Experiencing altitude without the “feel” of altitude…. that pretty much sums up most of Sangla. When Sangla was decided as one of the destinations for our vacation, I was excited.
In my earlier post, https://wanderingtalestraveldreams.com/2017/10/23/exploring-sangla-himachal-step-by-step/, I outlined how we explored Thanedar and Sangla in Himachal. I also mentioned how for the first time we participated in guided hikes. In this post, I would like to delve deeper into the hiking experience in Sangla hoping it might give you some ideas on how to plan them effectively.
In Sangla, there are several resort options available to enjoy your vacation. We chose to stay at the Banjara Camp and Resort, which turned out to be an awesome choice. It is located right by the Baspa River. If you are familiar with my posts, you may realise I am not always bright when it comes to understanding elevations. At the resort, we had a choice to stay in Swiss style tents or in a proper room. Looking at the arial pictures on Google, I could not tell that the area where the accommodations (log huts, tents and hotel) are located is at an elevation compared to the river. Imagining the worst, I requested for us to spend one night in the Swiss Tent and the other nights in the hotel. In retrospect, not needed at all. The Swiss Tent accommodation is quite awesome and spending all three nights there would have been an adventure!
Three walks in Sangla worth doing
Walk 1 – Walking on the shores of Baspa River (Easy)
By 5:30am (depending on the time of the year) there is enough light for you to head down to the river and enjoy a nice morning walk on the shores. You can very easily spend one to two hours watching the river flow by. Sometimes, locals from the Batseri Village nearby come to fish in the early morning hours and it is a treat to watch them.
The retreat itself has some nice short walking paths that you can enjoy.
Walk 2 – Banjara Camp to Rackcham via Batseri Village (Medium difficulty for beginners)
Yeah, you are right. This is actually a hike… and not an easy one for non-hikers. The local folks use this route to walk from the village of Batseri to Rackcham and as tourists, we got to do the same with a small twist – a guide and a nice packed lunch.
This is one of the guided hikes you can go on with the Camp. A nice picnic lunch is packed and you have an opportunity to hike through some amazing woods and meadows. There are a lot of uphill sections, so be prepared to spend additional time if you are not very fit (me!). If you have issues adjusting to altitude (2700m to 3000m), take your time and be prepared. I did not think I would have issues before heading out on the hike… while I did not experience any major altitude sickness, I did become a lot slower. When we took a break for lunch, we took an extra hour break to just rest and chill under the trees… pure bliss! The last section was a little bit difficult, but when you see the potato fields on the other side, you will be spellbound by the views. In the end, you will be glad you did it!
Note: We found out later that some tourists choose to start at Rackcham and end at the camp to minimise the number of steep ascents. Check with the locals regarding this.
Walk 3 – Fields and village of Chitkul (Easy – altitude may be a factor)
Chitkul is supposedly the last inhabited village near the Indo-China border (in Himachal). There is an elevation change between Sangla and Chitkul. So, if you are prone to altitude sickness, you will notice a slight difference in how you feel. Once we reached Chitkul, we walked on one of the many paths available that took us through beautiful fields and eventually into the centre of the village. The light rain we encountered made the experience even more magical. After spending some time in the village, we headed back to the resort to spend some quality time just chilling.
Most of us cannot imagine living in remote places within the Himalayas “forever”. Luckily, there are many places that allow you to enjoy and connect with the magic of the Himalayas in a more civilised way.
When you think of hiking in the Himalayas, generally the first thing that comes to mind is carrying all your belongings in a backpack and heading out on difficult paths for several days at a time. But reality is that the Himalayas are filled with beautiful villages with amazing paths connecting one to the other and the distances can be covered by foot in a couple of hours. Understand and take advantage of that fact.
Let me be honest. Getting to Sangla is not easy. The roads are present but sometimes not in the best shape possible. But, once you get there, you truly do get an opportunity to unwind, relax and rejuvenate. While rejuvenating by flowing water is truly magical, walking (or hiking) on these known paths will elevate your experience to the next level. So, if you are physically able, just do it!