This is it. The edge of heaven. As far as oases go, Jispa’s tough to beat. Those driving to Ladakh usually take a night halt here; It’s just the place where the mood kicks in.
It’s the last green spot – with trees, flowers and wheat fields – till you hit Leh. Jispa, in Himachal Pradesh lies at 3319 m (10,890 feet) on the bank of the Bhaga, whose waters lull you to sleep at night. Mudhouses and Buddhist chortens complement the serenescape. It’s quiet. Very quiet. Except for the rumble of passing tankers and trucks ferrying supplies to Ladakhis and the Army. You’d think the locals are introverts, barely seen except in the mornings when they reach the communal taps to brush their teeth and wash their utensils. Or to stroll and ruminate like the cows leading them – at least like the three men I saw.
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What do you do here? Nothing. Just admire the views around you, soak in the silence, walk along the river bed, and listen to the water. There are no mobiles, no Internet – you are in a world of your own. Hold it dear while you are there – you will miss it like a loved one after you leave.
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What do locals do? Only as much as required in paradise. I met a cheerful grandmother sitting by the road knitting – she was waiting for a group of younger women. They would all go off as daily wage earners building roads for travellers like me. The main occupation in the village is agriculture. The primary crops are potatoes (sold in the mandi or wholesale market) and peas (sold locally). Duringthe harsh winter, villagers knit woollens and weave carpets but mostly for their own use.
Granny pointed to a local school, an impressive building. No student or teacher plays truant here, a major achievement in India. A board highlighted targets of the government’s Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (Education for All) programme: By 2003, all children to be enrolled in school. By 2010, all children to study till the eighth grade. Jispa seemed well on course to achieve these milestones.
Jispa can be a destination in itself for travellers. Those going to Manali should consider extending their trip to Jispa; after all, it is only 3-4 hours beyond the Rohtang Pass. Even those going to Lahaul Spiti could take a diversion and stay for a night at least. Pity it’s inaccessible eight months of the year.
Jispa: Travel Tips
* Jispa can only be visited when the Rohtang Pass is open, usually between June and October.
* Accommodation is limited; the only decent hotel is Ibex (http://www.hotelibexjispa.com). Book in advance – it runs full through the summer. Some camps have come up too recently.
* The distance from Manali is 144 kms (90 miles) and takes about seven hours driving time. For driving directions, refer to Kunzum Travel List #14 – Route K12.
* Recommended Stay: At least one night, longer if you want to see how time stops.
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