Backpacking in Kinnaur and Spiti Valley

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Photo of Backpacking in Kinnaur and Spiti Valley 1/11 by Amrapali

13.06.2016 Day 4 I was super excited to go to Chitkul. Actually one of the reasons I had taken this trip was the irresistible beauty of Chitkul. I had seen hundreds of pictures of this last inhabited village on Hindustan Tibet Trade Road on internet. I had "liked" almost every picture with the hash tag "Chitkul". No doubt I liked Sangla but the urge to go to Chitkul was more. I couldn't wait for the only bus which runs from Sangla to Chitkul in afternoon time. My guest house manager suggested me to take a lift from other travelers. One group of six guys, three on bullet and three in Scorpio gave me a lift. The journey from Sangla to Chitkul was picturesque.

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A small road carved in the snow capped mountain and Baspa river flowing parallel to the road deep down in the valley. Chitkul is 21 kms from Sangla. Journey took around 2 hrs. At 10.00am I reached Chitkul. I couldn't believe myself that I actually went there. It was only second day of my journey and I was already feeling accomplished to see the mesmerizing beauty of this small village.

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Here I had to use my bargaining skills to get a room in Rs. 300 for a day. It was Alpine View Guest House which is just near to BSNL tower. It had a nice view.

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After taking Maggie and tea in breakfast, I started walking towards the river. Every passing minute I was thanking myself to take this trip. I crossed the bridge. I followed trails. Walked through Pea fields. Met amazing people. Hiked on a hill behind government guest house. I kept walking and walking.

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In the evening when I was taking a round of the village, just to understand the lifestyle and culture of people. I came across a person in his sixties sitting in front of his wooden house. He invited me for a cup of tea. I could not say no to his invite in chilling cold weather in Chitkul. His name was Mr. Negi, a retired government officer. (Later I learnt that every second person in Chitkul had same surname, Negi.)

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His daughter in law got us tea. He was happily surprised to know that I was traveling solo. We discussed on many things like difference in culture across the country, different types of travelers we met, Indian politics and many more over a cup of tea. He told me that the village is Hindu by religion but all of them follow Tibetian Budhisum too. They have temples of both religion in the village.

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He was constructing a guest house for tourists. I shared a concept of Homestays with him and how he can earn money in minimal investment.

I was asked to stay back for local, traditional food in dinner. I offered some help in kitchen. Negi uncle and his daughter in law both said No at the same time. And explained to me that in Kinnauri tradition, no one except for a woman in the house is allowed to cook or even enter in the kitchen.

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So I sat outside of the kitchen while she was cooking Chilta (bread) made up of Fafra grains and Sag (curry) made up of Fafra leaves. She was telling me how her life was before marriage. She was born in the village near Bhavanagar which looks like Manali. She was studying in plus two (12th standard) when she got married and came to Chitkul. Half of the year Chitkul is under snow and how much she hates it. They have to stay inside the house when its snowing. There is 2-3 feet layer of snow on the roads. And how they have to make arrangements for winters, they have to make a stock of grocery and woods for fire. In my mind, I was imagining how exciting to be here in winters.

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Our food was ready withing 45 minutes. It was delicious and healthy for the temperature like this. And most important, It was cooked with love. I was experiencing Kinnauri Hospitality. They are best at it, I must admit. Negi Uncle walked me to my guest house after dinner.

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Chitkul was more than the nature's beauty for me. I met most nicest and humble people here. I met people who let me peek in their lives. I met people who equally respect two different religions. It was Chitkul where I learnt the word "Juley" ie. hello in English which made my next journey easy.

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