Controlled hospitality at its best: Demul, Spiti Valley
A 35 minutes uphill drive along the main road in Spiti Valley just near the village of Lidang covering 20km, one will reach the hidden village of Demul in Spiti Valley. Demul is situated at a towering altitude 14,173 feet ASL (4320m).
The village of Demul has two entry points. One is from Lidang which is a 20km uphill drive over a well made flawless tar road. While the other road is via Komic which is the highest village in the world and is at a distance of around 25km. The road from Komic is pretty much a dirt track for most of the way.
Demul is a small village with around 40 odd mud houses, a small school, a monastery overlooking the entire village and plenty of kids riding donkeys and playing around the village.
The village is situated in a bowl shaped Trans-Himalayan duct and the first thing you will notice is the village is surrounded by green pastures all around and a heavy Himalayan breeze will accompany you all through the day.
Unlike most other villages in the Indian Himalayas there is something which is very different about Demul, here backpackers and travellers don’t have an option of picking their home stay for the night.
Angruup Funchok and his friend run a system known as controlled hospitality. So what they basically do is allot a home stay and a family to each and every person who comes to their village in rotation. This idea was conceptualised by an NGO who did an amazing job of giving the village solar electricity for two hours daily back in the early 2000s.
The village coordinator, Angruup Funchok allots them turn by turn. He explains the village rules most of which revolve around this idea of sustainable tourism. The strangest rule is that you cannot stay in one house for more than a night. You have to keep shifting everyday during the period of your stay. So if you plan on staying for three nights in Demul you’ll have to live with three different families.
The home stays in the village are extremely basic with just one room which can accommodate up to three to maximum four people with their backpacks. Each homestay serves you lunch, dinner and breakfast the following morning. The rooms are basically an extension of the family house with a few modern amenities like a water filter.
The toilets in the village are still predominantly traditional dry toilets which is just a hole in the ground and cow dung is used to get rid of the foul odour. The morning routine is just an experience which has been long forgotten in our modern city life.
Every evening the youth and a few older veterans from the village gather to play a game of volleyball which is a delight to watch and even more to play. The locals are extremely warm and will be more than happy to add you to their team. A game of volleyball will surely test your physical fitness, since just standing and watching them play at this altitude is a task on its own.
The best place to catch the sunset or sunrise in the village is from the village monastery which gives you a bird’s eye view of the lower houses in Demul and an end to end view of a jaw breaking landscape.
Demul is one of the last few unexplored and lesser travelled villages in Spiti Valley. Since it does not fall along the main road it’s usually given a miss and most who have travelled to Spiti Valley surely won’t even know that the village even exist.
The ideal time to visit Demul is during the summer months from April to October. For the rest of the year this tiny village is covered in snow. It’s the kind of village which a traveler will fall in love with and a literally a nightmare for tourist.
A night stay in Demul will surely rekindle your love for the simple content and happy life, since this is the only village where you will definitely find the Spitian experience you have set out to find.
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