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Old 9th December 2013, 09:10   #1
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Default 50 shades of brown

50 shades of brown

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An ink blue sky

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Meandring rivers

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And a Toyota Fortuner's

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lust for...

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Rubble

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Most of you would have guessed the destination till now. Yes its the Spiti valley. Barren, dusty, and yet stunningly beautiful mountainscape. Since time immemorial wind has sculpted these mountains in shapes which defy all logics. The weather is harsh, snowed out for almost 7-8 months in a year. The spiti river makes a vast delta providing the much needed life to these wind cut mountains.
Rudyard Kipling called Spiti " A world with in a world " and its not hard to understand why. Though modern amenities of life have reached but you still get a feeling that time has stood still here. You get the feeling of entering into a different civilization. The difficult journey to this place will have questions coming to your mind " Why i am doing this? ". Spend a few days here and you ask yourself " Why did i not come here earlier in life ? ". This is an account of our journey to Spiti valley, where ..

Our Mornings lit up by the first rays

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The mid days surprised us

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And the Evenings mesmerised us

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And then moon light enveloped us in the Night

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Trip details

Month of travel : September
Vehcile : Toyota Fortuner aka Maximus conqueror of the Las of north.
Travellers : 2 ( Self and brother in law. )

Route
Day-1 Bhopal - Chittor-Kishangarh-Ratangarh

Day 2 Ratangarh - Swarghat

Day 3 Swarghat - Manali

Day 4 Manali - Kaza

Day 5 Kaza

Day 6 Kaza

Day 7 Kaza - Chandratal

Day 8 Chandratal - Sundernagar

Day 9 Sundernagar - Noida

Day 10 Noida - Bhopal

Total distance - 3835 kms

Driver - Solo ( yep drove the full route solo )

Fuel economy for the trip - 11.7 km/l

Last edited by columbus : 10th December 2013 at 15:16.
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Old 9th December 2013, 16:59   #2
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Days before

I think I was destined to visit Spiti this year. In May this year a road trip to Kinnaur was done with family. We missed out Chitkul due to road closure. Instead we managed to visit Tirthan valley. ( yes log is in pipeline )
On our return from kalpa we took a wrong turn at Powari. So instead of going towards Tirthan we were blazing away to Spiti. Crossed the landslide zone after Rekong Peo and then realized we were on the wrong path. Asked a Q to wife "Shall we continue towards spiti ". It was snowed out then and my daughter was showing signs of cold. We decided to turn back but the seed had been sown.
Come september and mine and Maximus's lust for rubble reaches unmanageable proportions . I think its the ideal time to visit ladakh and Spiti areas. Monsoon recedes, roads are in best condition, blue sky and off season means lesser crowds and down to earth rates. However due to immense workload and lack of commitment from anyone else for the trip, meant that i had almost given up on Spiti this year.

3 days before, on an informal phone call with Pari (BIL)

Me : need a break from work
Pari : Yeah me too. Project has just finished.
Pari : Are'nt you making your annual september plan to Ladakh
Me : Been there twice.. Was thinking of Spiti
Pari : Chalo chalte hain.. I am in.
Me Are you serious
Pari: yes boss definite
Me : After a pause of half a minute. Get a train ticket to bhopal for 13th. Tatkal opens tomorrow
Pari : Are you serious !!
Me : Bloody well I am. I have a 10 day window from work. Don't miss that train
Pari : Shit..!
Both of us drop the bomb at home to hear some routine stuff **&^%$$. But the plan was on. Men will be men .

This being my 4th trip to this region and now 2 days are now enough for me to plan for such a road trip. Car essentials like electric pump, shovel, wooden
planks, tow rope, D-shakles, puncture kit, jump start cables, 20L Bisleri can for disel, funnel etc are all neatly packed in a carton. All i have to do is just put that carton in the car.
Other essential gadgets like car inverter, torch, candles, lighter, flask, dryer, chargres etc are all put in a bag called gadget bag. Pollution certificate was available from Kinnaur visit in May and valid till october. Only things remaining are medicines and food stuff which require an evening at a mall. Clothes require hardly an hour to put through. Car was serviced a month back , did'nt even bother to open the bonnet.
By 9 in the evening of 13th i was all set. Tomorrow will be a very long day.
But one thing was missed. I had'nt given the higway guru HV Kumar a ring. That was very important. You don't set out on 4k kms road trips without giving a tinkle to the Guru !
Gave him a ring and lo-behold i get a voice answer that the number has been suspended ! Checked on his facebook page and came to know about his fight with TRAI. Before hitting bed left a message on HVK fan club page and hoped for the best.

Last edited by columbus : 10th December 2013 at 07:34.
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Old 9th December 2013, 17:09   #3
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Day 1

A day of guarding angels

At 7:00 in the morning my phone rang. An unknown number ? A familiar voice crackled on the other side. HVK calling ! Discussed the route plan with him and decided to take the longer Bhopal-Ujjain-Chittor-Kishangarh route as it was the only option.
I take this oppurtunity to thank HVK for the enormous help provided through out the trip. I don't know how you manage to do it Sir. My salutes to you .

Today will be a long day for we had a 1000 km drive ahead of us. 1k kms drive usualy start at 5 in morning but Pari's train was at 8:30. Thankfuly it was right time and after breakfast at Station we started at 9:00.
The road till Chittor is super smooth except for a patch near Nimbhera. Lunch happened at a Culvert. Weather was cloudy with a gentle breeze blowing.


Lunchbox


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I think every person driving on Indian roads has a guarding angel watching him. The angel winks and you are in trouble and if the angel sleeps you are in big trouble !

Incident 1

I am cooly waiting at a toll bridge and Bang from back. A truck decided to kiss Maximus behind. Scratch marks on the bumper and minor dent on tail gate. I had no option but to bang my head on the steering. My angel had winked.
We were at Kishangarh by 8-8:30 PM and after a quick chat with HVK decided to push to Ratangarh on the Bhatinda mega highway. HVK was kind enough to book RTDC ratangarh for us.At 11:30 in the night we were at RTDC ratangarh.

Incident 2

We had just overshot the cut for RTDC and stopped couple of meters ahead to figure out whether we back up or turn left into a ditch for rtdc. The left tyre was on mud shoulder and right occupied 3 foot of road.
The light beam was on low and even though traffic was none blinkers were also on.
Suddenly i see lights of an oncoming vehicle veer towards me and both of us are shouting what the hell. A Bolero is on course for hitting us head on. At the last minute it screeches veers and comes to stop parallel to us.
The driver was drunk and started abusing us specifically for high beam. I double check and the beam is at low. We thought of getting out and giving him a peace of mind.However the bolero had 6 men in it and they too were in a shocked state. We decided to ignore. The bolero drove on and it took us a minute to realize that the driver had SLEPT.
He had been woken in nick of time and he barely managed to avoid a head on collision. Exasperated he had started abusing us to hide his blunder

I realized that my guarding angel was wide awake at that time and saved me from a major accident. I said a silent prayer and said Thank you God.

Kms for the day - 930

Last edited by columbus : 10th December 2013 at 15:19.
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Old 10th December 2013, 07:55   #4
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Day 2

In the eye of the storm


Breakfast at RTDC Ratangarh


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Breakfast at RTDC was nothing to talk about. Started at 8:30 for Manali. Took the Ratangarh - Churu - Hissar - Ambala - Manali route. Somebody had informed HVK that Churu road was good. Wrong decision. Road was all craters. Took us a lot of time to reach Hissar. From Hissar to Ambala the road is single carriage with good traffic. So at around 4:30 we were at Shambhu toll on the Bannur route. Manali would take another 8 hrs. Bad roads and traffic had drained me and we realised that Manali won't be possible today. Both of us felt low cause we had lost 1 full day in just 2 days of our trip. After a tea break decided to reach bilaspur and then decide further.
As we crossed rupnagar we saw massive dark clouds surrounding the hills. The sky was clear above us but the clouds surrounding the hills looked omnious.
We saw bolts of lightening flashing around the hills. Wind started picking up and soon it was strong enough to shake my beast. As we crossed HP border it started raining cats and dogs. Trees started falling and there was no point in taking a risk by going further. Parked at a petrol bunk and waited an hour for the storm to abate. Well lets say i have never seen such strong winds and blinding rain. The body of the car shook with each gust of wind.
The storm left its trail of destruction on the road with number of trees uprooted. Luckily for us there was'nt any traffic jam. Driving in heavy rain we managed to reach Swarghat where we decided to call it a day and checked in HPTDC. Power lines were snapped so no electricity. A candle light dinner and hit the bed early.

Kms for the day - 510

Yersterday we drove 900+ kms and today only 500. We still could'nt figure out what happened. We were supposed to reach Manali today. But in 2 days of trip we were late by 1 full day.
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Old 10th December 2013, 08:35   #5
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Day 3

Swarghat - Manali

Since our destination was manali only, took it easy and started at 9:30 after a lousy breakfast at HPTDC. The morning was lovely with no sign of yesterdays storm. It appeared as if nothing happened. The uprooted trees were the only signs of the havoc played by the storm. The road upto Bilaspur is patchworked and cratered, but certainly it had improved from May when it was horrible.
Once you cross the ACC cement factories at Bilaspur a sense of calm comes. For me the trip begins from here. Less traffic, winding roads, crisp mountain air, lovely scenery all around... perfect driving conditions.

Lunch was at a riverside cafe. Fish was decent.


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By 4:00 we were at the green tax barrier at Manali. Permits for rohtang are also issued here. Saves the hassle and waste of 1 day by not going to DC office. Here we met 3 bikers from Australia on their BMW Multistradas. They were on trans Euro-Asia trip. Man when we are going to get such an oppurtunity of driving overland to Europe.

Its a bit strange for me that within a period of 4 months i managed to see a flower becoming an Apple. The first two are from orchards in Kalpa where we went in May. The next are from current Spiti trip enroute to Solang.


Flowering season April-May

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Apples in September


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By 5 we were checked in Hotel Iceland in Solang. Since it was offseason managed to negotiate a decent rate with the help of HVK club . I always stay here because of number of advantages.
1. A night at Solang offers better acclimitisation than Manali.
2. It gives you a good 40 minutes head start from Manali traffic, the next morning.
3. Great views and location.
4. The river offers interesting photo options.


These are the only colours you will see in this log apart from brown.


From the lawns of the hotel


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The evening was lovely


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Time for some long exposures


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Last edited by columbus : 10th December 2013 at 16:03.
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Old 11th December 2013, 17:31   #6
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Default Re: 50 shades of brown

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 11th December 2013, 18:02   #7
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Good snaps and crisp narration with cryptic titles, enjoyed them. The apple picture, red one, looks good enough to eat! Been there couple of times with family, Rudyard Kipling said it right.

More mouth watering are the scent of BMW Multistradas, when will I be able to do a trans-Europe, C2C US trip, I dream on!

Nice to hear of the patch work on the Bilaspur seciton, last time I drove to Manali in June 2013, it was a horror. Wish there's a good work-around to this section.

Please keep loading, awaiting more pictures, thanks for sharing. What camera did you use?

--Ramky
======
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Old 11th December 2013, 19:52   #8
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Columbus, Fantastic narration and amazing pics.
Glued to this thread. Bring it on!
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Old 11th December 2013, 22:15   #9
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A promising thread with crisp narration
Quote:
Since our destination was manali only, took it easy and started at 9:30 after a lousy breakfast at HPTDC.
Curious to know how bad the traffic was between Swarghat and Bilaspur. Have heard this section is notorious for heavy truck traffic during the day. I did this in the dead of the night when I drove to Manali a couple of years back. Had the road all to myself (post midnight hour) but I remember scores of trucks parked on the side for miles and miles around Swarghat.
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Old 11th December 2013, 22:32   #10
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Lovely thread, I'm hooked and look forward to reading more with a lot more pictures.
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Old 11th December 2013, 23:12   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ramkya1 View Post

More mouth watering are the scent of BMW Multistradas, when will I be able to do a trans-Europe, C2C US trip, I dream on!

Nice to hear of the patch work on the Bilaspur seciton, last time I drove to Manali in June 2013, it was a horror. Wish there's a good work-around to this section.

What camera did you use?

--Ramky
======
Yep those multistradas looked awesome. But thanks to our "friendly" neighbours an overland drive to europe may never be possible. But there is no harm in dreaming You enjoy the himachal apples where as i am enjoying NewZeland ones !
The road was very bad in May and i can understand how it would have been in June since the monsoons hit early this year.

I use a canon 60D and an old 350D.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SDP View Post
Columbus, Fantastic narration and amazing pics.
[quote=Shreyans_Jain;3317371]
Curious to know how bad the traffic was between Swarghat and Bilaspur. QUOTE]

Thats the worst stretch of the route. I have been stuck in jams 2 times in last 4 trips. Once for 4 hrs and another for 8 hrs. If everything is OK then its goes fine but the moment a truck breaks down or an uprooted tree you are in trouble. And it primarily happens because of indiscipline of traffic.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pedaltothefloor View Post
Lovely thread, I'm hooked and look forward to reading more with a lot more pictures.
Thanks guys. Manali - Kaza coming tomorrow.
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Old 12th December 2013, 09:32   #12
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Day 4

Manali - Kaza

We started early at 5 in the morning for Rohtang. The weather was clear and the first rays of the sun made the mountains glow in gold. But what was most surprising was the condition of the road. At evely hairpin bend we were expecting the road to dissappear and slush fest would begin. But Loop after Loop the road continued. Didn't even notice when Rani Nullah came and disappeared. It was one lovely smooth black top all the way to Rohtang. The most dreaded pass on the Manali - Leh highway now did not even raise the adrenalin by a drop. We did'nt realize when we reached the top. It was more of an Anti climax for my partner since he had heared a lot about the infamous Rohtang.
Ofcourse the Gramphoo to Losar stretch made up for this anti climax .


Early morning towards Rohtang


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It was the first time i got clear weather at Rohtang. Traffic was almost nill. What a change from the chaos that happens in summers. The road winds up through dense foilage. With the first rays of dawn the drive was beautiful .


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Marhi looks stunning from top


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The BRO has done such a wonderful job that you can now take your BMW up there on Rohtang. Smooth black Tar all the way to the top. Compared to the slush fest of 2011 and 2012 this was unbelievable !


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To be contd ..
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Old 13th December 2013, 08:09   #13
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Day 4
Manali - Kaza contd

The road deteriorates after Rohtang. However it was bone dry. Road widening work was in full swing. May be in the next season we will have black top till keylong. Had breakfast of aloo Parathas at Gramphoo and packed some for emergency.

The river gives you company for some time

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Last of the tree line


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Grampho to losar is one section which will make you cry for your car. Actually there is no road. I dont'nt know whether this section had, in any time of its existance, a semblance of tar road. A dirt track with loose gravel, sharp stones, water crossings and what not. One needs to be extremely cautious of the sharp stones jutting out for they can rip your tyres side wall. Most of the time the road traverses through constricted valleys making you feel claustrophobic after some time. The battering you car suspension takes is something to be experienced.


The greens will disappear soon


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Checking out the glacier


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At Chota dharra


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Oh yes.. The BRO sure has humor


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The road dose'nt give you any respite. Its relentless turn after turn it continues till you start feeling what on earth made me come here. But the scenery it offers is beyond words.


Manali - Kaza to be contd.
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Old 13th December 2013, 10:12   #14
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Awesome travelogue, and superb pics, columbus. Well written.

I think if you'd discovered America (instead of the other Columbus) we'd get some real good snaps of the 'original' America to keep.

Waiting for the rest of the set.
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Old 14th December 2013, 17:51   #15
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Nice snaps !!!

I am going to read the TL now. But was mesmerized by the pics you took.

Can you share the details of Lens that you have used for the trip ? The close ups of flowers suggest that you had a fixed focal length with you.

Thanks again for sharing. Now back to reading.

Cheers.
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