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Old 13th August 2010, 13:53   #31
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Originally Posted by reply2ab View Post
Day 1: Delhi to Manali...well, no, Bilaspur...well, no, maybe we should settle for Nalagarh...or maybe for a temple in the middle of nowhere!
Just two words come to mind: Good God! Glad this was HP and not western UP. BTW, did you have a spare tube for the Bolero? You could have used that to get the Innova's tyre repaired at a pinch...
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Old 17th August 2010, 13:41   #32
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Even through all the hardships its so relieving to see you all smiling-boy am I hooked-wating for the knock punches to follow- when?? sorry for the impatience.
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Old 17th August 2010, 13:59   #33
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good point to point narration,bring it on Buddy, . awaiting.. awaiting for more.
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Old 17th August 2010, 16:51   #34
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Awesome travelogue mate!

The pictures are breathtaking and the story is very very interesting... sounds like I have seen the first half of a movie and am waiting for the second half!
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Old 18th August 2010, 15:57   #35
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Default Thrill-a-minute ride!!! (Destination - Manali)

Day 2 (...and 3!): Destination Manali

Not too many photos from this stretch actually, as we had just one thing in mind -- MANALI!

We took this one group shot before bidding goodbye to the Hotel Riverview in the morning. Actually, looking at these pics now, the place looks better than what I remember. We were completely grateful to get a room there the previous night, but by morning light, the relief seemed to have worn out and we were just itching to leave for Manali.

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Bed and Breakfast -- We all gathered in one of the rooms to plot the way to Manali and have a breakfast of half-cooked aloo parathas. (In fact, that was the only poor meal we had on the entire trip; otherwise, the food was excellent.)
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I forgot to say that the Innova had sprung a third puncture just before we abandoned it the previous night -- the back left wheel. The driver had waited till the repair shops opened and then bought three new tire tubes, replacing both back wheels and the stepney. So we tied all the luggage on (sadly, it rained on the way, and that blue tarpaulin didn't protect the bags fully, meaning that one family's winter clothes got rather wet), piled into the cars, crossed our fingers and hoped for the best as we set out for Manali.

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Believe it or not, the Innova had two more punctures some time after Bilaspur -- both in the right rear wheel. At which point we realised that the tyres themselves were in really, really, REALLY bad shape. (Thank God we figured out the magnitude of the problem BEFORE we started all the off-road driving in the mountains. Otherwise, it could have been real disaster.) As it was, we all piled out of the car, and while the driver got the punctures repaired and the guys yelled at the owner in Delhi for endangering the kids and leaving us stranded, and the rest of us attempted to entertain ourselves and the kids.

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Finally, when we stopped for a very late lunch at Mandi, we forced the driver to buy two new tyres and told him we'd deduct the money from the rental fee. (He actually bundled both the old tyres onto the top of the car to prove to the owner what bad shape they were in!)

And that really is the end of our puncture drama!

In the meanwhile, we started following the river Beas which flows alongside on the road to Manali. From a distance, it looks rather placid, winding through the valley in lazy curves. Closer up, it's obvious that it's a volatile river, bubbling rather violently through the rocks, often changing course and flooding over its banks. I think it's the spray of the river, the mist, and the temperature that together create a haze that hovers just above the surface of the water.

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Finally, finally, we arrived at Manali late that evening, and trooped off to the Hotel Gilbert.

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We just checked in, and then headed out in the constant drizzle for a sumptuous dinner at Chopsticks on Mall Road. We tried a variety of dishes, but I think the best was the thupka which I introduced my wife to for the first time. For those who don't know, this is a Tibetan dish of noodles, vegetables and meat in a rich, subtly flavoured soup. (We also introduced the baby to lemonade -- the look on his face as his tongue met the sour fizzy drink was priceless! But he still wanted another sip!) It was great food, and a rather cheery decor as well.

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Day 3 -- Destination: ...well, it's going to have to be Manali again!

We set off early the next morning on the tree-lined road leading up to the Rohtang Pass, our impatience to get to Losar imitating the impatience of the mighty Beas.

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However, unlike the Beas, which stops for no man, we were stopped by a police roadblock just 15 km outside Manali. There had been a landslide up ahead, they said, and they weren't allowing any vehicles through to Rohtang. We swallowed our disappointment, and wondered what to do with our day. There's a very smart hotel owner who has recently built the Saggu Valley Hotel just at the point where these roadblocks usually stop traffic. Of course, the frustrated travellers head to his cafe to drown their sorrows in coffee and food. We settled for a hearty breakfast of omelettes and Maggi (The instant noodles, often garnished with extra spices and veggies seem to be a staple at almost all these mountain restaurants.)

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The location of the hotel is also perfect in scenic terms -- it's right opposite a lovely mountain view -- dark crags rising above the green slopes streaked with countless waterfalls -- visible both from the large glass windows and the front door. In fact, the view changes from one picture-perfect scene to a completely different, but still picture-perfect, scene every few minutes, as the strands of wispy white mist float across the slopes, while the sun plays hide and seek behind the clouds. One minute, you have a clear sunny shot, next minute it becomes a wistful, moody kind of image.

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We decided to spend the morning visiting the Solang valley, where we went for a cable car ride. (In winter, there is skiiing on these slopes.) At Rs. 300 per person for a very steep 15-minute ride, it would have been value for money on a clear day. As it was, we really lost the view after five minutes or so. And they don't let you get out of the car at the top. Still it was good fun to whoosh up the mountain like that.

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We couldn't resist more photos of the misty mountains. (I had to keep reminding my wife that the truly awesome scenery came after Manali, and we were going to run out of camera memory long before that!)

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We thought we were being adventurous enough driving these roads, but we repeatedly met groups of cyclists (none of them Indians!) who were slowly pedalling all the way to Leh!

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At least they had lovely views to keep them going...

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We headed back to Manali in the afternoon, looking for a place to stay and run some errands. (Believe it or not, the town has four ATMs on Mall Road, and three of them were not in operation! Warning to anyone heading that way: simpler to make sure you have enough cash when you leave Delhi.) After checking out a few hotels, we decided to head back to Saggu Valley for the night.

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Before that, though, we explored one of the true hidden treasures of that road: Cafe Zeppelin! Started by a couple of city types who decided to quit the city lifestyle and make food in the mountains, it has a rough rock'n'roll theme. The guys play music videos on their computer to set the ambience. On the outside, it's just a shack, so unless you're looking for it, you'll probably miss it. They seem to let backpackers crash there for a while. The decor is truly unique -- dried flowers in Foster beer bottles stuck between the windows, 1960's flower power paintings on the walls, and a door made of a Foster's carton. And the cuisine -- truly worth it. It may take some time to prepare, but both the pasta and pizza were delicious.
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Taking in nature -- through the fog! -- just outside the cafe.
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And then back to the room at Saggu Valley for the night. It's a new, clean and airy hotel, so long as you don't mind the overdose of light wood used in the decor.
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Coming up next -- Manali to Losar at last!
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Old 18th August 2010, 17:18   #36
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Originally Posted by reply2ab View Post

However, unlike the Beas, which stops for no man, we were stopped by a police roadblock just 15 km outside Manali. There had been a landslide up ahead, they said, and they weren't allowing any vehicles through to Rohtang. We swallowed our disappointment, and wondered what to do with our day. There's a very smart hotel owner who has recently built the Saggu Valley Hotel just at the point where these roadblocks usually stop traffic. Of course, the frustrated travellers head to his cafe to drown their sorrows in coffee and food. We settled for a hearty breakfast of omelettes and Maggi (The instant noodles, often garnished with extra spices and veggies seem to be a staple at almost all these mountain restaurants.)
The best dish at Saggu hotel is actually the chicken. Its simply yummy. There is a small dhaba opposite Saggu called the Yak Cafe(Last dhaba in the group of dhabas towards rohtang). You get yummy egg chowmein there.
the lady also stocks milk Tetrapak cartons, and usually sells all the stuff at MRP.
A few hundred meters ahead is a small waterfall, and from there you can trek into the forest. A jeepable trail leads up to a small village, and you cross a lovely meadow.
I know you are back now, but I guess next time you go to Manali, you can visit all these hidden places.
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Old 19th August 2010, 17:27   #37
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Seems like Innova got more punctures in one night than most of the vehicles would have in their entire life time. Kudos to the sprit of you guys to take all as it came and kept on going. Waiting for the rest.
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Old 28th August 2010, 23:44   #38
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Default Thrill-a-minute ride!!! (Destination - Manali)

Day 4 -- Losar at last!

We woke up early, determined to make it to Losar that day. After one final group shot just outside the Saggu Valley, we set out.

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Soon we came to the landslide that had resulted in the road being blocked the previous day. Since then, a lot of work had been done to shore up the road and make it motorable again -- but only just. It was still very muddy, and there was this one tricky stretch where a truck had stalled and only one vehicle at a time could attempt to go around it, hoping that the wheels would grip during the climb and not slip to the depths below. Thankfully, both the Innova and the Bolero made it without any major problems.

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It was misty and drizzly as we climbed up towards Rohtang. The scenery changed rapidly, the trees thinning out to leave grassy ridges and bare rocks, with rushing waterfalls slashing across the slopes -- and often, the road as well!

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We stopped for breakfast at Marhi, a splash of vibrant colours in the drizzly grey of the morning. Prayer flags wave in the breeze, while enterprising traders sell knitted scarves and hats. Hot omelettes and tea warmed our insides before we set out again.

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We kept seeing the effects of the rains on the already treacherous roads as we went further on. Narrow, muddy, overhung by threatening rocks, and in several places actually caved in or washed away, reducing traffic to a dangerous one-way crawl. But repairs had already started. Ever wondered who builds these mountain roads, hacking out the rock and creating a path in the most difficult conditions? Throughout the trip, we kept seeing these small groups of labourers, often from Bihar, working to build, maintain and repair the roads.

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Lots of modes of transport through the misty mountains tourists in SUVs like us, swaying trucks with drivers who've seen it all, hardy cyclists, even some hikers on their own two feet. And surefooted mules, donkeys and horses bearing their burdens over the cliffs. Crossing the pass itself was a very slushy affair, with JCBs employed to clear a trail through the mud for the parade of vehicles.

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Old 29th August 2010, 00:04   #39
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Default thrill-a-minute ride!!! (Destination - Manali)

contd...Day 4 (Losar at Last)

Only slightly better roads on the other side of Rohtang, but clubbed with open vistas, and refreshing waterfalls. We couldn't resist using our trusty Bolero in our photo shoots to show off the majestic landscape.

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The sky started clearing up, prompting me to doze over a large rock near a camp set up by local shepherds and workmen, while my wife tried to capture the exquisite beauty of the tiny flowers that started carpeting the slopes. It's something amazing about this area that the most grand, larger-than-life landscapes are embroidered by the tiniest, miniature wildflowers.

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The run-off from glaciers have formed moraines, masses of accumulated ice, snow, soil and dirt which are slowly melting in the summer sun, forming rushing waterfalls, most of which flow across or even along the roads, making for a challenging drive.

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With the rain over, we couldn't resist frequent halts, photo shoots and dramatic poses!

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Chhatru, a charming hamlet with several wayside cafes, was our lunch halt. On the side of the road, the stop is marked by a cairn of rocks stamped with Buddhist good luck signs and messages in Tibetan. The cafe we stopped at has outdoor tables (adorned with makeshift vases crammed with the most delightful wildflowers) shaded by a large white parachute. Indoors, long, low benches covered with rough blankets line the walls, providing an overnight rest for weary backpackers. In fact, I've slept here before when I did this trip by bike. The cafe's proprietress is a friendly, bustling woman who serves us hot rice and dal, along with lip-smacking brinjal and potato side-dishes and steaming hot tea.

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Old 29th August 2010, 00:43   #40
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contd....Losar at Last

From here, it's just 43 km to the next pass at Kunzum, and just about 65 km to Losar itself. It shouldn't be too difficult fairly early, we thought. Little did we know of the adventures that the afternoon still had in store for us. The lanscape started getting rockier, with large boulders sprawled along the valleys and wild horses grazing amidst the rocks!

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Just before Bataal, we had our first brush with adventure that afternoon. The group of carefree adults in the Bolero were constantly stopping for photos, but the couples with kids travelling in the Innova were in more of a hurry to get to Losar, so they were rushing with few halts, and they were several km ahead of us. So when we suddenly turned a corner and saw the Innova, we knew something was wrong. It turned out that a mountain brook swollen with summer melts had broken its banks to rush across the road into the river below. It was flowing so strongly it had broken up the road and was actually carrying rocks along in its speed. The Innova had attempted to cross, but gotten stuck among the rocks, its wheels firmly wedged in place.

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Everyone piled out of the car, kids and all, and waded to safety through the freeeeezing water. Then the driver, the guys and some of the onlookers (truck and car drivers coming in the opposite direction) tried pushing the car out, and when that didn't work, huddled for a brainstorming session. Thankfully, there was a JCB already on the scene, and its operator took pity on us. He was hauling huge rocks around as though they were pebbles anyway, so for him, this was child's play he just put his claw to the bumper of the Innova and gave a little shove. It just shot out of the rocks and ahead to the road.

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Then, the Bolero had to cross and we just prayed that it wouldn't get stuck as well. Thankfully, it proved sturdy and bumped its way across the brook. In fact, there were four more such places where the water had broken across the roads before we even reached Bataal.

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The roads stayed bad, but the view was really making up for it. The clouds started clearing away, giving glimpses of blue skies, and the snow-topped mountain peaks we'd been waiting for all day. As we drove through the river valley, grass became scarcer on the slopes, with barren rocks taking over the landscape. Wind and water have carved through through the cliffs over the centuries, evolving rock formations which offer a stark, but dramatic view.

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Old 29th August 2010, 01:17   #41
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contd....Losar at Last

After we crossed the Kunzum pass, it was less than 20 km to Losar. We thought it would be a leisurely last stretch as the sun started sinking towards the horizon.

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But we had one last adventure in store before we reached Losar. We were just watching the milestones, counting down the kms, when we turned a corner and had to brake sharply. A small bridge had just collapsed, washed away by a flooded stream, leaving a yawning gap in the road.

We thought we were really stumped this time, just 3 km away from our destination. So near and yet so far! Everyone was dead tired by this time, and the kids were hungry and sleepy.

We got out of the cars and walked upstream, looking for a place where we could drive over. The guys started tossing large rocks into the water, trying to stem the flow, trying to replicate the action of the JCB just before Bataal with our own manual labour. But the water was flowing so fast it just swept away even the biggest rocks we could manage. Would it manage to sweep away the cars as well?

But despair actually strengthened us. Since there was no alternative, and we could not possibly go back, we just HAD to find some way to go forward. We just couldn't give up.

So we removed most of the luggage from the cars, except for some camping equipment, and a big carton of supplies. Then, I just took the plunge and drove the Bolero across the river upstream. I could feel the water tugging, but thankfully I made it across. (My wife later said her heart was in her mouth as I went across, the one time she was really scared on this trip.) The Innova driver really had guts, and was game to try anything that the Bolero managed, and thankfully, he made it across as well.

We were all so worried until this point that we didn't really bother about photographs until we'd actually crossed and were both parked safely on the other side of the gap.

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Then came the job of moving people and luggage across. We formed a sort of stepping stone path across the water, and I straddled two rocks in the middle of the stream to help people cross. Slowly, everyone made it across, even the kids, although we had to play a heart-stopping game of passing the parcel with the baby!

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We so relieved and grateful, when we crossed through the welcome arch into the Spiti Valley and Losar. The village seemed to welcome us with its most glorious views. A magnificent sunset (we were so glad we reached before dark!), the gayly painted houses, surrounded by green fields and flowering meadows it was a sight for sore eyes.

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(I even have a picture of my bike parked at the same spot...from one of my previous biking trip)
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When we reached the guesthouse, we recieved a warm Himalayan welcome from our landlord, who invited us into his own living room, seating us at the traditional low tables and serving us biscuits and piping hot tea from large painted thermoses.

We didn't have energy to explore very much that evening, but the view through every window was absolutely satisying Losar sits in a small valley surrounded by the snow peaks on all sides, so it's a 360 degree view.

The boys who service at the guesthouse on behalf of the manager had almost abandoned their post since we were two days late (with no telephone for 40 km, they had no way of knowing what had happened to us), but thankfully they had hung on for a little while longer. They showed us to our cheery rooms and served us a tasty dinner before we collapsed into our beds safe in Losar at last!

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Thrill-a-minute ride!!! (Delhi to Spiti Valley)-day41910.jpg
Thrill-a-minute ride!!! (Delhi to Spiti Valley)-day42116.jpg

Coming up next: A daredevil ride and trek to Chandrataal!
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Old 29th August 2010, 01:48   #42
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nice pics dude and looks like you had hell lot of adventure at every step in your journey though it becomes a bit of pain when travelling with women and kids.

can you please post the total route for the journey or map or something and distance something like that.

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Old 29th August 2010, 11:33   #43
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Really nice pics and very good narration. Hooked on to this and waiting for more updates on this unique experience.
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Old 4th May 2015, 07:44   #44
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Post Re: Thrill-a-minute ride!!! (Losar at Last)

Originally Posted by reply2ab View Post

Coming up next: A daredevil ride and trek to Chandrataal!
Please complete the TL. This seems to be one of the most thrilling TLs I have ever read.

Spiti is my target for this summers that too in a hatchback.
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