How often does it happen to you during your travels that you find a place so comforting that you feel like returning to it? That wet evening, sitting on the sidewalk at Reckong Peo under pouring rain, all I could ask for was further transport to Kalpa (altitude 3000 meters).
Luck was on my side then as I got onto a share jeep making its way up the twists to Kalpa. I called Vishaal at the guest house and of course he had a room available – the same one where I had stayed a week back. I was quite relieved as the last several hours had been very harrowing and I looked forward to a good night’s rest. Up the slopes, the jeep deposited me far from the guest house, near the small village center. I noticed that a group of bikers had arrived at the scene. They had chosen to park near the little chai shop I had tea at on my previous visit, which stood opposite to the police station and the local jail. Maybe this signified something – who know?
It was a very tiring and long walk of more than a kilometer, dragging the bag up the slope to the guest house. At eight pm, I was back in ‘my’ room, looking at a dimly lit Kalpa-the home of Apples and the Kinnaur massif.
The following morning promised a cold, mist covered day in the mountains that nestle Kalpa. As I stepped outside the door, I noticed that many more apple flowers had opened up in the week that I was gone to Spiti. Apple flowers, smell faintly like roses and the rain seemed to bring out this smell a bit more.
I had rained through the night and I was dismayed to find that the excellent view I had enjoyed from the balcony of the guest house was now completely gone. The apple flowers blooming was very pleasing to the senses. This video should show you a bit –
I didn’t have much of a plan for today so I asked the guesthouse owner’s wife as to what could be done. She didn’t have a lot of suggestions so I asked her daughter and she speculated that I might be able to climb to the ‘kanda’ but was overruled by her mother as with the heavy rain overnight, the ground was likely to be quite slippery. A Kanda is a high altitude lake in himachal that usually feeds streams running out of it. These stream, in turn are harnessed by the local villages and are vital to their survival. Given that Kalpa is quite high above a river, the kanda is the source for all the Water the village gets. Here’s one such stream coming down –
So, with no plan, I went back to my room, had breakfast and slept again.
Around eleven, I started on the now familiar walk to suicide point – this time, more optimistic about life and not contemplating any serious action. As on the left side, the tops of the mountains were shrouded in the clouds, I focused my attention on the right, and I wasn’t disappointed. Amidst the minor landslides and some serious surface run off that had resulted in a part of the road being cut from underneath the tarmac, were lovely wild flowers that had come into their own. Better still, there was a Hummingbird Hawk Moth. It is one of the strangest creations of nature – it looks like a hummingbird (camouflage), behaves like a hummingbird (sucking nectar) but isn’t in fact a hummingbird – thus proving The Duck Test doesn’t really work.
It was too much for my slow lens to capture – I shot video instead to give you all some idea.
On my left again, no mountains but there was another distraction – a pair of ladies from Kalpa who were walking at the same time they were knitting – quite accomplished of them must say. I talked to them briefly if there’s anything much worth seeing ahead and they recommended I go onto Rogi village. Given that I was quite exhausted from all the prancing around in spiti, this didn’t seem like such a good idea but I slowly ambled onwards looking for good shots.
I didn’t have to go too far, as past suicide point and the stream on the right, and then another on the left that where the last time was only a frozen snow river, this time there was a lovely waterfall! Well, ladies know best!
So, now I just had to get to Roghi. Two SUVs full of Tourists went past me. I heard Bengali chatter from the one that stopped. This wasn’t quite Bengali season for Kinnaur yet but maybe they were here to take advantage of the off season. One guy got off, and before I could even focus my camera on the same panorama, he had surveyed the entire area, captured five shots and got into the car and they had sped away! Clearly this was was batman, without the mask (or the money or the charm I suppose) I can never do that. Well, we’re all different, I guess.
By noon I was at the temple of Roghi. The setting of the village itself isn’t particularly spectacular – certainly not a patch on Kalpa. However, it is the end of the road and that lends it an unfair advantage – even fewer people and a narrower approach road. Hence, I could explore the little temple in peace.
Near the main door, a sign made it clear that one is expected to wear a ‘pattu’ (style of local cap) before entering and one may be picked up from the box and returned to the same. So I got one and attempted a self portrait.
I was admiring the peaceful surroundings and my luck that it was so quiet and I could explore the temple at my own pace till i realized that it was so as the main door was closed. However, it was etched beautifully. The bottom panel, details of the ‘savari’ (procession) of the devi. From left to right it shows people playing the same instruments that are kept in the temple and on the right flank, the mobile temple itself and how the utensils are used to pour out the water / alcohol.
Not all the carving made sense though – this one shows a man riding a tiger and shooting at a goat! I assume this is a folk tale from this area.
Surprisingly the door of the annexe that houses the ‘savari’ (processional deity) wasn’t closed (the channel gate was) so I could get a very good photo of the devi as well as some real silver utensils used for storing ceremonial water and alcohol. The utensils were attractive enough for a closer look –
On the right side of the temple were the remainder of all that’s seen in the wooden etching – the musical instruments of Kinnaur. The long horns are made of brass while the curved ‘Ransinga’ (curved wind instrument) is copper heavy. They rest on the ‘nagara‘ – kettle drums integral to the procession.
A booming voice to my left made me turn from this scene. “Back in the times of the British in India, it was at the forest bungalow at Chini (Kalpa’s older name) that was used by Dalhousie.” That bit was true – he sat and reviewed the first plans for building railway lines of Bengal and Bombay Presidency (in 1850) at the old forest bungalow.
“See over there, that’s the bungalow”
Click, click, click went the shutters of the easily led – this was the lot from the second SuV – a group of well to do Gujaratis from Bombay who were clearly out to make the most of their visit by engaging not only a driver but also a guide. I peered over their collective shoulders and while there were many tin roofs in the direction where they were looking, only one looked ‘right’ – thus passing The Elephant Test. I couldn’t photographed it and besides who is going to read my account and go checking anyway? [Oh you say you will? Ok then, it’s the one with a red roof. Good luck!]
With the history class over, the tourists got into their cars quickly and sped away, without the guide having to explain a single detail about what was etched on that mysterious and beautiful temple! Or maybe because it was time for lunch.
My attempts to eat lunch in the village were unsuccessful, there were all of two shops and they were both closed. I settled for an apple purchase off a local boy for ten rupees (it was the one on the right). Not only that, he insisted that I click a photo. Since I had no way of giving it to him I’ve posted it here.
As I walked back, a drizzle set in and turned to a steady downpour by the time I was back in my room.