Spiti Valley: Kaza – Komic

So you’re meant to start at Kibber or Langza for the Spiti Valley Homestay Trek, that’s the classic route, but apparently that first leg from either of those two villages to the village of Komic is an absolute bitch of a walk, up a massive, relentless, unforgiving hill at altitude. Remember, even Kaza is around 3800 masl and this trek was only going to take you higher and my basic motor functions have made it very clear in the past that when they’re provided with less oxygen than they expected to be provided with, it makes them very sad. So we decided to cut out the hard bit and start with Komic. But we didn’t walk there, because why do that when you can catch a local bus those 27km for ₹37? Much better plan.

Bus ride to Komic.

Strolling into Komic.

At least it was until they came to a sharp bend in the unsealed road which had been turned into slush, mud and treacherous failure. It was also right next to a steep hill. The driver tried to get around, reversed, tried again, every attempt churning up the road even more, before he eventually gave up much to Jess’s annoyance. She didn’t think he’d tried hard enough and she couldn’t decipher their whistle codes. The guy blew his whistle constantly as the driver was reversing terrifyingly close to the edge, we had no idea what kind of whistle meant stop. The locals didn’t seem to phased, they told us you could short cut across country, through villages, until you got to Komic which was only about 4kms away by this point. We followed their pointing, saw the undulating hills, and decided to stick to the road. Yeah. I’m all for adventuring, but after the Malana to Rashol debacle I’d like to stick to paths now, please.

Komic

Komic is billed as the highest village with a road in Asia. Something like that anyway. That honour used to belong to Kibber but Komic is higher so it wins. They’ll tell you it’s 4800 masl. It’s not. It’s closer to 4513 masl which is still pretty fucking high, you wouldn’t want to go running any marathons up here, you could still find yourself a victim of altitude sickness if you hadn’t acclimatised properly by drinking lots of beer in Kaza beforehand. Not that the beer would help with the altitude, it just helps with Kaza. We’d been at some manner of altitude for a couple of weeks at least by now so we were fine, practically fucking locals, us. We walked into Komic all hot and sweaty because the weather hadn’t actually been half bad since we got to Spiti Valley, and made our way down into the village.

Selfie with the tiny cow. I wanted to keep it so bad.

We’d be living in there for the night.

It’s very very small, more of a cluster of homes than a village. Whiiiich is the very fucking definition of a village. *facepalm*. We’d literally no idea as to how we’d find a homestay though, we hadn’t really thought that far ahead, then we saw a woman crouching on an embankment with a tiny cow. Because India. She greeted us with “julley”, and we returned her smiles and waves, and the tiny cow bounded up to us for fusses like a big, bovine shaped puppy. I’m not even shitting you, it wanted petting, it was like a scene out of a half live action half animation 1940s Disney movie, I half expected cartoon bluebirds to come and land on my outstretched hands and everyone to break into song. I loved this tiny cow, I wanted to take it home and keep it forever until I remembered it’d grow quite massive make a crap pet that’d and shit on my sofa and eat all my house plants.

At least the older kid cleaned the crap of the younger kid’s face first.

We asked the women if she could help us with a homestay. Not in so many words, she didn’t speak any English and it turned out that her husband was off working in the fields. We just said, “Homestay?” and she nodded and ushered us up some steps to a little roof area with a room with a double bed. Perfect. Me and Jess took the bed, Ron wanted to negotiate a cheaper price to pitch his tent, and for ₹550 each we got a bed for the night and three meals. We dumped our stuff and took a little wander around the village, bumping into our host and her two sons and Jess asked if we could take photos of them which they were happy for us to do, the older son even wiped the snot off the younger son’s face which saved me a lot or retching.

Spitian homes are freakishly photogenic.

I love the houses here though, the bricks are mud, they’re held together with mud, the roof is flat, made of branches and logs and covered with, yep, mud. The whole thing is whitewashed and I wouldn’t be surprised if it had a cow shit finish underneath that because dry cow shit is remarkably hard wearing. The daub part of the wattle and daub of old English Tudor buildings were made from mud, straw and cow shit. No bloody wonder though that sometimes they dissolve in the rain. That evening we just chilled on the roof, played cards and drank the rum we’d picked up in Kaza until we were called for dinner. Dinner was to be potato momos. Oh hell yes! All kinds of yes! Momos were my current addiction, I couldn’t get enough of those little dumplings of joy.

Village shrine.

Rooftop views.

We sat with our host who we shall call mum, an older woman who we shall call grandma, and the two boys. They were all fascinated by my face, more specifically the little bits of metal shoved through it. They touched their own faces where my piercings are and stared in fascination, then mum asked if I had my tongue pierced by sticking her tongue out and pointing to it with a shrug. I do. I very much do. I have two bolts of metal through my tongue as it happened so I swallowed my momo and showed them. To their great delight the youngest boy was absolutely mortified, I might as well have red eyes and fangs and threatened to hide under his bed at night, and mum and grandma kept tormenting him, making me show him my tongue piercing and probably telling him if he didn’t eat his dinner, the weird stapled white thing munching momos in the corner would come and get him. I was probably the reason he was off his dinner, the poor little sod, he’ll be having nightmares for weeks. Not gonna lie though, spawn terrify me, probably on account of their utter lack of control over their mucus, saliva and various other bodily fluids. I don’t know who was more freaked out by our encounter; me or him.

So this is your ultra-eco toilet. It’s literally a hole in the ground that leads to a pile of excrement and soil. Do not make the mistake of looking down one whilst wearing a head torch.

So lets get the toilets out of the way now, shall we? We all know that Asian toilets are holes in the ground which are much better for you when it comes to shitting on account of the fact the squatting straightens your colon. Whatever. It doesn’t matter how long I spend here, my leg muscles will never get used to the morning shit squatathon. Traditional Spitian toilets are holes in the ground but without the porcelain squatters you’ve become accustomed to. Nope. The floors are made of branches and logs and beams and mud as previously mentioned, they’re thick, thick enough to hold the weight of humans. And the toilet is a rectangular hole cut into this thick floor, and there’ll be a pile of soil and a shovel next to it as opposed to the usual bucket of water and cup, and it leads not into a septic tank but another room which is used to store all the shit, your shit, ladies and gentlemen, until it’s ready to be used as fertiliser. So you crouch, aim, drop the kids off, then chuck a shovel of dirt down after it. You’re even provided with bog roll because you’re not meant to put water in it so you can’t clean your arse the usual Indian way. We weren’t told you couldn’t piss in it though so we just assumed that was permitted and got on with it.

Bonus photo: Found this bad boy after we got off the bus and started walking. I’d heard you could find them in the Annapurna region and Hindus hold them sacred as something to do with Vishnu, but the marvel for me that the fossils of these sea dwelling creatures could be found in some of the highest regions on earth. The Himalayas basically used to be sea bed. Mind blown.

Komic, Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh, India
Altitude: 4513 metres
Stayed at: Homestay

We were in a room on the roof in this home.

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