When two of your senses, namely visual and gustatory, are being pampered through a ‘sometimes there and sometimes not there road’, the joy of driving is all that stays behind. This trip for me was really more about the destination, when I started the journey with my friends. Soon enough though I realized that my 1st ever road trip in India, had opened up a canvas of effects that broke the city’s chrome & metal I was so used to. Cloud cocooned mountain ranges put out a display of sunsets, that even a box of paints would shy away from. Not just the excitement of reaching Kalpa and the Kinnaur Kailash, but even the natural formations en route made my drive totally divine
DRIVING TO THE MOUNTAINS OF KINNAUR KAILASH IN KALPA
Well I was skeptical when I thought of hitting the Indian roads. With much of my earlier road tripping done in Tibet and parts of France, I had preconceived notions about the surprises that a road trip in India would pose. Especially with the twist, turns, unfinished roads and what not. Am sure you’d agree that the madness of a road trip is in those very same amazingly unexpected moments, as also when nature presents a view like no other. True every time I’ve hit the road.
Drive Responsibly : Stay Safe
Does driving on Indian roads need special care? A lot also depends on the automobile you are driving and your panther like reflexes. But truth be told, I have always felt it is better to be safe than sorry. I was in an SUV and would totally like to share how to make a road trip to the mountains, one without glitches:
Safety done, here’s the welcoming part
While this was my first road trip in India it was also my first into the mountains from the Indian side. And I was quite taken by the changing colors of the landscape. It was almost winter, yet the gentle curves and slopes looked just as vibrant. Yellowish greens, browns and the occasional purple and red greeted us, with canopies carved out of mountains (making a road) that made me feel at times like a sandwich.
Chandigarh to Kalpa is a ride on the national highway and needs a truly confident driver especially once you get closer to the precariously perched rocks. We took turns to drive before we finally handed over the reins of the beast (yes you do need one on these roads) to the steady & supremely chilled out local driver.
DISCOVERING INDIA THROUGH HER MOUNTAINS
I was there in early December & before I left for the trip I was told snowfall was more than a month away. While one does assume that December is winter time, the sun, sand and warm weather lover in me didn’t quite anticipate the freeze point. Tiny waves of cool were slowly turning nippy when I did the oft done, ‘wind in my hair’ act. Sticking my head out of the window & picking up local delicacies to salivate on, was precisely the reason why I wanted to slip into co-passenger mode. But by the time we started to get closer to Narkanda the mesmerizing colors of the sky stalled us right there. We simply pulled over for a long-ish ’till sunset shades dance in the sky’ tea break
(The deep maroon color of tea when being brewed, competes with the sunset skies at Kufri)
A stop over was inevitable as the morning light gave us magical moments
The halt at Narkanda was scribbled into our itinerary but we really saw the beauty of it only once dawn broke. The place we stayed in was pretty much like an isolated home in the hills. A hotel really, but which idiot travels on a holiday at the cusp of winter!! So all of it was ours, as was the lavishness of the service.
(Tethys Ski Resort at Narkanda was entirely ours for the evening/night. What timing!)
It was the much needed break after many hours of driving & got us all charged up for the long awaited destination, Kalpa. There is something so calming and colorfully delightful about Himachal Pradesh. The people who we met along the way were full of smiles. It seems like the world outside was far far away and well, very much outside. Was it the weather that kept them cool headed? Perhaps the crackling greens and lush countryside during summers that made their clothes just as vibrant or the climbing of many hills and the sometimes rough life that got them to be so warm and friendly? We know how we all too often, try to strike a balance! Sadly I have no pictures to share of these lovely people. So back to the road, skies and unending ranges.
(Tons of roads carved out of these magnificent ranges make reaching Kalpa possible. They are as much an engineering marvel just as they are petrifying for a city driver)
I must admit we were happy that the timing we chose meant less vehicles on the road. So we stopped over at places were we could see the River Sutlej even closer. It was surely at its prettiest as we entered the Kinnaur Valley. That’s when we realized we needed more warm clothes despite all the reading up we’d done. Reckong Peo (the HQ of Kinnaur District), was our savior. I still remember the giggles of a few school children who found me overdressed with 2 sweaters above my already thick pullover. I wondered if my phone app got it wrong after all.
Weather reports be damned really. Our biggest surprise was just 14 hours away. That is what made my stay in the Paradise of Kalpa ~ The Grand Shambala so divine.
(Sutlej was our constant companion en route to Kalpa and on our return journey too. But it reminded us often about how we were messing with its natural flow)
(Kalpa in sight and the Kinnaur Kailash mountains loom large. How I still envy that birds’ eye view)
These were just glimpses of the trip. The most hypnotizing captures though, were on my iPhone 6 once I woke up the next morning.
Have you been to Kinnaur too? If so, I wonder if we are kindred spirits!