9th April 2005 - I had arrived in Shimla, capital of Himachal Pradesh, day before yesterday and stayed in Hotel Vikrant; on the very noisy Cart Road near the ISBT bus stand (pic left of bus stand and a Gurdwara). After some local sightseeing yesterday, today I caught an early morning bus (7:45am) from the Rivoli Bus stand going to Sangla. However, I planned to visit Sarahan first, by hopping off at Jeori.
The route to Jeori was very scenic (see pic left below) along the Sutlej river valley, with towering mountains rising on both sides of the road and the river. We passed Rampur a hub-town at 12:30pm and reached Jeori at 2:00pm.
Caught another bus at Jeori 2:15pm going up the mountain to Sarahan and arrived at Sarahan (alt: 1920m/6300ft) at 3:30pm and took a room, in the nice and pleasant HPTDC Guest House (2 pics left & left below) there with a nice front lawn and views overlooking the Sutlej valley below. Sarahan is a hill station that tourists visit for the spectacular view of Srikhand Mahadev peak (5227m).
Sarahan is also famous for the ancient Bhimakali temple (see pics below) built with two towers with elaborate carved overhanging upper stories and built with alternate layers of timber and stone to withstand earthquakes.
I visited the temple in the evening, allowed in the inner sanctum with my head covered with a handkerchief. The 800 year old temple is to the right but due to unstable structure entry is closed. The new twin tower one built in 1920 is pretty big with interesting idols of Bhimakali, Parvathy, Buddha etc. Two pics (left) of impressive front entrance.
10th April 2005 - Early next morning climbed up the hill behind the temple to the Bird sanctuary. About 1000ft up, the trek through thick forest cover took about an hour. The friendly Bird Keeper (pic left) unlocked the entry door for me as I was the first lone visitor so early there. Many interesting and colorful birds were on display inside huge netted cages including Himachal's state bird "Monal".
The view of Bhimakali and the Sutlej valley beyond, as seen from Bird Park in pic left below.
By 9:30am back at hotel. After breakfast packed up and checked out to catch the 10:30 bus to Jeori. Had lunch at a Dhaba there and then got a bus to Karcham at 1:30pm. Karcham is just 51km further east, up the Sutlej valley with the route being pretty tortuous and cliff hanging. Another wait at Karcham for a Bus to Sangla near the Baspa & Sutlej river confluence (see pic below), next to the Jay-pee Hydro Power station (pics left and below).
The Bus to Sangla (alt. 2680m/8800ft) came at 4:00pm. The Bus ride up the cliff-hugging single lane to Sangla was most the scary and hair-raising ride I have ever had. I reached Sangla at 5:00pm and checked into the Baspa Guest House right next to the Bus Stand. It was pretty cold here in the evening and I needed to wear heavy woollens while strolling in the bazaar of this town. There was light snow fall at night.
11th April 2004 - Early morning at 7:30am, trekked the 2km road up to Kamru Village, the former capital of Bulandshahr, set in a rocky spur in the mountain above Sangla (see pic below). At the entrance to the village is the cairn of carved Mani stones (pic left) to prevent evil spirits entering the village. View of Kinnaur Kailash peak from Kamru (pic left below).
After breakfast started walking uphill towards Chitkul (26kms) hoping to get a bus or share-jeep along the way. The houses on the way were typical architecture of the region roof slates and walls with layered timber and stones (pic left and below).
On the road met a couple of French ladies, Elsa and Anna, also walking towards Chitkul. After walking about 4kms a share-jeep going to Chitkul picked us all up and rest of the 22kms was done in an hour.
As we approached Chitkul (alt. 3050m/10000ft) snow was lying everywhere and in Chitkul there was snow all over! The jeep (pic left below) on arrival at Chitkul standing in snow and slush. A hotel (below left) and a village home with cattle in front yard (pic below right).
View up the snow covered (pic below) valley beyond Chitkul, looking east. A Bengali babu just arrived in Chitkul sat down on a rock to admire the amazing snow scene. Pic (left) of him, a local guide and me. Looking west (pic left below) you can see the road coming from Sangla, with our Jeep's fresh tire tracks in the snow.
By Noon left Chitkul trekked back to Rakcham (12kms) about halfway to Sangla. At Rakcham was joined by the Anna, Elsa and Croatian lady Irena. After lunch of Maggie noodles and tea we got a Jeep back to Sangla at 5:00pm. (Pic left our tea-stop at Rakcham)
12th April 2005 - Caught the first 7:00am bus to Rekong Peo a bigger town below Kalpa. From there took another bus to Kalpa and arrived there at 10:30pm Elsa and Anna too travelled to Kalpa by the same bus.
We had breakfast at the huge and nice HPTDC Bungalow (pic left) but found its rate too high. So trekked further up the hill to Hotel Shivalik by Bengali hotelier from Howrah, as claimed in their signboard "Run by Bengali Concern". See Pic left below. I used my smattering of Bengali to advantage and got a discounted tariff of Rs 250/- per day per room, for myself and the two french ladies Elsa & Anna (in pic below L & R, in front of Kinnaur Kailash).
Later in the afternoon Anna, Elsa and me went trekking in the nearby hills to catch a higher and closer view of Mt. Kailash; which seemed to be very close to Kalpa just across the Sutlej valley below. Pic below of Anna & me (taken by Elsa) while we were precariously perched on a rocky outcrop, from where we watched Mt. Kinnaur Kailash.
13th April 2005 - Walked down to bus stand and took a bus to Rekong Peo to check out this town, enquire about buses to Spiti Valley and also see pending emails at a Cybercafe near bus-stand. Back at Kalpa by lunchtime. Rest of the day relaxed and planned next day departure by bus to Nako.
Tomorrows journey over and across the Himalayas will take me from the southern valleys of Himalayas (with mountains, rivers, trees, forests & snow) to the northern rain-shadow valleys of Himalayas (with mountains, rivers, deserts, rocks & snow). You can see this huge difference in the pictures easily.