The Ultimate Chicken Bus

I really thought I had seen it all. I’ve been in buses with chickens, ducks, pigs, goats, sheep… but oh, India has so many ways to remind us that this is no ordinary third-world country. India had to take the “chicken bus” to a whole new level.

Imagine our surprise when the villagers pulled a DONKEY, which was protesting wildly, into our already very crowded bus. Oh, such a bad idea!

Now, in case this isn’t painfully obvious, donkeys are not meant to be transported in public buses traveling over stone-covered, potholed mountain roads. I’m surprised the poor animal survived the trauma.

Hiking Spiti

Click play to watch video

Follow along as we explore the mountains and canyons of Spiti Valley on foot. Visit a hermit monk, witness a village holyman channeling local gods, and discover the spectacular cliff-side monasteries and villages of one of India’s remotest regions. Just click the video above to begin.

Treasure Hunt

While hiking along the narrow paths through the deserted landscape of Spiti Valley, Amit, Tony and I became totally obsessed with all the bits and pieces of marine fossil littering the hiking trails, a testament to a prehistoric sea covering this area.

Of course, we each wanted to discover our own perfectly preserved fossil. After a while, we could not walk past a single black, egg-shaped rock without cracking it open to possibly reveal some extinct ocean-dwelling arthropod or mollusk.

I soon was in gold rush mode, constantly scanning the path for likely treasures. It was a compulsion I couldn’t resist. My eyes were so fixed to the ground that the landscape passed by without me noticing any of its beauty. But I wasn’t the only victim. Continue…

Homestay

After a number of day hikes with Amit, Ariel and Yael, we were ready for more of a challenge and decided to do a 4-day homestay trek along the northern edge of the Spiti Valley. In addition to taking in the phenomenal scenery, we would be able to explore the fascinating Spitian culture by living with local families. We knew this would come with certain inconveniences, but all of us were willing to trade a private bathroom (as it turned out pretty much any bathroom) for some cultural exchange. Continue…

Day Trip to the Hermit Monk

While staying in Tabo, we heard rumors of a hermit Buddhist monk living up one of the side valleys in a small cave temple. Intrigued by such a figure, our small band of rag-tag explorers couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pay the monk a visit.

Thomas, Ariel, Amit, Yael and I joined by our new friend Craig from Scotland made our way up through the dramatically eroded valley along extremely narrow, crumbling paths looking for the hermit. We didn’t know what a “cave temple” looked like or how obvious is might be in the surrounding cliffs, so we took our time.

As we were slowly taking in the valley around us, a lone British hiker happened by. She informed us that the hermit monk did not like visitors and discouraged outsiders from Continue…

Tabo Monastery Dances

Tabo Monastery is one of the oldest and best preserved Buddhist gompas we have seen. It was founded over a thousand years ago, and while the exterior is quite basic, the interior walls are covered with extensive, well-preserved Indo-Tibetan murals. The unique paintings clearly deserve their World Heritage status and are worth the long journey to Spiti.

Click play to watch video

But our trip to this remote region was rewarded with far more than murals. While we were visiting the gompa, we were lucky enough to observe a 2-day festival which included local folk songs and dance routines showing off the traditional dress and jewelry as well as the fascinating masked Chaam dances performed by the Tabo monks.

Witness this colorful spectacle for yourself and get a glimpse of Spitian culture in our video of the festival.

Running for Our Lives

Could the roads get any worse than I previously described in On Edge? Absolutely. In fact, the entire road can collapse and you can be stranded on the wrong side – oops. That’s exactly what happened to us as we attempted to travel from Nako to Tabo.

After tearing out my hair on the nightmare roads from Rekong Peo, I had convinced the others to shell out the dough to hire a car to drive us on into the Spiti Valley. We had found a jeep, bargained out a decent rate, and were ready to go, when a local informed us that the road had partially collapsed and even jeeps were unable to make it over the rubble. Quite used to these kinds of scenarios, it was decided Continue…

Inner Line Permit

India without paperwork wouldn’t be India. Before setting off to Kinnaur and Spiti, we had to obtain inner-line permits, which would allow us to stay in this remote region for 2 weeks.

Why all the fuss? The road winding precariously along steep and narrow gorges north of Kinnaur into Spiti is as close to Tibet as you can get in a vehicle from the Indian side. Only a few kilometers from the border, the region is dotted with old Continue…

On Edge

Over the years, we’ve seen the world’s worst roads. Rock-strewn trails from the Sudan to Tibet. Muddy nightmares from Guatemala to Madagascar. Don’t get me started about central Africa. But nothing could prepare us for the journey from Kinnaur to Spiti – pure vertical nightmare.

During the last year, we’ve been on a tour of the world’s most terrifying mountain roads from Sichuan to Tibet to Nepal. You really would have thought that we would have experienced the worst of the worst when it comes to mountain roads. WRONG! Continue…