After five days of hectic travelling and sightseeing, we decided to go slightly easy on the sixth day of our journey. The two major sightseeing destinations that we had earmarked for the day were Kye monastery and Kibber village. We woke up late and had a slow and leisurely morning with a nice breakfast. Finally, by 1 pm, we all got ready and left for Kye monastery. It took us just half an hour to reach the monastery.
KYE MONASTERY (4,166 m)
The thousand years old Kye monastery is the largest monastery in Spiti valley. Being the poster monastery of the region, it finds itself prominently displayed in most of the photos and travel brochures of Spiti. The monastery has gained such prominence mainly due to its location and a very unusual shape. Perched on a hilltop, Kye monastery looks more like a fortress than a religious place. In fact, when I saw it for the first time it reminded me of the city of Gondor from Lord of the Rings.
We parked our vehicle at the base of the monastery where we were met with a now familiar sight of monks playing volleyball. A short climb led us to the main gate of the monastery which had some beautiful and colourful sculptures.
Once we entered the monastery, we were guided by a Lama to the many different rooms including the prayer rooms and kitchen. He told us the story of how the monastery was attacked several times by various armies in the 17th and the 18th century and suffered heavy damages due to a fire and an earthquake in the 19th century. The consequent reconstruction and renovation gave the monastery its fortress like shape.
After visiting the rooms we climbed on the roof of the monastery. It was probably the best part of the monastery as it provided breathtaking views of the mountains and the Spiti River flowing in the valley. On the opposite bank of the river we could see tiny hamlets surrounded by green fields. Among those stark mountains, these hamlets appeared like oases in a large desert. We eventually climbed down and left by 2:45 pm.
KIBBER (4,270 m)
Till a few years ago, Kibber was considered the highest permanently inhabited village in Asia and thus, it is a famous tourism destination in Spiti valley. It took us just 20 minutes to reach Kibber from Kye monastery. I don’t know what we were expecting but our first view of the village was quite underwhelming. The village was just a cluster of white buildings spread over a small area. Regardless, we started walking towards the village.
We first came across a school building where we saw a few kids playing volleyball. Volleyball certainly seemed to be the most famous sport in the region. Our friend Vinayak, who himself is a sports enthusiast joined the kids for a game. After all it’s not every day that you get a chance to play volleyball at an altitude of 4,000 m surrounded by the mighty Himalayas.
Once our friend was done with the game we walked further towards the village but quickly realized that there was nothing much to see in the village. There were some suggestions about returning back to Kaza but it was quite early in the day so few of us decided to climb to the top of the village. I am glad we did that because as usual, the views from the top were stunning. The land at the top was flat and was used by the villagers for cultivating crops. In the distance, beyond the valley, we could see the small village of Chicham. We sat there for a while taking in the view, clicked some pictures and then climbed down.
As we were leaving the village, there was a sudden change in weather. Clouds appeared out of nowhere and completely covered the mountains that we could see so clearly just a few minutes back from the top of the village. Marvelling at this phenomenon, we got in our vehicle and started our drive back to Kaza by 5 pm.
On our way to Kaza we came across a stream and decided to halt there for some time. The halt turned out to be pretty short as it was extremely windy by the stream and we all got numb quite quickly. We clicked some photos in the breathtaking surroundings, filled our bottles with the cold, crystal-clear water and left. We reached the main market of Kaza by 6 pm and spent an hour shopping for some souvenirs. After that we relished some delicious momos and that concluded our day.