When I first read about Chitkul in Himachal Pradesh a couple of years ago, I was simply fascinated. Maybe it had something to do with me voraciously reading about spirituality and Sat-Chit-Ananda those days. The name struck a chord; Chit – is Consciousness and I often wondered whether Chitkul was named by someone who found truth in this village in the lap of Himalayas. Will I find mine there, I wondered? I mentally recorded Chitkul in my list of places to visit and wished for fulfillment.
During the Rupin Pass Trek, in conversation with other co trekkers, I realised that Chitkul is very close to Sangla Valley where the trek ends. Some of us were keen to visit Chitkul and we made a plan to start early and descend to Sangla at a very fast pace so that we could spend half a day in Chitkul.
Walking through Paradise, Rupin Pass Trek
The one hour ride from Sangla to Chitkul in an open vehicle was a trip to remember. With the gushing Baspa on one side and steep mountains on the other we were driving on dangerous terrain. I could feel the thrill in the pit of my stomach as the vehicle negotiated steep turns around the mountains crushing the fallen stones. The valley opened up after crossing picturesque Rakchham which has nice facilities for adventure activities The small plotted green patches down below were potato and pea fields that are supposedly the best produce in India.
It was almost past lunch time when we reached Chitkul. We followed the board and arrows to Hindustan’s last Dhaba only to be told that food was over. A little ahead was another hotel which to my utter surprise had a board in Bengali. Apparently, with the number of Bengali tourists thronging Chitkul, it made sense for them to have this board and attract them in. Travel is a great unifier across languages and class 🙂The lady of the hotel kindly seated us in and offered to quickly make a curry, Rajma (red beans), some chapatis and rice. True to her word, food was ready in 20 mins and it was far more delicious than I had thought.
After lunch, we walked around the pretty houses in the village. Most of them had tinned roofs which were glistening in the sun. Every house was clean and well kept and the subtle signs of prosperity in the form of dish tv antennas, the smart phones were not to be missed. It is heart warming to see people eke out a decent living in extreme circumstances, something you do not always find in the other hill states.
The tall pagoda style temple stood out among the low roofed house. As we negotiated our way to the temple, we passed by the new temple which was closed mid afternoon. The wood carvings on the ceilings were detailed and exquisite. The skilled local craftsmen had definitely created it with lot of patience and care. We sat around the stone steps for a while, partly for respite from the harsh afternoon sun and partly to soak in the ambiance.
We were walking back towards our vehicle when a small wooden structure which appeared like a room atop a gurgling side stream caught our eye. I trudged a few steps to find a flour grinder being operated by the hydro power generated from the gushing water. An old lady was sitting by it watching over the operation. It was for everyone’s use in the village. There could be no better example than this for responsible, community living preserving ecology !! We city dwellers definitely need a lesson or two from the mountains, where extreme situations trigger innovation for sustenance.
While returning, we drove towards the check post, shook hands with the men in uniform and thanked them for their hard work protecting the borders. We crossed many vehicles with men, women, young boys and girls proudly sporting the green Himachali cap. They were returning from a local festival with a song on their lips. Every visit to mountains engulfs me with silence. I wish I had more time in Chitkul to walk aimlessly towards the infinite horizon in search of that !!
Chitkul is about 26kms from Sangla and can be done as a day trip. Alternatively, you can stay in Rakchham between Chitkul and Sangla which has a nice resort. The homestays in Chitkul are very basic though the food is homely and good. We paid Rs 2000/- for a round trip from Chitkul for about 5 hours.