Solo Travel, Himachal Tribal Circuit – Kinnaur Valley

Table of contents for Himachal Tribal Circuit

  1. Solo Travel, Himachal Tribal Circuit – Kinnaur Valley
  2. Solo Travel, Himachal Tribal Circuit – Spiti Valley
  3. Solo Travel, Himachal Tribal Circuit – Lahaul Valley

Age and ailments are not obstacles in realising your dreams. In most of the cases, these are simply mental blocks, which can be easily overcome.

So, there I was, travelling on the tribal circuit of Himachal Pradesh in the month of August 2013, fulfilling my most cherished trip for the last 7-8 years. No big deal- except that, one, I was on the other side of 60 years with two total knee replacement operations just three months ago and, two, I was travelling all alone without any company and that too using public transport, without any prior bookings or reservations.

At the very outset, I will admit that public transport is not the best option, when it comes to enjoying the beauty of nature and for clicking photographs- especially when you get a seat somewhere in the middle of the bus.

DAY ONE {23RD AUG. 13}
On 23rd Aug. 2013, exactly three months after my knee replacement surgeries, I boarded Punjab Roadways bus from Chandigarh to Simla at 11 in the morning, with just two hours sleep during the previous night. Having had my schooling in Simla Hills, Himachal Pradesh has always been fascinating me, being my second home. We bye-passed Kalka, using the new road and joined the old Chandigarh-Simla highway at Parwanoo, an industrial town of Himachal Pradesh. I had fond childhood memories of Kalka, a small sleepy town on the border of Haryana adjoining Himachal and a railhead for narrow gauge toy trains from Kalka to Simla. For those who haven’t travelled by train to Simla, do so on your next trip- it is a must. It started drizzling, after crossing Waknaghat and the light drizzle and heavy fog got transformed into heavy shower by the time we reached Shogi on the out skirts of Simla. The distance between Chandigarh and Simla is 120 kms. The bus was quite fast and I reached new bus stand of Simla by 3.00 p. m., half an hour before anticipated time.

I had to wait for one and a half hour for boarding next bus to Rampur Bushar, capital of the erstwhile princely state of Rampur. Part of this time was utilized for freshening up and having some snacks. The bus left for Rampur at about 4.30 p.m. The distance between Simla and Rampur is about 130 kms. and I had hoped that I would be reaching Rampur in 4 hours by about 8.30 p. m. But that was not to be. The journey from Victory Tunnel to Sanjauli, other end of Simla was quite tedious due to a combination of rain, narrow road and heavy traffic. Thus far, I had only been exposed to travelling on main highways of Himachal Pradesh, where the buses ply really fast. This was my second long journey to interior parts of Himachal Pradesh and it was to be an eye opener. Being the only source of public transport for the locals, the bus would stop at every nook and corner to drop or pick up passengers. There are no non-stop express buses here like Delhi-Chandigarh or Mumbai-Pune. During this part of the year and this part of the day, there is a nonstop one way flow of trucks carrying fruits and vegetables to the plains, scrambling to reach the wholesale markets before day break.

Beautiful rain drenched Theog

Beautiful rain drenched Theog

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.

The old bus stand on the main road was also deserted and there was nobody to guide me, so I trusted my instincts and groped down pitch dark steep stone stairway. After two failed attempts, I could locate one reasonably priced clean hotel near the main market. The hotel room was on the first floor and had huge roaring sound, enough to scare a first timer in the hills, but with my experience of school days, I knew that I was close to some river.

DAY TWO {24TH Aug. 13}
The next morning was an eye opener bringing huge bonanza. The room had windows on all three sides with a 180 degree view. In the morning I realized that that the hotel was on the edge of the bank of river Sutlej and the room and its gallery provided me with unparalleled view of the river.

View from Rampur Hotel Room

View from Rampur Hotel Room

Despite being deep inside Himachal Pradesh and away from the plains, Rampur was very warm and so I had no intention of spending one day in Rampur. Although, I wanted to visit Sarahan valley, just 35 kms. from Rampur, but travelling in public transport had its drawbacks. The frequency of buses is very low in interior parts of Himachal Pradesh, so I decided to save one day and thus skipped Sarahan valley.

Bustling market of Rampur

Bustling market of Rampur

At the time of breakfast I realized that all of a sudden I was in a different food world, with most of the small eateries serving momos, thupka and noodles. Being a pure vegetarian did not help either, because non-veg food had started dominating veg food. But being an avid traveler and a foodie, the change was more than welcome. A small stroll in old market of Rampur, brought me to the old world. In this part of the world, a small market would have an assortment of all kinds of shops catering to the needs of the locals and inhabitants of the adjoining villages. Here you would find grocery stores selling vegetables and fruits as well and a general store doubling up as an eatery also.

Temple of Deity in Rampur market

Temple of Deity in Rampur market

Same day by 11.30 a. m., I had boarded Himachal Pradesh Roadways bus for Recong Peo, the divisional headquarter of Kinnaur valley. Recong Peo is 100 kms. from Rampur on NH-22. We were going uphill along the mighty Sutlej river. The terrain was still the same with fair amount of greenery.

Waterfall in lush green Sutlej Valley

Waterfall in lush green Sutlej Valley

About 30 kms. ahead lies the Nathpa and Jhakri hydel power generation system with a series of barrages. It is an assuring site of India’s economic progress. As gradually the terrain changed from green mountains to barren brown cold desert mountains, the tar road literally vanished due to double-laning work of the road and off course the frequent landslide.

Landslide enroute to Recong Peo

Landslide enroute to Recong Peo

At around 3.00 p.m., I came across the first landslide of my trip. Between Wangtoo and Karcham the road was blocked due to landslide and was being cleared by Border Road Organization [BRO] personnel. The local co-passengers were of the view that the road would be cleared in about half an hour’s time. Vehicles kept on arriving and waiting patiently on both sides as the work progressed. There I came across two youngsters from Mumbai on bike. They were travelling all the way from Mumbai on bike and their other friends had crossed over to other side just before the land slide.

Bikers from Mumbai

Bikers from Mumbai

On this side of the river the road was being cleared at a furious pace, whereas, minor landslides were going on unabated on the other side of the river. As minutes changed into hours, all of a sudden, there was an apprehension about being stranded overnight in the middle of nowhere. For the first time I realized the benefits of travelling with other people in a public transport. Eventually, after two hours’ toil and some induced blasts, the road was cleared. All of a sudden, the enormity of responsibility being shouldered by BRO dawned on me. What if, there was no BRO to clear the roads in this desert? After reaching Powari, we left the bank of river Satluj and went uphill on the left for Recong Peo. The distance of 6 kms. to Recong Peo was covered in more than an hour, thanks to a foolhardy attempt at overtaking by a private bus driver, which caused a traffic jam. Unlike the mayhem common on Delhi roads and other parts of northern India, such indiscretion on the part of a driver is a rarity in these parts.
On reaching Recong Peo at 7.00 p. m., this time I did not commit the mistake of disembarking at new bus stand. Instead, I got down at old bus stand, which can also be termed as city centre. By this time I had realized that in most of the places in Himachal Pradesh, new bus stand had been constructed outside the cities in view of the congestion at the old bus stands, which were mostly located in the heart of the city/town with hotels within walking distances. I could find a modest hotel to my satisfaction, within reasonable price range {Rs. 400.00 only}. By a strange coincidence, this amount became a benchmark and hotels at all subsequent destinations had the same price tag. Another constant was the fact that all hotels had very steep stairs, making it extremely difficult to come down with my haversack in view of the restricted mobility of my knees.

DAY THREE {25TH AUG. 13}
Next morning brought with it the charm and serenity of a good hill station. The city centre was virtually empty, with occasional vehicle zipping past. The air was cool and fresh and the view of the snow clad mountains on the other side of the valley was truly amazing.

Recong Peo city centre early morning

Recong Peo city centre early morning

I tried desperately to locate mount Kinnaur Kailash, the said abode of Lord Shiva, the destroyer. A local guided me that the mountain can be seen either from the Dak Bungalow near the new bus stand or from Kalpa, the erstwhile headquarters of Kinnaur district.

Snow clad mountains from Recong Peo

Snow clad mountains from Recong Peo

After breakfast, I headed for Kalpa in a local private bus. The 13 kms. journey from Recong Peo to Kalpa was spell bounding. The uphill road was lined with orchards laden with bright red apples and other fruits and thick pine forest. 13 kms distance was covered in one hour, but it was worth it.

Local postman- my guide in Kalpa

Local postman- my guide in Kalpa

Kalpa was that typical small town of Himachal Pradesh, but with a very unique charm of its own. Earlier Kalpa used to be the district headquarter of Kinnaur district, but now the headquarter has shifted to Recong Peo. Kalpa is famous for Kinnaur apples. Like any other small town in the hills, more than half the buildings comprised of small shops, tea stalls and eateries.

Kalpa town from Buddhist monastery

Kalpa town from Buddhist monastery

It has narrow clean lanes, filled with furry dogs and playing children. Kalpa has an old monastery and also an old Hindu temple. The woodwork of the Hindu temple is exquisite, not to be seen in the cities. The temple is out of bounds for outsiders and the natives are also required to come to the temple in the traditional local attire.

Hindu Temple- Kalpa

Hindu Temple- Kalpa

Other side of Kalpa town is lined with fruit orchards one after the other. The arching branches on the narrow road were laden with ripe fruits. But strangely, the air is so full of purity in this part of the country that plucking a fruit without the owners’ permission seemed like a grave sin.

In the midst of orchards in Kapla

In the midst of orchards in Kapla

The local postman pointed out the direction of mount Kinnaur Kailash, but the mountain was covered with clouds. I sat on a parapet wall for two hours just to have a glimpse of holy mount Kinnaur Kailash. But, that was not one of my lucky days and as cloud cover thickened, I had no option but to give up and start back for Recong Peo.

Walking in a thick pine forest filled with rustling sound of the leaves is an exhilarating experience. So, instead of taking a bus ride, I started walking to Recong Peo. After walking for more than an hour I boarded a bus in order to save time. I got down from the bus just before the district hospital and the new bus stand, in order to visit a monastery. The walk from the road to the monastery was very steep, literally taking the wind out of my lungs. It is a new monastery, with a school and an attached orchard. After seeing the monastery, again I walked 3 kms back to my hotel in Recong Peo
I reached my hotel at around 6.00 in the evening. There was a photograph of Kothi temple of Chandika Devi in the reception of the hotel. I was told that the temple is 4 kms from the hotel and there is no public transport for going there. As I had already walked more than 8 kms that day, I desisted from walking another 8 kms to and fro the temple.

In just three days, I had glimpses of the beauty of Mother Nature. But, like normal human beings, I grew greedier by each passing moment and I wanted more of this heavenly elixir. And so, I proceeded further deeper inside Himachal Pradesh towards Spiti Valley.

Anil Sharma

24 Comments

  • om prakash laddha says:

    ???? ??
    ?? ???? ??? ?????? ?? ????? ????????? ??? ????? ?? ?? ???? ???? ????? ?? ?????? ???? ?? ?????? ?? ??? ???
    ???? ?? ??? ?? ?? ????????? ??? ??????? ?????
    ???? ??? ??????? ?? ?? ???? ?? ??? ????? ??? ???
    ?? ???? ????? ?? ???? ?? ?? ???? ???? ?? ???? ????? ????? ?? ?
    ????? ???? ??????? ?? ?????? ?? ?????? ?? ??? ?? ???? ???????

    • Anil Sharma says:

      Dear Laddha Ji,

      Thanks a lot for reading and appreciating my travel blog. Two more articles in the same series will appear very soon.
      I will try and write about other trips also, subject to my being able to retract the photographs of these trips.

      Regards,

      Anil Sharma

  • AJAY SHARMA says:

    Anil Ji,
    Traveling is a passion which grows stronger with age and you have very well proved that. Very well written with excellent photos. Solo with recent knee ailment are no barriers and can’t stop travelers from fulfilling their passions. Your greed to venture more will benefit readers know more of the heavenly destinations. Thanks a lot for sharing such an immense & matured log. Please frequent.

    Keep traveling
    Ajay

    • Anil Sharma says:

      Dear Ajay Ji,

      Thanks a lot for reading and appreciating my travel blog. Two more articles in the same series will appear very soon.
      I will try and write about other trips also, subject to my being able to retract the photographs of these trips.

      Regards,

      Anil Sharma

  • Dear Anil Ji,

    Welcome to our family of Ghumakkars.

    You started the story with such a note (inspiring traveling) that I could not resist myself reading it first and then going back to the top to see the photos and scrolling down one by one. Both, the story and the photos are praise worthy.

    We are fortunate and happy to meet you here, who according to me a brave person and a real hero. But, what held up you that long? I mean you visited in August, 2013 and sharing it with us now. Never mind, it is better late than never to Ghumakkar family. Hope you are here to stay long and share more of your travel stories.

    As you proceed further deeper inside Himachal Pradesh towards Spiti Valley, I am eagerly waiting here to read your continuing part soon.

    And thank you very much for sharing such an inspirational story.

    • Anil Sharma says:

      Dear Anupam Ji,

      Thanks a lot for reading and appreciating my travel blog. Two more articles in the same series will appear very soon. I am no hero, I am just a plain travel enthusiast.

      I have published this blog now after almost ten months with a purpose. This is beginning of the season for these areas. So hopefully it just might not inspire some people to explore this magnificent circuit, but those already planning to go, may also get some idea of what to expect.

      Regards,

      Anil Sharma

  • Dr.Rakesh Gandhi,Advocate says:

    Welcome Anil ji in the world of Ghumakkar’s, Beautifully defined visit with snaps.Thanks a lot Sir

    • Anil Sharma says:

      Dear Dr. Gandhi Saheb,

      Thanks a lot for reading and appreciating my travel blog.

      Regards,

      Anil Sharma

  • Anil Misra says:

    Brilliant. Do keep on traveling.

  • Vivek Kumar Srivastava says:

    Nice post

  • Naresh Sehgal says:

    Sharma Ji..
    Welcome on Ghumakkar.
    Nice post with beautifully captured photo’s. Thanks for sharing.

  • dhanesh sharma says:

    Dear sharma ji, I liked your post and your way of visiting different places without any pre planned bookings at hotels at any place at the age of 60 years.your taste of travelling match with me.i am head cashier in a bank at faridabad having a tat safari 2.2 decor and want to visit leh nub ra valley etc in my vehicle in July 2014.if you are interested Pl. Reply.again very very thanks for sharing at ghum akbar. Com.

    • Anil Sharma says:

      Dear Dhanesh Ji,
      Thanks for the offer. But I have been to Leh and Ladakh before. This month I am planning to visit Panch Kedars. As you plan to go by car, I think you should sometime in end of September. Most of the places from Leh, such as Nubra and Lake Pengong etc. are accessible by crossing high passes which covered with snow during early part of the season. Besides you will encounter heavy rains up to Zozila pass after Sonmarg.

  • Neeraj kumar says:

    Travelling is my hunger. I want to join ghummakar team. but didn’t getting it, as i am less known to web world i need help

    • Anil Sharma says:

      I have reading articles on Ghumakkar for last few years. It gives an insight of the places you want to go. This will help you in being better prepared for the trip.

      In case you need some specific information/help, just post your requirement and I am sure you will receive the desired information/help instantly.

  • Vineeta Sharma says:

    A very well written article.
    The elaborate description transports one to the valley itself.
    Pictures are praiseworthy.

    Keep traveling !

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Welcome aboard Mr. Sharma.

    And what an inspiring and brave tale to do the debut with. The narration as well as the photos are brilliant. I have travelled to this area so could relate to most of the things but its a ‘Take a bow’ post.

    Looking forward to next 2 parts. 2nd part is getting published day-after. Wishes.

    • Anil Sharma says:

      Thanks a lot. The article literally got transformed, after making the changes suggested by you.
      Regards

  • Suraj Soni says:

    Anil Ji,

    It was very encouraging that you are travelling alone in the inner parts of HP, You are showing some hidden gems of Himachal Pradesh which most of the traveller/fellow countryman are unaware.

  • Divakar Rao says:

    sir you have described your journey bfully with appropriate words of your solo experience keep posting stories

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *