07 Oct 2017 14:58 IST

Postcards, stamped at the top of the world

Trekking to Hikkim, the highest post office

I headed out from Delhi for Reckong Peo, via Shimla, en route to Kaza — the starting point for my Spiti Left Bank trek, which would take me past, among other places, the world’s highest post office at Hikkim in Himachal Pradesh.

I got off the bus at Tabo, much before Kaza, on the advice of a co-passenger. There, I saw the beautiful murals at an over thousand-year-old monastery. Photography wasn’t allowed but they were selling postcards of the murals. I bought a pack, hoping to send them to family and friends.

Unsure about the telecom network or electricity to charge my phone, I copied the addresses, from SMSes, into my notebook. I was to learn later that all the villages I went to had electricity, if not phone signal.

The next day, I started for Dhankar, instead of Kaza, with a bag full of apricots and a bunch of fond memories. The bus didn’t show up, but I got a lift until just short of Schichling, walked a bit, and then got a lift in a tractor up to Dhankar. I made a quick trip to the monastery and Dhankar lake.

A dog accompanied me all the way to the beautiful Lalung village, my next stop 11-12 km from Dhankar. I enjoyed having its company on the long road, along barren mountains. I stayed at Khabrik homestay.

Height of hospitality

On arriving at Demul the next day, I was just catching my breath, hands akimbo, when an old lady asked if I was tired. I said, ‘yes, very!’ She, with her body bent forward with age, extended her hands to me as support. The trip was full of people who went out of their way to help.

Demul has a rotation policy for homestays. I stayed two nights. A day trek to Balari top from Demul took me to 16,400 ft, from where one can view 18 Spitian villages on a clear day.

A 15-km walk the next day brought me to Komic, the highest village in the world connected by a motorable road. I met just a single soul in that long journey — a shepherd who was resting while his sheep grazed the mountainsides.

I got myself a room above the organic café, right next to the monastery, and exchanged travel stories with some bikers at the café. Someone there mentioned postcards with the picture of Hikkim on them. That’s when I thought of sending those, instead of the ones from Tabo. I asked about the timings of the post office because I had to plan the day well.

Hikkim is close to Komic, so even after getting there I would still have 6-7 km to cover. I was hoping it did not open too late and was relieved, even intrigued, when told it’s open 24 hours. I would understand why when I got there the next day.

Sealed and sent

I reached Hikkim in half an hour. The postmaster and his family live there. He was heading for Kaza, on foot, to get stamps as he had run out of them. How was I to send the postcards without stamps? I couldn’t wait for him to return, as I had to go on to Langza. He then asked me to leave money for the postcards and stamps, and offered to post them.

I spent an hour and a half filling out 42 postcards (even as I write this, many have already reached their destination).

I then proceeded to Langza and stayed at the Tanzi homestay. I walked around fossil country, feeling a rush of adrenalin, standing on land that was once under sea but is now nearly 14,000 ft above sea level, with beautiful marine fossils as proof of its oceanic past.

Next morning I got a ride to Kaza on the homestay owner’s bike. It felt strange being back in the hustle-bustle of a town after days of walks among gigantic mountains.

I’m still waiting for the postcard I sent home, complete with the stamp and the seal from Hikkim post office.

(The writer is academic director at Shishur Sevay)

Recommended for you