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Old 15th July 2016, 12:07   #1
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Default The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport

There were roads. There were no roads. There were boulders on the road. There were deep water-crossings on the road. There were dusty and rocky hairpin bends with steep inclines. And I was not a 4*4. I did not have a massive engine with enough power to pull through. I did not have off-road tires or a high lift suspension. I struggled. I got bruised. But I pulled through. I took you through one of the most treacherous roads in the country and got you back safe and sound. Here I stand amongst the tall mountains in the backdrop with my own pride intact.
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0226.jpg

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Old 15th July 2016, 12:53   #2
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Prologue

I love driving in the mountains. It is exciting, it is tiring but it is equally rewarding. Fresh air, awesome scenery and clear blue skies - a regular city dweller knows the true value of these things. After my maiden trip to Leh last year, I developed this never ending itch to go again. It's infectious and contagious you see.

Delhi was reeling under heat and humidity - another reason to go north to cooler pastures. We got done with a dose of luxury during our trip to Maldives, so wifey was willing to do the hard yards now - another tick in the box. Monsoons were approaching fast; it had to be this month or we would have to wait until Sept/Oct for the next opportunity. With my side-kick (a young cousin God bless him) reluctantly agreeing (he is not an adventurer by any means), I had the crew ready.

Given that we had only 6 days and a buffer of a couple of days, making a run to Leh and back would be difficult. It had to be Himanchal. I have been fascinated with a few travelogues written on Team BHP about various Himanchal circuits. The travelogues indicate that the journey is relatively smooth and stress-free. With that in mind, the original plan was charted out as -
Day 1: Delhi to Narkanda
Day 2: Narkanda to Kalpa
Day 3: Kalpa to Chitkul and back to Kalpa
Day 4: Kalpa to Narkanda
Day 5: Narkanda to Delhi
Hmm! 5 days, the mind thought. What if I add 2 more and go to Kaza, visit Chandertaal and come back via Manali? I was aware that Kaza to Manali is a bit tricky but how tricky could it be? Will the crew be able to stomach this? I trusted my persuasive abilities and modified the trip plan in my head to -
Day 1: Delhi to Narkanda
Day 2: Narkanda to Kalpa
Day 3: Kalpa to Chitkul and back to Kalpa
Day 4: Kalpa to Kaza
Day 5: Kaza to Chandertaal
Day 6: Chandertaal to Manali
Day 7: Manali to Delhi
The crew wasn't informed of the change yet!

Ecosport took us to Leh and back last year with no serious issues and just a couple of under-body hits, so I was confident it would serve me well in Himanchal. After all, people say "conquering" Ladakh is one hell of a task! Little did I know what lay ahead.

As I did during my last road trip, I gathered information about accommodation prior to my departure with phone numbers and tentative rates and availability. I didn't book any accommodation as it was decided we would either book it on the way or just walk-in.

Bags were packed, route maps were printed out, departure time for Day 1 was agreed upon - time for bed! The adventure begins tomorrow

Last edited by TheDesertRat : 17th July 2016 at 00:41.
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Old 15th July 2016, 13:58   #3
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Default re: The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport

Day 1
I find it hard to sleep the night before the trip. However, I forced myself as I didn't want to be tired half way through Day 1. All of us got up in time the next morning and we left Indirapuram at 06:30 AM. The target was reaching Narkanda by 05:00 PM in the evening. The route map is given below:

The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-delhi-narkanda.png

I decided to tank up at the outskirts of Delhi as I was keen to avoid the morning traffic as much as possible. We did manage that and stopped over at Amrik Sukhdev for breakfast around 08:00 AM. The place was heaving as always.

A word about Sukhdev - This was my 2nd visit to this place and I honestly don't know what the hype is all about. The parathas are below average, the service is pathetic and it adds about an hour or more to your journey times! The reason why I stopped here was because the cousin insisted as he had heard so much about the place and wanted to check it out. My personal advice to anyone travelling this section, avoid Amrik. There are numerous other restaurants along the way and you can surely find better food and service elsewhere.

Although the plan was to have lunch at the outskirts of Shimla, hunger pangs made us stop at The Pinewood Resort, Barog around 01:00 PM for lunch. This is a HPDTC property and the location is excellent. The car park was full which indicated the tourist rush we were about to see right up until Shimla. Food was good here and the service was ok. They had beautifully manicured gardens and post lunch, we spent a few minutes clicking the first pictures of our trip.

The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0007.jpg

She was quite happy to pose for us.
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0010.jpg

Post lunch, we carried on crossing Shimla on our way. The traffic was maddening and I was under-whelmed looking at the chaos\crowd in Shimla. I am not sure if it will even feature in my list of places to visit. We moved on and good roads ensured we reached Narkanda at around 05:00 PM in the evening.

The place we decided to stay in Narkanda was Teethys Ski Resort (http://tethysresorts.com/). This is about 3-4 kms past Narkanda. Note that the approach to the resort is quite narrow. I had heard a lot of positive feedback about this place on this forum itself. There is no doubt that the location is superb and some of the views are really beautiful. However, the kind of service you get is not what you expect from a 3-star resort. Food is average and nothing to rave about.

They had a bonfire setup in the evening which was ok as the seating provided was not the most comfortable especially after a long drive. We spent an hour at the bonfire feasting on some chilli chicken. We decided to skip dinner as the starters/snacks were enough for us and retired to the room.

Information
Route - Ghaziabad to Narkanda via Ambala, Shimla
Distance - 440 kms
Stops - 2
Time taken - 9 hours
Under-body hits - None

Last edited by TheDesertRat : 17th July 2016 at 00:45.
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Old 15th July 2016, 17:45   #4
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Default re: The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport

Day 2
As it was cloudy the previous day, we couldn't enjoy the view from the hotel room. However, it was a relatively clear morning the next day and this was the view from our room.
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0024.jpg

After getting the breakfast done, we checked out of the hotel at about 10:00 AM. Today's plan was to get to Kalpa which was a mere 180 kms. The route we took is given below
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-narkanda-kalpa.png

We were a bit perplexed with the expected duration which as per local knowledge was about 8 hours. Roads had been good so far and we expected this to continue at least up until Kaza. Anyway, we made good progress for a couple of hours. Stopped on the way at "Sutlej View Point" for a few clicks.
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0043.jpg

A few shots along the way. The roads were really good.
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0058.jpg

We had lunch at a roadside establishment with this view. Lunch for us was maggi as we didn't trust anything else. Tea that was ordered was horrendous!
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0065.jpg

The bad roads started after we crossed Wangtu. Suddenly we started realising why we were being told it would take 8 hours for us to reach Kalpa. We reached the village of Tapri. Intel gathered from last night indicated we had to take a diversion from Tapri and go via the Urni village. The diversion which we took is no mean feat in itself. Let me try to describe the road.
Actually there is no road. It's a dirt track, narrow to accommodate a single car with steep incline hairpin bends. Images and videos of Sandakphu started appearing before me. To add to my misery, there was plenty of traffic ahead and behind me mostly Sumos and Innovas. I tried tackling the first couple of hairpins driving normally and immediately noticed that the car started struggling. Lack of power and lack of traction made it difficult for me to move the car forward. Remembered someone on this very forum saying the best way to tackle such inclines is to accelerate before the ascent. Resorted to this rally-style driving and we were up to the top without any fuss . The descent was equally bad and we reached Karcham dam at around 02:00 PM.

The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0075.jpg

She needed a break as well after that horrible section
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0078.jpg

The ordeal was not over yet. The roads just after the Karcham dam all the way up to the ascent to Reckong Peo is one of the worst I have driven. You won't be able to manage speeds over 15-20 kmph. The only saving grace here is that the road is wide and there isn't any climbing. But this is the most irritating section of the drive. No photos here as this doesn't deserve to be photographed!

Finally some smooth roads appeared after an ordeal of about an hour and the ascent to Reckong Peo started. Although this road is tarred, it is narrow at places and you have to watch out for the HPDTC buses coming from the opposite direction as they WILL NOT GIVE WAY regardless of being uphill or downhill. After reaching Reckong Peo, the ascent continues all the way to Kalpa. Raods are good but due to cabling work going on, they have dug up the sides which has in turn made the roads narrower.

The place where we planned to stay in Kalpa was the "The Monk Resort" (http://hotel-the-monk-resort-kalpa.hotelsgds.com/). They have two properties in Kalpa. One being a standard hotel and another a campsite. We planned to stay at the campsite. There are two ways to get to the camps. We followed Google Maps and ended up in a scary situation. We were happily making our way to the campsite when I noticed the road ahead is extremely narrow and with an incline close to 45 degrees. We also realised that apart from us there are no other 4 wheelers plying on the road. Anyway, I thought if i maintained constant acceleration, I will be able to tackle this section. As luck would have it, there were a couple of guys riding a bullet in front of us. I kept my distance and halfway through the ascent, the bullet stops and falls to the ground! I had to stop as well. After checking all is well with the guys and helping them to the side, I get back in the car and try to get moving. The car just wouldn't go forward. It kept going backwards. I kept accelerating hard and tried multiple times but it simply refused to go forward. Going all the way down and trying again seemed the only option left. This was going to be tricky though as the road was narrow and reversing the car downhill would be a task in itself. Asked my cousin to get down and place a couple of rocks behind the rear tires. This helped and finally after struggling for about 30 minutes, we managed to reach the resort only to be told there was alternate way which is normally used by cars.

Checked into the resort and was warmly welcomed by Mr. Rawat who is the care-taker here. If I had a couple of words to describe this place, I would say "location" and "hospitality". We were right in front of Kinner Kailash. The scenery was breathtakingly beautiful. To top that, Mr. Rawat left no stone unturned in making sure we had a comfortable stay.

The resort and the background views
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0168.jpg

Kinner Kailash shining in the evening light
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0102.jpg

This is the "shiv ling" next to Kinner Kailash. Actually there are 3 peaks. The peak next to Kinner Kailash is called "JorKanden" which is the highest peak of the range.
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0100.jpg

The evening sky filled with colours
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0105.jpg

Information
Route - Narkanda to Kalpa via Urni
Distance - 180 kms
Stops - 1
Time taken - 8 hours
Under-body hits - None

Last edited by TheDesertRat : 17th July 2016 at 00:51.
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Old 16th July 2016, 11:28   #5
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Default re: The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport

Day 3
The first thing I did when I got up was to browse Team BHP to check how to tackle steep inclines if the car stops midway. Bingo, use handbrakes! This served me well throughout the remainder of the trip as there were numerous occasions where I had to resort to this technique of getting the car moving.

Today was a relatively easy day as we planned to visit Chitkul and come back to Kalpa. The route that was to be followed:
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-kalpa-chitkul.png

The only issue with today's drive was to cover the broken road between all the way till Karcham twice. We finished breakfast at our hotel and left for Chitkul at 10:00 AM. At the bad stretch, I received the first under-body hit . I did not see a big rock protruding out in the road and bump!. It was severe and the sump guard was the casualty (a piece was partly broken and hanging). I immediately checked and found no other damage and continued further. The ascent starts soon after the Karcham dam but roads are fairly decent but the views are majestic!
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0111.jpg
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0113.jpg
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0116.jpg
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0120.jpg

There are a few bad patches later on but nothing to be alarmed about. We stopped to collect "Ganga Dhara" right after the Sangla village. Ecosport did struggle uphill with me having to downshift numerous times along the way. We then stopped at Rakchham to have our lunch and these were the views that greeted us from the restaurant.
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0137.jpg

Post lunch, we moved towards Chitkul. Right after Rakkcham, there is a check-post where you are supposed to submit your details. Promptly did that and moved ahead. Chitkul looked beautiful.
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0143.jpg

We drove further till the army checkpost and stopped for a few minutes to click some photos.
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0156.jpg

After spending about 20 minutes, we turned the car and headed back to Kalpa. The return journey was largely uneventful. Just before Reckong Peo, I stopped at a local garage to get my air filter cleaned up and also figure out if they can tie up the hanging piece of the sump guard. We reached the resort (this time the longer but safer way) at 05:00 PM in the evening and were again greeted with a different sight of Kinner Kailash.
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0169.jpg

Evening was spent eating pakoras and sipping tea and talking about the journey ahead. This is the time where I broke the news that I would like to go to Kaza and Manali. Seeing my enthusiasm, the crew said "Yes" on the condition that if we found the road/region to be too dangerous we will return back.

Dinner was served soon after and Mr. Rawat prepared some delicious chicken (on special request from us). After having dinner, we chatted with the owner of the property Mr. Negi for a while before retiring to bed. Tomorrow was an early start to Kaza and I wanted everyone to be fully rested.

Information
Route - Kalpa to Chitkul and back to Kalpa
Distance - 130 kms
Stops - 2
Time taken - 7 hours
Under-body hits - 1

Last edited by TheDesertRat : 17th July 2016 at 00:55.
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Old 16th July 2016, 12:01   #6
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Default re: The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport

Day 4

We planned to start early today for our journey to Kaza based on the following route map.
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-kalpa-kaza.png

With a hearty breakfast done, we were able to leave Kalpa by 09:00 AM. Roads were a mixed bag sometimes poor and sometimes excellent. The views were ever changing as we were entering the Spiti valley now. It became more barren and brown.
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0176.jpg
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0178.jpg
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0186.jpg

We stopped at the Spiti Sutlej confluence site but couldn't figure it out so we moved ahead. One of the sections of the road was particularly bad and was prone to landslides. As it was windy, a few stones were rolling down from the cliff as we were driving along. Suddenly, I notice a bed of huge boulders in front of me. It must have been a landslide which happened a few minutes before as I could see BRO personnel frantically clearing the road. While we were waiting for the road to get cleared, a 2nd landslide got triggered right at the point where we were stationed. Wifey started panicking, the BRO guys ran for cover. I saw no other option but to try and get the car over the boulders and across to safety. Praying to the heavens, I stepped on the gas and managed to get the car on top. However, we got stuck a couple of meters in. I feared the worst. Suddenly I noticed, 4 BRO workers came to me and said "Aap nikalo, hum maddad karte hain". I tried but the wheels kept spinning. The car won't go forward or backwards. After a few tries, I was able to get it moving backwards by a couple of inches which was enough for the guys to remove/adjust the rocks. All I had to do was to keep the car at that position which was easier said than done as the moment I removed my foot from the gas, the car will move forward. I could smell the rubber burning and prayed to God to help us through this. Finally after a couple of minutes, BRO guys were able to remove/adjust the stone and signalled me to move forward. I stepped on the gas without worrying about the under-body as there was no way I was going to get out of this without any damage. The car kept bouncing and received a lot of under-body hits but we managed to pull through. I immediately stopped the car and kissed the steering
Got down and inspected the car and the sump guard again was the only casualty with a couple of pieces broken now.

A mention of the BRO guys who literally saved our lives. Hats off to you!!

The roads from Pooh to Nako are good. It is narrow and steep but metalled. There was a traffic jam right before Nako which gave us some time to catch a breather and click some pics.
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0196.jpg
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0198.jpg
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0203.jpg

We skipped the Nako monastery and started climbing towards Malling Top. This section is a bit tricky (very narrow) but doable. I didn't notice the infamous Malling Nallah though.

We crossed Tabo and stopped at a small village for lunch. We had to use the rest-room and hence enquired about it before we ordered food. There was a lady sitting in the restaurant with a small kid. Seeing my wife with me, she offered us to use the bathroom in her house which was upstairs from the restaurant. I thought she must be owner of the restaurant but it turns out she wasn't. Once upstairs, she offered us some tea and biscuits as well. I was overwhelmed with the hospitality and expressed my gratitude for the kind gesture. Once we were done with tea, we came downstairs for food which wasn't very good. We had to eat what was offered as there were not a lot of options and Kaza was still far away. Post lunch we proceeded towards Kaza on the road which never got better right up until Kaza. It was more of a dirt track than a road but there are no inclines or water crossings to worry about. The vistas are amazing though

The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0217.jpg
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0219.jpg
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0230.jpg
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0234.jpg
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0245.jpg

We finally reached Kaza at 05:00 PM and the first thing we did was to tank up. Stopped at the famous "Highest Retail Outlet" for refuelling. It was pandemonium over there. Trucks, cars, bikes jostling for space and cutting each other to get ahead of the queue. We had to be patient and wait for about 30 minutes before our turn came. Tanked up, we started our hunt for accommodation. Given that cellphones were not working along the way, I was not able to book anything while we were travelling. We first went to Sakya Abode only to be told it is full. Hotel Deyzor was our next stop and we got turned away from there too. By this time, missus was getting very impatient as she was tired (She later told me that the wait at the petrol pump did it for her). We were third time lucky as we entered "Hotel Spiti". This is a HPDTC property and looks good from the outside. We enquired about the room and the response was positive. Without looking at the room, we put our names down. However, once inside, this place lets you down big time. Dark and smelly rooms, god awful toilets, pathetic mattress, stained bedsheets and an equally dire service makes this place a strict no-go.

We even contemplated leaving the hotel but better sense prevailed and I somehow convinced all to stay put and spend the night.

Given the state of the hotel, there was no way we were going to have dinner here. We decided to take a walk up to Hotel Deyzor which looked quite chic from the outside. The restaurant is pretty good and so is the food. The service is a bit on the slower side.

We got done with dinner at 10:00 PM and walked back to the hotel. The sky above was clear and I could see the Milky Way along with thousands of stars. I had never seen so many stars ever and it made quite a spectacle. The only disappointing thing was my camera was not capable of capturing this (or there is something I need to set that I am not aware of).

Gazing at the stars, I thought if this is the scene here in Kaza, it would be magical at Chandertaal. With this thought, I went to sleep in anticipation of the day ahead.

Information
Route - Kalpa to Kaza via Nako, Tabo
Distance - 200 kms
Stops - 1
Time taken - 8 hours
Under-body hits - Several

Last edited by TheDesertRat : 17th July 2016 at 00:56.
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Old 16th July 2016, 12:03   #7
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Day 5
Today we planned to leave Kaza and either camp at Chandertaal or move on to Manali. We asked the hotel manager about getting us packed breakfast as we planned to leave early. However, he mentioned "Saab, har 30 minute mein dhaba hai". I thought ok, it makes sense.

We left the hotel at 07:30 AM and started towards Chandertaal.
The route map
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-kaza-manali.png

However, instead of going towards Rangrik, we were told by a passer-by to head towards Key and Kibber. The signboards were confusing too. As we approached the bridge on Spiti River from Kaza, it indicated Kunzum Pass as straight and Rangrik on the left. Knowing that we need to cross Kunzum Pass, I headed straight and its only after we reached the town of Kibber were we told that we need to go all the way back and head via Rangrik. I didn't mind the drive up to Kibber as the roads were awesome and the morning scenery was really good.
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0253.jpg

A note about Rangrik. I noticed quite a few decent stay options here and I would suggest people travelling to Kaza should stay here instead of jostling for space in Kaza. This is equally scenic and is 10 mins away from Kaza.

We crossed quite a few villages but didn't notice any dhabas for the next 2-3 hours. Post Rangrik, the roads are bad but it is very scenic as evident from the picture below
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0257.jpg

Our first water crossing arrived. It wasn't too deep but the flow of the water was decent. Ecosport crossed it with ease and we finally found a couple of places to eat in the village of Losar right before the ascent to Kunzum. While we were having our brunch a couple of taxi drivers walked in for their meal. I started chatting with them on the road ahead and it is was probably the worst thing I did in my life. They started off by saying "Sirjee, poore poore truck beh jaate hain, aapki to choti si gaadi hai". Panic mode set in and the crew was nervous. However, there was no option but to go ahead.

We made our way to Kunzum after our brunch and although the road was bad, it wasn't scary/not doable. Reached Kunzum Top and stopped to offer prayers and take some photos
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0271.jpg
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0278.jpg

The descent from Kunzum is where the nightmare starts. The road is narrow and massively uneven. The uneasiness started creeping in and the conversations I had with the taxi drivers started echoing in my mind. We moved on and soon we were at the point where the road to Chandertaal starts on the left. If you proceed straight you go to Manali. A quick discussion with the team and it was decided as we have made it this far, let's go and check out Chandertaal as well.

Now this by far is the most notorious and scary road I have ever driven my car on. Leh and it's circuits are nothing when compared to this. At times, I felt what have I got myself into! It is extremely narrow and a very few places to allow oncoming cars. A huge water crossing came our way. I stopped, assessed and saw the Innova in front of me rock and roll and pass through. OK, I thought, I can cross this if Innova has. Two massive under-body hits but we were through. The uneasiness kept on rising as there were a few oncoming cars and I had to manoeuvre the car utilising every inch to let them through. Inside the car, there was silence.

Half way through the treacherous 12 kms, we saw a big traffic pile-up about 500 meters away. I parked my car on the edge of the road and got down to see what as happening. The Innova in front of me stopped a few meters ahead as well. The guy sitting on the left rear side of the Innova opened the door and tried to get out. Because, the car was right on the edge, his foot landed on the edge and he started slipping downhill!! He clung on to the door and by God's grace was able to pull himself up.

The traffic pile-up was because 4 oncoming cars were refusing to back-up to allow traffic towards Chandertaal. The section was narrow and they were trying to "adjust" the cars to allow traffic to pass. In the process, one of Innovas left rear tyre was hanging from the edge of the cliff and nobody else was moving. After 30 minutes, the traffic coming towards us/Manali made way and now it was my turn to squeeze and let them pass.

There were a bunch of guys (one Thar and one Endeavour) who stopped and looked at me in amazement as to how I have managed to get Ecosport till here. I said "With difficulty". The guys said, "The worst section is yet to come. There is no point going to Chandertaal. We went there in the morning and were so disappointed that we turned back. You should turn back too." A cursory glance at my wife and cousin and I decided that's enough. I will turn back. The longest U-turn of my life followed and it took me about 15 tries to turn the car back. Chandertaal seemed to have got the better of me this time but I vowed I will be back one day.

Once the U turn was done, I was soon able to catch the convoy which went past us. The dreaded water crossing and again a couple of under-body hits.
Slowly we made our way to Batal and stopped for a quick break. I formally introduced myself to the convoy as all of them were heading to Manali. It's strange but everybody developed a sense of relief knowing that we are a part of the convoy now, even though we barely knew anybody.

From Batal, we moved ahead and got lost as there is no road but a river bed full of rocks. The Thar with its massive AT tyres took the lead and we followed. We noticed a Hyundai Creta whizz past and thought "What in the world is wrong with that driver?". Once we crossed the river bed, we saw the Thar stop with the guys signalling us to move ahead and park. I saw the Creta with a massive puncture and the family standing outside. All the cars stopped to help. It turned out that the spare in the Creta was also punctured and we were about 50 kms from Gramphoo. There was no other option but to ferry the Creta passengers till Gramphoo leaving the car locked by the side of the road. I took one passenger while the Endeavour and others accommodated the remaining 3. In this process though, my car unknowingly turned out to be leading the convoy now

Soon, the first major water crossing arrived. The water was in full flow and it was deep. My cousin got down to inspect and all others helped. The guy in the Thar advised me not to accelerate beyond 10 kmph. I listened and this time there were no under-body hits and I was through!! Next came Thar and it was quite a scene. The Thar allowed 7 people to climb at the back (no back seats) and it gobbled up the water crossing as a piece of cake. People were so jubilant they started clapping and shouting.

The confidence was high after that and with the "team" behind me I felt comfortable. The nightmarish roads continued and we had to tackle at least 5 more water crossings (one literally seemed as the stream was flowing on the road itself). There were a couple of under-body hits all the way till Gramphoo but they were not significant.

We reached Gramphoo at 04:30 PM and dropped the Creta family. We started our ascent to Rohtang where I resorted to the "rally style" driving to tackle steep gradient inclines. We could also see heavy cloud cover at the top and thought "Could this day get any worse?". A few kms from the top and we see a road worthy of being called "the best laid road" welcoming us! A sigh of relief from all of us. The clouds though were so dense and dark that after crossing the top, I was barely able to see anything in front. With the natural light of the sun gone, the cloud cover made it really difficult for us all the way till we entered Manali.

Given we went through such a treacherous day, I decided that we will spend one additional night in Manali to recuperate and that too in a proper luxury hotel. I gave a call to The Anantmaya Resort (http://www.anantmaya.in/) and booked a luxury room for us. When we arrived at 09:00 PM, we were quite happy to see that the resort is indeed excellent with a very well appointed room and beautiful views/location. The rooms do not have an AC though so if you arrive in summers, you might find it a bit stuffy. They happily provide table fans which help to some extent.

As we were tired, we ordered food in our room and crashed.

Information
Route - Kaza to Manali via Batal, Gramphoo
Distance - 205 kms
Stops - 1
Time taken - 13 hours
Under-body hits - 6-8

Last edited by TheDesertRat : 17th July 2016 at 00:57.
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Old 16th July 2016, 12:08   #8
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Day 6
With the toughest day of our trip behind us, all of us decided that we will spend an additional day in Manali doing absolutely nothing. All of us including the car needed the break. We woke up at around 09:00 AM and had our breakfast enjoying these views from our balcony.

The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0282.jpg
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-dsc_0287.jpg

After killing a couple of hours, wifey and I decided to check out the spa at the hotel itself. Both of us opted for massage treatments. It was good but nothing to rave about.

Post massage, we decided to venture out for lunch and ended up going to the "infamous" mall road. We took a taxi from the hotel (Rs. 300 from the hotel to Mall Road) as I was in no mood of driving or hunting for a parking space. Mall road was nothing special. It was crowded with touts trying to sell all kinds of merchandise to us.

For lunch, we went in to Sher-e-Punjab as it looked decent. Service and food were pretty disappointing and I recommend to avoid this place. Once we were done with lunch, missus decided to check out some clothes shops. Killed another couple of hours doing this. There was some sort of trade fare going on in the grounds opposite the Mall Road. We went to check it out but there was nothing worth buying although there were some innovative products on display (eg, an attachment which turns your tap into a shower ) Each of us had a go at the 9-D virtual reality counter for Rs.200 per head for 10 minutes.

Took an auto back to the hotel for Rs. 200. Once we were back, all of us watched the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones, had dinner and went to bed.

Information
Route - NA
Distance - NA
Stops - NA
Time taken - NA
Under-body hits - NA

Last edited by TheDesertRat : 17th July 2016 at 00:57.
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Old 16th July 2016, 12:59   #9
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Day 7

This was going to be one long, tiring day. As agreed previously, we were going to make a non-stop run from Manali to Delhi.

The route we followed
The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-manali-delhi.png

We started off from the hotel at 08:30 AM after having our breakfast. The roads were excellent despite traffic. However, the dream run ended as we were approaching Sundernagar. I saw all cars coming from opposite direction covered in thick mud/slush and wondered what lay ahead. And there is was. With road widening going on and the incessant rain for the last 24 hours, a 10 km stretch was nothing but potholed roads filled with slush. Some potholes were really deep and it was impossible not to splash the slush on to your car.

Once the mess was behind us, we stopped for a quick snack at a roadside eatery. This is how she looked after the mess

The Himalayan Adventure : Ghaziabad - Chitkul - Manali in an EcoSport-img20160716wa0003.jpg

The scenery along the way is good but having spent the last 6 days amongst mountains, the crew wasn't keen on stopping for photo breaks. I could see that they wanted to get home now and I don't blame them. They stuck with me throughout and gave their best. It was time for me to get them home as soon as possible.

We stopped at Heritage Haveli near Chandigarh for lunch. Try their special "Dal Sigdi" and "Chilli Paratha". It is delicious!! Post lunch, we drove non-stop all the way to Ghaziabad and reached home by 09:30 PM, thus marking an end to another epic road-trip.

Information
Route - Manali to Ghaziabad via Kullu, Bilaspur
Distance - 565 kms
Stops - 2
Time taken - 13 hours
Under-body hits - None

Last edited by TheDesertRat : 17th July 2016 at 00:57.
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Old 17th July 2016, 01:14   #10
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Conclusion

I do not believe in saying I "conquered" Himanchal. In some ways, it always is the other way round. Himanchal conquered us as it left a lasting impression on each one of us for our entire lives. So much so, that we definitely will visit it again. Since my return, I have sent the car to the service centre and apart from the sump guard and the wiper blades, all is well (I feared the worst for the clutch plates but they are ok).

1. The complete circuit :
Ghaziabad --> Narkanda --> Kalpa -> Chitkul --> Kalpa --> Kaza --> halfway to Chandertaal --> Manali

2. Total distance covered was just shy of 2000 kms.

3. It is definitely more treacherous than Leh and it's surrounding areas.

4. Attempt it preferably in a SUV. It has been done in a Maruti 800 as well but then not all drivers are the same nor are the road/weather conditions.

5. I didn't suffer a single puncture on this trip and the key to that is driving slow on bad roads.

6. There is no cellphone coverage once you enter Spiti valley. BSNL works only in Kaza but then goes off again up until Rohtang.

7. I found HP taxis to be more courteous when compared to JK and Leh guys. They give way and do not honk the life out of you if you are in front. It's a different story with HPDTC buses.

8. Ecosport is grossly under-powered. While tackling inclines, switch off the AC for a little bit of extra help.

9. When faced with a difficult situation, keep a calm head and be patient.

10. Limit yourself to ordering Maggi when on the road in the Spiti region. Anything else and you might be disappointed and/or sick.

11. Tackle water crossings with speeds no more than 15 kmph.

12. Use handbrakes if you are not driving a 4*4 to assist in hill starts.
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Old 17th July 2016, 12:25   #11
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Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 17th July 2016, 20:49   #12
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Originally Posted by TheDesertRat View Post
Prologue

I love driving in the mountains. It is exciting, it is tiring but it is equally rewarding. Fresh air, awesome scenery and clear blue skies - a regular city dweller knows the true value of these things. After my maiden trip to Leh last year, I developed this never ending itch to go again. It's infectious and contagious you see...
Very nice travelogue mate. Reminds me of our road trip to the Spiti Valley in October 2015, which we undertook in a sedan (Swift Dzire Vxi). We went via Shimla, Kaza and returned via Manali. The route taken was Chandigarh-Shimla-Narkanda-Rampur-Jeori-Karcham-Reckong Peo-Spello-Puh-Sumdo-Tabo-Kaza-Losar-Kunzum Pass-Batal-Chhota Dhara-Chhatru-Gramphoo-Rohtang Pass-Manali-Kullu-Mandi-Sundarnagar-Bilaspur-Swarghat-Kiratpur-Ropar-Chandigarh.

The toughest leg of the trip was from Kaza to Manali over the twin passes of Kunzum and Rohtang. Couldn't agree more with you, that the stretch from Batal to Chhatru is the most challenging one, with virtually no road. Definitely the Kaza-Manali highway is the toughest one to drive on with zero habitation, no road and scarce traffic, which makes it secluded and scary. The Manali-Leh highway is a pretty comfortable in its comparison. Your trip has revived the memories. Do check out the travelogue: http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...ure-sedan.html (Julley! Himalayan Spiti Adventure in a sedan)

Last edited by ssambyal1980 : 17th July 2016 at 21:01.
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Old 18th July 2016, 13:52   #13
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Congrats on doing such a tough journey on your Ecosport. Salute your spirit of adventure!
I enjoyed reading your gripping narrative esp the tough parts.
As an Ecosport user, I feel happy that the car could take a real beating and come through it virtually unscathed.
A couple of questions popped up in my mind as I read through it (and I thought I would ask you) -
1. Would an AWD set up have been a big relief on those very tough spots?
2. And would ATR tyres have made a huge difference as well?
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Old 18th July 2016, 14:27   #14
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Conclusion

I do not believe in saying I "conquered" Himanchal. In some ways, it always is the other way round. Himanchal conquered us as it left a lasting impression on each one of us for our entire lives. So much so, that we definitely will visit it again.
Hats of to your spirit. I just loved these lines. Congrats on completing the road trip. Very good narration and pictures. Me being a EcoSport owner I feel proud when people take their EcoSport to distant places.


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8. Ecosport is grossly under-powered. While tackling inclines, switch off the AC for a little bit of extra help.
Why so ? With how many people onboard ? I know the low initial is a problem in the hills but I didnt feel it to be under powered anytime during all my road trips. I agree that the 2nd gear is useless most of the time.

Do you have any video of the water crossing ?

I read you got couple of under body hits, was this due to high speed or they were really really large rocks ?
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Old 18th July 2016, 15:35   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ssambyal1980 View Post
Very nice travelogue mate. Reminds me of our road trip to the Spiti Valley in October 2015, which we undertook in a sedan (Swift Dzire Vxi). We went via Shimla, Kaza and returned via Manali. The route taken was Chandigarh-Shimla-Narkanda-Rampur-Jeori-Karcham-Reckong Peo-Spello-Puh-Sumdo-Tabo-Kaza-Losar-Kunzum Pass-Batal-Chhota Dhara-Chhatru-Gramphoo-Rohtang Pass-Manali-Kullu-Mandi-Sundarnagar-Bilaspur-Swarghat-Kiratpur-Ropar-Chandigarh.
Thank you for your kind words. You, sir, are a man with no fear taking your sedan over those roads! I did read your travelogue earlier and was one of the write-ups that inspired me to go to Himanchal.

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Congrats on doing such a tough journey on your Ecosport. Salute your spirit of adventure!
I enjoyed reading your gripping narrative esp the tough parts.
Thanks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wilful View Post
1. Would an AWD set up have been a big relief on those very tough spots?
Definitely on the gradient inclines
Quote:
Originally Posted by wilful View Post
2. And would ATR tyres have made a huge difference as well?
I am assuming they would given better grip on loose soil and water crossings.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Uprasenjit View Post
Hats of to your spirit. I just loved these lines. Congrats on completing the road trip. Very good narration and pictures. Me being a EcoSport owner I feel proud when people take their EcoSport to distant places.
Thanks a lot.

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Originally Posted by Uprasenjit View Post
Why so ? With how many people onboard ? I know the low initial is a problem in the hills but I didnt feel it to be under powered anytime during all my road trips. I agree that the 2nd gear is useless most of the time.
We were 3 on-board with about 25 kilos of luggage. I, too, wasn't expecting such a problem as I did Ladakh last year. However, on this trip, it became apparent that 1st gear is the only way the car can tackle any sort of incline. And I wasn't the only one. While having dinner at Kaza, I met with a gentleman driving his Ecosport and the first remark that came out was "Dude, this car is so under-powered for this terrain"

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Originally Posted by Uprasenjit View Post
Do you have any video of the water crossing ?
No. We all were too nervous seeing the sheer size of the water crossing so we didn't try and record anything.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Uprasenjit View Post
I read you got couple of under body hits, was this due to high speed or they were really really large rocks ?
It was mostly due to the fact that the rocks (read boulders) were too big. There was just one instance (the water crossing en route Chandertaal) where I thought I could have gone a bit slow and avoided the under-body hit.
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