A puncture, A waterfall and the Milky way – Off the grid in Spiti

The perfect picture in the desert mountains!

Kalpa to Nako

Travelling from Kalpa to Nako was quite an eventful leg of our journey – which brought with it amazing vistas and more than a few challenges. The landscape started to change from lush green mountains to stony, dusty, deserted ones. We lost and gained a lot of altitude on this day, at one point going side by side side by side with Satluj, passing dams, and at another point hitting 4000 meters above the sea level. Effectively riding the roller coaster of nature, playing with the delicate inner balance of our bodies.

Tyre puncture on the dusty trail of Spiti mountains!
Tyre puncture on the dusty trail of Spiti mountains!

We had our first vehicular mishap of the trip (yes, we had more than one!) in the form of a tyre puncture on a particularly precarious dusty stretch of the road (can it be called a road?) cut into a cliffside. Thanks to our driver and guide, we recovered quickly and were on our way! However, we did take this opportunity to stretch our legs and capture some photographs.

Not a few minutes past our puncture point, we were rewarded with a most amazing waterfall giving us yet another photo-op! At some point, I climbed onto that bridge too :D
Not a few minutes past our puncture point, we were rewarded with a most amazing waterfall giving us yet another photo-op! At some point, I climbed onto that bridge too 😀
This is also where we met our first biker gang of the trip, led by a female biker! Yay for girl power!
This is also where we met our first biker gang of the trip, led by a female biker! Yay for girl power!

Spiti is a very lucrative stretch for bikers, cyclists, hikers, trekkers and mountain climbers. We met a bunch of them throughout our trip, from all over the world; all with their diverse stories and backgrounds; the charm of Spiti being the only common denominator. Love of travel is usually enough when it comes to forging bonds between travellers, no matter where they come from. A few of my friends have been brave enough to cycle through these roads and I am always in awe of them.

The stark, unforgiving desert mountains where we met Satluj again...
The stark, unforgiving desert mountains where we met Satluj again…
Hangrang Valley - Never knew so many shades of brown and grey existed outside of color panelsJust stretching our legs :D and getting some photography lessons along the way!
Hangrang Valley – Never knew so many shades of brown and grey existed outside of color panels!
Just stretching our legs :D and getting some photography lessons along the way!
Just stretching our legs 😀 and getting some photography lessons along the way!
Travelling on a road cut into the vertical cliffside. Can you see it?
Travelling on a road cut into the vertical cliffside. Can you see it?

This was one of the more treacherous roads that we crossed (not the most treacherous one though, I have no pictures of that one!). Riding at a modest speed of 15 kilometeres per hour, hanging on to our seats while trying our best to avoid inhaling all the dust that the mountain was throwing at us. It’s a desert alright. At this point, the journey seemed like a test of our commitment. But, once you are this far inside, the only way is through and we did not regret a moment of it, because past this, another mind blowing view awaited us.

The farms of village of Nako!
The farms of village of Nako!

The sudden splash of colours announced the arrival of the village of Nako. This was our picnic spot along the way at 4000 meters above the sea level. Nako is where we first tried the famous homemade Tibetan bread, something we would end up eating everyday for the next few days. It was also around this place, that we finally went off the grid. No internet, no cell signals, no landlines!

“Always be prepared”
– Scout Motto

I was reminded of this quote multiple times on our journey as our preparedness was tested along the way. One decision, that continually proved to be the right decision was to go slow and give your body time to acclimatise. People jump from Manali to Kaza in a day and then immediately get altitude sickness if they are not careful. Medical care is not easily available in these areas, because, as mentioned before, you are off the grid! I also had a full pharmacy in my bag (and so did our guide and our mentor), which meant we were fully prepared when mountain sickness hit Shilp on the day we entered Spiti, and did not spoil our plans much!

The wall of holy engraved stones and the Nako lake behind it like an oasis in this desert
The wall of holy engraved stones and the Nako lake behind it like an oasis in this desert
While photographing the Nako lake…
While photographing the Nako lake…

We found more than a couple of people, sitting under the trees surrounding the lake and contemplating the meaning of life. I have to admit, you would be hard pressed to find a more perfect place to have this conversation. When faced, with such a transcendent beauty, nestled so high up, hidden so far away, and so hard to reach, making life that much harder for people who live here, is when you realise that nothing worth having is easy.

Onward to Tabo

Our first sighting of the magical milky way!
Our first sighting of the magical milky way!

And so, on we went, and finally reached our destination of the day – Tabo! By the time we reached, it was so dark that I could not see my hand before my eyes.

Finally!!! It was dark enough to see the blanket of stars! And so, we found ourselves climbing atop the roof of our guest house via the half made stairs; to get our first glimpse of the millions of stars that make up this side of the galaxy. And I am proud to say, we saw them every night hence!