Nako - "Land of Fairy Tales and Fantasies"

Tabo marked the end of our trip through the Spiti Valley, we would now be passing through the Kinnaur Valley. Our inner-line permits that we had patiently applied for in Kaza were now necessary as we traveled within ten kilometers of the Indian-Tibetan border. At the highway checkpoint, we watched as a poor foreigner was detained for traveling without a permit. They seemed to be discussing whether to send him back from where he came, and he was distraught. Even though the nearest permit office was less than 100km away, on this highway this could represent an entire day of travel, on possibly the world's scariest roads. Had it been Yann being sent back, this might have necessitated a helicopter evacuation. His nerves were getting shakier and shakier as we climbed towards the town of Nako, where we would be stopping. We had discovered that the only thing keeping Yann together on mountain bus rides had been his MP3 player. I had managed to forget mine on the train and drop Yann's out a bus window. All I could do was hold Yann's hand, which didn't work wonders but was all we had. But Nako's precarious location, afforded it simply breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. Sitting within a few kilometers of the barren Western Tibetan frontier, the village of Nako is centered around the small but sacred Nako lake. The narrow alleys of Nako are lined with prayer wheels, crumbling chortens and piles of Mani stones. Livestock or gardens are enclosed by stone walls and roofs are piled high with kindling and hay. Fancier homes are adorned with intricately carved wooden door frames. Prayer flags criss-cross the village. We had some trouble finding accomodation in Nako. There didn't seem to be many tourists around but many of the small guest houses claimed to be full. The larger, newly constructed hotels in the village's centre were large and obtrusive and uglified the charming village. We weren't keen on using them. The four of us ended up in a basement room of a restaurant, using the bathrooms of the guest house next door (which conveniently locked its doors after dinner, making for interesting nighttime bathroom runs).

The villagers, both men and women, sported the traditional Kinnauri wool cap with its bright green flap and appeared from the surrounding hills carrying crops on their backs. An elderly man who we passed on the road stopped to proclaim his love of Kinnaur. Packs of small children played together as their parents disappeared for the long summer days in the fields. We spent an afternoon walking the hills surrounding Nako, taking in the views and wondering if the foot trails led into Tibet. Chortens, Mani walls and prayer flags dotted the landscape, the blue sky reflected into the crystal clear Nako lake. We did a pretty good job of taking advantage of the village's tranquility without thinking too much about our upcoming bus ride and the contiunation of our trip. With a little bit more time we would have stayed longer, and would have had even more trouble leaving than we already did.

"At last they entered a world within a world - a valley of leagues where the high hills were fashioned of the mere rubble and refuse from off the knees of the mountains...
'Surely the Gods live here', said Kim, beaten down by the silence and the appalling sweep of dispersal of the cloud-shadows after rain. 'This is no place for men!'"

- From Kim, by Rudyard Kipling

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