Tiredness was not an excuse. I was back on the street repacking my bags to continue the journey that had stopped previous day. Breathing the fresh morning air revitalized me giving that kick-start to the vertex of my spine.
Route: Sarhan -> Karcham -> Sangla -> Chitkul -> Sangla -> Karcham -> Recong Peo -> Kalpa
The Solo Ride
Humming “One more cup of coffee before I go” wasn’t helping my situation. The clerks at the guest house where I was staying were fast asleep and not willing to acknowledge my presence. Desperate attempts to wake them resulted in the few angry cries and yawned dialogues forcing me to move on, leaving the money to be settled at the front desk.
Driving through narrow winding roads, perhaps through the worst stretch of road I ever traveled on, led me believe that I would have to make a halt at Chitkul. The uninteresting dusty roads led to gravel roads. Five hours of riding through huge dam projects and random hydro power plants led me to a small hamlet. I was starving and thirsty and wanted to have a quick meal before I went ahead. To my utter dismay there were no eateries around that hamlet.
I was told that the nearest village would be Sangla situated at an altitude of 2680m. Sangla, one of the largest villages in Kinnaur, is located at the lower edge of a gently sloping, alluvial fan, 18km from Karcham. The village of Sangla is part of Baspa valley regarded by many as the most beautiful of all Himalayan valleys. I however found it to mediocre at best. Perhaps the bad ride through these areas prevented me from appreciating the beauty of the Baspa valley. The chilgoza pine dominant elsewhere in middle Kinnaur is strangely absent from the Baspa valley forest. Local legend has it that the Baspa and Satluj River are said to have run a race to decide which of the two should be considered senior. The Baspa, with shorter distance to travel, ambled slowly through its pretty valley while the Sutlej tumbled swiftly through the arid wastes of Tibet and upper Kinnaur. Only at Ruttrang did Baspa realize that the Sutlej was close by. It tumbled furiously down towards Karcham but still lost the race and with it, the chilgoza trees.
Sangla was not impressive at first sight. The overcrowded village prompted me to make a quick exit after a good meal. The only worthwhile visits are two impressive temples of Sangla, Nag Mandir and Devi Maa Mandir. The richly decorated Semi-Buddhist temple is typical example of Hindu-Buddhist confluence. The Nag Devta the main idol in Sangla temples is said to have come from the Dhauladhars and found lord Narayan already holding sway of the Sangla area. A contest was arranged to decide whether the Nag could also reside in the valley. Narayan assumed the form of cat and Nag became a rat. Both entered the lake with the cat in hot pursuit. The rat burrowed his way through the rocks at Ruttrang to escape. The lake drained out and the Nag won his right to stay in his temple in middle of Sangla. These little folklores impressed me, as I spend time talking to elders in the village. With very little time in hand, I bit farewell to the kind villagers and set out to Chitkul.
Chitkul situated at 3450m is that last village of India, after which is Tibet. Reaching Chitkul from Sangla entails a rough passage through alternating between tumbling down huge masses of glacial moraine and lapping serenely along the flat bottom bowls. The very picturesque village has a very calm feel to it. The inhabitants of this village were warm and welcoming. Snooping around the village, I realized that this little cute village is now a hub for tourists, with numerous home stays all along the village road. It is disheartening to see this village being transformed to crowded den of tourists. Had I arrived here 10 year ago, I might have had different opinion. Nonetheless it is still a very beautiful village to stay for a week.
The Mathi Devi temple at Chitkul appears to be oldest in the valley. The Mathi Devi is said to be consort of the Kamroo Narayan. I could not gather any folklore for this temple as the locals seem quite unaware of the past.
Driving back from Chitkul to Recong peo had to be worst ride of the trip. The battered and dusty roads gave no reprise to the rider. The long and tiresome bumpy ride finally led to me to Recong Peo.
I decided to get my bike checked from a mechanic and fill up fuel for rest of journey tomorrow. To my surprise, I was told that there was fuel shortage at Peo. However, I was informed that fuel will be available the next day. Having fixed my bike, I drove up to Kalpa for the night. I was too tired to explore Kalpa that I decided to stay indoors. Peeking out of my balcony I could see Kinner Kailash while hot pakodas were prepared in the kitchen.