Himalaya · Kinnaur · Photography · Travel Writing

A very apple morning to you


Kalpa is a flower and fruit garden

The outcome of gadding about in the high Himalayas is such that not only it pleases the eye, but also soothes the body and the mind. One sleeps Carefree and wakes up excited, without the assistance of mechanical contraptions such as alarm clocks. Hence, on the morning of second of May, I woke up as the sun rose. I stepped outside in the balcony to look at sun lit peaks as below.

There were birds chirping as this short video I recorded – stepping out of my room and into the balcony, should tell you –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=manABUqRaeg

I was dressed and ready to go shortly after seven in the AM – just as the extended Negi family was ready to spray pesticide in their orchard

Did I tell you that Kalpa is heaven? It is full of fruit bearing trees and early in the month of May was the perfect time to witness flowering of many species – This handsome tree with the lovely white and red flowers (close up in second photo below) is called ‘chuli’ by locals. I was lucky to be there at the right time as it was peak flowering season for this tree that grows in the Himalayas.

I gathered from conversation with these women (below) that it is a kind of apricot that grows wild. The fruits are dried and used to make liquor but the most useful part of the tree is the nut that comes out of the seed as it is pressed to extract oil.

Regular apricot trees (as I was told – I suspect some communication gap here) were in bloom – again, the flowers were pretty.

The culture of Kalpa is harmoniously Hindu and Buddhist. The main temple of Kalpa is Hindu but near that is a Buddhist temple as well and it has its own following as well is an attraction for tourists. From under a tree I could see the town centre.

Shortly after this tree was an orchard of Nashpati (a kind of pear), and it was in full bloom as well.

En route, I greeted everyone I met with a chirpy bright – Namaste ji and was returned the same with a smile. As the road descended towards the town centre, on my right was a reminder that while Kalpa is heaven, its denizens have to work very hard for a living. In this impossibly small patch (I reckon 15 meters wide here and about fifty meters long), a man is tilling with the intent to plant some red kidney beans. The perennials are the apple trees.

I continued onwards and stopped at a tea-shop that had absolutely no customers at all then. The shop itself had innards so soot laden that had it not been for my desire for the day’s first cuppa, I would have passed. Anyways, the owner was a real gent and understood my requests for low sugar, strong tea. All food this early in the season is on order and he had no customers other than me, there was nothing for breakfast save a few packets of biscuits.

I went till the other bend where the shops, etc. end – on the left is a narrow lane rising steeply up the hill and opposite that was a bus stand. It was here that I met the proprietor of hotel Aucktong, one of the hotels recommended in a few guide books. His name is Shyamal Debnath and he was quite helpful and I was able to figure out that I will get a bus direct to Chitkul from Kalpa itself the next morning. The bus should leave around 8 from this bus stand and will pass by Vishaal guest house. With that information, I was free to continue my exploration of Kalpa for the remainder of the day.

Returning back to the tea shop, on the left was the turn for the temples – a Buddhist one first and another, Hindu after that. As I walked down a narrow alleyway with typical himachali construction of houses lining either side, I arrived at a paved area (on the back of a couple houses) that was used by locals for sunning their dhurries (flat-weaves).

A handsome local (species called Gaddi) dog was also enjoying the sunlight.

Minutes later, momentarily stopping to return the ball of a group of local schoolboys playing cricket, I was at the Buddhist temple of Kalpa. In front are a number of prayer wheels that turn on their own with the help of katoris (steel bowls) that act as wind catchers. There is a small chorten as well.

At first glance the Buddhist temple didn’t appear to be of any great significance, probably because it was closed.

However, fiddling with the grill door proved useful and I admitted myself into a dark ante-chamber that housed some thangkas and a wrathful deity of Tibetan (Vajrayana) Buddhism.

Continuing further inside, the main chamber was devoid of people but beautifully decorated with colored flags and lamps hanging from the ceiling. The main altar had three deities – I reckon the right was padmasambhava (Rinpoche), in the centre should be Sakyamuni and the left Amitayus.

There was an overwhelming sense of calm – as no one was around. On the altar flickered a lamp and there were ritual offerings (the white discs are made of dough). The smell of incense filled the air and sunlight streamed through the ventilation shafts just under the altar.

However, the most arresting feature of the entire temple had to be a little statue – no more than eight inches perhaps of a seated padmasambhava. It was made of cast brass and shone like gold! To top that, it was surrounded by offerings of apples red and golden and it gazed at those with his mystic smile.

As there was no one around to tell me any details of what was what, I showed myself the door and wore my shoes again and walked on.

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3 thoughts on “A very apple morning to you

    1. Thank you Jessi and Sascha – This entire trip took me through Kinnaur and Spiti regions – I went by public bus – an adventure in itself. There ought to be about 20 posts about this trip this is one of them – please have a look at others when you can. I’m not very good at serializing, but chose narrative format and told what I saw. Thanks again for your appreciation and stopping by!

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