The Nano Planning
The dream of going to Sangla Valley has been haunting me since the day I saw the pictures of the beautiful valley in MHE Adventures website. It took almost a year to finalize the dates and go for it in a Nano from Carzonerent – Myles’ self-drive division. They rent the self-drive Nano at just Rs. 2700/- a week. Cool right? It will also be an opportunity to test this tiny car with its 624cc engine. Ponni and I finalized and got our leaves sanctioned. Hearing about the trip, Ben (our British intern) also got interested and decided to join. Finally we three decided to start from Delhi on 21 April 2015 night.
Best Place for Breakfast!
We started at 9:30 PM from Delhi and reached Shimla by 8 AM with around 3 hours of rest in between. We parked our car in an authorized parking space and walked towards Mall Road, had our breakfast from Wake n Bake (one of the best restaurants in Shimla specialized in European dishes). Explored Shimla and headed to Narkanda by 11:30 AM.
“The Agyaat Vaas”
The next challenge was reaching Agyaat Vaas, hidden in the pine forest at an altitude of 3200m. The leading road is a narrow one with just enough space for a car to drive through; making it scarier with steep climbs and deep drops on the edges. The smooth climb in the first and second gear climb was slow but Nano made it steadily till the top. The warm and hospitable staff of Agyaat Vaas was ready to receive us in the entrance and walked us through the snow path to the hidden haven. After having delicious lunch we went for a trek in the beautiful meadows nearby, through pine forests and with some breathtaking views in between. The snow clad mountains playing hide and seek throughout the trek. After spending an hour we trekked back via Hatu peak, the highest peak in the area at an altitude of 3400m. We decided to sleep after having an early dinner as Ponni got totally sick with all the sleeplessness, motion sickness, altitude effect and the easy trek.
After breakfast we started our drive to Sangla by around 09:30 am. Never knew this was going to be a day of ultimate adventure and fun. 10 KM from Narkanda we, realized that the brakes are spongy and the car is not stopping. This was the first problem with the car after a long 450 KM journey of of hill and plain drive. Ben and I both got a little nervous and worried as Ponni was already lying down at the back with barely any energy to even wake up and sit straight, and now the brakes had also given way. Slowly using the hand brakes and the spongy paddles, we drove to the first service station. The mechanic there suggested that this condition may also be due to dust and mud, so mounted the car in the service ramp and gave a good wash. Surprisingly he was right, brakes worked perfectly after that.
Ponni's health was deteriorating very badly so we took her to a clinic in Rampur and the doctor diagnosed her to be completely dehydrated and prescribed IV fluids and an injection to stop the continuous vomting. After a good two and a half hours of delay, we again started our drive with fair warnings from the doctor and the people around that the roads ahead are treacherous for a Nano to drive through. But all this was simply boosting our excitement to test it.
The Treacherous Diversion
Two more hours of drive through river Sutlej valley, we reached a mud track with lots of loose rocks, water and slush - bad road! But the Nano was cruising smoothly through the bumpy mud track.
Fun & excitement growing, we hit the board saying Sangla 28 KM. “Ben we are almost there, just 28 KM more" I screamed. "Alright it’s time for a driver swap last leg is mine" Ben commented. One more kilometer after the swap we hit the diversion of 31 KM from Tapri which would join back to the highway about 3 KM ahead. The diversion was a narrow mud track just winding upwards to a mountain just wide enough for a car to drive through. We were filled with both excitement and desperation as it was getting dark and the diversion itself is 31 KM drive through some extremely dangerous mud tracks.
We continued the drive just to find that the road is more scary and dangerous than we imagined. To make the drive worse were the traffic jams and long delays of more than 40 minutes in two places where landslides were being cleared. By around 7:45 pm we were again on the main highway heading towards Kinner Camps owned by Pradeep Negi an ex-MHE employee and now the proud owner of one of the most beautiful camps in the Sangla valley!
Disaster before Destination
We swapped driving again and reached Karcham, here we had to take a diversion to Sangla from the highway toward Chitkul. We had heard that the roads opened only by evening after a major rock fall. We were totally tired and starving but the positive spirit gave us energy for the last one hour drive to reach Sangla. Just 3 KM short of Sangla we had to stop due to a major rock fall which took place just 15 mins back and blocked the road. We got disappointed and confused on what to do. We called Pradeep and took his advice and crossed across the scree with the help of the locals to get us picked up by the car he was sending for us. It took us 15 minutes to reach the other side and in another 10 minutes help arrived. We drove to Kinner camp, 6 KM ahead of Sangla in the village of Batseri.
We were served with delicious dinner in the camp after an unexpected warm welcome. The tents were so cozy and warm. We were given hot water bottles also - for additional warmth if required. Morning we woke up around 6 AM, came out of the tent and stood awestruck by the jaw dropping scenery in front. The beauty we saw in front of us was beyond what I can explain here in words. It was like you travelled all this long to reach heaven. Just as reaching heaven is not an easy way, reaching Sangla valley was not an easy drive but the reward we got after reaching is worth the drive. After morning tea we walked across the Baspa River through a beautiful old wooden bridge and reached a temple in Batseri Village. We spent around two hours just clicking photos and enjoying the beauty of the place. Came back to camp and had a refreshing breakfast sitting in the dining hall overlooking the beautiful valley. After breakfast it was time for us to drive to Chitkul Village (last village at the Indo Tibetan Border). Pradeep offered us his car and we drove to Chitkul 24 KM from Kinner Camps. The complete drive is captivated by breathtaking sceneries of high white snow peaks and beautiful green valleys of pine forest.
Chitkul – The last village on the Indo Tibetan Border
Chitkul is a small village with nearly 500 to 600 inhabitants. The village is dotted with many home stays and hotels, many just getting constructed which are definitely ruining its old charm and beauty. From the village at an altitude of 3450m, you get a panoramic view of the surrounding valleys and the mountains. After spending a couple of hours strolling around through the narrow streets, interacting with the natives and clicking photos we reached camp for a late lunch. While having the lunch, wind picked up and the rain clouds started gathering. Rain followed soon after and we got the wonderful opportunity to enjoy the chilling rain with strong winds in the Sangla valley. It’s really beautiful to see the valley completely drenched after a good rain - everything seems refreshed including oneself!
We planned to go for a trek to the glacier on the opposite side of the valley in the morning and early morning we woke up and started a gradual trek to the glacier through the fairy tale kind of Batseri village and finding our way towards the glacier through the banks of the water streams flowing down. After about an hour of trek we finally reached our destination, wow! Usually this glacier disappears by summer. Seeing these fresh disappearing glaciers really made us think about the effects of global warming on the huge glaciers around the world.
The lost Keys – and a day gained!
Reaching the camp we found that the roads are again blocked due to landslides and rock falls in the previous day rain. While packing our bags and waiting for the road to open we realized that the car keys are missing. All hell broke loose and we started a massive search for the keys. Pradeep’s camp staff also joined in the search but all in vain. I had locked the car and I was responsible for the keys, I did everything possible to try and remember what I could have done with them but hit a blank. Stupid me how can I be so irresponsible, I cursed myself. Lots of ideas came into discussion all three of us sitting in the dining hall leaning and supporting our heads with hand. Then as a last resort called up the Carzonerent and organized the key to be sent to Shimla in a Delhi - Volvo bus and then got it interchanged to a connecting bus towards Reckong Peo. We received the precious key the next evening from Karcham.
What a Journey!
Losing the keys was a blessing in disguise as we got one more full day to explore Sangla and be in the cradle of nature. We hired a taxi to take us to Karcham and back to collect the key. On the way back from Karcham we drove the Nano to camp thus completing the adventure and proving Nano to be good enough to travel in this mountainous terrain.
Monday morning 5:00 AM we started our drive back to Delhi, took an overnight stop in Shimla and reached back in Delhi by 4:00 PM. And that ends yet another beautiful, adventurous and excitement filled trip, with lots of good memories and few good lessons learned.
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