Chitkul, Baspa valley Kinnaur : blog by Sandhya Sourirajan

The sign board read “हिंदुस्तान का आखरी ढाबा” (The last dhaba of Hindustan) as we reached Chitkul after witnessing some amazing views along Sangla and Rakcham. The 22km journey from Sangla to Chitkul is nothing short of a roller coaster ride when it’s done with HRTC buses, thanks to the bumpy pathways. With a lot of tourists flocking this village every day, it isn’t the same remote and peaceful village it used to be several years back as a lot of commercial guest houses and eateries have come in here. Though Chitkul is a lovely place, it’s first view may seem to a dampener after Sangla and Kamru in terms of natural beauty after all the buzz about Chitkul. Some irresponsible tourism and rampant construction has made this village a thriving business for few.

Chitkul , Kinnaur
The dhaba was nowhere to be seen, but the board still remains. Aashish, me and Anand couldn’t resist a selfie with this popular board.

After reaching Chitkul, we met the Lamkhaga pass group with Happy Negi, Rajiv and Sonu Negi and checked into a guest house. We were ten trekkers and the plan was start the Lamkhaga pass trek the next day from Chitkul. The group of five from Pune had booked a SUV from Chandigarh and reached Chitkul few hours before us. Kohinoor and Hiren from the group were telling me how calm and serene Chitkul used to be two years back, when they both had come here during a bike trip. Aditya from Bangalore had reached Chitkul two days prior to the trek for better acclimatization. Anand had rested for a day in Kalpa before boarding the bus from Peo to Chitkul, and we had met Anand in the bus that we had boarded from Sangla to Chitkul.

The Mathi devi temple in Chitkul is said to be the last point of the Kinnaur Kailash Parikrama
The Mathi devi temple in Chitkul is said to be the last point of the Kinnaur Kailash Parikrama

After lunch and some rest, the five member Pune group decided to hike up a few kms for their acclimatization walk till the ITBP checkpost, while Anand, Gautham, Aashish and I were out to explore Chitkul, starting with the Mathi devi temple.

There is some marvellous wooden art in Mathi devi temple. But the traditional Kinnauri stone roofs have been replaced with sheets in the newer constructions.
There is some marvellous wooden art in Mathi devi temple. But the traditional Kinnauri stone roofs have been replaced with sheets in the newer constructions.

We reached the Mathi devi temple to find two small kids– Anirudh and Rishabh. Anirudh, with all his childish innocence was telling Rishabh how Katappa had killed Bahubali in part 1 and the revenge that had followed on part 2. With the Bahubali fever gripping the entire nation in May (Bahubali part 2 had released in May 2017), I could never imagine that it’s waves would have reached the last village of India. This was one of the cutest memories I can recall from my Chitkul visit as Anirudh in all his innocence narrated few scenes to his friend. Probably for the first time in my life, I felt motivated to go and watch a masala movie the way Anirudh had described it.

Anirudh and Rishabh, who had returned to their home for vacations show me their home and every nook and corner of Chitkul village
Anirudh and Rishabh, who had returned to their home for vacations show me their home and every nook and corner of Chitkul village

After a quick introduction, Anirudh and Rishabh become our tour guides for Chitkul. They proudly announced to their family members on the way that they have made friends with tourists and are taking them around. The children took us to two more temples which according to them had some more statues, but the temples were closed. Nevertheless, we had a great time there playing and clicking pictures with some more kids in the temple corridor. After sometime, the kids took me around the village and though there was nothing much in the village, I ended up seeing their homes, post office and meeting more kids in play grounds. Then we reached the spot where lot of children were playing cricket and an excited Anirudh joined them for fielding.

Every valley has its own jugaad to find a pitch for playing cricket
Every valley has its own jugaad to find a pitch for playing cricket

While Aashish and Anand were playing there, Anirudh and Rishabh took me to the nearby playground where more kids were playing volleyball. After some 10-15 minutes in this place, the most unexpected thing happened and I ended up twisting my ankle during the volleyball game. With a strenuous 100km Lamkhaga Pass trek setting to start the next day, I was just hoping that this ankle sprain doesn’t turn out to be a show stopper and some kind of magic happens before the trek.

The view of Baspa river in the backdrop of the snow capped peaks was beyond words
The view of Baspa river in the backdrop of the snow capped peaks was beyond words

In an attempt to keep things moving, Anand and Aashish tried convincing me that the pain must subside in a while and that we could just move around the valley. So we moved towards the Baspa river and were joined by Gautam there. After 10-15 minutes of limping, I finally managed to reach the Baspa river. The views from this spot were beyond amazing. After a some more time there, I decided to give some rest to my ankles and limp back to my guest house. The rest of the day went by as the people in the guest house tried out all possible things from hot water massage, few drops of kerosene to mustard oil massage to get my legs back to shape and to prevent swelling in my ankles.

The view from the Baspa valley
The view from the Baspa valley

The night just went by. It was 20th May 2017, and as per schedule 10 of us were to start for the Lamkhaga pass trek from Chitkul in the morning after our breakfast. I woke up that day with an even more painful ankle. Thanks to the encouragement provided by Gautam ji and timely medicines by our group pharmacist Kohinoor Indrani, I was able to make up my mind to go ahead with the trek with a crepe bandage and some painkillers. After breakfast in Chitkul, we finally moved further up and in few minutes, Chitkul was out of our view.

The valley views from the top of Chitkul
The valley views from the top of Chitkul

The sojourn in Chitkul will stay in my memory for a long time. The time spent with the kids, the mesmerizing views near the Baspa river, badly twisting my ankle and finding the encouragement and support to move ahead with a strenuous trek are few memories that I would cherish throughout my lifetime.

Chitkul has become a thriving business for many commercial establishments
Chitkul has become a thriving business for many commercial establishments

Chitkul is a tiny hamlet set in scenic surroundings. If you are visiting this place while touring around Kinnaur, leave behind only your footsteps here, and not the plastics or your garbage footprints. Irresponsible tourism and rampant commercialization has resulted in mountains of plastics in these remote villages of Kinnaur, which lack the facilities to recycle or process the non-biodegradable waste. Do your bit for the environment by carrying back any non-biodegradable waste along with you instead of littering them in these hills, alongside appreciating the scenic beauty of our “Incredible India”.

Highlights:
Mathi devi mandir
Baspa valley and river view

Reaching Chitkul: Chitkul is 380 kms from Chandigarh and the travel may take 15 to 16 hours. Delhi to Chitkul is approx 600 kms. Below is the approach route for Chitkul:
Shimla ⇒ Kufri ⇒ Narkanda ⇒ Rampur ⇒ Karcham ⇒ Sangla ⇒ Rakcham ⇒ Chitkul

Public transport: There is no direct bus from Shimla to Chitkul. There are few buses running between Peo, Pooh, Sangla and Chitkul.