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Old 30th June 2014, 18:02   #1
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Default Sojourn to the last Indian village : Chitkul

Cheers to the mountains, Cheers to the wandering heart,
Here’s to adventure and may the stopping never start!

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May the stopping never start…..for the travel bug these lines sum up the exhilaration one feels to drive thousands of miles across the country off the beaten path to take in the views, soak up the cultures, sample the local cuisines and generally live life in slow mo!!

Chitkul…the last Indian village on the Tibet / China border was always on my radar ever since visiting Turtuk during my Ladakh drive and opportunity presented itself with a marriage scheduled in Chandigarh. Initial plans started from the plains….Ajmer, Agra and Amritsar, and then moved up to Dalhousie and Dharmashala before finally taking the plunge and settling on Chitkul.

First things first, new shoes for the Xylo, after much deliberation I finally settled for the stock BS Duelers AT since they have served me exceptionally well for the past 5 years and 60K kms with just a solitary puncture. Got the car serviced and topped up…filled it up to the brim on the night before.
Suitcases of various sizes and shapes for the marriage made their way into the Xylo leaving precious little space for the jerry cans and other essentials but we managed to pack stuff in, secure it with bungees and we were on our way.

0.0 on the Odo...and the journey of a thousand miles starts with the turn of the ignition key!!
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Started out on the stroke of the midnight hour but progress was cut short by the sudden dimming of the headlights within 10 minutes of leaving the house. Luckily, found a mechanic snoring away by his garage and he quickly replaced the fuse and lo and behold, we had light!!

No further events as we smoothly munched up the miles and made it to Ahmedabad by around 6.15am and filled up again at the Reliance petrol pump, didn't realise the price difference until he gave us the bill!!

Note the beehive at the base...
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Sunrise on NH8...somewhere in Gujrat.
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Lunch break for us and cooling break for the Xylo!
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Stopped for breakfast somewhere after Ahmedabad...Lunch was around Chittorgarh....Kishangarh came up around evening tea and we passed Jaipur by around 6pm and I was immensely optimistic about making it to Behror for the night halt.

But once past Jaipur, the numerous diversions slowed us down considerably and after 1200kms of driving, I hated to be stuck among cycles, bikes, cars, tempos and trucks at every 5 kms....as luck would have it, wifey noticed RTDC Shahpura just as I was losing it and we turned in for the night by 7.30pm.

1000 kms in a day for the 5th time!!!
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Day one was done with 1270 kms on the ODO....

Last edited by nix1976in : 30th June 2014 at 18:04.
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Old 30th June 2014, 18:22   #2
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Default Re: Sojourn to the last Indian village : Chitkul

Day 2 started early at the lovely RTDC Shahpura. It is right on NH8, lovely food and service and has nice lawns behind the hotel.

Wildlife at RTDC Shahpura
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RTDC Shahpura
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NH8 was open and smooth through all the diversions and we made it to Bawal for the turn off towards Rewari - Rohtak - Panipat - Ambala - Chandigarh.

The Rewari - Rohtak - Panipat highway is a dream to drive on and we made quick time till Ambala where the cops has shut off some flyovers for no apparent reason still we made the 450 odd kms to Chandigarh by around 2pm.

Somewhere after Rohtak
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Kurukshetra
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Pal Dhabha, Chandigarh...Yummy
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The heat was crazy, shattering some 54 year old record around 47 degrees C and whenever we stepped out of the car for a meal or anything we were hankering to get back in as soon as possible! The heat up north is very different down here in Mumbai...not as humid but the hot drafts make it unbearable.

So, we made it to Chandigarh before time and the next 4 days were spent enjoying the wedding.

Last edited by nix1976in : 2nd July 2014 at 12:58.
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Old 1st July 2014, 12:21   #3
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Default Re: Sojourn to the last Indian village : Chitkul

Before I move onto the hills, I need to make an observation about the traffic cops in Chandigarh. Given, the planned city, I didn't see any traffic accumulation even at signals in the 'City Beautiful' but the cops as usual stood some distance away under the shade of a tree. I was caught umpteen times for the tinted windows but was let go every time due to the presence of the groom / bride / Airforce official in the car except for one time at 5.45am (yes, 5.45am in the morning) when I was going back to the hotel to collect some stuff. This cop was self righteous and showed me a physical copy of some supreme court order banning tinted windows of all percentages all over India. He cut off a portion of my driver side film and gave me a 1000 rs challan which too clearly mentioned the offence and its section! He gave me a window of 3 days in which I could flash the challan and get away without fine. I used the it umpteen times over the next couple of days! So, while I don't have anything good to say about the cops there, at least they were well equipped about the law and the fines are not arbitrary!

The real journey starts today....Chandigarh to Narkanda..

Started around 7am and immediately realised that there was some issue with another fuse...the stereo, digital clock and some other electricals were not working. Luckily, we were right near a motor market in Panchkula and got it sorted by waking up another sleeping mechanic in a jiffy.

Moving ahead, we saw a cut off the highway towards Pinjore gardens at just 1km away so we veered off to check the place out.

Terraced gardens with a plethora of flowering plants and trees line the fountains and water bodies, somewhat a poor cousin of the Shalimar gardens in Srinagar. One thing to note was the thousands of huge bats hanging upside down on most of the trees here.

Pinjore Gardens...
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I was under the impression that the Himalayan expressway lasts all the way up to Shimla ...so was a tad disappointed when the dual carriageway end around Parwanoo and the usual 2 lane road snaked its way up towards our breakfast stop at the famed Giani Da Dhaba. Wolfed down a couple of yummy omlettes and parathas with apple juice (packaged by Parle in Mumbai!!).

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The road was decent and traffic sparse and Shimla came by 11.30am...somehow, no offence to Shimla enthusiasts, it reminds me of Mumbra in Mumbai....stacked up houses, parking all over the road and pedestrians having right of way on the roads!!!

Shimla!!
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I missed the bypass (shoot me!) and had to drive all through town to land on the other end towards Fagu. The roads were lovely and the sun was bright but the temperature was rapidly plummeting with a chill setting in as we passed Kufri and Fagu.

Lovely roads enroute to Narkanda
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Lovely cherries bought off a street vendor somewhere near Narkanda!
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and this is what altitude gain does to a packet of Chips...(at Narkanda)
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Finally made it to HPDTC, The Hatu by around 1pm
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The hotel, as with all HPDTC hotels has a lovely location with quite a view from the front lawns.
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After a good lunch at the in-house restaurant, for some inexplicable reason I decided to hire a Sumo and visit Hatu Peak. My apprehensions about the road up to the peak were well founded as its an extremely narrow and steep road with quite a bit of oncoming traffic. The driver seemed to be at ease and we covered the 8-9 kms in no time.

The Hatu peak is 11,152 feet over sea level and it was extremely windy and cold with a mobile app showing 11 degrees C at 4pm in the evening. HPDTC runs a small hotel called Agyatvaas here, will be quite an experience to stay here sometime. There were 2 locked rooms right at the peak with no on around. The 360 degree views stretched on for miles and the quaint temple there was peaceful. We spent around a hour milling about before coming back to The Hatu by around 6pm and watched the sunset.

The temple at Hatu peak
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Wood carving on the temple ceiling
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Hatu peak at 11,152 feet.
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Wild horse grazing at 11,152 feet
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Views from Hatu Peak
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Prayers....
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Nothing to beat a hot cuppa at 7 degrees C at 10pm in the night!
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Ahh...the beauty of travel...From 44 degrees C to 7 degrees C....from hankering for a 2 ton air conditioned room to a room without a fan...from a bustling metropolis to a quaint verdant hill station within 200kms and 6 hrs!!

Crashed for the night after dinner, moving the Chitkul tomorrow.

Last edited by nix1976in : 2nd July 2014 at 13:00.
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Old 9th July 2014, 12:11   #4
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Default Re: Sojourn to the last Indian village : Chitkul

Another early morning start saw us making our way towards Chitkul amidst the towering deodhars, various hues of pink, purple and yellow flowering Bougainvillea, Jacarandas and Amaltaas. The road snakes its way up and back down towards Rampur giving us the first view of the snow covered Himalayas.

We stopped for breakfast at the HPDTC at Rampur right by the higway for some yummy omelettes and tea.

Some views along the road...
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First view of the snow capped Himalayas!
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Kinnaur Ahoy!
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The famous overhanging cliffs over the highway look awesome but the danger of shooting rocks seems quite real too. Nevertheless we stopped at at few places to take in the views.
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Some dam on the Baspa with its gates open...the flow of the water is so strong and with the memories of the recent news where 26 students were washed away at Mandi, it sent shudders down our spine.
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Blasting clearance.
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Some more views along the road
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We were extremely lucky at the Tapri bypass since we reached in the nick of time and were among the last vehicles to be let through at the police check post. The road is an extremely narrow and steep 'kachha' road that climbs really fast up to Urni village and descends rapidly back down to the highway. Its easily doable in any vehicle just that one should not be caught up behind a truck or a bus.

The turnoff to Sangla again is a narrow track all the way to Chitkul but the traffic is extremely sparse and we could easily make it through all the way.

Nearing Chitkul...
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Made it to Chitkul by around 2pm and checked into Hotel Panchali which is literally the last building before the mountains take over!

A very neat and clean place with views to die for...check into the corner rooms and you wont feel like pulling yourself away from the window!

In the forecourt of Hotel Panchali.
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Chitkul...
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Chitkul is a small village and there is nothing much to do except soak in the glorious views and mill around the small place. The sunshine is bright and the chill is freezing....quite surreal!

reached the 30 pic limit...to be contd...
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Old 10th July 2014, 13:32   #5
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Default Re: Sojourn to the last Indian village : Chitkul

Some more pics from around chitkul...

Moonrise....it was a full moon night and the entire valley was lit up by the moon rising up from behind the mountains. Luckily, it was not a cloudly night and with the stars filling up the night sky, it was quite a surreal scene.
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Today was a leisure day...woke up late and after a lazy breakfast, we went out for a drive to the end of the road right upto the edge of the Indian side.
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Hotel Panchali...last hotel on the border.
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Some snaps may see repetitive but the colors and the hues of the landscape change on the hour...

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Old 10th July 2014, 14:13   #6
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The owner of the hotel is a genial old fellow named Shyam Singh Negi who was quite impressed with the fact that just me and my wife had made it all the way from Mumbai in a self driven car. He offered to take us on a guided tour of the village, so off we went trudging through the narrow alleys as the locals went about their routine...grazing the livestock, farming and living a peaceful life in an idyllic heaven!

The central spot in Chitkul is the Mata temple but the it was closed since the residing deity was yet to be brought back to be reinstalled in the temple after the winter.
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Shyam Singh's house was just behind the temple and he invited us in for a cup of tea. Most of the houses in the village are completely wooden and raised at least 10-12 feet above level ground. The main room seems to be the kitchen which houses the stove or the 'angithi' that keeps the folks warm during the long harsh winters.

Food Storage huts....the locals store up entire food stocks during the winters in such huts.
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Food is precious...hence the huge lock on the storage hut.
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The entrance to Shyam Singh Negi's house.
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Entrance to the kitchen...the main room of the house
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Some more storage huts around the village
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Local kids....they were taking out a procession with a deity kept in the contraption kept upfront....
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It was a relaxed day and after a nice chowmein dinner in the chill of the night, we crashed for the night.

Sunrise over Chitkul
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Just after leaving Chitkul
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After breakfast, we checked out of Hotel Panchali and made our way towards Kalpa, our next destination.

Last edited by nix1976in : 10th July 2014 at 14:27.
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Old 10th July 2014, 16:13   #7
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Default Re: Sojourn to the last Indian village : Chitkul

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 10th July 2014, 21:08   #8
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Default Re: Sojourn to the last Indian village : Chitkul

Really great travelogue Nikhil. The photos in your post are stunning.
you are a great driver brother [ 1250 km in a day - fantastic ].

How did your Xylo perform during the trip? once i drove a xylo on a ghat road and i am not impressed with the handling of the MUV;It may be due to my lack of experience [ it was the first time i drove a xylo ] . I found it hard to negotiate through ghat roads.

Happy to know that you had a great time.

Regards ..
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Old 10th July 2014, 22:18   #9
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Default Re: Sojourn to the last Indian village : Chitkul

Chitkul is one place where one can go anytime of the year, I just love this place.

BTW did you go to the other side, the wooden bridge (if you can call it one) is one scary thing to cross the river upon. The trolley is a much better (ans less scarier) option I guess.
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Old 11th July 2014, 01:14   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fine69 View Post
Chitkul is one place where one can go anytime of the year, I just love this place.

BTW did you go to the other side, the wooden bridge (if you can call it one) is one scary thing to cross the river upon. The trolley is a much better (ans less scarier) option I guess.
Hey Buddy,
yeah...Chitkul is much more accessible for you Delhites than us Mumbaiwallahs...the himalayas are in your backyard!

Well...the hotel owner did tell us about the bridge and to cross over to the other side to visit meadows there but hinted it may be a 5-7 kms trek...having had a heavy lunch and some chilled barley before that made us drop the plan!! Am sure it must be quite an adventure!

Quote:
Originally Posted by DrANTO View Post
Really great travelogue Nikhil. The photos in your post are stunning.
you are a great driver brother [ 1250 km in a day - fantastic ].

How did your Xylo perform during the trip? once i drove a xylo on a ghat road and i am not impressed with the handling of the MUV;It may be due to my lack of experience [ it was the first time i drove a xylo ] . I found it hard to negotiate through ghat roads.

Happy to know that you had a great time.

Regards ..
Thanks Doc (just a guess from your nick) , have done over 1000 kms in a day five times as yet over my various drives and I have only good words to say about the Xylo. I have been to Ladakh and upto Chitkul, up and down the western ghats all the way down to Kerala and many other ghats all over India, for me the Xylo handles like a dream.
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Old 11th July 2014, 09:09   #11
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Default Re: Sojourn to the last Indian village : Chitkul

Thanks for the travellogue and the nice snaps. From your write-up it would appear you had to bypass Tapri - and would have probably hit the highway again around Choling.
Is this because of some issue with the stretch of highway (route 22) between Tapri and Choling?
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Old 11th July 2014, 09:16   #12
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Default Re: Sojourn to the last Indian village : Chitkul

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Originally Posted by joybhowmik View Post
Thanks for the travellogue and the nice snaps. From your write-up it would appear you had to bypass Tapri - and would have probably hit the highway again around Choling.
Is this because of some issue with the stretch of highway (route 22) between Tapri and Choling?
NH-22 near tapri has been cordoned off;due to stones falling continously.
And this has been going on since 2 months,making the mountains in the area unstable.The Detour is about 19kms and takes about an hour to cover.
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Old 11th July 2014, 09:43   #13
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Originally Posted by joybhowmik View Post
Thanks for the travellogue and the nice snaps. From your write-up it would appear you had to bypass Tapri - and would have probably hit the highway again around Choling.
Is this because of some issue with the stretch of highway (route 22) between Tapri and Choling?
Second Akshay here...the bypass at Tapri rises upto Urni village and throws us out near the Chooling bridge via a steep, narrow unpaved track. Cops regulate one way traffic every 2 hours quite well and its easily doable in any car as i have mentioned above. Locals told us that the highway has been completed washed away and the river has taken over a 4km stretch hence its going to be quite a task to get the road back online.

One thing to note... I got chatting with a cop who was regulating traffic while coming back at the Chooling bridge and he told me that if the NH22 doesn't open up before the rains then it would pose a serious problem since the bypass road wouldn't hold up too leading to complete cutoff from the Tapri side. I don't know how far its true but just a heads up all the same.

Last edited by nix1976in : 11th July 2014 at 09:46.
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Old 11th July 2014, 14:29   #14
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Default Re: Sojourn to the last Indian village : Chitkul

Hey Nikhil !!!
Nice travelogue. I must admit that you selected the most opportune time to visit Chitkul.
Being from Himachal myself (Shimla to be precise), it gives me immense joy to see people write about my home land. I do agree with you that Shimla has lost its Old World charm over the years, but it wasn't for a reason that the British set up their Raj here.

The weather in the hills changes dramatically as you pointed out. You get to see the hues of nature at their pristine best during the summers. I happen to have a friend whose village is in Kalpa hand I have had numerous occasions of going there with him.

Though it never occurred to me that what seems routine for us looks so beautiful when captured via the camera lens.
I intend to ensure that my next trip to Kalpa would only be for the purpose of a travelogue and I would love to bring out the local culture and the way of life there.

Happy Motoring.

Cheers
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Old 11th July 2014, 17:25   #15
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Default Re: Sojourn to the last Indian village : Chitkul

Quote:
Originally Posted by maverick.munish View Post
Hey Nikhil !!!
Nice travelogue. I must admit that you selected the most opportune time to visit Chitkul.
Being from Himachal myself (Shimla to be precise), it gives me immense joy to see people write about my home land. I do agree with you that Shimla has lost its Old World charm over the years, but it wasn't for a reason that the British set up their Raj here.

Cheers
Thanks Munish and am glad you liked the log. I had put in a no-offence caveat upfront so hope no hard feelings there.While travelling, am not a city person at all so crowds put me off and Shimla has hordes and hordes of people at any given time. During the British, I agree Shimla must have been a beautiful place but then so would have been Mumbai ...as of today I really see no difference between the clutter of Mumbai and Shimla...It is undoubtedly a wonderful place but commercialization has ruined it.

Its always lovely to have stay with a local and understand their cultures and lifestyle. Looking forward to your Kalpa log.
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