Traveling to Kalpa: The Adrenaline Rush
Milton had immortalized the flavor of paradise in his illustrious creations Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. People had quite often compared the valleys of Kashmir as being the true Jannat (Paradise) on Earth. There is no doubt about that! But how many of us are aware that, beyond the walls of the lofty mountains of the Kinnaur district, Himachal Pradesh, lies an amazing haven, a hidden paradise – Kalpa. This summer we were determined to bathe ourselves in the aura of the mighty Kinnaur Kailash…and the much cherished destination Kalpa was on cards.
On the way to Reckong Peo via Shimla
We boarded the 9pm HRTC Volvo Bus to Shimla from Kashmeri Gate ISBT, Delhi. The journey was smooth and hassle free. We had rightly planned a day’s rest relaxing at Shimla otherwise the Shimla -Reckong Peo journey would have really taken a heavy toll our health. It was raining unusually early June this year.
Considering that the roads would be tricky under these conditions our decision to board a HRTC bus for Reckong Peo seemed quite practical the moment we had passed Rampur.
We boarded the 6am HRTC bus from ISBT Shimla. The mighty Sutlej joined our highway immediately after our descent from Narkanda.
We were joined by the mighty Sutlej after our our down hill journey from Narkanda.
Pathetic condition of the NH 5 after crossing Rampur
The restless dark grey waters indicated that it was raining heavily upstream.
The bus had a long-awaited lunch break at a Dhaba near to Jeori. It was raining incessantly. It seemed that we could easily touch the clouds around us.
It seemed that we could easily touch the clouds around us
The lush green mountain slopes and the pile of clouds were amazing.
The NH 5 was dangerously scooped out of the rocky edges of the gigantic mountain walls and the bus had to maneuver itself precariously with the deep Sutlej gorge lying to our left. Very soon we passed through the large Gate welcoming us to the Kinnaur District. The road beyond the Kinnaur Gate started to become scarier as we moved ahead with our uphill climb.
Rain on the Rampur – Reckong Peo Highway
Rain, beauty of the nature & peril on the highway to Reckong Peo
In some places there was hardly any trace of any road, we had to bump over old landslide debris and rain washed debris to get into the other side.
We enjoyed the adrenaline rush on these roads with the rains on in full throttle
Rampur – Reckong Peo Highway after crossing the Kinnaur Gate
The lush green mountains were gradually replaced by the harsh rocky terrain lying on both the sides of the now furious Sutlej.
We were moving through an all-rock canopy above us
Amazing Landscape..Rampur – Reckong Peo Highway
As we approached near to the Wangtu Dam, the road started to become bumpier with the Hydel Power Project debris and remains of the landslides making it literally difficult to drive.
Changing landscape after crossing Wangtu
Blockage at Chagaon, Tapri
It was already 3pm, yet we were quite optimistic that we would be probably reaching Reckong Peo by quarter to 5pm. We hardly knew that a disaster was awaiting us at Chagaon, Tapri. The bus suddenly jammed its brakes behind the queue of vehicles. We wondered what happened as it was almost more than a 10 mins wait.
Flooding of NH 5 captured from Tapri-Urni road
We came to know that due to heavy downpour, the Sutlej had flooded a major portion of the highway, 9 Km away from the Chooling Road-NH5 cross. At this juncture there was no other way but to take the narrow Tapri-Urni road to reach the Chooling road-NH5 cross.
The other bus was literally hanging down the Cliff-side to cross our bus on the Tapri-Urni road
This meant that we had to climb more than 20 Km now, which seemed to be a nightmare considering the downpour and the growing poor conditions of the road.
The Tapri-Urni-Chooling Road leading us back to NH 5 (Courtesy: Google Maps 2016)
While most private vehicles decided to wait on the NH5, our HRTC bus slowly picked its up-hill climb. The road was a disaster itself. It was narrow, slippery with sharp u-bends hardly having any grip anywhere. It was getting more and more difficult for us to give side to downhill vehicles from Reckong Peo.
Beauty of the Tapri-Urni road
Trouble brew near to the village Kutano. There was a mini road block ahead of us due to debris brought down by the rain. We were asked to get down in order to get the bus climb the pile of debris. At this moment our attention went to our right – down to the Sutlej gorge.
Amazing landscape near Urni
The sight was frightening. The river had soared like a wild giant and there were hardly any remains of the serpentine NH 5. We had to wait another five minutes to allow a HRTC bus coming from the opposite direction. At one point of time the other bus was literally hanging down the cliff-side. We had to admit that the driving skills of HRTC bus drivers was truly world class.
Our downhill climb towards Chooling
As we climbed further up, the landscape suddenly became lot greener. The humid weather was suddenly replaced by chilled icy winds blowing down from the snowcaps guarding the uphill road. The scenery around us was amazing. The road was snarling up and down amidst the growing forest cover around us. Rain fed brooks were gushing down leaps and bounds to meet the Sutlej way down.
We were finally at Chooling Road-NH 5 crossing
Tea break at the Chooling Road-NH 5 crossing
After crossing Urni, we descended down towards Chooling. The roads were in a much better shape here as compared to what we had found near Tapri. The descent was much faster than our climb and within the next fifteen minutes we were standing at the Chooling road-NH 5 crossing.
Way towards Powari & Reckong Peo
We were happy and relaxed after the end of the adrenaline rush on the Tapri-Urni road. After another 15 minutes of drive we reached Karcham.
The view of the Karcham Dam was a moment to cherish. The gigantic dam marks the confluence of the mighty Sutlej and the Baspa rivers. At this point the road bifurcates into the NH 5 moving further North East way up towards Reckong Peo, Pooh, Nako and Kaza; whereas the other one crossed the dam and climbed its way up towards the Sangla valley. The condition of NH 5 towards Powari after crossing Karcham was really pathetic. The bumpy ride had returned with a vengeance.
A magic spell: There was absolutely no trace of rain at Powari
The rain had stopped, and we witnessed an amazing view of the Sutlej basin at Powari. Sutlej with its mighty elegance was gorging its way down through the tall mountains. Suddenly the cloud covers disappeared and with the bright Sunshine, we got the glimpse of the Kinnaur Kailash range.
The spectacular view of the Kinnaur Kailash Range (on our way to Reckong Peo from Powari)
We soon left the NH 5 to our right and our uphill climb on a well maintained road indicated that we were approaching Reckong Peo.
A prized moment of the Kinnaur Kailash view from Reckong Peo Bus Stand
The Kinnaur Kailash range was slowly blooming into its full glory amidst deep pine woods…and the aura was suddenly breathtaking.
Picturesque Reckong Peo Town
Drive from Reckong Peo to Kalpa
We got down at Reckong Peo (Yuwaringi) bus stand. The sight of the picturesque town was amazing. We booked a cab by paying Rs 500/- and the driver agreed us to drop us at HPTDC Hotel Kinnaur Kailash. It was another 3.6 km climb before we entered the picturesque Kalpa village (height 2960 m) traversing through the dark pine woods. With the fading evening light the woods around us looked mysterious and forbidden much similar to the dark forests (Forbidden Forests) around Harry Potter’s school Hogwarts.
Our first shot of the Kalpa Village before we took the Kalpa-Pangi road for our Hotel
The Kalpa Bus stand was pretty small with hardly any parking space for more than four buses. The uphill road from Kalpa bus stand towards the centre of the village was quite narrow. We took a right turn now taking the Kalpa-Pangi road and climbed another 200 metres to reach our Hotel gate.
Our first evening at Kalpa
After quickly going through the check-in formalities at our hotel and dropping our luggages in our room, we could hardly resist ourselves from exploring the amazing view of the mighty Kinnaur Kailash range that lay ahead with its grand magnificence.
Village Kalpa zoomed out..below our Hotel
It was already 7.30pm in the evening and we were surprised to see a fair bit of daylight bathing the entire valley lying before us. Tour experts have rightly mentioned in their travelogues that the balconies of Hotel Kinnaur Kailash provided the most spectacular view of the entire Kinnaur Kailash range.
Our first Kinnaur Kailash Range shot from the Hotel Balcony
The Kalpa village was looking amazing from our hotel. We could see the apex of a tower like structure (Fort Kalpa & Chandika Devi Temple) at the middle of the village surrounded by the famous Vishnu temple and the Kalpa Monastery (Lochawa La-Khang Monastery). It is said that Kalpa was once one of the favorite destinations of Lord Dalhousie and other British officers in the bygone British era.
The daylight was now fading fast and there was a bluish darkness surrounding the entire valley. We were seated in the beautiful hotel restaurant facing the Kinnaur Kailash.
The mighty Kinnaur Kailash: Enjoying the memorable evening-scape
Cherishing the amazing view with a cup of hot coffee and a plateful of crispy pakoras was an experience we would hardly ever forget. We thought, the difficulties and the adrenaline rush we had during the past 12 hours had come to a prized end! Our perseverance and determination to face the challenges on the way to Kalpa had richly paid off!! And now that we were in the lap of this amazing haven, it was time to collect bagful of fond memories for the entire lifetime.
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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