From Manali to Spiti Valley

  Sonia   |     07/08/2018

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After having been in Manali for a day, we head towards the Spiti Valley.
There are various trekking around Manali such as the famous Hampa Pass with the final destination at Chandra Tal Lake (5 days and 4 nights - cost about 8,000 rupees or 100 €).
For lack of time, I decide to visit the famous Spiti Valley directly, which was recommended to me by many travellers met during the journey.
Here too, there are various organized trekking options but they are expensive: 12,000 rupees for 5 days. So I decide to visit it independently without using any agency; at the end of the tour, I can say that it is not worth paying so much money.
I take a local bus from Manali and head to Kaza. The departure is scheduled for 6 am but we leave half an hour later. After not even 1 hour the bus stops because of the traffic which is caused by the bad conditions of the road. We stand still for more than 1 hour but the view of the mountains that surround us is fantastic.
After a few hours, the driver tells us that we have to change buses because there is a technical problem. Luckily there is a Dhaba nearby that is a local restaurant where we can shelter from the cold. Oh yes, because once we left Manali we started the climb and then we are about 4000 m .; as if this were not enough, it started raining but we stay for 2 hours in the restaurant while we eat rice with lentils (70 rupees - less than € 1), drink Chai (Indian tea for 10 rupees) and make friends with the owners and other foreign guys ( I’m still with my friend Luis).
So let's take the road again and the road turns out to be a path full of curves and not paved so I leave you to imagine how pleasant the trip was! I must say that the driver was really good at overcoming all the waterfalls on the street due to the melting snow. Moreover, there are no barriers on the carriageway, thus making the route rather dangerous. Fortunately, we arrived at 1 am: only 19 hours trip!.
Moreover, there is no need to worry about the food because the bus stops several times at local mini restaurants and the same applies to personal needs (obviously in the middle of nature).
On the bus, we are a dozen foreigners and none of us has booked a hostel (prices on are quite high) so once we get to the bus stop we start walking and find a hostel called "Travelers Shed" where we pay 500 rupees per person sharing a double room.
The next day we decide to explore Kaza and surroundings with 2 Israeli guys (Hadar and Guy) and a Dutch girl (Giulia). We rent a taxi for 600 rupees per person - € 7.50.
We visit the following places:
-Key Monastery: is the largest Buddhist centre in Spiti Valley. It is more than 1000 years old having been founded in the 11th century.
-Chichim: here is the tallest bridge in Asia (at least so they say) and then also a village where we stop to play with some beautiful local children.
-Kibber: is a village located at 4205 meters above sea level. It is located in a cold desert and surrounded by picturesque mountains.
-Hikkim: located on the same road that leads to Komic, it is a village famous for being the highest post office in the world (4440 meters).
-Komic: is a village located at 5150 meters above sea level. It houses about twenty houses and a monastery, with a total population of about 150 people including the monks.
In the latter village, we also play volleyball with local boys. It is very difficult to run at a height of more than 5000 m. But still very funny!
We start the tour around 12 pm and end around 6 pm.
For this night we move to a homestay where we pay 260 rupees each by taking 2 rooms and sleeping in 3 in each room.
The next day we decide to hitchhike (me, Luis, Hadar and Guy) and our plan was to go to Dhankhar but first we find a jeep that takes us 10 km from Kaza and then a truck that goes to Pin Valley. Being the latter, however, in our itinerary, we decide to get on the truck and continue the journey.
We're almost at the village Mud (village in Pin Valley) when the truck driver realizes there's a problem and we have to stop. Fortunately, after half an hour we cross a car (in which there are some guys from Delhi travelling for 1 week) that takes us to their destination.
We arrive in the village Mud, very small but welcoming. We stay at Namkha Homestay where we pay a room for 700 rupees -175 each, about 2 € (a double bed plus 2 mattresses on the ground). The initial price we had been offered was 500 rupees per room for 2 people but bargaining we get a very cheap price. We have lunch and dinner always in the same homestay because the prices are quite low: rice with legumes 80 rupees, Thali 120 rupees etc; in short, you can eat with 1 euro or so.
In the afternoon we decide to climb a small mountain nearby to have a view of the village from above. It was worth it but it was hard both the climb and the descent because the rocks are not stable and there was a lot of wind, but we did it!
The next day we take a local bus at 6:30am to head on the main road (price for girls 43 rupees, for boys 57 rupees). We joined two Indian boys, Inder and Adi, met at our accommodation. After an hour and a half we arrive at the intersection of the road that leads us to Tabo (another village). We go down and wait for the next bus. After about half an hour we manage to catch a bus (38 rupees for girls and 50 rupees for boys). Just before arriving in Tabo there is control of the police as well as at the entrance of other villages. The problem is that here foreigners need a permit that we should have requested from Kaza. Now it's too late so we decide to take a taxi and go to Dhankhar (10 km from where we are). We pay 600 rupees or 100 per head - € 1.20). We arrive in Dhankhar and stay at the monastery homestay; we pay 200 rupees per person in a 5-person dorm and we have a mattress added as we are in 6. Here too, food prices range from 100 to 200 rupees. In the afternoon we visit the lake which is just 2 km from the village. We spend 40 min. for the ascent and half an hour to go down. We are now in summer so part of the lake is drained but it was nice to stay a few hours there listening to music and chatting with the guys.
The next day we take a taxi to Kaza paid 200 rupees each. After an hour and a half we reached the village of Kaza and here we split: Luis and the Indian boys decide to take a taxi and reach the lake Chandra Tal while the Israeli guys and I decide to try to hitchhike. After 1 and a half hours of waiting, two Indian boys pass by, offering us a ride and after about 5 hours we reach Butler (a mini village with various restaurants where we spend the night: 100 rupees each sharing a double bed and we eat rice with vegetables for 70 rupees). We are close to Lake Chandra Tal (16 km) but we do not visit it because the weather is not the best: it is cloudy and drizzling. This lake also called the "moon lake" and is the most famous in the Spiti Valley; It stretches for 2.5 km and is located 6 km from Kunzum pass.
We spend the night in a room made with stones and a plastic roof, where we are forced to wear everything we have to warm up (in addition to the blankets that they have provided).
The next day we find two local gentlemen who offer a ride to the intersection of several streets: one goes to Manali, one to Kaza (where we come from) and one to Leh (our next stop). Even this route was not easy: there were various works in progress to divert the waterfalls and we had to stop for 2 hours and a half. But finally after 5 hours (only to do 50 km) we arrive at your destination. We thank the guys and get out of the car; after 10 minutes we find a gentleman who takes us to Kylong (where we decide to spend the night being now 7 pm). In Kylong we find a room in a Homestay for 200 rupees per person sharing the double bed. Then we buy the ticket to go to Leh on the local bus; we pay 485 rupees - about 6 €. And so ends the adventurous journey of the beautiful Spiti valley.
The colours of the mountains that contrast with the blue sky are unique. To all this, add the rare beauty of the villages set in the rocks. A special touch is given by the local people. They are mountain people with a face that looks more like the Chinese than the Indians: they have Tibetan influences. They are always super friendly, ready to help you and always smiling. Some of them live in these small villages for 6 months a year, others throughout the year and use provisions. During the winter they reach very cold temperatures and there is a lot of snow, therefore, the road that connects Manali-Kaza is closed.
I spent 5 days in this beautiful valley and I recommend it to anyone who wants to visit some authentic places. Obviously, you must consider that the road is not the best and must have a great spirit of adaptation (there is no signal and almost no place has wifi). Also if you want to try something more adventurous I recommend hitchhiking: here in the area, it is quite safe and simple thanks to the number of cars or trucks that travel these streets. Another option is to rent a motorbike "Royal Enfield" (heavy motorbike and Indian) to travel the valley but be careful, in my opinion, you have to be really expert to drive on these roads in poor condition; I do not recommend to beginners.
Moreover, my daily budget has dropped extremely during this journey: 6-7 € per day.
Now I can say to have known a piece of real India!

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