Spiti Valley was on my list for a long time but when the trip finally materialized; it was sudden and impromptu. While figuring out the itinerary; I included a hike to the World’s Highest Post Office (4400 metres) in Hikkim village near Kaza. I was keen to post a few letters to my family but little did I realize that I would end up posting a letter to Hikkim at the end of my trip!!
Hikkim (4400) metres is just above Kaza. The hike is steep and arduous since the trail is mostly on loose gravel. I gave up no sooner than I had started opting to walk along the vehicle route instead so that I could hop into the car that I had hired as a back up whenever I wished. After about 2 hours of part hike, part drive I reached Hikkim. The handful houses in the village is located at a level lower than the motorable road. I quickly ran down the slippery gravel before I lost balance.
Posting Letters from Hikkim
I was glad that the Post Office was open. I knocked on the door to be warmly welcomed by Rinchen Chhering who serves as the Post Master since 1983. This small house in Hikkim and the 50+ gentleman seated in front of me held the key to the outside world not just for Hikkim but for Komik, Langza and several small villages around. Rinchen was used to curious tourists dropping by every other day in summer and he chatted happily about his role and life in Spiti. I had carried a few cards and stamps just in case I did not meet him and had to make do with the Post Box but got a few from him as well.
While I sat there filling out addresses, he explained the way it works. The letters are delivered by a runner who treks to Kaza Post Office on foot within an hour and carries mail back as well. The letters are then sent by bus to Manali/Shimla and then onward to Delhi for distribution to rest of the India and other countries. It would roughly take 15 days to reach Kolkata and Bangalore he responded with assurance. These days, the taxis affiliated to the taxi union in Kaza who visit with tourists also carry the mail with them.
Posting Letters to Hikkim~ A Promise to Keep
Later, I walked around the village and little children followed me around trying to sell Fossils for as low as Rs 20/-. I did not want to encourage them and walked ahead. The giggly kids followed me around making me feel like the Pied Piper of Hamelin 🙂 at that moment, the camera replacing the magic pipe. Soon we became friends and I rolled on mud and grass with them, life’s little pleasures are all for free. I got a peck and hug from little Tenzin after a lot of cajoling in exchange of playing with my camera. We had a photo session of sorts during the next one hour, all with a whisper, a smile and a kind request to mail it to them some day.
The parents joined in too with invites for a cup of tea in nearly half a dozen households. All these precious moments make traveling so worth it; specially in the mountains where the sky is blue and the heart so pure. I have just posted the dozen pictures posted to Hikkim.
Hikkim is the Highest Polling Station
The other inspiration from Hikkim was from the excerpts of – Men and Mules by Parmanand Sharma which I chance discovered online. He was a part of the men and mule party that trekked for days through difficult terrain to conduct the first democratic polls in Spiti in 1957. The vivid description of Spiti and the geographic terrain got me hooked and determined to experience the spirit of Spiti.
Hikkim is located about 16 kms away from Kaza but at a much higher altitude. The steep trek up may take an hour or two and a ride up in a car can be done in about an hour due to the road conditions. Though it found its place on the tourist map courtesy the post office, it is actually a beautiful village which am sure is draped in different shades of green during monsoon.
The bus service is not regular and the best way to visit Hikkim is to hire a car costing anywhere between Rs 1400 to Rs 1800 for a round trip through Lagza, Hikkim and Komic Villages. The trip duration is between 3-6 hours based on interest and it is best to carry a jacket since it can get very windy, specially in Langza.