Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.
That’s how perfectly beautiful the earth is in this part of the planet.
So wrapping up Tabo monastery quickly, we rushed to reach Kaza. We were literally chasing the setting sun. But we stopped dead in our track suddenly as we approached Kaza. Two reasons. One, we saw the ‘Kaza 0’ milestone and couldn’t contain our excitement. Two, the landscape around was unbelievable..! just like the quote above.
I am sure the rock painted milestone will remember this day forever. We left no stone unturned to make it feel like a celebrity. People were out of poses and memory in their phone by now. I was super glad to have made it to Kaza in time and with such breathtaking views that no picture can put you in my place and bring you closer to that experience.
Having reached Kaza by sundown ( here, sunsets completely by 7.30 pm at this time of the year) we checked into hotel Kunga. This hotel is a little far ( 15 min walk ) from the town centre where all the cafes and shops are located. But on the upside, it is right next to a civil hospital. Also, being a little aloof it provides spectacular views of the mountains plus the road right outside is the main highway, which is excellent for an early morning photo walk. The only petrol pump in Kaza is right behind hotel Kunga. The hotel staff is courteous and friendly. Rooms are clean and cosy, though hot water might be a problem. Water heater in some rooms was not working during our stay. But we managed by borrowing water from each other’s rooms. Sharing is caring..!
Dinner was a piping hot meal of vegetarian and non-vegetarian choice and really tasty. Couldn’t have asked for a better end to a long day.
Some of us weren’t done yet. One of our travellers had been lugging around a 20 kg telescope all the way from Delhi, in a humongous box. The sky had become relatively cloud-free tonight, so me and some other pals were going to make the best of it. We set up our telescope on the terrace and had a crash course in astronomy that night.
If you have never experienced watching celestial bodies for real with your own eyes then I would strongly recommend it.
It is one thing to read about them and see them in books and computer. It is a totally mind-boggling experience to see them for real via a telescope. No landscape photo ever clicked can match those tiny rings of Saturn that you see in the sky.
The day ended well past midnight but I still had to charge the gear for an early morning photo walk, only a few hours away. I’ve been waiting eagerly for the night to turn around so that I and my lens can have a one on one rendezvous with the alluring vistas of Spiti.
Kaza is the largest town in Lahaul-Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh. Once in Kaza, you are in the heart of Spiti valley. Other places like Hikkim, Komik, Langza, Kibber are a comfortable driving distance from Kaza. One can plan to stay in Kaza for two-three days and visit above mentioned places at leisure, or stay at Kaza for a short while and book stays at Hikkim, Komik, Langza respectively.
Things to do in Kaza:
- Take a walk on the highway connecting Kaza to Kibber, Key, Hikkim etc. For a city dweller like me, just the sight of vast open sky and unobstructed view till your eyes can see is enough to get endorphins running. Add to it some awesome lights, shadows and clouds and I am in love already.
- Watch the Key monastery at sunset and sunrise.
- Hitchhike/ hire a motorcycle/ bicycle and visit nearby places. Kaza is a good place to dump your luggage in a room and explore carefreely.
- Visit ‘The Himalayan cafe‘ and ‘Sol cafe‘ for an all-day breakfast/brunch/beer.
- The Himalayan cafe is by far the coolest place to be. They have live music by a soulful singer called Selesh. Do support him, he is a real performer.! The food is delicious and the service is prompt. The menu is extensive.
- Sol cafe is another place we tried and loved it. They have volunteer opportunities so can work for them in return for food and stay. They also have movie screenings in the evening so one can make new friends or mementoes relax with a mug and let yourself unwind. Another peculiar thing about Kaza and Spiti is that you meet the same bunch of people at different places again and again because travellers generally follow a similar itinerary. So it’s easy to gel amongst a group of people and make friends.
- Shopping in Kaza is not big or unique but ‘see-a-shop-will-buy’ folks won’t be disappointed. One can buy some Tibetan handicraft and support local folks, though it’s quite expensive. Also, some woollens can be bought as it’s pleasantly cold here even during summers. Fridge magnets, mementoes are available in plenty.
The key monastery is by far the face of Spiti valley. It is the final destination for any Spiti visitor. Even if you have never heard about Spiti or Key monastery, you must have certainly seen it’s picture some time or the other. If you are from a distant galaxy far far away, then allow me to infect you with some serious dope of wanderlust. Here we go :
There’s a fun fact I realized after visiting Key monastery. It is not one pre-planned structure. It is a collection of randomly built gompas which eventually look like it’s present form, over a period of more than thousand years.
Also, one can book a stay in the monastery and live the monk life. The monastery looks like a mountain behind it when seen from a particular angle. I was told that it is intentionally built so.
Hikkim, Langza, Komik and Kibber.
These are small villages within a span of few kilometres from Kaza. One can book a homestay at any of the above villages also if you really wish to experience Spiti life first hand. There is no easy public transport available for these places from Kaza. Also, you might have a tough time negotiating the mountains and inclined roads if you have a less powerful vehicle like a scooter. So, either book a sharing cab or hire a powerful motorcycle.
These villages are not only remote but insanely beautiful too. One can easily get carried away and decide to stay there forever. But reality hits when you realise there is no internet here. I wouldn’t mind frankly..!
Hikkim is famous for having the world’s highest functioning post office. It is mandatory to write a postcard from here for your near and dear ones. That’s when you realise how many postal addresses you actually remember, or have stored in your phone. Hardly any, unless you had read this earlier.
Langza is famous for having a beautiful Buddha statue facing the vast scapes of Spiti. I cannot imagine any structure being more thoughtfully built, like this Buddha.
Komik is a beautiful oasis in this mountainous desert. It has barely any people and is home to Komik gompa or monastery. If one can befriend one of the monks then they might show you around their living premises too. The lifestyle of the monks is a benchmark in austerity.
Kibber is another village a few kilometres from Kaza. We just took a small stop there so I can’t explain in detail. It has a three-day route which opens into the Ladakh. It also has a wildlife sanctuary.
While travelling in Spiti do try the Sea buckthorn tea. It’s really healthy, boosts your immunity, helps in altitude sickness and tastes like orange juice.
After some really memorable time in Kaza, we were to finally begin the last leg of our trip: Chandrataal..!
Thanks for dropping by.
Where did you travel recently? What’s your story? Drop in some comments.
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