Difficulty level: easy to moderate
Number of days: 6
Route: Poh(3280 mts.) to Kaza via Dhankar (3640 mts.), Lhalung (3620 mts.), Demul (4234 mts.), Komik (4275 mts.), Langza (4224 mts.).
Reaching the base of the trek: the best option would be to start the trek from Poh, though it can be done the other way round also. Take NH 22 from Shimla to Reckong Peo. Reckong Peo can be the night halt on this route. From there take the SH to Tabo via Yangthang, Nako, Chango, Sumdo and Hoorling. From Tabo, Poh is another 8 kms towards Kaza.
Day 1- Poh to Dhankar (Oct 8, 2008): Poh was the starting point of our trek (barely half an hour’s drive from Tabo). After spending enough precious time salivating in front of the PWD guest house in Poh for its location and scenic beauty, we began our long walk through Spiti with our 3 local friends (guide, donkey and donkey-man). After walking along the road for a good hour, covering Poh maidan, the climb tilted towards the right along a small bus stop. The ascent took us to Gamchamik (a 2 house hamlet) and further onto Londupdin. We took some time off at this midpoint on the day’s walk, and pampered ourselves with a short nap after lunch and tea. Things were going quite leisurely until we reached Nipti nallah after 30 minutes of walking. The route down into the nullah (ravine) and climb thereafter, were shown to us for a couple of times by the guide but in vain! We couldn’t see any route! With help from the guide we got out of it unscathed though, only to be warned of another more dangerous nullah ahead. And after crossing Paldang meadow, Nurpur village (1 house village), Checham (dry lake), there it was; Kharok nullah. It took some time for the guide to make the route at least crossable. And once we crossed it, there weren’t any more surprises for the day. After passing a Khorumchmik (sweet spring), we were onto the link road to Dhankar monastery (1.5 km to the monastery guest house).
Trekking time for the day: 8 hours
Day 2- Dhankar to Lhalung (Oct 9, 2008): The day began early, not because we had to leave early but for the simple reason that we had no more sleep left in us, considering that in Spiti people go to sleep no later than 10 in the night. So we had ample time to get ready, even more to get done with the breakfast, before setting off on foot at 9.30 am. The day’s trek was supposed to be a leisurely one, welcomed by everyone after a hectic first day’s walk. So we spent a good hour visiting the world famous Dhankar monastery and exploring the old village atop the monastery. Dhankar used to be the capital of the kingdom of Spiti at one point in time, fittingly enough, as its location commands a splendid view of the wide expanse of the valley below. A small part of the old fort is still in place, especially the part where the sentry used to sit to communicate or look out for any message from other posts through the fire torch. The trek, to begin with, was mostly along the Dhankar-Lhalung link road. Though the link road is also an option, the shorter route, a small trail diverting after half an hour’s walk on the road towards right, reaches Lhalung much faster. An hour’s climb on the trail, not a painful one by any means, leads to Chok Chokla, mid-point between Dhankar and Lhalung, where the locals take a break on their trip towards Lhalung. There’s a small pasture land near Chok Chokla called Tharpoley (with 2 uninhabited houses). The last leg of the trek route again falls back on the link road, which lasts for about an hour. This stretch is pretty exciting compared to the much banal initial part. There’s a spring, Chhubu, on the way. The icy cold water was quite refreshing in contrast to the soaring temperatures during the day in lower parts of the valleys across Spiti. Just ahead of the Chhubu spring, the village of Demul (next day night stop), could be seen perched on the top of the mountain across the Lingti valley on the left. It seemed quite improbable that anything, forget about people, could reach that place through what our guide suggested was the route next day! The guide was quick enough to divert our gaze, from the route to Demul (rather than Demul itself), to the Rama village down the valley on the banks of the Lingti river. It wasn’t much of a walk from there before the village of Lhalung was in view.
While in Lhalung, a visit to the monastery is a must. Golden temple, or Sarkhang monastery, overlooking the entire village is considered quite old. It’s said that Losarvar Rinpoche ordered of the construction of 108 monasteries, spread across the world, in a single day. Sarkhang monastery is one of them.
Trekking time for the day: 3 hours
Day 3- Lhalung to Demul (Oct 10, 2008): This day was going to be tough. Our struggle began at 9.20 after a relatively heavy breakfast of aloo paranthas. After almost 90 minutes of level walking, crossing 2 bridges and a 2-3 houses’ village Sanglung, we were there to face it: a steep incline, at places even at 60 degrees disappearing into the sky. The ascent seemed to continue forever. Breaks of a couple of minutes were taken after climbs of equal duration! Even the best of trekking shoes, failed to dispel ominous thoughts of a tiny slip and a disastrous fall into the valley below. We had lunch, hard to remember when. And the walk continued without any respite from the incline. Finally, on spotting a stupa, we thought that was it. Though the stupa marked an entry point into the village, it was more of hardship as reaching our homestay took us another good 20-30 minutes of slogging through the curves and narrow lanes of the village.
Demul is an amazing place to spend an extra day at. Wish we had known this previously. Its amazing location makes it the place of captivating views. Manerang and Kamelang peaks above Lhalung, lesser known peaks above the ridge emerging from Chau Chau Kang Nelda towards the east, and a sea of green rolling pastures above Demul make this an idyll place to lose yourself.
Trekking time for the day: 5 hours
Day 4- Demul to Komik (Oct 11, 2008): The trek began with a visit to the Demul monastery. It’s a relatively newly built one, considering that this village in itself came into existence recently. The village was supposedly shifted from its earlier location, further into the Lingti valley, to the present one due to better land quality here. The guide brought to our notice that the monastery here has paintings of Buddha’s life from birth till death on its walls, which are said to be unique to this monastery. So the trek began around 9.40 and was supposed to be continuously uphill through the meadows of Demul for an hour and half. It took us good two hours to reach the top while battling headache due to high altitude all the way. The top point, Yanglapche, at an altitude of roughly 4600 metres was the highest point on our trek route according to our guide. It’s from here that Chau Chau Kang Nelda is clearly visible. The walk downhill took some more concentrated efforts as the entire walk down the ridge was full of snow and hence, slippery. After this, the path was a good mix of level walk, ascent and descent, with nothing of too much or too less. Finally the route intersected the link road from Demul to Komik. The stretch thereafter is particularly very pretty as the road runs above the Chame pasture land on the left. It is especially considered a safe haven for Bharal or blue sheep. And we did come across a heard of around 12-15 of these pretty animals grazing. Once we crossed the semi circular stretch of the link road covering Chame meadow, the road curves towards right into another valley presenting the first views of the Tanguid monastery (4380 mts.), above the village of Komik. And so began a tussle to reach the village over ‘small humps’ of landmass, seemingly small from a distance but grossly underestimated. After an increasingly irritating “ups and downs” session over these “humps” we finally made it to the fields outside the village and the view of the highest inhabited village in the world was an incredible sight.
Trekking time for the day: 6 hours
Day 5- Komik to Langza (Oct 12, 2008): We had the easiest of days ahead for us. And so the day began with a visit to the Tanguid monastery. Women are not allowed in the prayer room of the old building, though the new one is open to all. New monastery complexes in Spiti stand quite different from the old counterparts. The prayer rooms are huge, huge enough to hold at the least 5o people as opposed to old ones which can accommodate barely a dozen monks, apart from being dark, and a bit claustrophobic for some. So we started on the link road to Langza around 10.30. Most of the walk was on the link road only with slight diversions here and there to cut short the distance further. It took us only 2.5 hours to reach Langza! Langza is a very pretty village. Not as big as Demul in terms of population (we could notice only 8-10 houses) but far prettier in its setting, so much so that it reminded us of Ladakh instantly. We had a good free time at our disposal which was spent splendidly by basking under the sun on the roof of our homestay. Later in the day we paid visit to the stupa here and a newly built Budhha statue (around 40-50 feet high). The location of the Budhha, overlooking the valley at Kaza below and the ranges on the opposite side of the river Spiti, made for a fabulous photography subject and kept us busy for a fairly long time.
Trekking time for the day: 2.5 hours
Day 6- Langza to Kaza (Oct 13, 2008): The route was simple, following the road downwards to Kaza, mostly metalled and unlike the link roads. Nonetheless it was pretty owing to the wide Spiti valley below and the Spiti river itself. The river, broken into a number of parts, meandering through the flat river bed added a magical touch to the route. Just to be more adventurous, we took a small trail off the road, which cuts straight across the mountain, down to Kaza, instead of the road which takes an unlimited number of hair pin bends. The route was unexpectedly treacherous, just like the Nipti nullah on the first day, according to the guide. The week before we arrived in Spiti, this region had witnessed one of worst climactic conditions in last few years. Access roads were closed, very unlikely in summers, for a complete fortnight. Broken and run down routes were all due to this phenomenon. We continued on the path, whatever there was of it, and avoided looking down, thanks to the sheer drop into the valley. When even the donkey refused to budge from one of his positions on “where is the foothold space”, we knew how risky it was. But we had 2 of the best people in this business to help us out. In the end, it was an experience that none of us can forget for a long time to come.
Trekking time for the day: 2.25 hours
To know about warm and welcoming homestays in Spiti, which is the best way to see the valley, follow this link for a story by padmaparna ghosh, who was a part of our trekking team.