The roads here in the mountains are crazy! Imagine a sheer, steep rock face almost 1000 meters high – and in the middle of it there is the road. It’s unbelievable what effort it must have been to build these, and as they are high in the mountains, every once in a while, especially during the winter, there is a landslide, making it even narrower and more precipitous. And so workers are repairing the roads almost constantly. Riding the local buses for hours on these roads is a shaky experience, with the driver occasionally showing his confidence by texting in the middle of sharp turns.
I went first to Chitkul, a village at the end of the road in the Kinnaur district, some 3450 meters high. It’s still mostly unspoiled by tourism – there are just a few tiny shops and basic guesthouses (although more are unfortunately being built). During the 5 days I stayed there I did some great hiking in the valleys around. There are some trails and stone huts used by the local shepherds. Curiously, on a birch tree tilting over a steep cliff, there were quite a lot of dry leaves and grass, as if someone slept there at night – maybe to protect themselves against wolves who live around?
The Kinnauri people wear traditional green hats all time and follow a mixture of Hinduism and Buddhism. Foreigners unfortunately can’t go inside the temples, but I at least happened to chance on a ceremony when they were taking the deities out. Some friendly locals have tried to explain it to me, which is always tricky, with their bad English and my almost non-existent Hindi. They were for example happy when I at least put on my wide brimmed hat, as one shouldn’t have uncovered head.
Two days ago I took some more buses to come to Nako (at 3650 meters), still not a too touristy place which is already in Spiti. The local stone houses and buddhist temples are really beautiful – and old. A while ago I sit at a puja (ceremony) in a 950 years old temple (as all here, in the style of Tibetan buddhism)! There are really lots of temples, stupas, and mani walls for such a small village. Today I also visited another old one, which sits at the top of a hill. The door to the shrine was locked, but the key was conveniently just under the rug, so I managed to have a look (buddhists have nothing against people visiting the temples).
And I’ve been meeting many people, both nice tourists (with some of whom I went on some hikes) and not-so-nice groups of tourists (often from Israel, travelling after the end of their military service), for whom travelling can’t be too different from just being in their country. And of course many locals. But all this has to wait for some other time, several Indians are loudly talking behind me in the internet cafe, not very aiding sensible writing :)