“People over here drive very fast”, we asked just to initiate some conversation with the Raju sitting quietly at the back with his son.
“Yes, they are little fast. But you are from outside and are driving very fast. Tourist generally don’t drive this fast over here”, finally he was able to express his reason for being silent.
We wish we could be able to explain him that driving in Himalaya is our passion, we are at home in this part. I would rather say environment and people do make us feel like home. But this was the thread we required to start the communication. We abated the speed to make him feel comfortable and then he started telling us information about the region.
Chitkul is a small village on Indo-Tibet (china occupied) border at an altitude of 3450 m (11,300 feet). This is the last inhibited village on the border beyond which there are only two BSF posts, Nagasthi and Ranikanda. Last night when we arrived here it took us almost an hour to find an accommodation. November end is not the tourist season. It starts getting cold and water freezes at night making tourism uncomfortable. It also start snowing in some parts. So most of the hotel owners pack up and move to less altitude village or return to their native place (Hotel owners are generally not locals). We saw some hope at two places and finally decided to move in Raju’s residence.
Around 7:30 pm he was ready with the dinner and asked us to keep the plates aside to get pick up in the morning. Hesitantly he asked “Are you in hurry to go early in the morning? Life start here after 8”. We realized the gravity of his reluctance to get up early as we were eating. It was so cold that we had to mentally prepare ourselves to get up from the bed to wash our hands (not to mention in freezing cold water). Temperature at night had fallen to sub-zero (thanks to my watch which give approx idea about temperature). We gathered the courage to get out in the morning around 8 and saw the nature wrapped in white blanket. That was some sight.
“It snowed last night. It must have snowed in Kaza as well. Both are almost at same altitude”, Raju was ready with his information.
He was a common man providing residence to the travelers but he was not short of information. He guided us towards the Nagasthi post. Interacting with the army is always very delightful experience. It refreshes your mind and attitude. This was no different. Also we came to know about many new developments, happened and planned, in that interaction.
Raju and his son wanted to go to Karcham and we provided them an easy option of traveling with us. So once he was comfortable with the speed he served us with his knowledge about the area. This part is famously known as Sangla Valley. Main villages in this part are Chitkul, Rakcham, Sangla, Kamru and Karcham. The valley lies in the South East of Karcham as you travel on NH 22. Some of the best quality potatoes in India are produced in this part (main ingredient of breakfast, lunch or dinner) along with green peas and apples (red and yellow). In between snow clad mountains along the Baspa River, the beauty of this region is beyond words. Just amazing! Incredible India cannot be anything different than this. The river also give its name to the region as Baspa Valley.
After hearing about apples, we asked him if we can buy few anywhere. The season was over and most of them have already been transported to different parts of India. He made few phone calls and finally brought couple of dozens of yellow apples, that too as gift.
“You are good people. You dropped us long way to Karcham, this is gift for you”
Oh these people of Himalayas! Our love and gratitude towards them and their hospitality increases in every visit in every part. Humanity is in their blood or rather it exists in the air of the region.
Note: These are the traveling experience of Team Anusandha of their Spiti Exploration. For travel bookings and information check Spiti Exploration