Kaza (412 km from Shimla), is situated on the left bank of river Spiti, it is presently the headquarters of Spiti sub-division, perched at an elevation of 3,740 meters (12,500 ft) above mean sea level, is the largest township and commercial center of the valley. The town is overlooked by steep ridges that are permanently covered with snow on their top. Translated, 'Spiti' means the 'middle country' - a name obviously given as a result of its geographical position and ties with both India and Tibet (now China). With speckles of green strewn over a dry, weather-beaten barren face, Spiti is a cold desert where the monsoon rain never comes. It is characterized by stark natural beauty, narrow valleys and high mountains, towering against brilliant blue sky. A century ago, Rudyard Kipling in Kim called Spiti "a world within a world" and a "place where the gods live" - a description that holds true to the present day.
Perched at an altitude higher than Leh - the world's highest Petrol Pump
'The Spiti' Hotel run by HPTDC/ My Ritz parked in front
The Bus stand in Kaza
Market place in Kaza
The Monastery in Kaza
"Hanuman temple' perched on top, behind the Kaza Monastery
Kaza has one of the two Sa-kya-pa sect monasteries. The other monastery is at Hikkim. Rani Damyanti, a descendent of this ruling, family, now resides in Kaza preserving all the stately charm of the yester years. Kaza serves as the basis for excursions in the area and among others. The KI (Key), Hikkim, Komik and Langia monasteries are at hand. Kaza makes an ideal base camp for all treks and tours within the Spiti valley. Tour Guides & operators providing for porters, pack animals and most importantly permits for treks can be accessed in Kaza. There are two rest houses in Kaza proper. The Electricity Board rest house is at Rangrik just 4 km away, besides the HPTDC hotel (The Spiti), other privately run hotels fulfill the needs of the tourists visiting Spiti. The town is divided into the old and new sections. Whereas, the new town contains the administrative buildings and other structures like the telephone exchange, hotel, hospital etc., the old section on the other hand houses the Bus stand, market etc. This otherwise soporific place hums with activity of tourists during summer, who converge here for permits, current exchange, information, accommodation, petrol and to prepare for the treks to famous Lingti valley or Pin Valley National Park & beyond. Bhoti or form of Tibetan is the local dialect spoken by the locals here.
Another view of the Monastery in Kaza
Excursions around Kaza -
The majestic 'Kye Monastery' panoramic view from road below
The entrace to Kye Monastery
Bird's eye view from atop Kyi Monastery, across the Spiti river is Rangrik village
KYI MONASTERY – Perched at an altitude of 13,500 feet, overlooking the Kaza township, Ki Monastery is a thousand-year-old Buddhist gompa, located at a distance of about 12 Kms. from Kaza town. The high passes of Spiti region are blocked by snow for six months of the year, thus the Tibetan culture here has remained intact. The hill-top Ki monastery is the most prominent feature of the Spiti valley. This monastery is an outstanding example of the monastic architecture which developed during the fourteenth century in the wake of the Chinese influence. The monastery was plundered in the middle of the seventeenth century by the Mongols. In the nineteenth century, it again suffered three brutal attacks. The successive trails of destruction and patch-up jobs have resulted in a haphazard growth of box-like structures, and the complex now resembles a defensive fort. Among the other important monasteries in the Spiti valley are an ancient temple at Lha-lun, and another temple complex at Dhankar, which I have already described in detail in my previous post. His Holiness the Dalai Lama performed the Kalachakra initiation ceremony in August, 2000. The monastery is also known for its beautiful murals, thankas, rare manuscripts, stucco images and peculiar wind instruments that form part of the orchestra whenever Chham is enacted in the gompa during the summer. Another interesting aspect of the gompa is its collection of weapons which may have been used to ward off marauders as also to maintain its control over people betraying a church-militant character. However, no photography is allowed within the precincts of the Monastery.
Panoramic view of the Kibber village
Another view from Kibber village
KIBBER - Kibber (Ki village to Kibber – 8 km, 4205 m or 14,200 feet) was till recently the highest permanently inhabited village of the region connected by a motorable road, a distinction that has been taken away by Komic village nearby. This village is fairly big with all amenities available for the locals, including a school. It also acts as the base for several high altitude treks, like upto to the TsoMorariLake in Ladakh. It is 20 km from Kaza. It contains a Kibber monastery (founded by Serkang Rimpochhe of Tabo) and the Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary. The Kibber Sanctuary that lies past the village has blue sheep and ibex and covers an area of 1,400 square kilometers. This road has further touched the village of Gete at 4995m where there were only six living families upto last count.
View of the Spiti River valley en-route to Kibber
Kibber village is housed on a narrow valley summit of a limestone rock. A bus service connects Kibber and Kaza in the milder summer months. Kibber is a rather pleasant village with plenty of cultivation. The moment you get down from the vehicle, you are greeted by lush green fields which look strikingly refreshing against the arid backdrop of lofty hills. Agriculture forms the backbone of the local economy and lush green fields are abundant. Villagers count on the 3 day trekking traditional trade route over Parang La to Ladakh to barter their horses for yaks or to sell for cash. The village has around 100 houses giving a unique view, given that most of the houses are made of stone instead of mud or black coloured brick used extensively elsewhere in the Spiti valley. Just above the village, the summit offers panoramic views of Shilla Peak and Parang La Pass. The Kibber sanctuary also covers the highest peak in Himachal Pradesh, Gya (22,290 ft) in the north and it will touch another high point of Kamelong (19,362 ft) in the south. Kibber Sanctuary is linked with road via Lalung, Langcha and Kibber village.
In the backgrond of the picture is the Langza village on right & Tashigang on left hand side
The Langza Buddha statue
Chocho Khang Nilda (6380m) Peaks
The 'Bharal' or 'Blue sheep' grazing
LANGZA OR LANGCHA – To reach Langza village one has to retreat upto the point form where one started for Kye monastery i.e. diversion on NH-22. Wherefrom, another diversion takes you towards LangzaVillage, passing through some deep ravines and narrow roads and through one of the world’s highest motorable roads. Located at an altitude of 4400 meters or 14,520 feet above mean sea level, it offers one of the most stunning views of the mountains around. While moving upwards, I was engrossed in watching the narrow road ahead, when suddenly my wife spotted some animals on a precipice at some distance. We stopped for a look and were totally ecstatic as we realized that it was a herd of ‘Bharal/Tora’ or ‘Blue sheep’ that were feeding there. I immediately shot some photos using the 300 mm zoom and shall prize the trophy for eternity. This spot is well known to locals and known as Chuling (4073 meters). Located on the highland meadows with snow capped mountain ranges forming the backdrop, the scenic beauty of spot cannot be described in mere words, I was totally spell bound, mesmerized & rendered speech less. The Langza village houses a huge statute of Lord Buddha, that can been spotted from a considerable distance and a monastery called the ‘Lang’, which is more than 1000 years old and said to be abode of all the deities of the region. Just across the village another small village appears on view called the Tashigang village, but the peculiar feature about this village is that although they appear to be placed side by side, to go to Tashigang one has to cross a deep crevasse called ‘Shila Nala’ and takes about 5 hours trekking to reach there. The villageof Langza is famous world over for its shale’s and fossils, dating back in a geological history to an era of 250 million years ago. The fossils of Ammonites, Belemnites etc. emerged from the TethysSea, as the Spiti region was submerged under this ancient sea, but due to collision of the Deccan plateau with Eurasian plate, this place rose to be a high mountain, entrapping the sea lives for eternity, that we now seek out in form of fossils. I did not go to the fossil park or seek assistance from the tour guides, but searched along a small stream side, away from the village and was rewarded with a few trace fossils, whose identity is unknown to me. Chocho Khang Nilda (6380m), translated as “Choco- means Princess/ Khang means Mountain & Nilda means Sun facing”, the third highest peak in Spiti region, stands above the valley and present a stupendous monolith where the boundaries of Ladakh, Spiti and Tibet meet. The meadows here have some grass, but the vegetation is dominated by wild shrub having yellow & purple coloured flowers, locally called the ‘Thama’, which is used as cattle feed. The village is connected by bus service upto Kaza, which we encountered first hand while returning and the driver was so apt at driving the vehicle through the narrow roads that despite being in our car, we lost sight of it within a few minutes.
Trace fossil of possible belemnites found in Langza
Another trace fossil found by me in Langza but I cannot identify it
(All these villages offer facility of home stays, as described by me in the blog featuring Nako)