Overview of Spiti Photography Tour 2021


The Spiti Valley photo tour is one of the most scenic tours in India. If you are interested in shooting Landscapes Photography (Mountains, Rivers) Milky Way / Astrophotography (shooting the stars), Beautiful Villages and People Photography, this tour is for you. This is less popular compared to our Ladakh tour but no less in terms of beauty and photographic opportunities.

Why Join Us for the Photography Tour? 

We will make your DREAM COME TRUE - your dream to witness the great play of light and shadows and the amazing night skies and MILKY WAY and to capture them. We will also take some great portraits of the locals.

We will be going to the right places at the right time. I will suggest you the right settings for taking pictures and will personally assist you so that you go back with some great shots. We also do post-processing and feedback/review sessions whenever possible, during the tour.

Saurabh has been visiting these regions for almost a decade and great knowledge about the place. 

You will also be in the company of some great fellow travelers and will make friends for life.

 Private 1:1 tours can be arranged if required.

 

Spiti Valley Photography Tour Highlights

Landscapes - Lakes, Mountains, And Flowing Rivers, Astrophotography, Portraits And Village Photography, Architectures (Monasteries), Ancient Mummy.

Spiti Valley Photography Tour Map and Itinerary


Day 1 - Chandigarh Airport to Chail (2,250 m) - 116kms (Distance 6 hours)


We start our journey in the afternoon after landing at Chandigarh airport. The distance to our resort in Chail is 116kms. We get introduced to each other while on the way. This makes the journey time shorter. We enter Himachal Pradesh after Bitna.

This is a very quiet place with amazing views of the landscapes around. We reach our destination by about 8 pm, have our dinner. All the food here is organic and locally grown and have great taste. 


We go to bed early and get ready for the next day's long journey. 


Day 2 Chail (Altitude 2,250 m) to Chitkul ( Altitude 3,450m) Distance 263kms 12 hours 


We start at 7 am for the long journey through beautiful Kufri which is covered by tall pine trees. We pause to have a panoramic view of Shimla from far. We pass through Theog, Matiana, Kotgarh, and reach Rampur Bushahr. 


We pause for lunch and then continue all the way to Chitkul. 


You will see a lot of apple orchards and trucks full of apple being transported. We also buy apples for our week-long journey. 


Very soon, we enter the beautiful Kinnaur valley. The roads are developing and have got much better over the years. 


You will see how the landscape is changing every hour, from the dense growth of pine trees being replaced by apple orchards and scantier vegetation. 


By the time we reach Chitkul, it’s already dark and cold. We are tired, but the fun is about to begin. We go to our hotel rooms, drink tea and go out to shoot the stars and the Milky Way. Here, we are at the mercy of the weather gods. Most of the time, we are blessed with clear skies. We walk for a few meters and find a place with a great foreground for astrophotography.


I have been going to these places for more than a decade and I know the best places from where we can get the shots.


After an hour's session, we come back to our hotel, have dinner, and hit the bed.


Since we gain significant altitude, it is highly recommended to drink a lot of water and take it easy. 

We start the practice of reminding everyone to drink water every hour. We also carry Vitamin C tablets to help us get acclimatize to the high altitude. 


Day 3 Chitkul to Kalpa (Altitude 2960 meters) (Distance 70kms) 4 hours


We wake up at 4 am and get ready for some amazing shots at the river banks of Baspa river down the village. Walking down the rocky valley in the dark needs a good torch. Walking downhill is not very strenuous, but because of the high altitude, we pant for breath. We just have to take it easy. Sunrise happens at about 545am. We take some long exposures before sunrise and shoot till the golden hour, come back.


We freshen up, have some hot breakfast, and go out for a walk in the village. Chitkul is a beautiful village. We talk to the villagers, interact with them, and take their pictures. The houses are built with traditional wood carvings. We also visit the village temples which are very beautiful. A lot of intricate wooden carvings depicting stories from the Puranas.


We come back, pick our luggage and board our vehicle to go to Kalpa. The drive to Kalpa is very beautiful. We join the main highway at Karcham and continue. We pass by Reckong Peo and then to Kalpa. 


Our hotel is amid apple orchards, though we don't pluck them without permission. The mighty Kinnar Kailash is right in front of our hotel. Ask if someone can show you the Shivling which is the destination of the popular trek of Kinnar Kailash. 

Its a sight to cherish for a lifetime.


Around 2 pm, we have our lunch take some rest (sleep is medicine here) and start at 4pm to go to the Lochawa La Khang (Samdug Choeling) and the Narayan Nagini Temple. We come back to our vehicle and then go to visit the Jai Shashering Nag Temple in Pangi which is about 14 km. This is a beautiful village amid apple orchard. We take some portraits and landscapes here.


We come back by sunset and get ready for the eventful night. This is one of my favorite spots for astrophotography. The skies are generally clear and we get amazing views of the Milky Way. We also try star trails here with some good foreground. We do all the shooting from the hotel terrace. 

In between, we come back for dinner and continue our session until we can.


Day 4 Kalpa – Nako – Nako Lake – Geyu Mummy – Tabo (Altitude 3280m) (Distance 189kms)


We wake up early in the morning at about 4am, and shoot the landscapes from our hotel balconies. In fact, you can put your camera on a tripod for a time-lapse and go to sleep :D


We get ready and leave after breakfast for another eventful day.


We take a lot of stops on the way, whenever we find some good spots for pictures. We travel on some of the roads, which at one time were one of the most treacherous roads in the world. The roads have gotten much better and are no more difficult but the signboards remain. We don't mind taking a picture in front of a board to show off.


On the way, we cross a place called Khab where the Sutlej river meets the Spiti river. This is the place from where the Spiti valley starts. We drive beside the Spiti river for the next 5 days.


We reach Nako village by 1 pm, go to the Nako lake and walk around the village. Nako is one of the most beautiful villages in the area. It has many old houses made of stone stacks. It's like getting transported to centuries back. 


After spending some time in the village, we have our lunch of local momos or chowmen or thukpa, the traditional Tibetan cuisines, and leave for Tabo.


On the way we take a right turn at Sumdo to visit the Gue Mummy Lama temple. This place is very close to the China border.


We reach Tabo by evening, have tea and then visit the monastery. Tabo monastery is more than 1000 years old. We stay close to the monastery to make the best use of time. 

This is the place where some Milky Way and star trails. 


The next morning, after visiting the monastery, we leave for Kaza.


Day 5 Tabo – Dhankar –  Pin Valley (Mud Village) - Kaza (Altitude 3800m) Distance 132kms (8hours)


We start from Tabo and go to Dhankar Monastery. This is also a very old monastery situated in a very scenic location. Unfortunately, photography is no longer allowed here. After spending some here talking to the monks and having tea with them, we head to Pin Valley. We take a left at Attargo Bridge crossing the Spiti river to go to Mud village in Pin Valley. Mud is the last village in the Pin valley, and also the starting point for the Pin Parvati Pass. The drive is very scenic with mountains of different colors. The kids in the village are very playful. 

We stop for some time at the hanging bridge near Sagnam village to take some pictures before reaching our destination, Kaza.


We might get tired in this long journey but cannot miss the opportunity to shoot the stars having the monastery in the foreground. Thankfully, we don't need to go anywhere. We shoot from the terrace of our hotel.


We stay for  3 nights in the same place.


Day 6 Kaza – Ki – Kibber  – Kaza (Altitude 3800m) Distance 42 km


We get up late in the morning and relax. Some like to walk to the Kaza market. We love to have samosas and jalebis after having the same kind of hotelish food for many days. We take pictures in the market.

We start our journey post-lunch. We first go to Key monastery. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside the monastery. The best place to take pictures here is in school and the hostels. The young monks are naughty and playful. 


We then head to the Kibber village. This village was one of the highest villages with electricity at one time. It is now shot to popularity due to the snow leopard expeditions in winter. Its a part of the Kibber National Park. The village people are very warm and friendly. We spend some time here before going back to the Key monastery to shoot the stars. It is cold and windy but very rewarding. If the skies are clear, we get some of the most amazing shots of the trip.


If we are lucky, we are able to see the ibex in groups.


We head back by 9 pm and if possible shoot the stars again from the hotel.

 

Day 7 Kaza – Hikkim – Komik – Langza – Kaza (Distance 42kms)


We get up late and relax, and walk to the market if someone wants to have more jalebis. 


This day, we go to Hikkim, post-lunch. This is the highest post office in the world. Make sure you carry some postcards to mail to your near and dear ones. It's a collector’s item and a great idea to send letters to people you love. we will be going to the Highest Post Office in the World - Hikkim. It will be a great opportunity to send a Thank You note to your loved ones or expressing your gratitude. If you want to do so, please carry the postal addresses of the receivers. Phones don't work from there. You can bring your own picture postcards and buy stamps so that you don't have any issues there. I try to print some from my pictures every year.


After mailing the letters and taking a few pictures of the village and villagers, we head to Komic monastery (4587 m) We then go to Langza by evening and wait for the heavens to show up. Sometimes, the weather can play a spoilsport.


We take pictures of the stars till the time we can and then leave for Kaza by 9 pm.


It is generally very cold and windy. We go back to our hotel and take a late dinner.

 

Day 8 Kaza - Kunzum Pass – Chandratal (Distance 75kms) (Altitude 4300m)


Today, we leave for our last place - Chandratal. It is one of the most beautiful lakes in India and most difficult to go to. Make sure you drink enough water to keep yourself safe from AMS. Take it easy, no running around.


We start at 8 am after breakfast and reach our campsite by the afternoon. We have our lunch, take some rest and leave for Chandratal lake. Here we stay in basic tents. There are no hotels here.  The drive to the parking from our tents is about 3 km but a very arduous one. This is followed by a walk of about a kilometer. The walk is actually quite gentle, but the altitude makes it tough. Do not hurry, take your own time. 


We spend time in the lake till evening, shoot the stars and come back. It’s really very cold here due to the wind. Make sure you carry enough warm clothes and a windproof jacket.

 

Day 9 Chandratal – Rohtang Pass – Manali (Altitude  2050m) (Distance 133km)


We go to Chandratal lake again in the morning to shoot the sunrise. It's a great experience to shoot in the morning. You will find an amazing play of light and shadows. We come back and leave for Manali after breakfast. It is a hell of a bumpy ride. We reach by evening, stay in our hotel, and relax.


Day 10 Relaxing in Manali and leaving by evening


Today, we have a very lazy day. We get up late, sit in the lawn of our hotel with apple trees, and have breakfast. You can relax or visit the market if you want. By afternoon, we leave with our luggage, and sit in the market and roam around. We take the evening AC Volvo bus to Chandigarh, go to the airport and fly back to our destination. 

We go back with memories of a lifetime and some great pictures.


During the tour, whenever possible, we spend time reviewing the pictures and providing feedback on how to get better.

 Note: This is a group tour. Personal tour can be arranged on demand based on your requirement.

Itinerary -

Day 1
Thursday, September 23, 2021
Arrive at Chandigarh and drive to Chail
Day 2
Friday, September 24, 2021
Chail-Chitkul
Day 3
Saturday, September 25, 2021
Chitkul-Kalpa
Day 4
Sunday, September 26, 2021
Kalpa - Nako - Nako Lake - Gyu Monastery - Tabo
Day 5
Monday, September 27, 2021
Tabo - Dhankar - Pin Valley (Mud Village) Kaza
Day 6
Tuesday, September 28, 2021
Kaza - Ki - Kibber - Kaza
Day 7
Wednesday, September 29, 2021
Kaza - Hikkim - Komik - Langza - Kaza
Day 8
Thursday, September 30, 2021
Kaza - Kunzum Pass - Chandratal
Day 9
Friday, October 01, 2021
Chandratal - Kunzum Pass - Rohtang Pass - Manali
Day 10
Saturday, October 02, 2021
Relaxing in Manali and leaving by evening
Day 11
Sunday, October 03, 2021
Flight from Chandigarh

Cost: Rs.55,000/-
Only 7 participants on first come first serve basis.

Cost includes

1) Accommodation at all destinations as per the itinerary. (Twin sharing basis) Single room available on request.
2) Vegetarian breakfast, lunch, and dinner from Day 1 afternoon to Day 10 Morning
3) Comfortable vehicle for all days as per the itinerary
4) Driver charges, driver accommodation, fuel and inter-state toll.
5) Expert guidance for Photography by Ssaurabh A Chatterjee

Cost does not include

1) Travel cost from your destination to Chandigarh and back from Manali.
2) Mineral water, any additional beverage ordered.

Payment Policy

Rs.20000/- booking amount.
Rest 45 days before the date of the tour.

Cancellation Policy

30 days prior to departure of the tour, advance amount is non-refundable.
30 days to 15 days prior to departure of the tour 50% of total tour cost.
14 days to 07 days prior to departure of the tour 75% of total tour cost.
07 days to 01 days prior to departure of the tour 100% of total tour cost.

There will be no refund for NO SHOWS.



PICTURES FROM Lahaul Spiti Valley Photo Tour 2021


Video


FAQ


1. Do I need to be physically fit to join this trip? We will be traveling by SUVs but there is some amount of walking involved. However, we will be traveling at high altitudes. Please consult your doctor first.
2. Is this trip only for Photographers? No, anyone can join. We will spend a lot of time taking some great pictures though. I'm sure everyone loves doing that. We have had non-photographers in our previous trips and they enjoy as much.
3. I have no knowledge on Photography. Will I get some help? Yes, absolutely. Saurabh will be assisting you all the time. He will help you on how to take some great pictures. So, you will learn while having fun on the go.
4. I don't have a camera. Can I get camera or lenses on rent? Yes, Camera / Lenses for Rent in Hyderabad
5. How do I reach Chandigarh? Chandigarh is well connected from New Delhi by bus / train / flight.
6. How cold will it be? Day temperatures will be around 25 degrees C on most days. The only cold night will be our camping night in Chandratal. Temperatures might go down below zero, so please carry your heavy jackets - warm and windproof. Carry something to cover your head.

Please read the Photography part of Tips and Tricks

Some feedback from the previous tours -

Amazing tour to spiti valley! Well honestly I dunno where to start from n where to end at.. It was an awesome journey n a great experience! I never ever thought I’d be going but the line once said by Saurab Sir ” IT IS DIFFICULT BECAUSE U THINK IT IS ” this line actually kept me confident. Besides it was pleasure being with a decent, knowledgeable, understanding n a helpful person i.e, Saurabh Chatterjee. Infact all the people who came along were simply great n supportive and I can’t forget my lovely room mates! I have seen a new world, new place, new culture, different atmosphere n much more thanks to God then my parents n surely to saurabh sir! Aparna Bhagwat Sole I can’t forget your jhad wala apple ,ur love for kids n bourbon biscuits Swati Nighoskarr uve been very helpful n kind all the time ☺Sudhakar Bichalii your courage has inspired all of us n your jokes 😝 haha baigan 🍆🍆 lShruthi Rao Rao anybody is peeing chai? 😜 n your wish to go to the hospital has fulfilled 😂 now plz no more wishes like this n the head massage from u waAruna Sahithi Reddy Muskuddy Musku sometimes your selfie stick was a big help for me.. And our work out at the kee monestary even your curd addiction ! I’m the end many thanks to Saurabh sir, things wudnt have been possible without u!
Sara

Finally I could make it to my first photo tour with SIA. Very happy to be a part of such a wonderful trip.Had loads of fun along with lots of learning. One of the best trips so far.Thank you Saurabh Chatterjee for pushing us to test our limits every time else we would have missed the other awesome shots as we missed Chitkul sunrise. Learnt a lot in this trip and looking forward to join you for more such trips.Thank you…Saurabh Chatterjee, Aparna Bhagwat Sole, Sudhakar Bichali, Shruthi Rao, Shravan Reddy, Aruna Sahithi Reddy and our cute Princess Sara Iqbal Ali for making this trip a memorable one!
Swati

Dear Saurabh Chatterjee, Just to say an enormous thank you for organising the most amazing photo tour! It truly was one of the best in life time! even with that kind of start what i had, Everything went like clockwork,Thank you to all for making it such a memorable experience. We will definitely be going back and of course will be using your wonderful tips again, and will be recommending you to all our friends and colleagues. Thank you all again so very much for everything you did for us, your attention to detail and kindness is very much appreciated. Looking forward to the next one already! Thanks Aparna Bhagwat Sole (Jhaad wala Apple), Swati Nighoskar Sara Iqbal Ali Shravan Reddy!!!! What a team!
ISMAIL BHAI..lol

Thanks a lot to you Saurabh for making this trip where I found myself once again. You taught lot of things and motivated a lot for taking nice photos . learning from you when clicking was nice part practical part . You are nice photograpy teacher who motivates and teaches also . thanks to you for teaching not to try but do it.
Aparna

Saurabh – Thanks for organising a fantastic tour of Lahaul and spiti valley! Everything was well organised, hence the tour went smooth and in a timely manner. Thanks for the amazing experience from this tour
Sahithi

I again had an amazing experience in Spiti and Lahaul trip curated by SIA Photography. This was my second trip with them and it was really good in terms of everything. I got to shoot Milky Way on every consecutive day. With the learnings I got in my previous trip I was able to help others in this trip. I felt really good when everyone thanked me for helping them in any matter. Being with different people, there's always something you can learn. So grateful to Saurabh Sir for organising this trip. Looking forward to join SIA Photography for such amazing trips.
Aditi Jha, New Delhi, Photography Student

Spiti is one of the most picturesque places to visit in India, and who better than Saurabh Chatterjee to guide a photography tour in this location!
We started the tour as a group of strangers, united only by their love for nature and photography but ended the tour as friends that feel like family. Saurabh Chatterjee made sure the group felt like a ‘home away from home’ while we celebrated birthdays under the starry skies, as we explored the pristine landscape of Spiti. Saurabh critically analysed the pictures of the entire group and made sure we left the tour as better photographers and friends.
Under his guidance I can say on behalf of all members’our photographic skills have improved at least by two notches. Saurabh motivates us to get up at 4 am and start shooting in freezing cold— the hallmark of an exceptional teacher.
I’m waiting eagerly for another trip with Saurabh.
Dr. Gurpreet Singh, Senior Doctor, Patiala

The Spiti Valley trip was one of the most memorable trips I have had. First of all, the places we visited were just gorgeous, and the weather was amazing. We got deep blue skies dotted with white puffy clouds during the day, and clear dark skies at night. The trip itinerary was brilliantly planned by Saurabh. And finally, the way Saurabh helped every single person take the difficult Milky Way and Star trails pics... He was available to guide, to help with the settings, and ensure that pretty much every single tour participant got a brilliant shot. One of the best trips I have had, making me want to go back for more.
Dr. Mahesh Iyer, Pharma Professional

Saurabh, the Spiti Valley trip was a once in a life time trip for me and I couldn’t think of anyone, I would rather go with than you and the other group members. I have never seen the nature or the stars in its glorious beauty than on this trip. As I was describing the trip, one of my friend was asking me when Saurabh is planning his next trip to Spiti. The arrangements of stay were great in most places and the best was the luxurious camp site at Chanderatal. I have definitely learned how to photograph milkiway and star trails from you and inspiration and encouragement from others in the group. Thank you for processing the star trails for us. I also learnt about our History and Geography from Ajay and Dr. Gurupreet Singh. From Achala and Aditi, I learnt that age is just a number (most of the time;-)).

It is also wonderful to see that you have grown not only as a photographer, but as a human being. You have generously shared your hotspot/ phone with most of us. I am happy to recommend others to go with you on these trips.

Dr. Shailaja, Pharma Professional


Spiti valley is an awesome place & holding hands with Saurabh Chatterjee, an ace photographer, who enjoys sharing his knowledge and experience with novices like me, makes the trip extra special. I never thought I would take photographs of galaxy or of star trails, but this was possible under Saurabh's guidance. The serinity of region calms one down. It offers multiple opportunities of photography such as landscapes, portraits, market places, houses, temples, monastery, monks to galaxy and startrail. It was an amazing experience for me. I saw a happy world, which is so different from our city life. One must visit for stress buster.
Achala Nayak, Retired Finance Professional

I again had an amazing experience in Spiti and Lahaul trip curated by SIA Photography. This was my second trip with them and it was really good in terms of everything. I got to shoot Milky Way on every consecutive day. With the learnings I got in my previous trip I was able to help others in this trip. I felt really good when everyone thanked me for helping them in any matter. Being with different people, there's always something you can learn. So grateful to Saurabh Sir for organising this trip. Looking forward to join SIA Photography for such amazing trips.
Aditi Jha, New Delhi, Photography Student

Spiti is one of the most picturesque places to visit in India, and who better than Saurabh Chatterjee to guide a photography tour in this location!
We started the tour as a group of strangers, united only by their love for nature and photography but ended the tour as friends that feel like family. Saurabh Chatterjee made sure the group felt like a ‘home away from home’ while we celebrated birthdays under the starry skies, as we explored the pristine landscape of Spiti. Saurabh critically analysed the pictures of the entire group and made sure we left the tour as better photographers and friends.
Under his guidance I can say on behalf of all members’our photographic skills have improved at least by two notches. Saurabh motivates us to get up at 4 am and start shooting in freezing cold— the hallmark of an exceptional teacher.
I’m waiting eagerly for another trip with Saurabh.
Dr. Gurpreet Singh, Senior Doctor, Patiala

The Spiti Valley trip was one of the most memorable trips I have had. First of all, the places we visited were just gorgeous, and the weather was amazing. We got deep blue skies dotted with white puffy clouds during the day, and clear dark skies at night. The trip itinerary was brilliantly planned by Saurabh. And finally, the way Saurabh helped every single person take the difficult Milky Way and Star trails pics... He was available to guide, to help with the settings, and ensure that pretty much every single tour participant got a brilliant shot. One of the best trips I have had, making me want to go back for more.
Dr. Mahesh Iyer, Pharma Professional

Saurabh, the Spiti Valley trip was a once in a life time trip for me and I couldn’t think of anyone, I would rather go with than you and the other group members. I have never seen the nature or the stars in its glorious beauty than on this trip. As I was describing the trip, one of my friend was asking me when Saurabh is planning his next trip to Spiti. The arrangements of stay were great in most places and the best was the luxurious camp site at Chanderatal. I have definitely learned how to photograph milkiway and star trails from you and inspiration and encouragement from others in the group. Thank you for processing the star trails for us. I also learnt about our History and Geography from Ajay and Dr. Gurupreet Singh. From Achala and Aditi, I learnt that age is just a number (most of the time;-)).

It is also wonderful to see that you have grown not only as a photographer, but as a human being. You have generously shared your hotspot/ phone with most of us. I am happy to recommend others to go with you on these trips.

Dr. Shailaja, Pharma Professional


Spiti valley is an awesome place & holding hands with Saurabh Chatterjee, an ace photographer, who enjoys sharing his knowledge and experience with novices like me, makes the trip extra special. I never thought I would take photographs of galaxy or of star trails, but this was possible under Saurabh's guidance. The serinity of region calms one down. It offers multiple opportunities of photography such as landscapes, portraits, market places, houses, temples, monastery, monks to galaxy and startrail. It was an amazing experience for me. I saw a happy world, which is so different from our city life. One must visit for stress buster.
Achala Nayak, Retired Finance Professional

Surreal Spiti with Saurabh
A ten day holiday trip to Himachal during the pandemic? It was looking
impossible till I got on the Shatabdi Express to Chandigarh. But I managed to. I
am glad I did.
Chandigarh welcomed travellers with rain, where I joined seven others
like me looking for an adventure, a getaway from the madness of the last year
and a half caused by the pandemic. A photo tour to Spiti Valley was the right
antidote to the poison spread in our lives, and Saurabh was the perfect master
to administer it. Those who joined him became a special group, a family over
the next 10 days.
As Manish drove us away from Chandigarh towards the hills, there was a
palpable excitement in the air, moist with the continuous rain and threatening
to disrupt our plans, for clear skies are a photographer’s basic need. The drive
to our first halt, Chail (pron Chayal) was disrupted as a giant tree fell a few feet
ahead of us and almost crushed our vehicle. The tree was, with lot of effort of
discussion and jugaad pushed away to make the way clear. The Gods were with
us! Saurabh conducted a quick revision class for all after dinner.
The next morning’s drive to Chitkul was to be a long one. Surprisingly, it
had stopped raining which pleased us all. A walk to the world’s highest cricket
ground at Military School Chail offered clear views of Shimla and distant
Himalayan peaks. It was a sign of things to come. The drive through thick
deciduous forests of Kufri and Narkanda was beautiful. We hit the Satluj river
and followed it all the way up to Khab village. Doc Gurpreet updated us not only
on the geography of the region but some history too. The roads were narrow
(an understatement), dusty and bumpy at times, definitely not for the faint
hearted! We learnt quickly it was better to concentrate on the scenery outside
rather than on them.
Chitkul is great place for astro photography. Reaching well past sunset,
we immediately set out for a nearby riverside for the shoot. What a beautiful
sight a clear night sky is! Many living in concrete jungles do not have the
opportunity to experience it. While all of us had our tripods and lenses out in
the chilly air at 11500 ft AMSL, admiring the Milky Way, the moon made its
appearance and dimmed the Milky Way somewhat but not the beauty of the
star lit landscape. Night photos appeared like day shots even on crop sensor
cameras. Our frozen fingers were barely able to move to get the necessary
settings. On the way back, Aditi decided she does not like the beaten track so
two of us had a mini adventure making it back to the hotel in the dead of the
night in absence of mobile phone network.
Views from our next stop Kalpa were awe-inspiring. Peaks of the Kinner
Kailash range were visible in all thier glory. They were so close and imposing.
A roadside opening became the spot for our shoot where most of us got our first
good Milky Way shots.
The landscape changed from alpine forests to bare brown ragged peaks
as we entered the Spiti Valley. A small holy lake at Nako, a stone’s throw from
the China border was a good photo stop cum lunch halt. At Tabo, a stupa offered
great foreground for our star trails. However, errant taxis and local monks on
their routines played spoil sport occasionally in our endeavour. Thanks to the
good policing by Achala, we managed to keep them away and get our shots!
On way to Kaza, we visited the Dhankar (pron like bunker) Monastery
and entered the Pin Valley National Park which boasts of Himalayan wildlife
including the snow leopard. A chance spotting of the ‘Blue Sheep’, which are
distant cousins of the mountain goat, Ibis and a traditional style squatted lunch
at Moodh village made the drive memorable.
Kaza offers access to Kibber village and the Chicham Bridge across a deep
gorge, which rivals the Grand Canyon and Hikkim, the highest Post Office in the
world, where we posted letters, Aditi her first!
Komic village which once boasted the highest motor able road in the
world, now has a new monastery. Shailaja clicked some monks in action there,
not meditating but playing cricket and even managed to get a few great shots!
The view of the 180 degrees mountain range from there was spectacular.
A 25 ft Buddha statue at Langza at 14000 ft was the venue for our next
night shoot. It was pitch dark, cold and windy. The star filled sky looked surreal.
An astronomy book i read many years ago said one could see 100,000 stars on
a clear night. The author obviously had never visited Spiti Valley. He would have
counted several more if he did!
The most anticipated destination, Chandrataal Lake was next. Kunzum
Pass en route afforded great views of snow-clad peaks around. We moved in to
Kabila Camp, which housed tents for our stay. A brief drive followed by 30
minutes of walk lead us to Chandrataal lake. Temperatures dipped sharply after
sunset and soon we were shivering and freezing. But the view of the night sky
we got from there was unforgettable. Full of stars, the clearly visible Milky Way
rose above a distant snowy peak. It was magical! Definitely, the pièce de
résistance of the tour! As we soaked in the sight and goodness of nature,
shivering away, Mahesh pulled a rabbit out of the hat by pulling out a flask with
hot tea. What more could one ask for? As our cameras worked away on our star
trails, Deepak tried astro photography with his mobile phone camera and came
up with stunning shots rivalling any DSLR! He could easily demand royalty from
the phone maker for these.
The drive back to Manali was almost sombre. A chance to pass through
the newly opened 9 km long Atal Tunnel through the Rohtang mountains
bought some cheer. As we made our way back to our homes from Spiti, we
returned better photographers, more aware and thankful for the gifts nature
offers, and for the friendships we started.
Thank you, Saurabh!
Ajay Deshpande, Group Captain, IAF


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