Not many of us have learnt to live in solitude! Although I have! One could say, it is a bane of living alone. One was craving respite from the dreary work and mundane urban life. I dreamt of being high up in the Himalayas, amidst snow-capped peaks, with the velvety feel of snow, sipping ginger lemon tea and having hot pakoras. And I thought, might as live this dream and do a road trip! Searching for respite, I took an Audi Q3 to Chhitkul, which is the last village on the Indo-China border and realised that mountains are so much better as a holiday destination than a beach!
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The Audi Q3 fit the bill as my companion for the road trip. Compact, rugged, comfortable and the most important bit, it had a colour which stood out against the white of the snow! So, the kind folks at Audi India were gracious enough to lend me an Audi Q3 for the road trip! And it was decided! I would take the Audi Q3 up to Chhitkul, the last village on the Indo-China border, in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh! The route up was supposed to be scenic and the tourist crowd less as well. So that was one big plus in my book. The route was from Delhi to Chandigarh, Chandigarh to Narkanda and from Narkanda to Chhitkul via Sangla.
Day 1: Delhi to Narkanda
Narkanda is a small town, situated about 60 kilometres ahead of Shimla. The first day consisted of a rather uneventful drive from Delhi to Chandigarh with a quick breakfast stop! Chandigarh to Shimla took more time than usual, thanks to hordes of tourists heading to the Himachali capital. It was late night before we reached Narkanda and the only left to do upon reaching was to have a quick dinner and hit the sack, because the next day would begin bright and early.
Day 2: Narkanda to Sangla
Deep in the heart of Kinnaur district lies a small village called Sangla. Nestled in the Baspa valley, Sangla is one of those places which is not exactly touristy. Plus, the road towards Sangla, from Narkanda is not exactly tarmac. If you get lucky, you will get a kachcha road, if not, one had to settle with a path peppered with rocks. The reason being that this area sees a lot of mountain blasting! Therefore, you get a lot of round and sharp edged rocks for most of the way till Sangla. In fact, once you turn off from the main highway at Karchham, then there is a just a steep, rocky trail, which take to you Sangla. The drive is breath-taking and the views are literally to die for. Because even the tiniest of errors mean you drop your way into the valley below!
Day 3: Sangla
Once we did reach Sangla, it was almost as if the mountain gods decided to shower us with beautiful weather. Clear blues skies, with snow-capped peaks and vistas that really do take your breath away! The morning was spent having a leisurely breakfast of local bread and chutney made of cream and fresh veggies! Yes, it is true, and it was delightful.
The freshly baked bread itself was satiating enough but eaten with the 'Malai chutney' as it is called, there was an explosion of delicate flavours in one's mouth. The crunch of the tossed vegetables coated with silken yet lightly spiced fresh cream was delectable. Once the sumptuous breakfast was had, we decided to hike to the nearby river and do nothing but spend time doing nothing, maybe gazing at the frothy rapids, idly throw rocks in. The day was spent in blissful solitude, taking everything easy and just enjoying the weather, which paired perfectly with hot chai and pakoras.
Day 4: Sangla to Chhitkul
After a full day of relaxing at Sangla, the next day we headed to Chhitkul, which is just 25 km from Sangla and is the last village on the Indo-China border. Although, the funny bit here is that the actual border is almost 60-70 km away from Chhitkul, but the road that leads to the border is out of bounds for tourists, travellers and even the local public. The road to Chhitkul is narrow, full of switchbacks and a gorgeous view of Baspa River. On one side, you have the river flowing in the valley down below, with the backdrop of tall peaks laden with snow and on the other you have beautiful apple orchards and quaint, wooden houses. It is the first village, at the beginning of the Baspa valley and the last village on the old Hindustan-Tibet trade route. It is small but bustling village, situated at an altitude of 11,320 feet.
Dotting the village are small eateries, with each having their own signboard that says 'Chhitkul, India's last village'. So one had to stop and take the customary photograph of the shining red Audi Q3 with one such board. You can also easily trek to the riverside and take fantastic photographs of the natural beauty all around. Plus, Chhitkul also serves as the base for a multitude of treks such as the Charang Valley trek, Kinnaur-Kailash Parikrama and more.
Chhitkul also has old Hindu and Buddhist temples along with an old fort, which is close to 500-600 years old. With the day well spent at Chhitkul, we headed back to Sangla for the night. The next day would be a long drive back from Sangla to Delhi. Which we were already dreading, not because of the bad roads but the fact that my road trip was coming to an end. Work beckoned and we had to heed its call! It was time to return to the dreaded drudgery of work life.
Travel and Accommodation
If you are planning to do a road trip towards the Baspa valley, we suggest the best way to go about it would be to break your trip at Narkanda and Sangla. The trip can be easily done in 5-6 days with good options for accommodation. Food and fuel is not going to be a problem either. We suggest you do the trip in an SUV with high ground clearance and a supple suspension that can take on the bad roads with ease.
And yes! You do need to have a strong back because there will be patches of road where your car and you will be tested to the limit. And this is where the Audi Q3 shined. Not only did the car kept us comfortable and safe but never did it give up when the going got tough.