Trident
A holy trident (trishul) covered by matted yak hair at one corner of the upper open terrace...

Pointing to Heaven
Another red prayer wheel at another end of the open terrace..

A view of the interiors of the Ki gompa...

Oldest Holyman
Mitali sits by the oldest of the monks, the head lama, who was chanting as we approached him, we felt lucky to get his blessings...

I too stood by him to take a piece of memory stored in the camera lens forever...

Colourful Door
Captured this colourful door inside the Ki gompa...

Colourful and majestic murals depicting the life of Buddha and other Buddhist fokelore abound this gompa...

Ki monastery boast of a collection of ancient murals and books of high aesthetic value and it enshrines Buddha images and idols, in the Dhyana or meditation position .

Wheel of Life
Clearly depicting the wheel of life in this frescos...

Moving Out
Feeling totally blessed we moved out the Ki gompa and made our way towards Kibber...

Thats Chicham
On way we crossed the little village of Chicham...

The signboard reads it all...

Kibber - the highest Village of the World
Mitali stands for a snap as we explored Kibber - the highest village of the world...

Kibber - 4205 meters
Thats the the height of Kibber, no wonder it is considered the highest village of the world...

We explored amazing Kibber for about an hour...

Kibber Stupa
View of the Kibber stupa...

Moving out
After our exploring Kibber to our hearts content, we started moving towards our destination - Kaza, the sub-divisional headquarters of Spiti, where we plan to halt for the night...

Highest Petrol Outlet
This Indian Oil outlet is considered the world's highest retail outlet of petrol & diesel ...

Kaza - 1 more kilometer
We reached Kaza late afternoon.

Directly we moved to the SDM office Kaza. The SDM was on leave but we managed to get the requisite permission for our stay at the New Circuit House, Kaza.

Luggage Dump
Dumping our luggage in the Circuit House we move out to explore Kaza...

Mutton Momo
Our first stop was at a small snacks outlet and we had some tasry mutton momos...

Curio by the Road
We visited a curio shop and I was lucky to get a wooden mask, Mitali too bought some stuff

Kettles & Bowls
On display were a arrey of items ranging from kettle to bowls...

Local Girls
We chatted with a group of local girls on our way back from the Kaza market.

Winter Ready
We saw a tractor ploughing the barren fields. On being asked, was told that this is done before the onset of winters to keep the ground soft. Since, once the snow sets in the soil becomes very hard and next season it would be difficult to plough and plant their harvest of potatoes - the only vegatable that grows here!!!

Dusk Sets In
Soon dusk set in and having an early dinner we called it a night with anticipation of another day of exploration ahead tomorrow - the Pin Parvati Valley...

Posted by sabyasachi 09:38 Archived in India Tagged pass kaza spiti kibber losar lahaul_ spiti_valley ki_monastery highest_village_of_the_world world's_highest_petrol_pump himachal_pradesh kunzum_ Comments (0)

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