Spiti - The land of the unexpected


I have learned that whenever you find yourself in a new and unknown culture, be prepared to find the unexpected. I have been surprised in many ways. Before I came out to Spiti I was warned by our guide Eris, to prepare myself for the unexpected. Spiti is a very unique and distinct place. You can say that at an altitude of about 4000 meters, you are definitely in one of the highest and most remote places in the world.

Our first day we are greeted to a first class breakfast, everything from homegrown honey, to the best fried eggs, you can even go for the hard boiled eggs, it is surely a good welcome, as I am eating, I am warned by our friend Eris, “nefi you are in one of the highest places in the world, the altitude will get to you, don’t eat too much” I seem to disregard this statement and continue to eat. As the day continues we are shown the facilities where Eris and his team have begun a training facility for local underserved girls in the community. We are later taken to the city center to meet with local individuals, we are supposed to meet the King of Spiti, but he is nowhere to be found, we than go to his home, we find the Princess, but no sign of the king. We decide to meet with the King later. We than go to a rest home they have built for the elderly people. Truly an amazing place the old are now young, they seem fresh and ready to work. At the same place, we encounter the home of an old Buddhist Monk, one who lived his life in a small box and had recently died. As we sat in his small cave, it was clear that this was a very sacred place to all of his friends, and to the Buddhist community. Everything in the room has been kept the same since his death, even the smell is very distinct, it was definitely not something you see every day, but in India, everything you encounter is something you don’t see every day, to a foreigner it’s all new and very different.

After a wonderful lunch, and a great cultural experience, we are headed to the highest village in the world. The village of Kibber, located within an hour from Kaza. As we travel through the desert mountains we stop by a very distinct place. We learn that we are in a century old Buddhist monastery which is a training center for Lamas. We are able to see and go inside various rooms, some we can just see from the doors, others we are allowed to go in. We are shown ancient historical books which are kept at the facility, it is truly remarkable, Eris tells us to choose one book at random and there will be some useful knowledge for us, one is chosen at random, and is read to us by the Monk in charge, we realize the book we have picked is a technical book, with detailed instructions on natural medicines. We do not find a connection to any of us, but we later find out a very interesting fact. As we arrive to Kibber, we realize we are in very unusual place, we are told we are in the highest village in the world. Upon arrival we come across the local medicine man, the doctor who has been said to have the most efficient natural medications available, one who has been observed by many doctors who have come here to see what it’s all about. Many of them are left in awe, and simply just say, it is what you see, we have no explanation. We are than reminded that the book that we had drawn at random was the one with major details about natural medicine. As we sit in the medicines man home, not a word is understood, Hindi is spoken from beginning to end, one thing, we notice is that Eris is doing most of the talking, he is doing a great job entertaining and keeping the medicine man in hysteric laughter, later Eris tells us that he did something very unique, the medicine man needed some of his own treatment, which was laughter, he told us he provided it. By now I am very tired, the altitude is definitely getting to me, I have eaten food everywhere I have stepped foot in, I was warned, but did not take heed.

As we make our descent, we are taken back for dinner, I decide to pass it up, and end the day lying in bed trying to recover, they have almost reached their goal, trying to kill me with food, definitely a prophetic statement. I make sure to use the medicine that always works for me a good old coke, I find out they don’t have any Coke, but Pepsi will be just fine. I learned my lesson don’t eat more than you will burn, a lesson that is mandatory in the Himalayas. Or else you will end up like I did, sick. I recovered very quickly, it is better to learn early than late. And in the Himalayas the altitude does not forgive.

Nefi Alarcon