Unfound/not so famous but amazing places are not found by hounding the net.
They are found when you do not tie yourself in an itinerary, and let the roads and the locals of the villages take you over.
Now that you're here let yourself loose, let yourself run free on the roads of Baspa Valley, also known as Sangla Valley.
T.H. says: The Sangla Valley is completely inaccessible in most of the winter, but even in summer one unseasonal snowfall can trap you here for months.
Proceed on your own thrill. 😀
Pashmina and I reached Sangla bearing all the rain and cold at 11 in the night. (Later that night I found that the road to Sangla was shown as one of world's most dangerous roads in the world in Ledge documentary by Discovery)
But it was all eerily silent now. And cold. And windy.
We were dying inside our skins, and freezing with every slow step. Walking about the empty market, we finally found one dhaba that was open.
There were 3 old men in the dhaba, one being the dhaba owner. Warm smiles welcomed us. That was all that we needed on that cold night.
But thankfully, we were also given hot water to wash hands with and delicious, piping hot food that I remember even today.
We ate like we had a chance at food after months.
We got in conversation with the other two uncles. It turned out that they were driver and co driver with HRTC, and they had a bundle of knowledge and experience to share with us.
Apart from that they also shared their "emergency nuts" with me, which are dry fruits in case they get trapped here because of snow 😀
With their help, we took the PWD Guest House, which was right across the road.
And I realised in the morning, what amazing decision it was.
It was only in the morning we saw how beautiful the guest house looked. And that we had a lush green lawn in front of us, and snow clad peaks right behind us!
In fact, we were surrounded by snow clad peaks from all sides which were all seeming to be too close to us.
We started walking towards Kumru Fort, which was at a 2km walk from the guest house.
Kumru is a tiny but a very strategically located fort, which saw the reign of 128 Kings.
Standing at 2680 meter, the fort houses a Budhhist temple, a temple with an idol of Kamakhya Devi from Assam and a Badrinath temple from Garwal.
The premises still serves as a venue for the fair held once in three years.
We hardly saw anybody at all on the way up. But on our way down, we were greeted with a warm smile by a senior of the village.
Of course, he was the coolest ever and had a lot of stories to tell.
When I asked him if I could take his picture, he took his glasses off and posed saying "make me look good."
What Is Raksham?
As told by a local, in the local language "rak" means rocks and "sham" means a bridge.
So the village Raksham that comes after Sangla, gets it name from the huge boulders which also act as bridges over the Baspa river.
Raksham is the second last village of India in the state of Himachal on the Tibetan side.
All the houses here are traditionally made of wood.
Sadly though, this village has burnt down completely twice in the past. The last time being in the year 2002.
The govt "helped" them in rebuilding the village by donating them 4 oak trees each.
And so the "Modern Village Raksham" was established in the year 2010.
The main occupation of this village is agriculture, and this village produces export quantity and quality of apples, potatoes, apricots and walnuts.
Where To Stay?
There is a really nice guest house right on the road – Rupin River View. The tariff for the cheapest room was INR 1500. The manager there offered me a really tempting deal, but I was not only on a budget, but was also looking for a more local experience.
People here have two houses – one below the road, next to the river. They spend the winter in this house, as "it is less cold near the river". Mmh.
And their other house would be above the road, on the mountains. They spend the summer here.
It was only 8 at night when Pashmina and I were trying to find a Home Stay in the upper village. It was completely dark, and we couldn't see a single soul. (And by then we weren't aware that there is another habitation below the road.)
Fortunately we found a temple guard here, who helped us and took us to a homestay there.
Our host was lovely, very mother like and cooked amazing food. The house was beautiful, and absolutely neat and clean.
Her brother in law told us a lot of interesting stories from the village.
As from what I learnt, there are 50 registered home stays in the entire Kinnaur region, and there is a standard rate of INR 500 for each.
This homestay was called Aditya Niwas, but they didn't put a board because they don't want guests more than they could serve in the best manner.
Apart from this, there is Apple Pie Resort 1.5 km before Raksham, with beautiful cherry blossom trees in view, starting from INR 1,000. (The rooms, not the trees 😛 )
They have one more resort by the same name in Kalpa.
What To Eat?
This place doesn't have a line up of hotels or dhabas. So apart from the Rupin River View Restaurant and Guest House, the only other option was to eat at a local's house – which I absolutely loved!
Our host at the homestay cooked such tasty dal and ogla/phaphra which is chapati made from ragi. It was so tasty that I could have eaten it without any other dish too.
Apart from this, since almost every household here has cows, you will get to know what tea with pure milk tastes like.
And needless to say, if you come here and make friends then you will go back with both your hands filled with very yummy and crunchy apples for free! 😀
Chitkul is India's last village on the Tibetan side.
The village speaks of peace and serenity, but you will feel the wind and the river screaming in your ears. I almost froze even during daytime.
There were some home-stays and also some guest houses with sign boards in Bengali 😀
There was a school exactly by the river, which looked to be in perfect order. It had beautiful thoughts on the wall, attendance sheet on the display board, and list of students promoted to the next class.
Interestingly, there was a basketball court too in the village. Most definitely the one with the most beautiful backdrop.
But Chitkul is definitely some other terrain. Already quite high itself, Chitkul is only 44km away from the world's roof – Tibet.
The place has beautiful mountains, Baspa river, beautiful sunrise and sunset and eery silence for the most part. But for the remoteness, Chitkul also has a very well organised school and a basketball court.
Lets see how much it can grow before losing its charm.
- Batseri TrekSangla – Batseri – Rakchham (6 + 8 km)It is a lovely, peaceful trek running along the Baspa river.Some attractions on the way are Saffron farm, Fishing encatchment, ogla fields and apple, apricot, walnut trees.
- Borasu Pass trekChitkul – Borasu – Har ki Doon (20 + 40 km)This trek connects Himachal and Uttarakhand with the high Borasu pass. The beautiful valley takes you across the 60 km in 6 days.The pass is open only for a few months before monsoons and then for a month or two before the winter sets in . The trek sees a lot of ups and downs, river streams and narrow valleys of flowers.
- Lamkhaga Pass TrekChitkul – Lamkhaga – Harsil (45 + 25 km)This trek, almost like an expedition will change your world. It is very high up on serious trekkers' list, and connects two legendary villages of the two gorgeous HImalayan states.It is a snow trek for the most part, and is completed in 6-9 days, with Lamkhaga pass being the highest point.
When To Visit?
The region Sangla valley onward stays inaccessible due to snow from November to March.
Sure, this place is accessible from April to November, but since it will be apple season July onward, you will find yourself in heavy truck traffic from July to October.
Anyhow, this place is not a weekend getaway.
Little far away from the rest of the world, you can come here when you really want some peace and happiness, and have time in hand. The whole Kinnaur valley makes you want to explore, or at least spend some more time here.
And as said before, one off season snowfall can trap you here for months. So come to this place when you can take a couple of months off, just in case 😀
How To Reach?
Delhi – Simla – Rampur – Sangla: 340 + 130 + 120 km
Sangla – Raksham : 14 km
Raksham – Chitkul : 14 km
The roads are painful and completely broken for some good 40 km. But ride/drive slow and enjoy the scenery, it'll all be very enjoyable. 🙂
If by public transport, there are regular buses from Rampur, Sarahan, Rekong Peo and Sangla.
There are state transport buses from Sangla to Chitkul on regular intervals.
Those buses take a 30 minute halt at Chitkul and then return to Sangla.
Last bus to Sangla is around 3:30 pm . (But I also saw one bus heading towards Chitkul at 5.30 pm.)
I started from Sangla in mid afternoon and the scenery only kept getting more and more beautiful from here.
Raksham, with its beauty won my heart so much that on reaching Chitkul, we canceled our as planned stay in Chitkul and returned to Raksham.