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Old 15th July 2014, 12:19   #1
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Default Spiti Splendour - Delhi to Spiti in an XUV500

We traveled from Delhi to Spiti from 2-Jul-14 to 12-Jul-2014.

Day - Date - Day - Distance covered - Places visited
Day 1 - 2-Jul-14 - Wed - 437 - via chail
Day 2 - 3-Jul-14 - Thu - 120 - Narkhanda - Hatu Peak, Hatu mata mandir; Rampur - Shri Maharishi Mardini Mahalakshmi Temple; Sarahan - Bhimakali Temple shakti peeth;
Day 3 - 4-Jul-14 - Fri - 127 - Kinnnaur - Taranda Mata temple (its a ritual for all drivers to stop and offer a small puja for good journey ahead); Karcham - confluence of Satluj and Baspa rivers; Chitkul - River Baspa (all along the route), Mastrang valley, Mathi Temple located at Chitkul
Day 4 - 5-Jul-14 - Sat - 143 - Reckong Peo - Monestary; Kalpa - Monestary, view of Kinnaur-Kailash peak, Narayan temple;
Day 5 - 6-Jul-14 - Sun - 124 - Khab - Confluence of Spiti and Satluj Rivers; Leo Purygal Peak from Khab Bridge; Nako Monestary; Nako Lake; Geyu Mummy; Tabo - new Kalchakra monastery and the golden Stupa, monastery
Day 6 - 7-Jul-14 - Mon - 99 - Dhankar monastery, Confluence-of-pin-spiti-rivers views from the roof of Dhankar monastery; Mudh
Day 7 - 8-Jul-14 - Tue - 97 - Kye Monastery; Kaza - monastery, market, world’s highest petrol pump; Langza village
Day 8 - 9-Jul-14 - Wed - 311 - Kaza to the nala 50km towards Manali and then retraced back to Reckong Peo
Day 9 - 10-Jul-14 - Thu - 604 - Reckong Peo to Delhi, back home


Here are some intro photos. My experiences and travelogue will follow "Spiti Splendour Jul-2014)"
Attached Thumbnails
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Last edited by vittal : 23rd July 2014 at 07:39.
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Old 18th July 2014, 19:25   #2
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Default re: Spiti Splendour - Delhi to Spiti in an XUV500

Following are the various forums consulted for the trip, itinerary, places to visit & travelogue
team-bhp.com/forum/travelogues
Indiamike
Devilonwheels and their forthcoming mega meet in September 2014
bcmtouring
thehimalayanclub

Places planned but could not visit
Chandratal – as we were told that the road is not yet open and need to trek for almost 10km
Kaza to Manali the circumference – could not cross the nala’s as it was flooded with water

Day 1: 2-Jul-2014 (Wed)
We got an early start at 5am from Delhi to avoid office rush enroute. It usually takes about an hour to Delhi's border from home. At 6:30am we had Parathas at Murthal. It is usual for travelers from Delhi to stop at Murthal as there are some good dhabas such as Pahalwan's dhaba, Ahuja dhaba etc. They offer fresh churned white butter alongwith the parathas served with dahi.

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It started raining on the way and we got stuck in the jam for an hour at Zirakhpur. The jam was primarily due to water logging, slowing of vehicles and one lane blocked.

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Before crossing Solan, we stopped at railway tunnel of the mini train plying between Kalka to Shimla. We clicked picture and also watched the train pass by. It reminded us of the famous Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore song "mere sapno ki rani kab ayegi to".

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We decided to take the route from Chail and as per travel forum recommendations; it was supposed to be picturesque. But we found the road conditions via Chail to be poor & constricted. Due to this, we lost an hour and feel it's better to take Shimla route.

It was misty at Kufri and Fagu (both places are after Shimla / Chail). My XUV lights automatically turned ON at some places as it was misty and dark. The headlights and hazard lights were ON for couple of hours during the drive in the hills. It hadn’t changed much for these 2 decades since we visited Kufri in Sept-1994 & wifey re-lives her memories. I can only think of times before these 2 decades. -

Finally we reached Narkhanda at 5pm with wifey prompting me often on the way to drive slow and to be soft on curves as motion sickness was troubling because of frequent turns & bends. The PWD guesthouse at Narkhanda was full and the caretaker could not accommodate us. We then took a room at Hotel Mahamaya, Narkhanda. It was quite cold and was a welcome change for both of us escaping from scorching heat of Delhi from 45 degC to 18 degC at Narkhanda. This called for a tea with snacks (momos).

It was still bright daylight at 5:00 in the evening. We initially thought it would be dark in the hills by 5pm but to our surprise, the sunset was at 7:30pm and we were roaming on the roads to relax from our long drive (330 Km) from Delhi with 120 km in the hills.

We walked along the 100 mts stretch of the main road and had momos with tea at a dhaba. The server at dhaba wala was watching a movie on his mobile (loaded on the memory card). We were told that at times they watch movies using internet mobile. It surprised us as to how penetration of technology could reach such remote places and people watch movies on mobile as they don’t find time to watch TV due to their work schedule.

Due to too much of nibbling snacks on the way and being tired, made khichdi in the hotel room as we were carrying 2 lt. panasonic rice cooker. Enjoyed hot khichdi with banana chips for dinner.

It was a cold night, had to layer us with woolen clothing and we tucked ourselves into cozy warm razais and retired to sleep early. We could not keep our bare foot on the ground. The night temperature would have been less than 10 degC.



Day 2: 3-Jul-2014 (Thurs)
We had a sound sleep and out tired limbs were all relaxed, fresh for another days start and exciting itinerary. To my surprise when I saw outside the room window, the sun was up and it was bright daylight, with no rains. We thanked our stars for an early start with no rains in the hills, otherwise we would have had to drive through slush and slurry, risking landslides leading to traffic jams & delays.

Once we got ready we had bread butter jam in the room as the eatouts opens at a later time. After checking out from the hotel, we headed to Hatu mata temple at 7:30am, located at Hatu peak. It was 7km to reach Hatu peak and we were told it would take half-an-hour to reach the place. We wonderded why 30 min for just 7km and later on realised the reason for the same.

It was an adventurous drive uphill to the peak, driving on 1st gear all along, 60 deg steep, garnish with loose gravel, as we had to drive a slightly broader than a trekking path, narrow hair pin bends, no side railings, extremely dangerous curves.

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Wifey prayers chanting began non-stop as soon as we started uphill on the hatu peak road. The road width was just enough for our XUV and one can’t imagine what would happen at hair pin bends. Probably with our driving throughout India it surpassed the extremely narrow and dangerous turns at Janaki Chatti to Yamunotri stretch in Uttarakhand, which was done in the month of Oct-2005 (Char Dham Yatra – Yamunotri, Gangortri, Kedarnath & Badrinath). It reminds us the live landslide we encountered on the way to Badrinath in Aug-2008. On the same trip we managed to take out our Maruti Esteem Car tyre that sank into the land slide slurry.

Bringing back you all on this trip, on the way we were praying that there should be no vehicle coming from the opposite direction as there was only couple of options to shoulder. By the grace of Hatu Mata, we reached the peaked safely to find the views were awesome (unimaginable scenic and entire route cut through pine forest, dark with few rays of sunlight making its way here and there). It resembled tropical rain forest.

Hatu mata temple is ancient worshipped by pandavas. The HP priest wore a flowery pom-pom on his cap which was made out of a leaf found in the Himalayas that cleanses the aura.

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The temple was renovated with new wooden structure for the past 2 years and construction is ongoing for other aminities.

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The wooden carving looked magnificent on the top of the hill. The view at the top of the temple was just excellent making it all worth travelling through tough narrow winding roads.

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We also witnessed a shooting of Arshad Warsi’s upcoming movie at the hatu peak.

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After the darshan the thought of driving back through the same route gave us jitters. We gathered enough courage after seeking the blessings of Hatu mata to drive down the same precarious path.
The downhill drive demanded from me extra skill and alert maneuvering of CBA (Clutch, Break & Accelerator) of XUV which was well under control during our successful descent.

After 2 hours of this ordeal, my wife and I had made lifetime promises to be good to each other strengthening the bond between 2 of us. The drive through these mountains definitely brings in humility and was a very humbling experience.


All the villages enroute to adjoining satluj river was warm, hydro electric project at Rampur and Surya temple at Nirath, Mahishasura Mardini Temple with the mighty Abhayahasta hanuman alongwide showering blessings on his devotees.

Surya temple at Nirath
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Mahishasura Mardini Temple with the mighty Abhayahasta hanuman alongwide showering blessings on his devotees.
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We took a detour on NH22 to Jeori towards Sarahan. Enroute wifey was so ecstatic to see the apple orchards that were waiting to ripen. On one instance it couldn’t stop her from plucking an apple but cannot explain the happiness one gets by eating an apple direct / fresh from the tree.

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We would have driven a km from there, she spotted few pear trees and could not stop plucking fruit again. A localite helped her as it was a tall tree. She managed to get 2 big pears.

God makes his presence felt in so many ways. A beautiful local himachal lady appeared suddenly and gave wifey 3 fruits which resembled a peach (Aadu in Delhi). It was actually a Kumani fruit as she was told. It is a fruit with fleshy juicy interior fibrous, resembles a fig but bright orange inside.

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She offered to fill our bag with Kumani fruit for our journey and invited us to her home on the highway. Such hospitality touched us and she refused to take any money and said money cannot buy good will. She had a field of Kumani fruit and they had just harvested. We clicked few snaps with Ms. Sumitra who managed a small shop of daily needs.

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At Sarahan we drove to Bhimkali temple resthouse for stay but it was full and hence had to checkin to a another guesthouse in front of the temple. Bhimkali temple is one of the Shakti peeths where the ear of the Shakti goddess is said to have fallen. The rain gods poured down for 2 hours in the afternoon, luckily we had our umbrellas that helped us to reach the restaurant for lunch. It was difficult to get a pure vegetarian restaurant and we managed to eat kadi roti and warm water chai.

Bhimkali mata temple is a Shakti peetham, Sati mata’s ear is said to have fallen here. The present temple idol of devi is on the 5th floor building which was build around 1967. Earlier building was built in 1947 after independence. We went for 2nd darshan at 7:45pm to witness the aarti at 8pm which lasted for 15 min. The climb to the 5th floor is through narrow steps, one person at a time. Locker facility is provided at the entrance of the temple for us to secure our items and take the key with us (as leather items, mobile and bags are not allowed inside the temple).

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We had time for aarti and hence decided to take a walk. We visited local market area, post office. A lovely well bread mountain dog also showed us its love.

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We then decided to try Chinese food as there were not many options available. I tried thukpa (which is noodles in soup) and wifey ordered momos. The shop had a manual machine for making noodles and it was freshly prepared & served in style. I found thukpa to be spicey.

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After the walk in the park and enjoying the picturesque view and feeling protected by mights mountains that surrounded Sarahan valley, we headed to have aarti darshan at 7:45pm.

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Local Post Office at Sarahan

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The mata aarti song was sung at the strike of 8pm. The main pundit drew the curtains of the shrine and performed aarti behind the curtains which was new to us. After aarti the curtains opened again and all could partake of aarti blessings. It is usually the bhog that is done behind curtains but even aarti behind curtains was unique in Himachal Pradesh. We retired to bed after relaxing a bit in our guest house, we skipped dinner as the Chinese food we had was heavy.

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Old 23rd July 2014, 09:49   #3
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Day 3: 4-Jul-2014 (Fri)
The good morning started with the wonderful view of the mighty Himalayas through our guesthouse window. The plan of an early start was delayed a bit because MCB was down and water was not hot for a bath. On request the guesthouse manager turned it on and needed 15 more minutes for the warm bath.

We left the guesthouse and had paratha with Chai at a highway dhabha before Kinnaur. The paratha was yumm, served with dal, dahi and achar. We also saw heaps of momos made in huge steamers and people ate it for breakfast.

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Getting ready to have a cold drink as the temperature got high during the day.
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We then stopped at Taranda mata temple on NH22, managed by Indian army. People pray here for a safe journey ahead.

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The route to Kinnaur on NH22 was the most picturesque and breathtaking views that even though our itinerary was light, we stopped so frequently for photographs that it took up more than half-a-day. After witnessing the beauty of landscape at Kinnaur, we descended down to karchham, where the karchham baspa dam and confluence of baspa and Sutlej rivers. Clear mixing of grey muddy Sutlej with a slightly blue Baspa, the marriage of the 2 rivers was a beauty.

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Getting a natural car wash

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As we reached Tapri, we were a happy that we were close to our destination. We were stopped by security men asking us to take diversion for 22 km spiraling another mountain uphill and descend. As there was a landslide 2 months back, that was still not cleared. We took a chole break at this place from the local cholewala by the riverside gazing at Sutlej.

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The security gave us a list of 5 villages starting from Urni to Challung. The stretch of 22km took a complete toll on my limbs and hands as the roads were rough, narrow, treacherous, riddled with broken patches, no space for a pass to an opposite vehicle made it really difficult. The muddy roads prompted us to put windows up and could not have the AC ON as the roads were steep. We breathed a sign of relief as we descended to Karchham dam. There was a loha pul at the dam directing us from NH22 to take the right turn to Sangla.

We started to climb the hill again to Sangla. The first stretch to Sangla was again muddy and uninviting. However the rocky terrains of the mountains gave a very beautiful hue to the journey. The Rocky Mountains was a mix of brown with colour mineraled, rocks added to the immense beauty. The Baspa rustling beneath the roadside kept encouraging us to drive and we didn’t miss even a single frame in this picture perfect route.

We ate cucumber with lime, Australian cookies which was brought by my sister from Bangalore and kumani fruits. This served our lunch on the move as there were no eating joint enroute to Sangla. I had electrol and coconut water to wash down and plenty of water too. We finally reached Sangla at 1:20 pm and found Sangla to be crowded, decided to further drive down to Chitkul. The drive from Sangla to Chitkul was picturesique and plethora of views along the river banks of Baspa. There were beautiful streams that flowed across the road and waterfalls and rocky borders that welcomed us enroute from Rackchham to Chitkul.


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There were many adventure camps along the riverside near Sangla and Rackchham. Chitkul was the last village of India along this stretch of Himachal. We reached Chitkul at 3:30 pm and lucky to get a room at the PWD guest house. It was located at the beautiful place with 360 deg panaromic view of the mountains. Chitkul, unlike Sangla was a thinly populated village and quite scenic. We had a wonderful lawn sitout outside the guesthouse and the temperature was beginning to drop. As we settled and freshened up, we decided to take a walk to the river bank. The river bank was 1.5 km trek descend. It was very peaceful and river Baspa was gushing ecstatically as if welcoming us with great love and enthusiasm. The water was freezing cold, yet we dared to sit on the rock very close to the high currents of the river in order to get some good pictures. The photographs of the river Baspa, mountains adjoining and the open stay sent our adrenaline level pumping up. The picture perfect photograph that we clicked elevated us to the level of a professional photographer.

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We met 2 interesting friends, Vishal Jaju and Vikas Balram, the bikers from Mumbai. Vishal is a maharashtraian lawyer, Vikas is a mallu professional photographer. They were on their enfield bullets, fully equipped with gadgets for biking and safety for their journey through Spiti, Leh & Ladhak. We exchanged our experiences over the table enjoying hot upma with amul butter made by wifey in the 2lt. Panasonic rice cooker.

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We also met a software professional from Mumbai who trekked from Harki dhun in Uttarakhand to Chitkul in 7 days. They were a group of 4 with 3 porters. They spent 4 days in sub-zero temperature, showing on their frost bitten face.

We visited the Chitkul mata temple in the evening and found it to be closed. After a few clicks we decided to revisit the temple at 8pm for aarti as informed by a localite. There were few local villagers and few people from Sangla. In conversation with one of the ladies in the Sangla group, we learnt that only the local men were allowed near the sanctum of the temple and others were given darshan from a distance (near the stairs). The local priest came at past 8 and we had darshan from outside. The mata was carried and swung in swaying movements. The mata’s idol was a silver kavach and also had a black dense woolen like headgear. It was a very different decoration, unique to Himachal Pradesh. The priest took the dhoop and aarti with the dolak and gong outside the temple to perform further pooja. We took prasad and walked back to the guesthouse.

The night temperature dropped very low that we could feel the chills in our spine. We layered ourselves with more woolen clothing and also used our room heater to keep us warm.
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Old 24th July 2014, 07:48   #4
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Day - Date - Day - Distance covered - Places visited
Day 4 - 5-Jul-14 - Sat - 143 - Reckong Peo - Monestary; Kalpa - Monestary, view of Kinnaur-Kailash peak, Narayan temple;


This morning we woke up again to the protective mountains that surrounded us. After morning chores wifey did her pranayama and sudarshan kriya sitting outside facing the mountains. With the breath of fresh air entering the lungs, this experience was ultimate. We cleaned our XUV, had our bath, 2 slices of bread and butter with Chai each and started from Chitkul at 7:45 am and drove down through the amazing route following river Baspa right through, clicking photographs all along.

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After the drive, we again reached the point of diversion from NH22, joined NH22 near Karchham dam to drive towards Reckong Peo and Kalpa.

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This stretch on NH22 was no better but a few stretches of tarmac road, some patched, some roads still being laid, the drive was totally rocky, unlike green Kinnaur.

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The tunnel work in progress

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A landslide due to blasting & road widening work carried out.

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The road lead to a fork point leading to Reckong Peo and Pooh on NH22.

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We took the road to Reckong Peo which was a full-fledged hairpin drive and reached the town of Reckong Peo asking for the direction to monastery enroute.

Reckong Peo (Dist Kinnaur) welcoming the visitors.
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People kept directing us and with sharp bends, we failed to see the boards that directed us and drove on. We realised that we had already reached Kalpa village which is further up from Reckong Peo. We parked our XUV in the narrow constricted lane and walked to see the monastery and Satya Narayan temple, which were both closed.

View from the Monastery
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Satyanarayan Temple

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We also saw some beautiful hand woven shawls with typical himachal motifs, costing between 6k to 8k, being sold by a vendor with mobile shop on his car.

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We then decided to search for the monastery at Reckong Peo as we descended. While asking for directions, it surprised us to see a biker who held out his visiting card of Mahindra Service Centre at Reckong Peo who apparently saw us at Urni before Karchham and wanted to inform us about the availability of service in case of any need.

The path to the monastery was a good steep climb followed by stairs too, with no sign board it took us long to locate the monastery. We finally had a darshan from outside and managed to get a few clicks of the yellow robed Buddha, looking down and blessing the town of Reckong Peo.

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There was no pure veg options for lunch at Reckong Peo and finally managed to have dal chawal with pakoda at the dhabha in the crowded marketplace. There is a huge, common parking facility at the entrance of Reckong Peo town where we parked our XUV and for once it was a flat parking area, without the use of huge stones to prevent the vehicle from rolling downhill.

We filled fuel (full tank) at the petrol pump, a km away as the one in Reckong Peo was closed. Reckong Peo and Kalpa seemed a little uninteresting for both of us as were only driving along the winding roads. We reached the fork road at NH22, leading towards Pooh.

There was a traffic jam, lots of stones falling, had a nap for a good one hour.

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No doubt we were driving along the "World's most treacherous roads"

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We kept driving along NH22 before we reached Pooh, there is a board to Pooh PWD guesthouse, 4km uphill with lots of hairpin bends and no directing boards, we reached the guest house. The Pooh PWD guest house is located on a fairly large area cutoff from the main town of Pooh.

Spiti Splendour - Delhi to Spiti in an XUV500-img_0566.jpg

We were given a very beautiful room with all amenities for us to stretch our tired limbs. The suite was located on the first floor, we were onlooking the snowcapped mountains from all windows including the bathroom.

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I found a garden hose and made best use of it to give XUV a fine wash while wifey updated the travelogue seeking inspiration, seated at the balcony facing the mountains. After a warm bath we had dinner (dal, alu matter and roti) at 9:00 pm at the guest house dinning and retired for the day. The temperature was warm and refreshing unlike the cold in Chitkul.
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Last edited by vittal : 24th July 2014 at 10:32.
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Old 24th July 2014, 11:07   #5
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Day - Date - Day - Distance covered - Places visited

Day 5 - 6-Jul-14 - Sun - 124 - Khab - Confluence of Spiti and Satluj Rivers; Leo Purygal Peak from Khab Bridge; Nako Monestary; Nako Lake; Geyu Mummy; Tabo - new Kalchakra monastery and the golden Stupa, monastery


From Pooh PWD Guesthouse, we started to descend the 4 km steep downhill drive to meet NH22 leading us to the itinerary of day5. We reached Khab which is the confluence of river Spiti and Satluj.
Spiti Splendour - Delhi to Spiti in an XUV500-img_0615.jpg

Made us happy that we finally reached Spiti Valley which is the title of our tour.

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Prayer Flags enroute, which is a common site in the Spiti Valley

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It was a long drive scenic with 22 hair pin bends ascending to Nako.

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As we stayed at Pooh we managed to reach Nako earlier than our scheduled time. We reached Nako at 8 am to find the town fairly empty and getting ready for the tourist of the day. The narrow road leading to Nako lake was not a proper approach to the lake and hence we decided not advisable to take our car upto the lake but to walk on foot. Seeking directions, we parked at XUV at a reasonably flat position at the designated Nako bus stand. We were allowed parking near one of the restaurant as it was very early during the day. Parking restrictions are generally imposed if you go there during the busy hours.

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We walked about half a km leading to Nako lake only to find a boundary wall. On enquiring with the localite, they directed us to descend us through a stoney path in order to reach the Nako lake. As the stony path was a bit slippery and steep, we hesitated and a generous localite offered to lead us through the path. We walked round the scenic, still lake surrounded by bamboo shoots and reflections of mountain.

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Along the circumference of the lake was the nako village and nako monastery and pea fields. We rotated prayer wheel on our exit through the narrow lanes of the nako village.

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We had parantha and tea for breakfast at the local Tibetan Restraunt in Nako.

photograph of the local hair mule.

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We pursued our drive to another stretch of a dozen hairpin bends descending to Spello, leading to Sumdo check post. Some pictures of the view enroute.

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At Sumdo check post every traveler including local buses need to report and make an entry with details such as vehicle number, owner of vehicle, travelling from, destination, driver / self-driven and number of passangers. Photography is not permitted in the vicinity of check-post.

After crossing the Sumdo bridge, enroute from Sumdo to Tabo, there is a diversion to reach Geyu village, a small gate cutout, where the ancient mummy is preserved.

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The route from main road to Geyu village was muddy, back mineral mountains were found all along.

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We reached Geyu village at 11:30, very silent with no human being seen on view. We drove alone the stone path village to find a board that mentioned the mummy was further 1 km away from Geyu village. We drove uphill and saw a big construction unway, few workers who Guided us to a small room where the mummy was kept. We did not find any caretaker, unbolted the room, offered our prayers in front of mummy, alongwith a Buddha statue was kept. Cups of water was kept which indicated the offering was done on regular basis.

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When we were coming from Nako to Sumdu, the roads were rough and narrow. There was a convoy of 5 army trucks and one of them broke down and standing in the middle of the road with no other movement of traffic. We stopped at the other side of the road. Upon enquiring, these were new army trucks and in one of them the wire was loosened which had to be tightened again. The army personnel repaired it and were proud that they repaired it in such remote locations.




We had a quick lunch thali at Bodh dhabha, Hurling and drove on to reach Tabo, a valley which was unique looking. We reached Tabo at 2.30 pm.

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enroute to Tabo

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We went to PWD guest house but found that it to be locked and the caretaker was not to be seen. We decided to visit the Tabo Monastery and Stupa instead. We met a group of foreign tourists who were being guided by a Buddhist monk through the various temples in the premises. We also joined the group, and learnt about each temple. Each temple had a name, a narrow short wooden door leading to a dark inside. We removed out footwear outside each of these temples. Inside each temple we found fresco paintings of the 16th century and the building itself was of 10th century. All Buddhist lama at the Monastery had gone to ladhak to meet Dalai Lama.

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The different forms of Buddha (Shakhya Muni, Maitreyi or future Buddha , Amitabh Buddha and his decendants ) were painted on the wall. Some paintings were restored and some were destroyed in the moisture & due to rains. Many of them were destroyed because of rain and the room / building made of mud. Photography is prohibited inside the temples in order to preserve these aged paintings. The fresco paintings were not exposed to the light. The buddist monk opened each temple in sequence for the visitors, mural paintings of Sankya muni buddya, maitrya Buddha, had goddess of compassion, knowledge, goddess of medicine and goddess of healing in buddisim. The 5 descendents of Buddha were also painted.

In the entrance of the monastery, there was a beautiful stupa or Tabo Stupa vividly painted with attractive motifs. On the main temple, maître Buddha was kept which was very old. A small ventilation on the roof of the temple was provided for sun light to dimly light the room. We seeked the blessings of Buddha by going through a narrow passage underneath the idol of Buddha. This was also called the golden temple as it had paintings of Buddha in gold. The door was very short and we had to bend at the entrance of each of the temple.

There were few ladies in the monastery courtyard who were cleaning a kind of herb with flowers. On enquiring we were told it bore a very good fragrance & was offered to the God. This flower is commonly found in this region & Tibet. We picked up a few flowers and kept in the car for a day which emitted good fragrance.

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We checked into the Monastery guesthouse for stay.

While clicking photos, we saw holes in the mountains from far above. Upon enquiring, we were told these are meditation caves.

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We decided to trek uphill to these meditation caves. There were staircases upto a certain place and further dirt path leading to the caves. Few caves were not maintained and were unused. Couple of them were maintained, with aasan put to meditate. The roof of the cave had a small opening for light to come through. It was a wonderful experience to see the meditation caves uphill.

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A view of the Tabo village from the meditation caves.

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We didn’t find much of options for pure vegetarian and eventually bought a kg of basmati rice & to have it with curd. We experienced that it takes a lot of time (over an hour) to cook rice in the hills as compared to the plains because of high altitude. Cooked basmati rice in Bisleri water and had warm curd rice with Haldiram’s moong dal and nut cracker as side dish.
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Old 24th July 2014, 17:46   #6
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Default Re: Spiti Splendour - Delhi to Spiti in an XUV500

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 24th July 2014, 17:59   #7
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Wonderful pictures. This route is one of my personal favorites.
Being in the "City of Joy", these wonders are too far away to do without prolong planning, which actually delays these trips from here.
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Old 25th July 2014, 11:58   #8
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Day - Date - Day - Distance covered - Places visited

Day 6 : 7-Jul-14 (Mon) - 99 km - Dhankar monastery, Confluence of Pin & Spiti rivers views from the roof of Dhankar monastery; Mudh



We started from Tabo at 7:00 am. The remaining curd rice and bread was given to the sheep dog in the monastery courtyard. It ate as if it was hungry for many days. We never imagined that a mountain dog would eat curd rice! We checked out of Tabo monastery guesthouse and started our journey towards Dhankar and Kaza.

One has to keep enough time in hand as one will be tempted to stop at various places for clicks along this stretch of the drive. There are places where we found pink coloured blossom of a certain flower creating a contrast against the brown and totally dry mountains.

Photos of XUV on our first river stop enroute from Tabo towards Dhankar.
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Natural formation on the mountains

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Dirt road all along
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My wifey was totally surprised when I suddenly steered the car down some track marks that lead to a wide riverbed wading through the waters of the river Spiti for some wonderful photography. We spent about half-an-hour posing for photographs at various angles as if we were creating photo shoots. It was one of the best experiences of the day.

XUV wading through the river
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I have noticed that most people go first to Kaza and then to Dhankar, whereas there is a route with proper signboards leading us to Dhankar.

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At Schilling we had pakodas with tea, freshly made at Maling dhaba. That was the only breakfast option available in these villages enroute Pin valley.

The drive to Dhankar monastery was again a climb of 7 to 8 km upto the peak of another mountain via hair pin bends. Although there were tarmac roads, yet it was narrow.

The old monastery at Dhankar is at the tip of one peak. It is narrow rough road and difficult to find space to park, invariably creating road block.

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On the edge of the cliff at Dhankar Monastery peak
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The steep & dark staircase lead to the roof top temple. There was a stuffed sheep hanging on the roof. We were told it is the vehicle of one of the spiritual Buddhist gurus.

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One could feel high energy in Buddhist monastery meditating in such silence & calmness.

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The lama at Dhankar monastery offered us tea in dragon motif cups and during the conversation we learnt he was surprised to know about the telecast of the Buddha serial in Zee TV.

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The Dhankar monastery is 3890 mts above sea level. Reversing the XUV along the cliff at Dhankar was a mammoth task near the gompa, it was like a life on the edge scenario.

On descend, we visited the new Monastery that is more brighter and colourful. Adjoining the new monastery is the guesthouse which is probably the only stay option at Dhankar. It has huge balcony from where one can get panaromic pictures of the whole valley from the top.

Although there is a very kuccha road from old monastery descending to NH22, we preferred to take the same tarmac road that joins NH22.

This stretch was probably one of the most picturesque all along so far. It was lunch time and we had chowmin at Guiling, one of the village enroute. The bihari cook prepared adrak wali chai, which we missed for so many days enroute from Delhi.

We reached Atargo, which is nothing but a bridge that forks diverting travelers to Kaza and Pin valley. We crossed the bridge at Atargo and started to drive towards Sagnam & Mudh (villages at Pin Valley).

The gate welcoming visitors to Pin Valley

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The route is completely dirt roads which suddenly opened up to great, green, large area Sagnam surrounded by green fields. Suddenly it felt there was an extra supply of oxygen being provided by these fields.

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Most of the roads from Sagnam to Mudh was dirt roads, paving its way through river beds. The only clue is the track marks that lead one through the correct way.

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Unknowingly at various places we opened the windows. There was dust coming in all along. We closed the windows and switched ON the AC. In the mountains switching ON the AC and driving for almost 50-60 km, I was amazed with XUV, in 2nd gear driving uphill had a great pull.

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Mudh is one small stretch village, with few stay options (home stays). There were 3 glaciers: (1) a km on the way to Mudh, (2) around 200 mts before mudh (3) trek for about a km from Mudh.

One of the Glaciers before Mudh
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We trekked for one Km to the glacier in Mudh.

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We took a good one-and-half hours time at Mudh, worth the visit. The route from Sagnam to Mudh was picterisque and breathtaking and also at Mudh. Took a small trek to the last spot where the glacier melts (ice from the mountain) and river stream is formed. It took us 30 min to trek to the nearest spot of ice, at the top there was 8 to 10 inch nala (gap) and hence decided not to trek further as it would be risk to reach the ice on the mountain. I thanked God for making us be able to visit such a wonderful site.

We met a couple from Netherland who also clicked couple of our picture together at Tabo Monestary and also at Mudh too. They were very happy to discuss about FIFA and Holland winning lot of football matches. I was told further trek from Mudh goes to Pin parbat which takes 7 to 8 days further and meets Manikaran (up from Manali). A road connectivity is being planned which might take few years, once done it is gonna be an awesome picturesque drive.


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After coming back from Mudh valley, we reached Sagnam at 4:30pm. The PWD guesthouse was spacious. We were told that there is a tournament and guests might be expected. We told him that in case of any such bookings we will vacate the room. So we pitched our tents just in case. We took out the tent, dismantled and pitched the tent in the lawn of PWD just in case the guests came in.


In action, pitching the tent
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pitching the rain cover for the tent
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We still had daylight left at 6:30pm so we decided to take a stroll at the river bed. We took the car to the river, dirt road which lead to the river. Sagnam was very spacious with open area, lots of plateau land in between, lots of greenery and beauty, with a helipad.

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After taking the picture of helipad, we drove down to pin / Khar river, there is a village Khar and the river is known as Khar river. Wifey clicked lots of photos. The XUV went off well one way quite easily in the river bed.


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On return, through the same point, there was a big mund of stone and sand, the car wheel got stuck and started to swirl in that point.

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I got down and removed big stones to make way for the car. By then we had couple of villagers who suggested driving through another shallow river bed area which had lesser obstacles. This got us into an adventure mode. So I took the other area, detour which was longer but safer to cross the river. We had to rearrange stones at the river bed to make way for the car. We thanked them and clicked photographs with them.

Had a whole day of driving, pitching the tent, taking the XUV out of river bed but still managed to pull through the entire thing. We asked the caretaker to prepare dinner (roti, rice and dal). There was no subzi as the same was to be procured from Kaza. Whosoever comes to stay at this PWD guesthouse brings the vegetables along. We realised how difficult it was for them.
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Old 25th July 2014, 12:53   #9
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Nice pictures there! Spiti has been on my list for a long time. Your travelogue brings me one step closer. How did the cheetah performed in the terrain? Apologies if I missed this info in your travelogue.
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Old 25th July 2014, 14:56   #10
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Default Re: Spiti Splendour - Delhi to Spiti in an XUV500

A really good and justified journey in the XUV. Nice photos too.
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Originally Posted by vittal View Post
..After 2 hours of this ordeal, my wife and I had made lifetime promises to be good to each other strengthening the bond between 2 of us. The drive through these mountains definitely brings in humility and was a very humbling experience...
Can't help but agree with that feeling.
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Old 25th July 2014, 15:02   #11
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Great Pictures and an amazing journey.

I have driven up that Hatu Temple and it still ranks the absolute creepiest drive I have ever had. I had driven a hired Indica up there but you driving an XUV ... must have been tough. Did you try to stay at the guest house located at the top?
Oh BTW, the breakfast at 'The Hatu' run by HPTDC is absolutely brilliant.

Himanchal is such a great place for travelers, easily the friendliest place in India, the hotels are good - it is my perfect Indian trip. Refreshed my memories of yesteryear. Every-time I have driven to HP I meet such amazing people that you actually forget that you are in India.

Again, very nice travelogue.

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Old 25th July 2014, 22:29   #12
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Day - Date - Day - Distance covered - Places visited

Day 7 - 8-Jul-14 - Tue - 97 - Kaza - monastery, market, world’s highest petrol pump; Kye Monastery; Langza village



We left Sagnam at 7 am, had parathas at Gulling (for breakfast the same shop where we had chowmein for lunch yesterday). There we met a school teacher who was taking the students from Tailing village near Mudh to Kaza for a tournament. While discussing with him, he cautioned us about the roads of Himachal especially the nalas filled with water and unseen stones. One needs to exercise extreme caution near Kunzum pass, a 5km stretch at Chota dhara wherein the stones are quite big and sharp, which could damage the car tyre. Even the experienced drivers feel it difficult as it could pierce the tyre and cause puncture easily. Getting a help is difficult in that location and hence asked us to exercise caution which was a useful tip for us.

We did not visit Lalung monastery (a 4 faced Buddha), detour via Lingti village and Atargo, about 14 km away from the junction. We drove down from Sagnam to Atargo and reached Kaza which was about 35km only.

Yak on the way

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Driving through the river between Sagnam and Atargo (the path is through the river as detailed in the previous day’s log)

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Enroute to Kaza

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Spiti Motors - Maruti Service Station as soon as we enter Kaza. We were told they service all types of cars (not limiting to Maruti)

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We reached PWD circuit house at Kaza. The caretaker asked us to take permission / booking from the AG’s office downtown, nearby the petrol pump, so we decided to drive further.

We filled full tank diesel at the world’s highest petrol pump at Kaza.

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After filling fuel, we parked our XUV next to the petrol station and then we visited Kaza monastery which was extremely beautiful, built around 2 years ago, the paintings were fresh bright colours, photograph friendly pictures.

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In conversation with the Buddhist monk

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Buddha idol inside the gompa

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At the petrol pump we also met Vikas and Vishal (the bikers from Mumbai), whom we had earlier met at Chitkul.

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After we visited Kaza monastery, we went to AG’s office and found that people would arrive at 10am. So we decided to go further to Kye Monastery.

The Kye Monastery structure was similar to that of Dhankar but was built on a spiral, single monolith mountain and was highest altitude monastery built. We found a couple from Gurgaon visiting from Manali side going to Kaza and Spiti valley. They had hired an Innova from Manali, got few updates on the route from Kaza to Manali. They were inspired by our driving all along from Delhi to these remote places.

The Kye monastery was really situated at the peak, we got ample photographs.

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Views from Kye monastery

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Enroute we also saw the Kye village. Kibber village is 5km from one of the intersection near the monastery. In an excitement we decided to visit Langza village, famous for the fossils. Altitude is 4400km above sea level, the route was full of hairpin bends and complete ascend until you reach the top. We reached around 11:30. We found no people, no board to lead us and whether we were heading in the right direction. We were told there is only one road that leads to the village Langza and finally when we reached the high altitude, found lots of plains at such altitude.


Enroute to Langza village, highest motorable village

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There were children playing cricket tournament and pleased to know the penetration of cricket in the country.

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View of Langza Village

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We went round the valley to reach Buddha’s statue overlooking the valley.

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We had to stop our car above a little, and walk approx. 300 mts. which was a steep approach. It was muddy and the Innova taxi driver told us not to take it further as there have been instances of the vehicle getting stuck in the mud. We clicked panoramic view as the valley is surrounded by peaks and so close as if we can touch them. We took blessings of Buddha and came back to our car.

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As we were hungry, we had cucumber with lime which was refreshing. We took about 20 min break uphill, meanwhile wifey turned around some stone to see if she can find any fossils.

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On our return we spotted a board indicating the fossils center was further up at an altitude of 4600 mts and other sightseeing places around Langza such as wild life sanctuary etc. We didn’t want to trek to fossil center and decided to drive down back to Kaza. We saw few people trekking to the Langza village on foot from Kaza!


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We took permission from SDM office for stay at PWD Circuit house. We found only one vegetarian bhojanalaya near the Kaza SBI ATM. This is the only ATM at Kaza. We had thali with roti, subzi and kadi. I bought 100gms of fresh paneer being sold at the bhojanalaya. Was excited to have the paneer after a span of 10 days. My wifey commented “A Typical delhi wala”

We met a couple from Mumbai who were into production and direction. We showed them our photos that were clicked at Pin Valley & Spiti Valley. While we sat down in the restaurant for tea, wifey went busy shopping and bought Chinese tea cups and 2 coffee mugs with lid (unique design, dragon motifs). During our conversation we learnt about film making.

We reached the circuit house. It had a wonderful compound area and well maintained garden. We were given an excellent cozy room, reassuring us that we will have a good sleep after a tiring day. We clicked plenty of photographs in the compound and nearby the circuit house and requested caretaker to serve us dinner early by 7:30 pm as we were planning to leave early for Manali.

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We made best use of the garden hose at the Circuit house to clean our XUV which was fully muddy and gave a proper bath to it, fully knowing that it was bound to get muddy again the next day.


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Wifey spotted the left front wheel of our XUV had less air. We took our newly bought Coido Tire Inflator (300psi air compressor) and checked pressure of all the 4 tyres to find the left front tire had only 20 psi. I made best use of the Tire inflator to fill the air to 34 psi which was done with ease using the instrument. Our final checks of the car for the next days journey was over and we then proceeded to have dinner.

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The cutlery and food at the PWD circuit house dinner table was neatly laid out. We had asked only for rotis (phulkas), dal and subzi (the tari wali subzi was yumm, like home made food). We retired to sleep early by 9pm.
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Old 25th July 2014, 22:40   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gearhead_mait View Post
Wonderful pictures. This route is one of my personal favorites.
Being in the "City of Joy", these wonders are too far away to do without prolong planning, which actually delays these trips from here.

Thanks Gearhead Mait.

Agree it is a wonderful place to visit, inspite of going through all these treacherous roads.

Our best wishes for your planning to manifest soon.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JASMEET MATTOO View Post
Nice pictures there! Spiti has been on my list for a long time. Your travelogue brings me one step closer. How did the cheetah performed in the terrain? Apologies if I missed this info in your travelogue.

Thanks Jas.

Hope you find this travelogue useful & helps in planning your forthcoming trip to Spiti Valley.

The Cheetah is a sure winner. We had a wonderful experience in these treacherous roads, and was a safe drive throughout our journey.

Do read our last 2 days of this travelogue for more details about our experience at the Nalas (Kaza to Manali). We were unable to cross the 1st nala from Kaza towards Manali, as it was filled with lots of flowing water, making it difficult to cross. We were cautious and did not want to take a risk by somehow crossing the nala (as did by a Innova crossing the nala somehow). details with picture to follow.

Overall I am very happy with the performance of the Cheetah. No issues faced except a puncture that we realised near Ambala (would have driven the vehicle in low pressure for atleast 100 km or more without any wobble).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kandisa View Post
A really good and justified journey in the XUV. Nice photos too.

Can't help but agree with that feeling.

thanks Kandisa. Glad that you liked the photos of this trip.

I suppose I need more such frequent trips to keep the feeling alive!

Quote:
Originally Posted by pratyush6 View Post
Great Pictures and an amazing journey.

I have driven up that Hatu Temple and it still ranks the absolute creepiest drive I have ever had. I had driven a hired Indica up there but you driving an XUV ... must have been tough. Did you try to stay at the guest house located at the top?
Oh BTW, the breakfast at 'The Hatu' run by HPTDC is absolutely brilliant.

Himanchal is such a great place for travelers, easily the friendliest place in India, the hotels are good - it is my perfect Indian trip. Refreshed my memories of yesteryear. Every-time I have driven to HP I meet such amazing people that you actually forget that you are in India.

Again, very nice travelogue.

Thanks Pratyush !

Agree about the tough drive to Hatu peak. the cheetah though in good control, just fitted the narrow constricted roads.

We went to Hatu peak / Hatu mata temple early morning and didnt get a chance to visit 'The Hatu' HPTDC. Will try maybe next time. Thanks for the tip.

We will always carry the memories of goodwill of the Himachali people.

Last edited by khan_sultan : 25th July 2014 at 23:09. Reason: Back to back posts. Please use multi-quote option when replying to multiple posts
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Old 26th July 2014, 00:27   #14
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Default Re: Spiti Splendour - Delhi to Spiti in an XUV500

Day - Date - Day - Distance covered - Places visited

Day 8 - 9-Jul-14 - Wed - 311 - Kaza to the nala 50km towards Manali and then retraced back to Reckong Peo


We started from Kaza at 6:00am, probably the only day to have such an early start after we left Delhi. According to our plan we were targeting to reach Rothang by 2pm & to have buffer for jams.

From Kaza, we drove through the opposite bank of river Spiti, through villages such as Rangrik, some long stretches of plains alternating with steep ghat sections.

We traveled around 48 kms from Kaza Circuit house towards Manali route only to encounter the 1st nala. We were in queue behind 3 to 4 Tata Sumos lined up to cross the nala.

I just walked to the nala spot to find a Ford Figo (coming from the opposite side) stuck in the middle of the nala. We all helped & tried to pull it out of the water. One of the Sumo plying as local taxi had chains and pulled the Ford Figo out of the nala.

Here is our experience at the first nala. We were told by localities that this nala was supposed to be clear. However, it was filled with lots of water overnight flowing over the loose gravel and big boulders. We tried to cross the nala after 2 of the Tata Sumos crossed successfully but XUV got stuck. One of the Sumo drivers tried my XUV in 2nd gear, but it wouldn’t budge instead started to emit burnt smell. The drivers told us that the smell could be because of strain on the clutch plates. We were successful to reverse the vehicle and pull it out of the nala.

We were advised us to retrace via Kinnaur route. Upon enquiring about other nalas enroute to Manali, we were told
“yeah toh kuch bhi nahin, aage iske bade bhai beithe hein”
i.e. the condition of this particular nala is nothing and you will find its BIG brother further ahead, which indicates that it would be difficult to cross other nalas.

We still had some hope of giving it another try after few vehicles cross & iron out the path for us. While we waited, one of the innovas (a local taxi of himachal) in the queue headed to cross the nala. It also got stuck but the driver was hell bent on pulling the vehicle out by crossing it.

Spiti Splendour - Delhi to Spiti in an XUV500-img_2472.jpg


Spiti Splendour - Delhi to Spiti in an XUV500-img_2487.jpg


All the 15 men present at the site, tried to pull it out but in vain. The water was ice cold yet everyone picked up the stones to make way.

Spiti Splendour - Delhi to Spiti in an XUV500-img_2498.jpg


The driver tried to use a jack to lift the vehicle.

Spiti Splendour - Delhi to Spiti in an XUV500-img_2489.jpg


This ordeal went on for half-an-hour. This gave us some time to let our XUV cool down (i.e. from the burnt smell, probably from the clutch). We reconsidered our plan and the thought of 5 more bigger & tough nalas waiting ahead, we did not want to cause any damage to our XUV and hence decided to retrace our route via Kinnaur.


We were a bit disappointed that we couldn’t complete the entire circumfrance of Delhi - Shimla – Kaza – Manali to Delhi which was probably the destiny for us today. But we both made up our mind and took a conscious decision to avoid risk. We also made up our mind not to lose enthusiasm even though we will be retracing the entire route via Kinnaur and the difficult drive via treacherous roads.

We drove back towards Kaza and met the family on the Ford Figo. They had travelled to Losar the previous day crossing the same nala. At Losar they were advised not to go further because there were much more difficult nalas coming up which they may not be able to traverse. At this Nala it took them more than 30 min to cross it, by standing in the cold water. So we were not the only car and others also making a similar decision to retrace back and coming via Kinnaur rather than going via Manali route from Kaza.

Also the Ford Figo borne underbody damage and a rattling sound while driving. He was driving at a slow speed (avg. 5-10 km/hr) and was planning to get the car repaired at Spiti Motors, Kaza.

After the nala fiasco, we came to the same bhojanalaya at Kaza to have our brunch (parathas with subzi and chole, dahi), samosa, chana and 2 tea. The dahi served was just superb.

We had taken lots of photographs on our onward journey from Shimla to Kaza and hence our return was mainly a continuous drive.

At tabo we purchased the Shovel with a plastic handle for Rs 350. If we had this Shovel earlier, we could have tried to cross the nala by clearing the way by removing the stones. Anyway the Shovel will be useful for our next trip in these terrains.

From Tabo we decided to drive through as it was still daylight. After we crossed Pooh, there was stoppage on the highway for about an hour because of blasting work.

Spiti Splendour - Delhi to Spiti in an XUV500-img_2501.jpg


Unwillingly we took a detour toward Reckong Peo as were told that there are no stay options on NH22 for quite a long distance and the nearest place was Reckong Peo. There was a doctors conference being held and the PWD guest house was full at Reckong Peo. The nearest hotel next to it was hotel Shivling View which offered us offseason discount. We had an early dinner at the hotel and retired for the day.




Experts please can you provide suggestions here

(a) What could be the reason for this burnt smell when I tried to cross the nala (i.e. stuck in a place). Is it due to extra friction on the clutch plate? This smell disappeared after I allowed the vehicle to cool down for 30 min or so. I did not face any clutch issues though.

(b) Any experience that you can share on what should be done under such circumstance to pull out the vehicle from nala. I did have the tow away rope but did not use it.

(c) We bought a shovel later on and wish I had a 48" Hi-Lift jack. Any idea if HiLift jack will be useful under the above situation and from where can I buy it in Delhi and also online. Tried few sites but came across foreign sites only.
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Old 27th July 2014, 00:07   #15
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Default Re: Spiti Splendour - Delhi to Spiti in an XUV500

A very nice detailed travelogue and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
a) that smell seems definately to be the clutch because it took a beating as you were trying to move youre vehicle in first gear but in vain. I always try to stop before nalas, get out from my car and inspect them (to check whether they can cause any underbody damage and try to find the best way through) and then try to cross them with constant throttle input in first gear. but sometimes you do get stuck
b) Ive always found a tow rope to be quite helpful in such situations.

Last edited by bullrun87 : 27th July 2014 at 00:14.
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