There are some journeys that start with excitement and end with even more excitement.

Curious to know how that is possible?

I love the mountains – that’s it. No eloquent words are needed to describe this.

But something or rather someplace shattered my belief of what we call mountains and challenged me to figure out if the same feelings were evoked when I first saw them.

Spiti Valley

I travelled to the valley with some friends. The ‘adventure-filled’ and ‘enthusiasm-fuelled’ trip started when we boarded the bus to Manali from Delhi.

View of the Spiti Valley

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In Manali, the hotel manager told us about the massive snowfall and that the pass hadn’t opened yet. But a couple of vehicles had gone through and perhaps if they reached Kaza, the capital of Spiti, we could go ahead too. Let me share that it is not a thought even the most rave can stomach easily – IF the other vehicle reached. In all my visits before Spiti, hill stations have always been welcoming places with delicious food, lovely people, natural beauty and amazing weather.

But here was a place deep within the mountains, forbidding and isolated in its approach. A place they call the cold desert.

I wondered what waited for us. And as the wheels of the car hit the road-less terrain, I knew we were on a trip of a lifetime. 8 hours, around 200 kms.

Kaza

Freezing water from a muddy mountain stream in the bathroom, hotel rooms that saw sunshine after 6-7 months of being closed and the Kye monastery rising above the rugged landscape, through my window.

That’s what I remember when I close my eyes. To me, that is the precise moment I fell in love with mountains. Everything I felt before that seemed superficial.

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This was the moment when I was a tiny speck amidst the highest mountains in the world. And as though I might suddenly be lifted off by a surge of wind and left in the bunch of other mountain dust. That insignificance when you look at nature in its grandeur is not disturbing. It is oddly comforting.

The first visit to Kye monastery opened my eyes and mind in a big way. I had always imagined monks sitting and praying continuously. But as I walked through the gate I saw a set of them in the middle of a football match – competitive, energetic and engrossed. As I walked past them another resident monk greeted me with a cup of steaming black tea sweetened with honey. Calmness juxtaposed with latent energy – that’s the best way to describe such a beautiful place. It is one of those places where you walk in as a tourist and walk out as a believer – of the beauty of nature and faith, intermingled.

At that point in time I think I stopped looking at my watch to track when we were going to reach the next destination on our itinerary. We had reached where we were meant to be, at that moment.

As the next day unfolded, I had stopped thinking like a tourist who would tick off places from her list. I realized that Spiti was an experience that hid diverse sub-experiences within it. And one needs to look beyond the structures, into the souls. My visit to Kibber, left me stunned. Believed to be the highest motorable village in the world, the houses are made of stone and that is what makes them unique. Going through the village one cannot but imagine what life must be for the villagers. Located in the harshest climatic conditions with limited accessibility to the ‘civilized’ world one was looking for people who were hardened and weary. And yet again, one found people who had the sunlight shining through them as they smiled. You could see how the external environment couldn’t subdue the inner glow.

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At that point in time I think I stopped looking at my watch to track when we were going to reach the next destination on our itinerary. We had reached where we were meant to be, at that moment.

Kye Monastery

For me travel always happens for a reason- to make us carefree without being careless, to make us courageous without being reckless and to make us aware, but without losing the curiosity to know more. Spiti did all that and much more. It wasn’t meant to be a trip in self-discovery but long stretches of mountain roads being traversed make you tend to slip into a pensive mood.

And that is why I said it started with excitement and ended with even more excitement. Because it opened up a wide window of possibilities for me – I lost my fear of extremely high altitudes. I learnt to stop ticking-off a list. I was ready to travel more.

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Simran Oberoi Multani is the Founder and Chief Baker at Ovenderful. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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