The first time I saw the name Reckong Peo on a map of Himachal Pradesh, it held my attention. It seemed like a land so far off in a corner of the world, that god knows how one would get there. It seemed mysterious. I conjured up an image of a dusty frontier town with a token government office and a little market for the villages in Kinnaur. One of those towns from the stories and legends of the Silk Road.
When one is roughing it out on the dusty parts of the Hindustan-Tibet road, with the mighty Sutlej running deep on one side, and one sees the road-sign pointing to ‘Peo’ (yes, the town has a nickname!); one wouldn’t expect what’s coming.
As we climb, the dusty valley floor turns to bush and shrub, lush greens and coniferous pines within three turns. Each hairpin teases us a little more; there seems to be something opening up on the hills across the valley. Then, suddenly you catch a glimpse of white! It is the snow-line! The dizzying heights of permanent snow!
In open-mouthed gaping wonder we strain our necks to see more and more of this. Whilst we’re so occupied, we arrive smack in the middle of Peo market. Suddenly there are scores of shops, many vehicles and even traffic cops! Dazed for a moment, we stand in the middle of the square blocking traffic. A sharp whistle and gestures from the cop get us moving and we park to the side.
So this is the district headquarters of Kinnaur, Reckong Peo. I was right in one sense, it is the market and trading place of the region. What I did not expect was modernization. Concrete has come and brought some of its monotony here; sort of a small town mall and shopping complexes that you’d find in urban India; plenty of government offices and buildings. But, this is where you resupply! And we’re thankful for the mechanics, fuel station, batteries, hardware shops, ropes and fried food.