Himachal, meaning the land of snow, starts to spread 360 km north of Delhi and amazes with its green valleys, snowy Himalaya peaks and fresh air. We found ourselves in Kalpa, a charming village and legendary winter home of Siva, surrounded by spectacular mountains, forests, criss-crossed with winding streets and steep slopes, where Tibetan and Mongol features are clearly visible.
Our journey from Rishikesh to Kalpa was obviously not without obstacles. As always, it was difficult to find out when and from where the busses depart, as there are no timetables and you get different responses to the same question.
Having arrived in Chandigarh for an unwanted stopover, due to a police raid no hotel wanted to accommodate us, so in the evening we queued for 2 hours and literally fought for a bus ticket to Shimla, our first destination in the mountains. On the bus at this late hour, Tadbir, a friendly Sikh, offered us to stay at his home in Solan and continue the next morning to the famous former colonial Shimla.
However, we found ourselves right in the middle of the high season and accommodation was ridiculously expensive. Shimla is nowadays the place to be for better-off Indian tourists, especially in June, and we wondered why, as there is nothing to do or to see.
We thus skipped going to the likewise touristy and rainy Dharmsala, home to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in Exile, in favour of heading east for the remote Sangla and Spiti Valleys near the Tibetan border. These valleys are among the most scenic in the entire Himalaya, bordered in the south by the impressive peaks of the Kinnaur Kailash Range of around 6000m altitude, which provide an effective barrier to the monsoon rains.
Despite the bumpy 12-hour bus ride with one of the common interruptions due to road conditions, we were quite happy to arrive in Kalpa as we could finally do some trekking and enjoy the great views!