Himalayas always had an appeal to me. It, in fact, would appeal to anyone who loves solitude. Though I am furiously social and generally like to be surrounded with people, there is a certain degree of detachment within me which seem to match with the himalayas in its spirit.
Himachal is one of the most attractive parts of the Himalayas. Its derives much of its charm from its proximity to the snow-capped mountains. And amongst the various districts of Himachals, Kinnaur, is one of the most popular one among all others mainly for its virgin beauty.
Kinnaur is at the north-eastern side of Himachal and is approached from Simla. Its connectivity with rest of Himachal is via treacherous roads which often get blocked due to landslides and snows - making it somewhat remote and inaccessible. The Kinnaur valley moves along the Sutlej river and has an entry to the mystical land of Tibet. It is also famous for having the Kinnaur Kailash (one of the residents of lord Shiva; the other two being Kailash near Manasarovar in Tibet and Manimahesh - which can be seen from the north-western part of Himachal).
Our trip to Kinnaur had a short stay at Sarahan - a nice quiet stopover before the eventual visit to the splendid Kalpa. Sarahan boasts of the Bhima Kali temple, an archaic wooden temple with one of the most intricate wood carvings in the midst of lush green mountains. It also has a "Raja ka mahal" - the kings palace which is in a rather dilapidated condition at the moment. Sarahan also has a very comfortable HPTDC guest house with "larger-than-your-fist" size roses along the wall and a very accommodating staff inside. Tea and Coffee was served at an abundance and with something to munch with it at regular intervals.
The next stop was Kalpa. This is supposed to be the most picturesque place in Kinnaur. My experiences with most of the much hyped-up places has been a feeling of disappointment but Kalpa was a welcome aberration. Simply put, it is one of the most amazing snow points in the entire himalayas. HPTDC, as usual, had picked up one of the best locations in the place and as we were staying at HPTDC, we weren't complaining.
Our room was a comfortable double bed room with a window which gave us a view of the entire snow range including the Kinnaur. It had a room heater, several thick blankets and connection to the kitchen through an enclosed wooden walkway. This wooden walkway seems a simple taken-for-granted stuff but when you need to walk to the kitchen to order for a cup of tea (the telephone in the room was very erratic) at 8 O'clock in the evening with outside temperature at around 8-9 deg C, you tend to appreciate these simple pleasures of life.
We spent almost a week at Kalpa in Kinnaur - a feat which left most of the usual tourists agog with horror. "You will be bored", "There is hardly anything to do" were the most polite statements that we heard, the impolite ones being mean digs at our cerebral health and aptitudes. We used to have short leisurely trips to the nearby locations, short treks but mostly long stretches of sitting idly and looking at the mountains. Being regular bookworms, we had several thick novels with us - nice and engrossing ones which would have demanded our undivided attention under normal circumstances. Kalpa, however, proved to be a greater enchantress. Often we were found to be looking at the mountains, with the book kept upturn on our laps.
We made a short visit to Recong Peo, the nearest human habitat euphemically described as a town and found it to be rather plain-jane affair. It lacks the grandour of Simla or the solitary beauty of Kalpa - a rather curious hybrid. We ventured out to have some momo from this place and were rudely made aware of the fact that local flavours look the best only on TV shows. This momo was no where near the mouth-watering delights available in the small bylanes of Kolkata inhabited by the tibetans for several generations now.
On our way back, we stopped at Simla and were again enamoured by her ageless charm. This was our third trip to Simla - and yet again we found it to be wonderful. A drastic opposite of the quiet Kalpa, Simla always enchants the tourists with its colour, energy and spirit. We went into a shopping spree - spending several hard earned currencies to buy stuffs which, till that point of time, never featured as an important stuff in our lives. We remembered several long lost relatives, pined for them and bought several gifts for them with tearful remembrances. Thankfully our stay at Simla was not for long and we came back before things reached astronomical proportions.
We came back from this memorable trip with a heavy heart and heavier bags and a thin wallet!! We made several solemn promises of not spending so much and how trips are not meant to be shopping expeditions - knowing fully well that we will again fall folly to these temptations at the end of the next trip.
Ah, well, such is life!!