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Old 30th September 2013, 18:10   #1
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Default Spiti Expedition 2013

1. The question which comes is “Why do you want to go ?” In a way it is an important query posed by many and I actually had no definite answer other than mumbling sentences like “ Its Important “,”I need to do this “.The actual reason maybe was because it offered me an opportunity to do something different from what I have been doing and also to get a different perspective on how the life was heading .

2. Another frequent question was which place and as soon as I mentioned Kaza , there used to be that raising of the eyebrows and then I had no option but to repeat the name of the place again. Even my navigator for the trip in his moments of weakness prior to commencement of the Expedition, I would like to call it so asked me “ you sure right “. The jaw used to actually drop even lowerer when I used to signal my intention of driving to the places .There were a lot of self moments when I asked myself , am I going to pull it off ?

3. As one reads through the posts i hope they will get to form an image in front of their eyes as to what transpired during those 18 days !!

4. Welcome all to “THE SPITI EXPEDITION “ and a warm “JHULE” to all from me . Oh!! By the way Jhule means a warm greeting in Tibetan Language.


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Old 30th September 2013, 22:33   #2
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Default Re: Spiti Expedition 2013

Destination: Udaipur
1. The initial fascination was to make the trip to Leh and actually all my research since many a month was based on it but as 2013 came on i realized in my heart of heart that Leh was not happening this year.Anyways as I continued to sporadically read about Leh , I came across an account of a trip to THE LAND OF GODS : SPITI.

2. As I read more on the subject I knew that this was a doable trip this year , circumstances did change in a way that i became aware of a single vision – to visit the Abode of Gods no matter how perilous would be the journey. The research went on in full steam till late at night as I started researching and going through all the data I could find. The initial itinerary was made up and revised so many times. I roped in a childhood friend of mine to accompany me : Baboo thanks for coming along , seriously your presence was invaluable at times .

3. The final itinerary stood at close to 18 days on the road covering close to 5000 km reaching heights of 14000 -15000 feet and all in THE INDOMITABLE – THE MAHINDRA LOGAN .Well that’s what I have named it after the expedition for its attitude and spirit.

4. The leave was sanctioned from office though again with revisions to suit office requirements , the tickets for Baboo to arrive to Mumbai were booked and I started doing the hotel reservations with careful planning. At this stage I would like to say that I really am totally floored with the amenities of the state tourism hotel , I did experience Rajasthan tourism and Himachal tourism and both impressed me a lot . Clean rooms and spacious hotels.

5. Initial Preparation: The initial preparation included a trip to Decathlon to purchase essentials like a thermos flask, all terrain shoes , a foldable camp chair , gloves and head mask. I also included food items in case of emergency for a day or two. From e bay I purchased a Belkins dual charger for simultaneous charging of mobile and navigator from the car point, a 12v heating cup to boil water , one 12v air compressor , window cleaner , a 2 ton towing rope , d shackles. I also sourced three 20 Litre jerry cans to fill spare petrol and a 10 meter three core nylon rope. The bookings were done online and from a local visit to the HP tourism office at cuff parade. All numbers would be given by me at the end in a comprehensive manner. Few bookings were done directly with the hotels, details would be provided at the end. The car was sent for servicing to NBS international at Sewree.I explained in depth what my requirement was and a package servicing was undertaken. The only thing that I wanted to do but could not get it done was a complete change of the drive belts and bearings. The lead time was 04 days and I did not have that much time. In hindsight I should have got the servicing done earlier but somehow arranging the finance and the time slot did not work out very well. I will add at the end a total list of products purchased and details of servicing done as a source of reference including the documents carried for the trip.

6. The D day arrived- 09 sep and though we planned to sleep early the night before yet somehow as it was Baboo’s first visit to the city we ended up sleeping by around midnight.Consequently my aim of starting the trip at 0500 hrs got delayed as we could just not get up in time. Finally we were ready to move by 0630 hrs .Our goal for the day was the fabled city of Udaipur which was at present close to 800 kms away. We were soon speeding on the Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link as we sought to catch the western express highway which would take us out of Mumbai and on to the NH-8 towards Gujarat. The MH-Guj border near Vapi was reached by 0910 hrs which included a breakfast time of 30 min @ Hotel Annapurna.

7. I wanted to see the Golden Gate Bridge on the river Narmada as I had read that it was a complete enclosed bridge built in 1881 by the British, hence I deviated from the the NH-8 and headed towards Ankleshwar town .The road was chaotic and quite narrow but the bridge was a sight to see and I was happy that I took the decision to see the bridge. Once we cross the bridge we are in Barauch and after a bit of searching around i managed to find the Barauch by pass that would connect with the NH-8 once again. The bypass was jammed on account of heavy traffic, maybe in the early mornings it would be calmer for I crossed it at peak noon time. We had a simple lunch at Hotel Boston International that is just outside Barauch near to Vadadla.

8. Thereafter we proceeded towards the Baroda bypass which arrived by 1430 hrs after a distance of 72 km from Barauch by pass. Once past the Baroda toll plaza we were ready to take the Mahatma Gandhi Expressway (NE-1) towards Ahmedabad.This is a super fast expressway which just races on towards Ahmedabad and has got exits for Anand and Nadiad.It is 96 km long and a must travel being maintained by NHAI and reduces the travel time between Baroda and Ahmadabad from two and half hours to one hour.

9. As researched I wanted to avoid entering Ahmadabad , so I deviated from the NE-1 and turned towards the Sardar Patel Ring Road that moves on the outskirts of the city. There are clear sign boards to deviate from the NE-1 so one does not have to worry much about this actually however from the point of view of data collation from the Baroda toll plaza the exit for Sardar Patel Ring road comes after 83 km.

10. I rejoined the NH-8 after GIDC Naroda , it is easy to see the NH 8 at the place where the ring road intersects the highway , there is a big roundabout .From there we proceeded towards Himmatnagar town and this stretch has bad roads and also it is one lane only for both incoming and outbound traffic.

11. We reached Himmatnagar town after a travelling distance of 83 km and topped up fuel in the car as well as two spare jerry cans (each 20 liter).Soon after proceeding for around 30 km we took a tea break halt at Hotel Way Wait. It was a good break as we cleaned up the car windows of all the dust and grime as well as took a breather since now we had to cover the remainder of the distance at night.

12. The RTO post at Samalji was reached in 55 min and the GUJ-RAJ border 10 min after that covering a distance from the last stop of 34 km.We had a early dinner at Hotel Bhagyadoy at around 2030 hrs and it consisted of hot dal , one veggie and amazing rotis followed by chaas.A superb dinner by my standards .

13. After the dinner break of around 40 min we covered the remaining 110 kms and reached our destination of Hotel Kajri by 2245 hrs.The landmark for the Hotel is Shastri circle at University road. The restaurant of the hotel does close by 2200 hrs so we had beforehand enquired about the same and informed that we would be reaching late to the reception staff.

14. The Odometer read . Colaba – 54485 and Udaipur – 55301.

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Last edited by aah78 : 9th October 2013 at 00:58. Reason: Pictures inserted within post.
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Old 1st October 2013, 20:34   #3
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Default Re: Spiti Expedition 2013

Destination: Behror , Rajasthan
1. The next morning we were up by 0700 hrs and had a plan to leave the hotel by 0830 hrs .The issue of breakfast was taken care of in the Hotel booking plan itself and the restaurant opened by 0800 hrs with a buffet breakfast. I did have a well deserved sleep and Udaipur was all bright and sunny with the promise of a clear and hot day coming up. As I had done prior bookings so check out was quite simple and as the Indomitable was being warmed up, I did a quick check of the condition inside the bonnet just to verify that all looked ok and in place. The car windows were cleaned up , I had for this purpose bought a nice handy small cleaning tool from e-bay and used a glass cleaner as the soaping agent. I have learnt that a clean glass helps the driver a lot in making correct decisions on the road.

2. We left the hotel by 0930 hrs.Getting out of Udaipur was fairly simple as we headed towards airport road which would connect us to NH-76.I had opted to taken the NH76 to Chittorgarh instead of the NH-8 which continued right through Udaipur. The reason being on basis of what I had read from other accounts the NH-76 was fairly smooth and devoid of heavy traffic. In reality it was exactly so barring truckers there were absolutely minimal other traffic that soon we were zooming ahead. The highway snakes its way through interior Rajasthan offering a view of rural Rajasthan.

3. At Nimbahera junction we turned left to continue on the NH-76.Nimbahera is a small town in Rajasthan that is known for its cement industries and limestone production. It is stated that soon it is going to become the biggest cement producing region in the country.

4. One thing that I observed in plenty on this route was prayer flags and chunnis being sold in plenty almost at every shop at about two odd km or so.Primarily these are purchased by the truckers who adorn these on their trucks at every possible location. I did stop and purchase a flag and wrapped it around the gear shift pedal as I have always considered it to be of critical importance and esteem for it is the nerve that transmits the driver’s intentions to the heart of the vehicle. Additionally for information there is absolutely no dhaba on the NH-76 from Udaipur till Chittorgarh .

5. The heat by now was building up as we were running the AC in Mode 2 with maximum cooling. The Chittorgarh bypass was up by 1130 hours after a distance of 140 kms.It was definitely a slow rate of speed that we were traversing in on account of the photo shoots that were being undertaken with regular frequency. The Chittorgarh-Bhilwara toll plaza was up by 1200 hrs .The intersection of NH-76 and NH-79 is a sight to see as we meet up with the NH-79 out here which comes arching in from a distance.

6. Fuel was topped up at the Amirgarh filling station and soon we stoppedf or lunch at 1240 hrs at Hotel Vinayak Plaza which was a traditional rustic dhaba exclusively for the truckers who would eat and then rest a bit on the charpoys spread out there .After a sumptuous meal which included the now regular chaas to be had with steaming dal and hot rotis ,we took a break of about 30 min.Our next destination was the Nasirabad bypass on the NH-79 .The scenery was drab and hot as an oven as we speeded up in the afternoon through rural Rajasthan. The Bhilwara-Nasirabad stretch is really a long ardous mind boring stretch with nothing to do except Drive On. The Nasirabad bypass was reached in 1 hour 40 min covering a distance of 134 km from the lunch break which I feel was real quick and made up for quite a bit of the lost time .At the Nasirabad bypass we then proceeded towards Kishangarh and then took the Kishangarh-Jaipur expressway which is a segment of the NH-8 and forms a part of the Golden Quadrilateral project. It is 90 km long toll accessed expressway built by GVK constructions and is the first among the Public-private partnership model.There are numerous signboards all along the NH-76 and NH-79 so even if one is travelling without a navigator the route can be easily understood. I used a combination of Map My India navigator installed in the car and Google maps on the phone.

7. We entered the Jaipur entry toll plaza by 1720 hrs in the evening and had covered 123 km since the Nasirabad bypass. My target was to bypass Jaipur and head out on the NH-8 towards Behror.The jaipur bypass is in a real bad shape and after the smooth roads that we travelled throughout the day the sensitivity to the bad stretch was even more pronounced. We took a break at around six in the evening to have some tea and also to cool the car and clean the windows in preparation for the oncoming night journey. Fuel was again topped up at HP auto care centre for I maintained the fuel level as high as possible.

8. The Jaipur-Behror stretch of NH-8 is really bad as there are numerous diversions due to ongoing construction activity , so a careful lookout has to be kept on the lane in which one is driving.On top of it I believe there was some political rally that had just got finished ,so here we were stuck in massive traffic jams amidst pickups laden with people coming back from the rally , trucks loaded with stuff moving towards Delhi and no one willing to give an inch to the other on the numerous diversions that propped up with regular frequency. It really was a harrowing experience of sudden bursts of speeds as the traffic opened up and every one raced on and then reducing drastically as the next diversion and jam came up.

9. We reached Behror finally by 2100 hours and the RTDC Behror really was excellent when compared to RTDC Kajri.I believe it must have been an architectural site that has been converted in a hotel. We were expected so no hassles in the allotment of the room. As we had reached in time we decided to have dinner at the hotel restaurant itself which actually was not that great but then I was tired after the last stretch of driving so no complaints.

10. The Indomitable was steaming by the time we stopped , so in a way I was glad that we had reached early , cooled it down and then shut it down for the night.ODOMETER reading : UDAIPUR – 55301 ; BEHROR-55867

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Last edited by aah78 : 9th October 2013 at 00:59. Reason: Pictures inserted within post.
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Old 2nd October 2013, 22:29   #4
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Default Re: Spiti Expedition 2013

Destination: Barog , Himachal
1. Considering the long distance that we had to travel which included the early office going traffic of Delhi we decided to make an early start from Behror.Our destination for the day was Barog, Himachal which is a small hill town situated around 8 km away from Solan.

2. There is a tale to the name Barog as it is common to most unique places. The town is named after a certain Col. Barog of the British Army. The Col. Was responsible to construct a tunnel
as a part of the railway project .To speed up construction he commenced digging from both sides but because of a mistake in calculation the ends did not meet in the middle ; as a penalty he was fined Re 1 by the British Government however due to the humiliation he committed suicide and he was buried in the incomplete tunnel. The tunnel later constructed is the straightest tunnel in the world and longest on the Shimla-Kalka stretch amongst the 103 odd tunnels that have been constructed. The town is 1560 mt above sea level (5120 feet).

3. Anyways to get back to the TL , we started by 0730 hrs from Behror and our target was to reach Murthal , one of the fastest developing villages in Haryana and a place long famous for Dhabas.Soon we were speeding on the NH-8 and crossed Manesar and IFFCO chowk exit and soon approached the Gurgaon toll plaza by 0935 hrs covering a distance of 114 kms .We thereafter encountered the morning office traffic of Delhi even as we sought to bypass the city travelling through Mahipalpur and then the IG airport T 3 exit. Our path took us through Dhaula Kuan and then Pitampura metro station from where we turned right towards Sonepat. We reached Murthal by 1120 hrs covering a total distance of 186 km from Behror .The breakfast was at Satnam Dhaba where we had the ubiquitous aloo paratha with curd topped with generous homemade butter and a cuppa of hot tea.

4. We were now on the AH 2 (part of the Grand Trunk Road) and continued through the plains of Haryana towards Karnal which we reached by 1300 hrs after 66 kms from Murthal.After the Karnal toll plaza we then proceeded towards Kurukshetra and Ambala Cantt. Kurukshetra was the land where the battle of Mahabharata was fought during which Lord Krishna preached the Bhagvada Gita. As one travels through the length of this country one realizes how much there is to see and assimilate. Every small town has a history and a story to tell , there is a place waiting to be explored and spoken about .Ambala Cantt had the army look written all over it and it houses the “2 Corps” one of the three strike corps of the Indian Army. Ambala Air Base is one of the oldest in the country. We crossed Ambala Cantt during the hot afternoon by 1430
Hrs.Thereafter we stopped at Khalsa filling station for topping up fuel and to take a water break.

5. A few words about the Grand Trunk road that we were travelling upon is I feel most essential for it is one of South Asia’s most oldest and longest major roads. It has linked the Eastern and Western region of the subcontinent for over four centuries originating from Chittagong in Bangladesh, entering India through Howrah and then cutting across North India reaching the Wagah Border where it enters Pakistan towards Lahore and Gurjanwala and then entering Afghanistan through the Khyber pass and finally culminating at Kabul, a single continuum of over 2500 kms.As Rudyard Kipling has put it “such a river of life as nowhere else exists in the world”.

6. From Ambala we crossed over to the Ambala-Chandigarh Expressway which is a 35 km high traffic density corridor on the NH-22.Lunch was at Sethi Dhaba at around 1530 hrs.The Dhaba was actually a letdown considering the décor that was designed to attract all way farers .Understaffed and unhygienic we just wanted to get on with our journey as soon as possible. One point of note was that the publicity was top grade with mannequins depicting every aspect of Punjabi culture to huge ceiling to floor posters adorned with pics of celebrities who had mentioned about the dhaba .A point which did catch my attention was that the dhaba had organized a ambulance service and logistical support at the site of the Uttarakhand tragedy.

7. After the lunch break our destination was Panchkula which is a satellite city of the UT of Chandigarh and also houses the Chandimandir Cantonment. The weather had changed dramatically as we approached Panchkula as we continued on the NH-22. After the Panchkula-Kalka toll expressway we were welcome to the Himalayan Expressway after covering a distance of 1778 kms from Colaba, Mumbai.

8. The climate grew cooler as we continued on the Himalayan Expressway and soon we crossed over in to Himachal with sudden showers welcoming us to the land of the snow leopard. The road grew slippery as we encountered holiday goers from Chandigarh and Delhi who were enjoying the scenic beauty in the mild rains and were all bound towards Shimla.

9. Our destination was Barog and we topped up fuel once again at Dharampur petrol pump and finally arrived at Barog by 1800 hrs.The Pinewood Barog run by the Himachal tourism is situated right at the summit of the hill town and has a steep ascent. A well maintained property and is a delight to stay in and offers spectacular view of the Solan Valley from the premium rooms.

10. Odometer reading for the day. BEHROR -55867 ; BAROG - 56309

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Last edited by aah78 : 9th October 2013 at 01:00. Reason: Pictures inserted within post.
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Old 8th October 2013, 22:44   #5
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Destination: Rampur, Himachal
1. I had decided to wake up early to do some sunrise photo shots as we were now in the hilly terrain. Accordingly the alarm did go up and I was up by 0700 hrs to see if I could catch some sunrise shots. Though i was late yet the sun was not totally out and I seriously regretted the absence of a DSLR, the digital camera just cannot do justice to the beauty of nature.Anyways clicked some few pics of the fog rising out of the solan valley.

2. Soon it was time to prepare for the day with the destination being Rampur. As was customary cleaned the car windows properly and had a thorough look under the bonnet as to the condition within and satisfied that all was ok decided to warm up the car and load up the luggage. Soon we were ready to roll. Our path took us to Khandaghat and then onwards towards Shilom Bagh, Kufri, Fagu, Theog, Narkhanda, Kingal and finally Rampur.

3. We were now travelling on the NH22, which originated in Ambala .After it enters Himachal it runs through Shimla till the check post of Sumdo from where it turns right towards the village of Kaurik near the Chinese border which is around 40 km away. The village of Kaurik has since been abandoned and is now only used by the BRO personnel. There is some discrepancy on whether the NH 22 is also known historically as the Hindustan Tibet Highway for near the the town of Khab just before the Line Of Actual Control the road runs for a short distance to the village Namgia and then on to the Shipki La pass , where it enters the Chinese territory. I actually could not find two separate roads and in my opinion both are one and the same.

4. Coming back to the present day of the travel we reached Khandaghat from where we turned right towards the town of Chail .The left from Khandaghat goes towards Shimla which is 30 km far. The fog was slowly lifting up from the valley and it was a mesmerizing view and we really were in high spirits on this stage of the journey.

5. Breakfast was simple consisting of parathas with curd and hot tea sitting in the sun. Now Khandagahat was 18 km from Barog and beyond Khandagaht we made our first mistake of the route, there is a place called Challanda from where we are supposed to take a sharp let towards Kufri however somehow we were not able to see any board detailing this and continued straight and reached the town of Chail by 1150 hrs.On enquiry as to the route to Kufri I was again pointed back exactly to the direction that I had come from and this caused a lot of confusion and I was perplexed. Initially I thought that I was being taken for a ride by the locals but then eventually I figured out that probably there was an intersection which I might have missed.

6. So any way I retraced my path backwards looking for some sign board which would tell me the route to Kufri.Eventually after 08 km I was back at the intersection at a place called Challanda.The next way point was Shilom Bagh and I simply loved this name for it sounded so good to say aloud.Shilom Bagh is basically a small town that has some good resorts to stay and one can get away from the maddening crowd of Shimla and yet be close to all the action. I recommend the Toshali Royal View Resort.Shilon Bagh is 57 km from Barog.

7. By this time i was seeing vehicle after vehicle laden with apples fresh rom the orchids high up in the mountains being transported to the main distribution centers for onward transmission to the rest of the country .Kufri was reached 25 km later and now we were just engulfed by canopies of firs, birches and pines as tree after tree stood shoulder to shoulder like a great army waiting for some kind of a directive. It was a totally mesmerizing sight to see and the camera just could not do justice to what the eyes were seeing and words cannot even begin to make someone understand the feelings that were coursing through one.

8. From Kufri our next target was Fagu and thereafter Theog.Towards Kufri we encountered heavy rains and this was my first experience of driving through a heavy downpour through dense woods with the mountain streams flowing all over the road. From Fagu which we reached by 1330 hrs we cut across in to the NH-22 which had come all the way from Shimla or we had left the NH-22 at Khandaghat when we took the state highway towards Chail.

9. Theog was reached 30 minutes later and the heavy downpour had ended by that time and the odometer showed 111 k covered in five and half hours. So basically now one can grasp how the the time taken to cover small distances has considerably increased. As a tourist byte Kufri is long famous for skiing activities while Fagu offers the first views of the Himalayan Ranges. We filled up fuel at Theog for now the availability of fuelling stations would start reducing as we climber deeper towards the upper reaches of Himachal.

10. Our next way point was Narkhanda which was is 33 km room Theog and is famous for apple Orchads.It is situated at 2708 meters above sea level and is surrounded by the Shivalik Ranges and one can see the Hatu peak (11000 ft) closeby.The prime apple belt of Thanedar is close to Narkhanda.Lunch was done at a small outlet on a rainy afternoon and thereafter we proceeded to purchase some Mp3 cds for as a mistake I has not carried sufficient collection with me. After a break o an hour we started for our destination Rampur. Rampur is situated on the banks of the mighty river Sutlej and there is a specific point from where one catches the first glimpse of this mighty river.

11. The river Sutlej is the longest of the five mighty rivers of north India. The source of the Sutlej is Lake Rakshastal in Tibet. From there is flows westwards for 260 km and then enters India at the Shipki La pass and finally meets the river Beas and thereafter enters Pakistan after about 360 km from Himachal.Historically it is said that the Sutlej was an important part of the legendary Saraswati River. We had our customary photo shoot when we first saw this mighty river and thereafter she became our constant companion or the days to come.

12. Rampur was reached by 1830 hrs and just before entering the town we visited the Shri Maharishi Mardini Mahalakshmi Temple while the aarti had just begun .The room was average and comfortable if I may say so but the lighting could have been improved. The food was hot and simple; a relaxed affair .The only down point was that there was no payment by card which I feel should be rectified .We went for a walk to the nearby market and the town main road just to relax ourselves .Simple town with bustling people is my opinion.

13. Final Odometer read as Barog – 56309 : Rampur -56521

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Last edited by aah78 : 9th October 2013 at 01:00. Reason: Pictures inserted within post.
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Old 9th October 2013, 21:05   #6
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Default Re: Spiti Expedition 2013

Destination: Chikul, Himachal
1. As usual I got up early to catch some morning sun rise shots of the town and the surrounding peaks especially as the hotel was located in a good spot. I was able to click a few pictures but then again the absence of a good DSLR was sorely felt.

2. My destination or the day was Chitkul in the Baspa Valley however the night before as I was glancing at the pictures placed in the hotel corridor I had come across the Bhima Kali Temple picture at Sarhan.On further research I came to know that Sarhan was only an odd 45 km from Rampur, so I decided to visit the temple.

3. Accordingly we started from Rampur at 0800 hrs and topped up petrol at a BP petrol pump just outside Rampur. There are many petrol pumps at Rampur which is actually a good thing. From Jeori one needs to deviate from the NH-22 towards Sarhan.The historical temple at Sarhan is a centuries old temple and one of the Shaktipeeths.It is a fusion of Hindu and Buddhist architecture. The highlight of the temple is its all wooden construction. The temple also houses shrines of Lord Raghunath, Lord Narsingh and Lord Patal Bahirva.The darshan at the temple was the highlight of the past four days and I really had a good feeling offering prayers here. Post the visit we had breakfast at Sharma Bhojnalayawhich was in one word-awesome.

4. Soon we were ready to roll towards Chitkul.We retraced our path till Jeori where we again rejoined the NH-22 and proceeded towards Karchcham from where we again had to deviate from the NH-22 and take a right towards Chitkul.Around 10 kms ahead of Jeori one is amazed with the road architecture, the entire sections of the road are cut deep into the mountain side with the huge uncut rocks hanging overhead as one travels on the road. I was amazed with this kind of road laying and proud of the people who made it happen and on the left in the valley one sees one after the other Hydro electric power projects, I feel Himachal is the land of Hydro Power Projects. The biggest among them is the Jhakri Hydel project at 1500 Mw which is mind numbing. I really thank the engineers who made this happen for sitting in the cities one never comes to even know on the scale these projects are done and the engineering feats associated with them.

5. Post Jhakri the roads started deteriorating and finally vanished all together. We crossed the Wangtoo Bridge by 1345 hrs after covering a total distance of 100 km from the Hotel. As we continued towards Tapri, we were contemplating topping up fuel again as the petrol pumps were going to get scarce very soon. The roads were now under the charge of Border Roads Organization and no more under the state government.

6. Tapri was reached by 1420 hrs and is at a distance of 08 kms room the Wangtoo Bridge. The going was real slow now as the roads were nonexistent and hence I was driving cautiously and getting a feel of the mountainous terrain. Post Tapri we continued towards Karchcham.

7. From Karchcham we turned right and proceeded towards Sangla which is a major place on the must see circuit but I felt that more than Sangla it was the stretch between Sangla and Chitkul that was worth seeing. Soon we noticed a unique concept ,atleast for me .The apple orchards were way up in the mountain so the locals used a series of pulleys like a mini cable car to transport all the apples down below in to the valley where they were loaded into the trucks. The distance that there apples travelled through the air could easily be 3-4 kms and I was amazed with the ingenuity of it. We were indulging in a lot of photo shoots and running way behind schedule but then just could not help it, the places and the views were so breathtaking.

8. Sangla had been cut off in the month of June or close to two months from the outside world and hence at many places the roads were closed due to rockslides and one had to take detours.Sangla was reached by 1615 hrs after covering a distance of 30 km from Tapri.It had started to drizzle by this time and we stopped to catch a breather and also have some chai and snacks as we just had not stopped for lunch on the way, not that there were many options available.

9. From Sangla we proceeded towards Rakcham which is at a distance of 14 km and a small village.Sangla is at a height of 2621 mts above sea level and the mighty Raldang Peaks tower behind.It is a sizable town with numerous guest houses and also hiking groups come here to begin their treks.The Baspa river flows in the valley and it is one of the cleanest river that I have seen .The Baspa valley is one of the prettiest valley and I was so glad that I had decided to visit chitkul and Sangla contrary to reports that suggested that the roads were very slushy and risky.

10. I did give a lift to a family of three going towards Chitkul and came to know that over 75% o the children of Chitkul were well educated and employed in good jobs. Reached Chitkul by 1800 hrs and the weather was extremely cold and chilly.Chitkul is at a height of 3450 mt above sea level and I now knew that I was no more going to go down wards in the days to come.

11. Chitkul is the last and highest village in the Baspa valley and is next to the Indo-Tibet border with no roads progressing beyond Chitkul except trekking trails. So in effect I had journeyed to the last motor able road in this region of the country. The Baspa River rises in the Indo Tibet border and is fed by perennial glaciers up ahead. The raw beauty of the Himalayas is shown like a preview and makes one yearn to actually visit the Himalayan ranges .The booking was at Panchali resorts and soon we were unloading our luggage. It was quite a drive with my first experience of driving on dirt tracks the entire afternoon and evening. The Indomitable too was steaming by the time I reached Chitkul.Cooled it down and shut down for the day. There was just enough daylight left for us to walk down to the Baspa River and just reflect on where we were and feel content and satisfied.

12. Odometer for the day. RAMPUR – 56521 ; CHITKUL - 56681

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Old 10th October 2013, 15:51   #7
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Default Re: Spiti Expedition 2013

Destination: Kalpa, Himachal
1. I was determined to see the sun rise on the mountains and accordingly had decided to set an alarm. The night before was freezing cold and I had slept with all the body parts covered including feet and head. The glass windows on all sides were really not helping much and finally I was under two heavy quilts. Suddenly in the middle of the night I got up and blurry eyed looked at the window where I perceived a reddish tinge on the glass. To my fuzzy mind I could relate it as the early morning glow of the sun just about to rise. I nudged my companion up and as he blinked at the glass for some time he deduced that it was the reflection of the night lamp filament on the glass. I found the incident quite funny the next morning for seeing the sun rise was so much on my minds the entire night.

2. The views of the Chitkul early morning with the towering Himalayan ranges were simply a treat to the eyes and the mind. It was freezing cold when we finally ventured outside and clicking pics were an evolution in itself but we were determined not to let the opportunity go by. It was turning out to be a clear morning and the wind was silent, so a perfect start to the day. After some spectacular photo shoots and a visual treat to the eyes we were ready to roll after a hot cup of tea. My customary inspection of the car done as I proceeded to clean the glass I found that the entire glass was totally frosted during the night, such was the drop in temperature. Eventually using warm water I got the glass cleared and by 0645 hrs we were on our way to our next destination, Kalpa.As an information byte the caretaker of the hotel informed us that the entire region had been without electricity close to a month and half.T he villages still further up in the mountains were still waiting for the electricity to be restored and most likely this year that would not be possible as winter was fast approaching.

3. We retraced our steps back till Karchcham dam where we had deviated from the NH -22 and turned right towards Powari .I actually left Chitkul with a heavy heart for it was such a pristine place and so soothing to the mind and heart. On the way towards Sangla we indulged in numerous photographic captures as though we were attempting to take away part of the place with us as we departed .I am sure that I will once again visit Chitkul and say hello to the Baspa river .Breakfast was at Sangla and it consisted of parathas and tea in the rising sun with the backdrop of the Raldang Peaks.Karcham was reached by 1000 hrs and I decided to back further back till Tapri to top up the fuel tank as I was somehow not very sure I the Powari petrol pump was operational or not.

4. At the petrol pump I saw a pick up filling up spare diesel in big canisters and on enquiry came to know that he had come all the way from Pooh. My most repeated question in all the conversations was about a certain road block that was on the way to Pooh and the news received was not very encouraging. I was in constant touch with my hotel at Pooh and Kaza to get constant updates about the road up .As I reached Karcham post topping up from Tapri and took the NH -22 towards Powari , I crossed the right turn deviation to Chitkul , a place time wrapped and secluded in a pretty shell. We reached Shongtong by 1155 hrs.

5. Initially the NH-22 was super smooth and I had begun to hope that contrary to reports received where it was said that the Karchcham- Powari stretch was bad , it was going to be a ride in the park. However all hopes were soon dispelled as the road disappeared and I was soon driving on the lunar surface participating in a lunar expedition. The place was a classic example of raw beauty and harsh terrain and I had never ever seen places like these and driving through mountains with no idea what lay beyond the next turn was a feeling in itself. I loved and reveled in each difficulty that sprang up and the resolve to progress strengthened with each passing kilometer. The thought which came in to the mind was “ The More Difficult The Journey
The Greater Is the Purification”

6. My driving skills were being validated at each and every step with different road conditions with an unmatched desolate beauty all around. As thought we soon reached Powari petrol pump which was closed on account of the entire area slowly sinking down. We reached Powari by 1205 hrs covering a distance of 77 km.From Powari one needs to take the diversion going left and climb up towards Reckong Peo to reach Kalpa.The climb to Recokng Peo is of a very steep incline and at one particular stretch of around 40-50 mts is really very bad with only one vehicle that can move at one time. In the rainy season I suppose that it will be a real tricky climb.Anyways we were able to do the stretch in the first gear .Just before Reckong Peo we came across a car wash station and the car was really looking like a rally participant by this stage. As we had time on our hands we decided to go in for a car wash and accordingly stopped out there. I think it was the first time that the car was getting a wash in such a breathtaking locale with a backdrop of the Kinner Kailash Range. After a thorough inner and external cleaning session we proceeded towards the town of Reckong Peo.

7. Kalpa is situated at a height of 2960 mts above sea level and the pride of the place is the Kinnaur Kailash mountain range which is at a height of 7000 mts and is suppoed to be the winter abode of Lord Shiva. There is the sacred Shivling that changes colour with the falling sun rays and is a 79 feet uncut rock face.Reckong Peo is at a height of 2290 mt which is roughly 7300 feet. In the later part of the expedition I would be touching 15000 feet.

8. From Reckon Peo we proceeded towards Kalpa and reached our destination by 1415 hrs after covering a total distance of 87 km from Chitkul including the trip to Tapri and back. The Kinner Kailash hotel managed by Himachal tourism is amongst the best located hotels offering a spectacular and unrestricted view of Kinner Kailash peak. We indulged in extensive photography and after settling in the hotel I used the camp chair that I had purchased from Decathalon to sit in the afternoon sun as I relaxed after the strenuous drive. It was pure divine bliss as the feeling of where I had reached slowly sunk in as my eyes drank in the beauty of the Kinner Kailash mountain range right in front of me.

9. After a while we decided to explore the town of Reckong Peo and accordingly moved .It was a small bustling hill town and I simply love the feel of small hill towns. We parked the car in the town parking lot and proceeded on foot, the walk was good as it helped to stretch the legs. Decided to have some thupka in the nearby hotel as the weather was getting colder in the approaching evening. After some time we decided to go back as I wanted to catch the views of the Kinner Kailash in the setting sun.

10. I really went overboard clicking the pics as every moment the setting sun rays changed the texture of the mountain and one could only gasp and marvel at the splendor and beauty all around. The night shots did not come out that well but I was happy just to be there .Dinner was simple and thereafter I settled down to write the events of the day and call in a night as tomorrow I would be attempting to cross the first of the road blocks that I had been hearing about so much.

11. Odometer reading for the day . CHITKUL : 56681 - KALPA : 56768
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Old 11th October 2013, 17:35   #8
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Default Re: Spiti Expedition 2013

Destination: Pooh, Himachal
1. We woke up with very high spirits as the distance to be travelled today was not that large and going by the previous account of journeys I would be reaching Pooh by around lunch time. However we had decided to start early as we would be approaching the first rock slide point that going by accounts was causing mayhem in the itineraries of numerous travellers. As I was readying the vehicle and warming it up I struck a conversation with two local drivers who had come the previous evening from Kaza and seeing them at Kalpa gave my confidence a big boost that the road might be open.

2. First things first, I wanted to catch the beauty of the Kinnaur Kailash in the early morning sun rise and accordingly had woken up for the same and what a sight it was, the narrow beams of the sun was just shooting up in all directions as it came up from behind the mountain peak .I was speechless by the sight and to tell the truth just did not want to leave that place. But with the promise of what lay ahead and better vistas to see we were ready to roll by 0800 hrs.At around this time prayers had begun in the local monastery below and the air was filled with the Buddhist chants of " OM MANI PEDME HUM ".The strength of this chant is so profound and the peace that it offers is something that I actually cannot express. The meaning of this chant is something that I asked to a few people but no one could really satisfy me, but rest assured they all said that it holds deep meaning in the Buddhism way of life. I did happen to come across a video clipping of this being asked to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. His Holiness replied that it is not easy to put it in to words what these mean for the meaning differs for each person however to put it simply it means that the mind, heart and the speech speak what is good for all those around oneself, they disseminate good health and cheers to all beings that are in this universe.

3. It was really painful to let go of such serene environment but then we eventually did and moved towards Powari from where we would take the right diversion of the NH-22 towards Pooh. Around 04 kms ahead of Powari we came across the rock slide area and joined a line of vehicles waiting .Even though we were early yet there were so many vehicles ahead of me that I was now apprehensive if we would get an opportunity to go past or not.Anywas I had the whole day with me so I was pretty confident and relaxed.

4. We parked the car and then moved forward on foot to have a look as to what the action was all about and as I neared to the epi centre of the rock slide it was sight that I saw for the first time in my life .There were rocks tumbling down from the mountain side and either they were stopping on the road in the pile of rubble that had already been created or were hurtling down in to the valley below and crashing in to the River Sutlej which was flowing. The place was fast gaining notoriety as the "crusher of vehicles" as was evident from the plight of the most recent victim - a Toyota etios that had been ripped apart from the rocks the evening before. The length of vehicles kept increasing and soon there was a bunch of trucks, SUVs, an army convoy, pickups etc waiting to cross over. I really could not exactly understand as to why were the rocks falling but the bottom line was that they were falling and as the day progressed the wind pick up in intensity and soon the rock slide was almost continuous with hardly a break of maybe five to ten minutes.

5. There was a JCB with its crew at work from one side and a earthmover from the other side .it was a constant battle between man and nature as the effort to remove the rocks piled on the road was carried out doggedly and the rocks too kept piling up with the same spirit. No one was giving the other any room .The JCB crew worked with a spotter and let me elaborate a bit on this , the spotter was a guy who was on the ground a little ahead of the JCB and at all times was keeping his eyes on the mountain side from where the rocks were hurtling below .As soon as he detected a slight dust rising up high in the mountain he would blow a whistle and run backwards , hearing the whistle the JCB crew would reverse their machine with the maximum speed possible to get out of the way before the avalanche of rocks hit the exact place where they were working moments before. It was a battle of will and perseverance between man and nature, a slow moving battle which went on and on right through the morning.

6. As the afternoon dragged by I started getting apprehensive for now it meant that the road ahead would be even more daunting to cover and I would be travelling under pressure to meet the target of meeting my deadline. As the waiting went on there was nothing much to do other than strike conversations with the people that had gathered there , right from the local drivers to the bus passengers to the army personnel for whom this was their third day of being stuck at the same place .I was speaking to a group of foreigners who were on a trip to the Spiti Valley and then on to the Ladakh sector and as I was speaking to their guide he was advocating turning back and travelling back to Rampur and then take the Jalori Pass towards Manali and then crossing over to the Spiti valley from the Rohtang Pass and thereafter the Kunzum pass. I spoke less and listened more as now I was also weighing the options that were available.

7. Soon evening came on and nature had her way as the JCB crew gave up and the rocks still kept falling .In the fading light the chill started building up .People started weighing the possibilities and the localites just turned back. The army convoy too started reversing back which was a challenge in its own hoping for better luck the next day. I contemplated what should be my next course of action for reaching Pooh was no more in the picture, my bookings had gone for a toss and I had no booking for the night at either Kalpa or at Reckong Peo.We even contemplated spending the night at the rock slide site itself like how the truckers were planning to but after deliberation decided to move back towards Reckong Peo and spend the night out there in the car itself and be back on site early in the morning.

8. Accordingly we turned back and headed back to Reckong Peo and parked the car at the community car park. All this while my mind was racing with the options available because seeing the way the situation was building up I was actually losing hope of crossing the rock slide. One option even came to my mind to abandon the trip and see some other places in Himachal but I composed myself and told myself to get a grip.Anyways I decided to use this evening to do some research as I had not even planned for something like this .I started going through Google maps to see the route to Manali and the time that it would take to reach there .Additionally I went to local taxi stand to get on ground information as to which route I would take. The route to Manali was around 700 kms long and would take roughly 8-9 hours if I went through Jalori Pass and sainj.The reports on ground stated that Jalori Pass was open for traffic. Additionally I was not very sure if the non state HP vehicles needed a permit to cross Rohtang La for to reach Kaza from Manali I had to cross Rohtang La which in my initial planning I wanted to avoid .I could not get any confirmatory answers to this question because if this was true even for a private vehicle that implied that I would be delayed in Manali for an additional day and all my further bookings would be tossed all over the place. Abandoning the trip I was not willing to so finally I decided to try my luck tomorrow morning and then take a call as the situation progresses and if need be turn back and drive through the night the same day to reach Manali in time and salvage some sort of an itinerary.

9. After all this conceptual planning we decided to eat something for we had not eaten anything proper the entire day .Accordingly we decided to indulge in a bit of street food and so on the chilly evening at Reckong Peo we sample fish tikka deep fried with accompaniments and fresh onions , totally north Indian style. It was simply delicious and this starter actually built up our appetite as then we decided to go in for an early dinner and then retire for the night.

10. We strolled around the small town and enquired some good places to eat and after a few recommendations selected one and had a nice warm dinner and thereafter retired to the car for the night. It was my first experience to sleep in the car the entire night so we reclined the seats , donned all the gloves and the caps , put on some light music and made ourselves as comfortable as possible .The plan was to get some sleep and reach the rock slide site very early so that if the opportunity presented itself we wanted to be among those who could get across.

11. Final odometer for the day . Kalpa : 56795 - Reckong Peo : 56830
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Last edited by swsumit : 11th October 2013 at 18:18. Reason: Grammatical errors
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Old 12th October 2013, 15:47   #9
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Default Re: Spiti Expedition 2013

Destination: Pooh, Himachal
The eighth day of me being on the road. I had surpassed all my previous travel experiences by a long haul as I got myself all geared up for a very crucial day of the trip. We woke up by 0430 hrs and by 0515 hrs we were ready to roll. The sleep was comfortable till about two thirty in the night but after that maybe because of the cold I really could not sleep and was tossing and turning waiting or the night to end.

2. We soon approached the Pangi Nullah site by 0600 hrs and we were the second car to reach so I parked the INDOMITABLE right up at the starting line. The weather was perfect but I was aghast to see that there were still sporadic rocks tumbling down. This really did not look good so early in the morning with hardly any wind. Suddenly a few rocks changed their course and one of them damaged the windscreen of the vehicle just in front of us. This made me immediately back up a bit and wait for the BRO team to arrive.

3. The BRO team arrived by 0815 hrs and were on job by 0830 hrs.Slowly the number of people started to increase. The progress of the road clearing was again slow just like the previous day as the rock slide just did not abate sufficiently to make any substantial progress. Slowly the moment of decision started approaching as I had to make up my mind as to what was going to be my next step. By 0930 hrs I decided to back up the car so that in case I needed to head back I could before the entire road behind me got filled up. So accordingly I backed up quite behind relinquishing my earlier spot. My companion was all for heading back and kept urging me to turn back and make up for the lost time and at that point of time that was most logical step to undertake.

4. Soon the foreigner group too arrived and after spending some half an hour the decision was made by the guide to head back towards Manali and the drivers started reversing their Innovas.I wanted to tag along with them as this was a good opportunity because I was not clear of the route and so I told them that I would soon catch up and headed back towards the car, my decision to turn back made up. As my mind was grappling with the changes and numerous other details that now needed to be worked out, I decided for the last time to head to the rock slide to have a look.

5. Accordingly I signaled my companion that we were heading back I moved ahead for one last time. Suddenly hope sprung up like a geyser of warm water gushing upwards as my eyes saw that the rock slide had abated for about 10 -15 min and the BRO crew were working like people possessed to regain control of the situation from both sides. I now knew that there was not going to be anymore turning back for a small hope is all one needs to cling to in a helpless situation.

6. Soon the vehicles from the other end which were carrying fresh produce meant or the markets were rushing over unmindful as to what was being hit on the undercarriage of the vehicles .The clearance was very bad for the more time the JCB worked in clearing the rubble the shorter would be the window available for the crossing over. I rushed back and informed my companion that we were going to move AHEAD!!!

7. Soon it was my turn to move ahead and I just did moved ahead praying that the rocks did not take the undercarriage off and that no stone should come flying from above. In a matter of minutes I was across and moving ahead negotiating the oncoming vehicles trying to cross over for everyone knew that the rocks slide was just taking a breather and would resume soon enough.

8. The road past the rock slide was straight from out of this world , I will not use the word Hell for I still loved the road however it was but it is true that it was no road for a vehicle and much less for a sedan. Absolutely filled with loose stones it needed a constant focus on the road and to move ahead in the first and second gears. A few kms ahead we decided to stop and clean up the car and also take a breather. I performed a quick check under the car and observed nothing abnormal. We came across numerous signboards informing us that we were travelling on the most treacherous road in the world though in my opinion this would be one among the top five treacherous roads in the world. As the saying goes , "interesting people are met only on roads less frequented" and so it happened that i met Akshay just near Kharo Bridge and a friendship has sparked of that holds the promise to grow and age with time.A biker by soul his travels are worth emoluting and i wish him numerous more journeys in the day coming ahead.

9. The IDOMITABLE really took a hammering in terms of the suspension continuously working to stabilize the car but barring three odd occasions till date the sump guard had still not made contact with the road and I was amazed as well as pleased with this. There were three more rock slides ahead and we had with us a local whom I had given a lift who helped us in negotiating and also identifying these areas. So I was mighty glad that I had him with me. There were tense moments when we were crossing these areas for there was no BRO presence to warn of any incoming rock and so my companion had his eyes stuck to the horizon as we were crossing the area.

10. We reached Spillow by 1225 hrs crossing Akpa check post ,Moorang( a great village to visit but I could not , surrounded by apple and apricot orchards) and Ribba Villages and Pooh Village by 1515 hrs.There is an army help post just before Pooh where they offer on the house refreshments for those wishing for the same. A small gesture but then it goes a long way in making an impression. The drive through Pooh village had to be done for the other road skirting the village was under repair at that point of time and for me that drive through the village was the most challenging of the trip till date. The road was extremely narrow and of a very steep incline that resulted in me driving up in first gear constantly and hoping against hope that I don’t have to stop for I knew that I would be able to move forward if the car stopped .As luck would have it I encountered oncoming traffic and I had no option but to reverse and reversing on the narrow twisting road took its toll on me as well as the INDOMITABLE for at many places I had to move ahead again to align the car and then continue reversing. Finally on one occasion I just could not reverse on a particular tricky part however hard I tried and I ended up burning the clutch on more than one occasion. The car was now stalled and I just could not move ahead or behind. The oncoming traffic kept building up and seeing my predicament a local driver offered to help. I immediately agreed and he in no time showed me how much more I still have to learn in driving skills.

11. I swore never to enter the town again for the danger in driving on that particular road.Finalyy we were able to complete our path through the village honking most of the time to warn the other cars that there was oncoming traffic. We then reached our destination –OM GUEST THOUSE which actually is a very well maintained place with spacious rooms and comfortable. The car was grimy as I was after the drive and I was aware that today’s drive had taken a lot out of the INDOMITABLE but it had really performed very well at all sections of the drive and any fault encountered was actually mine .There was something which did happened which was going to influence the events the following days. As I had a habit of checking the car undercarriage every few hours for any abnormal signs, around 10 kms before Pooh I noticed black oil drops dripping from near the area of the oil sump. I immediately examined the drop and concluded that it was too clean to be engine oil so that narrowed the source of leakage to either the brake fluid or the power steering fluid and both were bad news for I was carrying spare for engine oil and coolant but not the above two.

12. Anyways to understand it better I jacked up the car on the road itself and got underneath to see the source of leakage. The source seemed coming from the axle line so I was thinking that it could be the brake oil .Anyways with a bad feeling I drove to Pooh and found a mechanic shop where the single guy informed me that the head mechanic was out towards Kaza and taking a look at the leak he said that the gear box oil was leaking out. This was really bad news because of all the parts the gear box had to be filled with oil at all times and the gears had to be kept lubricated.

13. Reaching the guest house I used the hotel owner’s phone and called up the service centre at Mumbai and explained my predicament and I was informed that to continue driving the car in this state was highly not recommended and that in case of a seizure of the gears the car would just become totally immobile within fraction of a second. This statement did not help me one bit for here I was in the middle of a place that was away from all possible means of support or help especially for the Logan which was just not visible out in these parts. I was really perplexed as to how to sort this issue for no immediate solutions were coming. Was the trip going to end this way?? I don’t know for going ahead meant risking the car and getting in to a situation which would be infinitely worse than what I was presently in .The Mahindra help line did not help either because the poor guys on the help line just could not locate the area I was in on their computer and were telling me names of service centers that were so far that they might as well be on the moon itself.

14. Anyway I decided to do something and wanted to find out the source of the leakage to see if I could use some kind of an adhesive to plug it. Seeing me tinkering on the car I was approached by a god send help in the form of Mr Lamaji by all who stood by my side for the next three hours calling all whom he knew who could provide assistance. At all time he kept encouraging me stating that I could make the trip till Manali comfortably. I had no heart in telling him that I was not planning to cross the Kunzum pass and my itinerary was retracing the same path back to Barog after I reached Lossar.

15. The news by this time had spread of an out station car in trouble and I was visited by all sorts of friendly people offering advice and words of encouragement. Finally it was turning dark and I resolved that I would continue to Kaza the next day and that I would keep topping up the gear box with gear oil every one hour. The decision to go back on the same route was also shelved for in this condition of the car I just could not go back on the same path from which I had come.

16. That evening I was close to despair for quite some time for I was just not sure what path and deciosn I had to take for my hands were tied due to lack of resources and circumstances. But I thank God that I had people like my companion and Lamaji who though could not help me technically yet were pillars of support in encouragement. That evening I spent sitting and talking to Lamaji and his friends on Buddhism and the positivity that it bought to all. As I write this down I realized that I was content that evening in that company to be there not sure of what lay in store the next day or the days ahead, what hardships I was supposed to undergo yet my heart had calmed down and I was slowly but surely having a feeling of peace and tranquility sitting on that bench with Lamaji in the gathering chilly night.

17. Final Odometer for the day. RECKONG PEO : 56830 – POOH : 56902
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Old 12th October 2013, 16:59   #10
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Default Re: Spiti Expedition 2013

Mod note: Thread moved from Assembly line to Travelogue Section. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 12th October 2013, 18:44   #11
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Great write up with good details of the places you have been to as well as the places themselves! Nice pics too!!

The route seems to be off the beaten track, so, how did you decide on this route?
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Old 13th October 2013, 17:15   #12
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1. Early in the morning I was up and was exactly feeling like I was about to appear for my board examinations when I was in school. There were butterflies in my stomach as I so desperately wanted the head mechanic to be at his shop and resolve my problem so that everything could revert back to as how it was before.

2. I need to thank Lamaji here because the night before he finished for the day he had spoken to head mechanic on phone, one Mr. Shoba Ram and instructed him to come to the hotel itself to have a look and so promptly at 0800 hrs I was pleasantly surprised to see Shoba Ram standing outside the hotel having a cup of hot tea and waiting for me to arrive. I soon guided him to the car and while he was doing his preliminary examination I stood expectantly looking at his face expecting him to perform miracles right then and there.

3. Anyway after he finished his examination he informed me that the rubber bellow connecting the gear box to the axle had given away and there was no possibility of spare out here and suggested me to get the car to his shop so that he would see what he could do in the present circumstances. By 0915 hrs we were at his road side workshop and the vehicle was jacked up and the sump guard taken off and shoba ram wriggled underneath to see if he could do anything. He informed me that in his opinion the car could sustain till Manali as the leakage was in drops and that he would top up the gear oil right now and maybe I could once again top it up in Kaza and in this way continue the journey. We topped up the gear oil and on an afterthought I suggested binding up the component with rubber tube to bind the cut properly. Though initially he was against the idea he eventually relented and we spent a good amount of time trying to tie the rubber tube in a proper manner. Thereafter we refitted the sump guard and then we were on our way by 0945 hrs.

4. After around two kms as was my habit I decided to have a look at the quantum of leakage and parked the car to the side. As I looked down what I saw sank my heart down so rapidly that I was close to panic by now , there was a steady tap flow of the gear oil leaking now instead of the droplets that was observed the day before. I looked at my companion and we both agreed that we had to head back to Shoba Ram again. I reversed the car and we headed back again to him, he was not exactly happy to see me I could perceive that. By this time I had realized that the only change that had taken place was the tube that we had bound tightly , somehow that had made the clearance to increase and the oil was flowing more freely now.

5. I requested him to take off the cycle tube and we re topped the gear oil and then he suggested me to take a test run and come back, I did so and the inspection after that revealed minor leakage of oil amounting to maybe 3-4 drops in 30 sec.Eventually by 1030 hrs we were ready to begin our journey for the day. I drove continuously with the thought of the continuous leakage playing on my mind and kept periodically stopping the car to check the rate of leakage though in hindsight I neither had the gear oil nor the filling pump to fill the oil.

6. We soon reached Khab Bridge which was 24 kms from Pooh. I wanted to visit Shipki La and I did have the resources to manage my visit to the check post but the thought of the leakage prevented me from taking this detour and I was sorely unhappy over this for I so much wanted to visit the ITBP and army check posts out there. The detour to Shipki la comes before Khab Bridge and one needs to take the right fork which goes up in to the mountains. The first village which is supposed to come on this route is Namgia and there is a substantial army presence on this stretch.Khab bridge presides over the sangam of the Sutlej as it flows down from Shipki La and the Spiti as it comes down from the Spiti Valley. The green waters of the Spiti mingle with the brown muddy waters of the Sutlej and they flow towards Karchcham.I believe the road to Namgia and further is quite deteriorated though I cannot substantiate it.

7. A few bytes on Shipki La, well it is the mountain pass that connects India and Tibet and is an off shoot of the Old Silk Route. It is rumored that the government is considering opening up the pass as a trade border post after Nathu La and Lipulekh which are the remaining two border trade posts with China. The pass is at an elevation of 5669 mts above sea level and is supposed to have some spectacular switchbacks and hair pin turns.

8. Anyways I continued straight and soon reached the KA Zigs which are a series of switchbacks , total nine in number that gradually elevate you as one climbs towards Nako , on the SH 48.Nako is famous for the Nako monastery founded by Rinchen Zangpo who was the principal translator ( known as lotasawa) associated with the translation of sacred Sanskrit Buddhist texts in to Tibetan .I was eager to see the Nako lake which is one of the three famous lakes of this region , the other two being Chandrataal and Dhankar but sadly I decided to continue ahead as wanted to reach Kaza as early as possible.

9. Post Nako I met Malling Nullah about whom I had read so much and seen so much, who was the destroyer of vehicles and dreams. The road leading to Malling was real bad and there were sufficient sign boards to inform us that we were approaching Malling.The crossing was stable enough and I was lucky that the deep water just at the beginning of the Nullah was calm and I could see the rocks beneath. I took my time gauging the path that I was going to take and with my companion guiding me from ahead was able to negotiate Malling quite safely. Immediately after Malling there was a landslide stretch which was giving problems this year and I could see a JCB clearing boulders even as I was crossing Malling, thankfully I did not have to wait at the unpredictable stretch and was waved through by the BRO team stationed there.Malling was crossed at 1215 hrs and now my target was reaching Sumdo check post which would mark the formal entry to the Spiti Valley and the end of the Kinnaur Valley.

10. The road condition had deteriorated after Nako with careful driving the need of the hour. I wanted to touch the river Spiti so at one point I just stopped the car and raced down to the river bank, gulped a mouthful of the cold clear water and then decided to race up the river bank. By the time I neared the road my lungs were actually hurting with the lack of oxygen and I realized how difficult it would be out here to indulge in any kind of strenuous activity. I reached Sumdo by 1345 hrs , underwent the customary register entry and then we were through and again I had to give a miss to the opportunity of visiting Kaurik Village which was on the Indo China border though very much abandoned after the 1962 war. I do hope that my next trip to this region would enable me to complete all those points that I missed.

11. We reached Tabo by 1510 hrs after crossing Hurling and Lari villages. I passed a horse breeding farm at Lari which was my first.Lari has a population of only 235 It is to be understood that every kilometer out here counts especially if one is not driving in super SUVs .I thereafter reached Schling by 1615 hrs from where one has to take the diversion to Dhankar Gompa but more on that in my next post. I was totally in the Buddhist part of India now and crossed numerous Mani stones and Chortens which are intended to drive away evil spirits. The landscape was spectacular to say the least and the Spiti River meandered next to us in slow lazy turns .It was indeed the ABODE OF GODS – a place which was fit for imbibing the teachings of Lord Buddha. Desolate yet beautiful it leaves an everlasting impression on oneself.

12. By this time I really wanted to reach Kaza as the light was beginning to fade and I was worried on the level of oil left in the sump. I had decided to stop at the Maruti Service Centre that was situated at the beginning of the town. Meanwhile I gave a lift to a local GREF guy who informed me that BRO has taken over this stretch of the road and that soon we would in a couple of years see a marked improvement on the road condition .But I feel that the beauty of this place, the magnetism of it is its difficult terrain and inhospitable terrain which is the lore of this region. The dirt roads are a part of the picture and provide the adventure quotient to the whole canvas.Anyways soon I reached the Attargo Bridge which was the entry to the Pin Valley which I hope to cover later but today my eyes were searching Kaza which is 22 km from Attargo Bridge.

13. I reached the Maruti service centre by 1715 hrs and met the head mechanic Mr. Chaman who agreed to top up the gear oil and also suggested that he would be able to fix the problem if I could get him the spare at Manali from where he could arrange transportation to Kaza.I took over his phone and from the Mahindra Dealer book called up the Mahindra Service Centre at Mandi (Shimla Automobiles) and spoke to the manager Mr. Praveen who assured me of all help and provided me his mobile number and said that the next day he would arrange delivery of the spare at Manali at the destination of my choice.

14. This news was so pleasant to hear that I felt buoyant, anywas soon we were on our way to Rangrik which was the place of our stay at Hotel Spiti Sarai.The Kaza market was quaint and we withdrew some cash at the only ATM (SBI) which fortunately was working though we had to wait for over an hour.

15. In the gathering darkness we headed towards the end of Kaza and then took a left on the bridge which comes which takes us to Rangrik Village and to our destination –The Spiti Sarai.The Spiti Sarai is the second hotel on the right before the village of Rangrik and Mr Ramesh, the proprietor was waiting for me along with his time and I had reached one full day late considering my booking schedule. A hot delicious dinner awaited us and we actually hogged and also met the foreigner group who had turned back and even they had just reached an hour back.The look on their face said it all when they learnt that we had been able to squeeze through the rockslide. I really liked the hospitality of the team at the Spiti Sarai and loved the attention given to us .

16. Odometer for the day. POOH : 56902 – RANGRIK: 57075
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Old 14th October 2013, 13:30   #13
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Brilliant set of pictures.
Did you remove the SD card and sort the images out daily? If not, you really have a good memory.

Starting from post#6, the pictures get even better.
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Old 14th October 2013, 16:04   #14
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Superb pics! I was assuming it was done on an SUV until I saw the boot pic! Kudos for attempting the so-called "SUV" territory in a sedan. Haven't really read the entire log, will go through slowly .
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Old 14th October 2013, 16:41   #15
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Awesome log coupled with really good pictures. Spiti Valley is definitely the next destination for me. The land of the Gods as they say. So you did not carry any oils for the car including engine oil?

Last edited by motomaverick : 14th October 2013 at 16:43.
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