Our trip started from Delhi on the 1st of June. We reached Shimla by evening and stayed the night. The next day we left for Kalpa by car. Reaching by midnight didn’t turn out to be a great start. We drove for almost the entire day and neither Kalpa nor Reckong Peo had any accommodation for us. The only places that were open offered increased tariff to our further dismay. Reach during the day and you will get affordable decent rooms to stay. We managed to find a guest house somewhere in Kalpa and spent the night there. We had decided to leave for Spiti valley the next morning by bus, leaving the car behind. The bus stand is in Reckong Peo, which is 8 kilometers from Kalpa and the bus leaves at 7 am for which you have to reach by 6 am to collect the tickets so staying the night in Reckong Peo is a better option.
We drove from Kalpa to Peo in the morning and left our car at the bus stand(which was completely safe). It was a 10-hour long bus journey from Peo to Kaza. The entire ride was extremely thrilling thanks to our bus driver, who was very cool by the way. He drove like a maniac but took us through the entire valley in less than 10 hours, while coming back took us 12 hours. The bus ride is better than a car ride(view-wise)since it is an elevated vehicle. You feel like you’re sitting on the edge of the road, one stone misplaced and down you go! Fortunately, that doesn’t happen. You see villagers being picked up from tiny villages on the way commuting to work. We had the company of a drunk-out-of-his-wits man. He was terrified and kept talking to Anunay but apparently not to distract himself. ‘Oh, so you’re an engineering student? Tell me what would happen if the brakes fail.’ Other than that, you will enjoy the mountains the most on this ride through the valley. Good music, chewing gum and water will do just fine for you. The bus stops midway for lunch for about half an hour. If you’re not in a hurry to go back, you can visit the other villages like Nako, Tabo, Dhankar on the way. The bus has the same routine every day and you can enquire with the locals about the daily bus schedule in the different villages.
We reached Kaza and got off the bus to see huge sand dune like mountains. No trees on them with something or the other written at places on them with white. We didn’t look around much and stumbled upon The Zangchuk guest house. The room was small and cozy with a terrific view. The fare was 300 rupees a night last year and the guest house has been renovated with the prices upgraded to Rupees 800 in a year. The village has become way more populated with tourists than last year because of the development of the roads. So I suggest you better go visit before it becomes like the other overcrowded hill stations that have become.
Things we love about Kaza:
Starry nights: After the sun goes down at 8, the night sky entirely fills with bright twinkling stars. You see numerous shooting stars cross the sky every night. If you really look, you might see the Earth’s satellite go above your head too. A couple of beers and a blanket with good music on the terrace of our guest house kept us loving the town every night.
The Zangchuk guest house: We had seen quite a few guest houses around in the village and this one certainly turned out to be the best. If you’re looking for a cheap accommodation with morning tea and great hosts, this should be your choice. The guest house is owned by a very sweet family of 4. They have managed to upgrade the entire place installing an independent kitchen in the corridors for the visitors. All this with an amazing view from the terrace.
The market area: ‘Rangyul cafe’ owned by a boy from Manali serves the best Indian food in the village. They mainly serve Indian and Chinese. The Indian food is like we eat at home and such tastes can make you feel alive in these deserted cold areas. Also, this is the only restaurant that serves food till 10 30 at night. All the others shut down by 8 30-9 pm.
Everything from chocolate cookies to fresh baked bread at the German bakery is worth spending on.
Other than that, the market area provides you with gift shops, a lot more restaurants and a little bit of everything from alcohol shops to mechanics workshops.
The travel guide: If you are looking for adventure, the travel guide’s office(next to the German bakery) is your best bet. He, once having been a trek guide arranges treks to wherever you want to go in the area(with a guide) and even invite you for drinks in the evening to celebrate the freedom of traveling. Not only will he provide you with all the details, he might even offer whatever he can afford to. (if he sees the real travel spirit in you)
The riverside: Zangchuk’s owner’s son took us out this year to the riverside to wash our car. You can ask the locals about the place which is hardly a kilometer away from the end of the village. People take their bikes and cars across the river to get their tyres clean. Locals go down to relax after a day of heavy work.
The open meadow: Along the market lane, there is a right turn along a general store to more restaurants, a school in the end and the way to the open meadow where farmers are busy working. This is a place to see in the evening if you are in Kaza as it offers a magnificent view. The mountains surround you and you can sit on the rare green grass of the village and listen to the winds mumble. Don’t forget to greet the farmers on the way, though!
Juley! is the form of hello in the valley and they love to see you smiling and waving back. Do let the villagers hitchhike if you have a vehicle of your own.
The best time to visit is in the summer since winter blocks the whole water supply of the village with a -40 degrees and the whole roads are blocked by snow. The only tourists seen in winter here are the ones who REALLY want to experience what its like to be stuck in snow for a while. There are a lot of places you can visit from here being Chicham village, Dhankar, Kee–Kibber, etc. which all are 2-3 hours away only. If you plan to trek to any of these, make sure you carry ample amounts of sunscreen, food, water and a pair of sunglasses. The sun is harsh and the winds are mouth drying. There will be a lot of options to hitchhike since this is the most urbanized village in the valley.
Shimla-the pretty queen of the hills, once the summer capital of the British empire has attracted people toward it’s charm since time immemorial. It acts as the perfect buffer from the city into the seclusion of the hills. A mini getaway from the city or a long trip around the hills, Shimla always allows me to feel at home, away from home. Being here, the town’s bakeries are a must visit. The fruit sellers lanes on the way to the mall(Lower Bazaar), the famous ‘lift’ under the Hotel Combermere(Named after Lord Combermere-the commander-in-chief of the British forces in India), the mall road will keep you enticed for an entire day in Shimla. There are various short treks you could take from Shimla, namely, Shaali Tibba, or the Jhakoo temple famous for it’s food-snatching monkeys.(Not at all dangerous, though). The view of the town at night from Shimla’s rooftops will leave you wanting for more, from the hills of Himachal Pradesh. Our Favorites: Trishool Bakery(Patties-a must have), Moti Mahal Restaurant(Beer), A slush corner next to the ice skating rink, Taking walks down the less crowded lanes of the mall road
Kalpa, a small town in the Sutlej river valley, famous for its apple orchards is a beautiful town in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh. You can see the Kinner-Kailash range(Shivling rock) change its color all day. It is said to change seven distinct colors. At a height of 9711 ft, it is quite cold even in the day. 8 kilometers away is Reckong Peo, the district headquarters of the Kinnaur district. Our favorite place to eat here is the Blue lotus restaurant. It also has reasonably priced rooms for staying. Every other place is comparatively expensively priced. A little monastery stands near the main market.
Kalpa is a civilized city-like village bearing the title of the headquarters of Spiti village. At a height of 11, 980 feet gets as cold as 0 degrees on a June summer night and as cold as -40 degrees on a winter night. This big village is a great spot for stargazers. The night sky is a sight full of twinkling stars, the moon overhead, the Earth satellite and a great many shooting stars.