Shimla was a great place for us to recover for a few days before heading on with our journey. You can read more about it here in my previous post about going from Delhi to Shimla. After recovering, we met with our friend JD and were treated to a delicious homemade mutton curry, good company for the evening and an exquisite Shimla sunset.
Excited for what was in store for the next 8 days we opted for an early night so that we could wake up fresh ready for our adventure to Kinnaur and Spiti Valley. Instead we ended up having a mad little panic in the morning as our alarm didn’t wake us up so we had just 10 minutes to get sorted, check out and go to meet JD and Sanjay.
JD is a friend who Zak had first met last year in Shimla when he decided to go to Spiti Valley. He’s a genuine good guy who really has a massive passion and enthusiasm for the outdoors and all the beauty that this gorgeous country has to offer. You can find him at Great Escapes, Shimla where he and his team do a fantastic job to arrange personally tailored guides and trips to many areas all across India. Just let him know where you want to go or what you’d like to see/do and it’s as easy as that. Along with great recommendations, years of experience and the best team looking after you, you are bound to have a memorable experience for the rest of your life. Throughout this blog I will go into detail about the journey, the treacherous roads and the ever changing environments and weather but if you want to go to Spiti then I would highly recommend our driver Sanjay. With over 20 years experience, heaps of passion and dedication and just generally being so damn cool (and hardcore) he was definitely THE man for the job.
For any queries or information drop (JD) En Javed Dar a message or go find him at Great Escapes Routes. Alternatively, if you want to ask me anything then get in touch and I will do my best.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/himalayanescapes/ or click here
Address: SCO No 06, Aandhi Bhavan, Near Ashoka Hotel, Jakhu, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh 171001, India
Web: http://www.greatescaperoutes.com/ or click here
Our first stop of the day was to get some breakfast along a popular tourist route before continuing on to our first destination, Kalpa. JD handed us our itinerary for the next 8/9 days and we were very excited to get going. Zak has already previously done a similar guided tour but I had not and I didn’t have a clue what to expect to be honest. With over 65% of its area covered in forests, Himachal Pradesh is just so gorgeous and green. Everywhere you look there are mountains, hills, forests and apple orchards. It really is super clean, well looked after and cared for by its residents and tourists alike. The government has banned the use of plastic bags in the state as well as keeping on top of aiding people a healthy lifestyle with reduced litter and tobacco products. Himachal Pradesh is regarded as one of the least corrupt states in the country. It also produces mass amounts of hydroelectricity with its many hydropower projects along the rivers which contributes to a proportion of the state’s economy together with the state’s tourism and agriculture.
The journey to Kalpa took approximately 9 hours driving through approx 250km of winding roads around mountains, small villages and valleys along the River Sutlej. Sutlej covers a huge area of over 6,500sq km in Himachal Pradesh alone without even mentioning that it also flows through the region of Punjab as well as Pakistan and Tibet. The weather true to typical Shimla style was sunny to rainy to sunny again and once reaching Kalpa the skies were bright blue with a sunset like fire spreading over the snowy peaks of Kinnaur Kailash ahead of us.
I have personally travelled around alot of mountains and valleys in Wales, England and Scotland but nothing I have ever seen previously could compare to the sights before my eyes now and I just kept thinking to myself “this is only day 1!”. The whole journey was spent watching this luscious green landscape through the windows of the jeep. I felt happy and at peace. The journey was smooth and comfortable, the roads were also in very good condition with newly laid tarmac.
We arrived in Kalpa at about 8pm and were greeted by many friendly faces at Hotel Rakpa Regency. After a few minutes to settle in and admiring the snowy peak mountain views from our balcony it was time to head back downstairs for dinner. As it was quite late I imagine that most guests had already eaten which meant we had the restaurant to ourselves which was set up romantically with a little pot of flowers on our table ready laid out for us. The hospitality here was so impressive, you can read my accommodation review for Hotel Rakpa Regancy here. Shout out to Hotel Manager Raj for being such a lovely, delightful host. Thankyou! 🙂
After all the travelling on Day 1 it was a good idea to stay an extra night in Kalpa as to not rush our little adventure. We woke up to the most beautiful view from our balcony, rapidly got dressed and went downstairs to sit in the hotel garden to enjoy a panoramic view of Kinnaur Kailash with a morning Chai. For me personally, I’ve never seen mountains like that in real life so I just loved it! What was crazy for us was every time you looked at the mountains your eyes would focus on something new each time from huge waterfalls to old monasteries and homes in the most unlikely of places. The sun was shining and boy did we make a rookie mistake of not putting on the suncream! In just a short amount of time and without realising myself and Zak both turned pink as the sun is so strong and the air is thin. So a little word of caution, either pop on some suncream or cover yourself up to avoid painfully sore shoulders for days after!
If like us you are a Foreign National travelling to areas of Lahaul, Spiti Valley and Kinnaur Valley then it is important that you get yourself an Inner Line Permit (ILP) to allow travel through these protected areas near international borders. The office we went to to collect our ILP was approx 15 km away in Kinnaur Valley headquarters Reckong Peo. Peo as known to the locals, sits at a height of 7,500ft and is a thriving little place full of markets and restaurants. I quite liked the short time we spend there and would like to go there again. The permit took about 1.5 hrs to fill out all necessary information forms and get issued, which then is valid for 2 weeks. Along the route through the mentioned protected areas you will come across some police checkpoints, you must check in here with your passport and ILP. As a Foreign National you will not be permitted to travel without this permit and it is for your own protection as well as the protection of tribal cultures in North Eastern Himachal Pradesh India.
After picking up our permits and filling our tummies we headed back to our hotel via a scenic drive through Roghi village and ‘Suicide Point’. Oh my god, this place is effin’ dangerous… and beautiful! It is basically a winding road, spectacular mountain scenery with huuuuge vertical drops and great heights to the rock formations around you. It is a very popular tourist point.
Sanjay later on encouraged us to go on a “short” walk up a hill to a lovely viewpoint of the picturesque landscape infront of us ready for sunset. What a delight that was! Honestly, I love sunsets… who doesn’t?! But this particular backdrop for the evening setting of the sun is just stunning! The mountains look like they are on fire and there is a bright orange glow in the sky. Truly breath-taking and not to be missed!
Tending to our sunburnt skin and feeling slightly sorry for ourselves we relaxed for the evening at Hotel Rakpa Regency and packed up ready to head to Nako the next morning.