In the last & the highest village of the Baspa Valley – Chitkul…..

02 Oct 2011

Chitkul Valley

And there i was at 11, 320 feet above sea level standing in front of the gate welcoming me to the last & the highest village in Baspa before the Indo – Tibet border – Chitkul. I made my way in and on my left saw the govt. owned guest house but i didn’t stop there. I wanted to see that where the road would finally take me to, so i made my way through the Chitkul village and another half a kilometer drive took me to the point where the road ends. And in front of me was the valley in its full splendor. I stopped the bike there and now i needed a place to stay for the night. I looked around and saw a guest house on my left. As i noticed they were busy laying the cemented floor in front of the guest house. I asked one of them that if i could get a room for the night and he said ‘Yes’….

Thinking....???

Evening in Chitkul...

Playing Hide n Seek...

I made my way up to the first floor and counted 4 rooms of which 3 were already occupied. He showed me the room and owing to the remoteness of the location i would rate the same as nice and cozy. He told me that the room was available for this night only as from tomorrow onwards they were booked as the Bengali’s were coming. Oh yes! How can i forget its the Bengali Season. Thank God! It was not today. I took the room as 1. I had no more energy left to search further, 2. I had a clear view of the valley from the first floor, 3. There was enough space for me to sit outside and take pictures. The guy then helped me to untie the bag from the bike and took the same to my room. I on the other hand went in and came out with the camera.

The evening was setting in and the clouds still blocked the view in the front. I was hoping for the same to get cleared as the night falls. I came downstairs, had a casual chat with the care taker as they were busy laying the cemented floor. Their objective was to finish the same tonight and everybody there was pitching in.

Tip: The only network that works here is BSNL. If you are planning to stay in Chitkul, carry plenty of money as there is No ATM and Chitkul is bit on the expensive side. Electricity and water is not a problem in Chitkul. Carry heavy woolens as the night falls the mercury dips very quickly and being October the temperature generally goes below 0 degrees. And to avoid any hassles get a reservation if you are going in the peak season.

Some rest after a long day's work...

Pleasure of Warmth...

The Moon on Zenith...

They told me that they would start serving dinner by 8.00 pm, so i went back to the room as it was dark already and planned for the next day. After a brief amount of rest, around 7.30 pm i went out again, by now they were giving the finishing touches to the newly laid floor and the dinner was ready too. What is it with the food in the Himalayas? Whatever you eat tastes delicious. Stuffed Parantha, Potato Curry and a hot cup of tea, Aah! I couldn’t have asked for more. And for the dessert i bought the chocolate cake from the shop nearby and retired back in my room. Now it was a waiting game. I checked the Google sky maps application on my mobile. Thank God! It required only GPS to work as the airtel network was not available and so no internet connectivity. The moon set as i calculated was around midnight and that was the time when i would be getting a clear view of the sky, provided if there are no clouds. So, i set the alarm for the midnight and slept.

 

03 Oct 2011

There are times when no matter how much you try, you just can’t level down the pleasure, the joy that you are in. The valley had cleared up, not a cloud in sight, and the moon was set too. I was in for a treat. Oh My God! the night sky here was amazing. It was so clear and absence of any ambient light resulted in showcasing the thousands of stars illuminating the night sky. It was a sight to remember. Now it was time to do some experiment. The experiment for getting Star Trails. I tried the same in Noida a couple of times but couldn’t get the desired results. And ever since i was looking forward for this. It was cold for sure but the excitement kept me going. So, i made the setup i.e mounting the camera on the tripod, attaching a wired remote shutter release button to the camera (to avoid camera shakes), took a few test shots to get the frame, the angle, the exposure right and the outcome for the next 2 hours is yours to see…. Voila!!! My very first Star Trails……

Star Trails

Look closely and you can see the trails of the stars that form the Orion Constellation. No, Just look above the snow capped peak, a bit on the right from the center of the pic and you will see the trails of the three stars that are in the middle of the Orion Constellation. And you can also see a pink colored streak just a little bit on the right of the peak. That is Orion’s Nebula. Didn’t i tell you, i also spotted as much as 9 shooting stars and 1 satellite while capturing the star trails.

Before Sunrise....The cleared up valley

Chitkul Village...

Morning Walk...

After the exploits of the night, i again woke up early in the morning to walk around and explore the Chitkul village. The Morning’s in Himalayas are always cold and Chitkul was no exception. I could see the frost everywhere, in the fields, on the flowers and the seat of my bike was also not spared. I continued my walk basking in the essence of the beautiful morning which took me past the fields revealing the valley on both sides. At the same time the altitude was also showing it’s effect and i was subjected to a constant headache on going further up thus making the walk a bit difficult.

Chitkul from a distance

First Rays

Ice on the bike...

So, i returned back to the village and took the path going towards the Baspa river. Along the way i saw a Bengali Guest House, i guess as the banner and the signs were all in Bengali and stopped to get some pictures of the sunflowers. I saw an elderly gentlemen taking a stroll in the garden of the hotel and upon seeing me he came towards me and we struck a conversation. It started with praising the beautiful and clean environment in Chitkul and soon i got to know that he had came along with his entire family and the trip was mostly similar to mine.

Good Morning!

One like that...

The Rising Sun....

The Sun now was also rising above the snow capped peak and moments later it illuminated the entire valley. It was a riot of colors out there, so beautiful, so serene. I walked past the building of the Govt. High School, Chitkul which teleported me back to my school days studying in the closed concrete building’s. I could have studied here as well by the river, growing up seeing the ever changing colors of the valley.

I wish...

Down by the river bed...

By the Baspa River...

Baspa River

I spent some time by the clean and clear water of the Baspa river and clicked my way back to the Guest House. Upon reaching, i got all lazy and slept forgetting that i had to go to Kalpa the same day. It was in the atmosphere i guess. It was bliss….

In their own league...

My place of stay...

Like Heaven for sure...

Wood Magic

It was close to 11 a.m when i woke up again, saw the time and quickly jumped out of the bed. I packed the bags and by 11.30 a.m i bid farewell to Chitkul only to move to my next destination – Kalpa…..

Bid Adieu Chitkul...

 

Contd….

25 Comments

  • venkatt says:

    Your narrative flair is amazing, Aditya. I could sense ur excitement and joy clearly in your words.Chitkul came alive in front of us through ur fabulous pictures and words.

  • only three words to describe

    beautiful, beautiful, beautiful………………………………

    the above adjectives are for your journey, place , pics, narration and your naseeb ( fate)

    Keep travelling and posting…………………………………….

  • Sandeep Sehgal says:

    Superb photographs, and the words weave a story.

  • Vibha says:

    Adventure + Poetry = Aditya

    Love all the pictures and the enjoyed every bit of the narration.

    The star trail picture is especially beautiful. I didn’t know that the lights from the stars/planets/moons are of different colors as is apparent in their trails.

    Waiting eagerly for the next part…

  • VED PRAKASH says:

    Wonderfulllll… amazinggg…
    Brought us so close to the nature. I can feel the soothing sense bestowed by the nature that is somewhat inexplicable and transcedental.
    Before going through this post thought that star trail photography is the phenomenon and limited to the polar regions only.
    MOON SETS…ADITYA RISES….. AND IN BETWEEN THIS ADITYA REACHES ZENITH……..
    All the best Aditya ji .. Keep it up..
    toddler ved.

    • Aditya says:

      Thanks a lot Ved Prakash ji…. :)

      Well, I tried one more thing in Star Trail Photography in Tabo and that post will be up soon…..

  • Biswajit Ganguly says:

    Dear Aditya,
    I have been to Chitkul thrice, but never thought it can be described so beautifully,making it more illustrious and interesting your photography which is by all means upto the highest precision. You have been very fortunate to be there at the beginning of Bengali season, because I have seen Bengalis travelling in haords and getting space is next to impossible. On top of that going there 1st week december onwards is also difficult for the unbearable frozen temparatures specially for people from the plains. Would like to know the camera you have used because it is very difficult to catch and confine the nature the way you have done. Are you aware Gangotri is just 35 kms away from sangla valley, due to the treacherous path and inclement weather it takes 3 days to travel across, I did came across few shepherds from the valley who keeps on moving from one place to another to seek warmer places during December to February. Next time do try to meet local folks and have their part of unknown, misterious stories, Kinvadanties and Lokokties, you may find them interesting to share with every Ghumakkar. wish you all the best for future sujourns…… biswajit

    • Aditya says:

      Thanks Biswajit…. :)

      The camera that i used is Canon 600 D and through Google maps i noticed that Chitkul is close to both Yamunotri and Gangotri and wondered if any such trekking path existed….. i guess there is now….

      I wish i could have stayed in Chitkul for 2-3 days and not for 18 hours….. :(

  • AUROJIT says:

    Hi Aditya,

    Pics are awesome, (as usual) – real pro stuff, adequately backed by a flowing narrative.

    ‘ What is it with the food in the Himalayas? Whatever you eat tastes delicious. ‘ Couldn’t agree more !!!

    Reminds me of my trip in April last year –

    Thanks,

    Auro.

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    Thanks Aditya, for the amazing pictures and the racy write-up. You have teleported us to the Himalayas.

    I liked the one of the star trails particularly. I was never able to get a satisfactory result because I have never been to places which have the kind of absolute darkness up there in the Himalayan regions. What were the ISO, shutter speed and aperture settings for that shot? And the focal length used ?

    Looks like you are passionate about astronomy too. Did you take a telescope along with you?

    Eagerly waiting for your pics and account of Kalpa.

    • Aditya says:

      Thanks DL… :)

      In a way, it was my first time taking the star trail shots and for this one i kept the ISO – 200, Exposure Time – 6 shots @ 10 minutes each, Focal Length – 19 mm and Aperture – f/3.5

      And yes i am a Astronomy enthusiast too and buying a telescope is in my wishlist…..

  • Stone says:

    Brilliant stuff Aditya!

    Your spirit , narration, enthusiasm, photographs, machines all top-notch.

    Keep traveling!!

  • Aditya says:

    Thanks Deependra…. :)

  • Amit Kumar says:

    Nature and Aditya both at its best :-)
    What to say about your journey brother? Tried to think some fancy words first but lastly settled on my inner feelings i.e ‘jelous and proud’ at the same time. Impatiently waiting for next part. Do one thing bro, you write all part then post it together.

  • Nandan says:

    WOW !!

    When we went to Chitkul, we decided to come back again (we stayed at Sangla and did a Day long trip) and after reading this post, I am very motivated to drive all the way to Sangla (non stop) this summers :-)

    Just one pic for Ghumakkars, of Star Trail. I have been party to crazy photographers (in back old days, when the battery would always die down and the wire-release would induce a shake and what not) and it takes a lot of discipline.

    Sorry, I could comment only now on this. Your latest post on this series took me here and I am hoping to read all of them soon.

    • Aditya says:

      Thanks Nandan… :)

      You’ll find another pic of Star Trails in the post ‘The land of monasteries and mysteries of God ‘ and ‘Driving in the high altitude cold desert.’ And that’ll be all in this series.

      Chitkul was my first real attempt on the Star Trails and the battery problem… I ran out of mine in Tabo while capturing… But Thank God the file was saved…. :)

  • Jeetu says:

    Beautiful Pics :)

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