Spiti Valley (June-July 2018)

Duration : 9 days, 8 nights

Starting Location : Chandigarh

Destination : Spiti Valley

Mode of Travel : Bike (Rented from Chandigarh)

Route : Chandigarh -> Shimla (H. P.) -> Reckong Peo (H. P.) -> Nako (H. P.) -> Gui Mummy Stupa (H. P.) -> Tabo (H. P.) -> Dhankar Monastery (H. P.) -> Kaza (H. P.) -> Kunzum Stupas (H. P.) -> Chandratal (H. P.) -> Manali (H. P.) -> Chandigarh

Background

This was most planned trip for us. After Leh-Ladakh in 2015, we planned so long for this trip. Every time there is one issue or another, stopping us from this trip. This time also 3 of our friends backed out at last moment and trip was in danger. We started planning with 6 friends but finally left with 3 who were ready for this trip. At last we decided to go on and enjoy this trip the way we can, and we are glad at last, that we did not cancelled this.

We traveled till Chandigarh from Lucknow from overnight train. We had all the bookings this time. On arrival, went directly to bike rental shop. One of the most unprofessional bike renter we have ever seen, but thatโ€™s another story. Somehow we managed to complete all formalities and started another epic journey ๐Ÿ™‚ Our first stop was Shimla.

Day 1 (Chandigarh -> Shimla (H. P.), ~113 KM/6 Hours)

As usual, journey was very monotonous and view was not changing much. Roads were good. Weather was awesome. Had fun time riding bikes. Himalayan was good but classic 500โ€™s engine was giving some weird noises. I was hoping it will sustain the turmoil of this trip.

Reached Shimla around 5 in evening. It was too much crowded with traffic jams all over the place. We decided to stay in the outer of city to avoid pollution and traffic. We crossed the city and found a hotel in the outskirts of city. I was not interested in sightseeing here as I have visited this city many times before. Rest of the two were too tired to go out. We spent the night resting in hotel and preparing for next part of journey.

Day 2 (Shimla (H. P.) -> Reckong Peo (H. P.), ~230 KM/9 Hours)

We were not sure about the destination this morning. We were unclear of road and weather conditions which we might face. We decided to ride till around 4 PM and stay where ever we can reach.

Morning view was great with clouds covering lower valley, providing perfect view to click pics.

We started to ride towards Sarahan and kept that as ideal destination to reach. We thought it would be difficult to ride that far due to hilly road but it was wrong. Roads were smooth and not so hilly ๐Ÿ˜‰ Reached there by 3 or so in afternoon. Had bike tanks filled there and decided Reckong Peo as destination for tonight.

We drove along with Sutlej river towards Kalpa. Reckong Peo is uphill from Kalpa. Road to Kalpa/Reckong Peo is typical hilly road with constant presence of heavy vehicles. Once you cross Kalpa, there is not much traffic. We stayed in a nice road side Hotel with great view of Kinnaur-Kailash.

We spent a peace full evening there exploring the town and locals. Had some evening clicks with Kinnaur-Kailash and locals, returned to hotel and slept in nice comfy beds. Till this phase of journey, we started questioning the level of Spiti valley trip. As we had already covered Ladkah, we compared this journey with that and it stand no where close. Till now we were disappointed but didnโ€™t knew that from next day on wards things will change.

Day 3 (Reckong Peo (H. P.) -> Nako (H. P.) -> Gui Mummy Stupa (H. P.) -> Tabo (H. P.), ~190 KM/9 Hours)

We started early in the morning. As we saw on map, it was decent hilly road which we were praying ๐Ÿ˜‰ We drove along Sutlej river till Khab Sangam. Things changed from there on. Terrain changed color. All the greenery left behind and naked mountains were all around us, just like the ones in Sarchu, while going to Ladakh. As expected, had some photo shoot on bridge.

After photo shoot, we started towards Nako, our target for lunch stop. We gain height immediately after crossing that bridge and now we were travelling along side Spiti river. Again road was too good, much better that what we expected. Weather was ideal for driving. Bright sunshine and cold waves, not too coll though. Soon we reached Nako. Visited an ancient monastery and man mad lake.

Had lunch at a rooftop cafe from where view was just amazing. We spent good 1 hour there and I had some time to play with camera. Checkout this video.

After proper rest and soaking int he beauty of place, we started towards next destination i:e Tabo. Before coming to trip, I made the list of spots we were going to cover and one the important one was โ€œThe Mummy of Spiti Valleyโ€. We almost forgot that and luckily its come into our mind around Sumdo. We checked that in Map (Offline downloaded) and it was still at some distance in forwards direction. Its in Gue village and you can see big board for this village when you travel towards Tabo from Sumdo.

Visit to this mummy was a must. Google it in case you are not aware of it. Just one thing to mention, this mummy is not inside sealed glass box ๐Ÿ˜‰

Its started raining lightly when we were at Gue village, but not much. We waited for rain to stop at a local tea shop and had some interesting conversations with locals. Tabo was around 35 Km from here and took us around 1 hour to reach there. Found a decent hotel to stay. After resting for a while, we went out to visit Tabo Caves. These were located just above the ancient Tabo Monastery, which was founded more than 1000 years ago. This ancient monastery has been hollowed out by several caves that serve as dwellings for monks during the harsh winters of the Himalayas.

We spend good time exploring small town. Returned to hotel and planned about the journey of next few days. Today was nice turn of events from monotonous journey of first two days.

Day 4 (Tabo (H. P.) -> Dhankar Monastery (H. P.) -> Kaza (H. P.), ~70 KM/6 Hours)

Weather was not good today. No sunshine along with harsh cold winds. We started late, around 9. Not much distance to cover so we were at ease. We were riding along the Spiti river and somewhere along the way its started drizzling. Soon we needed rest stop, for some breakfast and to save us from harsh weather. After breakfast we headed towards Dankar Monastery with wind cheaters on.

Its around 10KM off main highway, up the hills. When I say up the hills, its literally on the top of hill and in very dangerous condition. Again view was just awesome and we spent good amount of time there. Inside monastery, its complete silence, like you can hear your breath.

After visit to this peaceful place, we started towards Kaza, main town of Spiti valley. Weather along the way was lovely. Nice cool breeze, smooth roads, amazing hill beauty, all too perfect for bike riding.

After reaching Kaza, we searched good amount of time for place to stay. We usually picks places close to highway and some market, and strictly stay of city centers. After settling in, we spent rest of the evening exploring Kaza.

In the evening we visited local markets for some local food and get a feel of Kaza. We also booked a camp in Chandratal, which we will be going after 1 day.

Next day we have to cover local spots. Not exactly local but spots off the highways and around Kaza. Some interesting day ahead.

Day 5 (Kaza (H. P.) -> Chicham (H. P.) -> Kibber (H. P.) -> Key Monestry (H. P.) -> Hikam (H. P.) -> Koumik (H. P.) -> Langza (H. P.) -> Kaza (H. P.), ~90 KM/10 Hours)

Today we covered small villages around Kaza, starting with Chicham. We started in early morning, around 7 AM. Again weather was not too good, slow drizzling along the way. On the way to Chicham village, there is a bridge, arguably highest bridge of Asia.

From Chicham, we came back to Kibber village. Had breakfast there. Almost all the villages in this region are photographic, and looks alike ๐Ÿ˜‰

Our next stop was Key monastery, biggest monastery of Spiti Valley and a religious training center. It offer some magnificent views.

Our next stop was Hikkim, where worldโ€™s highest post office is situated. As we go along this route, you will find scenic beauty everywhere and lesser number of people.

Obviously you need to send postcard from this location ๐Ÿ˜‰ We sent couple of postcards to ourselves and our families. Single person is handling this post office and it seems to be his home too ๐Ÿ™‚

Next stop was Komic, highest village in world connected with road. It was a very small village with population marked as 114, and at that time not even 10 were there ๐Ÿ™‚

Last destination of the day was Langza, The Fossil Village in Spiti Valley. Fossils of marine creatures and plants are found in plenty under the sedimentary rocks. These fossils are around millions of years old.

After an eventful day, we came back to Kaza. Slept peacefully on the last day at Kaza.

Day 6 (Kaza (H. P.) -> Kunzum Stupas (H. P.) -> Chandratal (H. P.), ~120 KM/12 Hours)

We had no idea how tough this was going to be. As always, we started off early, around 7 AM. From experience till now, we thought we can cover 120KM in around 6-7 hours at max, but we were wrong, by huge margin. Once you leave Kaza, road condition deteriorate drastically. I am not sure why Google shows this rout as highway ๐Ÿ˜›

In starting roads were decent though. Dirt roads where you can drive with good speed. Scenic beauty was awesome and no one in near vicinity. Just us and our bikes.

Had breakfast in Hansa. From there on road condition started getting bad and bad. Losar is tha last village where you will get network, that too of BSNL. After this no network in Chandratal. By noon we reached Kunzum pass. Spent some time there soaking in beauty of place.

Obviously some pics are on the card for reaching here ๐Ÿ˜‰

Our real struggle started after Kunzum pass. You can not even get dirt road. Small boulders were on the road, reducing our speed to 10-15km/h. It was getting darker and darker. We thought nothing worse can happen now but we were wrong. When we left the high way (so called), real nightmare started.

It was not even the road, not even google is showing one in this case ๐Ÿ˜‰ Hardly 6 foot space with valley on left and high mountains on right. Large boulders were on the way and you will face 3 mainstream waterfalls on the way. There was no way you can cross those highways without putting your feet in freezing cold water. We tried in first one and our shoes got soaking wet. For the rest of the part, we tied shoes on bikes and drove bare foot, hoping our shoes will dry up in time as we didnโ€™t had extra pair. We cloths along with cold winds froze us. It took us more that 12 hours to reach Chandratal from kaza, which was not expected at all.

Somehow we managed to reach till Chandratal base camp location, only to get frustrated more. We booked camps well in advance but our camps were no where ๐Ÿ˜› There was no network so you can not connect with the person who booked your camps. Again we struggled to find some decent camp as camps were limited and it was crowdy that day.

We were exhausted and frustrated as hell. Still to see Chandratal you have to hike for 20-30 mins. After all this struggle we reached Chandratal to find view not that fascinating. I didnโ€™t found it that attractive, specially compared to Pangong lake.

Finally after much struggle in driving and these tough conditions, we rested in our not so comfy tents. It was freezing in night.

Day 7 (Chandratal (H. P.) -> Manali (H. P.), ~150 KM/8 Hours)

Learning from the experience on previous day, we started early and that too without any shoes. Driving barefoot as we crossed 3 waterfalls again. Once we reached main highway, yes now it was like highway to us after driving on Chandratal road, we relaxed a bit. It was still dirt road but with lot more spaces around and no boulders, till now at least.

We had breakfast at Batal. Road was still not good but still better than we traveled so far. After crossing Chhatru we got signals on phone and again road conditions dropped. It was like river and we were driving in it. Again shoes tied on bike and barefoot in water streams. Conditions again gone to worse when we started climbing Rohtang pass. Water stream, knee height muddy roads with occasional boulders, all makes the driving a challenge and fun in a weird way. After all this struggle we reached Rohtang pass and then we relaxed, I mean literally relaxed ๐Ÿ™‚

Roads were super smooth from here on. With all muddy and dirt cloths, bikes and bags, we checked into this heaven for next 2 days.

Hotel was awesome. We cleaned up, along with cleaning bags and bikes and went for a walk along Beas river. it was so soothing after all the struggle in last few days.

Day 8 (Manali (H. P.))

This day was reserved for adventure activities. We had 2 in mind. First paragliding and other one was river rafting.

There are 2 places in Manali where you can do paragliding! One is Solang valley and other one is Dobhi. On researching over net, we found Dobhi much better option than Solang valley. So we contacted Mr. Sikander (โ€ญ98166 57306โ€ฌ) and got around 10 min of ride for Rs. 1200 per person. It was experience of a life time. Check out my video on you tube.

 

After this, we were thrilled and decided for river rafting. Again it was refreshing experience on a hot sunny day. In the evening we returned to Hotel and again had peaceful time sitting along side Beas river.

This day marked a exciting end to our long but satisfying trip.

Day 9 (Manali (H. P.) -> Chandigarh, ~300 KM/8 Hours)

Not sure how many times I have traveled on this highway now. Almost every year I start from Chandigarh and this highway comes into picture anyhow. After all the struggle we had from Chandratal to Manali, this seems like roads in plains. Reached Chandigarh in no time but all the trouble comes when we reached Chandigarh.

So its time to return bikes. We gave bikes, in all good condition. When we asked for security back, they started making some excuses. Lamest was that they donโ€™t have 20k in office to return security deposit! We spent around 4-5 hours at shop, and have to be persistent to get our money back. For full review see this link.

Afterwords

Return journey was very relaxing. Excitement of going home along with thrill of completing this daunting journey. We were not so convinced about the outcome of this trip as we were just 3 friends, but as it turns out better to go with people you are comfortable with instead of group.

Its not about 9 days and 8 night of your life, neither it is about the distance you covered! Its always about the experience you get from these trips that you store in the deep corners of your heart and cherish whenever you are low or want to look back on your good old days.

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