Spiti Valley – Rays of hope in barren lands

Treacherous weather and rugged terrain could bring out the worst in you—or sometimes, the best. Pranesh Kumar tells us his experience of the latter at Spiti Valley.


Treacherous weather and rugged terrain could bring out the worst in you—or sometimes, the best. Pranesh Kumar tells us his experience of the latter at Spiti Valley.

Never underestimate the power of nature.

The words reverberated in my mind as we were caught in the middle of a glacial meltdown, just a few kilometres into the district of Lahaul & Spiti. Freezing cold water plummeted on the rocky terrain, flooding the gravel carpeted road to plunge down the gorge and join the Chandra River gushing below. It was the most unwelcoming sign one could ever image on entering “the place where the Gods live” as Rudyard Kipling put it.

The right turn at Gramphu, a village where the only occupants are a couple of dhaba owners, is the most deceiving. The land turns barren and the patchy tarmac ends abruptly. We end up riding our luggage laden motorcycles on a narrow motorway, snaking through the arid landscape enveloped by humongous mountains. The treacherous road runs parallel to a deep gorge where the river gushes past; a weary soul could easily get depressed on catching a glimpse of the landscape.

Determined to cross the nullah caused by the melting snow on the mountains, we rode on. The crossing was covered with rocks to prevent the land beneath eroding. With some pushing and hauling, we managed to cross the rivulet which would be the first of many we would encounter later in the day.

Next up was a wide glacier seated precariously on the side with water caving through. By late noon we had crossed more than five of these waterways. With each crossing, we were gaining confidence but fatigue was catching on. The next stop eventually came when a truck got stranded in a flash flood caused by snow melting in the high passes. We were caught up in a traffic snarl. Unable to clear the way, those stranded (most being locals on the way to or from Kaza in Spiti) created a makeshift detour for motorcycles and cars to cross over. The timely help kept us on track.

It was more of pushing through and walking than riding. We were drained to the last joules of our energy. By dusk at another replay of what now was becoming a daunting task, our motorcycles gave in. They would never start again. Our amateur attempts to fix the problem were in vain. The cold winds were getting stronger and we were in the middle of a cold mountain dessert with the nearest shelter almost ten kilometres away. We had to act fast or we would be preyed upon by the rapidly increasing cold. Temperatures drop to sub-zero at night and camping in the open could turn fatal. We were devastated but kept pressing on our hopes, when a group of tourists came to our rescue. Seeing our miserable state, they quickly loaded the luggage onto their cab and offered us a ride to the next village Batal. We left the motorcycles by the roadside at the mercy of nature.

The tourists, who were heading to Chandratal, a high altitude lake, had to spend the night at Batal. We were too fragile to ask their names or even thank them for helping us out.

We woke up the next morning only to faintly remember their wishes and good lucks.

Looking back at everything that happened to us since we left for Spiti, we remember a string of strangers who for no reason pulled us out of dangerous situations at several occasions. They voluntarily came to help us whereas a common man would have hesitated.

The next person we met that morning offered a ride to Kaza, a town where we could get help to retrieve our motorcycles. At Kaza, The owner of the hotel where we stayed helped us arrange a pickup and five men drove overnight to return with the bikes. A friendly monk at Key monastery served us tea to help us acclimatize with the quick ascent. The locals were quick to inform us on a road block caused by a recent landslide just as we to start on the return journey. And the stories go on.

When I asked my hotel manager, he plainly answered ‘helping is not just a tendency but the way of life for the people’. His words were more beautiful than the place. Indeed, people here know that helping each other is the way life moves on in such a remote land. And that justified Kipling’s words.


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
An easy going, fun loving, adventure seeker, Pranesh is a techie, hanging around the suburbs of Bangalore. He loves travelling and his second hand specializations include two dimensional designing and photography. Pranesh believes that the best parts of travelling are the tales you get to narrate and the experiences to share. more

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
An easy going, fun loving, adventure seeker, Pranesh is a techie, hanging around the suburbs of Bangalore. He loves travelling and his second hand specializations include two dimensional designing and photography. Pranesh believes that the best parts of travelling are the tales you get to narrate and the experiences to share. more
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