I awoke with the back in spasm and faint traces of altitude sickness.By the time i saw an oily Paratha in front of me for breakfast,i was feeling acutely nausiatic and one bite of paratha triggered me into running outside and throwing up a bit(luckily in the dustbin).But after that,body was restored to normal and i was surprised to find that i could finish the whole paratha.The steam wafting from the ginger tea at the end of the breakfast was oh so soothing.I then went for a stroll in the town.Asking directions to locals and passing by numerous shops selling more or less the same things(woolen socks,scarves(both things very much recommended for anyone planning a trek here)tshirts,arts and crafts),i landed up at Kaza Monastry.The monk opened the doors and let me take in the tranquil ambiance to my heart’s content.Sitting inside the monastery,i meditated cuz i was feeling irritated by the scorching sun outside and was feeling an unease in the body and meditation seemed like my only option.I was alone and it was so beautifully quiet and colorful inside.Besides the monastry,there’s nothing to be seen in Kaza.Its a typical Buddhist Spiti village (Buddhism is the majority religion in SPiti)at the base of a yellow colored sand covered mountain.
I came back to the hotel and met up with Rishi,Kullu’s colleague who was staying at Kibber and had come down to Kaza.With the two guys,i got into the taxi to resume the journey toward Kibber which was 14km away.
I reached Kibber in an agonizing pain in the back.I have never experienced this kind of severe backache before.I think it was because of the awkward positions i had been taking during the cramped journey from Manali.Despite my resolve to not do it,I finally popped in a pain killer and well,that worked to put out the pain.Life suddenly seemed so much better.
In Kibber,the NCF(the Nature Conservation Foundation) of which Kullu is part,has commissioned a local house as the NCF office.Its here that I,Kullu,Rishi and his two students were to live for the Kibber stay.It was a cozy house with 3 bedrooms,one kitchen and a common room.Locals employed by NCF would come and cook for us.They were very kind people and it felt wonderful to be gulping down cups of tea the whole day,as was the custom in Spiti!The day i arrived here,i spent most of my time in resting in my luxurious bedroom,going out to check out the peculiar local loo and clicking some shots.That was it for day 4.
The next day,i went out to roam around Kibber,situated at 4100m above mean sea level.I took the only path around which all the houses are constructed and went till the beginning of the village.From this point,i was getting a full view of Kibber.Kibber really is nestled right among the mountains.On one side,there’s Sambalungba river cutting a deep ravine through cliffs and meeting SPiti river basin in distance.If one climbs the nearby hills,one gets the terrific view of Sambalungba meeting the broader Spiti basin deep down in the valley and also the view of Rangrik village.At night,i finished reading “Nandadevi” and started on another of Kullu’s books.
Day 6,July 13th :I was to go with Kullu for some sampling work today.A few plots of land on a pasture on the nearby hills was to be marked precisely by installing iron sticks around the plots.Going up this hillock and trying to help Kullu and his local team(only intermittently cuz i was still not acclimatized well) proved to be a good work out for me.We were there for a good 3 hours or more.While there,the birds were flying in and out of view.I saw a pair of finches.Earlier Kullu had shown me snow pigeons.Journey from Manali onwards had been abundant with Yellow Billed Choughs.Here in kibber,they were everywhere.We had seen horned larks during the ride from Manali to Kaza.
For dinner,we were invited to one of Rishi’s local assistant’s house.The dinner turned out to be a wonderful one.The house was warm,compact.We were taken to a large room which felt like a combo of dining and living room.There was a tandoor on in the middle of the room,that was meant for cooking but which also kept the room warm!I was surprised to see a TV switched on in the room.Bless the ‘Direct To Home’ service providers!On one side,a lot of cutlery had been arranged elegantly inside glass panelled cabinets along the wall.On the other side,school like ground level wooden desks were arranged and behind which we took our seats.
Then came our friend, asking us “Pehle daru piyenge ya khana khaenge?“(“How would you like to have it..Alcohol first or dinner first?”)!In such high and remote mountain villages like Kibber,alcohol is an inseparable part of daily life.There’s no discrimination between men and women when it comes to consumption of alcohol,which is in fact the local barley brew called “Arak”.None of us declined the Daru offer and our glasses were filled with Arak the next minute.I was surprised for the second time that night when farsaan was brought out along as chakna!I still don’t know where he got hold of that tasty farsaan in Kibber!
I cautiously had the first sip of Arak.It tasted like beer+vodka.I finished the contents of the glass in first few minutes and yes,felt the kick!!The feeling was similar to the one i generally have when i am 2 pints of beer down.
Arak session was followed by green salad and a sumptuous meal containing dal ,chawal,delicious egg preparation and rotis and more Arak.By the end of the dinner,i was too full and pleasantly high on Arak.We left the house around 11.30p.m.This was Spiti and so it was okay to stay back and keep chit chatting as long as we wanted.People here wouldn’t mind.(as informed to me by Kullu).
I fell asleep the moment i put my head to the pillow.