Friday, October 31, 2014

Kinnaur & Spiti tales-6-Trekking from Demul to Komic

Demul and  Komic are high altitude villages in Spiti valley of Himachal Pradesh. Komic is asia’s highest altitude village with an altitude of of 14,800 ft above sea level. Demul to Komic is a trekking path of 10-12 kms passing through barren mountains.For lazy bones there is a 20kms road to reach by jeep or car.  Three of us with our guide, Cherring started this trek from Demul. First 2 hours was a continuous upward hike. I was behind others as I was at  slow pace while my fellow trekkers were ahead of me.

 It was after about an hour from Demul, when I heard roaring and all of a sudden I saw birds fluttering their wings and  flying away. My legs which were on strike to take even a step started to sprint. It was not a easy job at that altitude to run. I  called out for our Cherring. He didn't respond as he was not at reachable distance for my shout.But he was waiting after some distance to ensure am coming behind them. When he  said the roar could be snow leopard which is very common in this region. I was like ' My good.. I can't even make out in the bushes if it was hiding as they look same color as barren mountains'. But he assured that they move out only in  night  and are too shy. So no need to worry. After this, I tried  to keep up to his pace. I guess, no need to say that I miserably failed. But I realized later it was for good .
Landscape on the way
 A few kms of walk brought us to a meadows which was turning pale as it was the beginning of winter and villagers had taken all the grass to store it for the season. Again I was left behind. I was gasping for breath and had reached a stage that  if leopard stood in front of me, I was ready to surrender without any fight.
Meadows on the way
I took it easy and started taking pictures and walking leisurely enjoying the beauty around. It was again a stark landscape , grey-brown terrain, stunning blue sky, wonderful geological formations and snow peaked mountains at a distance.
Landscape on the way

After 4hrs of continuous walking, started feeling hungry. But my fellow trekkers and guide were ahead of me to stop them. I took a break, ate my packed lunch and laid down to realx. While savoring the soul touching silence and blue sky, in no time I was fast asleep and woke up when Cherring woke me up. He was worried that I didn’t turn up and had come back to find me. But that nap gave me all strength to continue my walk.
As we moved towards Komic village, snow cladded mountain Cho Cho Khanilda emerged out.Apparently it is very difficult to hike this mountain. It needs mountaineering equipments.
Cho cho Khanilda mountain

Do you know the Spiti valley was once, 200 millions years back was a sea ?It is the same place where Thithyas sea existed . We had studied in school that Himlayas are the youngest mountains formed after geological movement. There were plenty of fossils on the way telling the story of Spiti once being sea.
Komic village. You can count the number of houses
After 7 hrs of trekking we reached Komic village.  This is a quaint village with 13 houses and yaks certainly are more in number than people. It was evening. Yaks were reaching home. The sight was like a water color painting  and refreshing tonic after a long trek.
Yaks at Komic village
 This trekking will remain special in my travel diary for the quaint time spent for 6 hrs due to my slow pace and being intimate with the nature and for the ethereal silence that I felt. After all it was Himalayan silence !

Travel tips
Demul and Komic are reachable by road from Kaza
Homestays are the only accomodations available
No network is available in both the villages including BSNL network

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Kinnaur & Spiti tales - 5 - Mummy lama of Giu village

Spiti valley means not only stark mountains, monasteries  and  blue sky. But it has  rich culture, mysteries and  legends in it. On the way to Tabo from Nako, along the Spiti river we took a  small detour to reach Giu village. Look at the Spiti river in this picture.Isn't she gorgeous in her turquoise blue ?
Spiti river on the way to Giu village
 Giu village also has an interesting  story like any other Spitian village. Our driver had told that he is going to take us to meet someone very old yet fresh. We were in surprise, when we entered  a small temple where the mummy lama was kept. It is kept inside  the glass chamber and worshiped by the locals. Look at this mummy carefully. It has skin, teeth, nails, hand as if holding rosary and hair. It wasn’t preserved to mummify like Egyptian mummies. No chemicals. But naturally mummified monk of more than 500 years old. Villagers believe that mummy lama is protecting their village in all respects. 
Mummy lama of Giu village

How does it happen ??? Spiti is a land of Buddhist culture and religion. Obviously many monks had lived here and were into  yogic practices.Even now you find monks and monasteries everywhere in Spiti.  Once, famine hit the village. A monk who was meditating in a posture with his chin supported by knees and hands holding japamala(rosary)  had died. May be due to starvation or he was trying to achieve nirvana by continuous meditation and starvation.This is very common in Buddhists and Jain traditions. People here believe that he had sacrificed his body to find a solution to deadly drought. After a few centuries,an Earthquake had slightly dislocated the entire region and  his body  was buried inside the earth.  It was naturally preserved in that cold deserts I guess. 

In recent years when Indo Tibetian  Border  Police(ITBP) was excavating  the area for some construction, they found  ‘him’! Apparently, during this operation, when the axe hit his head, blood came out of mummy’s  nose. We can still see the mark on his skull. For few years it was under the custody of ITBP. But travelers were finding it difficult to get access to see him. Hence, recently, it was moved to the newly built temple. Carbon dating tests of the mummy lama say that  it is older than 500 years ! Further studies have identified mummy as the 45 years old monk by name Sangha Tenzin of Gelugapa order from 15th century.
Having tea with Giu villagers

As we came out after seeing the mummy monk, there was a group of workers having their lunch and tea. When I tried to strike a conversation they enthusiastically welcomed me to their group and offered tea and lunch. How sweet !!  by the time our group also joined me. They gave all of us  tea and rotis from their lunch box. They posed  and were amused by looking at their pictures in our camera. 
Happy moments

Some were too shy. I loved each one’s smile as it was untouched by nuances of modernity just like the Spiti. When we left they didn’t forget to give their address asking us to post their pictures.

Have you come across any such stories ?  Pls share ...

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Kinnaur & Spiti tales-4-Hike to Dhankar lake

As we travelled from Tabo towards Kaza , a stunning geological formations made us take a  break from our journey. It invariably stops people from continuing their journey.Such is the landscape of  Dhankar. It is located about 25 kms from  Kaza which is the headquarters of Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh.
Dhankar - Bird view
On one side, it has a wide river bed where Spiti and Pin rivers meet. On the other side it has a huge anthill like structures formed as a result of  years of soil erosion. It is  bordering Dhankar village. In the center is village and monastery. Dhankar has gained its name from its fort. It is a structure perched on top of the hill where once Spiti’s king lived. Dhankar was erstwhile capital of Spiti. Now the fort is completely weathered. Even the monastery is supposed to be very old dating back to more than 1000 years old. However, they don’t have written record like Tabo monastery. Hence Dhankar monastery looses its chance of being placed in the records as Spiti’s oldest monastery. However, as per the legends it is still the oldest monastery of Spiti valley.
Spiti river
 I had two choices - either to visit Dhankar lake or monastery.Due to time constraint I chose Dhankar lake hike over this monastery. Dhankar lake is located in between the mountains demanding trekking for two hours.So it is not easily accessible by everyone as all won't be fit for this challenge.
This was the path after 1 hour climb

As our guide Cherring had told it was an uphill climb at the altitude of 3800mt. It is  full of loose pebbles with a risk of sliding.  Though he said it will take one hour. For me it took more than an hour. Gasping for breath for every 10 steps, I finally reached to the  top of the first hill panting. Then, it was an easy walk for couple of kilometers before we reached the lake.
Before  reaching the lake
 This lake was not as clear as Nako lake. But was untouched by crowd. It was a long lake in between the nude mountains. In the distance,  snow cladded mountains were lined up  to add to the beauty of the lake. It was so serene that each and every drop of lake was reflecting serenity.
Dhankar lake
There is a flat  area  next to the lake making it ideal for camping. Our GPS read 13800 ft. There is a small chorten with prayer flags adding some colors to the landscape.

Dhankar lake is believed to be the mother of all  streams in the neighborhood villages. There is a legend that once a horse rider jumped into the lake along with his horse. After few days his belongings were found in the streams next to the village. They consider Dhankar lake as sacred. I was told during harvesting time, all the women from Dhankar village will come here and cook for their men and dance. Men ride up to the lake on horse and they join with women in dancing after a good  feast. After taking rest for some time, we walked back which was an easy walk. 

Dhankar lake  is about 3 kms from the Dhankar village.

Travel tips
-        -   If you are driving , it is 25 kms from Kaza to  Dhankar or can go from Tabo to Dhankar it is 30 kms. There are couple of government buses available if you want to travel by public transportation.
-         - Difficulty level – Easy to moderate
-        -  There is a vantage point to get the view of complete valley. It is another trek. I strongly recommend though I couldn’t do it. If you book in advance, you can also get Yak or horse to climb instead of trekking
-          -For accommodation, few homes stays are available

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