On May 3rd, 2021 I reported from the highest post office in the world in Hikkim in the hospital at over 4400 meters.
Back then, Gerhard Freund contacted me to write an article about the highest post office for the Bern stamp magazine. For this I helped him with a photo of Hikkim.
Mr. Freund had a letter from the Arctic to the International Space Station (ISS) in space back in 2019.
After we both got in contact with each other, he now had the idea to send a letter from Hikkim to space.
For this I should, whenever possible, take his letter to the postman in Hikkim, have it stamped and put it in the mailbox. An acquaintance in Moscow would then forward him to the Russian cosmonauts.
Due to the corona virus, I actually only got to the hospital at the beginning of September. My friend had a photo shoot for a mountain bike brand in the remote high mountain region on the Tibetan border and I just came along to cycle around the area and fulfill Gerhard Freund’s wish.
I was curious about the post office myself. While I have been very close to Hikkim many times, I have never been to the town itself as it is a little off the main roads.
On September 11, 2021, I left Kaza, the district capital of Spiti, for the village of Hikkim, 15 kilometers away, with two letters to the outer space and a postcard to my grandmother.
I climbed 600 meters on a sandy jeep track.
The small village of Hikkim is really very charming and even more so the nice postman Rinchen Chhering. He lives with his family in the post office and warmly welcomes every letter writer with a cup of tea.
The post office is a small tourist attraction so I wasn’t alone. Nonetheless, Mr. Chhering took the time to personally stamp the letters and card, even with the stamp “Highest Post Office in the World”.
They were probably the first letters that I would actually throw in a mailbox. Normally in India it is better to secure a number and hand it over directly to the post office officials. But Mr. Chhering insisted.
I then drove back via the village of Langza and had such a wonderful round trip.
The letters arrived in Russia on November 20, 2021 and were given to a Russian cosmonaut on December 8, 2021, who flew to the ISS with two Japanese space tourists.
The response was brought back to earth on December 20th, 2021 and sent to Mr. Freund.
The postcard to my grandma arrived much earlier in October.
Here is the report by Gerhard Freund:
Superlative post offices
In addition to the southernmost civil post office in Port Lockroy (British Antarctic Territory) and the northernmost post office in the world in Ny Alesund (Spitsbergen), there is the highest post office in the world, which is located in India. To be precise, it is located in a mountainous village called Hikkim in the district of Lahaul and Spiti in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh at an altitude of 4,400 meters. It is 46 kilometers from the nearest town called Kaza and accessed by a gravel road. It is one of the most highly inhabited places in India all year round. The residential buildings are located between 4,330 and 4,400 meters. The village and its surroundings remain cut off from the outside world for 6 months due to the heavy snowfall in winter.
Hikkim also housed the highest polling station in the world for a long time, but was then superseded by the village of Tashigang in the same district.
As already mentioned, the highest post office in the world is in Hikkim, which has other villages in the areanationally connected to the rest of the world. Villagers can receive and send letters and packages. A special highlight is the post office, also for tourists who insist on sending postcards. The post office is also a savings bank for the villagers. The zip code or PIN of the post office is 172114.
Rinchen Chhering has been the postmaster since the establishment of the post office in 1983 .
Based on the experiences of my last two projects Port Lockroy – ISS and Scott-Amundsen Station – ISS, the idea arose to send a letter from the highest post office in the world to the post office of the International Space Station, which is located in the Russian part. Ms. Appelt Sarah from India (originally from Germany), who runs a travel agency (Chalo Reisen) in India, helped me to implement the project. In spring 2021, on a next trip to Hikkim, asked her to post 2 letters for me at the highest post office in the world. I sent her two ready-made letters, but unfortunately they didn’t arrive. So I sent an e-mail with the text of the letter and described the procedure regarding the address on the envelope, etc. On 09.09.21 the time had come and Mrs. Appelt started the journey to Spiti. She rode her mountain bike from the town of Kaza the 46 kilometers and about 600 meters in altitude to Hikkim to send the two letters on what was probably the most extraordinary journey. The stamps were duly canceled by post clerk Rinchen Chhering with postmark Hikkim – Lahaul Spiti and date 09/11/21. In addition to the postmark, he also brought the secondary cancellation ‘India Post – World’s Highest Post Office-Hikkim 4440 Meter 14567Ft. Dist. Lahaul Spiti Himachal Pradesh” and put his signature over it. The postman was very helpful.
On 10/20/21 the letters arrived in Moskau and were ready for the last leg of the journey. Again I was helped by Igor Rodin, who gave the letters to the cosmonauts.
The letters were carried aboard the Soyuz MS-20 spacecraft and flew to the ISS with Russian cosmonaut Misurkin Aleksandr Aleksandrovich and two Japanese space tourists Maezawa Yusaku and Hirano Yozo. The last time a tourist was brought to the ISS was in September 2009 with the spacecraft TMA-16. The current start to the ISS took place on December 8th, 2021 from the cosmodrome in Baikonur (Kazakhstan) at 7:38 a.m. world time. The spacecraft successfully docked with the International Space Station at 1:40 p.m. The ISS orbits the earth at a speed of 28,000 kilometers per hour and is located at an altitude of 400 kilometers. The undocking took place on 12/19/21 at 23:50 UTC. At 03.13 all three returned to terrestrial ground. On board the ISS, the letters traveled around 7,600,000 kilometers in this short time.