I knew I was in for a path-breaking journey of my life when I started planning excitedly towards my trip to the one extreme end of Himachal Pradesh - the breath-gaspingly beautiful Chitkul, last inhabited village near the Indo-China border; never knew, a surprise would surpass all my expressions and in what manner... I and my sis Chandni had been having endless discussions for days on the various treks when it all culminated into finalizing on Sarahan and Chitkul.
We were anxious, excited and looking forward to the serenity; we happily packed our bags, resisted any bickering from our peers and marched a few steps ahead towards ourvdestination calling. It was the long weekend to be: April, the Good Friday! I guess the gods were in the mood of bliss for us. Till Shimla, we had a different plan...of course, always boasting to be the perfect planner, I suggested going the rustic way taking local transport; however, in the drizzling soaks of Shimla and over steaming fritters and tea, we managed a steal deal with a cab who rattled quite a few places..."Sounds like a plan" and we both were game.
In the list, our mission still remained the mystic Chitkul; however we accommodated a little of Sarahan and Kalpa somewhere, though never too focussed around the same. Off we went in the little Alto, breathing in the luxuries of pleasing wind-chills and tickling rains; our first pit stop was a neglected yet lovely restaurant at Narkanda, a lovely town about 65 kms away from Shimla, for tempting Maggi. Hatu was all covered with snow and was just a feeble glimpse, yet soothing enough for our gleaming eyes. The HPTDC resort has some breath-taking views but you could easily avoid the food there.
A few hours of rollicking in the endless greens, the glorious mountains and fascinating fog, we reached our first halt, the lovely Sarahan. And we were simply, awestruck! The little hamlet was dreamy, almost moon-like and the magnificent Bhimkali temple, one of the sacred Shaktipeeths, seemed to be the energetic focal point and is known as "Gateway to Kinnaur". The Bhimkali temple, with its intricate Indo-Tibetan architecture, is a lovely sight and has a charming aura to it; even an atheist could feel the mysticism and spirituality at Sarahan.
A must-have: a lovely little restaurant managed by the lovely aunty, serving the best of East-Asian cuisine; moresoever for her hospitality and warmth. And I have to mention, the sunset here is an experience; to see is to believe...the sun romancing in various shades of blue, red and crimson with the snowy peaks. It was a moment where the time stops ticking away, to lovingly stare at the charismatic sun mellowing down.
Our stay at the lovely Shrikhand Cottages run by HPTDC was a treat; the location couldn't have been any better with the magnificent Shrikhand ranges, facing you, staring into your eyes, right there, almost attracting you like magnet; that's the very spot where I resolved to do this challenging trek very soon. After our visit to Devi's temple which was a maze-like structure and the rustic Aarti, we must have sat for hours outside our cottage; soaking in the musical silence, the fragrant breeze. The hymns still reverberate in my mind and soul to stay resonating forever.
So, that was Sarahan for us, the little gem enconsed in the curve of mountains. The sun and the sky has been never the same for me after Sarahan.
And then, yet another miracle was waiting for us somewhere; we were shattered when we were told by the driver that Chitkul seemed difficult owing to the rough terrain and landslides; with a long face, we agreed to visit Kalpa, making a choice over Sangla...touchwood! After a long journey of 110 kms further from Sarahan and at a height of 2758 m, the excitement took a big leap once we crossed Reckong Peo. It was almost magical; felt like I would stretch my hand out of window pane and touch the majestic snow peaks; that were the resplendent Kinner Kailash range, blinking at us smilingly.
It's literally like, stretch your hand and touch them! The Kinnaur Kailash Range borders the district of Kinnaur in the south. The pass accessible on the trek is the Charang La at an altitude of 5300m. It is one of the toughest treks in Himachal Pradesh. The weather had started playing its trick by then and was getting hazy. In no time, we reached our turn-around venue, Kalpa. Wow, the vibes started changing already and we were beaming. The town was almost like a fairy tale; our hotel was modest but all about warm hospitality and gorgeous view amidst tall whispery pine trees.
We walked...and walked...around the sleepy town, yet chirping with the unmistakably astounding beauty. The monastery was amazingly colorful, set in the middle of the civilisation and every nook and corner was like a photo-op; we chatted animatedly with kids, had local sumptuous fare of momos, thupka and chowmein and climbed the narrow upward roads; we reached just in time to see the glowing gold-like peaks bathing in the rays of setting sun; we were speechless and kept clicking, satiated.
What more could have happened...something even more blissful, more divine! Well, it was 4 am, lazy early morning. I had heard that snow is unpredictable in Kalpa but could not have imagined even in my dreams that my dream of seeing snow for the first time in my life would become real...here. I literally have goose-bumps while writing this; I felt the cool snow over me and I suddenly believed more than ever in my God who was being so generous in a month of April...the sight was unbelievable and I was like a little kid playing with the soft snow. Within no time, Kalpa transformed into a white heaven...the view took our heart away.
We couldn't wait and scrambled through the chalky roads towards one of the last villages Roghi, a beauty spot. The millions of trees carried a lovely yet eerie grandness to them in the lofty mountains and we felt blessed to be there. We stayed there for almost two and half days and loved every moment, be it the snow, chill or the sun washing away the snow in front of us.
I leave my memoir to speak a thousand words further through the pictures!! I am daring to say this: Life would be incomplete if Kalpa hasn't happened to you...the Mecca of Kinnaur.
Yes, Kalpa...I will be back, to build an imagination, dream-like poetry in your golden lap....may be in a different season and colours...very soon! We will play with each other and nature might have another miracle in offing.
The Heavenly Circuit: Shimla - Narkanda - Hatu - Rampur - Sarahan - Rekong Peo - Kalpa