Kibber, Beauty and Simplicity Personified
The journey from Tabo to Kaza, which is the main town in Spiti valley, takes around two hours to reach by local bus.
The distance is only 48 kms but the uneven and extremely bumpy road makes the drive longer, and the ticket is affordable too, just Rs 55. The landscape becomes more intriguing as we moved further away from Tabo, the rock formations began to emerge; at some places thick columns of rocks dominated the landscape.
Breathtaking view it was, and what beckoned us was even more enchanting, Kee Monastery, perched on top of a hill at an altitude of 4116 m, and Kibber, which once the highest village with a motorable road in Spiti – however now since all the villages are connected it has lost that status. But before that, we had to reach Kaza, check into hotel Nimling, suggested by the owner of our guest house in Tabo. Since we were in Kaza only for a day, we took that option.
Kaza is at a higher level than Tabo, situated at an altitude of 3,800 metres, so it was more cold and less sunny. But Kaza is a commercial center with haphazard construction and huge number of shops doting the landscape. Hotel Nimling was just a short walk away from the bus depot, we got a decent room for Rs 200 with window facing the snow-covered mountains. The market was buzzing with activity, souvenir shops, general stores, cyber cafes, restaurants, bakeries, almost everything was available in Kaza.
Since the landslide that happened at Malling, on our way to Tabo was cleared, the supplies were flowing in again from around Himachal. In this picture local Spitian women carrying gas cylinders from the market to their homes. Women in Spiti do more work as compared to men, even when it comes to building roads. They leave their kids on the side, and do the work, I was amazed to see that. We had a quick breakfast at the lodge and went out to enquire for a taxi. There are plenty of private taxi operators who can take you around Spiti, and depending on the distance and places to cover they quote a price. The cost is on the higher side though. We decided to go to Kee and Kibber, since those were the only places fitting in our budget, more places to visit means more money. So we got the taxi for Rs 720, no bargaining allowed as the rates are fixed.
We were on our way for a magical ride in the abode of gods. This cute chubby kid was waiting with his father at the taxi stand. A bit away from the crowded market place in Kaza was this colorful monastery, we didn’t go in but stopped to take a picture. The view was even better than Tabo, pleasing our senses and opening our minds to see a new dimension in nature’s orbit. The Spiti river gently flowing between the mountains, forming tributaries that looked so artistic, and white sand gathered around it looked like snow.
Our first stop was going to be Kibber village, situated atop a mountain 20 kms away. On the way we spotted herd of Ibex, running across the road, they were pretty quick in their steps as well. Ibex belongs to a species of wild mountain goats that are distinguished by the male’s large re curved horns, And soaring high in the sky was this huge sized eagle. It would be fantastic to get a bird’s eye view of scintillating Spiti! In a short while after that we reached Kibber, which once was the highest village in Asia reachable by a motorable road. Now its Komik village in Spiti which is at a height of 4513m, and falls on the other route. The tarmac road is nice to drive on as well, much better then the road connecting Tabo to Kaza. The jeep driver gave us an hour to take a stroll around Kibber. According to the signboard, the population of Kibber is merely 295 people, so it seemed to be a peaceful and subdued place. It was blessed with a magnificent view of the valley, surrounded by snow-covered peaks, I couldn’t even imagine how cold it would get at night. There is a civil dispensary, a high school, a post office and a telegraph office here, so the village is self-sufficient in a way. Like many villages in Spiti, an ancient Chorten greeted us at the start of the village. It was surrounded by prayer flags and as a sign of respect you are suppose to walk from the left of it. On moving ahead we saw Norling guest house, we didn’t know about that or else we would have stayed here. There are just 1 or 2 guest houses in Kibber, that gives you an idea how secluded it can get. We hardly saw any locals around either, they would probably be working in the fields while the kids were at school. Life is tough at such high altitudes, as it snows for six months, temperatures can drop to -15 degress in December, so the remaining six months are spent in cultivation of crops, which forms the main source of income. When it snows the locals stay indoors and make handicrafts.
I was enjoying the walk, nobody to stop or disturb you, just absorbing the rustic landscape. This design is actually formed by the finger marks imprinted on the wall of a mud house, how natural does it get. We spotted a little lamb hidden behind the wall, bleating for his mother; we heard his cry but couldn’t spot him. So Clyde started to bleat and there the little fellow popped out from behind the wall, responding to his calls. The houses were similar to Tabo, tiny windows and door, white-washed facade with a maroon strip on top, perfect for such cold conditions, and the flat roofs were rimmed with bales of hay neatly stacked, often stuck with prayer flags. Wonder how they would recognise their house if one day a Spitian guy got drunk, that’s just a thought! An old house with colorful bales of hay and twigs piled up on its flat roof and the snow-clad mountains in the background, made for a pretty picture! The flat roofs were used for work and storage purpose. As we moved higher up towards the end of the village, we got a better view of Kibber. The green fields spread across the arid land on the top right and the yellow building in the center of the image is Norling guest house. At the far end away from the houses is the small monastery, I assume it is that because of the flags around it. The sun shone through a rift in the clouds, but it was still very pleasant. We kept walking till we reached the end of Kibber. I saw a couple of houses which had yak fur lying outside, the locals might be either selling it or using it to protect themselves from the extreme cold climate at night. On the opposite slope is another village called Chicham, which looked much smaller than Kibber. But the view was stunning, green fields around Chicham added colour to the otherwise brown landscape. Its a 2-3 hours scenic trek from Kibber. We wanted to go closer to the route leading up to Chicham and saw this sight. Horns balanced on a stone structure with twigs placed underneath. I am not sure what this symbolises. The road leading to Chicham village, flanked by tilled fields and scenic mountains. I took a deep breathe totally soaking in the marvellous spectacle that lied in front of me. It looks like a beautiful painting:) but this is reality! There was so much to admire around us, but the driver waved to us from the other end asking us to come back.
The colorful structure is a solar passive house made by Ecosphere. The house absorbs and retains the sun’s energy for a longer time and distributes solar energy in the form of heat in winter. This helps communities bring down their winter fuelwood consumption and and also the money spent. The objective being to bring down the amount of fuelwood burnt as well as carbon emissions generated.
Ecosphere is a social enterprise working in the Spiti valley linking lives of locals to conservation and development. They also organise homestays for tourists to experience the unique culture of Spiti. On our way back we saw this cute furry dog looking at us from the door. To sum up our short visit to Kibber, we experienced a sweet moment joy when the school bell rang and the girls came running out from their respective houses to play a game of volleyball. Such was the excitement and simple life of people in Kibber. We went back to the jeep hoping to come back soon to this village, this time with our bags. Our visit would be incomplete without a picture of the two of us in this paradise! The beautiful Kee monastery is a short ride away from Kibber, in fact it comes on the way to Kibber. Due to loads of photos, I have divided the post. But am sure you won’t have to wait too long before its up.
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