Kinnaur Trails : Sarahan
Kinnaur Trip Prelude
Our trip to Kinnaur is special for multiple reasons – it was on my dad’s secret wishlist, secret as he had no inkling an adolescent in 1991 had eaves dropped his conversation with my uncle in the sprawling lawns of a hotel at Darjeeling, overlooking the Majestic Kanchenjunga, sipping on flavored Tea. His words “I want to freeze this moment.. I can watch this endlessly” kept resonating in my ears and each time I experienced the inexplicable delight of snow clad mountains, I couldn’t wait to take him for a Himalayan Sojourn! After years of juggling around with dates, schedules and everyone’s availability we zeroed on Kinnaur, a small less populous (totally our kinda thing) district in North East Himachal to give him a taste of a Himalayan range other than Kanchenjunga. The destinations we zeroed on were Sarahan, Kalpa, Sangla, Raksham, Chitkul and bit of Pooh!
Travelling Tip 1
In our stories you will come across different set of travel pals, in fact a post to that effect is due soon and thus with every travel pal the logistics change. We travel solo, duo, trio, women only, with kids, senior citizens, friends, families and so on. The entire planning changes with each set and is a very important factor in making trips indelible.
Travelling Tip 2
One of the most crucial factors is of course the time you choose to travel and when destinations you zero down on has extreme erratic weather, make it a point to not only read reviews but also call local sources to do ground reality checks. We spoke to Banjara Camps who are veterans in the valley, The HPTDs with the best locations and few others. October end is very cold and not recommended for kids and elderly is what they said, especially Spiti. Sub zero temperatures, scarcity of water, dry toilets as sewage systems freeze, most hotels shut their operations, staff relocates to the plains and the drivers who ferry the guests cook their own food. Our holidays are anything but languid – strenuous, spirited, rustic, real, challenging where we can push our limits and move away from comfort zone (aka life in cities) however in sync with our Travelling Tip 1, we decided to give the entire trip a different perspective, since it was for dad and his love for the mountains which meant Spiti had to wait for now. We also like to leave few undones so that we are back to the same place, someday and experience deja vus.
Travelling Tip 3
If you want to see the place in its skin never haste and go by drab fixed itineraries, they seldom bring out the flavour and one trip is never adequate to explore it all, unless you have indefinite time at hand. (For most of us donning multiple hats, time and money are the biggest roadblocks 🙁 )
We i.e TravoMance Trio and my parents begin a 10 day trip ex Nagpur on the Rajdhani Express, in 16 hours we get to Nizamuddin and a connecting train takes us to Kalka, geographically in Haryana. It is used as a gateway to Himachal Pradesh, a state that is referred to as Dev Bhumi or Land of Gods – in all honesty, to me Nature is most revered and divine so the mention seems totally in sync with what to expect over the next few days.
DAY 3 : Reaching Sarahan
Next morning we start for Sarahan that is at an elevation of 7500 feet, a stopover destination to get to Kalpa and its time to bid goodbye to cities and its cacophonies, my heart starts waltzing at this very thought. Travel to a lot of us is not the destination alone but also the small moments we weave all through the journey, the songs we listen and croon along.
Travelling Tip 4
If you want to make your road trips forever etched in mind types always, ALWAYS carry your own curated music no matter which part of the world you are travelling to, the music you hear on your holidays stays with you for decades and that is what I absolutely love about travelling – You go to a place once in person and several times in vision and imagination.
The most exciting bit of this journey is Kinnaur Dwar very often finds a mention in the deadliest roads of India, a stone archway on NH22 just after Taranda devi temple where every passerby stops to seek divinity’s blessings. The curious anxious traveller in me every now and then peeps down to catch a glimpse of the free flowing Sutlej, assessing the altitude and silently praying for a safe trip that begins with the deadliest! There is something about free flowing rivers and that something multiples when its a mountainous one, Sutlej with its green azure waters is your co traveller, a very snooty one that literally makes your neck do all asanas just to catch that glimpse, when and what you see is jaw dropping and you can’t wait to click. Deepak, our driver whose driving skills are yet to be tested firmly tells us to skip the continuous clicks as Sutlej is here to stay, he is obviously ignorant to the city dwellers plight of being nature deprived. Seems like a tough yet smart cookie, talks very less initially but seems to know Kinnaur the way we want to hear.
Travelling Tip 5
Driver and the vehicle you hire in this terrain is extremely crucial, don’t be penny wise pound foolish, go for the best, rates are slightly negotiable and reasonable. We did a thorough research on drivers and made a list of expert drivers whose skills have been vouched by many, kindly leave a comment if you are travelling to Kinnaur/Spiti, would be happy to share the coordinates.
The drive nears end at sundown, we reach HPTDC Sarahan with our hearts leaping with joy and fear at the same time, first sight of the snow peaks and Dad’s quivering voice as we alight from our vehicle leave us a bit disturbed. A quick check in, in a cute elevated lobby and Himachali hospitality we rush to our rooms and settle dad, who by now is unable to speak a word due to the extreme cold, reminds us of Lal Mohon Ganguly alias Jatayu of FeluDa Series (Satyajit Ray’s famous fiction character). An early dinner we call it a day and set the alarm for exciting journeys ahead.
Travelling Tip 6
Wake up really early if you want to see the mountains in gleam and glint, this notion goes kaput as we are in the North and the mountains you see from here don’t get the first rays, so you can actually enjoy the morning snuggles while you are here. We are up early and clicking, Kingshuk with his Nikon is out in the patio trying to capture all angles, Anaya is sashaying around the property and my dad, charged up on seeing the mountains from the room is yet again sipping on tea :-). A quick breakfast and we head out to the Bhimakali temple, few metres away nestled amidst the lofty mountains is a sight to behold. Rituals allude me however mythology beckons me, I walk in to see the intricate wooden architecture, to click pics and while I am engrossed at the latter I over hear the enchanting folklore behind the name “Bhimakali”!
We totally utilise our stop overs, if we can explore a place closer to nature we ensure we do so. From Kalka one has the option to halt at Simla and proceed straight to Reckong Peo closer to Kalpa (Kinnaur’s main destination), instead we give the touristy Simla a miss and head to Sarahan (Again our kind of thing – city to city is boring, city to wilderness and vice versa, interesting 😉 ). If you like your holidays packed and pompous then Sarahan won’t appeal much. If you like your holidays where you can aimlessly stroll for hours with the enchanting mountains for company, you wake up to them, you would fall in love with Soothing Sarahan. From a logical angle, Sarahan at 7500+ feet helped us to get a bit acclimatized before proceeding on to 9000 feet and above.
The next story on Kinnaur will come up soon, for now if you liked our story, let us know you did – Like, Share and Comment. Nothing makes us happier than reading what you went through while reading this !