If you are an intrepid trekker and want to test your nerves in the highly inhospitable terrain and tough climatic conditions of Himachal Pradesh’s Tirthan and Parvati valleys, then a 1,171 sq km Great Himalayan National Park (GNHP) is your calling.
By paying a daily permit fee of Rs 100 per person, you can trek and also stay in inspection huts, some of them of British-era, dotted across the national park that is now a Unesco World Heritage site. For foreigners, the daily fee is Rs 500 per person.
Park authorities say the best time to trek in the park is from April to June and from October to November.
“The park offers moderate to strenuous trekking routes and it is more fit for professionals,” park Director Ajit Thakur told IANS.
He said that every year 1,500-1,600 trekkers, 10 per cent of whom are foreigners mainly from Europe and the US, come for trekking.
The GHNP, which is totally untouched by road network, has four valleys — Tirthan, Sainj, Jiwa Nal and Parvati.
The boundaries of the park are connected to the Pin Valley National Park, the Rupi-Bhawa Wildlife Sanctuary and the Kanawar Wildlife Sanctuary.
More than two dozen trekking routes in the park have been identified and local youths have been trained to assist the trekkers, he said.
Park officials said the treks of the Sainj and Tirthan valleys are quite popular among mountaineers.
It is advisable to hire local porters and guides trained by park authorities, as they are familiar with the local topography and climatic conditions.
Park authorities have fixed rates for the guides. They charge Rs 2,500 per person per day which includes food, porter service and providing camping logistics.
There are 14 inspection huts inside the park where trekkers can camp.
Thakur said for those who don’t want to trudge arduous treks, the eco-zone areas adjacent to the park are the best options.
The eco zone provides a combination of natural and cultural experiences.
The trails in the eco-zone go through villages and offer an opportunity to interact with the villagers and observe their daily activities. The eco-zone contains 160 villages and hamlets.
No permit is required to go into the eco zone, where, on an average, 50,000 tourists come every year.
More than 50 travel agents are based in Sai Ropa, some 65 km from Mandi town, for conducting activities in mountaineering, backpacking, skiing, trekking and rafting.
There is an online booking facility for staying at the park-managed forest rest houses at Sai Ropa and Ropa. These are connected by road.
The trekking period days range from three to 15, depending upon the trek chosen.
Some trekking routes, like crossing the Jiwa Nala-Parvati river and the Pin-Parvati pass, demand excellent physical health and stamina, serious trekking experience and snow walking.
The Jiwa Nala-Parvati river valley 110-km trek is a seven-day hike, crossing the passes at Kandi Galu (3,627 m) and Phangchi Galu (4,636 m).
Likewise, the Pin Parvati pass (5,319 m) trek via Pulga is 90 km long and requires eight days.
The climate is temperate during summer. In winters, there is HIGHER possibility of snow stormsr. Snowfall occurs throughout the park which contains 49 glaciers of varying sizes.
The trek provides the opportunity to spot a wide range of western Himalayan biodiversity.
The park, notified in the year 1999, is home to 203 bird species, including the western tragopan, the Himalayan monal, the koklas, the white-crested kalij and the cheer pheasant.
The famous mammals in the park are the leopard, the Himalayan black bear, the brown bear, the rhesus macaque and various herbivores like the goral – a small antelope, the blue sheep, the musk deer and the Himalayan tahr – a wild goat that lives on the steepest cliffs. These are commonly seen at higher slopes.
The starting point for any trekking route to the park is Kullu town, some 500 km from New Delhi and is accessible by road and air. (IANS)
Enormous mountains, Spotless cold dessert valley, Intriguing culture, loving warmth, beauty sprouting from every quarter, experience a journey of a lifetime with a trip to Spiti valley. Spiti is a cold desert mountain valley – the middle land between India and Tibet. A place that was cut off from the outer world for 30 years has got to be special. The breath-taking views and the untouched natural beauty will make your visit lifetime memorable experience. A visit to Spiti valley is like time travel, you travel and shift to a time and a world unknown. It’s a place where Tibet and India blend beautifully. This protected civilisation had recently been transformed into one of the most relaxing and peaceful tourist destinations of India.
But why Spiti?
Centres of the Buddhist pilgrimage – Monasteries
Spiti is home to many significant centres of the Buddhist pilgrimage. The fascinating part of Spiti is its Gompas and their unique location. Located high up in the mountains these monasteries are away from the civilisation, thus planting a new level of excitement for the tourists. Apart from the many village monasteries, there are 5 major monasteries in Spiti- Kye Monastery, Tangyud Monastery, Dhankar Monastery, Tabo Monastery and Kungri Monastery.
An 800-year-old monastery located in Dhankar village, 25 Km East of Kza, Himachal Pradesh. Buddhist scriptures and paintings embellish the walls of this monastery. The presiding deity of this monastery is the ‘Dhyaan Buddha’ who is also known as ‘Vairocana’.
Located at a summit of a hill at height of 4,166 metres, it is a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery. It is the largest monastery of Spiti valley.
It is located in a Comic village in Spiti valley. This was constructed around the earlier 14th century and belongs to the sect of Sa-Kya-Pa. Tibetan scriptures having 87 volumes called ‘Tang-r-Gyud’ are available in this Gompa.
The post office is shut for almost half a year during snow. Monks in the area receive their postcards from this post office while the farmers maintain their savings account there.
You can reach the post office in two ways- first, hiring a taxi. The other is boarding a bus, but this bus runs twice a week, so check the schedule before you go.
Serene Beauties- The lakes of Spiti
Adding embellishments to the crown of Spiti, these high-altitude lakes would provide you with an experience like never before. You have to trek your way to the lakes due to their high altitude. Chandrataal, Suraj Tal and Dhankar are the main lakes of Spiti but Chandratal is the shining star of Spiti.
Camping at Chandrataal under the star-studded sky might turn out to be one of the best experiences of your life. Chandrataal is loved by the tourists. The colours of the lake are best seen when the sun has risen. The valley that leads to the lake is full of flowers and peace. Just one sight at the lake will take away all the tiredness you gathered from the trekking.
The Surajtaallake is also a beautiful lake, not many people know of it. It’s the third highest lake in the country. It is a sacred water body and merges with Chandratal down the hill.
Drown in the culture with the Homestays in Spiti
Some Spitian families in the higher and remote villages like Komic, Langza, Kibber, Demul, Lhalung, Dhankar and Hikkim open up their hearts and homes to the travellers.
One can get to know so much about their culture just by living with a Spitian family. Homestays also let you understand the basic aspects of the life of a Spitian like the living conditions in a remote area, what do they eat, what do they do during the house arrest they have to face during the harsh winters. The houses are roomy and spacious with the balconies providing the view of the mighty Himalayas.
Sounds scary? Well, it isn’t. In 1975, an earthquake in the Northern region opened a tomb containing the mummified body of a monk named Sangha Tenzin. The mummy was found inside a tomb at Ghuen village in the cold and remote Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh.
Though the mummy is 500 years old, it is well preserved with skin and the hair on the head intact. The surprising part is that the mummification of the monk’s body is completely natural and no chemicals were used He died with a rope tied around his neck and his legs, which is an esoteric practice recorded in a few Buddhist documentaries. It’s due to the rope that he was in the same position even after his death.
The mummy is on display in temple Gue, which is about 20 miles from where he was excavated, in the stae of Himachal Pradesh in India, bordering Tibet. The mummy rests in a concrete box, unlike the artificial mummification where several layers of glass are used to preserve the mummy. This is a natural wonder which everyone would love to see.
Along with these, Spiti valley provides you with a chance for the journey to the highest motorable village-Komic at 15,027 feet. Moreover, the trip would also provide you peace at the quaint villages of Spiti. They are refreshing and a lot more peaceful as compared to the noise and pollution we have to face in the cities. The view and location of each village is a sight to behold.
How to reach the Spiti valley?
There are two ways to reach this beautiful place, one via the Shimla route and the other via Manali route having two passes Kumuzum La and Rohtang.
Manali route is preferred more by the tourists as for starters, The Manali route is shorter (201 km) as compared to the Shimla route (450 Km).
Moreover, Spiti is more accessible from the Manali route as there are daily buses while from the Shimla route the buses run not so frequently and buying passes can be hectic as well.
If you are fascinated by travelling through high passes then the Manali route is the one for you. But the altitude escalates quickly in the Manali route and thus, you’d have less time to get settled and can suffer from AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). The Shimla route gains altitude gradually giving you time to acclimatize.
However, both the routes are equally tiring as there are unpaved roads and roadblocks ahead.
For the Manali route:
it is advisable to take a break at Kullu, spend a day
then follow the road ahead.
As it is very difficult to get a seat on the bus to from Manali, it is advisable to board a shared cab to Kaza, though expensive but comfortable.
For the Shimla route,
it is advisable to board a bus from ReckongPeo to Kaza.
An early morning bus should be preferred. Make sure you stand in line early in the morning to avoid the hustle in the evening.
Spiti valley is more about the journey, it’s truly exciting.
Some tips for your visit to be hassle free
There is no network connectivity in the Spiti valley, only BSNL postpaid cards work here. Sometimes Airtel too. It’s beneficial to download the map of Spiti valley beforehand.
As Kaza is the headquarters of Spiti, it’s the only place that has fuel stations, cyber café and mobile networks. And it’s the only place you’ll find ATM. It is advisable to carry enough cash from Manali and keep this ATM as the last option. Also, the fuel station is only open till 5 PM.
Foreign tourists need to register with ITBP prior to their visit.
Best time to visit Spiti valley
The best time to visit is during June-September when there are no frozen paths and it’s all beautiful and lovely.
Spiti is harsh during winters as the temperature drops to -30-degree Celcius. The roads start clearing up during May-June and according to the residents there, July-August is the best time to visit the beauty.
“A world within a world” is how Rudyard Kipling quoted Spiti valley.
It’s unlike all the travel destinations. Spiti is about happiness, beauty and peace. It’s about that retreat away from technology that you read in online posts, It’s an experience with raw life without the modern ease of access. It’s about quietness you can’t get in your city. So, in this year of long weekends, take some time for yourself, pack your bags, and go for a date with nature. I can assure you,you will not be disappointed!