A Quick Affair With Himachal- Narkhanda Sangla Chitkul Kalpa

- By Aditya Bajaj

If you can convince your family, answer all daunting questions from nosy neighbors, then Diwali is the best time to be on the road. Since most will be home for Diwali, you will be happier being out isolated with clear roads, better hotel deals and most importantly - lesser crowds. So this Diwali I was out exploring Delhi- Narkhanda- Sangla- Chitkul- Recong Peo and Kalpa for a 5 day trip.

Delhi - Narkhanda( 407 Km)
Nowadays there is no fun riding on the GT Karnal road. The condition is getting worse day by day due to the massive potholes, livestock crossing lanes and locals strolling in between roads. Stopped for a break at a Subway, which was empty, as no one wanted a sandwich for breakfast and sticking to the regular paratha at Amrik Sukhdev. The meter console read the riding time (Delhi to Zirakpur) as 02.30 hrs ,but the elapsed time read 03:30 hours, as the breaks are usually longer.



Narkhanda - Sangla ( 162 Km)
Next day, I started late and reached Sangla in the afternoon. Chitkul was another 24 kms and the nights there could be much more colder, as the locals informed. So decided to stay in Sangla at Hotel Royal Castle at the footsteps of Kamru Fort.The hotel rates online was above Rs 5000 while I negotiated for Rs 1500. The hotel room was average and not worth paying Rs 5000 (not recommended).
In the evening, I started climbing stairs to Kamru fort which lead me to a Temple and Monastery in 20 minutes. It was strange to find a Monastery in the temple compound. I asked locals which one is the oldest structure there and they pointed to the top, towards the Kamru Fort. A further 5 minutes of stairs would take you to the entrance where I was stopped by Policemen guarding it. He asked me some questions, asked me to take my shoes off and gave me a Kumaon cap and waist band to put on. He then explained that these were the traditions to enter. I obliged as it was their territory and rules well laid upon.

Kamru fort.

It wasn't just another fort, with one wooden 7 storey tower and small compound. I asked the local priest about the history and he explained that the King used to live inside the tower and took administrative decisions. Now the entry inside was restricted to just some members of the committee and the priest himself. 



Walking down, the Sun was setting and I could see golden rays on the mountain peak at a distance. It was pretty chilly at 5 degrees at night , however couldn't see the Milky way from here.


Day 3 Sangla to Chitkul (25 km)

The view was spectacular, reminded me of Nubra, though not many people on the road. Stopped at the check post for sharing my details and entered Chitkul area. Once I entered, I saw first fellow biker, fully geared up, who was going out and I waved at him. Next, I rode to and fro in the village to explore and discovered that ,a little more than few people lived there. 




While sipping tea at a Dhaba, I  asked how people go about their lives here from a local. He said they have a hospital, school, post office and some fields for vegetation of wheat, peas, potato and local vegetables to survive on. In winters when it snows, everyone hoard the supplies at their homes. I asked him how the sick are brought to the hospital, to which he said, that the people carry the sick on a stretcher making their way through the snow. It is a tough life and they are happy to spend all of it there.




On my return, I rode back to Sangla for a quick bite, picked up my stuff and headed for Recong Peo- Kapla. Just before reaching the Karcham bridge, had a flat tyre but luckily managed to find a tyre shop. This time I didn't carry the puncture kit or the portable air pump along , because of the small tank bag.

Sangla to Kalpa (40KM)




For anyone to test their bike, I think this is a good road to do so. The road from Karcham bridge was somewhat decent at the beginning but was pretty bad in between.

The road near Powari was better, may be because there was an army unit stationed there and a new petrol pump; so people don't have to climb to Recong Peo to fill fuel before going to Kaza. Kaza was 200 km and there is still No Petrol Pump between Kaza- R/peo /Powari.

Reached the bustling town of R/PEO, asked locals about Kalpa which was a further 6 Km climb. In Kapla, I met the same fellow biker Umesh whom I waved at Chitkul, stopped for a chat and started looking for a Hotel together. Found out that HPTC is also there so headed straight towards it. The hotel property was big and negotiated for double bedroom in their Sun n Sand tower for a total of Rs 1500.




The room had a spectacular view of the Kinnaur Kailash mountain, which is at height of 4650 meters and was told that it changes colors as the day passes.
The Kinnaur Kailash yatra is organised every year and it's a tough 2-3 days trek to the top. The evening was spent chatting with Umesh and clicking pictures of the magnificent mountain.

Panoramic view from Restaurant (shot by Umesh)

The best part for staying in HPTC hotel is the food quality, highly recommended where ever it is present in Himachal.

The Return : Kalpa to Narkhanda (161)
Before starting everyday ,I made it a point to have breakfast, else I keep scouting endlessly for a place to stop , but can't really find one ; ending up riding empty stomach to the next place. Filled up fuel from R/Peo and bid adieu to Umesh, who was riding further to Kaza and completing the circuit till Manali. Wish I had two weeks leave and I would have been more than happy to do the same.


By the time I return, Diwali and the long weekend rush was over. Somehow managed to get the same room in Hotel Hatu Narkhanda. This time I had to pay a little extra, Rs 1500 instead of Rs 1200. I agreed, since this was the last room left.

Narkhanda to Delhi( 407 Km)
Thanks to some noisy families vacating the hotel, my sleep was broken at 5 am. I finally started at 8 am after having breakfast. The road till Shimla was not too bad but after Shimla it was totally wrecked and crowded , as everyone were returning. 

The road near Zirakpur was good. With the other fast moving cars, I also got a chance to open up the throttle, only to be stopped by traffic police who had barricaded the road. Fined Rs 700  for over speeding,I accepted my mistake and paid them.

On return I was thinking about it all the time  as paying fine is always disturbing. Then I maintained a speed of 60-90 kmph, throughout the GT Karnal road. Entering Delhi is always a nightmare and recalled the last 5 days spent in peace; now back to same o'l grind and traffic.
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