The silence, the all pervasive silence is what I notice first. Our convoy is at croassroads, we are in Tabo, our halt for the night. The town is small and bathed in the glow of the evening sun. Confusing signboards point us to different directions as we take turns at guessing the right route when two genial Lamas walk towards us. They point us in the right direction and within minutes, we are unloading our luggage and checking into Sonam Homestay. The barren landscape, the towering mountains and the bright blue sky add to the dramatic setting as we take in the surroundings. For a few moments, I am in disbelief. After years of reading about the valley, after riding for over 4 days passing Chandigarh, Shimla and Kinnaur, logging in over 400 kilometers we have touched down. I am standing at the place that I have dreamed about for so long and the immortal words of Kipling echo in my head “At last they entered a world – a valley of leagues where the high hills were fashioned of the mere rubble and refuse from off the knees of the mountains… Surely the Gods live here. Beaten down by the silence and the appalling sweep of dispersal of the cloud-shadows after rain. This place is no place for men.”
The fact that mobile networks are completely dead doesn’t bother me. I am in Spiti Valley and right now; nothing else matters. I make my way out and I meet the same Lamas again, they smile at me as they approach me, turning the prayer wheels fixed on the boundary wall of the 1000 year old Tabo Monastery. It is getting colder but it doesn’t matter. I am happy to be here. As the sun moves westwards, we move out of our rooms to explore this little town. The monastery has shut and the residents are back in their homes. We make our way out on the wide main road connecting the highway and turn left to look for a restaurant for dinner. But after aimlessly wandering about, we walk through a short cut and end up back at the guesthouse to have some local dinner. Pasta, potatoes, soups and unlimited ginger lemon teas later, we sit out under the starry skies.
The sky is lit up, and “is that the part of the milky way we see?” we wonder as one of us strums up Wish you were here, on the small six string lying at the cafe. There aren’t many guests and the resident dog gives us company as we sit in the courtyard, under the Spitian skies. Oh, this journey has been worthwhile.
Next morning, we turn up at the monastery and wait for a Lama to show us around. Known as the Ajanta of the Himalayas, Tabo Monastery is home to frescoes, thangkas and several other important installations(including statues made of mud) that speak of the life of Buddha and the Buddhist Pantheon. It turns to be one of the most memorable monasteries on our visit. Visitors to Ladakh might be tempted to draw comparisons at every monastery that they might visit later but Tabo clearly stands out and cannot be compared to any of the new monasteries.
The Lama arrives and requests us to follow him bare foot into the dimly lit room. But beyond the rooms are several other chambers, each significant in its own way. He patiently answers all our queries and explains in detail about the importance of the paintings. The influence of Kashmiri style on the paintings is noticeable and so is the attention paid to detail. There is no artificial lighting and we rely on flashlights to view some of the paintings. We wander about slowly through the hallowed walls and then come out onto the silent courtyard. We stay calm for a few minutes and then after a group photo, hit the road to Dhangkar – where another adventure awaits. The entire experience inside has been mesmerizing. It is our introduction to the land and culture of Spiti. Over the next few days, we would be learning more about it as our Odometers records miles and miles.
Tabo lies about 40 km from Kaza (about 2-3 hours) away. Most make a day trip to Tabo but staying a night here is recommended.
for more details on helping you plan your Spiti trip, contact us on 09820023362
Photos by Kalindi Manek and Anadi Chaturvedi