(continued from the last post).
At the bus stand, we waited in the shelter – that is one only for name sake – for the bus to arrive. A young man was playing something that resembled ‘sitolia’ (I believe it’s called Seven stones in English). Wiki here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lagori . He didn’t have a ball and was using a pebble to throw at the target (marked in yellow) –
Soon, he was joined by two of his classmates.
Then, a group of spectators appeared on the wall of a hostel building in Tabo, they were just children really.
Soon, the spectators turned to participants – enthusiastic ones at that. Isn’t Childhood such an incredible time? Every day a new adventure, every moment a new avenue to enjoy life.
An hour passed and we were all quite tired of waiting (as seen by A’s pose).
Mr Bodh was feeling unnecessarily apologetic for the non-arrival of the bus. This was our first taste of how public transport works in Spiti – it’s not only based on need but also on the weather conditions and landslides. We dragged our bags back to the guest house and were joined by Mr Bodh’s cousin who is a trek operator. I didn’t like him much as he kept pushing his own agenda. However, Mr Bodh arranged a taxi for us (same driver as yesterday) for INR 1200/- for a one way drop to Kaza. It took a while for the taxi to be arranged as the driver was not very keen on taking us (he wanted to go to his village as it was Election Day in Himachal).
Owing to all these delays, we left at half past eleven in the morning for Kaza and the ride was very scenic. We stopped a few times to click photos but by and large, we just wanted to get to Kaza and find ourselves a hotel. Before we left, Mr Bodh’s cousin, the trek operator, had recommended a hotel to us (Golden something) and the driver said he would take us there.
The scenery was even drier than on the previous route and the mountains higher and sharper, just rock topped by snow for most part.
In other parts, it was a mountain of gravel that spilled onto the road which in turn had a similar surface.
Later, mounds of loam appeared on the right side – their ochre tint in perfect contrast to the cloudless blue sky (and I started wondering, based on the farmer’s advice, as to how many houses could this help construct).
So it was but natural that any flowing water would excite us – as did this small waterfall created by an irrigation channel.
After dhankar, on the left side, the river was running so dry; it had split into many small streams with wide banks and islets in between them. I shot this video to give you some idea of how wide the stream was by now. There was a small village on the opposite side as well, below a mountain.
And then, like a streak of rain had hit a small strip in a vast desert, the fields before Kaza appeared on the right side – it was a dramatic contrast.
When Kaza came into view, our first reaction was of disbelief – we all expected the place to be a bit more scenic – but it was just an urban sprawl in the midst of this high altitude desert – houses and buildings that are coming up too fast, many disregarding the traditional methods of building. There were very few mud roofs topped with the dried cattle fodder that also doubles up as insulation. Instead, there were many with corrugated tin roofs and there was even one multi-story cement concrete structure coming up. Kaza is district headquarters and the largest town of Spiti valley.
Our search for a hotel turned into a struggle the moment we set foot in the one that was recommended to us – it was no good. The rooms were damp but worse, about eight people were sitting in the reception area and none were willing to show us the rooms with any alacrity. We all were feeling worse for the wear due to the altitude change (Tabo is a pleasant 3000 meters height and not as windy while Kaza is 3600 meters but very windy as the river turns very wide at this point).
Not at all happy with the room situation, A and I who were together walked out (R was with the driver as we did not intend to relieve him till we got a place to stay at-least). This resulted in some confusion when we reached a corner at which hotel Deyzor stands. It looked quite welcoming from the outside – not very traditional as evident from this sign – but we walked in anyways.
Once inside, a man clearly unprepared for any visitors, was about to sit down for his lunch. It turned out that was the hotel’s manager – K. In a few minutes, after some initial chit chat and taking a look at a room upstairs, I was convinced that I would stay here. A was a bit concerned about the budget and also about R’s disappearance.
So both of us went out, and shouted his name many times and to no avail. This resulted in wasting another fifteen minutes or so, and a bad headache.
When we walked back towards the hotel, R was sitting on the steps looking at us as we had deserted him. He said the car was having some trouble with one of the slopes in Kaza and by the time they got here, we (A and I) were gone. Anyways, with the disconnect restored, we all went inside and agreed to get a room each over there.
My room itself was done nicely and was named after the highest mountain in Himachal – Reo Purgyil. I expressed some concern to K as the geyser didn’t seem to work and he said he’d move me to another room in some time.
As there were no other guests at that time in the hotel and we didn’t see any tourists in Kaza (even fewer than Tabo), it was only a question of waiting while that room got cleaned up a bit by Sanjay ji (his man Friday from Bihar who lives on premises). The view from the other room is seen below-
As it was half past two, and we didn’t have a car any longer, we gave a long puppy faced stare to Karan (this was to prove effective many times later during the trip), and he just offered the lunch he was going to have while guilt tripping us that this was really skalzang’s lunch (Skalzang Dorje is an Indian Olympian and a bronze medallist in Archery, the hotel stands on the land owned by Skalzang as K, being a non-himachali cannot own any commercial land here). It was a rarity to find good Punjabi food this high up – there was maa ki daal (black urad), saag paneer, alu parathas and multi grain rotis accompanied by dollops of butter.
The lunch was filling but a question remained – what do we do next?