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Destination> North India> Himachal Pradesh> Chhitkul
Chhitkul: At the end of Civilization
“Chasing angels or fleeing demons, go to the mountains.” ― Jeffrey Rasley,
No of Days: 5
Expenditure: approximately 4000 INR ($70) per person.
Journey: 1400 Kilometers
Route: Delhi-> Chandigarh-> Shimla-> Rampur-> Reckong Peo-> Kalpa-> Sangla-> Chhitkul-> Chandigarh-> Delhi
I have always been enthralled by The Himalaya and this trip has left me even more spell bound.
The trip to Reckong Peo was planned and implemented in just one day so we didn’t get much time to arrange anything, not even decided the places which we intended to visit. We booked a direct H.R.T.C. (Himachal Road Transport Corporation) bus from Delhi I.S.B.T to Reckong Peo. While readying myself for a 20 hour-long journey I was a bit scared of the “public” transport we were going to use. We had the option of using a Volvo till Shimla, but since beyond that only H.R.T.C. buses operated we preferred the latter straight from Delhi.
To our surprise the bus was far from bad. The seats were well cushioned and both the driver and the conductor were well-behaved. The only minor problem we faced was the absence of reclining seats and the less leg room space. However the driver made up for the latter by having stoppages in every 2-3 hours. Bus to Reckong Peo or Peo leaves I.S.B.T at 8 PM sharply. Busses are better than what we have imagined. We reached Reckong after 8 PM next day.
A word of advice: Please do carry/buy tickets. A lady was not carrying ticket for her son stating that he was a minor which upon inspection was an 11 year old. The conductor asked the lady to pay up or leave. She even tried to bribe him but with no success. The bus driver had to stop the bus till the minor altercation got over.
Our bus journey ended at Chhitkul. The route to get there, which we followed and supposedly the best is Delhi->Chandigarh->Shimla->Rampur->Reckong Peo->Sangla->Chhitkul. Direct bus from Delhi to Chhitkul is not available and so a change in bus is required at Reckong Peo. Beyond Shimla landslides are frequent and can disrupt your journey. A major bottleneck is a place called Choling which is somewhere between Reckong Peo and Rampur. There are 2 ways to reach Choling, one is the direct route which would take at max 20-30 mins. However landslides (due to blasts done by a construction company constructing a dam) are frequent and hence this route is mostly closed. The other route is a one-way route across the mountain which takes around 2 hrs and adds an extra 20 km to the journey. Since it is a one way route, the Kinnaur police has check points beyond which vehicles are not allowed till the other side clears up.
The wait at the check point can be a bit frustrating, but for the people seeking some adventure in the trip, this is the place to be, as this route is supposedly the most dangerous routes of the world. In fact the whole road from Rampur to Reckong Peo is considered to be one of the most risky roads in the world and it has been extensively covered in several documentaries. A person with a weak heart should not be travelling on these roads. Believe me, you will remember your god thousands of times while travelling on this route.
Reckong Peo is the administrative capital of one of the least populated district in India – Kinnaur. We reached there in the evening around 7 pm after travelling 24 hours in public transport (thanks to the landslides). Although there are lot of hotels in the city but you cannot locate them on any travel-websites, not even on Trip adviser. We tried our luck for the government guest house near to the bus stand (the preferred place to stay in Peo) which is always pocket friendly for the traveler like us, but thanks to the group of foreign delegations we were unable to find any room for us. However, one can easily find budget hotels near the bus station, good enough to spend a night or two. The very next morning we took bus to Kalpa, the tourist capital of the district. (One can easily find bus to Kalpa, moving after every one hour from bus station). It is a 30 min bus ride from Peo. There is no dearth of good hotels there and the views are breath-taking. The best way to travel is on foot. We went deeper into the valley clicking photos and plucking apples from the orchids there.
We roamed in and around Kalpa for 3-4 hours before heading back to Peo to catch a bus to Sangla our stop before the last stop. Sangla is around 2 hours from Peo, quite similar to Kalpa in terms of landscapes and beauty and also number of hotels. So we tried avoiding wasting time on the similar type of place and decided to move forward towards the last leg of our journey, Chhitkul. It’s a one hour drive from Sangla valley. Chhitkul is the last village, in fact road ends here.
The moment we reached Chhitkul, we were stunned by the view. Amazing beauty!! If men were to find heavens on earth this was the place. The place is on the river bed. I could see around 4-5 snow-capped mountains not far away. There are hundreds of glaciers and the glacial melts are feeding the water to Baspa River, a tributary of the Sutlej. Glaciers, forests, river bed and clear sky… what else we want to see…
The only sound I could hear was the sound of the wind blowing and the water flowing. Human settlement is hardly found, with a village of 15-20 houses and 10-12 operating Guesthouses/hotel.
Hindu Temple: Buddhist Architecture
Baspa River and School: After Sunrise
This is how sun says good morning to Chhitkul
Trek to Glacier
Last check-post: ITBP
Tourist/Bag Packers/Adventure Lovers who reach here can spend hours if not days looking at “The view”. However there are several trekking routes which you can explore. There is a 3km trek to India’s last ITBP post before which no man’s land starts. There is a trek to the glaciers which provide water to the river Sutlej and there is a 3-day trek to somewhere in the interior of the Himalayas.
A word of advice:
Try making to Chhitkul by the afternoon. This way if you don’t find accommodation (due to the dearth of guest houses) you can take the evening bus back to Sangla.
Do try to stay in Chhitkul for as long as possible. I am sure that on your death bed, you might not remember the first phone you bought but you will surely remember the breath taking view you saw in Chhitkul !!
- Book H.R.T.C bus ticket in advance.
- I will suggest not to travel in Himalayas at night.
- Have sufficient chocolates and water with you while traveling to these areas. You do not know how much exact time it will take. Roads are very prone to landslide. You can see both wet and dry type landslides here.
- When we traveled, most of the ATMs near Reckong bus stand were non functional. Have some cash with you. Otherwise you may have to travel another 2 or 3 kilometers. There is no ATM in Chhitkul.
- Even in July, Glaciers were touching the river bed. You can imagine the temperature. Climate is extremely cold. Plan accordingly,
- Have proper clothes, good shoes and basic medicines.
- If you are planning for a long stay, you can try home stay.
- Try Tibetan food and local food.
A Himalayan trek is a metaphor for life itself. On a trek we are searching for a majestic peak or high plateau, a beautiful stream or waterfall, or a shrine or monastery. The destination or goal serves to quench our thirst, our desire. It provides a short respite from the rigors of the trail, a brief “One Night’s Shelter.” Then we have to descend, move on. We cannot stay there – Yogavacara Rahula