Kalpa

Himachal – Kalpa, Nako, Tabo, Dhankar

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We next stopped near Khab where Sutlej river coming from Shikpila pass towards the east meets Spiti river from north. Spiti has much cleaner water and it can be seen distinctly at the confluence. Shipkila which is a pass to Tibet/China is only around 40 km from here. One of the high peaks of Kinnaur district Reo Purgyil (6800+ mts) is also situated here.

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Himachal – Shimla, Sarahan, Sangla Valley

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Sangla is also famous for Kamru Fort. This fort is like a tower dedicated to Kamakshi Temple. The Goddess idol was brought from Guwahati (Assam). We braced ourselves and took to steep climb of stairs. The climb took us through houses of Kamru village and get a peek into their life. First there is a temple which has couple of shrines in the small courtyard in hill architecture. Their sloping roofs are lined with flat chipped stones tiles and the distinctive cone as the top. The main Kamru fort was still some climb away. Thankfully, it was quite sunny and pleasant for the climb. After some time, the Kamru fort came into view perched right at the top of the village. One has to tie a cloth around waist and wear a cap which is available in the fort to enter the precincts and go around.

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Himachal – Kalpa, Shimla

Himachal – Kalpa, Shimla

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I have lived in Shimla long back in early 90s when my father was posted here. I used to come in summers for 2 months for 3 years, so I was keen on visiting places where I had lived and visited during that time. We lived in a suburb of Shimla there called Kelti. The route to it is from Ridge to Longwood and then towards Kelston and then bifurcate at one point towards Kelti. It was nostalgic to walk on the same road which I used to frequent 20 years back as child. To my surprise, road was just like what it used to be. Same road barriers painted green and white, the rain shelters where I took refuge many times in rains, the ascent, descent. The final leg to Kelti was still unpaved like it was at that time. Though this time saw more people crossing me with phones in their hands, hoardings and presence of vehicles.

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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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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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Spiti valley, a caravan diary

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Woke up with a terrible headache and nausea on the Day 3 of the voyage to the once forbidden land, Spiti Valley. Outside it was just another dawn in Kaza, the snow is reflecting a tinge of orange in the early morning sun; the spotless blue sky in the background is arched over the town. The Gong inside the head continued meanwhile; I needed oxygen then.

It’s the primary state hospital of Kaza where I met Serine and the fellow patients. An ugly looking machine was pushing oxygen through my nostrils and I was trying hard to concentrate. Serine teaches english in a local private school, where tibetian is hardly taught seriously, she frowned. Her mother was lying sick on the bed adjacent; they have ultrasound machine here but nobody knows how to operate, looks like she will have to take her mother to Simla, a 500 kms and a strong determination away from Kaza. She had once travelled to Delhi though, her sister works as a hotel receptionist there. The Metro escalators are amongst worst inventions of the human kind; and she frowned again…it continued and the other patients joined in no time. Soon I was being invited to their homes; for tea, thukpa and country liquor ! Never felt more disappointed on leaving a hospital; was feeling better already. Affection works better than the oxygen may be…who knows !

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The Great Himachal Circuit – Part 3 : Kalpa to Kaza

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It’s a lovely monastery with the monks all around at a height of 12774 ft. specially the view of the spiti valley and the amazing spiti river from that height. The monks are always available to explain you everything about the monasteries. Since the number of tourists in Spiti is always few, you always meet up the same people again and again, and mainly foreigners.
Taking snaps inside the monk is prohibited, so I did not waste the opportunities to take pics from outside and the valley. Spent around half an hour in the monastery, before getting back into the cab.
It took us around another 20-25 minutes to cover this monastery and around 1 PM we got back into the cab. From Dhankar Monastery it took another hour or so to reach Kaza via the Kaza bridge at Shitlong village as I mentioned early in the write-up. Kaza is a lovely small city in the Spiti valley and is the district headquarter at a height of around 11500 ft. By 2PM, we checked in into a hotel after some searching. It was a beautiful hotel, located at a nice location right beside the Kaza monastery. Time was stretching, as we had to cover Kibber also the same day.

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View of mountain range from Himachal Tourism hotel

To the beautiful Kinnaur district in Himachal

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The scenes were becoming increasingly breathtaking and that made me even more eager to reach Chitkul. And boy, is it something! The amazing view of the mountains, waterfalls and the river going along. Twice we came to a point where there was no road, and I had to drive my new Indica vista, 1300 cc engine, through water. What an amazing experience! Beautiful valley, river flowing, and an absolutely divine view of the mountains. The view is imprinted in my mind’s eye forever. That’s how mesmerising it was.

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The Great Himachal Circuit – Part 3 : Kalpa to Tabo

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Time to get up early in the morning to get a view of the awesome Himalayas from the balcony. It was so cloudy all around at 6AM, that hardly anything was visible. With a cup of tea, we started waiting for the fog and cloud to clear up. After that it was cloud moving around with occasional clearances of the mountains. Believe me, its one of the most awesome views as the clouds play around with the kailash range. And with the sun occasionally coming out in between the clouds with clear lights, another lovely worth seeing site.

While we were able to see the Kinnaur kailash easily, we were not able to spot the shiv ling. The hotel staff said, because of the fog we might not be able to view it. It was hidden behind the clouds. But then suddenly, one of the hotel staff said, its visible now. As we saw, the 69 ft height shiv ling was clear visible from that distance not more than 1 inch. But a very beautiful view.

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The Great Himachal Circuit – Part 2 : Shimla to Sangla via Sarahan

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A very important thing about Himachal, is that people are very cooperative and they are very happy with what they are and have. I am writing this because I tour as well as I interact with people over various places, trying to find the differences in the cultures, way of living etc. This is what travelling is all about. I found Himachal people in the remote of the areas to be very well educated (better than what we are in cities) and well behaved. They are clean by heart and they educate their child to be as clean as them.

Soon it was getting dark and we entered the temple which normally opens up after 7PM. Not everywhere inside the temple are cameras and accessories allowed, but there are lockers where they can be kept. So we put our accessories in the lockers and entered the temple. The Bhimakali Temple at Sarahan is quite big and unique in its own way and own beauty. It looks more like a monastery rather than a temple.

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Kinnaur-The land of apples (Part 2)

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After about two and a half hours we reached Reckong Peo,or Peo, as it is popularly known. Peo is situated at an altitude of around 2200 metres above sea level and is at the base of the Kinner Kailash massif. From here, Kalpa was a short 20 minute drive and by lunch time we reached Kalpa. Our plan was to halt at the PWD rest house, which turned out to be a cottage with an excellent view of the mountains. Staying in Kalpa can be compared to living in the lap of nature. Overlooking the Kinner Kailash range, this is one of the most picturesque  hill stations one can ever visit. This quaint town was once the headquarters of Kinnaur district before it was replaced  by Reckong Peo. The collector’s office has now been taken over by the HP Irrigation Department while the old SP office is now a small police outpost. The old building of the District Hospital is visible behind the new building of a recently constructed Primary Health Centre.  From Kalpa, one can spot the famous Shiva Linga, nestled in the middle of the Kinner Kailash massif. It is a 2 day trek from Kalpa for the strong and sturdy.

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