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Thursday, 6 July 2017

Kalpa ..a complete guide to the mesmerizing hill station in the Kinnaur Valley

   We sat leisurely at the cafe at Chini Village sipping steaming hot thupka ,deciding to give our itinerary a brief pause for the day.A short chat with the owner of the cafe was in progress,who talked about how he settled there three decades ago, as he served jasmine tea to a group of foreigners at another table. Our conversation was frequently interrupted by his inputs  in English to the foreigners about the tariffs of the dormitories around the place ."You get everything here ,even if it snows the shops are all open,there is no reason to go back to the plains." he says ,as he reverts back to fluent Bengali this time. It seemed that the magic of the place had just begun to dawn on us.

   For years this place remained secluded from the rest of the world till the Governor General of India, Lord Dalhousie constructed the Hindustan Tibet road. With the relaxation of the inner line permits in the mid nineties Kalpa got its rightful place in the tourist map of India.

  As a consequence, in spite of its splendour ,Kalpa could escape rapid commercialization for a very long time and hence could retain the beauty to be rightly called Dev Bhumi .

 Cradled by the mighty ranges of the Kinnaur Kailash,  Kalpa has retained its innocent charm that can enthrall any mind.

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You might also read    A complete itinerary to the Kinnaur Valley of Himachal Pradesh
                                                     A walk in the Himalayan village of Basteri

Workers busy working in the apple orchard right next to our resort

The ranges from the sit out in front of our room

The view of the mountains from the many hotels

   Chini village as said above is now only a small locality in Kalpa.We were told that Kalpa was earlier called by the name Chini as the influence from the people of Tibet grew here.It was later named Kalpa. Chini village is the place where most of the shops are located .The hotels are built a little above the slopes,thankfully,still in very less crowded places.

The main attractions apart from the scenic beauty 

The two main attractions of Kalpa are located here in Chini Village.The monastery and the Chandika Devi temple temple.The monastery definitely gives us an aura of the olden days and the temple can be an ideal place to sit and spend some time admiring the beauty of the place.

These were the places we had already googled and therefore were not surprising .As we proceeded towards the temple we came across  a landmark which makes Kalpa proud for the second time,the first one being the obvious charisma it owns.
 We happened to see the government primary school where the first  elections of independent India was held .Shyam Saran Negi ,a teacher at this primary school being the first voter to exercise his franchise is from Kalpa.  That makes us wonder, why should such  a remote place be chosen for the first polling booth. Since the mountains are covered in snow ,it was decided that the elections be held here in October  a little earlier than the rest of the country. Now,that is  a bit of general knowledge only for those who are interested.
The other two places usually visited from Kalpa are the villages of Roghi and Kothi .One can get a glimpse of the architectural styles of the region or can come very close to the rural lifestyle of the region.Stay tuned for a well deserving post on the villages soon.

     Read here---Rakcham .Why we preferred it to Sangla (Kinnaur)
Chandika Devi Temple

 Can you spot the Shivling on the ranges.?It is a 79 feet elongated vertical rock structure  visible from any place in Kalpa to the naked eye. Kalpa actually forms the base for an annual trek to the Shivling which takes  four to five days.The Kinnaur Kailash ranges are said to be the temporary abode of Lord Shiva,and hence the Shivling.

  Strolling around Chini village we got a glimpse of the ladies hurriedly going somewhere in their traditional attire.I found it so appropriate for the cold climate of the place.( that was  a very quick click to keep to  their fast pace).When they came close I noticed something which looked like incense sticks in their hands. So were they going to the temple? Was it a special day,which I had forgotten as I was on the tour? Whatever was their purpose ,they looked stunning in those clothes.Most remarkably, they looked very happy,and each one seemed to know the other!

What not to miss in Kalpa
A stroll down the paths along the deodars and and apple orchards.So reserve  a morning exclusively for that.It would not be incorrect to say that one can discover the essence of the place only while strolling down the paths of this hill station.We strolled down and enjoyed our morning tea at one of the roof top of the house selling tea.
I wonder why it is always so much fun to do the atypical.Do you have the answer...

Read here----How to travel with small children -16 useful points

Early mornings could not have been better....

All said and done, I shall always remember Kalpa for its bountiful natural beauty and its very laid -back attitude.

Rekong Peo near the bus stand.

  This mesmerizing hill station of Kalpa is about 8 kms. from the district headquarters Rekong Peo.
As a matter of fact I loved walking at the market place in Rekong Peo.We treated ourselves to apple juices from the HPMC outlets there.While in Kinnaur do not forget to get one of those Kinnauri caps.They are stitched out of green velvet like material and are worn by both men and women.You just cant place it anyhow,their  is a particular way of wearing it. As far as I can remember ,the open end of the green portion has to be above your right ear.I learnt this from my nine year old daughter ,who is a very keen observer.

You can also find the Tourist Information Centre at Rekong Peo,in case you are in need of authentic information regarding the tour.

 If you wish to go shopping ,Rekong peo is the best place.You can chose from  a variety of shawls,or you can also take a look art the silver jewellery at the jewellery shops in the market place.I brought home some products made from apples . Do not miss the dry apples ,and the dry paneer.You can also look around for the Kinnauri rajma,which is a little different from the regular ones.While shopping for shawls take along someone who is good at haggling.

  We had booked the HPTDC resort of Kinnaur Kailash,but their are numerous other stay options too..A good number can be booked online. Most of them come with their own restaurants as the places are secluded along the mountain slopes.Be it  a nondescript stay option or the resorts ,each one can boast of  a beautiful view from the balcony.The hotels vary from dormitories starting at Rupees 250 ,mid range ones or well maintained resorts.

Apart from being a very coveted tourist destination,Kalpa also serves as an important break for the  trip to the Spiti Valley.You can check here for some details  The complete itinerary to the Kinnaur Valley

Monday, 3 July 2017

A walk in the HImalayan Village of Batseri,Sangla (Kinnaur visit)

    The path sloped up from the banks of the Baspa and narrowed down to the houses in the village.Not many people could be seen around,the village seemed to be still in slumber as we walked our way up the path.Or were we too early?Only a few small shops were open,who helped us with the direction of the temple.

       The apple orchards shielded the temple from our view.There was silence in the air.Few lone villagers could be spotted busy with their daily chores. But the temple door remained wide open.This was the intricately carved temple of Badri Narayan Ji. The temple was no less than an architectural marvel .Moreover with the beautiful scenic location ,the place lent  a very serene feeling.
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There were carvings of Shiva,and other Hindu Gods and Goddesses along with Guru Nanak ,Swami Vivekananda,and Jesus. Carvings of erotic figures also formed  a panel on the walls.The temple gate,or the carvings on the walls of the shrine in fact, give a very secular feeling.
We met Roshan Lalji ,who could be seen busy at his workshop,carving more panels for the temple. The temple was a very old one but was destroyed  in a fire in 1998.So it was slowly being rebuilt and hence the very new look. Roshanlal Ji patiently takes the onus of giving back the temple its same glory.

You might also like  How to travel with small children
                                  Our successfull itinerary to the Kinnaur Valley of Himachal pradesh

The influence of Tibetan Buddhism is marked here

  The village of Batseri can only be accessed on foot.So we had kept the car waiting at the bank of the river as we walked through the village.

  This particular Himalayan village seemed to be a little congested than the others that we visited ,nevertheless, the paths were strikingly clean .Among the houses that lined our paths a good number had embraced modernity with concrete houses while the others preferred to continue with the traditional stone and wood structures .It seemed to me that this village was a little older than the other places we had visited.


 Firstly an invasive attack by the neighboring Himalayan country of Nepal who captured many places of the state,followed by the British interference to expel them ,these regions of the valley had gone through  a lot of political activity,with the people in the rest of the country hardly knowing about it.


Read here  Raksham,another Himalayan pearl
                The best place to visit in Sangla
                You cannot miss this place while in Kinnaur...Papu Dhaba 

..And then  the infusion of people from  Tibet with a different culture , had all left behind marks that defined the landscape of this village today. Be it  a very old temple of The Badri Narayan,or a monastery hundreds of years old ,such evidences of inhabitation and existence of a well structured society since long, urge us to learn more about the place.Though we could not spot it but it seems there is a prayer wheel in Batseri which is rotated by the waters of  a flowing stream.

                             The monastery at Batseri,a little disappointing though to see the present neglected state.                         

 Very noticeably the villages in the Kinnaur Valley were well off financially.Apple being the major cash crop here,the population with a very high literacy rate here are employed in the apple cultivation or the allied industries.

 Batseri is a village in the Sangla valley if the Kinnaur district of  the state.It is only 7 kms from Sangla ,and lies on the opposite bank of the Baspa.Though Batseri has many camping options,a stay at Sangla is recommended as the stay options are varied there. Batseri can be visited on the way back from Chitkul or Raksham. Initially we had not decided to visit Batseri,so we had to take the detour while on our way to Kalpa.
The best time to visit the place would be around September,to see the trees with the apples and the landscape takes a pink hue due to the buckwheat cultivation in the region.

Friday, 23 June 2017

How to travel with small children -16 useful points

    Most of you will agree that travelling can be most enjoyable when the kids are still young.It is the time when you do not have to worry about schools reopening,classes to catch up with or upcoming exams just after the holidays.So one should not miss out on travelling during those very carefree days. We do not  go for long tours even if we wish to ,as the thought of children falling sick during the tours keeps us waiting for them to grow up.
           So let us not waste more time and enjoy travelling with our very cute and adorable little ones.

1-Do some homework before you embark on the travel----
   Get any due vaccinations done.
    More importantly-we should start inculcating the habit of eating fruits in our child a few months       before we start the tour. It is actually easier than you think. Instead of forcing the child ,the parents       can enjoy eating the fruits before the child. The child should only get the idea that it is something         very yumm. Have patience.

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Though quite a known fact ,it is so important that I thought I should underline it here. Provide only mineral water of reputed companies to the child when on the way. When eating out I actually the  carry mineral water to the table especially at roadside dhabas. This takes care of half the problems.

WE should avoid giving very spicy food to the child even if he enjoys it. He will eat well for the first few days but it will take its toll on his system soon, when we travel for many days. As a matter of fact even we adults cannot go on a spicy diet for a long time.

You may also read- Rakcham ,that beautiful mountain village
                               Kamru fort,Sangla (Kinnaur)
                                 The Magic of Mcleodganj

While travelling,snacks form a very important part of the diet. Children sometimes miss their meals completely .So I take special care of the snacks menu.I have never stacked the trunk of the car with chips and synthetic tetra packs of drinks..This has taken care of nausea to  a very large extent. Tetrapacks of fruit juices can keep a child well hydrated .Instead biscuits (the non cream variety)or fruits (excepting grapes)form a great menu.

5-Carry a tiffin box-
A child's mealtime will never match with the parents. He will either be hungry before or after mealtime.So as long as my children were very young I carried an empty tiffin box with an airtight lid with me,  everywhere.
It had so many uses.
Firstly when we had breakfast or any meal I  always ordered for him ,even if he did not eat.It was packed in the box and reserved for later(preferably order a one pot meal like veg pulao),when he would be hungry and we would be on our way. He actually enjoyed eating in  a moving car.
I have  cut fruits into pieces and packed them in a box before I left my hotel room.Once hungry children relish on the fruits on their own (just provide them with a fork).You can carry a pack of seedless dates with you, two to three a day can be very helpful.

6-Carry a small plastic fork and a knife (sharp enough for fruits)

7-Jams and pickles
As you can see children call for a very different packing. I have taken with me my child's favourite jam  and pickle .Rotis can be rolled up with jam and pickles come in handy when you don't want  a mess with the idli chutney . See your child moving around enjoying warm rotis as you relish your dinner.
8-Thermos flask
Yes ,it proves to be very handy as you can actually pack hot milk from the hotel dining with you,specially in the mountains. It can be filled in feeding bottles later. So this applies only if you have a baby with you.

IT is very important to keep the child hydrated through out the journey. So keep providing the child with tender coconut water and buttermilk during the day.(If you are travelling anywhere in India excepting the mountains). Even for babies ,one feeding bottle a day of these wonder drinks can keep a lot of anxiety at bay.

  BY now you must have noticed that I have quite a few points regarding the diet of the child.the reason being,I believe that proper diet and  rest can keep the children fit and fine through out the journey.That brings us to our next point.

10-Sleep No matter how tightly packed our itinerary is ,we should ensure that the child gets  a good nights sleep .Sleeping in the backseat of the car does not actually count for good sleep.There can be nothing more damping than a crying baby or an irritated child in a trip.

11-Crowd -Crowded places are best avoided when a child is travelling with us.Not only is is difficult to manage with a child,they also pick up more infections.

12-Friends are so important
Travelling with kids can be a big pleasure if you can manage to travel with another family having  a child of the same age group as your child.The duo entertain each other and you are left free for that perfectly romantic holiday.

Needs no mention ,but still ,keep the child well covered in cold places especially the ears and feet.

14-Hair dryer
Yes ,now it is even more important to take it with you.Comes very handy when the child has wet his hair in a waterfall or an accidental drizzle.

15- Electric kettle-This can come in use for an urgent warm water requirement.You might need that if your child has  a sore throat.

Chemists are not easy  to find especially when you need them the most .So take your stock with you.The very basic, for fever ,cold and stomach ailments,with the correct dosage penned down on paper. Yes, that antiseptic cream is not to be forgotten.

So go ahead and enjoy your trip ,watching your child frolicking with you, you can bless me later.

Our successful itinerary to the Kinnaur Valley of Himachal Pradesh

This has been my second visit to the state,The first being the one in which we visited Shimla, Manali and Dharamashala.I was told about Kinnaur by a fellow tourist ,who highly appreciated the valley. Since then Kinnaur was in our bucket list till it happened this year in April end.
  I am posting this itinerary at the request of many of my readers who wish to visit the valley.

Bangalore---------Chandigarh------------Narkanda-----------Rakcham--------Chitkul ---------------Sangla----------Kalpa---------Sarahan---------------Shimla---------Chandigarh--------Bangalore

Date of starting from Bangalore-April 26 th
A total of 11 nights and 12 days
Day 1-Start from Bangalore  by flight----------reached Chandigarh by 12 noon.
      We had our cab waiting at the airport.The cab was booked in advance from Bangalore.
     Without wasting any time we headed for Narkanda starting at 1p.m. The traffic in Shimla slowed us down considerably, had a hasty lunch at one of the eateries after the traffic started becoming sparse. Eating at Shimla can be difficult as you might have to walk up to the parking. We wanted to reach Narkanda before it was dark ,but finally we could reach only about 7 p.m. WE had our booking at the HPTDC property of Hotel Hatu.

Day 2-Visited Hatu peak-followed by breakfast at the market place. In the evening strolled to the skiing ground. Alternatively you can have an early lunch and also visit the Tannu Jubbar Lake.

2 nights at Narkanda

Day 3-Checked out of Hotel Hatu next morning to start for Sangla

We never miss the novelty of having breakfast at the roadside Dhabas . A delayed breakfast is also better as you tend to have less nausea and you can start very early.
The road to Sangla is very treacherous ,so starting early has its own benefits.
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From the front seat,Narkanda to Sangla

Distance from Narkanda to Sangla is nearly 180 kms.It takes an approximate 7 hours if weather is fine.
Once you reach Tapri (about 133 kms from Narkanda)  on the way do not miss lunch at Papu Ka Dhaba  Read post here.   You shall remember it for along time to come.

Entrance to the Sangla valley
                   Read post on----HOw to travel with small children,few useful points.
 We reached Sangla at about 4 in the evening.  Our stay was not booked at Sangla. We looked for the available options but when we did not find it to be satisfactory we decided to drive to Rakcham. As it was getting dark we checked in hastily at Hotel Rupin River View, and never regretted our decision. Read post here on Rackcham.

Day4-So we spent the night here and after early morning stroll around the village and breakfast decided to visit Chitkul.( only 8 kms from Rackcham). 3 hours is enough for a visit to Chitkul unless you wish to stay there for the night.
So one night at Rakcham.

Back to Sangla,this time we booked Hotel Mount Kailash with a magnificient view of the mountains from the balcony. After lunch visited Kamru fort the same afternoon. People who have difficulty in climbing steps can omit this visit as it involves a lot of steep steps. Read post on Kamru Fort here.

We had to miss the Bering Nag Temple at Sangla which is a little distance from the market place.     Every temple here has similar kind of architecture of carved wood and stone ,still their locations and ambience makes them very unique. We spent the night here. So one night at Sangla.

DAy5- Sangla to Kalpa distance-40 Kms. Takes approx. 2 to 3 hours.
 Morning breakfast at the hotel and we started for Kalpa as early as possible.
On the way to Kalpa we took a quick detour for the mountain village Batseri. Spent about 2 hours at Batseri. Apart from being a Himalayan village,it houses a very beautiful temple.  Let me tell you here that in this trip we visited four Himalayan village and discovered that each one has its own character. So I shall say...if time permits go for them.
By the time we reached Kalpa it was afternoon.WE had our rooms booked at the HPTDC property The Kinnaur Kailash for one night. The landscape changes from Sangla to Kalpa.  The beauty of this place has to be seen to be  believed. We loved the resort,we loved the views ,we fell in love with the place.So what next ,we extended our booking for another 2 nights here.

This evening we could find only enough time to visit the monastery and the temple adjoining to it at Chini village. Had momos and thupka at the nearby cafes and strolled around to soak in the lovely paradise.

Read here---Kalpa ..a complete guide to the mesmerizing hill station in the Kinnaur Valley

Day 6-A quick breakfast and we drove to the Himalayan villages of Roghi and Kothi. On our way back had lunch at Rekong Peo ,followed by some shopping.

Day 7-Breakfast and started for Pooh ,with a plan for the Nako Lake in mind.The distance from Kalpa to Pooh is approx.70 kms. takes about 2 to 3 hours if the roads are in good shape.The terrain gets very rugged here,landslides are very common. Pooh is again a small settlement famous for almond,apricots orchards and vineyards. If you can extend your itinerary by another 2 or 3 nights you can continue on this road till Tabo or Kaza..The landscape changes drastically and the only greenery you can see are the trees planted for timber by the local people. But as we were little apprehensive of the roads and the weather ,returned with a quick visit to the cold desert at Pooh.We did not go till Nako.
If you have Kaza in mind then you shall have to take the Paori- Kaza road. Paori is 5 km. from Rekong Peo.

So three nights at Kalpa 

Day 8 -Started for Sarahan ..Reached Sarahan late afternoon. Checked into the hotel(had no advance booking here. We had just enough time for the magnificent Bhim Kali temple.If you have Sarahan in your itinerary do keep in mind the rooms at the Bhimkali Temple.That is the best stay option in Sarahan. Alternatively their is a Hptdc property too .WE visited the temple again in the morning and then went strolling to the stadium ,and the King's and the Queen's palaces nearby.

One night at Sarahan.

Day 9-After the stroll and breakfast we headed for Shimla. Reached Shimla late afternoon,with a lunch on the way.After booking the hotel went for a leisurely walk on Mall road.

Shimla Mall

Day ends.We had visited Shimla and its whereabouts in our last tour. In this tour we stopped and stayed overnight at Shimla only for some purposeful break.

Day 10-The last phase of our trip,started for Chandigarh.By the time we had our lunch at Chandigarh it was late to visit any of the places.

Day11-Visited Sukhna lake and the rock garden..We did not visit the rose garden as the heat in the month of May was becoming unbearable.

Day12-Morning Flight to Bangalore from Chandigarh.

This trip was one which had some beautiful surprises packed for us every single day.The mountains the roads or the villages never became monotonous to us. The Kinnaur valley is less crowded if compared to the more popular destinations like Manali or Dharmashala. Thankfully it is less exploited. However,it attracts a huge number of tourists from West Bengal. So in Kalpa one can find numerous Hotels serving Bengali food.

 Food joints
Here it would be very appropriate to mention that the roadside eateries are not as frequent as they are on the Shimla- Manali  Road or the other roads in that circuit. So if you are traveling with children it is better to ensure that you have some food with you.The general food that is easily available here is the typical north Indian style menu,with flatbread or tawa roti dominating everywhere.Though Rice lovers  get rice at every place.

There is very little scope for shopping  in the entire circuit.I could only find dry apples at Reckong Peo and few more apple products like apple jams and pickles at the HPMC outlets in the entire trip. Of course I bought a few shawls and souvenirs at the Shimla Mall road.

WE visited the valley in the beginning of the tourist season.It was not tough to get accommodation in most of the places.You can book the HPTDC property Online in Advance.We had booked at Narkanda and Kalpa as said above ,but you might have noticed that we  did not book hotels in advance at many places.This was just to ensure that we do not get tied up ,in case we wish to stay longer at some place.Do save some hotel phone numbers with you for convenience,as internet connections cannot be taken for granted at many places.

What to expect
You would be visiting the apple orchard of the country.
If you wish to see the apple blossoms -visit Around April -May .
Apple flowers

To see the apples growing on the trees -Visit in or around the months of  July till September
If you wish to relish apples the entire tour,visit around October and November.
In the month of May we could get some freshly Harvested Cherries.

In the first week of May there was light snowfall at the higher altitudes.Two layers of warm clothing is what I feel is enough.It would be good if you carry a windcheater to ward off the breeze and the intermittent drizzles. At the places of higher altitudes like Rakcham and Chitkul the air can get sparse,so it is advisable to make  a note for elderly people or people with breathing difficulties.
The Kinnaur Valley is covered in snow for nearly four months. So the best time to visit is from April to November.

No worries,speak Hindi to your hearts content and enjoy.

You would have noticed that this itinerary is fit for a family with kids .The visits and stays have been optimized enough to allow time for rest and  travelling has been  avoided after dark.

So enjoy your trip and let me know about any exciting new adventures that you come across. Meanwhile ,let me tell you that the words in this itinerary and any other post in this blog are entirely mine ,but the itinerary has been  painstakingly planned by my dear husband ,whose careful planning and methodical execution goes behind all our pleasant tours.