Yes, all people are welcome on the program.
What do I need to bring?
Essential Packing Checklist
Your main bag should be a tough one as it will be on donkey/yak back, not the best place to be for a fragile backpack. Please keep your personal items to a minimum (besides the essentials) so that your bag (no hard shells please) is light and easy to carry. It is best to carry your belongings in a large, tough duffel bag or a big rucksack.
- Head-torch + extra batteries. You will need it every evening (Remember to bring used batteries
back with you).
- Shawl for pujas, as it can get a little chilly (can be bought in Kaza/Ecosphere office).
- Toilet paper.
- Warm sleeping bag and/or inner-sleeping bag/your own sheet. A sleeping bag is an option. Though Homestays provide all bedding, linen and quilts.
- Books - books shall also be available with Ecosphere in Kaza.
- Slippers (lots of shoes on/off when entering gompas and temples).
- Warm socks (for the slippers – socks with a gap between the big toe and the rest can be bought in
Kaza. Perfect for slippers.)
- Water bottle (get one with a wide mouthpiece, as it can be easily cleaned – mineral water bottles get disgusting (and bacteria filled) fast.
- Camera (and maybe extra memory-card).
- Diary. Make sure to write down you thoughts – there will be many.
- Relaxed clothes – not too many colors.
- You are invited to bring a gift for the monastery if you wish, and this is completely optional. Not something expensive, but something that represents you or your country.
- A warm jacket or fleece for the evenings.
- Woolens/thermal vest & under pants for the evenings and cold nights.
- Wind/rain proof jacket.
- Hiking/trekking shoes & spare sandals.
- Woolen socks.
- Sun Shade/Hat with Brim/Scarf/woolen hat/gloves.
- Sunscreen/Sun block.
- Vaseline/Lip Salve.
- Insect Repellent (if you are prone to bites).
- Personal Toiletries - towels/soap etc.
- Rucksack/duffel bag to carry your baggage.
- Kari mat (optional).
- Small daypack to carry camera, packed lunch, water bottle and wind/rain jacket on a walk.
- Long trousers / long sleeved shirts / T-shirts etc.
- Walking Stick.
How to dress
A good base layer, which could be a thermal top (polypropylene), with a T-shirt on top will keep you warm and dry. Leg wear in the form of thermal long johns are invaluable.
Mid-layers provide insulation, so anything that is warm will do e.g. a medium thickness woolen jumper or a mid-weight fleece top, along with another lightweight fleece top will suffice. If you really feel the cold, substitute the thinner layer with a down jacket.
The outer layer is the final layer between you and the elements and must be capable of keeping out the wind, rain and snow. Any good waterproof, windproof jacket would do the job.
Cotton trousers or long skirts (long skirts for ladies also double as a `port-a-loo') worn over this layer can keep you very comfortable.
A good sun hat is essential. Sunglasses which offer 100% UV protection are necessary to combat strong daylight.
Good footwear, and good socks, are very important.
A daypack (small rucksack) is good to carry things you will require throughout the day.
- extra batteries
- water bottle
- packed lunch
- rehydration powders
- toilet paper
- a fleece or a jumper
- small flashlight
Keep it light – although what you carry with you is a very personal decision. Some of our guests love to travel as light as possible while others are only happy when they have countless bits of equipment for every possible occurrence, most of which will never be used.
Carry any and all personal medication that you may need, and its an absolute must to let us know well in advance should you be suffering from any particular ailment.
Health & Medicines
We strongly advise all travelers taking medications to consult with your GP and/or local travel doctor before booking.
All guests should visit their local travel doctor before travelling, to get the most up to date information on vaccinations and possible medical/health issues that can be faced in the environment (High Altitude Cold Desert).
It will help for you all to carry some easy to access medicine on the trip, for headaches, diarrhea, constipation, and some re-hydration powders like Electral etc. It's also a good idea to have a roll of toilet paper accessible should you need to go.
It may also be necessary for you to carry a supply of altitude sickness medication. Although this shall also be provided by Ecosphere and the guide shall at all times be carrying a first aid kit with some basic medication.
Temperature & Climate
Temperatures on the trip will vary from 25-30 degrees during the day and could dip to a minimum of 0-10 degrees Celsius at night. It is best to be prepared for lower temperatures due to wind chill or the weather turning bad especially in the months of May and September when temperatures could dip to – 5 degrees. The days are hot and the nights are usually refreshingly cool. You should be ready for inclement weather in any case as storms build up rather quickly at high altitudes.
The information below is intended as background information only regarding travelling at altitude rather than formal medical advice. We encourage all travellers going to Spiti to consult with the relevant medical authorities prior to your departure.
Travel to any part of the Indian Himalayas deserves a little more respect than many other high altitude destinations because most of the regions lie over 3200 meters (10500 ft). People in good health should not get alarmed by this but if you have a medical condition such as high blood pressure, heart or lung disease, you must take the advise of a doctor who has experience with the effects of altitude. We do not take heart or lung patients, or pregnant mothers on such trips. Any kind of exercise which gets you fitter before this trip is advisable, as it will enable you to enjoy the region more.
Our trips to Spiti, India are at high altitude – the majority of the trip is at around 3,800 metres (12,500 feet) but some passes are over 4,500 metres (14,700 feet) – and it is difficult to predict exactly how one reacts in such an environment.
Since few people have been to such altitudes, it is hard to know who may be affected by high altitude sickness. There are no specific factors such as age, sex, or physical condition that correlate with susceptibility to altitude sickness. Some people get it and some people don't, and some people are more susceptible than others. If one has not travelled to these altitudes before, it is recommended that you consult your doctor.
Symptoms of altitude sickness:
- Nausea & dizziness
- Loss of appetite
- Shortness or breath
- Disturbed sleep
- General feeling of malaise
Important notes to assist you acclimatizing:
- On arrival into high altitude areas ensure that you get adequate rest and don’t try to ‘do too much’
- Ensure that you sleep well and don’t ‘burn the candle at both ends’
- Drink lots of non-alcoholic fluids, especially water.
- Don’t drink alcohol – alcohol not only dehydrates but it’s effects are also exacerbated in high altitude areas
- If you are a smoker, try to smoke as little as possible
There are some medications such Diamox, Dariphylan & Lasix (the last 2 are usually taken together) which may help reduce the effects of high altitude sickness if started 2/3 days before and 2 days after leaving the high altitude as a safe precautionary, however consult your doctor as there are various other medicines one could take that may better suit you.
Please note that while we will go out of our way to assist you should you suffer from any sickness during your trip, we do not take responsibility for reimbursements in the event that you are unable to complete the trip due to high altitude sickness and/or other personal reasons. Only you can fully understand and take responsibility for your own personal health and limits.
During the trip, what will my accommodation be like?
Homestays - provide you with a clean and comfortable room in a local house with environment friendly dry composting toilets squat toilets. Hot water can be made available on request for washing up. Having a full bath can be challenge while in the homestay. Please ask your guide for the possibility of having a bath.
Guesthouse /Hotel – comprises of a clean and comfortable room with attached bath and toilet and running hot and cold water.
Monastery Rooms – comprise of a clean bed and sheet along with blankets. Details of toilet and bath are provided separately.
What will the food be like on the trek?
Menus on the trip will be largely Indian, with a mix of local Spitian dishes.
Life at the Monastery?
On arrival, you will receive a formal introduction to the monastic system and undertake a small ceremony to take the vows and precepts that you need to adhere to during the course of your stay in the monastery.
The next 8 days present an opportunity to get to understand the different aspects of a monks life. One of the key aspects pertains to following the daily schedule of the monastery that we shall adhere to very strictly. The daily schedule is developed in a manner that enables the monks to get ample time for self-study and this time shall be used by us to get deeper insights and better understanding of some of the key teachings.
A very significant aspect in the life of a Tibetan monk is the playing of musical instruments. These are not only important in terms of the latters resonance creating capabilities to enhance spiritual experiences and means of assistance in reaching deeper states of consciousness through meditations but they are also typically significant in many of their ceremonies and festivals such as the “Cham” and also other ceremonies and prayers performed in peoples homes. We shall try and get a brief insight into some of these instruments such as Thung, Gyeling, Rolmo, Tehlu, Dhonpo & Kaling and a few quick lessons and hands-on training by an expert monk on how to play them. More details on the instruments shall be provided during the course of ones stay at the monastery.
We shall use our stay in the monastery to get a brief insight into the significance and usage of mantras and how they form the most significant proportion of a Tibetan monks life and practices in their quest for spiritual progress.
Prayers form part of the daily routine of the monks and something that we shall also participate in regularly. One of the things that we shall be doing as part of our daily schedule. We shall also try and spend some time with the monks to be able to get a deeper understanding of their significance. If opportunity arises we shall also travel with the monks to the homes of local people where the monks perform specific prayers & ceremonies.
As part of our stay at the monasteries we shall have regular access to the teachers and the Rinpoche (depending on his commitments and availability) for deeper insights and to address any questions or doubts that the participant might have. There shall also be some sessions that the teachers will take to introduce concepts of Nyingmapa Buddhism to the participants.
Wearing of the robe is a matter of a very fine balance and varies from monastery to monastery within the Spiti valley. It is recommended that one doesn’t wear the robe in this monastery although for those wishing to wear one there are no restrictions. The atmosphere of the monastery is such that one can easily merge within the system without the need for the robe.
Translator at the monastery is available only from time to time. As with the robes, there's a danger that the translator will not only be a bridge, but also become a hindrance in the stay. It is advisable to go with the flow in the monastery and make notes of aspects that need clarifications and the same can be clarified with different set of people rather than just one translator.
- Always do prostrations (or show respect in a manner that you deem fit) when entering any temple or Gompa
- Always bring your cup with you to pujas – there will be chai.
- Show respect for elder Lamas. Let them through doors before you, have food before you etc.
- Be open minded. Go with the flow and try not to insist on doing things the way you do back home.
- Make sexual jokes.
- Make a mess – not even in your room.
- Take pictures without asking. Generally photography will be no problem once you get to know the
- Throw out your trash at the monastery. Save it and bring it back to Kaza. Especially toxic things
like plastic and batteries.
- Leave valuables (especially things that are exotic to Indians like iPhones etc) laying around
unattended – even though it is a monastery, and things most probably wont get stolen, even
tempting some is not very nice.
Ugyen Sanag Choling Monastery
Ugyen Sanag Choling is a big monastery with 60 monks. The main monastery building is new, and gives many modern “luxuries” like showers and flushing toilets. It is not all five star, but everything works and it is quite easy for a westerner to live there. The monastery is quite active with visiting teachers and a highly realized Rinpoche that lives at the monastery.
You will experience the buzz of a bigger monastery here – in this little society, there is always something to do – food to be cooked, places to be cleaned, things to be prepared. There are also very young monks, something that creates life every day. The monks are very friendly, and a few of them are average English speakers. If you open up, they will be very willing to talk, tell and listen.
- Nice rooms.
- Good toilet and shower facilities.
- A great Rinpoche, who is easily accessible.
- A very good teacher proficient in English and easily accessible.
- Daily busses to/from Kaza.