The destination for day 3 was Spiti valley itself,more specifically,Kaza- subdivisional headquarters of Spiti valley in Lahaul & Spiti districts of Himachal Pradesh.Kaza is a smallish mountain town along Spiti river and at an elevation of 3800m.The route to Kaza from Manali goes via Rohtang pass( 3978m) and is notoriously famous for frequently getting blocked during the monsoons due to landslides and severely mud filled roads.So we began our journey in a shared taxi as soon as 3 a.m! Alas,that did not help us avoid getting in the middle of a road jam.It took 6 hours for the road authorities to bring in bulldozers and get the jam cleared while we waited in the pass as the dark of the dawn lifted and a sunny morning filled the sky and later gave way to the afternoon.We left Rohtang pass around 12.30. in the noon and headed to Kunzum pass which marks the beginning of the Spiti valley.
The initial part of this route,which passes through Lahaul, was beautiful and green with Chandra river along the road down in the valley.The road was tracing fine lines along mountainsides.Few hours on like this and the landscape started changing.The greens transformed into the yellows of the barren soil covering the mountain tops and sides.The sunlight glinting off the mountains and the intermittent shadows cast by them made for picturesque beauty,one that would make the skeptical me(i always said i dont like barrenness) go trigger happy.The terrain now on was all scree and gravel and sharp rocky formations.A lot of sand would fly into the car if the windows were kept open.Even the mounds of soil composed into tall,pointed,attractive shapes reminding one of the Lord of the Rings like landscape.It seemed that if one tried climbing these mounds,they would take no time to crumble down to the ground.There was hardly any vegetation in this area to keep the soil held up and intact.The rocks seemed brittle.But Kullu informed me that its not really the case.On reaching Kibber 2 days later,i found out myself that the look of the rocks was deceptive and they were not as brittle as they looked from distance.
I was new to this barrenness.Till then,i had equated Himalayas with deodars,pines,rhododendrons,lush meadows,gushing rivers and granite and sandstone.To have equally big mountains without any trees on it was a new experience(not that i hadn’t heard of it).I was curious to find out if I end up liking the barren beauty at the end of the trek.But at that point,i was happy just looking around and clicking.Whether i was to like it or not in my heart,the scenery sure was photogenic and worth getting clicked.This was the Trans Himalayas-the northern side of the Himalayas that comes under rain shadow zone and enjoys very little rain & about 300 days of clear weather.
Thus,sharing the sumo taxi with 9 other people(which i later realised is a very normal thing here),after a backbreaking and cramped journey of 20 hours ,after passing through Kunzum Pass ,Losar and Rangrik villages,after clicking some beautiful views and befriending the 2 Spiti girls sharing taxi seats with me,I and Kullu alighted at Kaza around midnight.We did not head to Kibber(next destination that was an hour’s drive away) directly because I had to get acclimatized to the higher altitude at Kaza.It would be good for my body if we stayed for the night at Kaza.Thanks to Kullu’s knowledge of and contacts in Spiti,we could immediately check into a hotel and retire for the night.
I couldn’t drift into a sleep immidiately.I started thinking about Tashi and the other girl i had met in the taxi.Both were from the high remote villages in these Spiti mountains,had had their schooling from Rangrik where their language of education had been English and were now admitted to a horticultural college down in Manali.I could draw an analogy between me traveling back and forth between Pune(where i have stayed for last 4 yrs for education) and Aurangabad(my hometown) and their traveling between Manali and their home in SPiti.Except that it was so much harder a journey for them.The girls were in tune with the latest fashion trends.They could be any one of the many pretty and smartly outfitted females one sees at the Tibetan market.It was kinda hard to guess that they had spent their childhood summers leading the hard life that is the norm in such mountain villages and winters mostly locked inside houses in the extreme Spiti winters.Well,they seemed well off and i am by no means being sympathetic or anything.Just that life definitely seemed so much more harder than it is for us urban dwellers at sea level and despite that,their aspirations for the future and their words about their career plans and questions and queries to me about the same(which colleges in delhi,chandigarh are good..what score do u need to get admitted there…what about the private colleges..what are the fees) seemed so very much like our own!
With all that in mind,my eyes started to shut down beneath the weight of 2 quilts.Day 3 was over and so also,my father’s birthday.