Anyone who has had the good fortune of breathing in the Himalayan air while looking at the layers of these majestic ranges would agree, they are beyond awe inspiring. These mighty mountains invite you, frighten you, humble and ignite your curiosity all at the same instant. True that the Ghats in the south or the Aravallis are no less resplendent, but the sheer power that the Himalayas exude make them stand out and keep calling you back. Take a trip to Spiti and you can never get these mountains out of you again.
We had been planning a 2 week road trip through Chandigarh- Patnitop –Leh- Manali circuit since months now and had even made most of the bookings. However, with the saddening events in the valley, we had to make last minute cancellations. Not ready to give up on the hard earned leaves we had accumulated for the trip, we came up with this change to Spiti and Lahaul just a week before the trip. This way our base, Chandigarh, remained the same and we could use the same rented self drive car and bike bookings that we had done initially.
So on the D-day, our troupe of 4, took on to the Shimla highway. Our 2 Bike borne friends had traversed the Delhi-Shimla stretch the day before and had a fair share of the monsoon rains as well as traffic. We were luckier in that regard, the road was a breeze and we could cover Shimla in no time. With our full group of 6 on same track now, we could cover Narkand by 2 pm traversing through rains, clouds and occasional zero visibility stretches.
As the weather started to clear up, we stopped by the apple orchards that dote the entire region. We had a hearty conversation with an old couple selling their farm apples and bought 4 kgs of delicious red and green apples at dirt cheap prices, which kept us fed and snacked for the rest of our trip. It is impossible to not be touched with the simplicity and helping nature of the people in this part of the world. Talk to them and you experience pure joy with their simple manners and honesty. And the apples, Oh you have to trust me that they were the best apples that I have ever had!
With plenty of daylight left and the sweeping roads beckoning, we decided to push to Rampur on the same day. The one thing that strikes you on the way to Rampur is the mighty Sutlej roaring from the valley beside, something that became a constant over the next few days of the trip.
After a comfortable stay at the HPTDC hotel at Rampur, we started early to Sangla on Day 2. The day had a rainy start and early on, we came across the first landslide area and had the fright of our lives when a rock rolled in right in front of our car! However the chills and scares were soon forgotten with the mesmerising valley and the road taking us deeper into the greens. If mother nature bloomed in all her glory, then equally stunning were the huge dams and power stations that came in next, all built to tame and tap the relentless beast of a river beneath. The green valley soon led way to dusty, rocky roads with the mountains towering over us on both sides. Looking at the terrain you cannot help but admire the ever so helping fleet of BRO who work here day in day out to keep the roads pliable in spite of landslides, rains or snow.
After a short stop at Sangla to check out a rather under whelming Sangla palace, we decided to continue to Raksham. The winding road to Raksham is an adventure in itself.to think that HPTDC has regular buses plying on this road to the last Indian village this side; Chitkul is commendable. At Raksham we booked for our stay for the night and dumped the bike as well to speed up the ride to Chitkul.
It was late into afternoon when we started for Chitkul. The winding treacherous narrow road soon led into a valley glistening pink with buckwheat farms. Clear water streams waved us by while the glowing green grasses beside them were so inviting, we had to resist the temptation to just stop right there and call it a day.
We reached Chitkul at around 4.30 in the evening and were greeted by the cold yet refreshing mountain breeze. Leaving the car at the parking, we walked into the village ,crossed over a narrow clear water drain and walked a little further into the farms. It was at this moment that none of us had nothing but just a slight “Aah” to say. No words or pictures can describe the beauty you have there waiting. The lush green farms, a narrow stone laid pathway leading through a gate into horizon, a gentle stream flowing beside, flowers in all hues of purples, yellows and whites swaying to the gentle breeze kissed by the last of the sunlights, and bells from the temple far behind ringing, heaven is all that you feel. For once you would feel to just sit down and do nothing but breath. For once you would want nothing else but to just be there. It is pure bliss, untouched, unharmed.