Enchanting Himachal – to Nako (the HangrangValley)
Enchanting Himachal – to Nako (the HangrangValley)
View from Nako village
Kinnaur district is situated on the Indo Tibetan border in Himachal Pradesh and is one of the famous adventure tourist destinations of Himachal. There are about 77 villages in the district and there are almost no urban centers. Nako is the biggest village in the HangrangValley, which is the second biggest valley of the Kinnaur District after theSanglaValley. This valley comprises of eight villages with Nako & Chango being the entry/exit points to this valley, the other villages are Leo, Hango, Shalkar, Sumra, Yangthang & Malling. This valley is a very desolate & rugged terrain and bereft of rainfall and thus, barren where cultivation is difficult. The villages have grown around snow fed streams and people use the short summer season from June-September to cultivate & gather the food grains, livestock etc. for the long and strenuous winters. The population is scanty in these villages because of such harsh conditions, but the views during the short summer months are nothing short of spectacular and have given birth to new kind of income source, in form of village-eco tourism, where villagers share one or two rooms out of their own accommodation/house with tourists for some remuneration.
The team of foreign cyclists on way to Kaza on their cycles
The distance from Sangla to Nako is about 115 kms. and the journey is interspersed with some fabulous & incredulous landscape. Having started from Sangla, we went past Karcham and just as we had gone past the Hydro electric power plant situated across the river on NH-22, we had to cross over to the other side across a bridge and thereafter, cross it over once again. Having re-crossed the SutlejRiver, we hit upon some real bad stretch of road, which was being widened & blasting was taking place, making the road a real nightmare for small vehicles. Twisting, turning & gyrating continuously, we were moving slowly, when we came across a bunch of foreigners cycling onwards, with the support vehicle in tow. For a moment we were taken aback, but soon realized that this was what adventure is all about! Having crossed this stretch, we hit upon a bridge and moved towards Powari. As I had prior knowledge that there were no other filling stations en-route upto Kaza, we topped our tank here and moved ahead. Having traversed about 18 kms. from Powari, we went past Ribba and after another 2 odd kms. we hit Akpa. The road after Akpa was like a dream, wide across, well laid down tarmac and few vehicles to negotiate. We reached Morrang in a jiffy from Akpa, which is at a distance of 2 kms., this little hamlet is surrounded by apricot orchards. In order to approach Morrang, which also houses a temple in a fort dedicated to a Hindu Goddess Omrig, one has to take side road from the NH-22. Further onto Jangi, another 6kms. drive and then still further onto Spello or Espello, a drive of 13 odd Kms. from Jangi. The road enters some rough terrain thereafter and we were held up for an hour or so due to blasting taking place on the road ahead. Having crossed the veritable dirt track with rocks strewn around, we reachedPooh or Spuwa, which is situated 58 km from Powari along National Highway 22, at an altitude of 2,831 m. This small town is well known for its natural beauty, green fields, apricot orchards, vineyards and almond trees. Historical evidences, such as inscriptions, suggest that Pooh was an important trading center in the early 11th century. The main attraction of Pooh is a Buddhist temple dedicated to Sakyamuni or Lord Buddha. The shrine has wooden columns supporting a high ceiling and a circumambulatory path around the altar. In order to reach the main town one has to take the diversion from NH-22 heading upwards, the equipments & road construction material of the Border Road Organization is placed right on the NH-22 at this village.
The mightly Kasang Nullah
A view of Sutlej River
Panoramic view of Sutlej River valley
After having gone past Pooh or Spuwa, we reached another bridge across the Sutlej river, which appears to have been constructed recently, we reached a nondescript village called Dubling. The road leading up towards the village is a veritable zig-zag formation and appears quite picturesque. The next major point that one crosses on the route is Khab. Khab is 12 Kms. from Pooh and is the point where the Spiti river meets Sutlej and here from, the road moves along the Spiti river all the way upto Kaza. From Khab, the road is a straight climb for about 8 kms - it follows up a single mountain initially with 8 haipin bends, each bend leading to a straight stretch of about 300 meters. This part of the climb is known as the "loops of Kah" and offers great views as you keep climbing higher and higher. Once you are past the loops - the road moves more horizontally till it reaches the Kah village, a green oasis set against the backdrop of the desolate landscape. Thereafter, the road starts moving vertically upwards towards the Hangrang valley, passing by a bye-pass that leads to the Yangthang village, deep below on banks of SpitiRiver.
The famous Tanda Mai temple - for safe journey through unsafe roads
View of Morrang village at distance
Passing by Pooh or Spuwa
The road going up in a Zig zag manner at Dubling village
The famous Khab Bridge - here the Spiti river meets the Sutlej River
Distant view of Kah village - stark landscape
The Kah Village
The famous Khab Zig - it is really the road and not scratched lines across the mountain side
View of Nako Village
The famous Nako Lake
View of Reo Purgil (highest peak of Himachal) from Nako Monastery
By the time we reached Nako (3662 m. & 115 km from Powari), driving another 14 Kms. from Kah, we were totally famished as there are no food outlets available on this stretch of NH-22. Nako is one of Kinnaur’s most picturesque hamlets and has been declared a ‘heritage village’. The village itself is built around a small lake and has an important Buddhist monastery and a couple of small temples. A footprint-like impression on a rock is ascribed to the saint Padamasambhava. Nako is also the base to reach the Tashigang monastery and the start for trek to the Reo Purguil peak, which is the highest peak in Himachal Pradesh perched at an altitude of 6816 meter above sea level. Nako lies within the restricted area close to the Tibetan border, which requires an Inner Line Permit to travel through for foreigners. This, coupled with its remote location and limited tourist infrastructure, makes it a little-visited but rewarding destination. There are quite a few Guest Houses available, but only one hotel named ‘Reo Purguil’ run by a father-son duo on the main road, it is being expanded, but the place has a very quiet & palatable ambiance. The main occupation of the villagers appears to be cultivation, during the short summer season, apart from catering to tourists and Peas & coarse grain the main crop. Another feature that I observed was that the Eucalyptus tree was extensively used for building roofs of the mud houses and grown and tended with great care & devotion. The roofs are constructed with a layer of skinned out Eucalyptus tree trunks being laid down parallel to each other and followed by a layer of dried out hay or coarse twig like thing, which is again topped up with another layer of tree trunks that are placed perpendicular to the previous layer and again topped up with a thick layer of coarse grass or twigs, this process is repeated several times over, this is done to ward off intense cold from the heavy snow during the winters.