Motorbiking Two Up In North India: Kaza to Key Gompa and Kibber

Key Monastery

For a little perspective, that is Key Monastery in the top right of photo.

Our one and only snowy Himalayan day

Rob: We woke to grey clouds filling the big windows of our room and I wondered if it was snowing on top of the mountains visible to the north.

More terrible coffee again this morning,  but good masala omelets and toast with real butter at the hotel helped it go down better. One of the things you can count on as a luxury for so many travelers in far NW India is that the butter is good and plentiful.

Cold. My hands. My face. We had bundled up the rest of us pretty well but we were only 15 minutes into our ride today and I wished for the heated grips of my BMW Adventure versus the vibrating wide spread handlebars and the cold wind today.

It wasn’t a far ride to the village of Key but the snow began to fall and was quite steady as we reached the Monastery. The entire Temple complex covered an individual rock peak set at the foot of a mountain. The ride up to it was pretty photogenic. Once there and up close you could see that it was just simple buildings of a working Monastery. We enjoyed a short but nice tour from one of the monks. One of the things that was most impressive to us was that there were so many colorful Thanka paintings of Deities in their representative poses that lined every wall and crossbeam of the prayer room where young monks come to learn. They are so colorful by themselves, but in a prayer room displaying a collage of a hundred of them, even more so. We explored meditation niches that had been in use since the 12th century. They were basically 2 rock tunnels dug into the mountain, each having 3 or 4 small square chamber-like rooms off of the main tunnel. A small light (LEDs replaced candles now), prayer mat and pad on the floor, total silence and solitude as your tucked away well inside the mountain. When we got back to the bike it had been snowing for over an hour. One of the Monks followed us out with a broom to help sweep 2 inches of snow from the motorcycle.

The absolutely breathtaking prayer room is the only place in the monastery permitted to take photos.

From there we took the road less-traveled-by leading to Kibber. It was snowing harder at this point but it was safely melting as it hit the gravel and dirt road so slowly and surely we climbed the 8km of switchbacks through clouds, falling snow, sludgy muddy road to the top of the pass and up to the little village. Not a tourist village but just a simple mountain village at 13,730 ft.

Snowing and cloudy as we entered Kibber

We walked through the Main Street while big fluffy flakes snowed upon us and had the fresh mountain air to breath which was slightly perfumed by the smell of goat droppings and wet dog. Strangely, this is a familiar and actually comforting smell that reminds me of our trek through the Annapurna Circuit last year in Nepal. Lemon tea and Thantuk (hearty veg & flat noodle soup that Lacy introduced me to a month ago) for lunch in a local homestay was exactly what the day provided and it warmed our little souls. Just as we were starting to descend from the cute little mountain town, the sky cleared and the sun dried up the road a little for a scenic ride back to our home base of Kaza in between the giant Himalayas to our right and left.

The tea house/homestay where we enjoyed thentuk for lunch

Clearer skies for the ride back to Kaza


A look back on Kibber


The next post shows our favorite day of the entire ride in India!

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