Culture, Himachal Pradesh, India, Offbeat, Responsible Travel, Solo Travel
Comments 18

Travel Tales From Spiti: Kaza’s Garden Lady.

I sit by a Stupa on an elevation above the shore of the Spiti River, shielding myself from the sun. It’ll be a good fifteen minutes before the ball of fire sinks behind the mountain range and relieves human skins. Such penetrating sun rays would make a great premise for a sunscreen advert, I muse.

In the shade of my Stupa, the strong wind feels icy cold and forces me to wear the cowl of my sweatshirt. Spiti is baffling that way; you can be melting under the sun and shivering in the shade, simultaneously. To distract myself from my hot-cold battle, I look towards the only part of Kaza (Spiti’s capital) that is soothingly green. The only crops that can survive the harsh desert climate are barley and peas, and since it’s summer-spring, the shores are filled with green grass and yellow barley, and occasionally interspersed with white, blue, pink and purple flowers.

An old lady stops by my spot, carrying an adorable little girl wrapped in a shawl on her back. She curiously asks me where I’m from and what I’m doing away from the market of Kaza, that is always bustling at this hour of the evening. She smiles when I tell her that I love this green isolation, and invites me to walk with her to her little garden. I am surprised; a garden in this cold mountain desert is unfathomable.

Kaza, Spiti, Lahaul Spiti, mountain people, himalayas, barley, crops

the garden lady with her grand-daughter.

My unsure steps lead me down a slope on a side of the river that’s easy to miss. I pinch myself as I see a row of leafy trees growing tall in Kaza’s dry desert soil. The old lady, amused by my wonder, tells me that the trees don’t bare fruit, that the soil is not that nurturing, and yet she spends the effort to grow them in that small piece of land she calls her garden.

The aggressive waters of the Spiti River destroyed the shrubs multiple times, but each year she persevered again. She loves trees, she says, and they’re so rare in this part of the world, she chose to grow her own at the cost of no fruits. Now each evening, she waters them and lets her grand-daughter play in their oxygen-rich shade. She’s spent her whole life in Kaza and seen it transform from half a dozen mud houses to a land of concrete, but the garden remains for her family to cherish, and for the occasional visitor like me.

I walk with her from one end to another, as she carefully treads on the soil and ensures that every inch is sufficiently watered. I’ve been smiling to myself in sub-conscious appreciation the entire time. By now, the sun has dipped below the peak, coloring the sky orange. I wave a little goodbye and start to make my way back, past the patch of yellow that reminds me of Sting’s fields of gold.

I glance over my shoulder to see my garden lady hard at work with her trees, a sight that I’m carrying with me since, in the brown little town of Kaza.

Kaza, Spiti, himachal pradesh, green, travel, offbeat travel, india

the garden lady hard at work in her garden.

Also read:
Travel tales from Spiti: Once a nun.
Travel tales from Spiti: Entrepreneur at 12.
Travel tales from Spiti: The legend of the moving monasteries.

Get my latest article in your inbox!

Join 21,075 other subscribers

If you enjoyed reading this article, I would love for you to share it!

Shivya Nath

I quit my full-time job in 2011 with a dream of travelling the world. Two years later, I gave up my home, sold most of my possessions and embraced a nomadic life. I'm passionate about going off the beaten path, solo travel, sustainable travel and veganism. Let's connect!


  1. Incredible–thanks for sharing. And what a treat for the gardener to share her secret garden with you. Just shows that nature can link and bind us all, if we take the time to stop and wonder together. And then you continued and shared the encounter with all of us. Cool.

  2. Thanks Patti 🙂 It was indeed an honor to be invited into a secret garden. It reminded me of Enid Blyton books on a certain level 🙂

    • Thanks, and welcome to The Shooting Star. Hope you’ll continue to join me virtually on my travels 🙂

  3. Great imagery here. It amazing a simple garden can create such a powerful link. How lucky you were to be invited into someone’s passion.

  4. New7Wonders of nature says

    I have been to Spiti River. It’s amazing and hope one more visit there if get time and opportunity.
    Anyway your blog is looking great.

    • Thanks Nature Wonder 🙂 Hope you get the opportunity to visit it again, though I can’t promise it’ll be as pristine as you last saw it.

  5. Pingback: Traveling alone in India: am I crazy? | The Shooting Star

  6. Pingback: 4 offbeat ecotourism experiences in India. | The Shooting Star

  7. Pingback: Spiti Valley: 10 experiences that’ll take your breath away. | The Shooting Star

  8. Pingback: Travel tales from Spiti: The legend of the moving monasteries. | The Shooting Star

  9. Pingback: An interview with Shivya from The Shooting Star | Backpacks and Bunkbeds

  10. Beautiful…a hidden corner and wonder discovered by chance. My friends and I sat by the Spiti river and walked along the shores very often, so it’s nice to be able to add this place to my mental map of Kaza, although I didn’t see it 🙂

  11. samareshbiswal says

    thank you for sharing about this beautiful place

  12. Pingback: Coffee and Conversations in Coorg. | The Shooting Star

  13. Pingback: Stories From The Wild: Kanha, Madhya Pradesh. | The Shooting Star

I'm waiting to hear your thoughts on this post:

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.