Updated: Jul 8
It was early May in Kulu/Manali, the season for cherries and roses. The cherry trees stooped to the ground with the weight of plump red cherries and every village garden had clusters and arches and boughs of roses. The mountainsides among the deodar trees were festooned with the wild white Himalayan rose.
Walking in these surroundings was an intoxicating experience. We took accommodation at the Alliance Guest House in Naggar, a village situated between Manali and Kulu on the east bank of the Beas River.
From our guest house nestled on the side of a hill we could clearly see the 500 year old Naggar Castle which commands spectacular views of the Beas River far below and the distant snow peaks.
Alliance Guest House, Naggar – our home away from home in the Kullu/Manali Valley of Himachal Pradesh. Although peaceful and comfortable, a yearning for more adventure set in and we decided to take the journey to Spiti Valley
The Rohtang Pass was a little late opening that year and we had to go south to Kulu. From Kulu we drove to Shoja, a small village just about five kilometres before entering the wondrous Jalorie Pass (3223m). The first structure that caught our eye was a small temple situated on a mound. After a long drive from Naggar that morning we needed some refreshment and had some delicious sweet milky tea and pakoras from a dhaba store. Shoja is a peaceful and serene village with dense deodar forests rich in wild life like bear (both black and brown), various deer, leopard and the state bird, the monal. We were lucky enough to witness the wild blue iris growing along the roadsides everywhere. It was just the beginning of their season and they were not in full abundance yet but certainly more than enough to delight our eyes. The houses in Shoja are made of wood, stone and mud in traditional hill style with wide spacious verandahs surrounding the top story.
Sarahan was our next destination and it was late afternoon by the time we got there. Aproaching Sarahan, the place was covered in mist and had an almost forbidding, mysterious look about it from a distance. However, on reaching our hotel we were welcomed with such warmth and and an excellent hearty meal that we immediately felt at home. Unfortunately, one of us suddenly felt very ill. The next morning the manager of our hotel personally took us to the Sarahan Hospital for treatment. The hospital did not charge us a single rupee for this kindness and the medicine worked like a charm. We stopped at a small temple just oustide Sarahan to give thanks for the doctor and the medicine. Shortly after the temple we crossed a colourful bridge which was like the exit protal from Sarahan.
We had been told that we should not miss an overnight stay in Kalpa. To reach Kalpa we first had to obtain special permits to enter the Spiti Valley from the Permit Office in Reckong Peo. After quite a wait, we were granted our permits and headed off. Kalpa is situated on the old Hindustan/Tibet Road at an altitude of 2759m. The town nestles snugly among the dense forests. Our guest house bedroom had a large verandah hanging over the mountainside. From our room we had a most wondrous view of Mount Kinner Kailash which is 6050 metres high.
It is said to be the legendary home of Lord Shiva. The weather that early evening became menacing, dark and foreboding yet the Kailash peak stood out in bright majestic clarity. We were held in thrall by the changing clouds swirling and hanging around those high mountains. This is about all we saw of Kalpa that evening but it was more than enough to satisfy our hunger for high mountains and tempestuous weather. Magnificent!