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Old 7th July 2018, 12:13   #1
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Default Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti

The Alaskan Bear

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-green-kodiaq.jpg
Pic credit - Škoda twitter account

Being an SUV/Crossover owner myself, I generally track new product launches in that space a bit more diligently than the other segments. I remember seeing Kodiaq scoop pics about a year back and thought - hmm.. looks interesting. In the XUV owner's group, a recurring topic is how there are no logical upgrade options to the XUV (without paying twice the price) and a few guys wondered if the Kodiaq would under-cut the Fortuner and Endeavour in terms of pricing and emerge as an option for the XUV owners. Months later, it was launched and I thought - wow! The costliest Škoda on offer in India, even more expensive than the top-of-the-line Superb. I actually wondered if Škoda considers themselves as RVW (Reich Folks' Wagon) . A few took TDs and came away impressed with the luxury and feature list, but the question 'is the luxury worth the hefty premium?' wasn't getting any satisfactory answers. Eventually, the super-long and super-detailed Team-BHP review came up and I got some insights into the Kodiaq. Lots of 'clever' stuff, but seemed underpowered for the price-tag and the competition. Didn't see one on the road, like ever and the Kodiaq was quickly forgotten. Till a few weeks back, that is!

GTO emailed me about an 8-day Škoda Kodiaq expedition to Spiti valley and asked if I would be interested. Mention of Himalayas brought back painful memories from the last year when I was all set for a two and half week trip to Ladakh with a bunch of like-minded buddies and had to shelve the plan at last moment as I was hospitalized (along with my father and son) for H1N1 barely 2 weeks before the planned start date. I was so looking forward to that trip as the Ladakh plan had never really materialized over the last 5-6 years and finally all stars seemed to have aligned. After the lost opportunity, personal life got super-hectic due to son's academics and professional life got more demanding and uncertain than ever (check out more insights about that in a recent thread about the plight of IT professionals in their 40s). So, the dream of driving in the Himalayas became more distant. That's why when the opportunity presented itself in the form of the Kodiaq Expedition, I really wanted to do it. Convincing two bosses was not easy. Škoda came back and said that the plans have been changed from original 8 days to 6 days. Just 4 working days lost. That made things easier in terms of taking leaves and ensuring that there is no huge pileup of pending work when I return. It still took me a couple of days before I could confirm my participation.

Original plan was for 8 days - 28th May to 4th June:
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That got changed to 6 days - 1st June till 6th of June as many participants couldn't afford being away for so long for one event:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-kodiaq-expedition.jpg

A few days later, I came to know from GTO that fellow Mod Ajmat (Ajit) is also joining the expedition. Good!

Škoda invited Team-BHP to participate in the Kodiaq Expedition and paid for the travel expenses.

Last edited by Aditya : 7th July 2018 at 12:17.
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Old 7th July 2018, 12:13   #2
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The plan and the preparation

The plan was to cover the Spiti valley (part of Himachal Pradesh) and not the conventional Leh-Ladakh (part of J&K). Rehaan pointed me to Khan's Mahindra report from the same region and it was indeed quite helpful to understand what to expect from the region and the event. Even if someone has done Leh-Ladakh in the past, one apparently needs to start afresh with Spiti as the circuit is lonelier, landslides more frequent and tourist infrastructure/amenities almost non-existent. This circuit is supposed to be less touristy and therefore less spoiled, just the way I prefer. Read up a bit about the circuit and realized that we would be covering some of the world's most treacherous roads. The 8-day plan was much more logical, starting the circuit from Shimla side and climbing gradually to Chandrataal at the end of day 4. Chandrataal is equivalent to the Pangong Tso in this circuit and is almost at the same elevation (~4250m). Just like Pangong Tso, it's not recommended to stay overnight at Chandrataal, but as per the new plan we were going to do precisely that, and that too pretty early in the expedition. So, the new 6-day plan was more demanding on the body.

The basic plan was to fly to Chandigarh and then drive onwards. A domestic flight would mean 15 kg weight limit on the baggage. Having a good understanding of what low temperatures to expect during the trip and packing accordingly was important. I was hearing unbelievable stories about Shimla and Manali being as hot as Mumbai and people recommending normal tees; but no specific information on Chandrataal and Kaza, where we had to stay for 3 nights. Finally, I decided to play it safe and pack for really low temperatures at night. Ordered a pair of light and thin thermals and got them delivered the next day. Hoodies and Forclaz500 trekking shoes. Already had them, but all of that won't fit into a cabin sized bag. So dumped clothes and jackets in a bag one size bigger and decided to check that in during flight. Sunglasses, gloves, buffs, monkey cap. Check. Umbrella? Nah ... expensive Škodas come with umbrellas , so I don't need to carry one.

My Nikon D90 recently had a mirror flip motor repair and I wondered if I should carry the D5100 as backup. Had got the One Plus 6 delivered just a couple of days before the trip and therefore opted out of carrying another DSLR besides the D90. No action-cam or dash-cam :(, but can't help it. Another mobile would have to manage recording a few videos. What else would I need? Chargers, car-chargers, cables, USB with songs, downloaded songs on Wynk. Offline Google maps? Nah, it's a convoy drive, I will manage.

Prepared a small pack of assorted medicines for general set of problems. Ajit reminded me about Diamox for AMS and I picked up a pack immediately. The dosage has to be started 2 days before reaching high altitude places and I took the first tab on 31st May morning. The first tablet hit me really hard. I remember being in office in an important meeting with 20+ people in the conference room and me not being sure whether I am going to lose balance first or throw up first. Anyways, continued with the 2nd and 3rd one.

With less than 24 hours left for the flight to Chandigarh, I got the Spiti Expedition Advisory in an email. It talked about potential sub-zero temperatures and advised to carry thermals, gloves, a double layer jacket & a monkey cap. I rolled my eyes and wondered if any participant would have time to shop for any missing things at that hour:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-kodiaqadvisory.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-skoda-expedition-1.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-skoda-expedition-2.jpg

Although I am very comfortable with driving vehicles of that size and driving automatic transmissions, I had never driven the Kodiaq till then. Spent some time at the last minute going through the review again to familiarize myself with the controls. The Kodiaq is about 10-20 cms shorter in length as compared to the Fortuner and Endeavour. Half a foot short in height. Slightly wider and the wheelbase is also longer than the two. The power and torque numbers when viewed in isolation seems less. But when you factor in the lower weight (350 kg lighter than Fortuner, 450 kg lighter than Endeavour), the per tonne figures are pretty much in the same range. That combined with the 7-speed DSG, the Kodiaq might be faster than even the 3.2 Endeavour. That would be interesting. But we are going to the mountains - a predominantly off-road region. Chances of experiencing the acceleration on open roads would be slim. Would the low-end grunt be enough to handle tricky inclines and medium-sized rocks in off-road situations? The Kodiaq looks classy and premium like the Q3/Q5s of the world. Is it meant to adorn the porches of 5-star hotels just like its Audi cousins? Or can it take the road less traveled and handle treacherous conditions where full-size body-on-frame SUVs thrive? Would Škoda's first (almost) full-size SUV/crossover offering come out shining on top in the Spiti Expedition or would it be forced to do the walk-of-shame and go back home on a flat-bed?

I was about to find out!

Last edited by SDP : 13th July 2018 at 18:02. Reason: Typo
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Old 7th July 2018, 12:14   #3
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Day 1 - 1st Jun 2018

Mumbai - Chandigarh by flight. Drive from Chandigarh to Manali 309 km

All plans of leaving work early on 31st May remained unimplemented and managed to reach home around 12:30 am. After some last minute repacking, verification, and web check-in, I got into bed around 1:30 am. Managed to get about 3 hours of sleep. Reached the airport on time and handed over the check-in baggage. Ajit, who was flying in from Bangalore, was taking the same flight from Mumbai to Chandigarh. Bumped into him near the departure gate. While doing web check-in, I had noticed quite a few 'companions' on the same flight - basically other participants from Mumbai and the support team from Škoda. Except for one gentleman, Abhishek - who is a Team-BHP friend and works in the auto-journalism field, I didn't know anyone else. So while waiting for the plane, I started looking around to see if I could spot any guys I would be spending the next 6 days with. Noticed a guy with a really long and thick beard. A few minutes before boarding, Ajit introduced me to Denver (PR head for Škoda). I didn't know Denver himself would be joining the expedition. That was a nice surprise!

The flight was late by about 30 mins. I was in the absolute last row, separated from the toilet by a thin wall. Kept on hearing loud flushing sounds throughout the flight duration, thereby ensuring that I didn't catch up on the much-needed sleep. That's what you get when you forget to web check-in till the 11th hour.

Once we landed, we were quickly whisked away to an airport lounge for the briefing and light snacks. Collected nice looking baggage tags with my name on them and a proper ID card with route and other details on the back. Nice! Denver welcomed the team and quickly handed over the briefing to Shankar Ganesh - Škoda's expedition partner from NYKA. Other key personnel like Ashish Kaushik (Škoda Communications), Deepak Jammwal (Škoda - Logistics) and Abhishek Dixit (NYKA - Shankar's right-hand guy) were also introduced. Day wise plan was explained in detail. Dos and Donts were talked about. Importance of acclimatization and the need for drinking lots of water (to replenish oxygen in the blood) was re-emphasized. Stopover points for day-1 were shared. Since we had landed late and there was long journey ahead to Manali, we were advised to pick up additional sandwiches from the briefing area to avoid stopping for lunch.

5 Kodiaqs for the media and one more as a backup. Besides that, there was a Gypsy (lead vehicle), a Yeti and a couple of Innovas which were part of the expedition. Ajit and me would get a Kodiaq to ourselves. Same with the other media teams. There was a team of photographers and another team of local drivers; one from each team would join every Kodiaq. Ashish was responsible for car allocation and I checked with him which car was allocated to the Team-BHP team and what color was it. He told us that we are getting a Quartz Gray Kodiaq, car #4, registration number 357. Came to know that there was a single white Kodiaq, two gray, two blue and one more in an unlisted color. I absolutely love the shade of blue on the Kodiaq and checked with Ashish if it was possible to get a blue Kodiaq. He said the allocations were already done and he will try to get us a blue one on a later day. I didn't pursue it in subsequent days and stuck to the allocated Quartz Gray shade.

It was almost 1 pm, hot sunny day outside and we were getting late. It was time to step out, claim our Kodiaq and start the drive towards Manali.

All the Kodiaqs were already nicely parked in the airport parking:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-img_20180601_125549.jpg

A closer look at 'our' Kodiaq #4:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0724.jpg

The cars were kept with engine ON and AC running. That was thoughtful. I got into the driver's seat and was greeted with classy interiors all around:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0862.jpg

Our Kodiaq had barely 8000kms on the ODO:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0727.jpg

I reset the trip meter and adjusted the driving position, the steering, and the mirrors. I like to adjust the seat higher than most so that I get a better view of the road ahead. With that position, I struggled a bit as the steering was already at its highest point and I would have preferred if it had another inch of range upwards. Anyways, that's just an observation, not that it bothered me during the trip. Got a feel for the brakes and was happy as they were super sharp.

Me in the driver's seat, Ajit in the passenger seat. Another gentleman joined us in our car. The same long beard guy that I had noticed at the airport in Mumbai. "Hi, I am Sanjay. He is Ajit. We are from Team-BHP". "I am Joshi". "What's your first name?". "My first name is Joshi!". ***Amused smile***. "Interesting! We have Joshi as a surname in Maharashtra". "I know! Have had this exact same conversation many times in Maharashtra. I am from the South btw". That's how the ice was broken!

Abhishek and Ninad in their white Kodiaq were among the first to pull out of the parking lot. All smiles!
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0728.jpg

First left turn out of the parking lot. A bunch of cameras are clicking and recording. I give the turn signal and the wipers do a couple of sweeps . European car.. the stalks are the other way around. I knew that, but damn the muscle memory! I make a mental note again and start driving. Oddly, the car feels very familiar and in the driver's seat, I feel at home in a matter of minutes. The Gypsy with "Batahar" sticker on the back is the lead vehicle. We snake our way out of the city traffic, only to get into a mega traffic jam due to some big flyover construction. Ganesh advises the convoy to take any right and then rejoin ahead. I take the next not-so-obvious right and come out of the mess. The parallel road is narrow, but moving. I join the main road a few minutes later at least a kilometer ahead of the rest of the convoy. A few hundred meters more and we are out of the jam. I am in the Punjab plains and find a few relatively empty straights. It is time to average out the speed. The car's NVH and stability hides the high speeds beautifully and I only realize the speed when I get a winter-tyres related speed warning. We soon left the plains and started climbing. Somehow, even the weather changed suddenly to gloomy & overcast. It was so gloomy that it started feeling like it was 7 pm. We had 300+ kms to cover and it was going to be a long drive. At 4 pm, without any warning a dust storm hit us. Visibility reduced to near-zero for a few moments. Strong gusts of wind kept on buffeting us and they were joined by light thundershowers a few minutes later. I reduced speed, but kept on driving.

Dust storm captured by Ajit:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dust-storm-ajit.jpg

Here's a short clip:


I had heard a lot about the Canton sound system. I was listening to music at much lower volume levels than I generally do in my car. I somehow found the music in our Kodiaq not very impressive and lacking bass. I was pretty sure that I could fix it using the settings, but there was no time as I was busy driving. Similarly, I found the 'Normal' mode too lackluster for my liking and switched to 'Sports' pretty early in the drive:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0920.jpg

Last edited by Aditya : 7th July 2018 at 12:18.
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Old 7th July 2018, 12:14   #4
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Day 1 - 1st Jun 2018 - Continued

Ajit and me switched places around 4:30 pm. After the small spell of rains, the sky actually opened up a bit and even the road conditions improved. We slid back the screen over the panoramic sunroof and suddenly the cabin was bright and roomy. I am not a big fan of sunroofs, but a big one does elevate the mood when its not too sunny outside. Around 6 pm, we pulled over at a decent looking hotel for a coffee break:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-img_20180601_175835.jpg

The villa across the valley looked so similar to the hotel that I wondered if it belonged to the owner of the hotel:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0736.jpg

Finally, there was some chill in the air and it brought some relief from the hot and humid plains we had just crossed. We crossed Bilaspur and Mandi. I was quite surprised to find a Škoda service center in a small place like Mandi.

I don't know what to call this. Rich people's slum may be:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-img_20180601_191713.jpg

Just before sunset around 7:30 pm:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0743.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-img_20180601_173630.jpg

Resort AmPm at Pandoh would be the first regroup point for the entire group. It is supposedly 5 hrs from Chandigarh. But we had lost time in the traffic jam and later due to the dust storm and the coffee break. Ours was the first Kodiaq to reach the resort at 7:45 pm. It is a place with nice interiors and we enjoyed some pakodas and coffee.

AmPM resort:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-img_20180601_194715.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-img_20180601_194704.jpg

Restarted after an hour and I got back in the driver's seat. We still had another 90 odd kms (about two and half hours) to our night halt - Snow Flakes Resort, a few kms before Manali. It was completely dark outside now and local traffic thankfully kept on reducing. I typically do not enjoy driving in the night due to poor visibility, but the Kodiaq's headlights are very effective, both the low beam and the high beam; and inspire confidence in night-driving.

Got into a small traffic jam. We took a detour, got lost in narrow alleys, but managed to get back on road soon. It was well past 11 pm when we parked the Kodiaqs at the Snow Flakes resort. Having had snacks at AmPm just a couple of hours back, we had a light dinner in the cold garden restaurant setting and retired to bed.

End of the day stats. 315 kms over 10 hours including 2 breaks:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-img_20180601_231400.jpg

With Ninad, Abhishek, Joshi (not in pic) and Ajit at the dinner table:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-img_20180601_233757.jpg

Nice comfortable room, but barely 5 hrs left to leave Manali:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-img_20180601_232647.jpg

It was a long day today for everybody who had gotten up at 4 or 5 am to catch a flight and then embarked on a 300+ km drive. Most cars right from the 10 lakh price point can comfortably carry 4 to another city 300-350 km away over 10 hours and I believe that's been a hygiene factor for cars since ages. The Kodiaq does that well, and like a cherry on top, gives driving pleasure (in sports mode). Pleasant and thoughtful interiors also allows you to stay connected with the nature around you (somewhat like when you are riding a bike cross-country) using the panoramic sunroof. But the real litmus test of this SUV/crossover would be tomorrow when we say goodbye to tarmac and venture on to one of the world's most treacherous roads. Tomorrow we leave the luxury of smooth roads post the Rohtang pass and head to Chandrataal.

Last edited by Aditya : 7th July 2018 at 12:18.
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Old 7th July 2018, 12:14   #5
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Day 2 - 2nd Jun 2018

Manali - Rohtang Pass - Gramphu - Chhatru - Batal - Chandrataal . 135 km

Got up around 5 am and it was already sunny outside. Got ready and headed down for breakfast at 5:30 am. Just imagine, breakfast at 5:30 am! The parking lot was abuzz with activity. All cars were pressure washed, tanked up and kept ready. Drinking lots of water was going to be critical to avoid the AMS and as if to encourage us to drink water, a box of a dozen water bottles was loaded into each car. A few more support vehicles (I guess another Gypsy, a Bolero, and more Innovas) joined the expedition in the morning. We would be losing all sorts of voice and data connectivity in a few hours. All the more reason for the hyperactivity of the support team to ensure that the convoy had everything that we would need.

View from the hotel room at 5 am. Sun rises crazy early:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0754.jpg

Breakfast with a view:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-img_20180602_060651.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-img_20180602_055601.jpg

It was pleasantly cold outside and the deck provided better views:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-img_20180602_060756.jpg

First glimpse of snow:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0766.jpg

That's our photography buddy - Joshi!
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0765.jpg

Heavy use of wood in the interiors:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-img_20180602_060915.jpg

That's the resort. Lots of buzz in the parking lot:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0772.jpg

Six Kodiaqs parked neatly in a line:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0757.jpg

Yesterday there was not enough time to click the Kodiaqs at the airport and the sun was also quite harsh. Today, the clean Kodiaqs were gleaming in the morning sunlight. Time for some car pics (and selfies with the car for WhatsApp status update ):
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0769.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0779.jpg

Crystalline design of the headlight. Looks neat. I wish the headlights were a tad bigger:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0785.jpg

That shade is called the "Lava Blue". Looks smashing up, close and personal:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0783.jpg

Selfie time!
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-img_20180602_062927.jpg

Don't know why, but the signature butterfly grill on the Kodiaq reminds me of the 'notch' debate in the smartphone world.

Noticed that the Kodiaq with un-listed color (I guess it is the Cappuccino Beige available in the UK) was shod with MRFs and not the Hankook:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0777.jpg

We were supposed to start at 6 am from the hotel, but it was closer to 7 am when the big convoy finally started from the Snow Flakes Resort with the able Batahar leading from the front:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0792.jpg

The Quartz Gray looks like Blue many times:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0794.jpg

6 Kodiaqs (and one Yeti) in a single file with the beautiful DRLs is quite a sight:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0797.jpg

The first hurdle of the day was to cross the Rohtang Pass without getting stuck in any nasty traffic jams. Online permits were already secured by Shankar's team, but the line of vehicles at the Rohtang checkpost starts at crazy hours like 3 am, and it was a weekend. So the 50-60 odd km to Rohtang pass top can easily take hours depending on the queue and any traffic jams caused by impatient folks. Manali is at 2,050 meters above sea-level while the top of Rohtang Pass is almost twice of that at nearly 4,000 meters. Chandrataal is at 4,250 meters and Kunzum pass is at 4,600 meters. To put that in perspective, most commercial airplanes fly at the height of 11,000 meters. We run into traffic almost immediately after leaving the resort. Ajit is at the wheel. Prem (local driver) reassures us that the traffic would ease up after Gulaba.

A lush green stretch on the way to Rohtang pass:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0819.jpg

8:15 am - we reach the checkpost. Documents and permits were checked and we move forward.

As we start climbing from here, the scenery improves noticeably. In another 15 minutes, we decide to pull over:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-img_20180602_082034.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-img_20180602_082202.jpg

Photobombed by 2 more Kodiaqs.
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-img_20180602_082043.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-img_20180602_082605.jpg

The snow-capped mountains provide a nice backdrop:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0859.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-img_20180602_082632.jpg

After a 10 min break, we move ahead only to be stopped by a few vegetarian beasts:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0869.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0871.jpg

The checkpoint as seen from above:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0874.jpg

The zig-zag road climbing up the mountain with a waterfall in the background:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0891.jpg

Looking back at the road we covered:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0902.jpg

Last edited by Aditya : 7th July 2018 at 12:19.
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Old 7th July 2018, 12:14   #6
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Day 2 - 2nd Jun 2018 - Continued

Rohtang Pass - Gramphu - Chhatru

Spotted this vulture flying nearby:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0914.jpg

9:15 am.. we cross Maddi, a tea and bio break point for many:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0933.jpg

As we keep climbing, I keep a tab on the altitude display which is part of the in-built navigation system:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0934.jpg

Did you notice the notch below the time display which looks exactly like the butterfly design on the Kodiaq's grill? Now that's what is called as attention to detail!

Just 500-600 meters more. We are now close to the top of Rohtang pass. The landscape suddenly changes and the greenery vanishes:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0936.jpg

The Rohtang Pass top is teeming with tourists at 10 am. Vehicles are parked haphazardly and there are people everywhere on the dirty old snow:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-img_20180602_100207.jpg

We move ahead as quickly as possible. As we start descending on the other side of the pass, the greenery returns, crowd thins, and the drive becomes more enjoyable:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0959.jpg

We pull over for another break and photo-op with the beautiful snow-capped mountains in the background:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0949.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-img_20180602_101546.jpg

Ajit had been driving since morning and we switch places. We pass an Army convoy with a feeling of pride in our chests. Very soon, the tar road gives way to a dirt track. Suddenly, we spot Škoda flags and Ashish standing by the road and pointing us to a really sharp right that we would have surely missed if he wasn't standing there. I try to take that sharp right, but the large turning radius of the Kodiaq forces me to take a 3-point turn. This place is Gramphu. We must have taken about 45 odd minutes from the top to this point. This is where we leave the main Manali-Leh road and head towards Spiti valley. This is where the off-road fun begins!

The road quality deteriorates at an amazing pace after we leave the Manali-Leh highway:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0964.jpg

We pull over soon to absorb the natural beauty around us. Climbing up a bit provides beautiful angles, but at that altitude, climbing even a bit needs quite a determination:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-img_20180602_111324.jpg

Mules!
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0012.jpg

The track is now hugging the Chandra/Chenab river. Prem tells us that Chandra and Bhaga are tributaries which meet at a confluence (apparently a very beautiful and pious place) and continue as the Chandrabhaga river, also knows as Chenab:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0976.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0005.jpg

Stream crossing difficulty level goes up with the clock:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0007.jpg

At this stream crossing, the Innova struggled. But when it was our turn, the Kodiaq dismissed it without a whimper!
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0009.jpg

We keep on descending till we are practically on the river bed. Prem points to a snow-capped mountain at the far end and says - that's where we are stopping for lunch. We still have a long way to go:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0016.jpg

12:15 pm - We spot Škoda flags in the distance! That means we have reached Chhatru, our lunch spot for the day:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0028.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0035.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0066.jpg

85 km since morning at 16 km per hour. Nod bad!
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0029.jpg

This is how the spot looks like on satellite view. One cannot possibly have a more scenic spot for lunch on this stretch:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-chattru-lunch-spot.jpg

Other Kodiaqs joined in:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0040.jpg

Soon we have a full house of dirt-covered Kodiaqs:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0056.jpg

The dirt track and the stream crossings give a nice coat of dust and mud-splatter to the Alaskan bears. The same cars were gleaming just a few hours back. But nobody minds because this is how SUVs look the best:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-img_20180602_131034.jpg

After the 5:30 am breakfast, its been 7 hours and everybody is hungry. What would we have for lunch in the middle of nowhere? Sandwiches and canned juice possibly. Shankar's team surprised us with a proper lunch right from soup, salad, veg & non-veg dishes to fruits, juices and sweets! You know what was even better than the food? See that guy in the brick red shirt? He was responsible for preparing/serving the food and his politeness and service attitude was really something. Over the next 4 days, he took care of us like family. Ask him for anything and the answer was always a yes with a smile. Don't know where Shankar manages to get these gems:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-img_20180602_123939.jpg

I wolfed down the food and started to explore the surroundings on foot. The sun was directly above us, but the temperature was pretty pleasant at about 18 degrees. While walking around, I found that there were a lot of white stones and almost all of them were sparkling in the sun. I picked one for a closer observation. Deepak from the Škoda team told me there are many salts and minerals embedded in the rocks and that is the reason for the sparkle. Deepak was speaking in fluent Marathi, but his surname didn't sound like a Maharashtrian surname. Then he told me that his family is from Himachal itself, but he was born and brought up in Aurangabad in MH. While others finished their lunch, I roamed around enjoying the weird mixture of hot sun and cold breeze.

Sparkling stones everywhere:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0054.jpg

Crows? Nope! Most likely those are Blue Whistling Thrush:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0050.jpg

Time for a pic with our #4:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0032.jpg

This spot is just before a small bridge over the river:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0073.jpg

See how the sun directly above us creates illusions of dual rub-strips on the side?
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0075.jpg

More than an hour later, with all our tummies full, it was time to cross the river and continue towards Batal.

From Chhatru to Batal, through Chota Dara, is just about 35 km. BUT, this is where this expedition gets exciting.. as this is the most treacherous stretch on this route and we would cross a deadly stream at Chota Dara, that too when the stream would have swelled in the afternoon due to the snow-melt. The Kodiaq has done really well till now. Would it take on the challenge and conquer the really rough terrain ahead?

Last edited by Aditya : 7th July 2018 at 12:20.
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Old 7th July 2018, 12:14   #7
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Day 2 - 2nd Jun 2018 - Continued

Chhatru - Batal

The trail continues to be dusty. That's Himadri hanging out of the sunroof for a perfect shot:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0081_s.jpg

Now we are driving on the left bank of the Chenab. The hill on this side is noticeably more unstable...full of loose rocks and soil. At places, you can see the metal mesh put up by the BRO to restrain the loose rocks and soil from spilling on to the road:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0083_s.jpg

We cross a small metal bridge over a stream. See how the dark-colored Kodiaqs are nicely camouflaged in the surrounding:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0087_s.jpg

The trail gets tougher as we inch towards Batal. After a good lunch, all the tossing around inside the car caused by uneven trail triggers a bit of uneasiness. The trail gets super narrow at places. We now start encountering vehicles coming in the opposite direction.. people who have started from Kaza and beyond, going towards Manali.

A yummy looking mountain in the distance:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0097_s.jpg

A closer look at the chocolate mountain:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0101_s.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0103_s.jpg

A common scene outside the left window:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0112_s.jpg

A little bit of rain is all that separates us from a potential landslide:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0113_s.jpg

Prem recollects an event from his past. A few years back, he owned 3 Gypsys and was doing this stretch with Korean tourists in the Gypsys. It rained and boulders started rolling down the hills on the left. They had to leave the Gypsys and run to safety. The landslide eventually claimed all the 3 Gypsys and they got washed down to the river, never to be seen again.

Rocky hill on one side and the steep drop to the river on the other side. We have to be super careful while crossing vehicles moving in the opposite direction. At one such instance we ran out of luck. A Force Traveler coming at us forces Ajit to go to the extreme left. There is a medium-sized mound with a couple of sharp stones jutting out. With barely 4-5 inches between the two vehicles, the Traveler guy asks us to move ahead. We hit the mound. My heart sinks with the thud sound. There is no space to step out and assess the damage. I am expecting a scratch and a nasty dent on the fender.

A few meters ahead, a biker who had pulled over to the side stopped us and informed us that our front left tyre is punctured. We step out and realized that it is the alloy that has taken the hit and the tyre is completely flat. I ask Prem to get on to the Walkie and inform the support vehicle that we have a flat. He did that promptly. We limp forward and find a spot broad enough to change the tyre without causing a traffic jam:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_img_20180602_150330.jpg

Immediately after us, the Cappuccino Beige Kodiaq pulls up. They faced the exact same problem at the exact same spot and the end result is same. So now there are 2 Kodiaqs with a flat front-left tyre.
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0090_s.jpg

Couple of Innovas from the support team return to the spot. The entire boot of our Kodiaq had to be emptied out to access the space-saver spare:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0093_s.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_img_20180602_151053.jpg

Nearby, the brown water of the Chenab is gushing down loudly:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_img_20180602_151747.jpg

The 'road' is actually loose gravel and fine white sand. The guys struggle to find a solid base for the jack, which keeps on sinking in the sand:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_img_20180602_152937.jpg

Finally, with some stone under the jack jugaad, they manage to lift the car and change the tyre. We are advised to drive slowly and more carefully. I speak with Ashish and check if there are spare tyres/wheels that the crew is carrying. He confirms that there are spare tyres, full size ones. We will have to reach Batal somehow and then figure out the next steps.

Kodiaq has distance sensors on all sides and as soon as anything comes in any of the sensor's range, you get a warning on the infotainment system screen. I liked the feature initially. But when you are traveling on narrow off-road trails with rocks everywhere, it does get pretty irritating as some or the other sensor keeps going off every minute and the music is stopped till you dismiss the alert manually (or it goes off on its own after some time).

Chhota Dara:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0106_s.jpg

Crossing the huge stream near Chhota Dara:

Beautiful clouds on the left:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-ss_img_20180602_145850.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-ss_img_20180602_151805.jpg

The snow-covered mountains get closer..
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0121_s.jpg

..but the road to reach them gets tougher:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0131_s.jpg

A look at the wall of sharp rocks on our left:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0145_s.jpg

We are driving very close to the river bed now:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_img_20180602_170121.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0157_s.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0162_s.jpg

When it looked like the roller coaster ride would never end, we finally reached Batal. The famous Chacha Chachi Dhaba:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0186_s.jpg

5:15 pm! Last 35 km has taken us 4 hours. That includes the time wasted to change the tyre:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-dsc_0185_s.jpg

At Batal, when we regroup and take a stock of the situation, the support team realizes that there has been some confusion about the extra full-size tyres and in reality, none are available with them. With the thin spare, would we be able to negotiate the trail all the way to Chandrataal? What happens if another tyre gives up? It's time for some difficult decisions. Finally, it was decided that our #4 Kodiaq gets a proper full-size tyre & wheel from the Cappuccino Beige Kodiaq. Our under-sized spare goes to the Beige Kodiaq and the flat-bed that is following us will take the Beige Kodiaq directly to Kaza, where the team is hopeful of getting the tyre & alloy repair/replacement done.
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_img_20180602_173404.jpg

The donor Kodiaq:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_img_20180602_175453.jpg

It's getting late and the sun has already dipped behind the mountains..
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_img_20180602_173029.jpg

..and casting long shadows on the other side:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_img_20180602_175227.jpg

We had tea-coffee at the dhaba and I had a longish chat with an Israeli tourist who was planning to stay the night at Batal.

At the beginning of the day, we had talked about reaching Chandrataal by 3 or 4 pm. It's already 6 pm and we still have at least 15 km of narrow, treacherous road to Chandrataal. It would be pretty dark by the time we reach the campsite. The temperature has already started dropping fast. Chances of visiting the beautiful Chandrataal lake today look pretty slim.

Last edited by Aditya : 7th July 2018 at 12:21.
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Old 7th July 2018, 12:14   #8
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Day 2 - 2nd Jun 2018 - Continued

Batal - Chandrataal. 15 km.

Before starting from Batal, I used a washroom and then used the water from a drum to wash my hands. Simple thing, right? The water was so cold that it stung my hands like needles. I immediately took out the kerchief and wiped the hands dry. Surprisingly, my fingers kept on hurting for the next few minutes although the hands were completely dry.

Prem joined the small team that went directly to Kaza to tend to the tyre issue. The rest of us crossed a bridge and headed towards Chandrataal. Last 15 km of the day, but the bad and narrow roads would mean we would take about an hour for those 15 km. Daylight was fading fast and the shadows of the mountains on our left had already invaded the valley below and most sections of our route:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_img_20180602_182817.jpg

The tail lights look beautiful on the Kodiaq:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0203.jpg

The road is very narrow and one vehicle has to compulsorily get off the road for other vehicles to pass:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_img_20180602_185809.jpg

A water crossing:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0214.jpg

Some structure in the valley below:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0221.jpg

Still a long road ahead:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0227.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_img_20180602_185205.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0232.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0233.jpg

Finally some campgrounds in sight:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_img_20180602_185457.jpg

Our tent camp is even further and we keep on driving:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_img_20180602_190239.jpg

The quartz gray completely covered in dust. In the background, you can see the last rays of the setting sun illuminating the snow-caps of the mountains:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_img_20180602_190818.jpg

We drop the stuff in our respective tents and join for snacks and dinner in the main tent.

All hoodies, jackets, scarfs, woolen caps, buffs, gloves were out by this time:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_img_20180602_205700.jpg

Our tents were slightly away from where we parked:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_img_20180602_214336.jpg

Last edited by Aditya : 7th July 2018 at 12:23.
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Old 7th July 2018, 12:14   #9
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Night at Chandrataal

People like HV Kumar, who are very familiar with the Leh-Ladakh and Lahaul-Kinaur-Spiti regions, have consistently maintained that it is not advisable to stay at high elevation places like the Pangong Tso and Chandrataal. Visit them during the day and come down to a lower base for the night stay, that's the trick. So, in a way, I knew that the night at Chandrataal (which is practically at the same elevation as Pangong Tso) - that too pretty early in the expedition - is going to be tough.

With fading light, the mercury dropped fast. By dinner, the temperature is most likely in the low single digits. The sky is clear and I could see a thousand stars in the sky. But staying out of the tent to enjoy the stars was becoming difficult and I decided to call it a night. The tent is double-layered and there is no strong wind. The puffed quilt is actually thicker than the bed:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_img_20180602_214651.jpg

I am wearing a proper double layer jacket on top of a hoodie, which itself was on top of a tee. The buff to cover the face, a monkey cap to cover the head and the hoodie on top. Gloves and socks as well. Three layers should be enough I guess:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_img_20180602_220153.jpg

I was wrong. Should have braved the chill for a few minutes and wore the thermals. There is no way to confirm it, but people claimed that the temperature dropped to sub-zero during the night. I have seen sub-zero temperatures in the past, but surviving those temperatures in a tent as against nicely cocooned in a hotel room, is an entirely different ball-game.

I was tired, but couldn't sleep. Had been drinking liquids in fairly large quantities. That meant multiple trips to the loo during the night. Exposing any body part to the cold air was a nightmare, but when you have to go, you have to go. By the time, I have walked the 10 steps back to the bed, I am literally panting. The air around is so thin that even a few steps makes you breathless. In just those 2 minutes away from the bed, the bed is freezing cold again and the body can feel that through 3 layers. Shankar had given us a couple of pouches of body-warmers. Tried those, but somehow found them ineffective. Most of the night was spent just trying to sleep. The cold and breathlessness was just too much for falling asleep. Barely managed to get an hour of sleep. Lesson learnt!

We humans, with all our technological advances over the years, think of ourselves as Gods. We are super proud of the cities with the skyscrapers that we have built and the roads & highways that we have built that can take us to any corner of the world. The airplanes, the yachts and the luxury cars can make our travel comfortable in any weather and in any medium. We buy winter gear, camping gear and think of us as invincible. We almost hoodwink the nature. We are Gods after-all! And then one fine day, you end up spending a night at Chandrataal in sub-zero temperatures and then you realize the true might of nature. In those few sleepless hours in a tent at the base of a towering snow-covered mountain, all the pride and narcissism leaks out like air from a punctured balloon. The realization that nature is the ultimate Hulk and we are nothing but puny Gods hits you like a brick in the face.


Last edited by Aditya : 7th July 2018 at 12:23.
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Old 7th July 2018, 12:14   #10
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Day 3 - 3rd Jun 2018

Morning at Chandrataal

After the nightmarish cold night, I was woken up by the bright sunlight in my tent. I glanced at my watch and it showed 5 am. Are you bloody kidding me? I had just about managed to sleep for an hour. But there was no point being grumpy about it. Since I had already woken up, stepped out for a stroll. One zip of the tent flap was open. Did someone come to my tent during the night? That's not a comforting thought when you are a fan of the horror movie genre.

Most folks were fast asleep and there was hardly any activity visible in the camp:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_img_20180603_054353.jpg

Sunlight was already kissing the mountain tops behind the camp. I have put on only one glove as I wanted to click pics with the mobile in the other hand. Bad idea. The hand became almost numb after 10 mins. The chilling breeze forced me to cover my face with a buff very soon. When it became unbearable, I went back to the tent and slept for another hour . Shankar had promised a relaxed start for today, so there is no hurry. We are still at high altitude and I have to continue to sip water regularly. Problem is - the water is freezing cold and every sip is causing shooting pain from the sensitive teeth. A bath is completely out of question. Should I at least shave? After a painful experience with brushing my teeth, I decide against shaving. We will be reaching Kaza by 4 pm and there is a proper hotel with running hot water there. Done! Will shave in Kaza then! Somehow washed my face, changed the clothes and stepped out for breakfast. The tummy was feeling weird since yesterday morning and I decide not to trouble it with a heavy breakfast.

Bright sunny day when I stepped out for breakfast at 8:15 am:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_img_20180603_081059.jpg

The Kodiaqs were again magically spic and span. I can't imagine who had gathered the courage to wash the cars in that freezing cold:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_img_20180603_091135.jpg

Some brave souls have managed to put up that small tent sometime during the night and spent the chilly night in it:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_img_20180603_091210.jpg

Our #4 Kodiaq went through a lot of torture yesterday and I spent some time checking for any damages. No scratches, no chipped paint, no dents, nothing broken, nothing dangling from the bottom, no rattles. I am impressed:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_img_20180603_091310.jpg

The Kodiaq has an annoying habit of resetting to "fresh air mode" every time the car is restarted. Looks like, in the midst of all the puncture drama, we had forgotten to switch back to "recirculation" mode and all the evidence of the dusty trail could be seen on the dash and infotainment touchscreen:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_img_20180603_091531.jpg

9:45 am - Breakfast completed. All luggage loaded in the cars. We say goodbye to the camp and head towards Chandrataal.

As we climb, the campsite looks neat from above:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0241.jpg

Its just 20-25 min drive, but steeper than yesterday with lots of sharp switchbacks:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0253.jpg

Chandrataal parking visible in the distance:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0258.jpg

Ajit had noticed during the short drive that the AC is no longer working and the outside temperature display is stuck at 1-degree centigrade. The technicians promised to have a look at the problem while we trekked to the lake:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0262.jpg

If you think that the first glimpse of the lake makes you go weak in the knees, forces you to sit down and just gaze at the lake, you are absolutely right. But besides the heavenly beauty of the place, the elevation and shortage of oxygen also have a big role to play. At almost 4,300 meters from sea-levels, even if you are fit, the body is struggling to breathe enough oxygen with each breath. After 5-6 steps, most people are breathless and need to slow down:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0265.jpg

But it is the mesmerizing pull of the magical lake that keeps you going:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0266.jpg

Crystal clear water:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0271.jpg

As we get closer, I can see Shankar's food genies setting up a table with tea/coffee/hot chocolate:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-ss_img_20180603_102004.jpg

Its a surreal feeling when you reach the lake. The sheer beauty of the place silences you. You have seen countless photos of the place, so you know how it looks. 'How it feels' is what surprises you:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0275.jpg

The prayer flags are the only man-made things there and their fluttering adds to the magic of the place:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0276.jpg

One for posterity sake.
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0279.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0283.jpg

I grabbed a cup of hot chocolate and sat down to let it all sink in. You can just gaze at the lake whole day and contemplate how the name "Dev bhoomi" (God's land) is apt for this region:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0291.jpg

11:00 AM - When others started, I had to start walking back to the parking:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0299.jpg

Such an amazing place! I promised I will be back here with my family. Very soon!

Last edited by Aditya : 7th July 2018 at 12:25.
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Day 3 - 3rd Jun 2018... continued

Chandrataal - Kunzum pass - Losar - Kaza

11:30 am: Back at the parking lot, the technicians had scanned for error codes and had found nothing wrong. One guy tried a few more things, but the AC wouldn't revive:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0306.jpg

Some switchbacks from Chandrataal are tricky and need 3-point turns:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0321.jpg

Today we are tracing back the route from Chandrataal and then taking a left to Kunzum pass, instead of going towards Batal:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0336.jpg

Just look at the width of the road:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0340.jpg

Barren landscape:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_img_20180603_123542.jpg

Soon we take the fork towards Kunzum pass and start encountering some snow:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0351.jpg

I was gasping for breath in Chandrataal at 4,300 meters elevation. Kunzum pass is at 4,600 meters elevation and that guy is cycling with all his baggage. Salute!
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0353.jpg

Zigzag. At higher altitude, cars are known to lose some power due to less oxygen and I did notice some loss of power while climbing up the Kunzum pass. Nothing too serious. Just have to give a little bit of more throttle:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0356.jpg

Tourists playing in the snow:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0357.jpg

1:15 pm: We reach the Kunzum pass top. Its customary to do a round around the temple at the top:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0362.jpg

The Kunzum mata temple:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_img_20180603_132114.jpg

3 different colored Kodiaqs taking a breather:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0370.jpg

We are rolling again after 15 mins. Saw this truck badly stuck at one corner:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0358.jpg

As we started descending, the white diminished and thousand shades of green, brown and gray took center-stage. Since the road is narrow, the lead vehicle kept on informing about oncoming vehicles to all of us on walkie-talkie. "Pajero coming your way". Can you see the Pajero?
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0381.jpg

How about now?
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0382.jpg

A large patch of green in the valley below and a dust trail next to it:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0392.jpg

We are headed down there:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0393.jpg

The pace at which the landscape keeps on changing is just astounding:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0404.jpg

2:20 pm: "Welcome to Spiti Valley"
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0412.jpg

This is Losar. Time for a break and some food. We were getting slow-roasted in Kodiaq #4 due to the AC malfunction. The cool breeze at Losar brought some much-needed relief. But soon, I started shivering a bit and had to get back to the car to get a hoodie:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_img_20180603_145454.jpg

Maggie, omelets, tea:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_img_20180603_145043.jpg

Layers of wood on top of the roof to better insulate from the cold:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_img_20180603_145334.jpg

A prayer wheel at the hotel:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_img_20180603_142627.jpg

Last edited by Aditya : 7th July 2018 at 12:25.
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Old 7th July 2018, 12:14   #12
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Day 3 - 3rd Jun 2018... continued

Losar - Kiato - Kaza

A small village named Kiato at the base of a mountain:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0420.jpg

What a beautiful location to build a house!
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0421.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0426.jpg

A very pointed peak:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0427.jpg

Saw this bull with wool similar to a sheep and a tail resembling that of a horse:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0432.jpg

The sheer variety of different landforms one witnesses in Spiti is mind-numbing. Somewhere ahead of Kiato you can see a landscape similar to Moonland at Lamayuru in Ladakh:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0437.jpg

We descend sharply towards a bridge over Spiti river near Kiato:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0439.jpg

Those brownish orange rock faces brought back fond memories from Badami trip:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0441.jpg

The Kiato bridge:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0443.jpg

What are those spearheads shooting upwards from the slopes?
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0451.jpg

After the bridge, we surge forward with the Spiti river to our left. Across the river, I see another road and I wondered if we just came by that road. After some research on Google Maps, I realised that the road on the other side is an alternate route to Kaza, going through Chicham (we would be visiting Chicham bridge tomorrow):
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0453.jpg

Looking back, one can see the Kiato bridge in the valley and snow mountains in the distance:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0457.jpg

What happened here? Did some mega-God shake the mountain vigorously thereby causing all the loose sand to settle at the bottom and naked rock exposed at the top?
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0462.jpg

A blue Kodiaq had pulled over in the flats, most likely for a photography break:.
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0467.jpg

It's a beautiful location and I am tempted for a moment. But the non-functional AC, the heat and the dust has drained out all the energy from us. The sunroof screen is made from some sort of fabric and you can feel the light and the heat through it. With AC on, one wouldn't notice. But without AC, it did bother me. I have had enough hardship for the day and just want to reach Kaza now:

A green house:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0469.jpg

Just when I was thinking that we are done with our day's quota of strange but beautiful landforms, a new one came into view:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0472.jpg

A closer look:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0473.jpg

Tarmac returns and Ajit makes full use of the opportunity using the paddle shifters. I didn't see any new landforms for the next several minutes. Everything was a blur
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0475.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0477.jpg

A Grand Canyon-sque landscape:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0486.jpg

Just look at the white Kodiaq to understand the scale:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0499.jpg

Last edited by Aditya : 7th July 2018 at 12:27.
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Day 3 - 3rd Jun 2018... continued

Kiato - Pangmo - Hull - (and finally) Kaza

After the Grand Canyon, we come across another beautiful village - Pangmo:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-w_dsc_0510.jpg

About 20-25 independent houses. Fairly large village by the region's standard:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-w_dsc_0514.jpg

A largish building near the road is completely dwarfed by the mountain:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-w_dsc_0517.jpg

Spiti river. Quite a broad riverbed but not enough water:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-w_dsc_0520.jpg

Old mud houses abandoned for slightly more modern houses:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-w_dsc_0529.jpg

Ah ha! There is a road that takes you to the riverbed:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-w_dsc_0531.jpg

After another small village - Hull - there is another Grand Canyon:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-w_dsc_0533.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-w_dsc_0536.jpg

More spikes on the slopes to the riverbed:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-w_dsc_0542.jpg

An empty stretch of tarmac and Ajit floors it. We miss a few undulations and catch air a couple of times:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-w_img_20180603_163942.jpg

The prayer on a huge rock face. Om Mani Padme Hum:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-w_dsc_0546.jpg

A house with a very interesting backdrop:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-w_dsc_0547.jpg

Is that Key Monastery? Yes, it indeed is:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-w_dsc_0550.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-w_dsc_0552.jpg

A much more familiar angle of the Key Monastery and the village at the base:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-w_dsc_0563.jpg

The Kodiaq was ripping through the landscape, when we heard the message on the walkie "Team-BHP guys, the hotel is on your left when you see a tower on the right."
Just in time! We saw the communications tower and the Grand Dewachen hotel. Good that we heard the message, otherwise we might have missed this place in Rangrik and gone ahead to Kaza, which is about 6 km away:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-w_img_20180603_170221.jpg

The entrance to the place. Suprisingly, the name of the place is not displayed anywhere on the outside:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-w_img_20180604_061533.jpg

Lunchtime at 5:15 pm!
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-w_img_20180603_170931.jpg

Had a light lunch and pushed off to my room:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-w_img_20180603_171311.jpg

The two things that protected me from the sun today:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-w_img_20180603_170524.jpg

Beautiful ceiling in the dining area:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-w_img_20180603_171022.jpg

The place is simple, thoughtful and beautiful:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-w_img_20180603_170604.jpg

Ground + 2. My room is on the ground floor:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-w_img_20180604_060602.jpg

More than food, I needed a bath and some sleep. So, that's what I did. When I got up it was already dark outside. YD from Shankar's team helped me with a mobile. I called home and spoke to my family after almost one and half days. Dinner was fun, with a lot of discussions and laughter. Tomorrow is local sight-seeing. 5-6 circuit options. Depending on what time one starts, and how much rest one needs, you can do some 3-4 circuits in a day. Temperatures were not treacherous, but after the Chandrataal experience, I played it safe and wore thermals to bed. Slept peacefully.

Last edited by Aditya : 7th July 2018 at 12:28.
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Old 7th July 2018, 12:14   #14
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Day 4 - 4th Jun 2018

Rangrik - Langza

Everybody was free to plan their day the way they wanted. Our plan is simple. Breakfast at 7:30 am. Langza-Komic-Hikkim in the morning. Return to the hotel for lunch and some rest. In the evening, step out again for Kibber, Chicham bridge and Kee monastery.

I got up at 6 am to this view from the window:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0564.jpg

Since I have woken up early, I have lots of time. I checked out the entire place. All rooms are named after popular local places. Very creative!

My room #7 is Kibber - a beautiful village we will get to see later today:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_img_20180604_060310.jpg

Another room is named after a famous monastery in the region.
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_img_20180604_060340.jpg

From the top floor, I see all the convoy vehicles neatly parked in an open plot opposite the hotel.
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_img_20180604_060928.jpg

I step out for a stroll behind the hotel and decide to walk to the plane's edge from where the slope towards the riverbed starts. As the sun is rising from behind the mountain on the other side of the river, the landscape on our side is slowly getting lit up with sunlight. I stayed back till our hotel got the first rays of sun:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_img_20180604_063616.jpg

A young lad - Rijul - in his Gypsy, accompanied by Prem, is our Raju-guide for today.
8:15 am - After a light breakfast, we stepped out. Denver gave us the other Quartz Gray Kodiaq (#6 with reg. #365) because of the AC problem in our #4.
That's our new ride. Kodiaq number 6. Registration number 365. A bear lurking in the shadows:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0582.jpg

The first thing that I noticed in this car was that the bass sounded way better than our earlier car. Also the auto-hold functionality was working in this one. I had seen Ajit using the parking brakes when starting on inclines and had wondered if we were doing something wrong because of which the auto-hold wasn't getting triggered.

We crossed the river and immediately started gaining elevation. The sunlight and air-clarity are brilliant and we could spot our hotel and the communications tower from miles away:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0577.jpg

That's the Rangrik village on the right:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0584.jpg

First destination for the day in sight - Langza:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0588.jpg

Livestock:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0592.jpg

Keep calm, I will be back:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0599.jpg

I asked Prem - what is this place famous for? He said - nothing, just natural beauty. In reality, the place is more famous as the "fossil village" as it is very rich in fossils of marine animals and plants. What are the fossils of "marine" animals doing in the Himalayas, thousands of km away from the sea? Its interesting, do Google that!

Prem pointed us to another small village to the right. That village literally has just 5 houses, but has a dispensary and a school, I was told. Amazing!
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0601.jpg

Rijul showed a small trail for clicking few nice poses of the Kodiaq:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0615.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0623.jpg

A small off-road diversion we took:


After spending some 20-30 minutes at Langza, we started back:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0626.jpg

We have to trace the route all the way back almost to the bridge. Saw the Spiti river and Grand Dewachen hotel again from multiple places. Snow on its last leg only clinging to the top of the highest of peaks:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0632.jpg

On the left, I could see a lone structure - most likely a monastery - on the slopes. Also the prayer and face of Buddha:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0634.jpg

A closer look. No idea how they managed to paint that at that inaccessible location. I am assuming that it is painted, it might not be:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0635.jpg

As we started climbing another road towards Komic, the Kaza town came into view in the valley below:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0637.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0639.jpg

A familiar shape in the distance. I miss my Duma:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0649.jpg

Confirming the route with locals:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-s_dsc_0646.jpg

Last edited by Aditya : 7th July 2018 at 12:31.
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Old 7th July 2018, 12:15   #15
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Day 4 - 4th Jun 2018.. continued

Komic - Hikkim - Rangrik

There is no convoy today. Just us and the Gypsy. So we could stop wherever we wished. You can see Rijul and Prem rushing back to the Gypsy after one such unscheduled stop:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0627.jpg

That's Rijul btw. He was driving the Gypsy most of the time:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0846.jpg

The road to Langza was a proper tar road. On the other hand, many sections of the road to Komic are dirt roads. Rijul, who was driving sedately on the tar roads to Langza, suddenly started gunning it on the dirt tracks. I swear I saw his Gypsy slide at a few corners. When it looked like he would just run away, I stepped on the gas and chased him

Remember how our Kodiaq looked nice and clean in the Langza shots? The pic below is in front of the monastery at Komic. In just 45 mins, it was coated with dust. But, what fun!
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0655.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0656.jpg

An old man engrossed in something and a dog basking in the sun. That picture pretty much sums up the monastery:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0667.jpg

We took a round of the place and didn't find a soul (other than the old man and dog in the yard) in the monastery:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0668.jpg

What do you do when your car is covered with fine dust?
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0657.jpg

We had some lemon juice at the Word's Highiest Restaurant (please excuse the spelling) and chatted with a tourist couple:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_img_20180604_110101.jpg

Also picked up some fridge magnets as souvenirs and prayer flags for my car back home:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0660.jpg

We traced back the route just a little bit and saw the Hikkim village - the one that claims to have the highest post office in the world:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0679.jpg

The post office is one of the farthest structures from the road and its a steep descent all the way down:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0682.jpg

Finally!
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0686.jpg

Its at 4,440 meters from sea level. Chandrataal was 4,290 meters!
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0688.jpg

Most of the post-"office" is actually a house. We stepped inside for a quick dekko. Here's the postmater!
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0696.jpg

That's how much we have to climb back:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0700.jpg

At that elevation, any steep climb is exhausting. Both me and Ajit had to stop at least 2-3 times before reaching the road:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0702.jpg

The Kodiaq looks superb (no pun intended ) with the sky as the background. (Took Prem's help to get a few bystanders out of the frame for that pic.)
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0712.jpg

That was the last stop. Rijul started zipping through the dust roads:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0713.jpg

That's me chasing Rijul's Gypsy. Awesome fun!


While talking to him later that day, I realized that Rijul has a rally and motocross background. He has been riding bikes and participating in rallies since ages. He has won a few titles as well. A few years back, he moved on to 4-wheel rallying. He owns a Gypsy and is currently busy prepping it for the next rally season in Himachal.

On the way back, we stopped at quite a few places for pics:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0716.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0718.jpg

Our guardian angel behind us for a change:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0721.jpg

That's Kaza town!
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0725.jpg

A closer look at the painting on the mountain face:
Name:  t_DSC_0726.JPG
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I wish I had a white or a blue Kodiaq for that pic:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0730.jpg

Zoom out. Zoom Out. Zoom OUT. Still see the Kodiaq?
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0732.jpg

Another spot:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0740.jpg

Another clip with me following Rijul's Gypsy. Somehow, that "Maa tuze Salaam" song blaring in the car sounds so perfect in those surroundings.
"Yahan vahan saara jahan dekh liya
Ab tak bhi tere jaisa koi nahin"


I got into the back of the Gypsy to click some pics. Here are a few:
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0757.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0780.jpg

Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0830.jpg

1:00 pm - Back to the hotel for lunch. Would anyone believe that both the cars in that pic are of the same color?
Alaskan bear in Snow leopard territory - The Kodiaq expedition to Spiti-t_dsc_0848.jpg

Quick lunch and slept for an hour.

Last edited by Aditya : 7th July 2018 at 12:37.
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