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Old 19th September 2016, 17:47   #1
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Default An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition

The Himalayas in all its glory! A sight to behold!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-himalayas.jpg

Prologue:

The itch to holiday differently was becoming unbearable.
The mundane holidays, guided tours, travelling in groups of (unlike-minded) people - it was in fact becoming a bore, best avoided!

Two years ago, browsing through Facebook, I chanced upon a friend's iconic journey into the North-eastern fringes of India.
He had participated in Mahindra Adventure's Authentic North-East expedition. All the pictures had him grinning ear-to-ear.

His grin did the trick!
Both of us being hard-core automobile enthusiasts, if he had enjoyed the expedition, so would I!

Business travel kept me engaged in the year 2015.
However, I was determined to participate in the most exciting-of-all expeditions in 2016, come what may!

I kept in touch with Vinod Nookala, who advised me to exercise patience until the first quarter of 2016.
And wait I did, scrounging through MahindraAdventure.com almost everyday until I hit jackpot!

The day the expeditions were announced, I decided that I would participate in the Himalayan Spiti 2016.

An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-action.png

It was of a fairly long duration (10 days) and most importantly the scheduled period between 02-Sept and 11-Sept was extremely convenient for me and did not clash with any other events in my calendar!

By the second week of April 2016, I signed up and paid the participation fees of Rs. 1.5 Lakhs.
I decided to search for and a finalize a co-driver subsequently, my primary aim was to block my seat on the expedition!

And so did I!
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Last edited by cpbopanna : 5th October 2016 at 14:21.
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Old 19th September 2016, 20:19   #2
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Default A brief: An odyssey into the skies - Mahindra Adventure's expedition - Himalayan Spiti 2016

The Himalayan Spiti 2016 Gang!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-group.jpg

The Spiti Valley is a largely unexplored region and not as many tourists do this route since it has less forgiving roads.
The stark landscape promised to be nothing like we've seen before.

Mahindra Adventures had engaged 7-time National Rally Champion Hari Singh to manage the expedition along with their own administrative and service teams.
This was my first interaction with Hari Singh, a gentleman par excellence. The entire expedition was organized like clock-work, but more on that later!

The Himalayan Spiti Escape is an extreme expedition to one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
We were briefed about driving on rough mountain roads some of which are the highest motorable roads in the world.

The expedition would have on-board a doctor throughout to take care of the participants.
With cold weather being expected, it was recommended that we carried enough woollens including caps, gloves and thermals.

All participants were allotted Mahindra Scorpio VLX 4WD by a draw of lots. Other than the fuel which we needed to fill in, ALL other expenses were included in the package.

All the Scorpios were equipped with radio sets so that the participants could be in constant touch with the expedition leaders and everyone else in the convoy.

Itinerary:

The participants were required to arrive on 2nd September 2016 at Chandigarh, to complete the registration formalities and participate in the driver’s briefing in the evening.

An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-schedule.jpg
The actual drive would start from 03-September!

Last edited by cpbopanna : 4th October 2016 at 19:32.
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Old 20th September 2016, 08:14   #3
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Default Re: A brief: An odyssey into the skies - Mahindra Adventure's expedition - Himalayan Spiti 2016

Quote:
Originally Posted by cpbopanna View Post
The Spiti Valley is a largely unexplored region and not as many tourists do this route since it has less forgiving roads.
The stark landscape promised to be nothing like we've seen before.
Wonderful expedition and travelogue there, thanks for sharing cpbopanna . But why just one picture or was this just the teaser? I am hoping you would share the details of each day with lots of pictures. Please do it asap, can't wait for long now
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Old 20th September 2016, 08:48   #4
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Default Re: A brief: An odyssey into the skies - Mahindra Adventure's expedition - Himalayan Spiti 2016

Quote:
Originally Posted by AutoIndian View Post
Wonderful expedition and travelogue there, thanks for sharing cpbopanna . But why just one picture or was this just the teaser? I am hoping you would share the details of each day with lots of pictures. Please do it asap, can't wait for long now
Patience please AutoIndian, that was just the start!
Over the next few days, I shall cover the entire 10 day expedition in great detail, with hundreds of pictures and some videos!

But the pièce de résistance is not the expedition itself, my friend (co-participant) and I have been so enamored by the concept, we might soon join the band-wagon ourselves!
Oops, almost let the cat out of the bag
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Old 20th September 2016, 11:04   #5
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Default Day 0: Chandigarh + Day 1 Flag-off:

A brief history:

Chandigarh, set at the foothills of the majestic Himalayas is the capital of states of Punjab and Haryana.
It is the first planned city of India post independence, known for its modern architecture and urban design by the famous French architect Le Corbusier.

Chandigarh assumed the unique distinction of being the capital city of both, Punjab and Haryana while it itself was declared as a Union Territory and under the direct control of the Central Government!

The Lalit Chandigarh - Starting point our expedition:
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-lalit1.jpg

Located in Rajiv Gandhi IT Park, the hotel is a mere 23 km from the International Airport at Mohali.
The Airport itself is brand new and worth a mention!
Uber service is very convenient in Chandigarh and priced very reasonably! The drive to the hotel took 37 minutes.

As soon as we checked-in, we were directed to report at one of the Conference Halls after freshening up.
The event started with registrations, introductions, briefing and ended with a happy-hour!
Since we were scheduled to depart at 08:00 hours next day, we partook an 'early' dinner at the 24-hour coffee shop and retired for the night!

Day 1: Break-fast and Flag-off:

View from the hotel room!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-view-lalith.jpg

Break-fast time!!
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The convoy
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-start.jpg

Walking towards the convoy!
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Greeting each other!
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Awaiting flag-off!
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Hari Singh's father had consented to pray for the safety of the expedition before flag-off!

Pre-departure briefing by Hari Singh
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-briefing.jpg

Start of the epic journey with Hari Singh in the lead!
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Last edited by cpbopanna : 26th September 2016 at 13:35.
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Old 26th September 2016, 14:18   #6
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Default Day 1: Chandigarh to Shimla (enroute to Narkanda)

Schedule for Day 1: Journey from Chandigarh (elevation 1,150 feet) to Narkanda (elevation 8,900 feet)!
That is hell of a climb within a day, notwithstanding the fact that we would be climbing higher in-between!

A Google map image of the route planned for the day!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-google-map.jpg


First, a 113 km journey to Shimla where we are scheduled to break for lunch!

An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-start.jpg

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What started as a regular journey, got exciting by the minute!
The experience of driving in a convoy, the blood, the sweat, the tears!
(with due apologies to Sir. Winston Churchill - for borrowing his expression)

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The excitement grew until we reached Wildflower Hall, a property run by the Oberois!

An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-11.jpg

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Old 27th September 2016, 23:50   #7
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Default Day 1: Lunch at Shimla and the ascent to Narkanda

The place the Mahindras and Hari Singh had chosen for lunch was nothing short of stunning!

Aerial view of Wildflower Hall, Shimla
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-1.jpg

Situated at 8,250 feet above sea level, Wildflower Hall an Oberoi property is unique amongst luxury hotels in Shimla.

The drive from the main road to the hotel itself is an experience, reminds me of Hansel & Gretel!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-2.jpg

The facade!
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After a traditional welcome (where we were given Himachal caps), we were escorted into a lovely Dining room adjacent to a well-manicured lawn!

An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-4.jpg

After a scrumptious lunch, we undertook a small tour of the property before embarking on the next leg of the journey!

Different views in/from the property!
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Final convoy re-grouping before departure to Narkanda!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-8.jpg

Last edited by cpbopanna : 4th October 2016 at 23:23.
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Old 28th September 2016, 00:22   #8
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Default Day 1: Shimla to Narkanda

The drive from Shimla to Narkanda was when the excitement of the expedition really started.
Enroute, we made a stop-over at Hatu peak (Elevation 11,152 feet)
Whilst the view from Hatu peak was spectacular, the climb uphill warranted a shift into 4(WD) Low, such was the gradient!
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Spectacular views atop Hatu Peak!
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Silhouette of my friend Nesli with the Himalayas in the background!
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Accommodation at Narkanda was at the lovely Tethys Ski Resort!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-tethys-ski-resort-narkanda.jpg

Views from Tethys Ski Resort!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-tethys-ski-resort-narkanda2.jpg
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Post freshening up, it was time for fellow-ship around a fire-place!

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Old 28th September 2016, 12:30   #9
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Default Day 2: Narkanda to Sangla

The excitement began quite early in the day!

The drive from Narkanda (elevation 8900 feet) to Sangala (elevation 8900 feet) sounded quite ordinary - a seemingly quiet drive - 180 km - 6 hours!
How wrong could we have been!

Google earth picture of route!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-1.jpg
PS: Google Maps timing can be totally misleading!

The change in terrain is very evident, from the greenery in Narkanda to rockiness towards Sangla!
But the crux of the drive was that we had to drive down to the valley, cross-over to the other side and start climbing again!

The co-drivers, the two idiots!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-2.jpg

Some amazing pictures of the 'green' (and comfortable) part of the terrain!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-3.jpg
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Before the start of the changing terrain!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-11.jpg

Mud and rocks all the way!

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Last but not the least, one of the most amazing drives!
All the videos are in Full HD, please change video setting to Full HD in YouTube to have a 'feel' of the awesome drive!




Roads carved out of the rocky sides of the mountains, simply breathless and amazing! A drivers' paradise!

Entrance to Apple Orchards Camp, Sangla
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-ro.jpg

At the end of the day, we settled down to our routine - hot snacks and fellow-ship around a campfire, followed by dinner!

Counter from where snacks were served:
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-counter.jpg

The Eco-friendly restaurant!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-restaurant.jpg

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Old 29th September 2016, 17:41   #10
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Default Day 3: Sangla and surroundings - Visit to Chitkul Village

We were to stay in Sangla for two nights.

Nestled amongst Apple trees, the resort had a combination of cottages and tents.

View of/from the cottage:
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-1.jpg
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Yours truly basking in the early-morning sun!
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A couple of amazing pictures of the mountains from our resort!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-33.jpg
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The day was reserved for a visit to Chitkul village

The drive to Chitkul was amazing, snow-clad peaks and beautiful woods!
A picture taken by our expedition's advance vehicle!
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A couple of pictures en route!
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Chitkul - the last inhabited village in the Indo-Tibet border! The Indian road ends here
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A parting shot before leaving the Indo-Tibet border!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-i.jpg

A picnic lunch was arranged on the banks of the Baspa river.
Splendid food, even better location!

The drive down to the river had to be in 4WD, but by now, no one was complaining!
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The 'picturesque setting' in the picnic area!
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Finally, a 'demo' of 'soft' off-roading by Hari Singh!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-af.jpg

On return to the resort, the day ended with fellow-ship around a campfire followed by dinner!

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Old 2nd October 2016, 19:51   #11
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Default Day 4: Sangla to Nako (via Kharo Bridge) [until lunch]

NOTE: The following boards are just to give an idea of the driving conditions encountered during the day!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-0.jpg
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The drive from Sangla to Nako is nothing short of unnerving!
From the caricatured () roads from Sangla, it is pure driving ecstasy maneuvering through falling rocks and land slides!

The initial and 'better' part of the drive!

An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-sn.jpg


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The 'picnic spot' where we partook a scrumptious lunch!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-4.jpg

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Old 3rd October 2016, 02:27   #12
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Default Day 4: Sangla to Nako (via Kharo Bridge) [post lunch]

A drive through non-existent roads until Kharo Bridge!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-5.jpg

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Old 3rd October 2016, 02:58   #13
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Default Day 4: Sangla (Kharo Bridge) to Naka - stay at Naka

Improved road surface after Kharo bridge, and a greener terrain! :

A wonderful water-fall en route!


An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-25.jpg
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Finally at the Nako Monastery (dated 1025 AD)!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-34.jpg

Nako is the largest village at an elevation of nearly 12,000 feet in the Hangrang Valley with the backdrop of Reo Purgyal (the highest mountain in Himachal Pradesh) which has an elevation of 22,362 feet.



Nako Village
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-n1.jpg

Stay was at the tented accommodation of Kinner Camps.
We had to park our vehicles at the Monastery and walk up to the resort through narrow village roads.
Since there was a very narrow motor-able road leading to the camp, one vehicle carried our basic luggage for the night while the rest of the luggage were left behind in our respective vehicles!

Considering the (lack of reach) at that elevation, the facilities were superb! The local cuisine was mouth-watering!

Relaxing in the camp after arrival!
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Some of us ventured to various levels of the Reo Purgyal, from where the view was simply breath-taking!
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Last but not the least, a view of the spectacular Nako lake!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-n11.jpg

The evening ended with the traditional fellow-ship around a bonfire followed by a succulent dinner!

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Old 5th October 2016, 00:02   #14
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Default Day 5: Nako to Kaza

Start of the day at Nako!
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A hectic journey planned for the day - start from Nako (elevation 12,000 feet), en route take a detour to visit the Diu Village and then proceed to Tabo village for a simple traditional lunch!

Post-lunch, visit the Tabo Monastery (established in 996 AD) and continue to Kaza (elevation 12,500 feet)!

If one relies on Google Maps on these terrains, they will be in for a nasty shock!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-google-map.jpg
Perhaps the indicated times are achieved using hover-crafts!

In addition to the unforgiving roads, land-slides are common on these roads! Hats-off to the Border Roads Organization which builds, operates and manages these roads!
The convoy began to roll, with the mighty Himalayas on one side of the road and a steep drop on the other!


An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-nkprl1.jpg
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Our tryst with danger - a Landslide:

Around two hours into the journey, the dangers of driving in the Himalayas prevailed!
We had to stop for nearly 90 minutes since the Border Roads Organization (BRO) were clearing a land-slide a few meters ahead of us!

This gave us an ideal photo-op!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-bls1.jpg
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After a long wait, Hari Singh signaled for us to start.
The video of our near-encounter with a land-slide - pretty scary!


A picture of the actual land-slide!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-ls1.jpg
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-ls4.jpg

A biker (part of a biking convoy) riding through the land-slide!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-ls2.jpg
One of the bikes (a Triumph Tiger was crushed in the land-slide, though the rider managed to jump out at the last minute and save himself!

Video of the land-slide after we crossed it!


After the land-slide encounter, we entered the famous Spiti Valley!

The drive thereafter was quite uneventfully and we took a detour to reach Diu Village where we visited a Monastery (with a Mummy of a Buddhist Monk)
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-diu1.jpg
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-diu2.jpg

After another hours drive, we reached Tabo village where a basic lunch was organised.
This was followed by a visit to the Tabo Monastery!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-tm1.jpg
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-tm2.jpg
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-tm3.jpg

I regret there are no internal pictures, since photography is banned within the monastery!

The drive from Tabo Village towards Kaza saw changing terrain!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-nkpl1.jpg
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-nkpl2.jpg
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-nkpl3.jpg
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-nkpl4.jpg
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-nkpl5.jpg

Approach to Kaza town!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-nkpl6.jpg
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-nkpl7.jpg
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-nkpl8.jpg
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-nkpl9.jpg

Heading towards the Grand Dewachen Hotel at Rangrik, slightly beyond Kaza!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-nkpl10.jpg


Since we had a long exhausting day, we ended the evening relatively early!

Last edited by cpbopanna : 5th October 2016 at 13:37.
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Default Day 6: Kaza and surroundings (Fore-noon)!

The Grand Dawachen Retreat was a pleasant surprise compared to Kinner Camp at Nako.
The retreat offers one of the most beautiful accommodation in Spiti with comfortable rooms with attached bathroom and running hot & cold water.

Overlooking the mountains from afar, the rooms and balconies offer breathtaking views of the valley and the Kye Monastery!

A view from the hotel room!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-kazartr1.jpg

Before the start of the day's expedition, a group picture in front of the retreat!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-group.jpg

Hari Singh had planned an 'Uphill Drive', both for the experience and a photo-shoot!
Of course, with elevations crossing 15,000 feet, the air was getting rarer and the scenes more breathtaking!

The drive from the retreat to areas above 15,000 feet!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-kaza01.jpg
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-kaza02.jpg
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-kaza03.jpg
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-kaza04.jpg
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-kaza05.jpg
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-kaza06.jpg

A video of the gradual climb up-hill (with the Spiti Valley on one side)!


Now the drive to the (motor-able) summit!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-kaza07.jpg
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-kaza08.jpg


What a feeling -at the summit!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-kaza9.jpg
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-kaza10.jpg
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-kaza11.jpg
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-kaza12.jpg
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-kaza13.jpg

We had two very interesting stop-overs during the drive down to the valley!

Komic - The highest village in the world, connected with motorable road - at an elevation of 15,050 feet!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-highest-village-kaza.jpg

At a slightly lower level (14,567 feet), the world's highest Post Office!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-worlds-highest-po.jpg

A couple of random pictures of the Spiti Valley/River!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-sv1.jpg
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-sv2.jpg
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-sv3.jpg
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-sv4.jpg

After the 'High-altitude' adventure, hunger got the better of us and we headed down to the valley for a delicious 'French' meal.

Lunch organized on the banks of the Spiti River!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-krs1.jpg
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-krs2.jpg

A traditional dance!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-krs3.jpg

A view of the clear blue skyline from the Spiti Valley!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-krs4.jpg

We had a 'novice-level' water fording experience in the Spiti River we headed out to Kye Monastery.

Kye Monastery
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-outside.jpg
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-inside.jpg

On our return from the monastery, we were free for the rest of the day!

Day 7 entailed a long drive from Kaza to Manali crossing Kunjom Top, a detour to Chandratal Lake, and then through Rohtang Pass.

We decided to fill-up Diesel at the World's highest Retail Fuel Outlet before calling it a day!
An odyssey into the skies! Mahindra Adventure's Himalayan-Spiti expedition-petrol-pump.jpg

Last edited by cpbopanna : 5th October 2016 at 20:59.
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