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SPITI- LUNAR LANDSCAPE


SPITI- LUNAR LANDSCAPE
Photo Information
Copyright: Ankit Sood (Sood_Ankit) Silver Note Writer [C: 0 W: 0 N: 12] (69)
Genre: Landscapes
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2007-05-11
Categories: Mountain
Photo Version: Original Version
Date Submitted: 2008-03-11 9:01
Viewed: 3971
Points: 0
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
HOMESTAYS OF SPITI- THE FORBIDDEN LAND

Discover Spiti’s Delicate Configurations Day 1: Kaza to Langza

Mode of Transport: Taxi/Bus
Duration: 1 Hour
Kaza: 3686 mts
Langza: 4400 mts

Travel to Langza from Kaza involves a journey on one of the world’s highest motorable roads. The road traverses along the mountain side above Kaza wherefrom the traveller gets a spectacular view of the meandering Spiti River, its tributaries and villages between Kewling and Hull. Opposite this mountain is the Kwang range. Views include the Nakedh Mountain. The route gradually snakes into the Shila Valley, where the traveller gets the first view of the Chocho Khang Namo mountain (5964mts), [translation: Chocho=princess, Khang=mountain, Namo=black]. Enroute is Chuling (4073mts) where blue sheep (bharal or tora) graze frequently. Other possible wildlife sightings include the Himalayan Red Fox. Shortly, the Chocho Khang Nilda (6380mts) [translation: Chocho=princess, Khang=mountain, Nilda= sun facing] spirals into view. The road enters the grazing lands of the Langza village at a place known as Kitzi lungpa (4226mts) where the vegetation is dominated by Thama – a wild shrub used as cattle feed. Langza village is divided into the lower village (Langza Yogma) and upper village (Langza Gogma). At the top of Langza Gogma is the Lang (village temple), a 600 year old Buddhist temple. Travel upto this point from Kaza involves an ascent of 714mts.

Accommodation:
Homestays – enjoy a clean and comfortable sojourn in a Spitian house, with the opportunity to savour the local cuisine besides experiencing the traditional lifestyle.

Places to visit:
Local guides (available within the village) will be required for most of these excursions.
1. The Langza Lang (temple): The Lang (4422mts) is considered to be the abode of the devtas or deities of the region and is said to be over a 1000 years old. The first devta to reside in this region was Shhoikyong or Pekhar Gyavo, who is also the head. According to the local legend he came from a temple in Tibet called Samtong. The Lang is one of the three such ancient temples in Spiti, the other two being at Lhalung and Lari (now decrepit). This Lang has an old and new section. The old section has ancient frescos and thankas (paintings on silken canvasas) of Buddhist paintings. Local guides can provide an informative tour of this Lang and its history.
2. Tashigang: Tashigang is a small village visible on the range running parallel to Langza. Trek to Tashigang involves a 5 hour long descent to the Shila nallah, a tributary of the Spiti River. On the tributary there is a traditional water mill (Gharaat) used by the villagers for grinding barley. Thereupon a steep ascent lasting another 3 hours precedes arrival to the small village of Tashigang. This route is ideal for spotting the local fauna, especially the Snow Leopard. Local guides organise treks up to Tashigang.
3. Langza’s Fossil Centre: The Spiti Valley was formed as a result of the collision of the Indian and the Eurasian plate millions of years ago which led to the disappearance of the ancient Tethys Sea leaving behind fossilised clues of the sea life of that era. The route to the natural fossil centre starts from the Lang (temple) at Langza, from where it is about a half hour walk to its base. The fossil centre ranges from an average altitude of 4400 mts to 4600 mts along a narrow stream and is best explored here. It might seem extremely tempting to pick up a few of these geological relics, however, kindly refrain from depriving Spiti of its natural heritage. The services of a local guide must be availed for a visit to the Fossil centre.
4. Chocho Khang Nilda(6380 mts) Base camp: This is the third highest peak in Spiti at an altitude of 6380 mts. The peak is snow bound and trekking up to it is a serious affair requiring technical equipment. The locals organise trekking only upto the base camp sites. Equipment will have to be organised at Kaza through CATTS or the local travel agents since it will not be available at Langza.
5. Tsonyeti Lake Camping Site: Branching left from the Fossil centre, about an hour’s walk away, north of Langza is the Tsonyeti Lake, a small pond really, which is visited in July and August by migratory ducks. This is a good camping site located at a height of 4526mts.
6. Chumo Tso (Lake- 4619 mts): This lake is larger than the Tsonyeti located at an altitude of 4619m. It is also visited by migratory ducks in July and August. This makes a perfect camping site with its spectacular view of the Chocho Khang Nilda and Chocho Khang Namo.


Day 2: Langza to Komik

Mode of Transport: Foot
Duration: 5 to 6 Hours
Langza: 4400mts
Komik: 4513mts

The trek from Langza to Komic begins from the Lang (Temple) at Langza. This trek runs through the natural fossil centre and a substantial distance is covered while exploring this ancient heritage. This could take anywhere from 2 to 3 hours. As the fossil centre culminates, the trek continues with a gradual ascent along a ridge for another 1 hour. Thereafter, a 2 hour decent brings one to Komic village. The services of a guide from Langza will have to be availed to go via the fossil centre.

Legend:
The legend as per the sacred ‘Gum Maro’ (Red Box) kept in the Komic Monastery goes that it was foretold in Tibet that a Monastery would be built in Spiti. The Monastery was to be built in the backdrop of a mountain which would be in the shape of a snow lion on the left and a beheaded eagle on the right hand side with 4 springs in the vicinity. The area in between these mountains was to be in the shape of the eye of a snow cock, which was foretold as the exact location where the Monastery would be built. On the basis of this, the area was to be named Komic (‘Ko’ – Snow Cock, ‘Mic’ – Eye).

Accommodation:
Homestays – enjoy a clean and comfortable sojourn in a Spitian house, with the opportunity to savour the local cuisine besides experiencing the traditional lifestyle.

Places to visit:
Local guides (available within the village) will be required for most of these excursions.
1. Komik Monastery: The Komic Lundup Tsemo Gonpa (Monastery) is one of the world’s highest at 4587mts. Komik Gonpa was earlier located near Hikkim and had to be shifted to its present location after an earthquake destroyed the earlier Gonpa. The Gonpa is well maintained and the local lamas (monks) can provide a guided tour.
2. Kum Kum Cave: a short jaunt (1.5 to 2 hours) from the village brings one to the kum kum cave, a meditation retreat for the lamas (monks) of the Monastery. Bharals (Blue Sheep) are the frequent visitors of this area and usually make for easy sighting.
3. A visit to the ruins of the old Sakyapa Monastery about a 3 hour walk from Komic. The legend goes that it was foretold in Tibet that there would be 3 streams meeting at a point above which there would be a mountain in the shape of a heart, where the current monastery should be placed. The paradox of this monastery is that even though there were 3 streams flowing in the vicinity, yet the Monastery was abandoned due to water scarcity after an earthquake. As per local folklore it is said that the presiding deity “Maha kala” of the Monastery had blessed 6 Bharals ( blue sheep) which live in the vicinity of the Monastery till date. The fortunate may well be blessed with the sightings of these creatures.


Day 3: Komic to Demul

Duration: 6 to 7 Hours
Komic: 4513mts
Demul: 4357mts

It is advisable to start this day early (7.00 am). The route stretches eastwards over the grazing lands of the Spitian highlands along the Pasham Range. Adequate snowfall in the winters transforms this frost bitten cold desert landscape into a lush green carpet of diverse flora. A slow ascent from Komic village lasting about 1 hour 30 minutes brings one to Chamai Lapchai (4717 mts), the first pass en-route to Demul. From here one gets a panoramic view of various peaks such as Cho-Cho Khang Namo, Cho-Cho Khang Nilda, Pin peak, Pasham range, Cho-Kula, Hull peak, etc. Here one also encounters herds of livestock brought up from the villages for grazing on these rich and nutritious pasturelands. The snow cock, although an elusive bird, can be sighted in this area. From the Chamai Lapchai a gradual walk of about 3 hours, with an abundance of medicinal plants and other flora of the Spitian Highlands, brings one to the grazing lands of Demul village. En-route a place called Faisa Dunggo (4674mts) is an ideal location to get a look at various medicinal plants such as Chey (Somlata), Bursay, Patish, Thama, etc. Wildlife such as the Tibetan Wolf, Red Fox and the Snow Cock can also be sighted here. A temporary settlement called Doksa, made by the villagers for the purpose of grazing their livestock is an ideal halt for a quick bite of lunch. Just before the Doksa is a place called Chomali Tanka, which is an ideal location for camping with a vast open area, also used at times for horse riding. Thereafter an ascent of about 1 hour brings one to the Young Lapchai (4717mts), which is one of the highest passes while trekking within Spiti. From here one gets a panoramic view of Cho_Cho Khang Nilda, Manirang (the second highest peak of Spiti rising to an altitude of 6593mts), Yulsa, Cho Kula, Hull peak, Shishu Pang, Pin peak and the Pasham range. A steep descent of about 30 minutes brings one to the entrance of Demul village which is adorned by Mane walls (stones intricately carved with religious prayers) called Ma Dhang Ringbo (4475mts). As per local custom one should always circumvent them clockwise. From here another descent of about 30 minutes through the fields of barley and peas brings you to the village of Demul situated at an altitude of 4357mts.

Accommodation:
Homestays – enjoy a clean and comfortable sojourn in a Spitian house, with the opportunity to savour the local cuisine besides experiencing the traditional lifestyle.

Places to visit:
Local guides (available within the village) will be required for most of these excursions.
1. Mulchay (Pasture Lands) Duration- 8 Hours: An ideal location for sighting wildlife as well as the local cattle. The walk from the village lasts about 3 to 4 hours and one gets the opportunity to see a variety of flora and fauna. This area is ideal for sightings of the Blue Sheep, Tibetan Wolf, Red Fox, besides the local cattle.
2. Balaari Top (Total duration- 5 Hours): A 3 hour walk to Balaari top is worthwhile for anyone who wishes to have a bird’s eye view of the Spiti valley. This walk is a continuous and gradual climb to the top and subsequently a continuous descent back to the village. From this particular point one can see 18 villages of Spiti, the maximum number visible from any point in the entire valley. One also gets a spectacular view of various peaks such as Cho-Kula, Manirang, etc. This trek is best enjoyed on a Yak and if a Yak is not available a horse is also a good option.
3. Yulsa – This mountain has great religious significance for the inhabitants of Demul village. A Shivling adorns the top of this mountain and each year the villagers go to the top of this mountain to pour milk on it. The villagers go to pay oblations twice a year. As per their local custom first the men will go and then the women. From the village Yulsa top is about a 3 hour climb.
4. Langs (temples) – Demul village is adorned by two langs (temples). These are not as spectacular as the ones you find in the rest of the Spiti valley, though worth a visit. The Langs are situated within the village.
5. Zong phu (cave) - Immediately out of the village en-route to Lhalung, is the Zong phu which is about a 20 minute walk from Demul. This cave was used by the inhabitants of Demul as their post and also a safe hideout during attacks from outside, primarily from Lhalung.


Day 4: Demul to Lhalung

Duration: 4 to 5 Hours
Demul: 4357mts
Lhalung: 3758mts

Early mornings in Spiti are the appropriate time to start any walks. From Demul to Lhalung is a relatively easier trek with a steep initial descent through a narrow gorge lasting about 2 hours to the valley floor. Immediately out of Demul is the Zong phu which is about a 20 minute walk from the village. This cave was used by the inhabitants of Demul as their post and also a safe hideout during attacks from outside, primarily from Lhalung. The steep descent continues till the valley floor of the Padang river. From here on another 30 minute walk brings you to the quaint little hamlet of Sanglung (3612 mts). This village is ideal to take a quick lunch break amidst the green fields of barley and peas. From Sanglung you enter the Lingti valley and a gradual walk lasting about 1 hour will bring you to the bed of the Lingti River. The Samba (bridge), at an altitude of 3576 mts connecting Lhalung village to Sanglung has a local deity (by the name of Yulsa) resides here. It is a local custom to pay your regards by offering some food or drinks to the deity. Thereafter a steep ascent of about 1 hour will get you to the village of Lhalung. This entire stretch is full of diverse flora such as the wild rose, Seabuckthorn (Hippophae Rhamonides), Umboo (Myricaria Squamosa), juniperus macropoda, Ephedra Gerardiana, Arnebia Benthami, etc. The entry to the village is adorned by a line of Seabuckthorn trees on the edges of the fields.




Legend:
The name Lhalung literally means ‘Land of the Gods’ (Lha- Devtas (deities), Lung- Area). It is said that the Lhalung Devta is the head of all the Devtas of the Lingti Valley and is said to emerge from the Tangmar mountain located beyond the village in the Lingti valley. It is said that this mountain changes colour from time to time depicting the various moods (anger (red), happiness (yellow), etc) of the Devtas.

Accommodation:
Homestays – enjoy a clean and comfortable sojourn in a Spitian house, with the opportunity to savour the local cuisine besides experiencing the traditional lifestyle.

Places to visit:
Local guides (available within the village) will be required for most of these excursions.
1. The Sarkhang (temple) – 3779 mts: This is one of the oldest temples in Spiti and is said to be more than a 1000 years old. According to legend, Lotsawa Rinchen Zangbo came here more than a thousand years ago and planted a willow tree, stating that if this tree would survive till the next year, a temple should be constructed in this location. The temple was said to have been constructed by the Devtas (deities) in a single night. The courtyard of the temple is still adorned by the same tree, planted more than 1000 years ago. The temple also has a tunnel which runs around it, meant for circumventing the temple clockwise according to the local custom. This tunnel had various paintings most of which have now completely disappeared due to lack of any maintenance. Outside the temple, is the Lang Karpo (Literally meaning ‘White Temple’), which has a statue of the Buddha sitting in all four directions, also said to have been built at the same time as the temple.
2. Cho Kula: This mountain is supposed to have a deity residing in it and hence holds great importance for the local people. Although the villagers have scaled the peak, there is no official record of its height.


Day 4: Lhalung to Dhankhar

Duration: 4 to 5 Hours
Lhalung: 3758m
Dhankhar: 3890 mts

The trek from Lhalung to Dhankhar is another relatively easy trek. The trek runs along the road and then gradually climbs up the hillside towards the direction of Dhankhar. After crossing over the ridge, the rock and mud pillars of Dhankhar come into view. A gradual decent brings one to the remains of the Dhankhar fort.

Legend:
Dhankhar originally called Dhakkhar (Dhak- Cliff, Khar- Palace), literally means ‘Palace on a cliff’. Dhankhar was the earlier capital of Spiti and was adorned by a stunningly unique and precariously balanced fort.

Places to Visit:
Local guides (available within the village) will be required for most of these excursions.
1. Dhankhar Fort - The remains of the fort are placed at the top of the village and give a panoramic birds’ eye view of the Spiti and Pin valleys below.
2. Dhankhar Gonpa (Old Monastery): Traditionally known as the Dhankhar Lauot Gonpa, it is believed to be the first monastery built in Spiti and as per the local legend it will be the last to fall. This monastery belongs to the Gelukpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism.
3. Dhankhar Monastery (New): The new monastery is located at the entrance of Dhankhar village.
4. Rural Museum: The museum houses some of the rare artefacts of Spiti, primarily donated by the villagers and the Monastery, some of which date back to almost a 1000 years.
5. Dhankhar Lake (4517 mts): The Dhankhar lake, a 1 hour 30 minutes steep climb from the village has a spectacular setting with its turquoise blue waters in the backdrop of the Spitian mountains. The lake is also frequented by the local fauna and if fortunate one can easily sight various birds and mammals of this region.
6. Cho Kula Peak: This mountain is supposed to have a deity residing in it and hence holds great importance for the local people. Although the villagers have scaled the peak, there is no official record of its height. This steep ascent could take anything between 8-9 hours and is advisable to do it as a two day trek.
7. Gung Chhumik (Meditation Centre): This meditation centre inhabited by a nun is 4 hours from Dhankhar village. A moderate walk of about 3 hours brings one to a place called Landupdeen and thereafter a steep ascent of another 1 hour brings you to Gung Chhumik.

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