Spiti: The Land In-between…
We have spoken before about Ladakh and how it is the place where the adventure begins. Spiti is the place where the adventure continues and sometimes takes a dangerous and exciting turn. Located south of Ladakh, Spiti is a high altitude cold desert mountain valley with a barren landscape and sparse vegetation. However, it houses a wide range of flora and fauna, and has quite a pleasant temperature during the summer. Due to its unique geography, the roads of spiti are often considered to be some of the most dangerous in the world. The Rhotang Pass separates Lahaul and Spiti from the Kullu Valley, while Spiti itself is cut off from Lahaul by the Higher Kunzum Pass.
Spiti separates Tibet and India, and is the reason why it is called the “Middle Land”, which is what the name Spiti, stands for. For centuries, Spiti and Lahaul, along with Ladakh, have been part of the Tibetan Subculture. In fact, Spiti itself is called “Mini Tibet” for its cultural and geographical similarities to Tibet. The flora and fauna in Spiti is quite unique, and pretty similar to Ladakh. Wild animals such as the Asiatic Ibex, Tibetan Antelope, Tibetan Gazelle, Bharal, etc. are found in the valley, while birds such as the Golden Eagle, Tibetan Snowcock, Himalayan Rubythroat, etc are observed. These animals and birds are found throughout the year. However, it is in winter when the wildlife observation turns exciting. The snow leopard usually descends into the valley during the winter season, and many wildlife enthusiasts and photographers travel to Spiti in winter to capture a memory of the elusive and majestic animal.
Spiti has a barren terrain and is enclosed between high rising mountain ranges. Due to this, Spiti is home to some of the highest villages in the world. One such example is Komik, which has the moniker of “highest village in the world”. Another example is Hikkim, which has the highest post office in the world. Just recently, a polling station was opened in Hikkim, earning it the title of “highest polling station in the world”. These exciting places are a wonder to behold, as you get to bask in the glory of the Himalayas, and the valley below. Alongside them, there are other places in Spiti that are just as exciting and intriguing. One such place is Gyu monastery. While it is practically unheard of, Gyu monastery houses a 500-year-old Tibetan Mummy! Sangha Tenzin was a Buddhist monk, living in Spiti around 500 years ago. Tenzin followed an approach that Japanese Monks in Yamagata would follow as a process for mummification. Tenzin’s mummified body found its way to a shelter in Gyu Monastery. While the mummy will tease your history taste, marine fossils found in Langza will tease your scientific intrigue too. These marine fossils, leftover from a pre-historic era when all of the Himalayas was underwater, are found in and around the town of Langza and has been the site of many archaeological expeditions. When traveling from Sangla to Nako, we get to visit Chitkul as well. Chitkul is the last inhabited village before the Indo-China border and is home to “Hindustan Ka Akhri Dhaba”, which roughly translates into “The Last Indian Café”, the last restaurant before the border. But the place that perhaps attracts the most tourists to Spiti is Key Monastery. Located in the valley of Spiti itself, Key Monastery is the biggest monastery of Spiti Valley and is a religious training center for Lamas.
As you know, Spiti is called “Mini Tibet”, and rightly so, as most of the culture in Spiti is closely related to or originates from Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan Culture. Festivals such as the Losar Festival in January, Hemis Tsechu in July, etc are celebrated around Spiti Valley with much splendour and enthusiasm. The Monasteries of Spiti, Tabo, Key, Gyu, Dhankar, etc, come alive during these festivals. The people of Spiti celebrate these festivals by coming together in unison to enjoy the cultural and traditional history of Spiti and Buddhism. The culture of Spiti goes hand in hand with the cuisine of Spiti. Perhaps the most famous dish found in the Himalayas is Momos, a dumpling usually filled with steamed vegetables or meat. This flavourful dish is generally paired with Thukpa, a noodle soup of Tibetan Origin. Noodles are added to clear soup with cut vegetables of meat and is served steaming hot with the momos. Chang is a locally made beer and Arkah is a locally made whiskey. These drinks are quite famous around the valley.
When you go on a food spree or a cultural tour across Spiti, you will notice many-a-times, the Tibetan history that shaped the valley, leaking through the culture and cuisine. It is quite an exciting prospect to imagine and wonder the thousand-year-old history of the remote desolate valley and the influence it has on the modern world of Spiti. Even today, in an age of high speed technology, communication and information, Spiti is still a place that miraculously exists in the old age and can transport you through time.
Tyremark is excited to introduce Batch 2 of the Spiti and Sach Pass Motorbike Expedition and Jeep Safari which will take place from July 20 – 30 2019. For more details, check out website or contact us at 8956985191/9923063562.