Solo Travel, Himachal Tribal Circuit – Kinnaur Valley

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After crossing Simla and its suburbs, the lush green mountains and apple orchards in the valleys were a treat for the eyes. We had a small stop over at Theog. Rain drenched Theog looked all the more beautiful during sunset. I had never been beyond Theog before, so I had a fascinating image of Narkanda, a winter sport hill station of Himachal Pradesh, in my mind. But frankly, seeing Narkanda for the first time was an anti-climax. It is a small non-descript town, with hardly any tourists during the monsoon season. After Narkanda, it was a steep downhill journey with never ending zigzag turns and U-turns. Narkanda is at an altitude of 2708 mts. at a hill top whereas Rampur is at an altitude of 924 mts. in Rampur-Sarahan valley on the banks of river Sutlej. After another stopover at Kingal for tea and snacks, we moved forward.

Our bus reached Rampur at around 10.00 p. m. The markets were totally deserted and even most of the eateries and hotels had called it a day. Being totally new to the place and not being able to gather any meaningful information about hotels, I went for the safe option of getting down at the bus-stand, because I did not want to walk long distance with a 10 kg haversack. But it proved to be a wrong decision, because the new bus-stand was situated in a remote corner away from the main market. There was only one lodge in the bus-stand building two floors down. The owner of the lodge may not have been good in maintaining it, but he was an expert in the Economics Theory of Demand and Supply. The lodge was very poorly furnished and seemed pricey, not that I was looking for a star category hotel. So, I boarded another bus to take me to the old bus stand or the main market. The bus conductor was really nice and he not only obliged me with a free ride, but also guided me.

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Solo Travel, Himachal Tribal Circuit – Lahaul Valley

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During this stretch, a car had a flat tyre in the middle of a stream. The traffic had halted and the passengers of our bus, helped in changing the wheel. We started crawling forward, for being blocked once again by the same car, which was ahead of us. This time the car got stuck in a stream having big boulders. Again the passengers and staff of the bus came to the rescue of the car. Stones were planted strategically in front of the car tyres to provide some friction and the car was literally lifted out of the stream by the passengers.
We descended to the valley at Batal and from there we moved in the valley, literally on the river bed up to Chatru, which was our mid-day meal stop. Trekkers going to Chandratal from Manali or Keylong can stay here overnight. Chatru was the smallest village I have seen in terms of population, with a population of just 20 people. In fact there are no houses here, just 3-4 eateries catering to needs of the entire spectrum of passengers.

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Solo Travel, Himachal Tribal Circuit – Spiti Valley

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Next morning brought a very pleasant surprise. In the morning, I was having tea in the hotel balcony, clicking pictures of the serenity of Spiti valley. One youngster arrived in the compound of the hotel on a bike. It took me a while to recognize that he was one of the two boys from Mumbai whom I had met three days ago at the time of land slide traffic hold up near Karcham. Thus far, I was thinking that the bikers must have turned back from Nako village, where the road was totally destroyed. I was curious to know, how they had crossed that stretch. He [Alok} informed me that when they reached Nako village, being a Sunday, there was no BRO labor at Nako. So, they took a night halt in Nako village and next morning, with the help of BRO labor, they lifted their bikes across the steel girder. Hats off to these adventurous souls.

In Kaza also, I had to hire a car for visiting Key monastery and Kibber village [highest altitude village in the world- accessible by road}. In these valleys, government buses to remote villages go in the evening and return early next morning. Thus, 4-5 hour trip by car would take two days by public transport. We went about 7 kms. on the highway towards Manali and then took a right turn uphill for Kye monastery. It is an old monastery some 15 kms. from Kaza and the uphill road is good. But this monastery is not considered as important as Tabo and Dhankar monasteries by the Buddhists. The monastery is in much better shape, compared to the Dhankar monastery.

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