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Friday, 23 June 2017

Our successful itinerary to the Kinnaur Valley of Himachal Pradesh

This has been my second visit to the state,The first being the one in which we visited Shimla, Manali and Dharamashala.I was told about Kinnaur by a fellow tourist ,who highly appreciated the valley. Since then Kinnaur was in our bucket list till it happened this year in April end.
  I am posting this itinerary at the request of many of my readers who wish to visit the valley.

Bangalore---------Chandigarh------------Narkanda-----------Rakcham--------Chitkul ---------------Sangla----------Kalpa---------Sarahan---------------Shimla---------Chandigarh--------Bangalore

Date of starting from Bangalore-April 26 th
A total of 11 nights and 12 days
Day 1-Start from Bangalore  by flight----------reached Chandigarh by 12 noon.
      We had our cab waiting at the airport.The cab was booked in advance from Bangalore.
     Without wasting any time we headed for Narkanda starting at 1p.m. The traffic in Shimla slowed us down considerably, had a hasty lunch at one of the eateries after the traffic started becoming sparse. Eating at Shimla can be difficult as you might have to walk up to the parking. We wanted to reach Narkanda before it was dark ,but finally we could reach only about 7 p.m. WE had our booking at the HPTDC property of Hotel Hatu.

Day 2-Visited Hatu peak-followed by breakfast at the market place. In the evening strolled to the skiing ground. Alternatively you can have an early lunch and also visit the Tannu Jubbar Lake.

2 nights at Narkanda

Day 3-Checked out of Hotel Hatu next morning to start for Sangla

We never miss the novelty of having breakfast at the roadside Dhabas . A delayed breakfast is also better as you tend to have less nausea and you can start very early.
The road to Sangla is very treacherous ,so starting early has its own benefits.

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From the front seat,Narkanda to Sangla

Distance from Narkanda to Sangla is nearly 180 kms.It takes an approximate 7 hours if weather is fine.
Once you reach Tapri (about 133 kms from Narkanda)  on the way do not miss lunch at Papu Ka Dhaba  Read post here.   You shall remember it for along time to come.

Entrance to the Sangla valley
                   Read post on----HOw to travel with small children,few useful points.
 We reached Sangla at about 4 in the evening.  Our stay was not booked at Sangla. We looked for the available options but when we did not find it to be satisfactory we decided to drive to Rakcham. As it was getting dark we checked in hastily at Hotel Rupin River View, and never regretted our decision. Read post here on Rackcham.

Day4-So we spent the night here and after early morning stroll around the village and breakfast decided to visit Chitkul.( only 8 kms from Rackcham). 3 hours is enough for a visit to Chitkul unless you wish to stay there for the night.
So one night at Rakcham.

Back to Sangla,this time we booked Hotel Mount Kailash with a magnificient view of the mountains from the balcony. After lunch visited Kamru fort the same afternoon. People who have difficulty in climbing steps can omit this visit as it involves a lot of steep steps. Read post on Kamru Fort here.

We had to miss the Bering Nag Temple at Sangla which is a little distance from the market place.     Every temple here has similar kind of architecture of carved wood and stone ,still their locations and ambience makes them very unique. We spent the night here. So one night at Sangla.

DAy5- Sangla to Kalpa distance-40 Kms. Takes approx. 2 to 3 hours.
 Morning breakfast at the hotel and we started for Kalpa as early as possible.
On the way to Kalpa we took a quick detour for the mountain village Batseri. Spent about 2 hours at Batseri. Apart from being a Himalayan village,it houses a very beautiful temple.  Let me tell you here that in this trip we visited four Himalayan village and discovered that each one has its own character. So I shall say...if time permits go for them.
By the time we reached Kalpa it was afternoon.WE had our rooms booked at the HPTDC property The Kinnaur Kailash for one night. The landscape changes from Sangla to Kalpa.  The beauty of this place has to be seen to be  believed. We loved the resort,we loved the views ,we fell in love with the place.So what next ,we extended our booking for another 2 nights here.

This evening we could find only enough time to visit the monastery and the temple adjoining to it at Chini village. Had momos and thupka at the nearby cafes and strolled around to soak in the lovely paradise.

Read here---Kalpa ..a complete guide to the mesmerizing hill station in the Kinnaur Valley

Day 6-A quick breakfast and we drove to the Himalayan villages of Roghi and Kothi. On our way back had lunch at Rekong Peo ,followed by some shopping.

Day 7-Breakfast and started for Pooh ,with a plan for the Nako Lake in mind.The distance from Kalpa to Pooh is approx.70 kms. takes about 2 to 3 hours if the roads are in good shape.The terrain gets very rugged here,landslides are very common. Pooh is again a small settlement famous for almond,apricots orchards and vineyards. If you can extend your itinerary by another 2 or 3 nights you can continue on this road till Tabo or Kaza..The landscape changes drastically and the only greenery you can see are the trees planted for timber by the local people. But as we were little apprehensive of the roads and the weather ,returned with a quick visit to the cold desert at Pooh.We did not go till Nako.
If you have Kaza in mind then you shall have to take the Paori- Kaza road. Paori is 5 km. from Rekong Peo.

So three nights at Kalpa 

Day 8 -Started for Sarahan ..Reached Sarahan late afternoon. Checked into the hotel(had no advance booking here. We had just enough time for the magnificent Bhim Kali temple.If you have Sarahan in your itinerary do keep in mind the rooms at the Bhimkali Temple.That is the best stay option in Sarahan. Alternatively their is a Hptdc property too .WE visited the temple again in the morning and then went strolling to the stadium ,and the King's and the Queen's palaces nearby.

One night at Sarahan.

Day 9-After the stroll and breakfast we headed for Shimla. Reached Shimla late afternoon,with a lunch on the way.After booking the hotel went for a leisurely walk on Mall road.

Shimla Mall

Day ends.We had visited Shimla and its whereabouts in our last tour. In this tour we stopped and stayed overnight at Shimla only for some purposeful break.

Day 10-The last phase of our trip,started for Chandigarh.By the time we had our lunch at Chandigarh it was late to visit any of the places.

Day11-Visited Sukhna lake and the rock garden..We did not visit the rose garden as the heat in the month of May was becoming unbearable.

Day12-Morning Flight to Bangalore from Chandigarh.

This trip was one which had some beautiful surprises packed for us every single day.The mountains the roads or the villages never became monotonous to us. The Kinnaur valley is less crowded if compared to the more popular destinations like Manali or Dharmashala. Thankfully it is less exploited. However,it attracts a huge number of tourists from West Bengal. So in Kalpa one can find numerous Hotels serving Bengali food.

 Food joints
Here it would be very appropriate to mention that the roadside eateries are not as frequent as they are on the Shimla- Manali  Road or the other roads in that circuit. So if you are traveling with children it is better to ensure that you have some food with you.The general food that is easily available here is the typical north Indian style menu,with flatbread or tawa roti dominating everywhere.Though Rice lovers  get rice at every place.

There is very little scope for shopping  in the entire circuit.I could only find dry apples at Reckong Peo and few more apple products like apple jams and pickles at the HPMC outlets in the entire trip. Of course I bought a few shawls and souvenirs at the Shimla Mall road.

WE visited the valley in the beginning of the tourist season.It was not tough to get accommodation in most of the places.You can book the HPTDC property Online in Advance.We had booked at Narkanda and Kalpa as said above ,but you might have noticed that we  did not book hotels in advance at many places.This was just to ensure that we do not get tied up ,in case we wish to stay longer at some place.Do save some hotel phone numbers with you for convenience,as internet connections cannot be taken for granted at many places.

What to expect
You would be visiting the apple orchard of the country.
If you wish to see the apple blossoms -visit Around April -May .
Apple flowers

To see the apples growing on the trees -Visit in or around the months of  July till September
If you wish to relish apples the entire tour,visit around October and November.
In the month of May we could get some freshly Harvested Cherries.

In the first week of May there was light snowfall at the higher altitudes.Two layers of warm clothing is what I feel is enough.It would be good if you carry a windcheater to ward off the breeze and the intermittent drizzles. At the places of higher altitudes like Rakcham and Chitkul the air can get sparse,so it is advisable to make  a note for elderly people or people with breathing difficulties.
The Kinnaur Valley is covered in snow for nearly four months. So the best time to visit is from April to November.

No worries,speak Hindi to your hearts content and enjoy.

You would have noticed that this itinerary is fit for a family with kids .The visits and stays have been optimized enough to allow time for rest and  travelling has been  avoided after dark.

So enjoy your trip and let me know about any exciting new adventures that you come across. Meanwhile ,let me tell you that the words in this itinerary and any other post in this blog are entirely mine ,but the itinerary has been  painstakingly planned by my dear husband ,whose careful planning and methodical execution goes behind all our pleasant tours.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Rakcham .Why we preferred it to Sangla (Kinnaur)

We reached Rakcham in a drizzly chill evening.Our hotel was not pre booked ,so we just happened to enquire at the only stay option in sight ,The Hotel Rupin River View. With the appealing scene around us, accommodation was no longer a priority.The place fulfilling all our basic requirements of stay and food, and with a magnificent view of the stream flowing adjacently from the balcony,we decided to look no further.

The ranges which accompanied us for quite some time ,now seemed to be at hands reach and the small rivulets  which flowed down the folds, froze on their way to the stream .We could distinctly hear the gurgling sound of the water flowing through the apple orchards next to our balcony.

Sunset from the hotel balcony
Read here----Mesmerizing Kalpa,a complete guide

 With a very palatable  dinner,we decided to call it a day,quite sure that the next day promised to unfold a lot more.
Three layers of quilt did not seem to be enough to keep us warm with the children refusing to take off their socks to bed. The temperature had actually dropped below freezing point in the night.We could make out that the evening drizzle had precipitated to light snowfall in the night, when we saw that the trees which were green the previous evening ,covered in a layer of snow in  the morning rays. We could not have asked for more.

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   Words defied me ,as we walked on the dusty cobbled roads of this Himalayan village.The landscape wore a brownish hue this time.It was a scene dominated with stones of different shapes and sizes and logs of wood.I had never seen a bigger collection of stones before,which demarcated one field from the other.With every splash of rain the landscape was slowly sprouting back to life. I guess ,people​ visiting the place after us would have seen Rakcham  in a different colour.With the melting of the snow ,life was slowly staggering back to normal in this lesser known village of Himachal Pradesh.

            Read here----A walk in the Himalayan village of Batseri

  We refused to have breakfast at the lodge,and decided to take a stroll around the village.Having breakfast out in the open ,at one of the shacks, under the warmth of the morning sun is what we had in mind..We were living on alu parathas for breakfast since the beginning of the journey,but had still not grown tired of them .Needless to say the lady running the shack prepared the tastiest of parathas ,with her very deft hands. Breakfast followed with a conversation on the day to day life of the people in the  valley.I was surprised to find myself ,a regular tourist ,out on my annual quota of fresh air ,to be so interested in the lives of the people in this distant land.Was it the call of the mountains or merely a curiosity delible with time,I wondered.......

  People in the Kinnaur valley have their own Kinnauri language ,but everybody seemed to be very proficient in Hindi.There was a good many things I learnt about their lifestyle, from the couple.(the lady and her husband). Surprisingly they never complained about their hardships,though her talk was frequently punctuated with phrases like "apke shahar me to bahut achha hota hoga ,ji".   "It must me better in your city," referring to any comparisons between the city and the  mountains. I smiled silently as we headed to explore the rest of the village, wondering how truly it is said that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

What followed was  a leisurely walk in a village amongst the mountains. The beauty of the mountains and surprises in a far off land ,took turns to charm and entice us in  ways so unknown.

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Read here-----Sangla,history along the Baspa Valley

  Scenes reminding us that life can still remain so simple in many parts of the world,where ones daily chores revolve around the very basic needs.
Men folk primarily look after the cattle while the women do the rest of the household chores.

Read here----Papu Dhaba,the remarkable food joint in Kinnaur

Time to go home after a hard days work......

The ranges from the bridge

Wood left in the open for building houses and to be used as firewood.

  While the people and their capacity to deal with the hardships intrigued us endlessly,we stumbled on another utility which supports  their sustenance .We caught sight of  the kathar (as called in the local language) , which are wooden godowns for storing food grains for the year, reminding us that the place is remote and provisions are scarce ,and the roads we had travelled to reach this place could get blocked by landslides with any casual downpour. Also ,for a place that remains covered in snow for nearly 5 months a year,people had to store enough  food to last them for at least few months.



   Strolling in between the wooden houses, we visited Buddhist and Hindu temples which complemented each other perfectly.They were built in the same premises.We had seen a similar amalgamation of the two religions in our visit to Sangla Kamru Fort.  The proximity to Tibet had brought in some changes in the cultural and religious practices of this region . Hinduisim had adorned itself with several Buddhist practices .So the people now follow a religion common to both.......

....... All said and done can we deny the fact that the only religion of people here  is that of cohesion and teamwork,without which it would be difficult to keep things going.

   Rakcham is a small hamlet at an altitude of 2900m,comprising of a population of only 800 people. This picturesque village on the banks of the Baspa river can be reached on the way to Chitkul.The village is a very clean place but with very few stay options.In many ways it is self contained inspite of being in a very secluded place due to physical barriers. This has won Rakcham the status of "Modern Village"by the Himachal Pradesh Government.The place does not have any ATMs or Petrol stations,so it is best to do the necessary from Sangla. The place we stayed in can be booked online. According to me the rooms here provide the best views of the valley and the stream. Food here was excellent ,something beyond our expectations in such a remote place.I would suggest spending a night here instead of Sangla would be better,as we can also visit Chitkul (only 8 Km from here) on our way back to Sangla. As already told the place gets very chill at night,so carry at least two layers of woollens.