Day 2 of Spiti trip

I am a light sleeper. Slightest sounds wake me up unless I am absolutely exhausted. That night I could not sleep well. There was some construction work going on and workers were dropping iron rods as if they there was nobody around. Somewhere far, someone honked horn continuously for more than a minute. We had witnessed such honking in the evening as well. People in Shimla seemed very impatient. At the slightest obstacle, there is continuous honking. Subbu slept undisturbed through all this. I wish I could sleep like her.

Morning, I heard a sound. It was very definitely from within the room. Subbu was blissfully sleeping beside me. So it has to be someone else or something else. I slowly looked at the door. It was newspaper that staff had shoved under the door. Oh God, me and my light sleep!

Sometime later, we got up. The morning was fresh and crisp. We ordered some breakfast; toast, aloo paratha, coffee and lemon tea. I eagerly opened the curtains to see Shimla in bright daylight; to see if Shimla is beautiful despite all her chaos and cacophony. But Shimla greeted me with a view that was just average. Nothing that is worth flying from Hyderabad. And this is coming from a person who totally loves greenery. Long back, I had planned to visit Shimla but it did not happen then. I thought Shimla would be beautiful though touristy. But no, it was all proved wrong and I thanked my stars that the trip did not happen. Had I come exclusively for only Shimla, I would have been tremendously disappointed. I would need a vacation after this Shimla vacation!

View from our room in Treebo Varuna, Shimla. Picture is more beautiful than the actual scenery.

View from our room in Treebo Varuna, Shimla. Picture is more beautiful than the actual scenery.

After having breakfast, we packed, checked-out and headed to bus stand. We made some enquiries along the way. There was conflicting information as to which bus stand is better to take bus to Sangla. We picked the new bus stand, apparently buses start from there. We booked Ola cab till there. Our driver turned out to be very judgemental and opinionated but friendly.

Upon reaching bus stand, we realized that there are no buses to Sangla. All buses had left. We enquired if there are any shared taxis. Again, there are no such options. The only options we had was to hire a cab till Sangla, which is Rs 8000 one way or stay at Shimla and take bus to Sangla the next day morning or take night bus to Kalpa. Option 1 was too expensive and option 2 is pathetic as we just did not want to stay in Shimla any more. Option 3 seemed worth considering but we would lose a day and Subbu was not comfortable traveling at night in Himalayas. Our day journey to Shimla from Chandigarh was just manageable. We did not want to do another bus journey on more challenging roads for an entire night.

Naveen, Rigzin’s friend

Subbu had been to Leh-Ladakh in 2016 and Rigzin arranged for their entire trip. Subbu has only words of praise to describe him. That’s how amazing he is. She has been in touch with him since then. For our Spiti trip, we called Rigzin just before he started from Hyderabad. Since Rigzin is not aware of the Spiti region, he gave contact information of one travel agent who operates in Shimla. That contact is, Naveen.

We had called Naveen en route Shimla and he was extremely helpful. He highly recommend visiting Sangla and Chitkul. Since we missed our bus to Sangla, we called him to know if we have any other options to reach Sangla. He too could not offer any options apart from what we already knew.

As a last resort, we tried getting information from two elderly people at ticket counter. One of them suggested we take overnight bus to Kalpa that leaves at around 6:30pm. But seat options were awkward; either the last row or aisle seats in different rows. The person at ticket counter assured us that he would try and see that we get two adjacent seats in middle rows. Very reluctantly, we bought two tickets.

By this time, we were exploring taxi options. Somewhere here we both realised that the rest of our journey would be like this if we still wanted to by public transport. It would be chaotic and we always should hurry. So we asked Naveen for a quote for the entire trip. It was well past lunch time by the time we got first quote from Naveen. It was Rs 3300 per day for a big car, an SUV. We would need an SUV to reach Chandra Taal. We both were ok with this option and asked him to send the cab quickly ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy with out decision, we had rajma chawal for lunch at one food stall in the bus stand. Subbu was little disappointed was for few minutes that our “adventurous” Spiti trip would not be as adventurous without public transport. But it was just a fleeting emotion :). The lady who runs this stall turned out to be very friendly. She is from Spiti and she shared lot of details about the region.

By this time, the cab arrived and we were asked to walk up a little away from the bus stop to avoid disputes with the local taxis. Subbu wanted to use the loo, I didnโ€™t dare to. But the smell shooed her away! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

While walking away from the malodorous washrooms, Subbu quickly turned around and looked into the phone of a man coming closely behind me. She suspected he was filming me from behind. She saw nothing, we quickly said sorry and kept walking. I love her courage and commitment. Many of my earlier “friends” would do nothing in this situation.

While heading to the spot our driver was supposed to pick us up, we took a selfie. Oh God, we looked so happy with big smiles and beaming faces! No more chasing public transport, missing sleep and food, having spitting driver veer us through winding Himalayan roads! We can now pause wherever we want and do our trip at our pace ๐Ÿ™‚

Our cab driver, Nariender Singh Beshtoo

Our cab driver, Nariender Singh Beshtoo, seemed very amiable and warm. He came with his Bolero. We loaded our luggage in the back seat. We comfortably settled in the middle seats. With so much space for ourselves, Subbu could stretch her long limbs. Nariender suggested that we do our night halt at Sarahan. Someone he closely knows runs a hotel there. We asked for a room with view. He said we can assured of that. Upon his suggestion, we visited Hatu peak en route Sarahan.

Nariender seemed even more skilful than the bus driver. But we had to hold on to the seats to avoid being thrown around ๐Ÿ™‚

Hatu peak and Hatu Mata temple

The road to Hatu peak was very scary. The road was so small and narrow; it looked as if one car can barely fit. But it is a two way road!

With the deep valley on one side, going on this road, was simply unforgettable. May be this was a trailer of what was coming in the later part of the trip.

View from the Hatu peak. The white area is apple trees covered with net.

The sculptures and carvings in the temple were good. The light was too little for me to take any decent pictures.

Hotel Snow View, Sarahan and Nariender’s weird behaviour

We again came down the same narrow dangerous road and headed to Sarahan. The scenery was getting better. On the way driver, called his friend who runs Hotel Snow View at Sarahan and reserved a room for us. He was deftly driving with one hand despite talking on phone! We learnt quickly that Nariender is loquacious and has a tendency to get personal and close, nothing bad but we prefer having our space which we felt Nariender might not understand.

By the time we reached Sarahan it was pitch dark. Driver met his friend at reception and we ordered dinner for us to be brought to the room. Subbu has earlier looked at the room and she liked it.

Driver and another hotel employee had brought luggage up to our room. They showed us the room and we were just waiting for them to leave so that we can crash on bed and relax. Here, Nariender’s behaviour got a little weird. Instead of being professional and leaving politely, he comfortably settled down in our room! He settled down comfortably in chair, poured water in glass and asked waiter to get another glass. His body language was so relaxed and comfortable as if he was someone we know personally very well since years, like a sibling or boyfriend. I was wondering if he would order drinks next and ask us to play cards with him. I did not like this attitude one bit. I just wanted him to leave immediately and respect our space. Somewhere here he had some weird conversation with Subbu. I tried dismissing this weirdness and attributed it to Subbu’s mediocre Hindi speaking ability. By now, she was just trying to keep a polite conversation going. I stood firmly at the door holding the door for him to leave with a sort of angry bewildered expression I guess. Thankfully, driver got the clue that something was wrong and left immediately. I understand we all can be friendly. But that does not mean he can encroach our space. There are lines we are not supposed to cross. Usually drivers put luggage and leave. They do not get ‘personal’ or ‘very comfortable’.

After Nariender left, me and Subbu relaxed and had sumptuous dinner.

After going through all the winding roads, Subbu wanted something to settle her tummy. We ordered some lime soda. The room has a balcony but we could see nothing in the pitch darkness. Subbu pulled her sleeping bag out and slept in it. Yes, she is a little finicky. I had bath and had a good night’s sleep.

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