I wasn’t sure if solo-traveling would be safe in Chattisgarh, the campsite wasn’t ready yet for a Gujarat trip, Rajasthan had the election around the corner albeit having the perfect weather, the public Transportation system wasn’t convenient in Arunachal, Uttarakhand had unpredictable weather of late, Jammu was done last year and I would do it again sooner the following year, Dharamshala stretch would be too mainstream, Lakshadweep was too short a trip for the time I had. Maybe I should just settle down with the Sahyadris in Maharashtra or sign up for a fortnight long yoga session at Rishikesh or a Yakshagana course at Mangalore! I had tele-travelled almost the whole of India to decide where I wanted to go.. and then, this happened! Just 4 days before the actual departure, I had finally decided to visit the Kinnaur Valley in Himachal Pradesh.
The Mountains have always been kind to me and have had me meeting them regularly over the last 4years. I don’t know the reason for this special bond I share with the mountains. May be because I come from a nature worshipping community, that my connection with them is so instant and strong, that the mountains had me amidst them yet again. From being a shy kid to break ices at public gatherings to having done a complete solo backpacking in a (TOTALLY) off-season, to meeting and hanging out with strangers (who happen to miss the only buses) and become travel pals, My journeys have brought me a long way! The mountains have been kind and have protected me all the way..
People around me were busy and my vacations couldn’t wait, lest they be lapsed without pay or without use. Although not very keen on solo travelling, I think that’s how life threw itself upon me when I longed to go to the mountains! Apart from my To & Fro flights to Delhi, nothing was clear. One thing I had to keep in mind is to make sure that I was not pushing myself too hard to see places or do anything that could drain me out, given that I was alone and my issues with low temperatures and muscle cramps. Hence, I decided to do it one place at a time, plan my next destination only after reaching a place and move only when I felt like I had sunk in well in the current place. And that’s how Kinnaur started!
From being stopped by random locals on the road and being offered the juiciest apples from the valley to eating local food and getting invited over for coffees, from befriending the locals to being invited to attend a traditional Kinnauri wedding, from waiting for the day’s only public bus or hitch-hike a ride to having stuck in a place for 3 days without any electricity or transportation due to snowfall, from meditating in the Ajanta of the Himalayas to confronting a mummy Llama in the mountains, from driving past a valley of green-rock-and-sand onward to having traversed the same valley painted white in snow, from being seen-off by a known friend at the trip start to I seeing-off a stranger at the end of the trip: Whoa! What a journey it was!
The Valleys were overwhelmingly beautiful.. Each mile was magic with the changing landscape throwing surprises at the wink of an eye!
• Firstly, I had the mountain railway ride with the loco thugging along the narrow-guage passing through innumerous tunnels and winding pathways.
• The green pine laden cliffs and verdant hills
• Then the sudden emergence of a never ending lining of snow capped mountains all along the horizon
• The sweet smell of Juniper and deodar and the sound of the desi music blasting at full volume as the HPSRTC buses cruised through thickets of woods.
• Call it layers of dew laden and mist covered hills, they sparkled as the sun’s early rays found their way forming several vibrant spectrums.
• Steep gradients, blind corners and the breath-takingly scary heights of the snaking roads.
• Colours ranging from shades of chrome, ochre to crimson with the fruits and leaves of apples, apricots and walnuts.
• The adventurous waterfall crossing, river crossing, cliffhangers and landslides.
• A sudden sight of a solo snow laden peak from amidst the green mountains.
• Occasional sightings of rare animals like the mountain goats or yaks.
• The magnificent view of the Kinnaur Kailash mountains with the setting sun rendering a golden glow to the mountains.
• The morning when I woke up to see the mountains move closer to me with a heavy overnight snowfall!
Well I can go on……. But you must go there to understand what I want to write.. And the route taken:
Delhi-Kalka-Shimla- Sangla-Rakchim-Chitkul-Sangla- Reckong Peo-Kalpa- Peo- Nako- Geu- Tabo- Peo- Rampur- Sarahan- Shimla- Delhi
Since Rohtang pass had closed by end of monsoon, I did only Kinnaur and half Spiti and returned the same way back (Although a little hectic with 3 days for travel only, on the same route). If you are traveling in the summers, then you can start from Shimla and complete Spiti & Lahaul via Kaza and exit from Manali, thereby not repeating your route.
Summary: When the mountains beckon, just pack your junk and head out! The destination doesn’t count, the journey is worthwhile!