The lesser known destinations: Rakcham – Chhitkul

Recap – This is the last leg of our 08 days trip Delhi – Kalpa – Sangla – Chitkul- Shimla – Delhi. Though Sangla was the intended halt, we ended up at Rakcham, about 12 kms beyond Sangla by the evening of Day-5.

Rakcham boasts of a PWD Guest House (2 rooms) and 2 private guest houses (or hotels, if terminology matters).


Rakcham. Rakcham (2900 mtrs ASL) is a relatively unknown place, located midway between two lesser unknown places, viz. Sangla and Chitkul. The beauty of this small village with a population of 800 defies words – so I have tried using more of snaps than words.

The village lies on left of the main road (when facing towards Chitkul) and on the right gloriously flows the Baspa river. The river is almost at level with the village and thanks to wide expanse, the force of water is not as menacing. At places, we could easily walk across to the other side. Add to that very clean, walkable banks interspersed with loads of snow – and you get the perfect post card location. Snaps 1, 2.

Since it was a spontaneous decision to halt at Rakcham, we approached the first logical shelter – a PWD Guest House, located at Chitkul end of the main road.

The scene however was not very encouraging. A 2-3 feet layer of hardened snow surrounded this small building. After much shouting around, the caretaker appeared, only to inform that since the snow is not yet cleared, the Guest House does not have water supply nor the drains have been functional – thus the wash rooms can not be used.

We remembered the hotel we had crossed while entering Rakcham. That is how we reached Rupin View Hotel, a nice, comfy set-up.

Rupin View is a misnomer (of sorts), because Rupin is a distant river further down in Sangla or Kumaon valleys. Rupin View, however, offers view of Baspa. The hotel comprises of two buildings – older one is a wooden structure with colonial air, the newer one is standard format 3-storied building, but offers a better view of Baspa river and Himalayan slopes beyond that. We settled for better view.

A good part of traveling these areas in this period is that you are one of the first arrivals of the season, which means:-

1. Almost empty hotels with chances of discounted rates
2. Well prepared rooms with laundry fresh linen and other trappings.
3. Not to mention undivided attention of the owner/caretaker, who have all the time in the world for you.

Mr Naresh [09418092894/ 09218685518/ Himalayan Discovery/
(jishtu@rediffmail.com)] , who also conducts trekking and other adventure stuff in the area, runs the hotel. We were the sole occupants (the first in the season), so the tariff was something like 700/- bucks for a room. This, I was told, goes up to 1500/- during the season. We also had a great dinner, perhaps because we had ordered the same stuff which the cook was preparing for himself, i.e. local mutton preparation (we had already spied on the fact that the cook, hailing from Rampur was already ensconced in the galley for the oncoming season).

Next day, the first agenda on our schedule was to visit the village, which was just across the road from the hotel.

The wooden structures seen below are sort of godowns, where grains are stored for winters; sealed from any leakages.

There are two temples, Kali and Shiva temples. The Kali temple, renovated after a devastating fire in the village few years back which had destroyed the original temple, is a marvellous structure depicting dragons on the façade (typical blend of Hindu and Buddhist ideology, found throughout Kinnaur).


Shiva temple with its slated roof offers a curious sense of solace.

Villagers were extremely friendly and helping. We met three school going girls (VII – VIII standards), who just walked up to us (like stalking) and started chatting with Sharmi. They were insistent that we go to their house nearby for a cup of tea. On observing our reluctance, they gave an open invitation for us to visit their school so that they could introduce us to their friends. They also made us click a number of snaps (them, singly, in group, with us, with another passerby; all sort of possible combinations). They were excited watching the instant snaps on digital camera. I would have loved to upload a few of them, but I am not sure if that would be correct in terms of propriety. Watching these guileless, benevolent folks; it certainly fosters our faith in the world around us.

Chitkul. We started for Chitkul (3100 mtrs ASL), at a drive time of about 45 min, at noon. Since my car’s tyre was flattened and I did not want to exert the Stepney, a maxi cab was hired for the visit. Drive to Chitkul was a real great experience, moving across streams crossing the road, the jungles of Bhojpatra and pine. Chitkul was very enjoyable and had abundant snow; Debosh and Sharmi indulged in mad monkey acts with thick layers of snow. Some snaps of Chitkul are here-

The much bandied ‘Hindustan ka Aaakhiri Dhaba’ is actually not so. The last dhaba in Chitkul turns out to be ‘The Great Hinduatan Dhaba’, which is 200 mtrs down the road beyond the first (Aakhiri) one. Thakur Guest, as seen in the pic, was yet to open to visitors, like all other accommodations in Chitkul.

After enjoying Chitkul for more than two hours, we started back towards Rakcham. Next day we started for Shimla.

I will cover Shimla subsequently, as an independent topic.

Synopsis of essentials in Kalpa – Chitkul stretch:-

(a) Mobile – Works till Rakcham, erratic thereafter till Chitkul
(b) Petrol pump – Only petrol pump in the area is in Peo. The maxi cabs plying in Sangla, Chitkul sector get their fill in Peo.
(c) Vehicle mechanic – Abundant in Peo. None after Sangla till Chitkul.
(d) ATM – Yes in Peo. Unsure about it in Sangla.
(e) Stay – Abundant in Kalpa and Peo. Reasonable options in Sangla. Very limited in Rakcham and Chitkul.

Happy travelling guys. SUMMER CHHUTTIES ARE HERE AGAIN BOSS!

25 Comments

  • Thanks Aurojit for introducing Raksham to fellow ghumakkars. Interesting information about Godowns as well.

  • Mahesh Semwal says:

    Dear Aurojit,

    Well done!!!!!!!!!!!! The pictures are awesome, Hindustan ka akhari dhaba is one of the attractions on this route, I saw in most of the write-up. I thing Ghumakkar.com should charge some amount for making it so popular. :-)

    The pictures of wooden cottages made for grain storage is looking beautiful.

  • Ram Dhall says:

    I only wish that I was twenty years younger and then probably my first destination would have been Sangla and Rackham. But no regrets, I would still try to gather some strength and visit these heavenly places.

    A breath taking description and some excellent pics.

    Please do keep on writing.

    Shall await your next post.

  • Anjaly says:

    Hi, i loved your travelogue to bits. Now, I must go there…perhaps on my next visit to India. Now am going to have to ask you to write to me in detail about where to start, how to get there etc….I dont intend to travel by a cab or hired motor…am wondering if this is a great trekking route? Post my Kilimanjaro climb, I am hung up on trekking to where ever possible :-)
    My email add is anjalytn@gmail.com Looking forward to your mail!
    Congrats on the great pics…they were brilliant, I must say.

  • nandanjha says:

    We passed through Rakchham on the way to Chitkul but we missed the huts and the village. Thanks for taking us there.

    Spiti is heavenly.

  • Amit says:

    Hi, would like to visit this region in November, can you tell me from where you booked the car, could you please give me those details please.

    Amit

    • travellers says:

      Amit I was the driver in this case. You can, however, get cars from Shimla who are conversant with the area and will take you across.

      Thanks.

  • travellers says:

    Hi guys,

    Thanks for all the comments. Apologies for the delay in response.

    Mahesh – Yeah, Hindustan ka Aakhiri Dhaba has been quite visible; but have you noticed that its always been closed. Perhaps mourning the fact of being at the end of the (nation’s) road.
    One might now endeavour to get a snap with its shutters open.

    Mr Dhall – I am sure that the urge of traveller within you will inevitably draw you to all these places and more, before many of us even get to know of them.

    Anjaly – From what I have seen, the entire Himalayas offer fabulous trekking destinations,in terms of customisation and friendliness (pocket as well human). You have to decide upon the ranges, there will be enough organisations.

    Nandan – Beauty of Rakcham lies in its anonymity. Ypu can make it up subsequently.

    Amit – I was the driver in this case. You can, however, get cars from Shimla who are conversant with the area and will take you across.

    Thanks.

  • poonam says:

    hi
    the information was very help ful . i will be going to delhi -shimla -kalpa -sangla -chitkul wid my adult sons.on 19 th June . the only point of worry is the road ???

    we will be driving our maruti A- star which i am told is not the best thing to do. do u think we shud take a cab frm rakcham ? to chitkul ?
    pl suggest nd how does one book rooms at the pwd guest houses.

    waiting fr suggestions

  • poonam says:

    hi,
    i hv been looking fr sm thing in such detail for many days and today i managed to see yr comments .they were very helpful.

    i am going on this trip wid my two adult sons on the 19 th of june. we will be travelling in our Maruti A-star.

    i am only a bit worried abt the roads????

    is the small car advisable or not. or do u suggest a cab frm rakcham to chitkul ?

    pl post yr suggestions

  • travellers says:

    Thanks Ma’m for your words,

    Don’t bother – your A-Star is far bigger (and surely newer) than our good old car. I mentioned somewhere that we came across a lot of M-800s till beyond Rakcham.

    The car is perfect – roads are not so, but my mantra on such occasions is – drive slow and careful [ I am reminded of one of the numerous interesting BRO signboards, ‘You are on a highway – not a runway’].

    Road from Rakcham to Chitkul is as good or bad as that from Sangla to Rachcham; just make sure that you have a good Stepney.
    In fat, I would love to hear from you after you have come back.
    Any firther queries, dont hesitate to get back.
    Thanks.
    Auro.

  • GAM says:

    I enjoyed reading this post immensely. Hope I can go to Rakcham someday.

    • travellers says:

      Thanks GAM,

      …that you liked reading the post. Hopes lead us to the ends … hope you visit and enjoy Rakcham..

      Auro.

  • sanjay says:

    great infomation for those who love to drive……. thanks

    can i take my honda city? it is 3 years old and has already visited kalpa but not sangla/chitkul.

  • sanjay says:

    i plan to go in first week of oct…. do you think it will be too cold?

  • aurojit says:

    Thanks Ajay,

    Honda City will not be a problem for Kalpa and Chitkul stretch. The bad patch is common to both Kalpa and Chitkul.

    October will be moderately cold but manageable.

    You may check out for rains, which may turn things messy, especially in the Karcham sector.

    Thanks

  • sanjay says:

    what do you suggest…. staying at rakcham/chitkul or sangla?… already booked kalpa and shimla….. any idea about sarahan? actually sarahan is not part of plan but can be included if good on the way back from sangla

  • Trina says:

    Hi,

    Nicely written…& Cool Pics.
    Me & my husband are planning to go for our Honeymoon trip to Kaza-Tabo-Chitkul area…can you please suggest me the best way to go there from Kolkata. How many days it will take? & the hotels, as we are planning to stay at one place in then to have some good time visiting here & there. We are going in the month of Feb.

    Please let me know…as I am little bit confuse about the time & expendature.

    Trina
    Kolkata

  • RAVI KANT CHAUHAN says:

    THANKS DEAR FOR SUCH VALUABLE INFORMATION …I AM PLANNING TO BY MY BIKE…THIS INFORMATION WILL HELP ME LOT AND U R A GOOD PHOTOGRAPHER TOO…THANKS AGAIN

  • Biswajit Ganguly says:

    Dear Auro,
    Immaculate write up, as I mentioned earlier these are among my favourite destinations, but your coverage on Rakcham is spledid, which I always overlooked. As a matter of fact the timings you had selected for this journey supposed to be very exclusive except that you missed Chilgoza’s, apple and cherry during these months,(be careful for the night stay in Chitkul, any time of the year its freezing . The Hotel of Mr.Thakur at Chitkul is reasonably comfortable and cozy devoid of luxuries. You have not mentioned about the natural grain Grinding machine which is operated by the force of water canelized through the village for this purpose. Enroute to Chitkul wherever you have crossed the water stream, its all poteble water and easy to digest, every time I go there I make sure to have ample quantity to quench my thirst. The sight of frozen Baspa river is unimaginable, almost felt to start right away….

  • AUROJIT says:

    Hi Biswajeet,

    thanks a ton for your appreciation. Rakcham was an accidental find, and we really enjoyed it. Yes, chilgoza/apple/cherry were missing, but we picked up chilgoza seeds (tasty, dry fruity stuff) from Peo.
    Grinding machines – though had read about it but unfortunately never came across one.

    Potability of water – we make it a point to consume local water in dhabas/ hotels, while on hills. And we have never regretted that. I would any day prefer that to the best of bottled stuff here in Delhi.

    Thanks again,
    Auro.

  • gautam chatterjee says:

    Hi Aurojit and Biswajit,

    Excellant write up and photos. I intend to visit sarahan – sangla,rakcham, chitkul -kalpa by last week of oct. and first week of nov. with my family( 29th oct. being the full moon and i intend to stay at kalpa for 2 days).
    I rang up Mr. Debnath and Mgr. of hotel Rupin river and stay is arranged. Please send me any further useful information which u find necessary.

    Thanks,
    Gautam

  • suvojit roy says:

    Dear Aurojit,

    Me and 3 of friends are planning to travel to Kalpa and Sangla with Chitkul from 31st Dec,15 and be back on 03 Jan.

    Please suggest me whether we can visit during this period and whether hotels would be open.

  • sandeep says:

    HI All,
    can any one suggest if I can visit chitkul in jan 1st week? I have a 5 year old daughter, and I will travel by my car. Please suggest

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