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While we all #stayin due to the current situation around COVID-19, reminiscing, and dreaming about our past and future travels are totally acceptable. Don’t we all love to vicariously live through our favourite travel bloggers’ amazing travel stories? Through #TNLRevisits we get your most loved travel bloggers to spill the beans about their favourite places, off-the-radar destinations, and about countless other experiences that they have encountered through their journeys. To kickstart this series, avid traveller and photographer Isa Khan a.k.a khan.isa tells us about where to go in Spiti and what to do during the quarantine. By Amitha Ameen
1. Tell us about your fondest trip.
The trip that stands out to me was Har Ki Dun Trek that I had done in October 2018. It is a seven-day-long trek through the terrains of Uttarakhand, but due to some work commitments, I completed this trek in five days. I cannot really point out what made this trip stand out. My travel companion and I managed the trek entirely on our own without the help of a guide. We pitched a tent near the banks of Jispa river that flows through the valley and that was a very beautiful experience.
Apart from that, Kashmir is a place that I have travelled many times and remains close to my heart. You can feel the raw emotions and beauty of Kashmir, and it is quite an inexplicable feeling.
2. If you have to revisit the same place once travel bans are lifted, how differently would you explore the place this time around?
I recently went to Spiti Valley (in March 2020), right before the lockdown was imposed. I had an itinerary of 10 days within which I had to complete very specific places, but due to the (then) impending lockdown I had to cut short my trip to five days. There were a lot of places that I had missed out which I will go back to once the bans are lifted.
Spiti offers a very different experience in winters and summers. I have visited the place during winter, and it is a whole different ball game. Key Monastery, Chicham, Kaza and Tabo are just some of the places that I have visited and explored in Spiti.
3. Do you remember meeting and interacting with locals there?
Travelling for me means exploring the culture of a place as well. And, I am a socially extroverted person and love talking to people and learning about their lives, their daily chores in these extreme weather and so on. During winters, Spiti has a shortage of water and all the sources of water are completely blocked or frozen.
I heard an interesting story from the locals in Kaza about a small village that is home to a lone couple, in the higher altitudes in Spiti and that the entire water supply for Kaza comes through this home. When the man of the house leaves for the next village for two-three days and doesn’t return on time, his wife stops the water supply. And, this is how she communicates to the other village that her husband has not returned.
4. What hidden gems did you discover there?
I have heard of a place in Spiti that I had intended on exploring during my recent trip but was unable to do so due to limitations. There is a small place that is situated at a higher level and a few kilometers before Demul Village at a distance of roughly two kilometers. You can view more than 15-20 villages of Spiti from this point. I have not read or heard about this place anywhere before. A friend of mine who visited the spot informed me about it.
5. What about food memories? Any particular local food that you would like to recommend?
I am not a foodie at all. I have lived in a hostel for most of my life and I am used to all types of food. I am not a choosy eater but having said that I do try to indulge in the local delicacies of the region. I am a simple Dal-Chawal person and you can get that anywhere.
6. Give our readers reasons on why should they visit this place once the pandemic evaporates?
I trek a lot and I am a mountain person. I would recommend that people should visit mountains and go on a trek at least once in their lifetime, to truly experience nature in its rawest form. The second reason is that a trek challenges you physically and mentally. Most people are physically in great form but give up easily because of their mental inhibitions. A trek changes that. Thirdly, by embarking on a trek, the experiences that you undergo is unmatchable to anything else.
7. How are you coping with the lockdown?
I have quarantined myself at home in New Delhi. Some things are beyond our control and we have damaged the environment beyond a point. Now it is vital that we let nature take her course, while we stay at home. I keep myself busy with various different activities that include household chores, honing my video editing skills for my newly launched YouTube channel and burning away from quarantine weight gains. I like to be productive and gain skills that will enhance my career and life in general.
8. Where would you travel to when things get back to normalcy?
9. Any arm-chair travel tips?
There are many travel videos and so much content out there for us to consume through platforms like Instagram and Youtube. But apart from watching ample amount of videos and creating travel bucket lists, you should also make your time productive. Take online photography, videography or writing classes. I would request people to really utilise their time during this quarantine and pick up a skill.