|Kinnaur travelogue Oct 2012 |
|I would start first by thanking the patrons of IndiaMike without whom this trip would not be as successful. I sent some personal emails to registered users and got a prompt response. I went over many threads in order to perfectly plan my trip. It paid off very well. Thanks for the efforts, and for the same reason, I am back here sharing my experience in the hope that it might help some. Thanks again. |
24th Oct - Mumbai
Confirmed with Mr. Kedar of Manmahesh travels about our pick up from Chandigarh. He would simply disconnect the phone without giving driver's number. After a stern stand on our end he sent us the number for the Indica driver who would pick us up at IXC. Checked weather and stuff. Nothing alarming noted. My cousin was particularly excited about snowfall during the 8 days long trip that we two were embarking upon. Unfortunately, there was no such forecast and I didn't know he would pray for it every coming up day!!
25th Oct - Mumbai-Chandigarh-Narkanda
Mumbai domestic airport was way below par. Limited passenger seats, no lounge (not sure what these credit card marketing dudes keep boasting about when they sell visa platintum and amex), full capacity restrooms!, book shop that did not have the recent bestseller (The Hunger Games). The announcement for our flight was so feeble that one could get trouble hearing it with pin drop silence (exaggn.). In any case, air travel was good - had sumptuous food. We also saw the Himalayan ranges from the flight. Trick is to take seat on the right side of the plane.
IXC is small but clean airport. Had few military helicopters and planes too. There was a chopper hovering just next to where our plane taxied, raising brows of many co-passengers along with me. Isn't that simply dangerous wrt public safety. Anyways, others were enjoying the sight and so did we.
Our taxi driver was waiting for us with his Indica that had run 96k km and was clean white only from outside. The seats were just ok. We were not entirely happy but we saw some other Indicas on the road and understood that we are not the exceptions. So we accepted the norm and enjoyed the Chandigarh Kalka road. We took the bypass that took us directly to Timber-trail resort. And then started the thrilling part of our journey. We were accompanied by a voluptuous and a mind-boggling entity that we had no idea would stick with us for our entire trip - The Road.
After witnessing a little road block due to Kalka-Shimla train crossing, and a sight of McD and CCD on our way, we had our lunch at Haveli restaurant near Dharmpur. It took us 4 hrs to reach Shimla but we decided to move ahead towards Narkanda (and barely reached at sunset).
We reached Narkanda at 6.30pm. We went straight to Hatu hotel (@INR 1500), which was decent in terms of cleanliness and staff. The best thing was the availability of room heater. We didn't have any advance booking but were fortunate to get a room. We retired after our dinner and were ready to move to Sangla by 10am next morning.
Note - road conditions were pretty bad while crossing Shimla, then in Theog, and for last 15km before Narkanda. But on our return they were mostly tarred up, thanks to upcoming elections.
26th Oct - Narkanda-Sangla
After breakfast, we packed up and started for Sangla. We crossed what is designated by National Geographic Channel as one of the world's toughest terrain (source - local person at Chitkul). This part comes between Jeori and Bhabhanagar. I agree completely with that. If not toughest, it is definitely scary at the least.
From Bhabhanagar until Karcham, the road condition is super pathetic - dusty, bumpy and full of gravels. Jaypee Power Project killed the entire stretch (hope it pays off for the region later on). Soon after crossing Tapri village, we heard a thud which was a result of a sharp stone blasting our car's front tire - tire as well as tube, damaging them beyond repair. So, we replaced it with extra tire but then we had no scope to address another such casualty. Trying to procure a new tire was useless in the region. We had no option but to move on with just 4 tires - all in use. We hoped that Sangla would address the problem.
We went directly to PWD guest house in Sangla. Room was spacious but not providing any view. We got the room - that itself was a victory considering all hotels were booked by bengali tourists (we figured out later as we strolled in the market area). We purchased some medicines (safe keeps like disprin, balm, vicks, cough syrup etc) and got some woolen caps. It was pretty cold and we enjoyed every bit of it as we explored the small village, talked to locals, had tea etc. We had our dinner in the rest house (just ok in taste) and went to our room for a good night sleep.
27th Oct - Chitkul
Sangla morning was pretty cold. We went for a walk and had our breakfast at a newly opened shop behind the bus stop. The aloo parathas were simply yummy (well, all parathas are yummy with a slab of butter!!!). After shower we were ready to leave for Chitkul but figured that the driver has gone for repairing a flat tire (guess what - even the replaced tire went flat). We walked again to the only auto shop in Sangla and thankfully by that time the car was all ready. We left Sangla at 9.45am.
On our way to Chitkul, we stopped at 2 places. First one was a house with a lot of apple trees in its front and back yard. We thought of talking to the owner and hand pick the low hanging ones, alas the girl there pretty rudely said "aap log bahar ja sakte hain" (you guys can take a walk out). We were particularly amazed with how a 10 yr old girl can so confidently be harsh. Also I would have expected the usual Indian village courtesy. In any case, her mom allowed us to take some pics, and we were out.
Second stop was at Rupin River View hotel. The idea was to secure a room for our trip back from Chitkul. There again the guy was pretty rude and declined the room. When I gave some fake references (I think I said Mr. Thakur, or Jaswant Singh), he said he will check and get back. After about 5 min he came back with room keys. We did not like the room and proceeded to Chitkul. Btw, names like Thakur, Negi, Singh come pretty handy in confusing the whole situation!!
We reached Chitkul at 12pm. The view was breathtaking. There was not much snow around (only at the hill tops).
We started our hunt for a hotel room. As I read from other blogs we started with PWD rest house. The guy there (Rai Singh, I think) was also pretty rude. He somehow allowed us to stay (Mr. 'Fāke' Singh helped here) but put so many conditions that we ultimately realized that spending a night will be tough over there. So we asked around and settled with "The Kinner Heights" hotel @INR650. All other hotels were apparently taken by Bengali crowd who were in huge numbers in the village.
Our decision to stay at Kinner Heights turned pretty good when in the evening we found that rooftop had a glass covered dining room giving 360 degree view of the valley. It had a TV with some FM music stations too. That was a lottery. We spent good amount of time talking with the owner and also listening to FM music (BeeGees, Bruce Springstein etc were a pleasant surprise) along with a small doze of Glenlivet. I will mention 'with our private crystal glasses' on my cousin's insistence. :-)
Later, we had the owner/caretaker start campfire/tinfire where his friends also joined us. It was a nice gathering with lots of jokes and personal accounts of funny incidents.
28th Oct - Chitkul
It was a sunny morning with snow at the top of the hills shining sparkling bright. I got up to terrace and started with some sort of meditation practice. However, since the hotel was close to the bus stop and general parking, it started becoming noisy and dusty pretty soon resulting into me dropping the idea. I started to prepare for the trek to the indo-tibet check post, supposedly 3km away.
Trekking was overall a 3 hrs affair. We took some pics, had some snacks, talked to the army officers and surely asked pretty routine questions for them e.g. how far is the border, how you manage food supply, rotation policy, road conditions etc. We got all the answers in a very polite and friendly manner. Salutes to the army personnel everywhere. Rest of the day was just rest for the day. We had a full moon night and the view was plain awesome.
Here are some pics from the trek:
29th Oct Chitkul-Sangla-Kalpa
We started from Chitkul at 9.30am, and were at Sangla by 10.45am. We had our breakfast at the same place. aloo parathas were yummy again (and we witnessed a memorable funny incident between Bengali group and hotel cook). Then we had to waste around 45 min to get the repaired tire (the 5th one) from the shop where we had left it before departing to Chitkul.
We reached Kalpa by around 2pm. After talking to pwd rest house at Kalpa and securing a room, we roamed around more and figured that Rakpa Regency is better located. We booked the room for 1k at the top floor that had only 2 rooms. Pretty decent actually. View of Kinnaur Kailash was from our room windows itself, and there was a huge terrace next to our room.
In evening, we stepped down to the monastery, where, being full moon night, a local function was about to start. It was nice to see kids playing gully cricket but equally disturbing to see them swear with the typical slangs.
Then we witnessed a drunk guy welcoming us to Kalpa, and our driver advised us to simply ignore and get into the car. Apparently, evenings can be like that in Kalpa now that apple season is over. We came back to our hotel and enjoyed a a cup of hot tea in our balcony with a full moon in front of us. Simply scintillating.
30th Oct - Kalpa
We went up trekking in the morning, and picked up few apples from the orchards. The caretakers/owners were pretty lenient as the season is almost over and they had very few apples anyways, not worth any business value perhaps.
In afternoon, we went to a nearby village Roghi crossing suicide point on our way. It is a deep gorge without any slope what so ever that vehicles have to pass through in order to reach Roghi. Scary indeed.
The disappointing part of our stay was food at Rakpa Regency. They are brutally pro-bengali cuisine, it seems. Even then we were not sure if other guests are liking the food. Overall, we sensed some bias towards our Bengali friends. For example, they would not prefer us to have our dinner at the dining hall. It is supposedly used by other guests from WB. We, however, had it there because the food would loose its heat by the time it reaches our room at the top floor. But for that they would ask us to come down at 10pm because by that time other guests are done with their dinner. The service boy and manager, however, were nice and friendly, once we were at the dinner table.
31st Oct - Kalpa-Sarahan
We left Kalpa at 9.30 after a quick breakfast. It took us 4 hrs to reach Sarahan, and we did not stop for lunch. We had a 30 min stop at Peo mārket, where it was the last dayof 'local mela'.
At Sarahan, our room was booked at the temple rest house (something that I had booked much ahead of our trip by directly calling them). We got room 4 of the rest house, which is supposedly the biggest room there. We could not get any lunch as it was late by the time we got free with the formalities of procuring the room. Options were to go out of campus and have it there but we decided against it and took a quick nap. The room was pretty neat, with LCD TV.
We then went to Hawa-ghar, some 2 kms from the rest house. It was nothing but an open area with a structure built up at the center. We took some snaps of sunset, with mountain tops shining like gold. After that we attended 6.30 pooja at temple. Later we went to Hotel shrikhand (HPTDC) for dinner. Truly amazing food - fresh tomato soup, butter paneer Masala, dal makhani, lachcha paratha, and rice. We hogged and then had a 30 min walk inside temple campus. Evening news was interesting with Kejriwal slapping RIL on multiple counts. Sleep time.
1st Nov - Sarahan-Chandigarh
With the mindset of reaching Chandigarh by 4pm, we said bye to temple premises at 7.45am, but destiny had it differently written. After driving down from Sarahan, the moment we took the u-turn towards Shimla road, a 2-wheeler rammed right into our car. The accident was not major in terms of injuries to the rider, but physical damage to our car could easily guide a by-passer to a lethal imagination. Being a local boy from Jeori, the public was obviously sympathetic towards the rider; and being in a 4-wheeler we were at disadvantage, when things were left for interpretation. Our driver tried to explain the scenario, we also joined the chaos but to no avail. Some got the point, some were still angry. It took us 2 hrs to reach mutual agreement. Police was involved only to register the case and that too in the last 10 min of the 2hr drama.
Just 100 mtrs from the site of accident, there was a food joint operated by a tibetan-looking family. Mom-dad-daughter trio were working pretty diligently when we thought of addressing our 2hr exhaustion there. I have to confess that the tea was perhaps the best I ever had outside my home. We ordered another cup without any hesitation. Parathas were tasty too. However, the mom not leaving 2 rs of Rs 172 bill was a dampener in the end. I had to call our driver to arrange for some change.
Rest of the journey was as expected. We crossed shimla at 3.30 and reached chandigarh at 7pm. Chandigarh traffic at 6pm was much like B'lore, or worse. Thanks to Iphone's map we figured out alternate routes to our hotel. Btw, we secured a very decent room in Hotel Landmark in sector 22c (1500+tax). Thanks to my cousin. He did do some smart thinking through-out our trip.
We did try to catch some hip action later in the evening, but concluded that it is not Mumbai where we started our trip!!
Next morning, to the airport and on to Mumbai - concluding a memorable journey.