We were pretty much exhausted by the time the bus stopped at Langza. The stress and adventure we had was showing. The bus stopped on the road and Langza was at least a kilometre away and uphill.
We groaned but there was no choice, we had to walk up. We followed the people who got down along with a group of young girls. With every step, it was becoming difficult. Bhim was limping, he sprained his leg while descending down the mountain.
We were like a little bit more, just a little bit more. As we made our last ascent up to the village, we heard loud and I mean really loud Punjabi Bhangra music coming from one of the homes completely disturbing the serene landscape. We saw the motorbikes with their registration plate.
Yup Delhiites, a bunch of them on the terrace playing jarring music, drinking with no respect for anyone or anything. Bhim said we are not going towards that homestay with those fucking Delhiites. We wanted to be as far away from them.
Nawang from Hikkim spoke about a friend who ran this homestay, so we asked around and we found it and thank god it was far away from the loud music. We got in completely exhausted. It was a dorm room but there were no guests in the homestay.
The cook/caretaker/handyman got us hot chai. He was Chandan from Bihar. He spent some time talking to us. We were down and out and Bhim by now was done. He said I am not fucking getting out to see anything until we go back to Kaza. It was damn cold even though we were at a lower altitude. Added to that was our exhaustion, we were completely out of sorts.
We rested till late evening until we were called for dinner. Though the family said they could bring the dinner to us, we told them we could sit with them. The family stayed below the homestay. Built traditionally, the moment we entered the kitchen, it was pretty warm and cosy. We wished we could sleep here instead.
The whole family was there. A traditional low table with cushions to sit on. The lady served us food, the husband was next to her, his father was sitting with a prayer wheel and chanting while the children were lying down in a cosy space in a corner.
Chandan the handyman also joined in. There was a traditional Tibetan fire pot, like a metal barrel. Adding firewood to it, they could keep the room warm and use it for cooking. The family was hooked to the TV installed on the wall. It seemed like the invasion of cable and tv serials spread far and wide. Some reality dancing show was on and all were engrossed in it.
Bhim broke their attention by talking to the man of the house, slowly everybody joined in forgetting the tv. He was from the army before he quit, now they had lands, and now this homestay. Even his father was in the army. The older gentleman spoke about the olden times in Spiti with no routes and using only mountain trails to commute. Snow leopards were quite common around that time lurking near the villages for sheep and cattle.
They had an older son and he was studying in Kaza. The man of the house said something significant. Times were changing and so was Spiti. Now people here wanted to be a part of mainstream India.
Phones, tv, cars, products, brands, they wanted it too and how could anyone stop them? When the rest of the country was moving ahead with urbanisation, they didn’t want to be left out either. It was a paradox.
It was time to crash to bed and we did, popping a Combiflam(painkiller) each. There was no way we could get good sleep without that.
I woke up next morning around 6 am and I saw Bhim was still sleeping. The toilet was outside, so the moment I got out of the homestay the wind chill hit hard.
It was not dark anymore, I could see people starting their day. Cattle grazing, people taking out firewood. I looked at the landscape. It was beautiful and calm. We would go back to Kaza, we had to figure out how.
By the time I came back, Bhim was up and about. We freshened up and relaxed. Yes the soreness of the body was there but it was better than yesterday. We had some breakfast in the room while Chandan kept talking.
He was already fed up with Spiti. He had no one to talk to except the guests that visited here. He spoke about his family, his wife and daughter and how his parents wanted him to come back home. But he was a nomad, he was travelling and working away from Bihar since he was 16. An observant guy, he spoke about Israeli visitors smoking up, some other foreigners drinking non stop when they stayed here. I could see that he was itching to get out of Spiti but he had to stay till Sep till the season ended.
Bhim went back to bed saying he was not getting out till we got out to Kaza so I went up the hill to see the famous Buddha statue. It was right behind and above the homestay with an ascent. I went panting up and there it was, the 1000 year old statue of the sitting Buddha. There was restoration work going on and one could see the whole landscape. It was peaceful and quiet until of course tourists came in, loads of them clicking pictures.
I also wanted to check out if I could find someone who could give us a ride to Kaza but it was still early and the vehicles with tourists in it was full. I went down and after some time we packed up and asked Chandan if there was a way to get to Kaza. The only feasible way was to go up to the Buddha statue and keep asking people if we could get a ride. So it was inevitable that Bhim had to see the Buddha!
We grunted our way up and kept asking around. All vehicles were packed full. The painters who were in the restoration work of the statue kindly offered to drop us to Kaza but it would be only after 5.30 pm and it was still noon.
At least we had a back up option. Moments like these tell you, nay, they teach you that everything will happen when it has to, no point in fretting and that’s what we did. We shrugged and waited.
There was a small cafe opposite the statue so we sat there with our backpacks knowing most of them would come here. There was a group of Kannadigas from Bangalore on bikes and Bhim spoke to them, pretty nice guys.
Then we spoke to a guy who was waiting for a group of foreigners. They were from France, a bunch of farmers and they were doing Spiti on horseback! They hired him for the whole trip and he had to wait there as they would be coming down from Hikkim. He quoted a price that was way too high.
The cafe was being managed by another Bihari guy, we saw the carrom board and Bhim invited the Bihari to join in. Also came in the driver who was waiting for the French group. And so four of us one sunny day in Langza played carrom board just like that. 😊I teamed up with the Bihari while Bhim teamed up with the other guy. It was fun, we just went with the flow.
After some time I opted out to read while the guys continued. Just then walked in a lady, she knew everyone there and was asking about some guy. She was sitting outside and smoking then Bhim told me to talk to her, to check if we could get a ride back.
I introduced myself and spoke to her. She was from Bangalore, moved to Manali 3 years ago and was now part of start ups to promote Spiti using local resources. They were having an event, a star gazing night at Langza that night. The team was setting it up. When I asked her, she said they would go back only late night so at that time they could drop us back.
As we were chatting, in came a big group of South Indians, Malayalis! Bhim approached the driver and finally got a ride back to Kaza. We were worried if the people in it would object, but the driver who was a Punjabi said Aap baito na, kuch nahin hoga.( Sit inside, nothing will happen) So in we got with a group of proper Mallus playing Malayalam songs with a punjabi driver!
They were all from Calicut, Kerala and hired the mini van for Spiti. The woman next to me offered banana chips and Channa snacks. Bhim was sitting behind with the guys. I remember when we were getting in they asked us where we were from. When we told them, they were like South, they are from the South like us!
I remember a few hilarious moments with them. They saw a Zebu grazing and the van stopped so they could take pics. They were screaming ‘ Snow Cow Snow Cow’ and tried to feed it banana chips!! We intervened and said feed it Bananas not chips! Bhim and I controlled our laughter big time, the poor animal would have got diarrhoea if it had eaten banana chips made with coconut oil!
Bhim could finally get through Karan! Yes the same cafe guy from Key monastery. The crazy guy just disappeared. Bhim was like where were you dude?? All he got was a big laughter from Karan! Bhim told him to send his account details so we could transfer the amount once we reached Manali.
After a long ride filled with Mohanlal and Mammooty( Kerala Superstars btw) songs we got dropped off at Kaza. We were hungry so we first stopped at a quaint cafe run by a Sardarji and had some lunch. Bhim befriended some children, played with them and showed them apps to click fun pictures. In the notice board of the cafe we saw that, there was poster for a movie screening at Ecosphere cafe in the evening so why not do that?
We got a lovely room at a good bargain. On top of a house, the room was spacious, warm and yes, hot water! We could finally take a bath! You have no idea how much you value getting that half a bucket of hot water in the mountains.
After freshening up we went to the cafe and paid for the tickets. It was a Wes Anderson movie and one of our favourite directors. The screening area was a lovely warm room with a projector, bean bags, low seating with lots of cushions. The movie was ‘Moonrise Kingdom’. It was a bitter sweet quaint movie just like his other movies. If you are one of those kinds that have a certain quirkiness, you will love his movies! The Darjeeling Limited and The Royal Tenenbaums are my most favourites of Wes Anderson movies.
It was a lovely movie and a nice evening when we came out. The town was quiet, no one around except locals and a few coked up foreigners. We saw a punjabi restaurant and ordered some Paneer, omelette and veg Biryani.
Tomorrow we would head off early, for a long excruciating journey to Manali- the most dreaded and one of the most dangerous roads.
We would see Spiti in all its splendour, glory, and magnificence on the ride. Whatever rides we did so far would be nothing compared to tomorrow.
To be continued…