Adventure · Himalaya · Photography · Travel Writing

Little princess on which the sun and moon shine


After the Tenggyu monastery visit, around nine am, we were all outside the doors and looking for a place to have some tea. It didn’t help that most shops looked shut – and for some reason, they were actually getting closed as we watched! We asked and were told that a general strike had been called. Just our luck.

We divided forces – A and R went to the taxi union office while I held fort at the only tea-shop (literally a hole in the wall) making him stay open so they would at-least feed us something – alu parathas and tea , it would have to be. The restaurant itself was so keen on closing down quickly that they accepted the order for only two parathas (I asked for three – was told that it would take too long) and three cups of sickeningly sweet tea – because that was already available and he had to finish it off and give the jug for cleaning. As the restaurant owner heaped misery upon me, my sole witness was this dog and even he was in no mood to get up –

R and A were back with bad news – there were no taxis for hire for the day. This was the second day running when we couldn’t get a car to go around in Kaza. This wasn’t looking good. After breakfast, we walked back to Deyzor and looked at Karan’s breakfast. It was some Tibetan bread with loads of butter. We not only ate it but also puppy-faced him into driving us around for the rest of the day. Goal!

Right outside the hotel was some commotion – it turned out to be the milk delivery van. There is no concept of pasteurized or packaged milk in these parts. Milk is gathered fresh from cows and goats, filled into large aluminum canisters and driven around in these vans.

The van stops at major crossings in Kaza and people gather with their own vessels – usually large PET bottles that once held couple litres of soda (Pepsi or sprite) and get as much milk as they need or can afford.

By the time we left for Langza, it was about eleven in the morning. The scenery on the left was dry, brown and dusty. The spiti river here has small channels like varicose veins. We were going towards the ‘Tud’ region of Spiti valley – it is the least inhabited part.

As soon as we turned right and commenced the ascent for Langza, the colors changed dramatically – it was dark ochre now and the sky a bright electric blue. This aspect of Spiti, the changing colors due to the passing clouds, continued to fascinate me throughout when other elements such as transport, uncertainties of stay and eating options bothered.

We drove forth using the longer route (16 km from Kaza) towards Langza – there’s a shorter jeep track as well but this early in the season we were not sure if it would be open. The talk was about how, later in the season, there’re many more tourists and the calm we so enjoyed in this trip would not be there. Some like it that way though – the variety of food available is higher – many international dishes are available. While we were talking, Karan suddenly pointed to us – Look, that’s Ka-na-mo. It was behind a canyon like bluff which he often referred to as ‘Fossil Mountain’.

At 5964 meters height, Kanamo or the white hostess is a trekking peak and a fairly well trodden at that. It’s a three day hike and one would typically go off Kibber village. The road so far was black top but there was enough snow on either side to make us believe that it was going to get worse from here.

Langza seen below (depending on the source that one consults) is either 4350 meters height or 4400 meters height. This makes it higher than Kibber – often touted to be the world’s highest inhabited village. I’m not sure why agencies are still peddling the claim.

We started talking about trekking and peaks when unexpectedly, a great view of the peak I had read much about, several years back, came into view. Chau Chau Kang Nilda or the “Little princess on which the sun and moon shine” is said to be a moody mountain.

Harish Kapadia, Himalayan mountaineer mentions in his book that every time someone attempts a summit of the 6300 meter high CCKN, the weather turns nasty. The mountain is said to be the hiding place of a fairy princess who is not fond of men as a man once broke a promise he had given to her and hence she doesn’t allow men to climb her easily. To top that, many travellers report that sometimes the clouds at the peak get so thick and just stay in place for hours upon hours on end – denying them even a view. It is the princess being moody. As we approached Langza, she did that again – hid her face behind a veil of clouds.

The locals believe in the fairy princess and consider the peak to be sacred and give her various names including Guan Nilda and Cho-cho-khana. Going by their accounts, we were very lucky to get a clear, beautiful view that lasted through most of our time in Langza. The peak reminded me of a white batman more than anything else with his wings spread out.

Langza is not a large village – the houses are spacious and the people self-sufficient. Through winters they keep crop stems and other fodder on the roof – stored fodder for animals as well as insulation for the houses. The tibetan prayer flags flutter and the wind is supposed to carry the prayers to the gods. It gives the houses a very picturesque look.

We visited the statue of the ‘medicine’ Buddha – said to bring good health to all those who visit it. It’s not a very well-proportioned statue – compared to most others I’ve seen – a bit flattish, but it’s painted well and interesting in its own right.

The village has a monastery – said to be 700 years old – and in the honor of our arrival, it was closed and the man who held the key to this treasure was missing. Perfect day, starting with closed breakfast shops and now this. I did the only thing I could – climbed onto the roof and waited for a cloud to pass and for the dull brown mountain to turn a more vibrant green and dull gold.

On top of the monastery, along with the spire lies this this big pile of Bharal horns. Bharal – the Himalayan blue sheep (really an antelope) are protected by the locals in accordance with their Buddhist belief that emphasizes nonviolence.

From here I could also see that while Lord Buddha’s statue was going to protect the villagers, it looked so tiny compared to the real protectors that stand around the village – the Himalayas.

At this altitude, with the wind picking up, it was harder and harder to breathe. So we went to a home-stay for a cup of tea. The man whose house it is a trekking and mountaineering leader, and this early in the season, was completely free. The tea was prepared by the grandmother (the leader’s mother) and for company we had her granddaughter. Photographed outside their home below –

We sat around for a little bit, while the others were talking, I did nothing more than take a casual photo or two and rested. The air here did take getting used to. Luckily, there was no headache, just a little ‘light-headed’ feeling.

[note: Tried linking to the dailypost of today a number of times but somehow my response doesn’t appear. What a perfect fit for the dailypost – Mountain ]

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