“Let us venture to the abode of Lord Shiva ,If not then The Nature….”
My dream for standing inside a garden of apples came true in the month of September 2016 when I visited the enigmatic Kinnaur valley in Himachal Pradesh. We were a group of four friends ,three NTPC engineers and one from Indian Bureau.We arrived at Shimla in early morning hours and after having our breakfast we quickly went to fetch our bikes from the rental agencies.Arriving in Shimla was a relief for all of us in the months of September so we were energised to push our adrenaline for an epic bike trip.My friend Jaykrishna and his brother Unnikrishnan who was working in Indian Bureau ,were travelling in a bike trip in elevations of more than 12000 feet for the first time.They carried their personal Royal Enfield all the way from Odisha to Shimla. It was Jaykrishna’s passion for adventure road trip in himalayas and my dream to witness apple avenues that drove us to Queen of hill stations ,Shimla. We already knew Shimla would be a crowdy place due to its immense popularity as tourist destinations.So we decided to leave that day for Sarahan which is a somewhat a quieter hill station 165 kms from Shimla. Since it will be six long hectic days of muscle power of the Royal Enfield and the tough roads of the Himalayas so we did a pre servicing and complete checkup of all the three royal enfields. The essential items we took were two carriers and elastic ropes for carrying the luggages,extra tubes in case of punctures,one hand pump,two cans for carrying petrol of capacity 5 litres each.We did a complete checkup of the battery and chokes ,and finally servicing of the chains attached to the pulley.They charged a rent of Rs1300 per bike so paying in advance the full payment we started of for our journey.We intended to leave the city as fast as we could because we decided to avoid the crowds of the hill stations in the whole trip.We refuelled our petrol tanks before leaving the outskirts of Shimla at 12:00 p.m .We arrived at Narkanda after an hour and the signs of apple farms began to show as we saw local people packing apples in boxes which will go down to plains.
I asked a local if we can go inside any farm and to my amazement he gestured us and cracked us a joke “ye puura jagaah aapke liye hain”(the whole place is all yours).It was like the costly apples means nothing to the himachal people but like guavas in the plains.Me and Jaykrishna hiked up a small hill and jumped over to the bushes to reach our dream garden.It was like red apples all around.The trees were short but they were hanging with numerous apples.No local people objected us so we packed up as much apples we can in our bags.This were the fresh apples directly plucked from trees.It was not packed and it tasted a whole lot sweeter.
The apples were more like dark brown red in colour.I was so happy and jumping ,as if like a kid won his medal for a treasure hunt.With the sweet taste of the apples we drove down further along the Sutlej plains towards Rampur. We decided to have our evening snacks and next refuel our bikes in Rampur which was 50 kms before our destination Sarahan. The roads turned into Avenues of Pine trees with the sunrays playing hide and seek in between the branches.There were hardly any traffic and we lazily drove down to the Sutlej Plains clicking as much snaps as we could.We arrived at a village from where The Sutlej river was visible like green snake.From the view point we traced down the road and to our excitement the road was just along the length of the river running parallel.
Sutlej river along the Shimla Rampur Highway.
We couldn’t control our excitement to reach that place and so we drove down further in high gears.After an hour drive finally we arrived our view point destination and the place transformed into a whole new earth.It was like a village of the fertile plains with a broader version of Sutlej replacing the fertile plains.The trees were shorter in height and mountains were rich in vegetation.We faced a different side of Himachal pradesh on our way to Rampur.
Driving along the Sutlej river basin.
We reached Rampur by sunset and had our evening snacks in a local dhaba by the roadside. Rampur is an important town in the kinnaur district so it gave us numerous food options .Rampur Dhabas are situated amidst excellent view points looking down over the free flowing Sutlej river.So after refueling the tanks we did’nt wasted time and proceeded our trip towards Sarahan. Next 2 hours of drive was chilling and adventurous as it was completely dark and with ghat roads all along the way.So a simple advice for travellers is to take your exit from the outskirts of Shimla by 10 o clock in the morning.We arrived at Sarahan at eight o clock in the night.It was simply easy to find the hotels as Sarahan is a quiet hill station famous for Bheemkali Temple.The hotels are cheap and comfortable to live in .The hotels will charge you within Rs 1000 and provide you with delectable vegeterian dishes.We were tired after a 10 hour long bike ride so we had our dinner and went to sleep with the mountain rides and river valleys in our dreams.
Hindustan Tibet Highway.
Next day our kinnaur story starts with the legendary Hindustan Tibet Highway which runs from Sarahan and ends in the last village of India to Tibet,Chitkul. My inspiration to engage more into road trips is highly motivated from this adventure in Himalayas in this beautiful valley of Himachal Pradesh. The hanging mountains over the roads,the green himalayas,snow capped peaks in the background,snow melted fast flowing rivers,apple avenues,beautiful villages and the sweet hospitable people were always accompanying us in the mesmerising land of Himachal Pradesh.
Mountains being manually drilled by BRO
As the road curved its way through the edges of the mountains we crossed numerous suicide points which are extended rock cliffs from the highways.I was astonished to see the world’s most treacherous highway being established in such a precarious way by the Border Road Organisation.We are grateful that such organisations take such heroic steps that helps us to visit The Himalayas as humble tourists.
The mountains were rich in vegetation and fortunately we were greeted with terrific landforms. Sometimes there were wild asses grazing on the mountains carelessly.We passed through numerous power stations built over the Sutlej river basin.Due to the rapid flow of the river in this region the state government has set up numerous hydro power plants in this valley. Karcham being a famous industrial town where the state has few important power stations .
Sutlej river basin near the power plants
Karcham Hydro power plant and its reservoir.
What more a traveller can ask from nature when he is gifted with such adjectives of this beautiful places.Visit Kinnaur in September to see the apples in full bloom and the weather all clear with blue sky.Grab an enfield and meander around this valley to experience Kinnaur in a perfect road trip.This combination of the ruthless machine with the most beautiful mountains on this planet will surely be the most scintillating journey.The road to kalpa as we go towards the upstream of sutlej river made us spell bound as it unleashed its scenic painting.
Few kms before Kalpa
Kinnaur offers some real breathtaking views one of which we found it in the Hindusthan Tibet Highway near kalpa. Though the road was tough to ride but such breathtaking views motivated us for long exposures to nature and build our strength to fight the tough roads.Bike trip never becomes so significant in life until we venture to the Himalayas.
The most astonishing scenic place that I have ever been was this unnamed village which was few kms before chitkul in the kinnaur valley.I was stunned by so many apple trees on both sides of the roads that seemed like greeting the tourists with the symbols of kinnaur.
Apple Trees before Chitkul
We felt lucky that we arrived on the month of september as the apples were full grown by that time.We were behaving like kids ,jumping over the fences and climbing walls to pluck those delicious apples.It was a memorable moment of my life when I could pluck those wild apples directly from the tree,which otherwise are so costly down into the plains.I will always crave more for such road trips in bikes as it provides an ideal platform to explore our beautiful country in a more detailed way.
Colourful farmlands in Chitkul valley.
After crossing the huge Apple farmlands we proceeded towards chitkul. The road became worse with symbols of landslide .We arrived at small river crossings made by narrow bridges which were made pit stops for photo sessions due the waterfalls in the background. The water was coming down from melted snow that formed a gushing river in the downstream.
The roads were getting tough but the natural scenery was getting equally more picturesque.
What arrived 5 kms beore the village made us spellbound.There were a series of colourful farmlands of red and yellow plantations equally garlanded with pine trees.The mountains were like transforming into a wall of collage with colours of green and grey.The rocks were shining its grey dust while the green vegetation were soothing our vision.There is a millitary checkpoint before entering the village since chitkul being a border village to Tibet.
At the millitary checkpoint before entering Chitkul
After the checkpoint the road unleashed itself into a whole new paradise world.It was like a painting done by God ,being recently coloured for the new passionate travellers like us.The view became panoramic with a wide angle vision.We were at a height of more than 3500 metres above sea level.In our vision there was this distant village surrounded by the mighty himalayas in its most colourful form.
After a 9 hour bike ride through the toughest terrain in the himalayas we arrived in a paradise village of the Himalayas.The village is situated on the banks of one of the tributaries of sutlej river,The baspa river.Earlier we had planned to come down to Kalpa and stay in a camp.But after watching the entrance view of this heavenly village we decided to have our night stop in this village to have a surreal experience in the lapse of nature.Indeed the splendid scenery of Chitkul will trap a travellers ‘mind for atleast a whole day in this most beautiful village.
Chitkul village along the Baspa river.
The village is the last vilage to Tibet so the people living here has culture and living styles similar to Buddhism.The Kinnaur kailash peak is clearly visible from this beautiful village which makes it more important for hindu pilgrims.We witnessed a memorable sunset on the banks of the baspa river with the snow capped peak of the kinnaur kailash glazing like a fireball in the last rays of the sun.The memory of chitkul will remain in my blood deep enough for a lifelong impact whenever I will visit the himalayas.
On the banks of the baspa river with the last rays of the sun on the Kailash peak.
The hotel Alpine view is situated just at the starting of the village amidst stunning scenery surrounded by lofty colourful mountains.The hotel is run by bengalis who will provide the tourists with delectable vegeterian dishes.The caretaker even surprised us with a local Apple drink for just rs 250 for half a bottle.He told us that it will keep us warm under the shivering cold at night.Indeed it was .It acted like super Rum.The rooms are cheap but the power is out for most of the time,which actually is a pleasure to experience the wilderness of the surroundings.The location turns even more heavenly at night when the galactic sky gets lightened up with the stars and the sound of the flowing baspa river in the vicinity of the hotel.Due to less pollution and free air the visibility of sky at such high altitudes is totally mesmerising and I experienced my best view of planetorium on that day.
Having an early morning breakfast we bid goodbye to this dreamland and proceeded for Spiti valley.In this trip I missed many small towns of Kinnaur valley like Kalpa,Rakhcham and Rekong peo which can be explored in another two days.We were short of time so we proceeded towards the tougher and drier part of our country.
The mountains hanging over the roads never stopped.
Spiti is a cold desert lying on the leeward side of the mountains.The scenery changes from green fertile landscape to a tougher and rusty atmosphere as we approach from Spiti valley from the Kinauur valley.Now the roads were turning into dusty .The Hindustan Tibet highway transformed itself to the most treacherous highway as the hair pin bends increased and roads were filled with numerous potholes and shooting stones.The roads now become even more worse and mountain colour changed to shining gold.There were mostly long wooden bridges with prayer flags with settlements of Indian army base camps.
The tougher terrain of the Himalayas.
Sutlej river turned into grey colour as it dried down accumulating the eroded mountain rocks from the surface.Our journey slowed down at this point as after few kms from chitkul the roads were in terrible condition.As we moved on to Pooh which is the last village in kinnaur district,the terrian changes drastically.The sutlej river changes to a muddy form into spiti river which then guides us to explore the greater remote part of himachal pradesh.
Muddy form of the Sutlej river.
We had our lunch in one of the few highway dhabas in Pooh.The dhabas provide excellent homemade potato stuffed parathas with curd made from local cow milk.The temperature is high enough in the morning so a curd provided us with a healthy diet.Now our journey was headed to the least populated region of our country -The Spiti valley,the introduction of which we felt in the change in geography.