A village that the Raj forgot

Published: 09th June 2013 12:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th June 2013 10:57 AM   |  A+A-

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Kalpa is known for its pleasant weather and views of Kinner Kailash range of mountains. Legend has it that Kinner Kailash is the winter abode of Shiva. At a distance of approximately 250km from Shimla, it can take the whole day to reach here. Roads are decent, at least for the standard of terrain, and it is not too hard to drive. Buses connect Shimla with Rekong Peo town, and Kalpa is a short 30 minute away from there. You can combine your visit to Kalpa with Sangla and Chitkul known for their mountain scenery. There are some budget to mid-range accommodation available in the village, and should not be hard to find a place except on weekends of peak seasons. Summers here are pleasant, and I was told that it can get really cold in winter.

Being in Rekong Peo, the big town just before Kalpa, is like returning to ‘normal world’ from mountains of unlikely scale, desert-like climes and altitudes running to five digits. And life is also ‘normal’—almost like in the plains—motor traffic increases several folds, there are people everywhere, and the town has every kind of commerce you will see in a town of its size anywhere in the country. Wide roads with good tarmac that was unimaginable till now in Spiti, takes you through the town and then into Kalpa. It is still not a place flat enough to have football grounds, but is a far less forgiving landscape than in the high altitude desert we had left behind.

The road climbs steeply from Rekong Peo to Kalpa but driver Mangal takes it fast and easy, after being through the terrible roads for many days. Apple orchards and other cultivation dominate the vegetation, with a few small strips of coniferous growth here and there.

Once in a while we see signs of guesthouses indicating that it is a well visited place. There aren’t too many of them though, and fortunately bigger and plush hotels have not yet arrived here. But that doesn’t mean Kalpa can be be put in ‘undiscovered’ category. Tourists from Delhi, tired of going back to Shimla every year and wanting to explore newer locations, come here in good numbers to escape the summer heat. Once entering the village, small guesthouses are everywhere, and a construction in progress springs up every hundred metres. It can almost get classified as a hill station sans the Raj influence. Don’t be surprised if you arrive here 10 years down to see a few Oberois, Tajs and Hiltons complete with a mall-road where people juggle for space.

Kalpa’s pleasant weather is only second of its major attractions. It is the view of Kinner Kailash ranges on the other side of the valley that pulls in people here. Nearly every guesthouse proudly displays posters of these mountains bathed in golden light of early winter evenings. Unfortunately we were there on a time when it was cloudy half the time, although not completely betrayed of the views. But having been soaked in the grandeur of Spiti where we walked right in those high mountains, Kinner Kailash suddenly seemed far away and less impressive from the distance we were in. But that is not to undermine the great views of these snow-clad peaks. It is a good place to rewind and relax and is an ideal long weekend getaway from heat and dust. And yes, definitely much better than Shimla.

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