Friday, June 6, 2014

A High Altitude Walk

A High Altitude Walk
Rakcham is a beautiful hamlet situated @10,000 feet altitude in the Sangla Valley of Kinnaur. One has to take a deviation in Karcham and drive on rugged roads to reach this place.  The village is surrounded by the high mountains of the Dhauladhar Range. The river Baspa meanders along the   serene charm of valley with its green meadows , and the simplicity of the locals will remain in your heart.The village is touted as a ‘modern village’, as it has its own post office. Parcels sent by international couriers reach this place finally through the trusty old P.O.
Wherever you go in Rakcham, you can hear the sound of the river Baspa, which flows along the main road. There is a new iron bridge constructed across the river. It is festooned with Buddhist prayer flags, for good luck. There are many delightful walks to take in Rakcham- you can walk to the woods and go further to the Glacier Point. There are many glaciers along the mountainside, feeding the river. One can also walk  10K along the Baspa  to reach the last village on the road,Chitkul , at a height of 11,300feet, ,at the Tibet border.
We started from our hotel in Rakcham after breakfast at 8 in the morning for the walk to Chitku. We should have started much earlier which we realized later. The road was a dusty mud road full of potholes, along the river Baspa. Since spring had not yet arrived in this part of the world, there were heaps of snow lying alongside the road in many places. As we walked further , a little calf started following us. He would not go back whatever we did. After about half a kilometer further, his owner met us with a load of firewood, and the calf followed her back home. Pravar and Gouri, who had recently run the Bombay Marathon, started running from there, and Ananya joined them.

The road had a gentle gradient, but my speed of walking was much reduced because of the high altitude. The sound from the river became suddenly stronger at some points. This happened wherever there were huge rocks on the other side of the road. These rocks, which had been cut to make the road, usually had curved surfaces. The convex surface acted as a convex mirror and focused the sound waves from the river, at a point on the road. Whenever we crossed such a focal point, the pleasing sound of the river became a deafening roar.
 Butterflies darted among the wildflowers, and birds were basking in the sun. The streams coming down from the mountains were still frozen. There were stands of the beautiful Deodar and Himalayan Pine trees. There was not a soul  but us on the road, for most part. The silence was a contrast to other places in the Himalayas, where  there are usually milling crowds and ponies carrying tourists. After walking for two hours, I came across a military check-point manned by ITBP.  The sentry had a cursory look at my identity card and started to chat.  Staying on that lonely road makes them hunger for some company. After a rest of 15 minutes, and a chat ranging from the election results to travelling in India, I bade the sentry farewell and was on my way.
Now I was walking above the tree line, and there was not a bush or tree for shade. The sun was beating down and the surrounding snow covered mountains were reflecting UVrays, making the last stretch very uncomfortable.  I could see harvested barley fields with boundaries of big round stones , in the valley. I was nearing human habitation. Suddenly, after a bend, there was a bridge across a stream. After crossing the bridge, the gradient in the road became noticeably more. I was thankful to see the slate roofs of Chitkul after a while. I had reached the last village in India!
 A natural sound enhancer
 Sangla valley
Baspa River
Chitkul village at the Tibet border.