The calm before the storm at Sangla

“Ready?” Pawan, our driver asks, smiling mischievously at me.

I am sitting in the front seat with Pawan and have a view of the road from the front windshield and the side window. I visibly gulp at the steep descent in front of us. We are in the Sangla Valley, just past the town of Sangla in the Kinnaur region of Himachal Pradesh, and have to negotiate that steep descent to reach Kinner Camps, where our group will be staying the next two days.

I look back to see the reaction of my travel companions, but there’s none β€” they’re all snoozing. I don’t blame them for it has been a tiring journey from Kalpa. A distance of 40 km has taken us almost 4 hours over impossibly bad roads, and past huge thermal power plant projects with the River Baspa as an almost constant companion.

Sangla Valley, Kinnaur, Himachal
Clockwise from left: Bad roads on the way to Sangla; a large thermal power project; and the River Baspa

I nod nervously at Pawan and he takes off and within minutes we are at the entrance to Kinner Camps, which is at the end that descent. After thanking Pawan, I get out of the vehicle to find that my legs feel a little shaky. That’s when I realise just how nervous I was during the ride. Though I consider myself to be a good and hardy traveller, 5 days on the Himalayan roads have made me look at road travel in a new light. Respect.

We are welcomed by the staff of Kinner Camps and led straight for a sumptuous lunch. By the time we finish our meal, our bags have been unloaded and waiting outside our rooms.

Posh camping ! That’s the term that comes to my mind when I see our tented accommodation complete with an attached bathroom πŸ™‚

Sangla Valley, Kinnaur, Himachal
Kinner Camps and my tent room

A quick wash and, we’re off to explore our surroundings. Kinner Camps is on the banks of the river Baspa and I’m eager to get down there. But that is for later in the evening for we first head towards the nearby Batseri village.

Sangla Valley, Kinnaur, HimachalBatseri is a Nirmal Gram Puraskar winning village. This is awarded by the Government of India to Gram Panchayats that are free from open- defecation and also follow guidelines for sanitation. Batseri wears this award like a proud badge.

I have generally found villages in Himachal Pradesh to be clean, but Batseri took cleanliness to a new level. Not only was the village clean and free of any garbage or waste, I did not see a single garbage bin !

Some impressions from my walk through the village:

Sangla Valley, Kinnaur, Himachal
A beautiful wooden house
Sangla Valley, Kinnaur, Himachal
A local shop, which was unfortunately closed at that time. I would have loved to see what was sold here.
Sangla Valley, Kinnaur, Himachal
The old and the new
Sangla Valley, Kinnaur, Himachal
Carrying fodder for animals
Sangla Valley, Kinnaur, Himachal, Batseri
A profusion of flowers, including roses, spilla over the compund wall of a house in Batseri
Sangla Valley, Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh,  Batseri
Jagged sunlight…
Sangla Valley, Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh, Batseri
A stack of firewood is all lined up and ready for the winter

Like most villages, Batseri too has a temple that is the centre of its existence – the Badrinarayan Temple. The current temple structure is a new construction which has been built entirely built from donations collected after the old temple collapsed in an earthquake. The Badrinarayan Temple is built in the traditional Himachali style of architecture with alternating bands of timber and stone and strong Tibetan influences as well.

Sangla Valley, Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh, Batseri
The Badrinarayan Temple at Batseri

The temple’s one striking feature is its heavily carved wooden doors and panels with Hindu gods and goddesses, the navagrahas, Hanuman, Garuda, Jesus, Guru Nanak, Buddha, Mahavira….

Sangla Valley, Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh, Batseri
Intricately carved wooden doors of the Badrinarayan Temple

But my favourite element in the Badrinarayan was the very life-like carving of the naag or King Cobra on the walls of the temple.

Sangla Valley, Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh, Batseri
The snake almost seems to come out of the temple !

It is close to sunset as we begin to make our way back to Kinner Camps via a different path. That’s when I notice the cloud cover. Dark cloud cover. Is it going to rain, I ask myself? It had been a bright sunny day otherwise and there had been no indication of rain at all.

I put that thought aside once the path enters a thick deodar forest. I get distracted by all the pebbles and ferns and mosses and lichens and the River Baspa. It is a beautiful walk and the flash of blue together with the murmer and gurgle of the Baspa as he made his way through the valley is like music to my ears.

 

Sangla Valley, Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh, Batseri
Wooden bridge across the Baspa

And then it begins raining. A light drizzle, but is enough make us hasten our footsteps for we are not really equipped for rain. The temperature drops almost immediately and it is with regret that I leave behind one of the most picturesque locations I have been to.

Once back at Kinner Camps, it is time for a hot shower and then onto dinner. It continues drizzling, and the first thoughts of concern started creeping in. But Doreen, our tour manager, isn’t too worried and is confident that the weather would clear up by morning. She has experienced such weather before having visited the area many times before.

Over dinner, the next day’s itinerary is discussed and by the time we finish eating, it has stopped raining as well. There is a collective sigh of relief at that and we decide to retire to bed early so that we can make an early start to the day as well.

As I get ready for bed, the rain starts again. It’s still a steady drizzle, but I am not too worried and I go to bed with the next day’s proposed visits to Chitkul and Kamru Fort buzzing in my head. “It will be sunny day tomorrow” are my last thoughts before I fall asleep.

I don’t realise, how wrong I would be.

PS: This is the first of two posts on the Sangla leg of my Himachal Trip. For the second and concluding part, click here.

23 thoughts on “The calm before the storm at Sangla

    1. Hello ji. How are you and how have you been. Long time no see, and no news either. Great to see you here after so long. And that too on a Himachal trip post. The second part is now published as well. πŸ™‚

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    1. Welcome here, Divrj. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. Glad you liked the post and I hope that you get to visit Batseri one day. Do keep visiting πŸ™‚

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  1. lovely!! i absolutely love that photo of the sun on the jagged peaks! sights like that make me want to go there NOW!! btw, why is the baspa male? any story there? and looking forward to the next one!

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    1. I have a whole series of pictures of the sun on the jagged peak as it moved up the mountain. Will show you when we meet. The rivers in Himachal are male and I don’t really know why. And FYI according to Kinnauri legend, the Sutlej and the Baspa are brothers.

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    1. Thanks, TGND. Batseri is beautiful and I thoroughly enjoyed my walk through the village. PS: The next post in the series is up, so you can read what happened next. πŸ™‚

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  2. Hi, nice post, all the more since we will traveling to Kinner Camp in a couple of days from Banjar – a good 8 hour drive. We will be traveling with two kids aged 11 and 6. Any words of advice based on your recent experience would be much appreciated. Thanks!

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    1. Hello Rajiv. Welcome to my blog and thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. Kinner Camps is a beautiful place; unfortunately we didn’t get to spend much time there as we had to leave due to bad weather (my latest blog post talks about that). Do remember that the roads are very bad, the weather unpredictable and if your driver is local, trust him. Mountain drivers are really the best. And yes, at Karcham do stop and see the confluence of the Baspa and the Sutlej. It’s a startling sight – one grey and one blue. Your kids will love it.

      Have a safe and wonderful trip.

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  3. I wanted to read all the three parts in one go and so kept putting it off till I got free. And here I am. Loved the king cobra carving. It does look like it is on a mission of reconnoitring and looks scary. Great pics. Off to read the other parts.

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    1. The cobra carving is one of the best that I have seen of snakes and as I mentioned in the post, also the only one of a King Cobra. I still wonder, why a King Cobra as it is not a native of the region.

      Very happy you liked the pictures, Zephyr. I wish I could claim credit for them though; Himachal is so beautiful that it is difficult for photos to appear otherwise πŸ˜›

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  4. After reading yr post, I am revisiting my plan to visit Sangla Valley (in just 5 days, that too time of journey included!). Should I change my plan as I have another plan also to visit Almora region (Binsar, jageshwar, bageshwar, Muktewshwar etc. in uttrakhand) as it is nearer to delhi…

    ok pls tell me one thing if I start at 8 Pm at night from delhi, when will I reach Karcham non stop?

    Pankaj Munjal

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    1. Pankaj. I’m not from Delhi and neither did I travel from there to Himachal. So I will not be able to help you with regard to travel times. As for whether to travel to Karcham non-stop, I would suggest that you should take a break somewhere like Fagu.

      As for changing your plan, that is entirely up to you. Please see my reply to your comments in othe other posts.

      With best wishes for your holiday.

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