About an hour before the bus from Kaza could come by, I stood by the road. There was also a silent Indian and a woman from Spiti standing there, she started talking to me. She is a teacher. It was Saturday and actually school, but she had to pick up her daughter from another school a few kilometres away. We saw few vehicles but none wanted to start in our direction. But then a taxi came and the woman asked: he would drive me to Reckong Peo for 500 INR (about 6 Euros), she could come with him the few kilometres to school and the Indian could also come for a fee. That seemed like a good deal to me and I could also sit in the front. The driver was Nepalese from the Jumla region near Rara Lake, but he and his parents had been living in Reckong Peo for a long time, where they had a good job. He not only drove passengers but also some kind of cargo – and that is exactly why he drove that route that day. So his paying passengers were a good extra income.
The road was really great to look at, it went through the mountain desert, at Nako, where in the past landslides always led to road closures, a new road had been built high above the river, it went quite close to the Tibetan border and then it slowly became more greener until you leave Spiti before Reckong Peo and enter Kinnaur province. I had got a permit in Kaza at the beginning, which could have been checked at the homestay trek area, but nobody wanted to see it there. But here it was checked in two places. As it was not “my taxi”, we did not stop for photos, but I took pictures from the car, which was not ideal because of the light conditions. But no matter – I enjoyed the route very much!
Overall, it seems to me that the roads in India have improved a lot in recent years, but they still often break down in the mountains and you have to rebuild here, repair there and asphalt a lot. Everywhere you see teams of road workers, whose working conditions are miserable, but not quite as gruesome as 20 years ago. India doesn’t seem to run out of work in the next few decades, there is still a lot to do to reach a really great standard.
I had booked accommodation in Kalpa via booking.com, which had good reviews and a room with a mountain view. However, this was my second mistake after the first one in Manali with Eva weeks ago. It wasn’t horrible, but I had imagined something very different. It started with me needing to be picked up and the owner talking a constant “YesMam”. You sometimes get that with guides – it’s supposed to be polite, but to me it sounds rather mechanically submissive and I tend to be allergic to it. The house was in the middle of the forest with a very bumpy road and was far from finished. The family lived downstairs, the first floor was a building site and the next floor was my room – completely without a mountain view but with a tree view. The trees not only blocked the mountain view but also the sun and so the room was cold. Not how I had imagined it. Emotionally, it hit me hard, I was probably unreasonably unhappy and also felt uncomfortable because of the remoteness. I guess sometimes it gets like that on trips like this. What now? First I went out to see if I could find better accommodation. It was quite a climb to Kalpa. It’s a nice place, but I wasn’t thrilled with it either – especially after I saw a few accommodations and found them suboptimal. As it was also already later, I decided to stay this one night instead of the planned two and then set off again.
So Kalpa is beautifully situated, has old wooden temples, but actually a walk is enough. Here are the pictures:
The next day, my misfortune continued. Mr. “YesMam” took me to the bus station, from where one soon drove to Sangla Valley, where I wanted to go – but that was also different from what I had expected. I had already been to Sangla Valley in 1999 and remembered that I thought it was quite pretty, but strangely children threw stones at me and so I actually wanted to give it another chance. What I didn’t remember was the road. I am actually quite fearless when it comes to Indian (mountain) roads and sit confidently in buses that drive along precipices. But not this time. I was sitting on the precipice side and could see how steep it was going down and how narrow the road was and in general – in short: I was really scared. But what now – get out and squat at altitude? Hold on – it should be over soon? I held on, but decided to take a taxi for the return journey, which seemed safer than a bus.
Sangla itself, however, didn’t really sweep me off my feet. I found a nice café, left my luggage there and started looking for accommodation – but no luck! It was either closed or empty or dingy and awful. The mountains were quite pretty, but I didn’t want to stay without nice accommodation. In fact, I continued to feel lonely, lost and disoriented. So back to the main road – luckily a taxi driver quoted an acceptable price. In the small car it went with not so much fear and I took some pictures:
I didn’t capture it very well, but this Film gives a better impression (the beginning is already sufficient).
So I was back on the big road, which comes from Spiti and leads to Shimla and then sort of on to Delhi. I was there almost 5 weeks ago and we were stopped by a landslide. It had now been repaired to such an extent that it was possible to drive well again. I had to wait a while, but then a bus came to Rampur (between Sarahan and Shimla).
In Rampur it was already dark and I wondered whether I should take the 7pm bus to Shimla and somehow drive through the night or what, looked up accommodation options on my mobile, found a nice-looking one, called and was offered an acceptable price. But how to get there? The bus station was a bit far from town and I couldn’t spot a taxi. I asked someone here (shoulder shrug) and someone there. “There” was a man on a smaller motorbike who spoke little English but was very very helpful. He invited me onto his motorbike – with the large backpack on my back, the smaller backpack between us and my jacket in my arms, we roared off. He had another place in mind, but I showed him the one on my mobile and offered him money for another ride. No, no! Get back on! And then he took me to the fancier accommodation, made sure I got in and sped off again, really not wanting anything. The big thank you was enough for him.
I got even more discount and took a hot shower, sank down on a soft mattress and wrapped myself in a clean blanket. Yay! It was so pleasant that I extended a night the next morning.
Rampur has a fancy castle next to the hotel and a cheap lunch place:
Then all was well with the world again and my hours of resentment were over. But India wouldn’t be India if things didn’t happen again afterwards! Bad and good……