Spiti: The Land In-between…

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.

 

Ladakh- An Adventure Begins…

Located in the northern most part of India, Ladakh is a place of true beauty. It is the highest plateau in the state of Jammu & Kashmir, and is the coldest desert in the world. The landscape in Ladakh is magical and truly mesmerizing, which is why it has earned the moniker of “Heaven of Earth”. Ladakh is surrounded by the world’s highest mountain ranges, Karakoram and the Great Himalayas. It is surrounded by Lahaul and Spiti to the south, Tibet to the east, the valley of Kashmir to the west and the Karakoram Pass to the far north.

For centuries, Ladakh was an important and strategic location, as it was part of the famous Silk Road. Since then, its part in international trade has dwindled and is now mainly a prominent tourist attraction. Ladakh is known for its cold deserts, glaciers and barren landscapes. It may have sparse vegetation, but being part of a unique ecosystem, Ladakh has its abundance of flora and fauna. Wild animals like Snow Leopards, bharal (blue sheep), Asiatic Ibex, Ladakhi Urial, Tibetan Antelope, Tibetan Gazelle, etc., while birds such as black-necked crane, Golden Eagle, Tibetan Snowcock, Snow Partridge, Himalayan Rubythroat and many more are found in Ladakh. It has over 225 species of birds and 33 species of unique mammals. Ladakh has 3 major passes that are some of the highest motorable passes in the world; Taglang La Pass, Khardung La Pass and Chang La Baba Pass. They offer the most scenic views and the journey through these passes is often recommended by travellers. One of the most famous lakes in the world is the Pangong Tso (also referred to as Pangong Lake). It is a high grassland lake situated at an altitude of about 14,270 ft. Situated along the Sino-Indian Border, Pangong Tso is one of the major tourist attractions of the Ladakh. It offers awe-inspiring views of crystal blue waters and pristine environment, while the journey there is stunning and a must-have for travellers. Another major tourist attraction is the Nubra Valley, which lies in the north-east region of Ladakh. Like rest of the Tibetan Plateau, Nubra Valley is a high altitude cold desert. Nubra valley is most famous for its sand dunes and the Siachen Glacier in the north. Turtuk is a village located north of Nubra Valley, that was practically unheard of till the 2010s. It used to be a part of Balitstan, and as such, is occupied by people of the Balti tribe. Being a secluded area, isolated from the usual tourist maps, Turtuk offers peace and serenity for travellers to enjoy and a chance to interact with the tribal community and their culture. Delicious apricots are one of the main produces from the village. Other tourist attractions include Magnetic Hill, Confluence of the Indus-Zanskar Rivers, Moon Land and many more.

Culture is an important aspect of truly experiencing Ladakh. Closely related to Tibetan Culture, Ladakhi culture is deeply rooted in spirituality and it has always been faithful to its ages old customs and traditions. From time immemorial, people all around the world have visited Ladakh to soak in the culture, whether it is through the local cuisine, the Buddhist teachings, Ladakhi festivals, or music & dance, with mentions of the land in the works of Herodotus, Megasthenes, Ptolemy, etc. Ladakh’s culture is reflected through the various monuments across the land such as the Thiksey Monastery, Shanti Stupa, Leh Palace, Lamayuru Monastery, Key Gompa, etc. Architecture enthusiasts from all over the world visit Ladakh to experience these monuments. Ladakh celebrates a lot of colourful and extravagant festivals. One such exciting festival is the Hemis Tsechu. It takes place on 3rd and 4th July, and features a series of mask dances by the Lamas of the Hemis Monastery.  Colorful masks and silk costumes worn by the dancers, are some of the highlights of this exciting festival. The new year is celebrated in the form of Losar, across Ladakh. It is a medley of colourful and cultural events, rituals and performances. Experiencing these vibrant festivals always puts a smile on your face. You get to experience an ancient culture, right here in the modern world which will make you feel excitement and intrigue. More importantly, it is just so much fun.

When experience Ladakh’s culture, it’s flavourful cuisine plays an important role. Of course, one of the most famous dishes in Ladakh are the Momos, which are a dumpling delicacy usually with a filling of either meat or steamed vegetables. Another delicious dish is the Ladakhi Pulao, which has a main combination of white rice soaked in the flavours of aromatic spices and chicken or mutton stock. Caramelized carrots and nuts are also added to lend to the texture and flavour. Thukpa is a noodle-soup of Tibetan origin. It is made by adding noodles to clear soup with either cut vegetables of meat, lightly seasoned with spices. All of these dishes are mesmerizing and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Any foodie would love to divulge these dishes. When you take that first bite of the steaming momos, or the aromatic pulao, the all the flavours come together in your mouth as you experience that Himalayan cuisine, as you are transported into another realm, and by the end of the dish, you can’t get enough of it.

Ladakh’s culture, the nature and the environment invigorates and transforms a person. When you step out into the fresh, mountain air, you’ll feel a cool and pleasant breeze brush against your skin, and this small but pivotal experience will enhance your outlook towards life itself and the essence of travelling. It is amazing how even such a small experience can make you feel alive and Ladakh is the place where you can truly experience it. I, myself, am an avid traveler and it was here in the mountains that I first realized that all I have wanted to do is travel to new places and experience new cultures and meet new people.

Ladakh is the place where you start an adventure and wherever you go, whatever you do, you still feel like going back. I love this beautiful place and I am sure you would too.