There’s no better learning experience than travelling. From exploring unusual spots to conversing with locals, the joy of travel is unmatched. That’s exactly what two friends, Petal Gahlot and Saakshi Vyas, decided to do when they took off to Spiti, the breath-taking desert and mountain valley that’s located in the Himalayan ranges. And boy, was their trip worth it or what! Don’t believe us? See for yourselves as BB gets the girls to talk about their memorable journey…

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BB: Why did you opt for Spiti as your travel destination?

Neither of us has been to Spiti before. We had heard a friend tell us amazing things about the place. So we did a bit of research and frankly, it didn’t take us long to be convinced about heading there.

BB: What's the best thing about a backpacking trip?

The thrill of doing something without too much thought, I guess. We usually prefer well-crafted itineraries but this time we did a lot of things spontaneously, so there was quite a bit of excitement! Backpacking trips are a good idea if you really want to feel the vibe of the city, see the way the locals live and interact with other travellers.

BB: What was the first challenge of this trip?

Not many people know this but it isn’t too easy to get to Spiti!
There are two ways—one is from Manali via the Rohtang Pass and Kunzum Pass but this route, though faster, was closed when we went. It is also a bit difficult since it has a sudden and steep climb and is generally not recommended for people with health issues. The other route is from Shimla; that’s the one we took. It’s a relatively easier climb but takes more time because you have to make two stopovers at night. This route is open throughout the year except perhaps in peak winter when it snows heavily.

BB: What are the places you visited in Spiti?

We first visited the small village of Nako, which actually falls in the Kinnaur valley, before Spiti valley. This village has one of the most beautiful views of the snow-capped Himalayas.

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The next place we visited was Kaza, which is the largest town of the Spiti valley. This is perhaps the only place where one can find internet and STD/ISD facility in all of Spiti. The only government hospital of the region is found here. So Kaza can be used as the base and other nearby villages can then be visited. Kaza has its own monastery, the Sakya Tangyud Gompa, nestled in the mountains and is worth visiting.

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From Kaza, we went around seeing the Keeh Monastery, which is about 800 years old. The Lamas (monks) here are quite helpful and offer everyone delicious herbal tea. We then visited Langza village where we lived in a simple home stay here, i.e. we spent the night in the home of a local family. Langza is known for being a reservoir for marine fossils (remains from living beings) from about 500 million years ago. It has a full-fledged fossil centre/park where people go for fossil exploration. But if you are lucky, like us, you might find some fossils lying about on the road or streets in the village too, without having to make a tedious trek.

Close to Langza is the village of Hikkim where we visited the Highest Post Office in the World and obviously, sent some postcards!

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BB: What was the one sight that completely blew your mind in Spiti?

It’s hard to talk about just one. For us, it was the sheer barrenness and magnitude of the mountains. No matter how tall, short, fat, thin, weak or strong you are, you are equally vulnerable and minuscule before these gigantic mountains.

BB: What advice would you give to someone who is going to be travelling to Spiti?

We would advise travellers to be in good health before they undertake this journey. The road, Hindustan-Tibet Highway or NH 22/05 is considered the most treacherous one in the world by many. Since the altitude is high, the air is thin and oxygen is deficient, so one must take necessary precautions like carrying oxygen supplement tablets. If someone intends to trek or cycle here, we would advise them to start training for it a few months in advance. Then of course there’s the need to acclimatise. Also make sure you take your time exploring and give at least 10 days for this trip.

BB: What cuisine can one find in Spiti?

Tibetan food like thukpa, momos are available. In the villages, dal, rice, vegetables and roti, with their local tea is what families offer. In Kaza, there are cafés that even offer burgers and pizzas along with Israeli food, since the place is full of Israeli tourists. Then there are bigger establishments like Deyzor Hotel, where we set up base, which offer pastas, the usual chicken, roti, etc. and even some organic items like barley coffee, seabuck thorn tea, etc.

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BB: What was your biggest learning from this trip?

We lived without cellular connectivity for about 6 days and we realised how you can actually do so much when you don’t have that distraction. We also took back amazing memories and truly think that trips like these make your bond so much stronger. So if you have a bunch of close friends, just plan a trip to Spiti and see how unforgettable your journey is.