A short walk from Sangla to Rakcham

Jitaditya Narzary

Is a traveller disillusioned by the familiar and fascinated with the unknown... and of course the founder of this blog.

Practical problems as well as HR conspiracies have been scuttling my Kinnaur and Spiti plans for the last three years or so. Spiti still remains elusive but probably the wait will soon be over by the next month. However, I finally managed to make my first foray into Kinnaur. My original intent was much more adventurous but for the time being I had to control myself and do a very basic trip through the Sangla Valley up to Chitkul, the famed “last village” on the Tibetan frontiers. This by no means will be my last Kinnaur trip. It seems the district has far too much to offer even beyond the known destinations. Anyways, let us get back to the point now.

Arriving at Sangla:

I landed at Kalka from the train at around 5 am and almost immediately got a bus going directly to Reckong Peo along with a nice window seat. Omens could not have been better, I thought. But once it was past Shimla, the pace slackened seriously and finally I got sick and tired of the bus ride and gave up at Rampur Bushahr for the night halt. I am aware of the rich history of Rampur but did not have much energy left to explore anything. However my room at the Hotel Sutlej View, as the name suggests, offered a good view of the Sutlej.

Rampur

Next day I boarded another bus on the same route. It went well for an hour or so and I also managed to spot a few small points such as Jeori and Choura (They will be important for some of my future trips). But after that the bus technically entered Kinnaur district passing through a gate announcing the same. As it progressed, my back began to feel the gradual decline of road conditions and finally it reached a point where it took close to two hours to cover a 10 km long stretch of non-existent road.

This was the stretch between Tapri and Karcham, site of the gigantic Karcham Wangtoo Hydroelectric Project run by Jaypee Group. I am not sure if the road is being repaired or a new one is being constructed but as of now this stretch is in a torturous shape. Thankfully it ended at Karcham as I left the Hindustan Tibet highway and took another bus to Sangla.

Karcham

It was afternoon by the time I reached and settled down in Sangla. Not much time was remaining to do anything. But the light was excellent, so were the weather and the sky.

Sangla Valley (1)

Into the Sangla Valley:

Sangla Valley (2)

The Trek… or the Walk

The Sangla Valley or technically the Baspa River Valley opens up at this point and is at its best during the post monsoon season. The next morning I inquired about the bus to Chitkul but was told that the next bus was coming at 12 noon. It was 9 am and my trip so far had been far too straightforward and safe. So, I decided to trek or walk, whatever is required to reach Rakcham. Chitkul was close to 24 kms from Sangla and according to my estimates, Rakcham was somewhere in between and more importantly the hike was not too steep. So, I thought I will walk up to that place in a few hours and the bus will also arrive there by that time and then I can catch the bus and move ahead.

The plan may seem far-fetched but it actually wasn’t. There was only one road and the bus was going to arrive at some point anyways. On the other hand, in this route, the few buses that run are obliged to stop for anyone who raises the hand at any point. More importantly, walking gave me more time for photography. The day was bright and brilliant… probably a bit too much as some of the images turned out to be over-exposed. Nevertheless, the western sky in the morning was magnificent with dark azure sky and resplendent mushroom clouds… of the nontoxic kind.

Sangla Valley (3)

Sangla Valley (9)

Apple Country:

The Apple revolution in Himachal becomes evident as soon as you cross Narkanda, barely 65 kms from Shimla. It gets even better in Sangla and it was actually the perfect time in case you enjoy watching fully loaded apple trees more than eating them. Almost every household here deal in Apples. Larger orchards are also visible from the top by the side of the river. I tried various ways to capture these Apple trees in full bloom but could never really capture the full extent of that carnal sight. As the cliché goes, it must be seen to be believed.

Sangla Valley (18)

Sangla Valley (19)

Sangla Valley (20)

Valley of Colours:

As I gained bit of altitude, the complete valley along the Baspa river become visible in its full glory. Apple was not the only crop here. There were different plots growing different crops with pink, yellow, orange and myriad of other hues splattered all over the green. There were various other fruits like apricots, pine nuts and some other things I failed to conclusively identify.

Sangla Valley (4)

Sangla Valley (5)

Sangla Valley (6)

Sangla Valley (7)

Also, there were those ubiquitous mountain goats who stare at the men.

Sangla Valley (8)

The Pink Revolution:

The pink plots were the most intriguing and I wanted to have a closer look. But they were much further down, on the banks of the river and I was going upwards. But then suddenly at one point after a turn I saw large swathes of pink staring at my face. Apparently they are some kind of local millet but I am not completely sure. Apparently pink is not also considered appropriate for naturally macho people like me. But I don’t care anymore. I love pink!

Sangla Valley (10)

Sangla Valley (12)

Sangla Valley (13)

Sangla Valley (14)

Sangla Valley (15)

Sangla Valley (16)

At Rakcham:

I finally reached Rakcham (pronounced more like “Rakshyam” by the locals) after 3 hours of slow hiking. It was not really tiresome as the ascent was very gradual and plain at multiple stretches. It is a small village with several lodges and hotels as well as more of the aforementioned cultivations. I had tea at a hotel cum restaurant called Apple Pie Hotel although they had no pies to offer. As I came out of it, I saw my bus approaching slowly. For once, I’d timed it perfectly.

(To be continued…)
Read the next part on Chitkul here.

Update: The Sangla Chitkul Traveller FAQs is up now.

Jitaditya Narzary

Is a traveller disillusioned by the familiar and fascinated with the unknown... and of course the founder of this blog.

43 thoughts on “A short walk from Sangla to Rakcham

  • 2014/09/17 at 5:09 pm
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    Some very great photos here. Waiting for more to come.

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  • 2014/09/17 at 7:09 pm
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    That must have been a strenuous hike!
    Looks like this trip offered you so many awesome views. Superb pics up there.

    Hey that is a pink to fall in love with. Those flowers are very pretty too.

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  • 2014/09/19 at 7:39 pm
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    Nice write up. Looking forward to more information on your forays in to Spiti.
    The mushroom clouds seem a feature of the Himalayas at this time of the year. They are in abundance over the Mussoorie range too.

    Reply
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    • 2016/08/27 at 12:59 pm
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      Just after monsoons is the best time… It was September 2014…. so the season has already started!

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  • 2016/08/28 at 2:34 am
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    Wow. Great post and breathtaking photos. Thank you for sharing.

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  • 2017/01/05 at 5:48 pm
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    what to choose between Sangla or Rackcham to stay ! Have to choose one.

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    • 2017/01/06 at 2:17 pm
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      Sangla is a bigger place with more options but Rakcham sounds good too if you like it quiet.

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  • 2017/02/02 at 12:06 am
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    Really beautiful photos and super informative post as always man! The mountains look so incredible and those goats are so cute! I hope you tried to pat one haha. It sounds like a really amazing trip though. Pretty jealous!

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  • 2017/02/02 at 10:08 am
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    Wow! This is superb. I really don’t like having to be going around at 5am, but hey we gotta do what we gotta do right? The pictures are amazing btw!

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  • 2017/02/02 at 1:49 pm
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    Kinnaur and Spiti valley are simply out of heaven I love these places so untouched from routine hustles and bustles. I try traveling there every year but never did that by bus. Seems it will be exciting.

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  • 2017/02/02 at 4:13 pm
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    Just wow! Those pink flowers are so very beautiful. And so is the view across that bridge. You are right, post monsoon season looks like the best to visit these parts. I remember visiting Shimla and Manali long back with my parents in october. The apples were being harvested then and we were gifted some by the locals. Oh..the freshness of those apples was beyond words

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  • 2017/02/02 at 11:08 pm
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    I love your posts from mountains. The summer trekking season is up soon and I hope to do some (high altitude) treks this year. Last year I could not explore such locations due to an already packed year. Hoping to take it slow this year and use your guide for the same.

    Reply
  • 2017/02/03 at 12:21 am
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    Hahah, I am a huge fan of the mountain goats! Your pictures are amazing and I love your trips! When I look at your photos I immediately want to go trekking and discover these beautiful destinations 🙂 can’t wait for the next trip! X

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  • 2017/02/03 at 11:47 am
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    Wow what an amazing destination. What I love about travel blogs is that you learn things about the world you wouldn’t otherwise. The colors are all fantastic and the mountains in the clouds are always a beautiful sight. Thanks for sharing!

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  • 2017/02/03 at 2:59 pm
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    i love mountain travels and your post has amazing pictures. what sort lense did you use to take these pictures? any tips you can give for such travels?

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  • 2017/02/03 at 11:00 pm
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    I’d love to just be able to pick those apples off the tree. Apricots are great as well pine nuts. This looks like a scenic hike as usual.

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  • 2017/02/04 at 10:43 pm
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    Love your coverage of the hills mate. There is a small mistake after the first line about the apples Himachal. Did you buy any of the apples there? They have a distinct taste that I truly enjoy.

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  • 2017/02/05 at 7:10 am
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    Your photos really capture the beauty of the landscape. I’d enjoy the time of walking and taking photos too. The pic of the curious goats made me smile.

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  • 2017/02/06 at 12:08 am
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    I feel that secretly all guys like pink. They are just too macho to say anything about it. I am glad that this pink valley converted you. Thank god you timed the trek well. Spiti has been haunting me too.

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  • 2017/02/06 at 7:56 pm
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    I can never get over the beauty of your photographs. They really are lovely. Pink valley looks amazing and hey, real men wear pink!

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  • 2017/02/07 at 10:32 am
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    Amazing photos as always! Trekking along that beautiful valley would be really awesome. I like the color of the river, too! Also, glad to know you like pink! It even macho men can like pink. Colors have no gender!

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  • 2017/02/07 at 1:38 pm
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    I am so tempted after seeing these pics. I have never heard of this trek earlier, so thanks for sharing and this looks doable.
    You think I can do this with kids?

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  • 2017/02/07 at 7:06 pm
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    What an intriguing description! Apple trees, patches of pink millet, the photographs were a feast for the eyes. I could not help but wonder about how good the view would look after such a long trek. Some things are worth the pain!

    Reply
  • 2017/02/15 at 10:10 pm
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    Sangla really looks very pretty and so many apple gardens .. awesome. Spiti plan is also long pending for us. Glad you are going there next month, would love to see some amazing pictures from Spiti. Have fun and a fab trip !!!

    Reply
  • 2017/03/01 at 11:09 pm
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    what a great post, the big bridge was my favorite image, it so good travel and get to know new places!

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  • 2017/03/01 at 11:27 pm
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    I didn’t make it to this region when I was in India but it looks absolutely beautiful! I had no idea apples grew in that part of India – very interesting!

    Reply
  • 2017/03/02 at 9:26 pm
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    Haha just a short walk. Love the bridge shot – I can imagine how thrilling of a crossing that is.

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  • 2017/03/03 at 8:49 am
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    It must be an incredible sight to see the field of pink flowers around the corner. Thank you for sharing! I can even breath easier now just thinking about the clean air up there!

    Reply
  • 2017/03/04 at 6:55 am
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    OMG – the clouds are just mind blowing. And that pink fervor is just brilliant. I can imagine how gorgeous it would look from a mountain or from a flight. This is another lovely gem that you have found. Quite green and refreshing.

    Reply
  • 2017/03/06 at 6:49 pm
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    Wow, the beauty of the valleys is just out of the world!! Apple, apricots, Pink millets and what not, this region has so much to offer from scenery to fresh produce. It is amazing how you timed your trek to Rakcham and also enjoy the beautiful surrounding on the way. Looking forward to read more of your adventures.

    Reply
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  • 2017/09/07 at 11:10 pm
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    The pink flowers carpetting d ground are awesome

    Reply
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