Sometimes I wonder what it’d be like to go back and be a child again. I think I want to return to that world of heart-warming innocence, insufferable cuteness and the signature, aptly termed ‘childlike’ wonder at everything.
But then we grow up, because, well, that’s life. We chart out our lives on our own, we write our stories, we build our paths, we create something AMAZING for ourselves. But somewhere there’s still that little child inside us, craving for all the wonder that exists in the world, forever chasing happiness and surprise.
It is at the most unexpected of times and places that my inner child let itself loose and CELEBRATED. Picture it. Picture a little girl, with wild, curly hair struggling to get out of the pigtails holding it in place, eyes wide and shining with curiosity and wonder and disbelief, slowly absorbing the world around her, struggling, at first, to accept what she was seeing, and then jumping and exclaiming in sheer delight, before letting loose with absolute joy and boundlessness. That’s my inner child, and she surprised me by taking over my life with no warning at all.
You take a city girl and throw her headfirst into the lap of raw, untamed, untouched nature. What do you think happens?
I’ll tell you what happens. Her centre of gravity gets messed up. Mine did.
I was recently given the opportunity to explore Spiti with Spiti Expedition Tours and Travels. I’ve been wanting to explore the north of India for some time now, and this landing in my lap was the universe being supremely kind to me. I was thrilled, and I happily took off on my new adventure, and it took me all of a day to realise this was going to be very, very different from any of my recent travels. I’m used to a certain style of traveling and a certain level of comfort, and Spiti threw me off of both. There is beauty in simplicity. And to experience simplicity, you get down to the basics. I’ll always say this has been the most challenging trip of my life so far, because this is the first time I have experienced the elements in their absolute raw form, and been forced to surrender to them.
But to be honest, it didn’t take much to make me forget about what wasn’t alright. Because every single day – every second, minute, and hour – treated me to views that took my breath away at every bend of the mountain, showed me something so splendid that my mind was wiped clean of all thought and I was just there.
A million times, when I was one with nature, and only then did I truly understand what that even means. A million times, when the magnificence of what was unfolding before my very eyes, did I lose track of where I was, what I was saying, what I was thinking, only to simply look, and just keep looking.
For this post, I really wanted you to experience Spiti the way I did, so I decided to walk you through those moments that hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m going to show you what I saw, the way I saw it. And with that, I will hope you feel the same sense of wonder I did, the same sense of awe, the same feeling of being thrown off balance by simple, sheer beauty.
I remember how I got the shot. Imagine a girl with a camera, clambering up a path (which really isn’t path, it’s just rocks scattered on an incline) fighting against time to make it up the hill, just before the sun decided to kiss the day goodbye and deny the girl of this view forever and ever and EVER. So while the day had been a long one, I had enough and more incentive to let my lungs burn just one more time, so I could get THIS shot. I had just about 5 minutes with this view, maybe, but MAN, was I happy! Tell me it’s not worth it!
Sneaky tip: When you’re traveling with Spiti Expedition Tours and Travels, you know you’re in GREAT hands, because these are the guys who take some of the best photographers around, so they know ALL the hidden, off-road paths and that’s EXACTLY what you want when you’re in Spiti!
Having lived in cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad, I’m used to counting myself lucky if I manage to spot Orion’s belt on any given night. I’m usually happy if I spot Venus, shining bright in the sky. Here though, I felt like the heavens had opened up and showered me with all the riches in the world and adorned me with otherworldly treasures, because that is what the night sky IS.
A blanket of diamonds. I want to live under a blanket of diamonds cutting across the sky every night, like this right here. Because this is nothing short of magic, it is the most ethereal, wondrous, breathtaking vision I’ve ever laid my eyes upon.
I saw FOUR shooting stars that night. FOUR. I clapped and jumped like a child, squealing and exclaiming with such excitement that a very amused someone asked me ‘You’ve always lived in a city, haven’t you?’ Yes. I have. And the city has never caused my eyes to shine the way they did that night. The city has never caused me to celebrate the truth of simplicity. Nature did that.
I have only ever seen photos of the famous Buddha statue at Langza, looking over the mountain ranges. It is a short hike from where most of the homestays are located. Come during the day to capture all the colour, but come back during the night to see that I-will-never-fail-to-stun-you night sky. We had the place to ourselves both times, and that made me very, very happy indeed.
As grown-ups, we tend to choose what’s easier than what’s more adventurous. But the inner child wants adventure. She wants to clamber up rocks and brave the stinging winds to experience a once-in-a-lifetime moment. She wants to do EVERYTHING, and so she does. No regrets, ever.
Sunset at Mt. Chou Chou Gwanilda
The existence of starkly different landscapes in the same place is astonishing. You can find, in a single frame, snow-clad mountain tops, rocky slopes, dry bushes, a smattering of green in an odd corner, and an azure stream cutting across the entire landscape under a blue, blue sky. It’s magnificent. And then nature twirls her magic wand and shows you magic, once again.
Hikkim Post Office
The highest post office in the world deserves a special mention. Perched at 14567 ft above sea level, this PO is actually a house. It was closed when we arrived, but hey, perks of traveling with SETT, we got it opened up!
The openness and welcoming warmth of the people of Spiti never fails to astound me. Not only did they open up the PO for us, they invited us into the little house and let us have our fun with the postcards we wanted to send back home. I haven’t met folks as helpful and forthcoming in a very long time, and it was heartwarming to just meet them, see how they live, talk to them about their lives and what they do and how things work.
I sent back four postcards from Spiti, and I was THRILLED when they all reached me!
You take a bucketful of incredulity, swirl in never-ending amounts of wonder, add a dash of thankfulness to the universe and mix it all up with boundless joy, and that is exactly how you feel when you lay your eyes on Chandratal Lake in the morning.
That reflection is REAL.
You wake up at 5:30 AM, hit the mountain in your ice-crusted camper and hike up 20 minutes on a freezing morning, with your lungs screaming for oxygen and your thighs crying out for rest, and you think you’re going to pass out every few seconds, and then the first glimpse of Chandratal breaks into your vision. You can’t believe what you’re looking at. It’s a smooth, untouched mirror, peacefully reflecting the landscape and casually throwing unimaginable beauty in your face. That’s when you forget everything else. You forget the pain in your legs, the lack of oxygen, the freezing temperatures; you practically RUN to be a part of the magnificence, and you almost cry when you get there because it is SO BEAUTIFUL!
I was melting into a happy-puddle, alternating between a semi-teared-up state and a sugar-high, happy-child state, because we had the lake and all that beauty to ourselves for close to an hour. We saw the sun rising and covering the mountains in gold, and the perfectly still lake threw back the reflection at us.
I sat there in disbelief, heart bursting with simple, pure happiness. I didn’t want much else at that point, just to be one with the feel of the place and capture that emotion and that moment forever.
Here’s the thing about mountains. When you’re among them, they remind you how small you are, how insignificant in the grander scheme of things. They force you to think. They force you out of the comfort that you’re used to, and with their simple, constant magnificence, make you surrender to them.
You lose yourself. You lose your pretence, your mask, everything you wear over your soul, and when you’re there, you’re stripped bare, and that’s when it hits you.
You might be insignificant in the larger scheme of things, but you DECIDE YOUR scheme of things. You might not matter much in the whole universe, but you ARE YOUR whole universe. Be the most important aspect of it. Be the sun. Make your own universe, make your own world, be the person you truly ARE. Try not to run away from it, and try, when you return, to leave the mask that you lost right where you lost it.
It’s funny how something that is so far away from the world we are used to living in can have such a huge impact on your life in such a short period of time. Its strange how you let yourself go back to being what you truly are, how that ‘inner child’ I keep talking about suddenly seems like the better, more sensible person. And for that, I have the Himalayas to thank. I’m going back to Spiti one day, and I’m going back soon. Come with me?