We were excited like anything when Mr. Mukesh Negi our tour guide explained us the details of the Sangla-Chitkul trip at the lawn of the Hotel Kinnaur Kailash Kalpa (Altitude: 2960m i.e. 9710 ft) . We were literally amazed by the depth of his information and knowledge about the place. There was hardly a wink of sleep that night. However, the next day was on with a bang with a clear blue sky at Kalpa, which was a surprise considering the weather conditions since the past day after our arrival from Shimla.
View of the Sutlej River from Reckong Peo-Powari Road
Mr. Negi was honking his SUV right at the parking ground sharp at 8.00 am when we were rushing with our breakfast at the hotel restaurant. The SUV soon sailed smoothly through the dark pine woods taking us down to Reckong Peo.
Route to the Sangla Valley, an adventure itself
Our downward climb to Powari from Reckong Peo was a smooth one and soon it turned into a hellish nightmare the moment we joined the NH 5.
Downhill Climb towars Powari
We literally struggled jumping over the fresh pot holes created by yesterday’s downpour and with the Hydro-electric project construction works going around the highway on the Sutlej Basin it was hard to find a little strip of comfortable road until we had reached Karcham (about 22 km from Reckong Peo). Yet inspite of the hardship the incentive was too price less – the rugged yet amorous looks of the Sutlej river gushing through the gorge towards its destiny.
Beauty of Kinnaur Unplugged: Snap of the mighty Sutlej at Powari
Reaching Karcham dam we crossed the Sutlej and joined the Baspa river on our right. The climb was breathtaking, spectacular and dangerous with the narrow strip of road being flanked by the deep gorge of the Baspa river.
Kalpa-Rakchham Track (Courtesy: Google Maps, 2016)
While the left side of the narrow strip of road was towered by the gigantic rugged rocky walls of the mountains, the right side view was equally amazing with lush green mountain slopes chiseled by colorful villages of Kinnaur. The view of the Buruah, Sapni and Batsera villages were just out of the world.
The pictureque green mountains..dotted with Kinnauri villages
Cliffhanging Road…Track leading us towards Sangla from Rakcham
At some point the narrow strip of road took a dangerous cliffhanger bend, with hardly any foot hold to the right of our SUV. We wondered how HRTC buses plied on day to day basis from places like Rampur to Sangla and Chitkul. We reached another narrow strip of the so-called road housing a small Chandi Devi Temple standing to our right.
Chandi Devi Temple..on theKarcham-Sangla Road
The lonely HRTC Bus on the Karcham Sangla Raod
We were told that before the construction of this temple the place have had a notorious past with frequent accidents where there were hardly any remains of the ill-fated vehicles. After moving another kilometer our frugal spirits were enlightened by the sight of a HRTC bus plying slowly yet confidently on its way up to Sangla. It was hard to believe how Mukesh ji overtook this bus on this narrow road and sped ahead to avoid the dust clouds chunked out by the bus.
Karcham Sangla Road Unplugged
The amazing Sangla road shot from our SUV
After crossing two more bends to our left we found several small villages to our right. But looking at Mukeshji concentrating hard on the roads we decided to remain silent until we reached the dam site constructed over the Baspa river. Mukesh Ji smiled at us and remarked that we had entered the Sangla valley.
The Sangla Valley
Kamru Fort View
We had already left the Baspa River dam and climbing further up taking the left side of the river gorge. A wide lush green valley view enchanted us. To our right we found a small village located on the top of a small hillock with a tall fort like wooden structure at the apex.
The Kamru Fort View
That was none other than the beautiful Kamru village with the Kamru Fort located at the apex. We got down at the corner of a bend of the road and enjoyed the breathtaking valley view. The HRTC bus which we have overtaken long back was slowly trailing its way up. It was time for us to leave and drive further up.
Looking at the HRTC Bus..on its uphill climb towards Sangla town
The Sangla Town
Another ten minutes drive led us to a small town which was none other than the picturesque Sangla town. The town was innocent looking, very simple with hardly about fifty people were spread here and there. After having tea in a small tea stall our SUV took the Sangla-Chitkul road and continued its up-hill climb.
Beauty of the towering mountains surrounding the Sangla Valley
Again into wilderness..leaving Sangla town
Sangla Valley..an amazing place
Distant Glaciers feeding the Baspa River
Amazing Sangla Valley (Near Banjara Camps)
The view near to the Banjara Camps, Sangla was simply spectacular, with the broad valley bordered by lush green alpine woods which was neatly gorged by the silvery swiftness of the Baspa river. This point was amazing and we could not resist ourselves from having some good shots of the valley view..
The Sangla Town – Rakchham Road
Near the Banjara Camps (Batseri Village)
Batseri Village view from the Sangla-Rakchham-Chitkul Road
Our drive towards village Rakchham
After leaving the vicinity of the Banjara camps, we entered an entirely different world completely inundated by the tall alpine woods surrounding us. Suddenly we felt that the climb had virtually disappeared.
Crossing the wild brook
The terrain of the road suddenly had become rockier and several wild brooks crossed the road. It was an amazing experience when we jumped, dived into these innocent looking brooks and went to the other side. An iron bridge was lying way ahead of us and view around it was breathtaking.
Through the lush green woods
The mad brooks
The spell of the dark woods
It was a small river altogether running down madly from a distant glacier up in the mountains. A local shepherd was having a watchful gaze on the heard of his sheep and goats. The honk from our vehicle made him to quickly burst into action for clearing the road.
The Kinnauri Shepherd
On the way to Rakchham village
Another ten minutes bumpy ride led us to a large gate, which showed that we had reached Rakchham.
The picturesque village of Rakchham (Altitude: 2,900m or 10,000ft) typically looks like a little paradise amidst the backdrop of the Sangla valley and the Baspa river gorging its way down to meet the Sutlej river.
Gateway to Rakchham
Our first shot of the village was its tall gateway on the Sangla-Chitkul road. The humble green billboard, the barren dusty road and the beautiful apple orchard lying to our left created an amazing aura.
The peculiar gate to the Apple Orchard, Rakchham Village
The orchard had a peculiar wooden gate which looked surprisingly odd in the backdrop of the well maintained apple trees. It was probably once been the gate of a village hut now completely removed, to be the entrance of the beautiful orchard.
Most of the houses were made of wood, stone bricks with roofs thatched by flat slate rocks or tins. Many of the cottages had grown potato and other local vegetables in small fenced gardens.
Rakchham…The Switzerland of Kinnaur
One of the shots we had here really had the flavour of the Swiss meadows. A small gate with a conical tiled roof welcomed us through the main entrance of the village.
The Village Entrance, Rakchham
Exploring the village Rakchham
The outskirts of the village had more huts and cottages, which were predominantly made of wood and thatched by flat slate roofs. As we walked more into the centre of the village, the huts were replaced by well maintained concrete mansions.
The traditional wooden huts on the outskirts of village Rakchham
Houses located at the centre of village Rakchham
Probably the village had a typical hierarchical orientation like those we had read in medieval history books with the rich and economically well to do people living at the core and the poorer living at the outskirts. Like most Kinnauri villages Rakchham too had a large centrally located wooden temple popularly known as the Sri Shamsher Devta Ji Temple.
Sri Shamsher Devta Ji Temple, Rakchham
The amazing woodworks on the temple
The wooden works on its walls were exquisite particularly the abstract designs and the arched galleries were worth mentioning. The beautiful slate roofed gallery at the centre of the village drew our attention.
The beautiful slate roofed gallery
It was probably meant for important religious ceremonies organized in the village. Each house or cottage in the village had a separate store rooms meant exclusively for storing wood which was the only sustainable source of fuel and energy during the long snow-clad winter months of Kinnaur.
Storehouse meant of piling woods for the harsh winter
We appreciated the efforts of the villagers using solar panels for the street lights and even for domestic uses.
The Valley view from Rakchham Village
A fond picture post card of Rakchham village
On the way to Baspa River Camp..from Rakchham Village
Baspa River Camp, Rakchham
We crossed the Baspa river taking the iron bridge to reach the other side of the river. This bank was much flat as compared to the terrain of the other bank where the village was located.
A snap from the Baspa River Bed
The river had along with the tall snow caps had an amazing look. The Baspa river camp Rakchham was very simple looking with a fair log cabin and quite a few tents for adventure lovers and hikers.
The Baspa River Camp, Rakchham
Baspa River Camp, Rakchham
Our tour guide Mr. Mukesh Kumar Negi
Our Journey towards Chitkul
The amazing one hour we spent at Rakchham acted as a huge booster to shed off the tiresome long journey we had from our hotel at Kalpa. With were refreshed and charged for another 10 Km ascent towards Chitkul, our long cherished destination….
Script, Photography & Videography (C) Indranil Mutsuddi
ESSENTIAL GUIDELINES FOR TOURISTS
When to visit: The ideal season for touring Kalpa Kinnaur Sangla is during the months of June, July and August. Tourists are advised to avoid the rainy days of Septemeber as the roads are frequently disconnected by heavy landslides. After October most of the roads of the Kinnaur District become un-navigable. During summer it is advised to pack light woolens for Kalpa, Sangla and Chitkul tours. However anybody having plans to move further up to tour Nako, Kaza and Kunzum Pass (Spiti Valley) may take heavy woolens.
How to travel: The only way to travel Kinnaur is through Shimla. The Shimla-Narkanda road leads you to Rampur where the NH 5 takes you to Karcham where the road bifurcates to Sangla and Reckong Peo. Tourists may book cars (SUVs are highly recommended on Kinnaur roads) from Shimla itself or may travel upto Reckong Peo by HRTC Delux bus (originating from Chandigarh) or ordinary bus from Shimla Tutikandi ISBT. However journey by ordinary buses are quite often tiresome and uncomfortable. Considering the challenging road conditions of Kinnaur, HRTC bus service is the most reliable form of communication. However local taxi service could be availed from Kalpa or Reckong Peo which are reliable, as most of the drivers are aware of the tricky road conditions in Kinnaur, Reckong Peo and Sangla. HRTC bus service is only available upto Sangla from Shimla or Rampur. Very few HRTC buses travel upto Chitkul.
Where to stay: A fair number of hotels are available at Kalpa and Reckong Peo. At Kalpa, the Kinner Kailash Hotel of HPTDC provides a luxurious stay and spectacular view of the Holy “Shivalinga” on Mount Kinnaur Kailash. At Sangla a good number of Hotels and camps are available for staying. Banjara Camps of Sangla are one of the most reputed among the few.
Mobile Connectivity & Civic Facilities: Tourists may note that mobile connections are often very poor in Kinnaur. At Chitkul except BSNL no mobile connection is available. The same issue arises when one moves beyond Reckong Peo towards Kaza. Banks, ATMs, Petrol Pumps, Medical centres and other civic facilities are only available in plenty at Reckong Peo and partially at the Sangla town.
WHY YOU NEED TO CONTACT http://www.mytravelnama.com?
- Hotel & Resorts, Kalpa, Sangla, Chitkul
- Local travel (SUVs) Booking from Kalpa/Reckong Peo: Mr. Mukesh Kumar Negi, Kalpa (09418340009, 09857340009)
- Trekking Adventure Tours, Kinnaur Kailash Parikrama, Shivalinga Darshan: Mr. Nav Negi, Kalpa (09805582595)
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