The Nomadic Himalayan village: Rakcham, Himachal Pradesh
Rakcham is a small village of nomads located around 13 km from the apple town of Sangla in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh. The nomadic village is situated at an altitude of 10,000 feet above sea-level (3048 metres) and is sandwiched between Sangla and the last village on the Indo-Tibet border, Chitkul.
There are multiple ways to reach the village of Rakcham from Sangla. The first option is to hire a private taxi from the union, this is the fastest way to reach Rakcham. The second option is to hop onto one of the government HRTC buses or private buses that ply from Sangla. It’s also very important to confirm the bus timings a day in advance with a few locals. The third option is to hitch a ride on one of the many open air milk trucks and travel on the world’s most treacherous road with the locals and a bit of adventure.
The road leading to Rakcham is extremely narrow and gives travellers the odd jerk and bump but what will surely make you forget the road and blow your mind away. The bird’s eyes view of an absolutely spectacular view of the entire valley with the Baspa river running wild, apple orchards all along the mountain slopes, dense forest with alpine and coniferous trees and towering snow-capped Himalayan peaks are a sight to behold. The 40-minute drive is an absolute treat to witness Mother Nature at her absolute best.
At first glance, Rakcham seems like a village lost in time, with barely any cell phone coverage, no ATMs, no markets; only a couple of shops selling basic necessities and a few locals wandering around carrying dried twigs or strolling with their cattle of a handful of sheep and goats.
A walk through the village lanes and you will surely meet many friendly locals who will greet you with a warm smile and don’t be surprised if you end up even having chai in a villagers house and end up chatting with them for a few hours.
The people of Rakcham are still nomadic in their way of life. The men tend to herds of cows, goats, sheep and churu – a cross breed between the yak and cow. Women do the farming and house work. During summers, the men take their flock and spend weeks in the open high altitude pastures close to the border.
Houses in the village are all built out of wood and stone frame work with stone tiled roofing. The stone used in the construction of the houses is called Bhog Pathar and is found locally and it is believed to be able to withstand lightening and even a severe earthquake.
There are two temples situated in the heart of the village, one dedicated to Lord Shiva and one to Goddess Kali. Just like the rest of Kinnaur, the temple complex in Rakkcham has a blend of Hindu and Buddhist ideology and the temples depict dragons and many other fusion characters. Tourist are not permitted to enter the temple.
The festival of Fulaich is celebrated with great pomp every year for three days during the first week of September. For the first two days, young boys gather flowers by climbing nearby peaks which are around 4500 metres above sea-level and offer them to the shrine where the head priest offers the flowers and a goat sacrifice to honour their ancestors. The third day, involves the main dance which is centered around the Shiva temple and celebrations go on till midnight with villagers being served food and wine.
Accommodation in Rakcham is limited to a handful of guest houses which are located along the main around and have very good rooms with an excellent view of the mountains and the river. The guest houses also have their own in-house restaurants which serve excellent food. The service in these guest houses is top-notch. Sadly, the village lacks an authentic home stay.
The best time to visit Rakcham is during the summer months from mid-April to end of October. Since, winter sets in from mid November and its pretty severe with snowfall ranging from 3-9 feet of snow during winter. Most of the village nomads migrate to lower levels and only return back to their village towards the end of winter in March.
Only a handful of villagers stay back in the village during winters and have to pull on days with a lot of struggle even though all the basic provisions to make it through winter are provided by the government.
Rakcham can only be explored on foot and a couple of hours is more than enough to cover the entire village. One can easily spend a day or two in Rakcham wandering through the village or even venture out to forest area by crossing the suspension bridge built over the flowing river.
The village of Rakcham is an absolute must visit while on a road trip around Kinnaur or Sangla Valley and is the perfect penultimate village before the border. If your looking for an offbeat village, then Rakcham is the place to travel to.
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