HEAVEN IS A PEA FIELD
After waiting two hours for the bus to fill up with passengers and a few animals, we left Manali at 7am, and an hour later we were stuck in a huge traffic jam caused by landslides on the Rohtang Pass. Finally the Spiti Valley appeared in the distance, and we were off the windy passes and in awe of the beauty that surrounded us. Our full-day bus ride was definitely worth the hassle.
We were dropped off in Losar, where we stretched our legs and enjoyed the tranquility of this small ‘inner checkpoint’ village. In the morning we enjoyed thukpa at the Samsung Cafe and were waiting for the bus to take us to our next stop, Kaza, when a group of Enfield riders passed through. We jumped on the backs of their bikes. It was one of the most beautiful experiences that we could have had in the Spiti Valley – we could see everything as we rode through beautiful canyons, passed huge cliffs and waterfalls, and even found a very old water mill where farmers grind corn by the power of the waterfall. There were yaks grazing in the fields, children playing and jumping around in the rivers, people staring as we drove through their little villages, and in the distance, the beautiful Key Gompa.
Later that evening we arrived in Kaza, the capital town of the Spiti Valley, with small streets surrounded by little houses and shops, warm guesthouses, and beautiful views. We splurged on food and enjoyed yak cheese sandwiches at the German Bakery, and fresh thukpa across from the bus station. Eating was definitely a pleasure, as there are so many local dhabas offering a variety of foods. Not only was the food excellent, but we were also lucky enough to arrive during a yearly summer festival, Ladarcha, where villagers from outlying areas come and trade their goods dressed in their traditional clothing. There were horse races with the horses dressed in colourful costumes, and everyone splurged on secondhand clothing at the market and played bingo. We took a day trip from Kaza to Kibber, a beautiful little village with more gorgeous views, which can be used as a starting point for more enjoyable hikes to other nearby villages. We only wished that we had brought an overnight pack, as we had to head back to Kaza before sundown.
We moved on from Kaza to a small village called Mud. This village consisted of one main dirt road, four guesthouses, two restaurants, a population less than 300, and splendid views of the Pin Valley. We stayed at the Gatuk Homestay, where for a bargain we could share the bathroom with donkeys. We worked with the family in the pea fields, and shared butter tea and dinner. Mud was so peaceful that it became one our favourite places. We took day trips, hiking from the village to two different glaciers. It took me three days to finally make it to one of them, as the path to get there is quite rocky, and I had to summon the courage to cross a wild river. But being able to play on a glacier and eat its snow was so much fun!
The Spiti Valley was worth all of the bus rides it took to see its splendour, and is absolutely one of the best travel experiences that I had during my year and a half backpacking. Alina Andrews