2400Km of Solo Spiti Sauntering – Day 5 – Nako to Dhankar

2400Km of Solo Spiti Sauntering – Compendium – Links to rest of the Spiti travelog

Day 5 – Thu, Sep 7 2017 – Nako Monastery, Gue Lama Mummy, Tabo, Dhankar Monastery and Fort

Day 5 route map

Woke up lazily a little late around 0500. Got ready and stepped out to walk around the village. Wanted to just hang around the place and maybe chit-chat with some locals.

Old houses in Nako Village. The big new one on the top left is of the village head

Nako Lake

A different angle to the Nako Lake. The house behind the green building is Tashi Home Stay where I stayed.

First I walked down to the lake which was just in front of the home stay. The Nako lake is a very small lake in the middle of the village. Nothing much to speak about other than a spot to sit and enjoy the peace. It surely was quite peaceful and cold next to the lake. It was quite early for anyone to be around and I sat on a flat piece of rock soaking in the moment.

After a little while I headed up towards the village in search of the monastery.

Cobbled stone path weaving though the village huts.

A multi-story hut in the village. Notice the low ceiling height and decoration above the door.

I wandered through the village huts and eventually reached the old monastery through the backside. While it was quite early in the morning for the place to be open, an old women gave me a brief tour of the surroundings – what the various buildings were for and the history of the century old monastery.

Then she directed me to the new monastery which was built on a ground below the old one. Thanking her, I went down to the ground and then sat on a some steps to watch the clouds cover the mountains behind the bright new building. It looked like it was snowing far off there.

Prayer Wheels at the Old Monastery.

Twin Chortens at the Old Monastery.

The new Monastery building at Nako

Couple of  more chortens at the old monastery.

I exited the area via the main monastery gate and then walked up the road to the village. Now I was searching for a tea shop – a hot cup of tea would make it a perfect morning. Unfortunately it was too early for the shops to open.

Walking about I found one shop about to open. The shopkeeper and his assistant was preparing tea for themselves and offered a glass to me. I was only too eager to accept. I sat down outside their shop while the tea was being made.

Over tea we started a conversation. In a few weeks they would shut shop and move to Goa for winter where he ran a camp ground. The season was drawing to an end and once the snow falls, the tourist inflow would stop. In winters very few people live in the village. The conversation then drifted to other things like demonetization, upcoming Himanchal elections and development in these remote areas. In general I see that remote areas in Himanchal are more developed than the remote areas in Uttarakhand.

As the morning progressed, the village became alive. Few vehicles passed on the road and several locals went about their morning chores.

I started off to explore rest of the village. After roaming around a little, I took an alternate way to the home stay.

A few fields near the Nako Lake.

Mountains, flags and huts at Nako Village

Returning back to the home stay, I took a bath and packed my stuff. By that time breakfast was ready. Since I had already worn my shoes, decided to have the breakfast on the terrace rather than in the kitchen. The hot alu-paranthas warmed me up all the way down to the core.

Pretty soon I was on the road again.

Cabbages in the Tashi Homestay garden

Breakfast with a view

Morning’s first stop was to be at Gue, but that was a long way away. First I was to drive through some real beautiful and barren terrain

Roadside selfie

All along the Spiti River there are pockets of settlements with their oasis of green.  The village in the middle is probably Leo.

Village of Nako as seen from the road towards Tabo. The red spot in the middle is the new monastery building.

Spiti river in a deep gorge.

Zig-zags descend down to the river near Malling Nala

Weird rock formation carved out of water and wind erosion.

One of the several shooting stones warnings.

A road construction crew with small kids in tow. These crews are permanently stationed in landslide prone areas so that roads can be unblocked as fast as possible.

After Changjam, the road runs adjacent to the river till Sumdo. The road condition is quite good as from Sumdo a road goes towards Kaurik which has a key ITBP outpost. Also at Sumdo, there is an ITBP checkpoint where one needs to register. From there one road leads to Kaurik and other to Tabo. The diversion to Gue on the road towards Tabo.

View of the Sumdo village from the bridge. The bridge is at the confluence of Spit and Parchu rivers.

Diversion towards Gue

Gue is in a side road around 10Km off the main road to Tabo. The road is not in a great condition though still manageable. The road first goes parallel to a river which was flowing with black water, possible coming from erosion upstream. After a few Km, the road rises up through a couple of switchbacks towards the small village of Gue. The monastery with the mummy is on a hill above the village.

When I reached the village, I did not see a single soul around. I followed the road up to the monastery, which was on a clearing overlooking the village. The monastery area also looked abandoned. The new building was unlocked and I opened the door to step inside. The place was still under construction.

Black river water on way to Gue

Way to Gue Monastery

Small building next to the new monastery building which houses the Lama mummy.

Gue Lama Mummy

The impressive new monastery building at Gue.

The adjacent building housing the mummy was locked. As I wandered around, an ITBP jawan came by with the keys to the building. He gave me the keys and asked me to lock the door after I am done. I opened the door myself and stepped inside. The mummy was kept in a glass case and surprising well-preserved. Being alone in the room gave me an eerie feeling. I quickly took a few snaps and stepped outside.

A few tourists drove up as I was preparing to leave. Giving them the keys I headed back to the main road.

Spiti River on way to Tabo.

The road to Tabo follows Spiti River closely – turning and twisting as the with the river. A little  ahead is the pretty village of Hurling with its small apple orchards. Not wanting to miss an opportunity, I stopped to pluck a few apples. Feasted on a couple and kept some in the bag. Given the heavily laden trees, the owner would not have minded.

Fully Laden apple trees.

Sweet and juicy.

With the river water low, the sandbars made interesting patterns on the riverbed

As I was cruising along, a small truck crossed me at a pretty fast clip and then stopped abruptly. As I slowed down to navigate part it I saw a man and a woman get down. Just ahead was a trail leading down to the river with a rope-way bridge and a broken wooden hanging bridge for pedestrian.

I knew I had to stop to experience the dare-devilry. Both bridges were about 25-30ft above water level. The river was flowing fast. I wasn’t sure which bridge each would use. The wooden one surely was more risky.

I was surprised to see the woman walk towards the wooden bridge. The wooden planks from the 1st 15ft were missing. She would need to walk on the ropes to get the wooden planks. Without pausing, a bag in one hand, she just held the rope with the other and started the tight-rope walk. Within seconds she had crossed the broken part.

The man on the other hand pulled the rope-way chair and sat on it. The pulley wheel rolled over the rope and the chair slid down towards the middle of the river, stopping a little ahead after overshooting due to momentum. He then started pulling himself towards the other end.

In just a little more than a minute both of them were over on the other side.

Tight-rope walk.

Rope-way bridge

Dare-devilry of crossing the river.

Tabo Village

The Tabo monastery. also known as the “Ajanta of Himalayas” is a famous one and goes back to 996AD. The new building is impressive but the old one has a charm of its own. It is kind of nice that there are benches spread around on the grounds.

I sat for a while near the old mud building. While there were clouds spread out in the sky threatening rain for a brief period of 10 min the sun came out as I warmed myself on the bench. There were no more than two groups of tourists of which one was more focused on the curio shop and other in the new building. It was great sitting there enjoying the sun and the peace, relaxing my bum after the rough ride.

The new monastery at Tabo.

Old Monastery with the new one in the backdrop

Old Monastery at Tabo

Tabo Helipad

After leaving the monastery, I did a short detour to the nearby helipad to take some pics and then headed on towards Dhankar.

Couple of Km after Tabo, light rain started. I stopped to put on the rain gear. It was just a drizzle, so I opted against putting the covers on the bags. Fortunately the rain stopped after a while.

Soon I was at the door steps of Dhankar.

Onwards to Dhankar

Road and the river.

Gate to Dhankar

The road to Dhankar rises steeply from the valley floor through a series of switch backs. The views are extremely scenic with the monastery and the fort rising steeply on one side and the valley floor with Spiti river on the other. On the river the sandbars made beautiful patterns cris-crossing with the waters.

Pretty soon I was at Dhankar. The new monastery is first big building as one enters the village. I got a room at the new monastery guest house. After lunch of veg thopka, headed out to explore the old monastery and the fort.

Dhankar Monastery and Fort from the approach road.

Flags, Fort and the Monastery

Helipad doubling up as a cricket pitch

Gateway to Dhankar


Lunch – Veg Thokpa

Old Dhankar Gompa on the middle left. Dhankar Fort is the highest building

Closer view of the Dhankar Fort.

Closer view of the Old Dhankar Monastery.

Both the old monastery and the fort are built on top of a cliff with separate approach roads. I first went to the monastery. Initially I could not find anyone at the monastery. The place was wide open. So I wandered around the floors one by one visiting the prayer rooms and other rooms. Couple of floors up, I found one person sitting on the cliff enjoying the sun.

Towards the top I found the caretaker Lama of the monastery. I helped myself to the chair beside him and we started a conversation. Being alone there he was only too eager to chat.

It was a nice conversation and he told me about himself, history of the monastery, life in the place and the various things about the lama life.

After about half an hour I left the place and headed towards the fort.

Door of the Old Dhankar Monastery.

Cliff at the Old Dhankar Monastery.

Spiti River in the valley far below the old Dhankar Monastery.

Inside the old Dhankar Monastery.

Inside the old Dhankar Monastery.

Inside the old Dhankar Monastery.

Inside the old Dhankar Monastery.

Inside the old Dhankar Monastery.

Caretaker of the old Dhankar Monastery.

View from the old Dhankar Monastery.

The top of the old Dhankar Monastery.

Inside the old Dhankar Monastery.

As I was leaving the caretaker went back to his siesta.

Small rooms inside the old Dhankar Monastery.

The fort was in a pretty dilapidated condition with the door closed with a wooden baton. Opening the door i went inside and wandered around the vacant room. Later I climbed to the roof. The view towards the valley and river was magnificent.

I wish they were maintaining the fort better.

Window looking out of Dhankar Fort.

Patterns in the river looking down from Dhankar Fort.

Crumbling Dhankar Fort.

After a while I returned back to guesthouse. Playtime had just started for the kids in the monastery hostel. The big courtyard in front of the guesthouse was where everyone gathered. I hing out there enjoying the sun and the controlled cacophony of kids playing.

Sitting there I noticed that many of the elders were gathered in one corner. After a while I realized that the cell phone signals were coming only in that corner. So anyone who wanted to make a phone call went to that corner.

As the sun went down, it became cold. The kids disappeared for their study time and the elder lamas wandered off to their duties. After making arrangements for my dinner, I also retreated to my room

Kids playing with my bike.

A water pipe acting as a kids slide.

Prayers at the new Dhankar Monastery

An old lama

Kids playing.

Study Time

Day Stats

Distance: 122.3Km
Start/End Time: 0815-1500
Expenses – Food: Rs480/-
Expenses – Fuel: 0
Expenses – Stay: Rs700/-