Visiting Kalpa in end April, as a part of my Kinnaur & Spiti valley tour itinerary, did not happen as per preference but due to other commitments in peak summer. None the less, Kalpa had to happen as my trip to the same destination in June 2013 was aborted due to road collapsing in Kinnaur region. In the same year our hotel booking at Kalpa with advance payments remained unclaimed in spite of some efforts. One more effort at contacting Hotel The Grand Shangrila for adjustments of our impending hotel bills, in case our visit to Kalpa in 2014 materializes, met with a favorable response. So, it was worthwhile undertaking a full days road travel from Narkanda to Kalpa by NH22 on 28th April.
|Mini - tunnel after Rampur|
|Nathpa Jakhri Dam|
Journey from Narkanda was not through some good roads till we passed by Rampur. After last year’s devastation, the roads were made vehicle worthy but the asphalting was yet to be done to make the ride smooth. By 1 pm, we passed through a mini – tunnel, a natural formation in hill with a giant hole covering entire road surface barely allowing the vehicles to go through. At 1.45 pm we had a fruitful halt for savoring some views of Nathpa Jakhri Dam & Hydro Project over river Sutlej.
Driving on, at 3.30 pm, Shongtong – Karcham Hydro Power Project with construction activities could be seen at Shongtong. The site on the highway covering a wide area was occupied by a number of bulldozers and the activity left a lot of dust on road surface and the vehicle was caked with dust. We endured the journey by closing the car windows. By late afternoon at 4.30 pm, about to reach Rekong Peo, the scenario changed dramatically. The pine trees on both sides of the road, the nearby hills with dense green foliage and at a distance the glistening snow-covered hills were simply heavenly. That really got us enthused for rest of the journey.
|Shongtong - Karcham Project|
|Nearing Rekong Peo|
We passed through Rekong Peo – district head quarter of Kinnaur. Large number of shops lined across the roads had almost any commodity one wants to purchase. We thought of some shopping on our way back. Some 3 km beyond we came to Kothi village and it was time to take a break near Chadrika Devi Temple. What Kothi scenario appeared in terms of topography turned out to be trailer of what Kalpa offered us as the main fare.
|Kothi Chandrika Devi Temple|
We spent some time in temple compound and our tired eyes had some soothing effect just gazing around. The lush green paddy field next to temple had apple and cherry trees planted at regular spacing. The trees were full of flowers and bees humming around gave us the first impression of what flowering of fruit trees in this season is all about. In addition, the backdrop of snow – splattered Himalayan peaks would make Kothi village a lovely place to stay if it had any hotel accommodations.
|Cherry Blossom at Kothi|
|Apple Flowers at Kothi|
As we neared Kalpa, it was apple orchards on both side of the road. Late April/early May turned out to be the peak flowering season for fruit trees. Sunlit day and deep blue sky made all the colors in nature saturated - the white and pink colors of fruit blossoms dominating, the snow peaks more prominent as if one could touch it.
|The Hotel Grand Shangrila|
The hotel Grand Shangrila was off Roghi road and it was a small walk between the apple orchards. As we were allotted room no. 304 – a suite room, it was a bit disappointing as the adjoining tall tree in compound did not give the perfect view of Himalayan ranges to suit my photography needs. Fortunately, I could get it exchanged for Room 201 albeit a smaller room with a clear view of mountains. The hotel being a 5 storied structure, the upper floors offer better views. We savored the apple juice provided by the management on 5th Floor seated on balcony overseeing the Kinnaur Kailash and other Himalayan peaks.
|Sunset View Kinnaur Kailash|
|Sunset View Jorkanden|
Around 6 pm we were back to room and got ready for watching a glorious sunset view of Kinnaur Kailash, Jorkanden and Ralden and the tiny Shivling. On a near perfect day with a trace of cloud, it was a spectacle which lasted 7 – 8 minutes taking our breath away and sheer bonanza in terms stills and video clips.
|Shivling at Sunrise|
Next morning getting up before the crack of dawn to watch the Sunrise progressively, was a chilly but exciting fare. The pristine glory of Himalayas could be seen in light gray shade before the crack of dawn. It was some minutes after 5 am when the birds came on with their daily calls and the pink glow could be seen on some of the snow-peaks. The sun god made a glorious entry to herald a new day.
The entire day being a packed program, I had about a km early morning walk to Vanvihar gate for a casual walk through the conserved forested area. The narrow walkway covers a large area with cemented resting places at regular intervals for the tired tourists.
After a good breakfast under our belt, the 5 km drive to Roghi village was my next sight-seeing program. (As I took to road, my friend Sachin hired a guide to take him to Chakha by trekking along the water channel opposite our hotel on Roghi road.) Nearing Roghi we had a halt at a place called 'suicide point'. Seen as side view, a continuous vertical fall of thousand feet is scary. It was some photo shooting at the spot for the National Highway and Sutlej river down the gorge.
|Highway & Sutlej river|
Parking car at entry of Roghi village, I took off for a leisurely walk through the village. The narrow stepped path going down with cottages on both sides and a water drain by the roadside meant for conveying the snow-melt from the hills and also augment it with water raised by tube-well for cultivating agricultural plots below the village. In mid-morning not many people were visible in village. Most of them would be busy at the agri-plots or other activities. Sighting a villager climbing up, I managed to encounter him for some info on the village. On inquiry, he said that there are about 150 people in the village engaged mostly working in cultivation plots. At distance blooming fruit orchards could be seen which made this time of the year special in this region.
|Roghi Village View|
|Narayan Devta Temple|
Some distance down the slope, a large compound had a cluster of wooden carved structures with an old looking Narayan Devta stone temple, which was closed. A three storied hotel building was under construction and did not really look at sync with the village habitation. The typical village cottages with cows and fodder in the front yard and backdrop of snow peaks of Kinnaur Kailash and Jorkanden looked as magnificent as seen from Kalpa.
|Mid, Jorkanden, Rt. Kinnaur Kailash|
|Shivling at Noon|
Driving back to Kalpa and a bite to eat for lunch at Hotel and weather holding, I did not miss out on some more shots of Kinnaur Kailash, Jorkanden and Shivling. In a clear day Shivling color changes from morning till evening, had around noon time, a brownish glow.
Afternoon was ideal for taking a stroll to market place not too far; it is easier to go via a short cut route than taking the car and we reached in no time. Without distraction of our attention to the shops, most of them being closed, we headed straight for the Buddha statue at road level and the temple situated on an elevated land along the with a row of prayer wheels. The young school children playing with a cloth ball on the large empty space and their running, shouting and excitement filled up the otherwise serene and calm environs. The snow peaks looked as majestic as ever. At the adjoining plot a Hindu temple with Kinnauri type architecture exquisitely wood carved was worth a close scrutiny. The temple has its own rules and regulations very conspicuous on signage.
Back to hotel, it was nice to meet Mr. Prithvi Negi, the owner who shared his experience of running a hotel in this town. The year before was a bad year because of devastation in Kalpa with extensive damage to his apple orchard. But taking things in stride, he and his young team is trying to make a best of this year. The extensive renovation of the hotel with some exquisite wooden carved doors and panels for hotel was the testimony to the kind of resolve he has, to make it the best property in Kalpa. Another bottle of choicest apple juice as a gift from him and we came to room to just relax and share out experience of the day.
Sachin narrated his adventurous trek to Chakha in morning when I had parted company with him and visited Roghi village. In Sachin’s words, “Guide for Chakha trek arranged the previous day by the hotel manager kept me waiting till about 10 am. We came to the Roghi road and crossed over to reach water channel on the foot track going up. We were required to follow this narrow stream which is nothing but the snow melt from higher altitudes. This water source serves the Kalpa town well. Being early summer there was a lot of scattered snow as we climbed up. The service of guide was definitely useful for negotiating through the snow. The bird’s view of Kalpa town looks quite impressive as we ascend. The mountains of Kinnaur Kailash and Jorkanden and other snow peaks looms large seeing though the pine trees. The wild flowers of a few kind appearing at regular intervals looked colorful and fresh.
|*Water Channel on Chakha Trek|
|*Kalpa View on Chakha Trek|
|*Wild Flower on Chakha Trek|
|*Snow mass on Chakha Trek|
On 30th April early morning, we were fortunate to get yet another grand sunrise visual. As the day breaks, we got ready to hit the trail again to reach our next destination Tabo in the Spiti valley.
Following Kalpa visuals may interest you as per the captioned link:
5. Chakha Trek
The best possible hotel in terms of ambiance, room size and mountain view would be Hotel The Grand Shangrila. The best rooms in terms of Himalayan view would be 201, 301, 401 in that order. In terms of room size, best will be suite rooms 204, 304, 404. These rooms barring Room 404 has a tall tree blocking some of the Himalayan view. The back facing room does not have much to choose from and are mostly availed at a cheaper cost. Room costing is as per the floor height - the higher floor rooms progressively costing more. There being no lift one will have to be prepared to climb for upper floors. For availing front facing rooms ( Kinnaur Kailash view ), advance booking may be necessary. Mr. Prithvi Negi can be contacted on telephone: 098056-95423,094187-03988.
The sight-seeing places in and around Kalpa are 1) The Grand view of Himalayas with principal peaks, Kinnaur Kailash, Jorkanden and Ralden 2) Buddhist temple & Hindu temple at the market 1 km 3) Vanvihar 1 km for a leisurely walk in wooded area 4)Kothi village 5 km drive for Chandrika Devi Temple & Vista 5)Roghi 5 km drive for leisurely walk in village 6) Suicide point view on way to Roghi 7) Trek to Chakha 3 km up along the water channel. 8) For shopping, Rekong Peo 10 km drive.
* Images by Sachin Vaidya