As most trekking tales start, this one too begins in Manali, the town where all trekkers end up, somehow. We left Dehradun at 12 noon, and after taking a break in Chandhighar to hog on some delicious dum aloo and butter roti, we made it to Manali the following day at around 9.
But unlike most tales, this one didn't begin as a trekking tale, this was supposed to be a Spiti exploration trip, with maybe a Chandrashila hike for one day. But alas when we reached Manali and enquired in the bus stand, we found out that no buses were leaving for Spiti. A landslide had broken the roads and only small vehicles were going.
So, when we found out that buses were going to Udaipur (yes there is a Udaipur in Lahaul) we seized it and decided to explore the Miyar valley region, which had been on our mind for some time.
And so the next morning, we were on a bus to Udaipur which was the closest bus stop to the sub valley which leads to Miyar. From Udaipur, we took a shared taxi halfway, crossed a massive landslide which removed all signs of the existing road and finally after hitching a ride with a local we made it to Khanjar.
Now since we had planned on doing Spiti on a budget, we had a tent and our sleeping bags, but our food supply was limited. Luckily, when we reached Khanjar, we discovered that IndiaHikes had a batch running the next day on the same trek. And since both of us had worked for this company we were certain that either one of us might know the local staff there. And as luck would have it, Yash knew. And just like that, we got a hot lunch, some dehydrated food and some even milk powder. But the best part was the mental assurance that if we ever got lost on our trek, they would be following with a batch of trekkers behind.
And so we started our trek that very evening. Since I wasn't acclimatised to the high altitude, I started panting within five minutes of the uphill walk. And since both of us were walking on this route for the first time and neither of us knew when the campsite would arrive, though they had told us it would come soon after the last white house, I started panicking. There was no campsite and I was getting too tired to walk.
Luckily, within half an hour, we came across a nice wide meadow with a stream flowing through it. We had found our campsite just before darkness. As he pitched the tent, I caught my breath and soon we were cooking a hot meal on our butane gas.
The next morning, when we got up we were surrounded by more than 300 odd sheep! These sheep were returning from the pastures further in the valley after spending two months there. Slowly two shepherds also arrived and four Himalayan mountain dogs.
As the sheep's marched ahead, we cooked breakfast of bread, eggs and butter. I then decided to hide a few shirts of mine under a rock there as I felt it would be an unnecessary weight on my bag. Meanwhile, Yash's bag weight more than fifteen kgs as he had the food, the tent and the water. But I was the one reducing weight with my sleeping bag and dry fruit bag!
Soon we started trekking and after crossing some beautiful dry landscapes, a lot of Juniper bushes and a gompa, we arrived at our lunch campsite- Thorang. This trek has a very moderate climb and apart from a few steep ascents, most of it is a very gradual walk with the trail meandering along the river.
We set up the butane under a big boulder and cooked some of the dehydrated Kichadi we had. Reducing the weight of the backpacks was of importance, and so was feeding and hydrating ourselves. All these campsites had streams flowing from the glacier above, so the water was not scarce.
This unprepared trek was being done by putting all our trust in the Mapsme app. And we have to say, you can download it and trust it. We followed it and never once did we get lost. And even if we went off trail, all we had to do was turn on the GPS and check where we were, and follow the trail back.
As we kept walking, trusting the Mapsme app, we reached a huge meadow by 4 in the evening, We wanted to walk further to the next official campsite called Zardong but since we were tired and it started raining, we pitched our tent in this meadow. Luckily as we were pitching the tent, we saw two shepherds at the other end of the meadow, giving me the confidence to pitch there for the night. A dog soon arrived and sat outside our tent the whole evening. In the rain.
The next morning, the dog accompanied us as we started our trek. We walked till evening this day as well, walking on steep cliff edges, looking at the raging river flowing below and passed a few more shepherds with hundreds of sheep around.
One thing about this landscape was the lack of trees and wood, so to keep warm they had to dry the dung and use it as fuel to even cook meals.
We walked alongside the river at one point, almost touching its water and finally arrived at our last campsite. Beyond this, there was a major stream crossing, which the shepherds told me I couldn't do after 12 noon as the water flow increased. And so we pitched our tent again, behind a boulder to keep us safe from probable rock fall in the night.
We were overjoyed to finally see the sky clear up a little as we sat in our tent. the first rays of sunshine touched us after three days of trekking! We also got to see the snow-capped peaks which we had been trekking along but never saw due to the clouds.
Happy, we went to bed mentally preparing for the next day's stream crossing.
Alas, nothing could have mentally prepared me for the stream crossing. I have crossed many streams before, but this was the first one which was from the glacier waters and though it wasn't deep, it was wide. There were many small two-meter streams with gravel terrain in between. If we went further up to the source of the stream it was narrow but fierce. Down here it was wide but calmer. And we decided to cross early, so we were there by 6.45 AM. And the water was COLD.
We tried walking across with our shoes on, but there weren't enough rocks for me to jump on. So Yash asked me to remove my shoes and socks and cross the stream on foot. I removed it without any idea of how cold the water would be.
The minute I stepped in and took four steps, despite the warning from Yash, I bawled. This pain was something I had never experienced before. I simply couldn't do it. I walked back to the bank we came from and started crying a little!
After calming myself down, I slowly went ahead with shoes on, jumping rocks until I reached a stream where I had to remove my shoes again. This time mentally I was better prepared and we crossed this wide stream successfully and happily put on our shoes. We had taken an hour to cross 400 meters.
After this, I was very well prepared to cross the other stream which came two hours later. I walked without my shoes like a pro, without screaming anymore. Also since it was past 10, the temperature wasn't as cold. We left our bags in the tent which we pitched before the second stream and started walking to the final part of the trek.
The landscape changed and huge boulders rocks were present on one side of the river. Soon few blue lakes appeared. And we then climbed the boulder hill to get a birds-eye view of what was beyond, the lake and the glacier. And then we started our return journey, unto the first stream.
While Yash was willing to cross this stream at 3 PM, I wasn't. So we camped by the stream and witnessed a magical starry sky that night.
We then walked back, 17km in 12 hours. I twisted my ankle within an hour after we began our trek back, took a painkiller and put on a crepe bandage and walked. We met another girl who was trekking alone and she accompanied us halfway.
After lunch, just as we thought we had finished covering all the stream crossing and we had bridges ahead, we came across this -
The stream had as overflow as it was past 12, over the bridge, so though we crossed the bridge dry, we were face to face with a steady flowing stream of water with no idea of its depth.
Yash went ahead first, slowly trying to see the depth and the force of the water while we girls sat on the bridge, wondering when this would end. After removing our shoes again for the tenth stream crossing, we finally made it to dry land. And continued our walk back, this time without the crepe bandage.
It was past ten at night when we made it back to Khanjar and had a meal of hot dal rice in the homestay. My ankle was swollen like a balloon, but I had no pain. Which is why I walked. We were too tired to sleep, but we managed to twist and turn until dawn.
After a hearty breakfast of Aloo pararthas, we took a taxi back to Udaipur. Since the bus timings are not frequent, and the girl wanted to head back to Manali as soon as she could, we booked a taxi from Udaipur to Manali.
And with that, my so-called Spiti trip came to an end. What a trek it was, although unplanned, we realised it could be done. Life is full of surprises, and this adventure was one fantastic surprise.
I still look at all streams as crossable or not in my mind, two months later as well!