Kibber, an exotic Himalayan village where barter system is still in vogue

Kibber, an exotic Himalayan village where barter is still in vogue
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Several charming villages nestled in the Himalayan mountain ranges are covered by snow during most part of the year. They are mostly thinly populated and the local residents follow peculiar customs and traditions. Interestingly, the ancient barter system of money exchange is still alive in some of these hamlets, which have poor transport facilities.

One such village is Kibber, situated in Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh. It is one of the highest inhabited places on earth. Kibber is at 4,270 m above sea level and according to the census of 2011, has a mere 77 houses with 366 people. The population of the village comprises 187 male and 179 female residents.

Another peculiar feature of Kibber is the house architecture. All the dwellings are built with locally available stones, which are arranged in special way. Interestingly, no normal building materials such as bricks have been used. This makes the houses truly eco-friendly. As the transportation facilities are minimal, the local people are forced to look for materials available in their neighbourhood for house construction. Moreover, houses built with stones can resist the cold weather of the area. Another interesting aspect is that all the houses look similar which, in fact, adds to the beauty of the place.

Even though Kibber is an exotic place which any keen traveller would be keen to experience, a trip would not be easy. This is because regular bus services to Kibber operate only during the summer months from Kaza, the nearest town which is 20 km away. During the months when the buses don’t ply, travellers would have to depend on expensive modes of transport like the Bolero SUV.

Kibber may seem an isolated place but it has all the basic facilities such as a hospital, high school, post office, telegraph office and community television.

The ideal time to plan a trip to Kibber is summer, which extends from June to October. During these months, there are regular buses from Kaza in the morning and evening.

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Another option to head to Kibber is to take the share taxis, which are available around the year but charge steep rates. As this is a costly affair, the villagers prefer to travel by foot to Kaza and other places when the buses don’t conduct services. Most local people are familiar with many short cuts in the hills that reduce the distance they have to walk. The nearest city from Kibber is Leh in Ladakh, which can be reached only in three days through Parang La pass.

Villagers of Kibber head to the markets in Ladakh with their horses, cattle and yak to exchange for goods they need under the barter system.

The main tourist attractions at Kibber are a Buddhist monastery and the wildlife sanctuary. The Kibber monastery has ancient wall paintings, other artworks and manuscripts. Meanwhile, Kibber wildlife sanctuary is noted for the abundance of several unique medicinal plants. Traditional healers of the locality have been using these plants to brew remedies for various diseases over centuries. Scientific studies too have indicated that many plants in Kibber sanctuary have medicinal properties. Yet another feature of Kibber is the presence of limestone rocks.

Travellers are familiar with Spiti Valley, which draws a large number of visitors. If they take a detour to the beautiful village of Kibber during the summer months, their trip would be even more worthwhile. But a journey to Kibber is best avoided during the winter months when the place witnesses very heavy snowfall and biting cold.

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