We were assured that it was downhill all the way from Demul to Lalung so we enjoyed our breakfast of eggs and bread, packed our lunch of Tibetan bread and jam into our bags and headed on our way. So it turns out that Spitians consider terrain to be down when there’s more down than up. So sure, we left Demul and it was down for a bit. It was lovely, it was a nice kind of down too, not the kind that shoots your knees to pieces and makes you long for the days of relentless uphill hikes. Then it was Spiti Flat for a bit; little bit up, little bit down. Doable. Very doable. The scenery was gorgeous, the weather was good, you do kinda forget how high up you are here too when you’re not trying to get up hills and your lungs aren’t quite sure if they should carry on functioning or just give up if you’re not going to provide them with sufficient oxygen for the task in hand. Altitude seems less, y’know, altitudey when it’s not covered with snow and ice and at temperatures where your nipples are probably visible from space.
We even talked about not staying the night in Lalung, maybe we could press on through to Dhankar. Then, as you stroll easily as a group because even your weakest link (sheepishly raises hand) can keep up, you see this beautiful, stunning village, an oasis of emerald green in an otherwise brown and barren landscape, and you raise your camera to photograph it because if Lalung isn’t the most Instagram worthy village you ever did see you don’t know what is, then suddenly you think, “Well what the fuck is it doing on the other side of the bloody river?!?”
You. Are. Shitting me. We sat under a tree and stared at it. It was truly gorgeous, and at the exact same altitude as us, and we just had to emotionally prepare ourselves for the fact that we’d need to walk down the steep hill to the valley floor, cross the river, then hike back up the other side. Perfectly okay for the double hard locals who stroll around these hills as if they were at sea level but to us foreigners, we might as well have been attempting an Everest summit. On one leg. Whilst carrying a small hippo. Fine then. It didn’t help that once we were across the bridge and started our ascent we went totally the wrong way and ended up ankle deep in a river, trying to get across it, before realising we’d royally fucked up and had to make our way back down to find the right path.
By the time we reached Lalung at 3750 masl, we’d sacked off any notions we might have had about pushing on through to Dhankar and damn right we were spending the night here, just as soon as we could find a homestay. Salvation came in the form of a woman cutting flowers. She lead us to hers, settled us into a room with cushions all around the edge which doubled nicely as beds, and Ron decided to stay under a actual roof tonight as opposed to his tent. He wasn’t getting a much better deal on a meals only gig, especially as the meals were, as expected, quite basic. Lunch though, that was getting old. Dinners had been great, breakfasts were wonderful, but lunch? Foreigners can’t live off jam sandwiches alone.
Houses here for the most part here seemed newer and more modern, the home we stayed in had higher ceilings and seemed to be finished with plaster though it still had the traditional Spitian toilet. I still couldn’t get the hang of them, it’s the aiming I was having problems with. If you need to pee and don’t have a penis, aiming is really quite the challenge. When you squat and piss it fucking goes everywhere, it’s like a fucking sprinkler. Amirite ladies?
Just… uh… just me then…? Whatever. It’s not a problem with the porcelain squatters because you just rinse it down when you’re done. With these hole-in-a-mud-floor efforts, if you miss and sprinkle the edge the evidence of your shameful utter inability to aim will remain there until it dries. Aaaaanyway, crashing right on… Lalung though, I’m pretty glad we stayed here because it’s beautiful, we explored the village and ended up at the top of a small hill where there were three slightly dilapidated but freakishly photogenic chortens, and a mini farm yard of animals chewing on whatever foliage they could get their chops around. I fell in love with this tiny little goat that was probably really old and had pointy little horns. Now that’d make a perfect pet. I could even walk it and take it to the pub and feed it crisps under the table. Except it’d probably impale everything and eat my curtains. And my carpets. And my furniture. Yeah okay, maybe I’ll add goats to the list of animals that’d make shit house pets.
We drank a lot of rum that night, much more rum than previous nights. As I lay in bed I couldn’t sleep. I felt bloated and awful and really quite sick but I had no idea where I could go to try and offload some of this rum. I didn’t want to puke in their fertiliser toilet so I shuffled around the village in the dead of night in the pitch dark looking for somewhere but nowhere seemed appropriate. I went back to bed and drifted in and out of sleep. I couldn’t really eat the next morning and I was dreading the walk ahead whilst suffering with the consequences of alcohol intake at altitude. Jess and Ron felt fine, they didn’t think it was just the rum and thought I could actually be ill but I’m the biggest lightweight I know. It was probably a hangover and let’s face it, no amount of Tibetan bread and jam will cure one of those fuckers.
Lalung, Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh, India
Altitude: 3750 metres
Stayed at: Homestay