Jispa is usually promoted by travel operators as a necessary halt on the way to Ladakh when coming from Manali. Not only are the subsequent distances to Leh and Tso Moriri too much to cover on the same day, but also to enable travellers get acclimatised to the high altitudes of the region. Jispa is located at a height of 10,890 feet above sea level in the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh.
[Click here to get driving instructions to reach Jispa from Delhi or Manali]
To be fair to this town, or village, it could well be a destination in itself. When you sleep at night, and all you hear is the Bhaga river along which this village is located, you will know the reason why. But for an occasional vehicle passing by, including some oil tankers at three in the night, Jispa is as quiet as you can hope an inhabited place in India to be. With views as beautiful as you can wish them to be.
[Click on any image for a larger view]
You have not only the river, originating from the Baralachala Pass a few hours drive further on, but the surrounding peaks covered with mist and clouds creating a postcard picture look. Step out early morning for a walk with a drizzle on your face, and soak in the rich greenery around, and wonder why few recommend Jispa for a holiday. You could spend days here, walking along the river or picnicking at spots of your choosing within a few hours driving around. You can also visit the Jispa Rural Museum housing reminders of the history and way of life of the residents of the Tod Valley of the Lahaul district (where Jispa is located), and also buy handicrafts made by local women; I missed seeing it as it was closed. The only place to stay in the modest, yet sporting a large structure, Hotel Ibex (also known as Hotel Jispa).
A stroll in the village can be full of sights in itself. Despite the abundance of water in the river along their houses, many residents still need to depend on a tap on the road for washing utensils, filling water in containers and to even brush their teeth. Early morning sees workers on the way to earn their daily wages at Government road construction sites, including an old woman I chatted up. You have a bus picking passengers with a sign inside prohibiting passengers on seats one to three not to sleep, lest it becomes contagious and the driver gets drowsy himself.
And then you have a karyana (grocery) store run by an ‘ex-man’ Karam Singh – methinks it should have been ex-serviceman; this region is full of those retired from the armed forces. What made for a highly encouraging view was that of the local school. It seemed more active than one would expect it to be; the old woman I spoke to confirmed all children go to school regularly and teachers do so too. It is a big achievement in India where education for most is in a sorry state of affairs. Under the Government’s Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (universal education for all) program, a board highlighted the targets: by 2003 all children had to be in school, and by 2010 all of them should have completed their education till at least the eighth grade. Jispa looked like on course to achieve these milestones.
As common all over Ladakh, Jispa too has some Buddhist chortens (stupas) conveying the usual sense of serenity. As do the Buddhist flags fluttering all over. And then there are the Ladakhi style steps cut on a log of tree that promise to be a stairway to heaven if you can climb these without support.
Make Jispa a destination, not a halting point, the next time you are in these parts. For that heavenly experience.