The effect of my last vacation was fading away, monotony of an anchored lifestyle and soaring mercury of Delhi’s summers was making my feet itchy – I needed an escape to rescue and rebound myself. Thank God! I know who all were experiencing the same. Yeah, it’s our wolf pack once again ready to hit the road in the lookout for a beautiful destination to find the solace.
This roaring commotion sets the tone for our 4 day’s journey to explore the beautiful district of Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh and this travelogue is about our road trip to the beautiful Baspa valley and the breathtaking view of the humongous Himalayan range of Kinnar Kailash from Kalpa.
We left in our HRTC but from ISBT Kashmiri gate at 10:30 PM which reached Solan at 6:10 next morning, we had booked a rental car from Solan for 4 days so after a Tea break at the local bus stand we started our journey at 6:30, our next stop was going to be Rampur where we reached at around 10:45 and on the way we enjoyed beautiful views of Shimla, Kufri, Narkanda… the place is blessed with Apple Orchids in almost every village on the route. Soon after crossing Narkanda we discovered that we were driving along the River Satluj, and Satluj was going to be our companion for the rest of our journey.
Rampur Bushar was our pit stop so we stopped at a roadside restaurant went inside and the view from the balcony was amazing… we found ourselves 60 feet above the Satluj, we spent about 40 minutes there used the services, had breakfast and started driving towards Kinnor which wasn’t too far now.
In about an hour we entered the official gate of Kinnaur district and surprisingly there is also a natural gate which is signature to this district.
Roads in Kinnaur district have been carved out of mountain ranges, and yeah… they are literally rock solid.
The journey becomes really interesting after crossing the Karcham Wangtoo Dam which is at the confluence of Baspa and Satluj – the road from here is a steep uphill incline which is merely few feet wider than the car and it’s imminently clear that this is not for the faint-hearted drivers.
Looking at the road it was difficult to believe that HRTC buses, Army trucks and everything that one sees in the surrounding villages has been transported through the very same road.
As one moves ahead the view starts getting better and better… and it really gets exciting when one sees snow covered peaks just at a distance, well “just at a distance” is how it feels, but in reality, it’s many miles away it’s just the giant size proportion causes this illusion.
While driving on these roads one often sees many small temples where one should offer prayers to mountain lords and local deities, after crossing the dam we are now in the Baspa valley which means we always have Baspa river beside, sometimes just beside the road which is rare and often deep in the valley depending on our elevation. It’s a green valley with the plethora of flora and fauna and views are eye pleasing to an extent that one can travel without having to worry about the destination… and yeah… finally, we reached Sangla which was our halt for the first night.
After passing the Baspa reservoir we reached Sangla at around 3PM the next day, a total of 17 hours journey from Delhi… sounds tiring but we were so excited to see the snow-clad mountains and the scenery of this place was Amazing. We stayed at Tridev Bhagwati hotel which was right at the beginning of the town presenting a nice view of the valley. Sangala literally means the Pass of Light and it’s bright and shiny here during the daytime so we decided to visit the market to try out some local food and behold the beauty the town has to offer. We had Thukpa which is famous in this region and also tried their special tea.
The entire Kinnaur region was secluded and had travel restrictions due to its proximity with Tibetan border but since that’s not the case anymore, the small town is now bustling and offers a variety of activities for enthusiasts. One has lots of options to go on walks and admire the natural beauty of this place; if you are an adventure seeker you can try rappelling, rock climbing and stay in the Camps on the Baspa River Banks, there are also yoga retreat centers.
We planned to watch and meet some local kids at the football stadium, the ground seemed to be needing some maintenance as it had wild grass growing there but since there was nobody when we reached, we had the entire stadium to ourselves and made full use of it by trying out free kicks… soon some local boys joined us, we played a few short games, clicked few picks and gave away our football to the ones who could actually make much use of it. On our way back we visited the local Monastery and saw Kamru Fort from a distance and decided to pay a visit the next morning.
Feeling rejuvenated after a good night sleep we were all set to reach the best of this trip “Chitkul” yes, the last village on India-Tibet border as no civilians are allowed after this point and the entire area from hereon is under ITBP armed forces.
As planned we first stopped to see the Kamru Fort… one need to hike a bit to reach this place it’s roughly about half a kilometer but can be exhausting if one is not in good shape as you’ve to be climbing the stairs the entire way… but as you climb look around and enjoy the views, stand and watch the lush green mountains, behold the beauty and catch your breath.
Before Kamru fort comes the Shree Badri Vishal Ji temple and one has to go through it to reach the fort. This temple is the spiritual place of worship for locals and its dedicated to the Snake of Lord Shiva. It is a beautiful piece of architecture, from it’s pointy dooms with grey stone tiles to the detail in the woodwork everything about it deserves a mention, modernization and development had impacted the locals and the village… and it’s not what it once use to be, but this temple shows the true classical form of Tibetan architecture… and actually it’s the sites like these where one can truly witness and admire this style.
We had a brief stop to take some clicks and quickly progressed towards the fort which is about 3-5 minutes from here. Kamru fort is over 800 years old and also houses a small temple of Kamakshi Devi, we were lucky to find some local intellectuals who shared a brief history about this place claiming it to be 1200 year old, the place shares stories from the times of Pandavas in Mahabharat, this fort houses a cubical tower made of Wood and Stone which was a place where the princes were pronounced kings and it also use to store food and weapons in case of emergencies.
These local women also helped us understand the geography of this place as this place is exactly the back side of Kinner Kailash mountain range, and one can actually go to Gangotri in about 7 days through Lamkha pass trek which is one of the lesser known remote tracks but a classic route from Gangotri to Kinnaur… the deities were not in the temple as the locals had taken them to Gangotri a ritual that happens every year and it’s the classic route they take.
Locals also suggested coming around September, to be exact in Bhadrapada as per Hindu calendar to watch the Fulaich Fair which is actually festival of flowers, and has much more to it… one can see the locals dancing in their traditional costumes and performing the rituals for the ones who’ve departed, some of the rituals are taboo for the modern-day social environment.
One thing that intrigued me the most was the way women are respected in this place, there is liberty given to the female child, not only are they respected but also free to explore and grow intellectually, we were also given the option to try out the camping in Batseri but we had to rule that out due to limited time in hand… if one really needs to be intimately familiar about this place you can refer to The Cultural Heritage of the Trans-Himalaya by Pro. P.S. Negi Loktus
The discussions were getting very interesting but our destination was waiting so we bid them farewell and moved on our way to Chitkul, which is about an Hour away from Sangla.
Drive to Chitkul was pleasant, nice clear weather, beautiful view of snow peaked mountains & Baspa river floating alongside which appears as a tiny stream from that height, after 30 minutes we saw all the cars parked on side, it was ITBPs checkpoint where one has to provide details about Car and the passengers. Army Jawans are very helpful yet vigilant here and photography at this place is strictly prohibited.
Well, now Chitkul is not very far and soon after crossing a few mountains streams on small bridges we finally reached Chitkul. We passed “Hindustan ka Aakhri Dhaba” and moved straight on to the unpaved road which leads us to Zostel where we were staying for that night. We quickly checked in to our room, grabbed extra layer of clothing and immediately came out as the view outside was just heavenly.
Outside temperature must have been around 20’C as it was cold in the broad daylight. May is supposed to be the safest time to visit this valley as most of the times it’s covered with snow and this is the hottest weather one gets to experience here. There are numerous reasons to fall in love with mountains, we all love them for our own reasons… about Chitkul – the mountains, moment, weather, ambiance it was all majestical and filled us with inner joy. I think we are a group of sensibly crazy guys but this place showed me “who” I was traveling with… as the inner child of my friends had come back to life… that’s how joyful it feels here.
The property is surrounded by small fields cultivated for farming, there were a few mountain goats who were curious and didn’t hesitate to approach us in search for something to eat. Good food is available here as there are a handful of local restaurants serving delicious food at reasonable prices, their service is also fairly quick and they serve with smiles. It was now time to go up close to the floating Baspa river so we started moving ahead on the road which slopes down towards the local school behind which flows the river Baspa.
The river bed is full of pebbles – I saw a few in different colors but most of them were grey – more than 50 shades of grey 🙂
I needed to bring back something which is authentic and truly made in Chitkul so I took a few pebbles as the souvenir. I was too excited to touch the water as this is the closest I’ve been to a glacier so I quickly unwrapped myself and tried to stand in water get my feet wet. I was barely able to stand there for a few seconds… as it was freezing cold, I don’t know why but it felt colder than ice itself. This water treatment somehow filled us with electrifying energy and it became so clear that we were spending the rest of the day right here as this is by far the best part of the trip. Soon we were unwinding ourselves and enjoying the newfound energy by dancing on some cool beats in the broad daylight. The best part about reaching the last village is that its not crowd unlike most of the hill stations with tourists, people here are to cherish the natural beauty in its full glory and that demands minimal human intervention which you get here.
We spent about 3 hours there dancing and later lying on the pebbles and watching the Great Himalayas on the horizon… there was something special about that moment… something uplifting and spiritual in its essence. A lot of us travel to be the one with ourselves, to rediscover who we really are, here we actually lived those moments… the rhythmic sound of water is chanting, eyes are witnessing the purity of white glacier that’s subconsciously taming this beast of a mind, sand granules on the bare feet makes you realize you are connected and belong here… the breeze is taking away what’s parched and has withered away… to surface the life that’s left inside. These are the moments you need to experience, and you must as you owe it to yourself.
We were hungover and hypnotized by the overdose of oxygen in air and stayed there by the dusk after which we came back to Zostel.
We went to the common room where there were few other travelers playing guitar and singing – this room also had a TV where later people gathered to watch IPC as it was India vs Australia that night. Colorful garden lights were looking beautiful from up top and we decided to go out to feel the chill and click some shots with new 50mm prime and we were blown away by the pics.
We ordered food from Zostel cafeteria and decided to dine under the stars, the food was delicious and afterwards paid another visit to the common hangout area which had a group of guys from Bombay on it’s way to Leh-Laddak who had decided to spend a night in this beautiful valley before moving to Spiti.
Night temperature was around 4’C and it gets really cold, our bunk beds had enough cushioning and layers to protect us from the cold but I could still hear the music by gushing water in the valley.
Next morning we got up early and decided to jog till the end of the road, we did go about 2-3 kilometers ahead and there was no one… only a few sign boards showing the presence of ITBP in the area and warning to not enter in the water as the current is powerful than it seems.
We saw the Sun rising behind the hills, casting long shadows, found an extra companion in the form of a sheepdog which was friendly and stayed with us the entire time until we started going back to our room.
Now the plan was to move to our next and final destination – Kalpa and we left around 9 o’clock clicking some signature pics.
Kalpa is a small town in Satluj River Valley with average altitude 2960m, we crossed the Baspa-Satluj confluence and started driving alongside mighty Satluj…
the road took a steep incline from the village of Telangi and we reached Reckong-Peo after 2.5 hrs of driving, Pio is the district headquarters and Kalpa was not too far now.
We were on our way to the hotel but there was a small hick-up due the miscommunication between MakeMyTrip and hotel Chini-Bunglow where we were staying. Hotel owner had not confirmed the rooms but we had the bookings there – later he told us there have been payment disputes with online hotel aggregators and they are not paying their dues thus they are not accepting any online bookings – similar thing happened with us in Sangla but we had sorted that over the phone on the way and they give us a different hotel instead… so we kind of understood what the issue was. The guy had rooms available so he accommodated us but we continued talking to MakeMyTrip and didn’t get a satisfactory answer even after hours of discussion. Anyways we asked for the refund and paid the guy with cash.
Kalpa is famous for the view of Kinnaur-Kailash – a mythical abode of Lord Shiva. The Kinner Kailash Shivalingam is a vertical rock which is about 79 foot high. It’s a 2-3 days trek with moderate difficulty but we could get a glimpse from our Hotel Chini-Bunglow, which is one of the best sights to view the holy stone.
Jorkanden is the highest mountain in Kinnaur Kailash Mountain Range with an astonishing height of 6473m and it stands tall just behind Kinner Kailash creating an astonishing view which looks huge and right over your head literally looking like the bad boy of this club.
It was cloudy during daytime and locals suggested us to wait until next morning to get the best shots of the holy stone. We had a lot of time in hand so decided to go to the famous suicide point.
Suicide point is about 10 minutes from Kalpa on way to Roghi village, on the way we saw apple orchards and the road became so narrow at one point that only one car can pass at a time but soon we were out driving on one of the most dangerous roads in the world.
On our left, there was a dangerous trench and high mountain on the right. We came to a point which was slightly wider and it took us no time to guess that it’s got to be the famous suicide point. We parked right on the top of the rock edge, got out to see how deep it is… and what we saw was mind-boggling.
The wind was gushing through our hair as we consciously stepped out of our automobile. There is something strange about this place… these rocks are Hypnotic, they can captivate you, move you and bring out strange emotions mixed with joy and fear… after a while, you feel the blood rushing in your veins and how your heart is beating in your head telling you to be super conscious around here. The worse part is the trench on the edge which is a 90’ slope and we tried to see the bottom of it… but it seemed like it was pulling us into the abyss… yeah, it was just not possible to figure out its bottom here… you gotta be there to experience the phenomenon first hand… but here is an image to illustrate my point.
After spending 30 minutes in the super-conscious mode where everybody was warning everybody… we came back to our room in Kalpa and now was the time to visit local monastery and temples.
It was fun to be among locals to admire the beauty and culture of this place first hand. India is full of vividness and vibrance and one must travel to discover it’s true colors.
Next morning as suggested by locals we got early around 5 and reached the rooftop to get the amazing morning view before sunrise – we clicked a number of silhouettes and here is what it was like.
Finally today was the day to start our journey back home.
so we left hotel by 9:40 AM, had heavy breakfast and started our journey to Shimla. We had our reservation from Shimla for 10 PM and had planned to reach there by 6 so we can roam around for some sightseeing but the crazy traffic in this town killed over 2 hours and we decided to wait at the bus station as it was already dark around 8 PM, so after spending the entire night in HRTC bus we reached Delhi by 8 next day.
Honestly it was too much travel but considering what we saw and experienced it was all worth it.