Over the past couple of years, my schedules have been merciful enough by allowing me to travel, more often than not. These pair of eyes have stayed awake through beautiful European dawns and Himalayan sunsets as well. But never have I seen a river valley so beautiful. I may still hold the Parvati Valley as my go-to destination, but the Baspa Valley does compete well against it. Baspa river cuts through the Sangla valley and eventually blends with the mighty Sutlej that ambles down from the Himalayas, at Karchham.
Sangla is warmer than it feels
The onward journey to Chitkul started from Jalandhar. We were just two travelers who had dared to venture out into the wilderness without any plans. Two overnight buses and three Red Bull cans ensured that we reach Shimla awake and bustling with energy at 4 in the morning. The bus from Shimla left at quarter to five and we were in a very jovial mood.
I have no words to describe our condition when the HRTC bus that was traveling all the way to Reckong Peo, dropped us at Karchham dam. We were literally tired to the core and exhausted.
Standing for an hour on the Karchham Bridge while waiting for the bus from Mandi to arrive, was one of the best experiences of our lives. One loses track of time when the sounds of the river filters through your ears and seeps into your self. Just when we were trying to absorb the tranquil, the bus from Mandi cut in a sharp bend at a distance and in a jiffy, came to a halt. Just to keep note of the timings, this bus reaches Karchham at exactly 4:30 in the evening and goes to Sangla. Buses to Chitkul only run from Sangla and Reckong Peo.
Sangla turned out to be a small settlement with few inhabitants. The bus stand is located downtown while the shops and hotels are just a walk uphill. After strolling through the market for sometime, we had bowls of thukpa and steaming hot momos at a Tibetan restaurant before retiring for the night at a good home-stay near the main market.
Chitkul betrays the human eye
The sunrise in Sangla was a spectacle to behold, with the sun filtering through the clouds and peeking from behind the mountains. At exactly 7:15 in the morning, we boarded the first bus to Chitkul from the Sangla bus-stand.
On the way to Chitkul, we crossed Rakcham; another beautiful hamlet that has the Himachali vibes mixed with slow urbanisation. River side camps and a newly opened ZostelX are few among the many accommodation options here.
One and a half hours later, a stunning sight met our eye. No doubt the Baspa Valley offers beautiful sceneries all throughout the bus journey, but nothing beats the first view of Chitkul.
The last occupied village near the Indo-China border, Chitkul is a photographer's delight. If you're into landscapes, you'll simply marvel at how beautiful some places could be. The first thing that one gets to see while entering into the village is the signboard saying 'Thehriye : Hindustan ka Aakhri Dhaba' which translates into 'Stop : India's last Dhaba'. Though we didn't have our breakfast at this hugely hyped instagrammable location, we did down a few plates of mutton momos few moments later.
We decided to take the chills further within and raced down the road towards the river bank. There were beautiful fields of orange complimenting the scenery. The water was freezing cold too which we found out after we walked barefoot into the river and came out running, for our feet were already numb. There's a beautiful waterfall too, but that's for you to find.
The walk uphill from the riverbed was a little tiring. We crossed the Government School that has recently been blessed with an upgrade in architecture. Chitkul has very few restaurants but promises a lot of accomodation options with Zostel Chitkul and Wanderer's Nest being the most preferred ones. The only downside of Zostel is that they only take pre-bookings. There's no internet connectivity in Chitkul and only BSNL provides telecom services.
Since we were running short of time, we had to depart from Chitkul in the wee hours of the day, taking the last bus that leaves at 3:30. It was an unforgettable experience and I'm pretty sure that when you go there too, you'll realize that we weren't just weaving sandcastles of words, out of thin air.