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Old 28th April 2017, 17:48   #1
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Default To the barren high mountains of Spiti Valley

Disclaimer: This is going to be a longish travelogue and will also outline how the idea of this trip was born and how it ultimately materialized. People who are not interested in these ramblings, feel free to skip to the actual trip posts. Also, please excuse the image quality in this thread. I am still on the learning curve.

A Small Teaser before I start the story:

To the barren high mountains of Spiti Valley-img_5766.jpg



The Making of a Grand Roadtrip

My family is crazy for travelling in general and road trips in particular. I have fond memories of many a trips across India and we have covered a great deal of North India in my childhood along with North East, Maharashtra, Rajasthan etc. Going through old albums gives a sense of nostalgia. For the last couple of years, this thing with family took a back step primarily because of my hectic work schedule and my thirst for adventure. I travelled a great deal in the last 5 years to take a break from the hectic day to day urban life, but these trips were either solo or with friends. So in the beginning of 2016, my family started pestering me to do a roadtrip since there was a long weekend during the festival of Holi in March. Finally, after receiving a lot of guilt trips from my younger sister, I gave in. We planned a 4 day long trip to Amritsar and Dalhousie. But due to the long weekend, it was chaotic everywhere. I personally avoid taking any trips during long weekends. But since family was involved, I had to again give in. We had our fair share of fun yet the entire vacation left me more tired. The drive back to Delhi on a Super crowded Sunday did not help either. Sometime during this trip, the idea of doing a Ladakh trip together was born. I was excited as well as apprehensive at the same time. Ladakh is meant to be an adventurous trip and I wasnít sure that the elders would be able to take the strain. I stupidly tried to tell them the challenges involved in the journey. It made matters worse for myself since all of them got excited by hearing my narrations. They have a lot of faith in my driving abilities and hence they didnít worry much. I havenít been to Ladakh yet and wanted to do it with friends first in order to get a first hand experience. Not that I have doubts on myself, but when family is involved, you automatically tend to think about all the aspects.


Plannings and Preparations

Fast forward to May, 2016. By this time, I was certain that they would have forgotten about it. But two over enthusiastic teenagers ensured that they had not and for the first time I started thinking about it seriously. The first dilemma in my mind cropped up- we donít have a vehicle capable of taking 5 people with luggage to Ladakh. A sedan can do a 4-5 days trip to Highways and lower ranges of mountains but nothing more than that. And I have been waiting to buy an SUV for quite a long time. When I could finally make up my mind, the ban on big diesels in Delhi ensured that my plans stayed grounded (This is a story meant for a separate thread that will come out later) Now, originally the ban was supposed to be lifted in March end. But seeing the way things were moving in the system, I was sure that I wont be able to get my hands on the long pending SUV in time for this trip. Anyways, sorry for digressing. Alternatives were considered. Renting an SUV was not an option again since there was a ban in Leh. Flights were ruled out since getting there and back is more than half of the journey and I did not want to ruin my first time like that. If I am going to get lehíd, I would do it my way at any cost. Hiring a taxi was suggested but I ruled it out again because the taxi can only take us to Leh and we would have to take another one to go further and that would be a waste of money since we are already paying for the one which will remain parked at Leh for 4-5 days. (The real reason was that I wanted to drive myself and not be driven around in a cramped MUV )
A dear friend finally came to the rescue and agreed to lend me his Fortuner AT for the trip. Now I personally am not in favour of borrowing anyoneís vehicle, but seeing no other viable option in sight, I decided that this is the best step. Also, I had done a big favour for this friend recently and that helped somewhat in making the decision easier. Now all was set, dates were finalized and checklists were created. Shopping trips were undertaken and we were all set to do this.


The day of the journey

The morning of the day when we were scheduled to leave (at night that day), the friend calls up and tells me that his father has to go for a work trip in the Fortuner. He asked me to shift my dates for 2-3 days. But shifting the dates was not an option since it was already very tough for 5 working/ studying people to coordinate and finalize a plan for 12 days. There was no way we could have modified the plan. With profound sadness, I broke the news to everyone. For the next 5 hours, I tried my best to suggest alternatives like flight, taxi etc. But by now everyone had the idea of a self driving roadtrip in mind, which again, was thanks to my arguments in favour of it. Everyone was upset and there was gloominess in the air. Finally, at 6 in the evening, my sister, who had been researching online for the past couple of days, had a brilliant idea- Rent a self drive car and go to Spiti instead of Ladakh since there is no such ban there. It took me a couple of minutes to let it sink in. And after thinking about every aspect, I thought that yes, it is doable. 15 mins later, the idea was pitched to everyone and was agreed upon instantly. I sat down again to draw up an itinerary and also to look for options to rent a car. I have had a good experience with Zoomcar in Mumbai and that was the first choice. In the next 1 hour, everything was finally put in place. Due to holiday season, I could only get my hands on a Scorpio, that too after 10 PM on the next day. No other SUV was available, except for ecosport, which would have been insufficient for this trip in terms of bootspace. Once the booking was confirmed, we went out for some last minute shopping. With a restless mind, I finally went to sleep at 4 in the morning after reading countless travelogues and online articles.

Last edited by SHANKY11 : 29th April 2017 at 16:35.
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Old 28th April 2017, 18:00   #2
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Default Day 0- Final preparations & midnight departure

The entire day is spent in planning and packing and preparations. By evening, its time to take a final glance at the checklist and make sure everything is good to go. At 7, I summon an uber to take me to Connaught Place, where I am meeting a friend and by 9:30, Iím on my way to Zoomcarís pick up location in East of Kailash. I reach there at 10:15, and spend a great deal of time examining all the papers and the condition of the car. The executive who meets me there asks me to take photos of all the dents/ scratches on the car. It is in a decent condition, with a few minor dents. I check the interior, seems good. The only grouse I have is that itís the lowest trim of Scorpio- steel wheels, aftermarket stereo etc. At close to 11 PM, I get behind the wheel. The ODO reads about 57000 kms. And we have 1920 kms to utilize as part of our deal. As per our calculations, it will be a very close call. After driving around for a few minutes, I realize that the car is in good shape. Drives well, tires are in good condition and the suspension seems compliant. This is the first time I will be driving an SUV for this long. Enjoying the ride thoroughly, I pull up outside home by midnight, where everyone is waiting anxiously. After a cup of strong tea, I start taking the luggage out and loading the car up. This is when I realize that we have overestimated the boot space of the Scorpio. Try fitting the luggage of 5 people, of whom 2 being ladies over the age of 50 and 2 being teenage girls, and you will know what Iím talking about. In addition to just a backpack of mine, we have 2 big suitcases 1 medium suitcase and 4 handbags to fit in the boot. After trying various permutations and combinations, I conclude that its impossible to fit all of it. Some serious rearranging needs to be done. Out goes a couple of pairs of ladies footwear and some of the food supplies we packed additionally to what I calculated as a necessity. Finally we are able to fit it all in but the process took close to an hour. At the last minute, I run back and grab the USB for music and car charger from my car, which I forgot earlier. Ensuring everything is in order, everyone is on board and I turn the key finally at 1:15 AM.

The advantage of leaving in the dead of the night is that you are able to breeze past Delhi in a flash, while enjoying the ride thoroughly. In about half an hour, we cross Delhi Bye- pass on GT Karnal road and are on highway cruising mode. Within sometime, I have come to the realization that this car cannot be comfortable unless I go easy on it. If I push it too much, the suspension acts up and if I take up a relaxed driving manner, Iím able to maintain comfort for everyone, including the car. So, no sharp turns, no sudden jerks, no sudden braking here. Around 3 AM, we are at the outskirts of Karnal. Our relatives live there and they had earlier asked us to have a quick stopover at their place before proceeding further. Now since we lost a lot of time in the rearranging of luggage, I am not too keen on stopping and when my Mom called up to tell this to them, we were surprised to know they all are wide awake and waiting for us. No way could we turn that down since they have waited so long already. In 15 minutes, we pull up outside their house. By the time we get down from the car, all of them are outside to welcome us. After a session of Punjabi high tea (Yes, at 3:30 in the morning) and some excited chit chats, we are finally able to leave by 4 AM, way past my target to cross Shimla before rush hour. But it doesnít matter since we are in holiday mode now.

Last edited by SHANKY11 : 29th April 2017 at 16:36.
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Old 28th April 2017, 18:23   #3
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Default Day 1- Driving and driving and more driving

We are back on the highway and its pretty much empty. The entire stretch is simply awesome, thanks to the newly constructed toll road from Panipat to Jalandhar. Iím enjoying the cruising speeds, touching 100-110 at some empty stretches, otherwise maintaining a steady pace of 85-90 kmph. In about 30 minutes, I have a decision to make- continue on NH 1 till Ambala, branch off towards Chandigarh on NH 21 and hit the Himalayan Expressway at Panchkula. But that would mean I would have to stop at Punjab border and pay the State tax just to cross a stretch of 15 kms of Punjab. Money being a secondary thing, my primary concern is that I have always seen that RTO crowded with truckers and thatís giving me some serious shivers. Im in no mood to stand in a long queue at 5 in the morning and lose out on more time. I have to stop anyways at the Himachal Pradesh RTO to pay the state tax there. Hence, I decide to take the countryside road, which starts from Shahbad and goes all the way till Panchkula, bypassing Punjab entirely. I was apprehensive since I havenít taken this route before but I go ahead with it anyways. By this time, everyone on the back seat is fast asleep and me and my sister (Navigator on the passenger seat) are wide awake, enjoying the rural Haryana roads. The route is awesome, a single lane undivided road but the quality of road is very good. Im sure it will be super crowded during day time since it passes through a lot of villages, but at 4:30 in the morning, its pretty much empty except for a few occasional trucks. With an average speed of 60-70, we make slow yet steady progress towards Panchkula. Im waiting excitedly for dawn to break, which I rarely see otherwise. And what a sight it is! By 6 AM, we are nearing Panchkula. Soon enough we are on the Himalayan expressway and I can see mountains in the distance ahead. This is where I feel the real journey starts. We cross the toll plaza and I decide to get a diesel top up before entering Himachal Pradesh. Im still not sure about the tank capacity and mileage of the Scorpio. I guess it will get clear as we progress further.

The destination for the day is undecided yet. Now I have driven a lot of times overnight and continued well till the next evening, effectively driving for 18 hrs plus. So I have no such issues but I donít want to put too much stress on the elderly ladies, since its just the beginning and there is a lot more coming up in the next few days. So we have decided that we will continue till the time all of us are comfortable. And I make sure to keep the car stable and comfortable while the 3 passengers in the back catch up on their sleep. Soon, we hit the mountains and the initial curves of the expressway till Parwanoo barrier post begin. Now, in a sedan or hatchback I have taken these curves at speeds of 70 and above, since I love cornering on these. But with a fully loaded SUV and keeping in mind the sleeping beauties in the back, I restrain myself a great deal and slow down to 30-40 on every curve. Soon, I can see the RTO checkpost of Himachal Pradesh. Thankfully, there is no queue and there is only one other person at the window. I pull out the papers, give them to the clerk, and within 2 minutes, I get my permit for Himachal Pradesh. This is way easier than I had imagined. Its 7 by now and progress after this point is slow and painful since a big part of this stretch is under construction and hence there are a lot of bottlenecks and broken roads. Morning hour traffic has also started cropping up. Anyways, Iím not complaining because we are in the hills now and Iím enjoying the scenery and the drive. The backseat gang is also awake now to take in the sights. We spot a Kalka- Shimla Toy train in the distance and resolve to do this trip sometime in life, just for the experience.

At 10 AM, we cross Shimla and its traffic jams. I realize that its time to take a break and let everyone freshen up and recharge. Soon we spot a restaurant where we find clean restrooms and order coffee for everyone. After a longish break of an hour, journey is resumed towards Narkanda, where I plan to stop for breakfast. After kufri, the traffic has thinned out and this is where I start feeling much more relaxed and comfortable while driving. Close to Narkanda, we spot a couple of eateries on our left and decide to stop for breakfast. Terrible mistake! The long queue of cars on either side was a good enough indication that these eateries will be super crowded. For the first time, Iím seeing a waiting list outside any dhaba. I want to make a move and stop elsewhere but the gang is hungry and its hard to drive with hangry ladies sitting in the car. So we wait for a couple of mins to get a table. The food is tasty but the service is pathetic and the waiters have their ďI donít careĒ attitude towards customers. Anyways, tummy recharged, we resume journey. By 2 PM, we are driving along the Sutlej river on our left. We cross Rampur and I check with everyone whether they are comfortable with proceeding further. After getting positive reactions, I proceed. Everyone is happy and content with the views. At around 4 PM, hunger pangs strike again and I start looking for a place. But I realize that now we are not on touristy roads and its tough to find a proper meal since its way past lunch time. Anyways, we spot a dhaba after a while and they have kadhi chawal which turns out to be delicious.

Before continuing, I spot this and could not resist clicking:

To the barren high mountains of Spiti Valley-img_5165.jpg

I also get a top up done here. Not that the fuel has finished up, but because fuel stations are scarce in Kinnaur and its better to always have extra fuel in the tank.

We resume the journey around 5 PM and it seems that we can make it to sangla well in time. Reaching Sangla would mean that we can crash to bed and the next day could be a little easy since we will be going to Chitkul and then proceeding to Kalpa for the night. So with Sangla as a target, I carry on. Now, my sister is the designated navigator for the trip and I was relying on her for routes since she told me she had done extensive research on the same. At Jeori, I see a signboard saying that Karcham is straight and Sarahan is on the right. I ask my sister where to go for Sangla, and she said towards Sarahan since Sangla comes after that. Little did we know that the route to Sarahan goes in a different direction altogether. The road is narrow yet butter smooth and the climb is a little steep. I am enjoying the drive and happy that if such is the condition of the road ahead, we would reach Sangla in no time. I resist the temptation to stop and click pictures here since we are in a hurry now and pictures of these places are easily available everywhere.

Soon, we are at Sarahan. I ask someone for directions to Sangla and he practically laughs at me. He then tells me that for Sangla, we have to continue on the highway from Jeori instead of coming up to Sarahan. Frustrated, I turn back and give a piece of my mind to my sister, who is grinning in the corner like an idiot. After wasting about half an hour, we are back on the highway. By now, I start to worry that it will get dark soon and its not a good idea to drive on these roads at night. But I also need a cup of tea to recharge myself before proceeding further. We stop at a cafť and I order tea and maggi. Within 20 minutes, we are back on the road. Upon enquiring with the owner of the cafť, I get to know that the road ahead is very bad and I should hurry up if I plan to reach Sangla at a decent time. Couple of kilometers ahead, I brace myself for bad roads, which have started deteriorating and are practically non- existent as we move further. By now, its over 7 PM and darkness has fallen over the valley. Our progress is painfully slow and I'm hardly able to go beyond second gear. But, thanks to the headlights of the Scorpio, Iím able to see the path ahead well even in pitch darkness. Finally at around 8:15 PM, we roll into the town of Tapri, after some frustrating kilometers. Upon enquiring with locals, we get to know that there has been a landslide recently and the road to Karcham is blocked. There is a detour but itís not advisable to be done at night. And everyone is tired by now so we decide to stay in Tapri for the night and continue in the morning. We stop at the first hotel we see and just take whatever is available. We order for a light dinner and by the time I get done with unloading the car and supervising the hotel staff in carrying it to our rooms, dinner is ready. We freshen up, eat the tasty meal and hit the bed within an hour.

Last edited by SHANKY11 : 29th April 2017 at 10:23.
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Old 29th April 2017, 11:30   #4
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Default Day 2- Sangla, Chitkul and Kalpa

I wake up at 7 AM, feeling fresh and energetic. By 9, everyone is good to go after a light breakfast. Originally, this day was planned to be less hectic but since we couldnít make it to Sangla last night and with the detour ahead, Iím not sure whether it will remain light today. Anyways, I start loading the car and within 15 minutes we are on the road. The detour is supposed to go through Urni village and take us to Karcham, from where we turn towards the road to Sangla and Chitkul in the distance ahead. There are crazy diversions and its difficult to negotiate them even in a high GC car. We move ahead slowly.

Thatís the original road which is completely blocked due to the landslide. Looks like the entire hill just descended onto the highway

To the barren high mountains of Spiti Valley-img_5205.jpg

Meanwhile, we encounter a traffic jam ahead. I pull out my camera and go clicking.

Looks like thatís the original highway

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Our steed for the trip

To the barren high mountains of Spiti Valley-img_5214.jpg

Getting closer to the snow- capped mountains

To the barren high mountains of Spiti Valley-img_5220.jpg


After about 15 minutes, the bus that was stuck in a deadlock is able to steer out and we proceed with the journey. I have always known that Kinnaur valley is highly fragile and prone to frequent landslides. And driving on these roads have confirmed these reports. Soon, we spot a place where we can go down the road and have some fun in the flowing water

To the barren high mountains of Spiti Valley-img_5228.jpg

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After some good old fashioned fun in the water, we resume the journey.

A trademark pic of Kinnaur valley

To the barren high mountains of Spiti Valley-img_5250.jpg

Soon we are at Karcham and taking the turn towards Sangla and Chitkul. Around 2 PM, we enter Sangla and stop for lunch at a restaurant in the main market. The road further to Chitkul is nice and scenic and Iím enjoying the drive to the fullest. We are stopped at a checkpost where Iím asked to fill in the details in their register. We spot a waterfall nearby and everyone goes crazy again. Meanwhile, I chat with the army personnel manning the checkpost. Talking to these brave men is always a nice experience. And they are surprised by the delight we have on our faces while enjoying the little waterfall.

To the barren high mountains of Spiti Valley-img_5268.jpg

To the barren high mountains of Spiti Valley-img_5271.jpg

To the barren high mountains of Spiti Valley-img_5263.jpg

To the barren high mountains of Spiti Valley-img_5272.jpg
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Old 29th April 2017, 12:11   #5
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Default Day 2- Continued

In a couple of minutes, we reach Chitkul, the last inhabited Indian village near the Indo- China border. We cross the village and continue a few metres on the road ahead, where it ends for cars and we are welcomed with some amazing views all around us.

To the barren high mountains of Spiti Valley-img_5284.jpg

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The Baspa river

To the barren high mountains of Spiti Valley-img_5308.jpg

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This is where the motorable part of the Old Hindustan- Tibet road ends a few meters ahead.

To the barren high mountains of Spiti Valley-img_5319.jpg

We head back to the village to have some tea and maggi at a dhaba. Its here that we feel the need for jackets as its getting cold now and the wind is quite strong.

To the barren high mountains of Spiti Valley-img_5326.jpg

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While the food is being prepared, I play with some furry creatures.

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At 3450 metres, maggi tastes delicious

To the barren high mountains of Spiti Valley-img_5348.jpg


We are back on the road by 6 PM. Now, we are in a dilemma. The elders are in favour of staying in Sangla, to avoid any unnecessary risks like the one we took last evening. But then, we miss out on the famous sunrise views of Kalpa. So, its decided that we will proceed to Kalpa only if the locals give a clean signal that the roads are okay ahead. We enquire with some people in Sangla and also make calls to a few hotels in Kalpa. Surprisingly, 2 of them are completely booked for the night. The 3rd one that we call says yes to availability of rooms and also confirms that the road ahead is indeed clear barring a few rough stretches. So its decided that we will proceed to Kalpa, which is doable in 3 hours. We give a call again to the hotel and ask them to ensure that we get dinner when we reach.

I cannot help stopping for a picture of this beautiful sunset.

To the barren high mountains of Spiti Valley-img_5351.jpg

The few rough stretches mentioned by the hotel staff are turning out to be a big pain. Progress is slow but we are still enjoying the drive, the entire region is completely desolate and there is no one in sight. A lot of mining and blasting work is going on here, which makes me wonder where is the end to this destruction of ecosystem. An already fragile environment is still being pushed to its limits. I hope its not too late before it all stops. A few kilometers before Powari, I spot a fuel pump and decide to tank up here. This region is the last where we would get fuel before Kaza. After crossing Powari, we see a sign saying left for Kalpa, going uphill. This is where the road quality changes drastically. They are easily the best roads we have seen in the entire region so far. Itís a steep climb with a lot of hairpin bends, but lovely road nonetheless. I can finally ease up and drive a little enthusiastically. At about 10:30 PM, we pull up outside the hotel, to which we have to walk down a few metres from the road. The rooms are on the second floor, so we decide to eat the dinner first, which was kept ready by the staff. I hit the bed at 11:30, putting an alarm for 5:30 AM in order to catch the famed sunrise views of the Kinner Kailash.
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Old 29th April 2017, 13:19   #6
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Default Day 3- The Sunrise

I get up 5 minutes before the alarm. That happens rarely. Usually I have to snooze thrice in order to finally wake up. But today, Iím excited. Iím excited for 2 reasons- the sunrise of Kalpa and the drive planned for today towards the high mountains. And its cold. Very cold. Time to pull out the jackets. To my surprise, the entire gang (except for the youngest one) has woken up and is excited for the sunrise. We venture outside. The terrace of our hotel is a good enough vantage point for the views. However, all we can see is dense clouds. Its not going to be a clear morning. Many other guests are out with cameras in hand and Iím still hopeful about capturing some nice shots.

That is when I spot the first rays through the thick cloud cover

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This cutie is blissfully unaware of the excitement around him

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Its slowly coming out. This is the Kinner Kailash range.

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The highest peak of this range

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Snow capped peaks

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After some tea, its time to head back to the room and get ready for the journey ahead. Although the sunrise turned out to be disappointing in terms of photography, I was thoroughly happy with the whole experience. Times like these make us realize that early to bed and early to rise is not such a bad advice after all.
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Old 29th April 2017, 13:57   #7
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Default Day 3- Kalpa to Nako

By 9, we are ready to roll. The destination today is Tabo. Today we enter the wild land. I have butterflies in my stomach about what lays ahead. It doesnít take much time or effort to load the car now since I know the strategy of which bag goes where to utilize the boot efficiently. We plan to stock up on some supplies at Reckong Peo and also to have breakfast before hitting the highway. We spot a Shere- Punjab dhaba and have some amazing Paranthas there. Tummies satisfied and stocks replenished, its time to begin the journey.

While getting into the car at the parking, I spot this

To the barren high mountains of Spiti Valley-img_5398.jpg

The first of many such bridges to come

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We spot this soon

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The roads still have rough patches, but we are able to maintain a decent average speed. We also spot many signboards saying "Shooting stones ahead, drive carefully." This is the land of frequent landslides.

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A rare smooth stretch of road

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We have been constantly travelling alongside rivers

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Its very hot and dry and dusty outside. But we cannot resist the photo- ops

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After Spillow, its butter smooth roads all the way to Nako. But the ascent is very steep and there are a lot of hairpin bends. The Scorpio takes everything in stride. We are now in completely barren land, with a few rare patches of green, and white if we zoom towards the peaks. The grandeur of these mountains is really mesmerizing.

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The weather has started to turn rough suddenly

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Around 3 PM, we arrive at Nako.

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We decide to halt for lunch here. While we are waiting for the food, I go shutter happy again

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We can spot the rain gods opening up in the horizon ahead. Maybe some snow too on the peaks. Its time to eat the simple yet delicious food and while we are eating, it starts raining.
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Old 29th April 2017, 14:11   #8
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Default Day 3- Man proposes, god disposes

The rain is lashing out hard. We take cover inside the dhaba so that we can eat our meal. Within a span of 15 minutes, rain has washed up everything outside. We are told by the locals that we should wait for the rain to subside before proceeding further on the route. The village of Nako has a very beautiful lake. So, we decide to go there and chill for sometime. After asking around and getting lost many times, we finally reach the lake. But to get to the lakeside, there is a walk downhill. We decide to skip it since its still raining heavily and stay inside the car, chatting and passing time. After sometime, we go back to join the highway since the rain has subsided to a mild drizzle. After driving for 4 odd kms, we spot a few cars in the distance turning back. They are gesturing to us to stop. I stop and get down to check. Another Scorpio comes to us and these guys tell us that there has been a landslide and the road is completely blocked. I guess we will have to stay in Nako tonight. Because clearing up the landslide will take time and there is no point of driving on these roads after sunset.

We come back to Nako to find a place to stay and check in Hotel Reo Purguil, which is right near the entrance of the village. 2 of the people from our group seem to be experiencing early symptoms of AMS and I ask them to take a nap. Rest of us decide to chill in the room and play some board games that we carried along. By evening, I go out to explore and click.

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I find out that the entire village is full of travelers and all the hotels and homestays are completely booked. This would be one of the rare times when this place would be hosting so many travelers for the night. Many people that I interacted with had Tabo as a night halt in their itineraries. The group is not in a good mood since we will have to alter our plans due to this unforeseen delay. But I am quite used to it since I donít go along with any fixed itinerary during my travels. Add to that, this village is quite serene, we are out of cellular coverage and we are getting great accommodation and food. What more can one ask for on a vacation? We have our dinner and go to bed early.
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Old 30th April 2017, 11:32   #9
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Default Day 4- Nako and more of Nako

The after effects of AMS ensure that the group isn’t ready in time and we are able to leave only by 11 AM. I meanwhile do some more photography while waiting for the group.

The weather looks promising today
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I was quite intrigued by that small structure. Upon enquiring with locals, I find out that its a prayer bell
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Many of the travelers who were stuck yesterday have left already. We also resume after breakfast and the morning ritual of loading the humongous luggage in the car. The group is cheerful once again for 2 reasons- continuation of the trip and good food (always helps to soothe a Punjabi ). However, our happiness is shortlived since we are stopped by an army convoy just a few kilometers after the village who tell us that a truck has broken down at some distance and there is no way to go across. The rescue squad of the army is on its way but it will take some time. We spend some time there, chatting with the servicemen. Soon, the officer in charge of the rescue operation arrives at the scene and assures us that the crane is on its way but also tells us honestly that it might take some time to get the road open again. He advises us to go back to Nako and relax. The news of the road opening will reach the village ASAP since vehicles from the other side will start coming in. With a heavy heart, we sit in the car and head back for Nako again. By this time, I can sense the frustration in everyone’s mind and I decide to take them to the lake of Nako which we could not see yesterday.

That’s the way leading down to the lake from the parking spot
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The Nako lake
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Next we head to the Nako monastery, which is closed

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Last edited by SHANKY11 : 30th April 2017 at 15:31.
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Old 30th April 2017, 12:15   #10
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Default Day 4- Another failed attempt!

After about 4 hours, we decide to take another shot at moving ahead in order to reach somewhere in decent enough time. To our disappointment, the army convoy is still there and we learn that the work is in progress but it wont be finished until 2 more hours. It is 4 PM already and it wont make sense to proceed further in the evening. Which means, another night in Nako. I try to calm down the group but it’s a futile attempt. We head back and by this time, the village is full of today’s travelers who are stuck and there is a small traffic jam on the road leading to the village. Yesterday’s hotel is full and so are many others in the vicinity. I ask the group to have tea while I park somewhere and look for accommodation. Finally I am able to find a homestay in the interiors of the village which faces the- you guessed it right, The Lake. I laugh at the irony- yesterday, we were not able to see the lake due to bad weather and now we are staying right at its banks. I get the gang back in the car and after a challenging drive through narrow and non- existent roads, we reach the place.

The lake view from the terrace of our homestay
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I am told by a local that there is a short trek from there to a point from where we can get awesome views. I decide that it will be a good morale booster for the depressed gang. Leaving my Mom back at the hotel, who is too tired and wants to take a nap, the 4 of us gear up for the trek.


A glimpse of the village enroute
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Another glimpse
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It seems that the track is leading to the very same prayer bell about which I was enquiring about in the morning
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Prayer stones enroute
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Up Close with the prayer bell
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The gang at the top
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An aerial shot of Nako village
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I zoom in on our guest house in the distance. Can you spot the zoomcar?
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We come back to find Mom chatting with a family who has just arrived and who are our neighbors for the night. We play some board games together and it’s a fun time spent until dinner. I give strict instructions to everyone to be ready in time tomorrow morning so that we can proceed without losing any more time.

Last edited by SHANKY11 : 30th April 2017 at 12:17.
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Old 30th April 2017, 13:47   #11
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Default Day 5- Finally departing from Nako

At 6 AM, I put everyone in the car in half asleep state, and start the journey which is going to be a long one since we will skip a night halt and proceed directly to Kaza today. A thumbs up from the locals give me confidence to head out while the town is still sleeping. Everyone is sleeping in the car and I am enjoying the drive thoroughly with my music and isolation. However, one cant stay asleep for long in such terrains with mesmerizing views all around.

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It starts drizzling on the way
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The roads are good at some places, while half- decent at others. If one drives cautiously, it is not a big challenge
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We pull up at Tabo village by 9 AM and do a quick tour of the monastery, which is, unsurprisingly, closed.

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The exit from Tabo
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Prayer flags added to the car
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Last edited by SHANKY11 : 30th April 2017 at 14:06.
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Old 30th April 2017, 14:33   #12
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Default Day 5- In the heart of Spiti valley

After a delicious breakfast at the only open place in the village, we resume our journey. The weather is awesome and the group is in a great mood to be travelling in the wilderness.

We stop for countless photo- ops and breaks in general to soak in the grandeur of this place. There are no traffic jams here, the air is clean and one can truly relax here while enjoying nature at its best.

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Many such tiny settlements along the way:
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Soon, we are at a juncture where in we have to make a decision- do a quick tour of Pin valley or skip it and continue towards Kaza. We had a night stay planned in Pin Valley in our original itinerary, but due to the unforeseen delay at Nako, we have to skip the stay. Time is not a major issue for a quick tour since its only 12ish and we have ample time before evening descends. The main point is fuel- we had estimated enough to comfortably reach Kaza from Kalpa but all those back and forth trips to Nako village has definitely created a possible shortage. A conservative estimate still tells me that we have enough to do Pin valley and reach Kaza easily. But the mind says not to take any chances. Usually in such scenarios, the heart always wins. Family is also in favour of Pin valley because we had read so much about it earlier. So, its decided. We will go upto Mudh village, have lunch there and head back to join the road to Kaza. Worst case scenario, I am sure we can find diesel sold in plastic bottles in villages and locals can help us out.
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Old 30th April 2017, 15:28   #13
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Default Day 5- The mystic beauty of Pin Valley

Very soon, we thank ourselves for the decision since we are greeted with these amazing views in Pin valley:

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The entire valley has well paved dirt tracks. It helps a lot to soak in the beauty since you are driving really slow

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We get down the road to explore the rivebed

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A rare pic of me

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Old 30th April 2017, 16:10   #14
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Default Day 5- Mudh and the final dash to Kaza

Around 2 PM, We reach Mudh and settle down for an awesome lunch with these views

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A little hamlet called Mudh amidst such beautiful vistas all around. I would love to stay here for a few days. I resolve to do just that, the next time I plan a trip to this part of the country

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Some local kids:

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More awesomeness:

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While 3 from the gang decide to walk and explore a small glacier nearby, I take a short power nap to recharge myself for the drive ahead.

After regrouping, we proceed as per plan towards Kaza. But, not without some photo breaks

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A rare patch of greenery amidst all that barren landscape

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Around 5 PM, we roll into the town of Kaza, which I have to hate. Why? Because there are so many people and vehicles all around. Its a concrete jungle of commercialization and feels like any other hill station of India. But, all of it makes sense since it is the district headquarters of Spiti and is the lifeline of the locals in this region. After a whole day of traveling on desolate roads, it feels like walking out towards strong rays of sun on your face after living in a dark room. Nevertheless, its time to look for a hotel. We soon find one with decent enough amenities. While the elderly are quite tired, me and the teens go out for exploring the town and also for the most important task- stocking up on fuel and supplies. All done, we order a simple dinner at the hotel and sleep on time. Its going to be a challenging day tomorrow.

Last edited by SHANKY11 : 30th April 2017 at 20:30.
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Old 1st May 2017, 08:41   #15
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Default Re: To the barren high mountains of Spiti Valley

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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