It’s been pointed out to me that it is not always that easy to work out where in the world I am, at the moment, so here’s a map which I hope will help.
The red line shows our (approximate) route since leaving Leh on Mnday – we’re now half way down the Spiti valley at it’s largest village Kaza. Our destination for this leg of the journey is Shimla (bottom left of the map), where we’ll meet Martyn and Helen on Monday. I’ll add more lines to the map as we move on.
My best birthday present today was undoubtedly being able to get in touch briefly with Rosie and Martyn and to discover that Harry got ABB in his A levels. Everyone is delighted and I’m sure he’ll get a good university place in 2017, if that’s what he decides he wants to do. Not bad for someone predicted CCC on the basis of his GCSEs!
Finding that out didn’t happen straight away though – poor John had to put up with my stressing until I could get in touch. Ramesh Lal turned up at breakfast to ask about our plans and explain about the Inner Line permits we need to exit the Spiti valley at the Sumdo end. Hotam then took us to his office in Kaza itself. There is some kind of trade festival going on, similar to what we saw in Keylong, right down to the same man drawing lottery numbers over a loudspeaker!
We had to have our photos taken for the Inner Line permits and then had a wander round Kaza, ending up at somewhere called the Sol Café in search of decent coffee. That was an experience – a clientele made up entirely of ageing hippies (all men), from the UK, Argentina and Australia.
Kaza is at 3700 m and surrounded by dramatic mountains. We’d thought about walking up to the villages of Langza, Hikkim and Komic, described as a one day trekking route in my guide book, but thought better of it when we realised this would include around 900 m of climbing. In the end, Hotam drove us up to Komic, through some spectacular folded rocks and canyon scenery, with great views of the braided river Spiti below.
Spiti valley and river
Komic, the furthest away of the three villages is, at 4587 m, apparently the highest village on Earth connected by a motorable road.
It also boasts a monastery with interesting stripy walls which we had a quick look inside. The other tourists here were all very-well-wrapped-up Indians, apparently really feeling the cold.
Hotam drove us back along the road towards Hikkim, the middle village, which is where Chhering, the little boy we are sponsoring through school, lives. It’s hard to imagine what life must be like here in winter. If anyone can spare £200 a year for ten years to put a child through school, take a look at the Spiti Projects website – I find it hard to think of a better way of spending that kind of money.
The plan had been to walk back from here to Langza, which should take a couple of hours, looking at whatever geology and ecology we could find en route. However I felt quite light headed and not very well so in the end we just walked for an hour or so and then Hotam gave us a lift back to Langza. Luckily he hadn’t trusted us when we said we would walk all the way and had waited part way along the road. Both the geology and ecology at the roadside were rather disappointing anyway – most of the flowers are finished and it’s hard to identify plants without their flowers.
We stopped to look at the view from the huge Buddha overlooking the valley at Langza before driving back down to Kaza.
The fertile village of Langza, from the Buddha
Finding an internet signal in Kaza proved difficult. Ramesh sent us to the ‘Himalayan’ café he owns for a very late lunch and, eventually, I managed to get Messenger to work, though I couldn’t access e-mails. Fortunately Rosie was online and managed to chase Harry’s results for me – a great relief.
Today’s other record was to visit what is apparently the highest filling station in the world in Kaza, though that seems a surprising claim. In any case, there was no fuel to buy today! John and I also failed miserably in out attempt to buy more paper hankies – it sounds easy enough, but maybe people just don’t use them here.