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Old 6th June 2023, 13:26   #1
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Vignettes from Spiti - A Photologue

Our planet is full of absolutely stunning natural beauty. Most of it now accessible, with only time and money being factors that enable access. However, there are some places which in addition to time and money (to a certain degree), require physical effort to reach.

These places offer a more involving version of travel. Partly due to their less commercialised state of being, forcing the traveller to experience authenticity that luxury often insulates from. And partly because getting there takes traversing terra firma over days. Definitely eons more involving than flying straight to fourth base.

One of those destinations is Spiti. The closest airport is Manali. Or Chandigarh. Choosing former as a starting point involves a day of back breaking road travel and an ascent that brings the risk of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). The latter means at least a two day drive in. That is, if you go go go. Three being the prudent pick. Essentially, you need time and physical effort to get there, and hence Spiti remains relatively remote. Which makes it a destination that takes you to an entirely new world. Visually, culturally, and dare I say, in time.

Iíve been to Spiti two times (after failing to get there the first time I tried), and here are some interesting memories I'm sharing with you. Pictures are a compilation from all two and a half visits.

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Summers is the best time to get to Spiti, with it being completely or partially shut from about October till April. Summers are also the time when people make a beeline to the hills. So make sure you are prepared to face snaking traffic jams. Especially from Shimla till Kufri.

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If youíre starting from Shimla, Sarahan Bushahr is a great pit stop. It is about a 45 minute detour from the highway (at Jeori), and the best place to stay is HPTDC hotel Shrikhand. The hotel is not much to talk about on the inside, but the views from the balcony rooms are fabulous.
Word of caution: Avoid a boozy late night here. I wasnít smart enough the first time I was heading into Spiti. A severe bout of AMS followed the next afternoon after I tried the seasoned ďhair-of-the-dogĒ cure for my monster hangover. Seriously thought Iíd not make it to the following morning. I did, but a driver had to be found to drive me down and out. That trip was a washout.

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There is this really steep trek above the cricket stadium that goes into apple and almond orchards. Starts right next to the temple adjacent the stadium. Look closely and you will see the trail. And some almonds eventually.

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A carving at the temple door. Itís amazing how as you get closer to the China border, Hindu and Buddhist motifs intermingle.

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Thereís also Bhimakali Temple in Sarahan. Itís really well known in Himachal.

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This, is a Devta. i.e. the residing deity of a particular area. The mountains have thousands of them, and they hold a lot of sway over daily life there. This particular one is Naag Devta and he was visiting a household thatíd invited him for Satya-Narayan-Katha. (Yes, they travel around).
Thatís his hair (which I think looks really cool). Met him on the way back from the trek.

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After crossing Baspa.

The Jeep Compass is a super solid pick to take to higher altitudes. You just donít get tired. And the interiors on the higher trims are just fantastic. Just one pain point though. It is SO sluggish off the mark that at times your exhaust fumes might end up overtaking you.

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The residing umbrella deity of the mountains.

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Road widening is a constant feature in the higher mountains of India. Traffic is stopped for hours while they demolish mountains and then clear the rubble from the road.

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This particular rock needed the dynamite treatment. And this is how they do it. Stick the stuff on with concrete and BOOM!

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The Badri Narayan temple at Batseri. Check out the dragon motifs, and the insane woodwork!

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And not just the bigger temples. This is a small Shiva temple in Batseri with a dragon at the main arch. The dragon scales are made of pine cones!

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Mountain kids. No sign of Elsa / baby shark / Dora. SUCH a mental relief!

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A child in traditional clothes.

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The view while climbing to Dhankar monastery. Make sure you donít miss this!

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The view from Dhankar monastery.

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Heading from Dhankar to Kaza. You will find these little structures all over. I forget their name. Itís lucky / polite to keep them on your right. This was my second attempt at Spiti. Took the Brezza. Itís a 2016 ZDI+. MSIL cars feel like they are made of tin-foil, but boy do they deliver!

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Running ahead of time so took a detour to Gue village.

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This is what Gue is famous for. A naturally preserved mummy. The Gue Lama is supposed to be more than 500 years old, and was simply placed in a glass enclosure within a room. Think now itís been shifted to a temple.

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Kaza. The worldís highest fuel pump. Check.

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Also Kaza. Deyzor. Hilarious.

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Prayer flags do not belong inside cars. They are meant to hang outdoors as the breeze carries the prayers to heaven. But wellÖ

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This place has a little secret. Let me know if youíve see this and know of what lies around.

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Rangrik Village. Across the Spiti river from Kaza. The main road for those heading to Manali. Alternatively you go through the Chicham Bridge.

continued...

Last edited by Himalayan_Ice : 6th June 2023 at 15:07. Reason: Ascribing to forum rules
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Old 6th June 2023, 14:05   #2
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re: Vignettes from Spiti - A Photologue

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Chicham Khas Village. Our stop for a few days.

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The Chicham Bridge

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Tethys Himalayan Den in Chicham. Gorgeous homestay.
P.S. That's not alcohol. Just ex-alcohol bottles being re-used as water bottles.

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Loft type rooms at Tethys

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The child in me got really excited with this.

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From a trek above Chicham. Given the altitude and water scarcity, it’s really hard to grow anything in this region. But us humans don’t give up easy do we? A lot of peas and barley grown out here.

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This is a cross between a yak and a cow. Called a Dzo. Absolutely adorable. Check out the earring!

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We always carry cartons of treats for kids when we travel to the higher ranges. One, these sort of brands aren't available there and the kids love em'. And two, interacting with kids there is such pure joy. They are so shy, simple and well mannered with "Thank you(s)" in place. takes me back to the simpler times of my own childhood.

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Another portrait.

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Sunset from Chicham Khas. Magical really.

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This is a prayer room inside a Spitian house. I had the lucky break to see the matriarch perform evening prayers. It's impossible to explain the vibe. But here's a picture.

(Continued...)

Last edited by Himalayan_Ice : 6th June 2023 at 14:35. Reason: Forum Rules
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Old 6th June 2023, 14:57   #3
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re: Vignettes from Spiti - A Photologue

Vignettes from Spiti - A Photologue-adi_0380.jpg

Key Monastery from a distance

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Key monastery on the inside

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Driving down from Kibber to Kaza, I experienced something that is rare in these parts. A traffic jam. A large convoy of SUVs (Fortuners, Scorpios etc) had blocked the entire road (partly because there wasn’t enough handle two car width. People from those cars were streaming into this house by the road.
I had two choices, either I get into an altercation to get the road cleared (cuz when I asked, one of the drivers said “10 minutes”) or I could check out what the hoopla was all about.
I guess travel is in part checking out what all the hoopla is about.
I’m glad I did.
This was a wedding household and local dignitaries were visiting. There was some dancing, some tea and some moonshine as prasad.

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One of the dignitaries who was getting the most “oohs” and “aahs” from the audience every time he posed for them.

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One of the giggly ladies. The other, not so much.

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The Groom

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Customary picture at the highest village in the world connected with a motor able road. Comic. Alt - 15049 ft.

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She did not flinch a bit. Very proud of this car.

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Next was village Langza and its famed buddha

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Those aren’t clouds over the mountains. That’s snow. And a blizzard hit within 5 minutes of this.
Hot seabuckthorn tea iastes amazing at this altitude and temperature.

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Spiti girl, Langza

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There's are some gorgeous flora out there too...


(continued...)

Last edited by Himalayan_Ice : 6th June 2023 at 15:32. Reason: word
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Old 6th June 2023, 15:06   #4
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re: Vignettes from Spiti - A Photologue

Vignettes from Spiti - A Photologue-adi_0307.jpg

Kyato village on the Kaza - Losar stretch. I think this stretch is one of the most amazingly beautiful drives that you will encounter in your life. Make sure to take a day out for this.

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Photo op for the Jeep.

There were rocks shooting down the slope I was worried that one might just crash into us. But that’s not what got us in the end. It was one of the really jagged ones that slashed the tyre sidewall as I was reversing out.

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The hardest tyre change of my life. Unstable ground. Stuck in a windy pass. Next to a sheer drop of hundreds of meters. Frigid temperatures.
Some stuff got blown out of the boot and into the Spiti river. I had to lay my bags on the side and shut the boot. This one was a little hairy.

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Rock formations carved by the wind.

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Spiti river. What a view!

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An absolute marvel of nature.

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Found some mountain dogs while taking pictures. Like I say, always look out for your kind!

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Further down the Kaza - Manali stretch

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The crowning glory - KunzumLa Alt - 15,000 ft.

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Kunzum Mata parikrama

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Views from the top

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Memories.

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Bijli Mahadev in Kullu District

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View from the temple. That’s Bhuntar airport that serves Manali.

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Next to the Parvati river on the road to Kasol, which was where I had to turn to the plains from.

Fin.

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Old 6th June 2023, 15:36   #5
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Re: Vignettes from Spiti - A Photologue

Taking thread live to Travelogue section.

The landscape pictures and portraits of people are fantastic. Thanks a lot for sharing this fantastic photologue!
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Old 6th June 2023, 22:23   #6
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Re: Vignettes from Spiti - A Photologue

Oh Man the photos are out of the world.Spiti is beautiful but your photos add so much more especially the spiti Girl one.Outstanding.
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Old 7th June 2023, 10:27   #7
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Re: Vignettes from Spiti - A Photologue

Outstanding photography and great narration, the landscapes and portraits speak volumes in itself of the wonderful place on earth this is. Two and half travels already and I felt there will be more from you, you are in love

Your ability to mix subtle humour in narration does catch eye and makes the read great, be it fumes getting past the car or meeting your own kind

You have a great vehicle for conquering all kind of terrains, wish you many more miles and many such trips Rated 5 stars.
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Old 7th June 2023, 10:39   #8
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Re: Vignettes from Spiti - A Photologue

Quote:
Originally Posted by vijayols View Post
Oh Man the photos are out of the world.Spiti is beautiful but your photos add so much more especially the spiti Girl one.Outstanding.
Thank you so much!

Not sure if there is some problem with the image formats or the uploading mechanism, that there is this strong dull-yellow cast on a lot of them.

If you're interested, the original Spiti Girl is on my Insta here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by haisaikat View Post
Outstanding photography and great narration, the landscapes and portraits speak volumes in itself of the wonderful place on earth this is. Two and half travels already and I felt there will be more from you, you are in love

Your ability to mix subtle humour in narration does catch eye and makes the read great, be it fumes getting past the car or meeting your own kind

You have a great vehicle for conquering all kind of terrains, wish you many more miles and many such trips Rated 5 stars.
It's so heartening when someone gets your stabs at humor. Thank you for such generous praise.

And yes, hopefully I'll be back in the barren mountains next year.
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Old 7th June 2023, 11:58   #9
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Re: Vignettes from Spiti - A Photologue

Wonderful Narration with the mindboggling pictures. Spiti is on my Radar for quite sometime now, your travelogue will certainly help in planning BUT my home (Ranikhet) in itself so beautiful that every time I had a vacation, I just want to go there and nowhere else.

Thanks for the lovely perspectives through your photography.
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Old 7th June 2023, 12:45   #10
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Re: Vignettes from Spiti - A Photologue

Beautiful pics, I have done the Spiti trip 3 times in last 10 years. The last one was in 2021. After seeing the pics I can see myself doing it again this year
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Old 7th June 2023, 16:20   #11
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Re: Vignettes from Spiti - A Photologue

Your thread came in just when i was planning a trip to Spiti for last week of June. Terrific shots. You gave me some not to be missed spots. Can you suggest some stay options as well in Kaza, Tabo? Did you drive to Chandra taal as well?

Last edited by saurabh041086 : 7th June 2023 at 16:47.
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Old 7th June 2023, 16:44   #12
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Re: Vignettes from Spiti - A Photologue

Quote:
Originally Posted by saurabh041086 View Post
Your thread came in just when i was planning a trip to Spiti in last week of June. Terrific shots. You gave me some not to be missed spots. Can you suggest some stay options as well in Kaza, Tabo? Did you drive to Chandra taal as well?
Thank you!
Did not do chandrataal. It was just opening up after I did KunzumLa and stay options were iffy.
Deyzor is highly recommended in Kaza. But Iíd seriously recommend putting in another 45 minutes and staying at Thethys Himalayan Den in Chicham.

If your pockets are feeling a bit heavy, Spiti Village Resort is a MUST do. Brilliant place.

Tabo, Iíve forgotten the name of the place, but i anyway wouldnít really recommend. Too much bustle. Same for main Kaza really.
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Old 7th June 2023, 21:00   #13
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Re: Vignettes from Spiti - A Photologue

Quote:
Originally Posted by himalyan_ice View Post
Tethys Himalayan Den in Chicham. Gorgeous homestay.
P.S. That's not alcohol. Just ex-alcohol bottles being re-used as water bottles.

Attachment 2460389

Loft type rooms at Tethys

(Continued...)
I stayed in the same room when I visited Chicham back in July 2021. This was quite unique experience. I hope you met the host Faizullah. Great Guy.
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Old 7th June 2023, 21:44   #14
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Re: Vignettes from Spiti - A Photologue

Quote:
Originally Posted by mttraveler View Post
I stayed in the same room when I visited Chicham back in July 2021. This was quite unique experience. I hope you met the host Faizullah. Great Guy.
Twice over. Faizu's hilarious.

You should try the Snow Leopard room the next time. What fantastic views!
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Old 8th June 2023, 05:40   #15
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Re: Vignettes from Spiti - A Photologue

Thank you Himalyan Ice for the lovely travelogue and beautiful pictures. You seem to specialize in landscape/still life/portraits. Great work indeed!

I traveled to this region back in 1987 in a petrol Mahindra CJ-3B when I was in school. The roads beyond Rampur were all unpaved and it took us forever (one whole day) to reach Tabo from Shimla.

It's time to revisit this beautiful high-altitude desert once again. Hopefully soon. Till then I can always look at these lovely pictures.

Last edited by Vikram Arya : 8th June 2023 at 05:44. Reason: Addition of content
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