From our base in Kaza, we cycled southeast along the Spiti River until the bridge at Lingti where we crossed a “magical” gateway into a hidden wilderness. From here we ventured up the quiet and stunning Pin Valley, surrounded by great Himalayan peaks and bordered by huge fragile, decomposing and terrifying rock screes.
Cycling along this rocky high altitude road with the ominous and precarious geological strata leaned towards us at all conceivable angles was a unique experience. The walls bear witness to the immense tectonic forces that created these the world’s mightiest mountains.
This path is the only road into the Pin Valley, and it is kept open (most of the time) by a team of dedicated men and women who work through dramatic weather throughout the year, and throughout all weather; be it six metres of heavy snow or temperatures that drop down to below 30 degrees Celsius. On route we met a lovely team of women workers whose job is to keep the roads free from the rocks that tumble down from high above.
This area is rich in its Buddhist culture, with its many monasteries, Stupas and in the daily living of its people. We visited Kungri Monastery at Gulling. Dating back to around 1330, this gompa is the second oldest in the Spiti valley, and is the only one whose monks follow the Nyingmapa sect of Buddhism. The Nyingma tradition is the oldest of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism (the other three being the Kagyu, Sakya and Gelug). The Nyingmapa sect incorporates local religious practices and deities, and elements of shamanism and the Bon religion of Tibet.
Here we are catching a ride back in a tractor from the Gompa down to our homestay in Gulling.
Our destination was the charming village of Mudh (3770m), 33km up the valley from the Spiti highway and the last major village.
Mudh is the key entry point for the 675-sq-km Pin Valley National Park, reputed as the ‘land of ibex and snow leopards’. Sadly we were too late in the season to go snow leopard tracking and too early to attempt the 10 day trek to the Parvati Valley. However we met up a few times with Rajiv who has a small travel company called Yellow Peaks that specialises in tracking and photographing wildlife in the Spiti Valley. Check out his web for some amazing photos.
Sagnam is the biggest village in the valley. We only stopped here for lunch at the main rest house but it gave Janet the opportunity to do some babysitting, as our host left us for 30 minutes with she went to go and finish her washing. This kind of trust is typical of the people of Spiti Valley.
Janet also loved the Pin Valley for the Yaks that roam around free and happy in the high altitude cold desert wilderness.