Jispa Valley is picturesquely located by the riverside, much quieter and with none of the urban atmosphere of Keylong hemming you in. What is eminently do-able is walking on the road to Jispa and circling around the town on the way back – this involves very little, if any, climbing and is a good way to stretch your legs and begin your acclimatization process.
For those who want to do a bit of driving, even though you will assuredly get enough of that hereon, you can head back to Tandi and cross the Bhaga River and embark on a lovely 49km drive up the Pattan valley to the Triloknath Temple and Udaipur with its Markala Devi Temple.
The valley has willow trees in abundance and these provide fodder as well as roofing material. Introduced in the nineteenth century by a British missionary these trees are also very helpful in preventing soil erosion and landslips in this environmentally fragile region. Wheat and barley are the main cereal crops while potatoes, hops and peas provide much needed cash to the inhabitants of the region. The only links to the ‘outside world’ are the Kunzum and Rohtang passes which are snowbound for over six months of the year.
Currently work is in progress to build a tunnel from Solang to the other side. Once complete, this will provide a yearlong link to the Keylong region and be a major boon to its inhabitants.
After crossing the Bhaga River, you climb alongside the Chandra River (also called the Chenab), through the picturesque village of Ruding, Shansa and Jhalma onto Jhooling. At this point there is a bridge across the river that takes you on a 6km drive to the glistening white Triloknath Temple that lies at 9050ft/2760m.
This was originally a Hindu Shiva temple but subsequently came under Tibetan Buddhist influence. Prayer flags decorate the entrance but the courtyard contains a tiny Nandi Idol and a Shiva Lingam. The focal point is the six-armed white marble statue of Avalokiteswara, which dates back to the twelfth century. Revered by Hindus and Buddhists alike, the main focus of devotees is the five-day Pauri festival in August. At this time the area is thronged by thousands of pilgrims and this route becomes fairly congested.
After returning to the main road, Udaipur lies only 10km ahead. Originally known as Markul, it underwent a change of name in 1965 when Raja Udey Singh made it an administrative center. The town’s claim of fame is the tenth century Markala Devi Temple dedicated to Kali. The temple exterior is unimpressive, but the interior has intricate wood carvings similar to those at the Hadimba Temple at Manali. The sixteenth century Kali image is a unique combination of Rajasthani and Tibetan styles – rarely does one come across Kali sporting a head dress like that of a lama! This excursion will bring you back in time for a long walk along the river at Jispa. If you are proceeding onwards the next day plan to leave at 7a.m.
The other excursion involves a short drive to meadows along the river at Darcha only 7km ahead. A tributary joins the Bhaga River here and the snowcapped Mulkila peaks form a dramatic backdrop. You can get in a good walk after crossing the checkpoint and bridge spanning the river. Darcha is a popular starting point for treks into the Zanskar valley. We recommend driving even further to Deepak Tal that lies only 10km ahead but is at a heady 14000 ft. / 4270m. It is a great place for short walks and a picnic lunch in picturesque surroundings.
photo credit: ManoharD Jispa via photopin (license)