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deky 21st June 2012 12:34

Spiti Drive, June 2012 - Family, Friends, Border Posts, Wildlife and more...

Parul (my wife) and I love our family holidays. We make it a point that atleast once a year, the three of us, Parul, Aira (our daughter) and I head out from home and enjoy our little vacation together. Now with Aira starting school (still play school though), the window that we get for our holidays has got limited to only summer months when the schools have vacations.

Though the summer months are nice to get away from the Jaipur heat and head towards the cooler climates of the hills, but the down side is that everyone in the North of India thinks the same and the regular tourist hill stations eventually end up getting crowded. With so much problem of accommodation, parking space, litter and the complete break down of basic amenities at such places, both Parul and I find these crowded hills stations to be hardly a relaxing vacation.

So started the hunt for a suitable place where we could go. Parul always wanted to go to Arunachal Pradesh, but since she herself got leave from work at the last minute, buying air tickets and making arrangements to travel and stay was coming out to be way to expensive and very difficult. We did not want to go to Leh again as we did that just 2 years back. Srinagar, Gulmarg & surroundings was also discussed but that would mean spending time again with in-laws in Jammu and attending lots of social get togethers and I was in no mood for that as we had visited Jammu just 2 months back.

I always wanted to go to Kinnaur and Spiti as I had heard so much about it and seen so many photographs of the area. Plus since none of us had visited Spiti, this would be a new place for all of us. Back of my mind I had decided on Spiti and now it was only a matter of convincing Parul about it. It didnt take long because she was so amused with the names of the places like "Chitkul" "Tabo" "Hurling" "Pin" and so on that she was happy to go without a second thought.

I had already decided that I will take my car, Chevrolet Aveo, for this trip and it was only a matter of deciding on the itinerary, the night stops and finding the places of interests en route for the trip. Luckily there is a lot of literature present on Kinnaur and Spiti on the forum, so deciding the itinerary, finding the road conditions, places to stay etc etc was also not a problem. The problem of distances was solved by the immaculate log book of a certain member HVK. I must say his log book has details of everything from dhabas to hotels to petrol bunks to puncture and repair shops listed in a very concise manner.

Another aspect that I always have to rack my brains is on how to get through Delhi & NCR. With the NCR developing into such a maze of roads and flyovers, I always find it a tough ask getting out of the region on the correct road. This, maybe not a big problem for the Delhi'wala's, but a major headache for outsiders like me was aptly solved by a friend's precise directions leading me out of Delhi on the road heading to Ambala.

So the itinerary was decided as follows. Few places we would be staying with friends and accommodation at a few places we left open to get there and decide once we reach.


01/06/2012 - Jaipur To Gurgaon
02/06/2012 - Stay at Gurgaon
03/06/2012 - Gurgaon to Jhakri
04/06/2012 - Jhakri to Sangla Valley- Stay at Chitkul
05/06/2012 - Chitkul To Kalpa
06/06/2012 - Kalpa to Samdu via Nako
07/06/2012 - Samdu - Kaurik - Lepcha -Samdu - Tabo - Kaza - Kee - Kibber - Kaza
08/06/2012 - Kaza - Hikkim - Komic - Lanza - Kaza
09/06/2012 - Kaza to Poo
10/06/2012 - Poo to Chail
11/06/2012 - Chail to Noida/gurgaon
12/06/2012 - Noida/gurgaon
13/06/2012 - Noida/Gurgaon – Jaipur

With the itinerary decided, bag packed, armed with HVK's log book and print outs of accommodation available en route, latest road conditions updates and important telephone numbers, Aira, Parul and I were all set around noon time on 01/06/2012 to leave for Gurgaon, hence commencing our Holiday.

deky 21st June 2012 12:36

Re: Spiti Drive, June 2012 - Family, Friends, Border Posts, Wildlife and more...

Allow me to do away with the customary teaser pics and start the travelogue straight away: -

01/06/2012 - JAIPUR TO GURGAON
With the once lovely stretch of NH8 in a mess now due to road widening and increase in traffic, it has become imperative to time your drive towards Delhi from Jaipur in such a manner that you dont find much traffic or else you will end up spending 7 hrs or more just to cover this stretch of about 250 odd kilometers.

We had decided that we will leave at around 1100 hrs. Though that meant we would be covering the distance in peak of summers, but it also meant that the heavy traffic, especially those big trucks that hog all the space on highways will be off the road in such heat. This starting time worked like a charm and we found the highway to be almost empty. Even the roads had improved and lots of flyovers that were under construction were complete.

We were in no rush, after all the holidays had started and whats the point in rushing even on a holidays. So even with a long lunch stop at Sagar Ratna at Behror we reached our home in Gurgaon at around 1700 hrs. Just in time before the evening rush starts.

Evening was spent with relatives discussing plans about the holiday and relaxing.

02/06/2012 - GURGAON

I had plans to meet my cousins today and take them out for lunch. Its always nice to catch up with cousins and talk about the years gone by and have a good laugh. The venue was decided as Chili's restaurant at Ambiance Mall, Gurgaon. This would give Parul an opportunity to shop while everyone collected. Getting in the parking lot of the mall was an ask by itself. Being a Saturday everyone in Gurgaon seemed to be headed towards the mall. After about a 20 minute wait just to get in the basement to park the car we finally entered Ambiance mall.

Because we got delayed at the parking, luckily for me Parul lost the opportunity to shop so we headed straight to the restaurant. Not that I mind her shopping because she always spends her own money for it, but what i don't like about shopping with women is that they have too many questions while they shop and after answering 100's of the questions about a dress they still dont end up picking it. I have no patience for such things.

Chili's was chosen because we both love our steak's and we were not dissapointed. Rest of the food was also good and I would say it was worth the money spent because the portions were huge. Being an American chain they were typical huge American size servings. All us cousins and our spouses had a good laugh and the afternoon which stretched into evening was time well spent.

Back home we had early dinner because tomorrow we would be doing the longest stretch of our holiday and i.e. driving from Gurgaon To Jhakri, which is a distance of about 540 kms, out of which about 250 kms will be in the hills. So we had to sleep early to to start early the next day.

Target time of departure the next morning was 0530 hrs.

deky 21st June 2012 12:44

Re: Spiti Drive, June 2012 - Family, Friends, Border Posts, Wildlife and more...
8 Attachment(s)
03/06/2012 - GURGAON TO JHAKRI

Though we planned to start by 0530 hrs today but unfortunately target times are never met so we ended up leaving the house only by 0600 hrs. A 30 minutes delay was actually not bad, also today being a Sunday there was not much of a traffic on Delhi roads. My friend's directions were immaculate and within 40 minutes of our starting from home we were crossing that huge garbage dump at Azadpur.

We were doing decent speeds on the much improved NH1. There was not much to see around except the parched dry landscapes and so we just talked and laughed and played a few games within the family. One thing bothering me within was that I had not done much preparations about the car. I had read lots of travelogues where people carry spare filters, spare cables, spare bulbs, spare engines and what not while going for such drives and I was not even carrying a puncture repair kit with me. I was just hoping that my car which has already clocked 65K kms would survive this trip without embarrassing me. Anyway not much could be done now so I just put all these negative thoughts behind me and moved on.

By 1000 hrs we reached McDonalds at Zirakpur. Aira had already finsihed her breakfast in car as Parul always believes in carrying something packed for her. It was time for us to have some breakfast and freshen up. With a quick stop here we moved on to cross Punjab via Panchkula and arrived at the Kalka To Parwanoo bypass toll gate just after Pinjor. Enough has been said about this by-pass so I will not say again that how good it was and how much times does it save when going towards Shimla. But seriously its really fun to drive on it. Worth every paisa of the Rs23/- as the toll we pay for it.

At Parwanoo, I happily paid the Rs20/- as the Himachal Green tax, happily because this meant that we were entering Himachal and entering Himachal meant respite from the sweltering heat of the plains. It was still hot though so we rolled up our windows again and continued driving on the winding roads of the hills. Just before Dharampur at around Koti I think , Aira started to feel a bit uncomfortable. She said she wanted to vomit, we dismissed it as just a feeling and gave her a candy to suck, but she continued to complain. Anyway we had to stop as Parul wanted to buy some cup noodles and squashes and some biscuits that would last us for the trip. No sooner we stopped Aira vomitted and threw out everything that she had consumed in the last few hours. Magically she was upbeat again and any discomfort she had disappeared instantly.

We were not sure if it was travel sickness on the hills or it was bad strawberry milkshake at MacDonalds that made her to throw up, so we just decided to stop at the next pharmacy at Dharampur and buy some medicine for her. After all if it was travel sickness due to mountain roads she will require it through out the journey. Luckily she never threw up again in the entire journey.

But my already slow speed had reduced even more by now. I was instructed in no uncertain words by Parul to go very slow on the hills for the sake of Aira. Anyway I also believe that its better to be late than to be sorry, plus we had the views also to enjoy now.

I had decided to give Shimla a miss and go via Chail and join the NH22 at Fagu. I was not prepared to get stuck in the messy traffic at Shimla, plus on my last trip I found that Chail route, though narrow provides much better views and considerably less traffic. It was time for lunch and I was insisting on having lunch at Theog as I knew of a retstaurant from my visit not so long ago here that serves excellent food. It was a good decision, we all enjoyed the hot butter chicken and palak paneer that he served us.

The roads were pretty good so far and after Theog the roads got even better. The stretch from Theog to Narkanda is a pleasure to drive. Suddenly we realised that we are carrying cameras too and it was time to take them out.

So here is our first photo of our holiday. Beautifull black tarmac somewhere between Theog and Narkanda
Attachment 944260

Just before Narkanda we saw some kids selling cherries. Aira loves them and so does Parul. They were not the best quality but the girls just wanted to buy them so we bought the whole box at a steal of a price.
Attachment 944261

Eating cherries and enjoying the views and the drive on the beautifull roads we moved on and reached Narkanda. We decided to stop for tea at The Hatu HPTDC hotel. On coming out of the car we suddenly relaised that it was pretty chilly outside so warm clothes were in order.

Aira in a cheerfull mood
Attachment 944262

Parul and Aira having a laugh
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We were on the move for the last 12 hours and we still had not reached our destination. The sun was setting and when with family I prefer not to drive after sunset in unknown territory for obvious reasons. So after tea we had to move on quickly. In my haste I missed the turn going towards Rampur and instead went straight on the road that goes to the hatu peak, But luckily I realised my mistake soon and without much wasting of time I was on the right road.

The setting sun
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We stopped again and bought some peaches to give cherries company
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It was night and we could see sporadic fires on the surrounding hills
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By 2000 hrs we were at Rampur, we called up our hosts and after getting directions for our accommodation we headed towards Jhakri. Jhakri is just about 9 kms from Rampur and by 2030 hrs we were parked and resting at our accommodation.

Aira resting in the room after a wash and change
Attachment 944267

We had quick dinner and called it a day as we were all tired. Though we were on the move for about 14.5 hours but no one complained as we were in the hills, in cooler climate and away from all the hustle bustle and all the tensions of a city life.

Our holidays had started and it was bliss!!


deky 21st June 2012 13:20

Re: Spiti Drive, June 2012 - Family, Friends, Border Posts, Wildlife and more...
28 Attachment(s)
04/06/2012 - JHAKRI TO CHITKUL


While in Jaipur when I was making the itinerary, we had decided that we will stay at Sangla for 2 nights and do the surrounding areas keeping this as the base. The reason being, we had heard that accommodation at other places in Sangla Valley was limited and not very clean. Not that I am fussy about accommodation but when you have a kid with you, you atleast want neat clean rooms, with clean white linen and hygienic bathrooms. So to make sure of the above we had booked the Forest Rest House (FRH) in Sangla. But while we were in Delhi, I got a call from the CF at Rampur (the person who does the bookings here) asking if we could postpone our booking by a day. He said that The Sector Commander of the Army (a pretty senior officer) wanted to stay there as the Army had decided on a picnic for the families in that sector. I had no problems with that as I have high regards for the Army but our stay at Sangla could not be postponed as that would affect the bookings at the locations ahead so we decided to go to Chitkul that day and spend the next day at The FRH. Hence our destination today was Chitkul.

It was a lazy start to the day. We had decided to get up when we were ready to get out of the bed. No alarms, no morning wake up calls, no forcefully lumbering out of the bed, it was basically do as you please. So finally by the time we got up got ready and were ready to move it was past 1000 hrs. So after a few photographs of our accommodation and biding good bye to our hosts we were out of Jhakri and on the way to Chitkul.

River Sutlej gave us company and meandered along the road. I am more used to seeing turquoise blue colour of the rivers that originate from the Himalayas, but this was dark and dirty mud colour water. I guess this was because of all the mud it was carrying from the higher reaches. Also Sutlej was blocked by creating damns at numerous places along the route. The water was channeled in the heart of the mountain and thrown over turbines to generate hydel electricity. At places we could see the tunnels that had the turbines. These tunnels were huge and could easily fit in a large truck. We made a mental note of visiting one of these tunnels on our way back. The idea was to see how hydel electricity is produced, something new for us.

As we started from Jhakri, the road itself was beautifull and well tarred. The vistas all around were beautifull and we made lots of photo stops at places hence the going was slow. What made the progress even slower was the fact that we still had Aira’s discomfort on the mountainous curves from yesterday in our mind. Though she seemed ok today and was enjoying eating her cherries but still we did not want to take a chance.

It was all a learning process for Aira. Little things like the milestones or the shapes in which the mountains were cut to make the road or how water produces electricity, was all exciting for her. She was happy counting in reverse with the milestones and we both were happy seeing her happy.

After about an hour of starting, just after Jeori, we decided to stop for tea. The dhaba looked interesting because of the location. It had a huge waterfall next to it and they had put up a wide pipe straight in the waterfall and connected the wide pipe with a pipe with a narrow face. The force with which the water was coming from this pipe was enormous and people were washing their cars with this. Not that my car was very dirty, I still decided to give my car a wash while we waited for the tea. Aira also joined in this car wash and because it was not so cold that time it was fun.

After tea we continued and soon we entered Dist. Kinnaur. Soon we were greeted by a road block which luckily did not last long. Workers were blasting the mountain above hence they had stopped traffic from both ways. With the blasting over and with rocks and boulders that scattered on the road due to blasting cleared we continued on the last bit of the good roads.

As we closed in to Wangtu slowly the good tar roads disappeared and we were left with roads only with huge port holes and rubble on it. This continued all along the route till Karcham. The road has been destroyed by Jaypee group in the name of producing hydel electricity. I guess a heavy price we have to pay for economic growth.

At Karcham we had to leave the NH22 and take a turn towards Sangla. The scenery here improved a bit as we had left all the mess created and the mountains destroyed because of Hydel electricity. The road though became narrower but also became somewhat better, atleast patches of tar was visible on the road. Anyway we were here to enjoy and not to crib so we decided not to bother about the road and enjoy the vistas.

The valley got a lot greener, narrower and a lot prettier. We could see lots of smoke bellowing from the pine trees in the mountains. These forest fire usually start when the summer is at their peak as lots of heat is generated when the pine leaves rub amongst themselves on windy days. As pine trees anyways have lots of oil in their leaves so heat plus oil is enough to start a fire.

By the time we reached Sangla it was lunch time. I wanted to find the FRH first to confirm our booking for tomorrow but we were told that it was across the Baspa River, so we decided against going there, just have our lunch and proceed to Chitkul. We stopped and I realized that the car’s rear tyre has a puncture. First problem, but luckily we were in a town so finding a repair shop would not be difficult, but would have to go back about a kilometer or so. I parked my car on the main street of Sangla town, changed the tyre, told Aira and Parul to find a suitable place to eat and I will get the puncture repaired in the meanwhile.
The repair’s took some time. Till then they had found a nice comfortable place to sit in one of the shops and Aira had a sandwhich that Parul was carrying. The shop keeper was also very nice as he allowed them to sit there and also helped me in putting my luggage back in the boot. I had kept our unloaded luggage from the boot in his shop while I had the puncture repaired.

We thanked the shopkeeper, had our lunch and proceeded towards Chitkul. Though the views from Sangla were nice but as we approached Chitkul, the views got much better, slowly we were surrounded by high mountain ranges all around. Though the road was narrow not that good, but still the views made up for all that. Just before Chitkul we crossed a green stretch of about 1 km or so, which is ideal of campers. It has greenery, it has shade, it has dry rocky grounds and it has beauty and it has streams flowing.

By 1700 hrs we were in Chitkul and so far it seemed a very good decision to skip FRH Sangla for this place. Now time to find a suitable hotel

Pictures From The Day So far…

Our accommodation at Jhakri
Attachment 944305

Three of us set to leave
Attachment 944306

Lots of photo stops en-route
Attachment 944307

Aira loved these cherries, she called this bunch a cherry tree
Attachment 944308

The mountains cut in different shapes to make roads
Attachment 944309
Attachment 944310

Driving was fun with such roads and such amazing scenery
Attachment 944311
Attachment 944312

We were all having a great time
Attachment 944313

Though life is fun for us tourists but must be tough for the residents. For e.g. I could not see any road to this village, just a steep mountain path
Attachment 944314

Lots of dam's made en route on Sutlej
Attachment 944315

I enjoyed giving a wash to my car
Attachment 944316

Aira soon joined in
Attachment 944317

Kinnaur finally
Attachment 944318

Stopped due to blasting. I asked the guy to pose for the camera
Attachment 944319

The distances
Attachment 944320

Forest Fires
Attachment 944321

Well these are good roads as compared to the stretch we just completed
Attachment 944322

Mountain peaks visible , this is the side of the Kinner Kailash Range visible from Sangla, the other is visible from Kalpa
Attachment 944323

More dam's
Attachment 944326

Finally on road that leads towards Sangla
Attachment 944327

Patches of no road
Attachment 944328

But amazing views made up for no roads
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Aira having a bite while I got the puncture repaired
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Baspa valley, snow capped mountains and the river
Attachment 944331

It was getting cloudy as the evening set in
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A camper’s paradise
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Got welcome by this board when we reached Chitkul
Attachment 944334

Rest of the day at Chitkul...To be contd....

deky 21st June 2012 13:29

Re: Spiti Drive, June 2012 - Family, Friends, Border Posts, Wildlife and more...
15 Attachment(s)
04/06/2012 - JHAKRI TO CHITKUL


As stopping in Chitkul was not in the earlier scheme of plans, hence I had not bothered to look for hotels, leave alone booking one. We had just come here because FRH in Sangla was full. Since light was fading fast, it was time to look for suitable accommodation first and then think about doing anything else.

To my surprise the hamlet of Chitkul finished as soon as it started. It did not take us long to deduce that there are only 2 hotels in the entire area apart from a few home stay options. We went in the first one called Panchaali Resorts. There were two rooms available but both of them had no view at all, plus the hotel was adding another floor on top so there was lot of construction work plus dust around. Somehow I did not like the room, because I thought whats the point in staying in a room, in such a place that has no view at all. We kept the room on hold and decided to go and check the other hotel The Shahenshah Resorts.

Actually both the resorts are by the same owner and are adjacent to each other. We found a room suitable to our needs here and decided to check in. The room was pretty neat and clean and offered good views, well atleast of one side.

After checking in it was time to take a walk in Chitkul. I was glad that we came here instead of staying at Sangla. This being a smaller hamlet was much quieter and also the views of the mountain peaks, the meadows and the river it had to offer was much better than the views of Sangla. Chitkul is also the last village on this part of the road leading to Tibet. Actually the road ends here so all the paramilitary forces have to go by foot or use mules to transfer their equipment and rations to their respective posts ahead.

Chitkul itself is a very quiet place with a few ration shops here and there. We found a water run flour mill and that was pretty interesting for Aira. Now she had learnt that apart from quenching our thirst, water also provides electricity and also helps us getting flour. Aira was also enjoying all the kids running here and there in the village; she wanted to give them the candies that we always carry in a packet to distribute to the kids we find on such trips.

Next was the Nag Devta temple (as told by a local) that is situated right in the middle of Chitkul. The temple though closed had intricate carving on its wooden walls. It also offered 360 degree views of the hills all around. The sun by now had started to set and with the wind the chill factor started to go up. Though the last sun rays on the peaks were looking amazing, but it was time to head back to the warm 4 walls of the hotel.

While on our way back we met a wonderful Canadian couple and started talking to them. As it was getting cold outside we invited them over to our Hotel for dinner. They had come from Kalpa and were all praises for that place. They came to know that we are not going to Kalpa so they insisted that we should spend atleast some time there as the views are worth it. So another change in plan was made, now we would go to FRH Sangla, but only to tell them that we won’t be staying there and move on to Kalpa instead. We had no option but to visit the FRH ourselves as the phone there was not working.

While chatting we had ordered for snacks and then dinner. The food took a long time to come, but once it came was good. But again we were in no hurry as we were busy chatting with our new friends so did not make any fuss about it and just had it. Soon our guests left and it was time for bed.

Once the girls were in bed I had another agenda. And that was that since it was a full moon night I wanted to capture the peaks in moon light. The only problem was that I did not carry my tripod so I had to keep my camera on hard surface to keep it still.

It was getting really cold, so after more misses and than hit shots in moon light, I called it a day and slept.

Another day tomorrow.

Pics from Chitkul

The Shahenshah Resort at Chitkul
Attachment 944335

We decided to go for a walk in the evening
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View of the valley, the river and the far away hills that form the Indo-Tibetan border
Attachment 944337

Mother and daughter enjoying the cool weather, the scenery and the togetherness
Attachment 944338

Aira was enjoying the most, she wanted to explore everything. Here she wanted to touch the water to see how cold it was
Attachment 944339

Slowly the sun started to set
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The water powered flour mill
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The temple complex
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Offered great views of the surroundings
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It had very intricate wood carvings on the wall
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With the last rays of the sun appearing on the peaks, it was time to head back to the hotel and sleep
Attachment 944346

Being a full moon night I tried some night shots
Attachment 944347

The mountain peaks glowing in the moon light
Attachment 944348

I tried taking a snap with the lens hood to cut down on the light coming from the surroundings
Attachment 944349

End Of Day at Chitkul

Next day…to be contd

Eddy 21st June 2012 13:42

Re: Spiti Drive, June 2012 - Family, Friends, Border Posts, Wildlife and more...
Thread moved from the Assembly line. Thanks for sharing.

samarjitdhar 21st June 2012 14:37

Re: Spiti Drive, June 2012 - Family, Friends, Border Posts, Wildlife and more...
Wonderful pictures. One of those places I have always wanted to visit but for the distance. It is encouraging to see that a sedan can do these roads, I wonder though up to which point. Till the time I can get my own SUV I guess I can drive my sedan to enjoy these vistas.
You are really blessed to have such a wonderful happy family. The picture with your daughter eating her share of cherries is very cute. Frame it up for your living room wall :). Waiting for the rest of the travelogue.

Figopian 21st June 2012 15:03

Re: Spiti Drive, June 2012 - Family, Friends, Border Posts, Wildlife and more...
Very nice start! And great pics too!! Keep them coming :)
Liked the Shahenshah resort snap!! Isn't the balcony deadly?

deky 22nd June 2012 12:33

Re: Spiti Drive, June 2012 - Family, Friends, Border Posts, Wildlife and more...
23 Attachment(s)

Originally Posted by samarjitdhar (Post 2816248)
Wonderful pictures. One of those places I have always wanted to visit but for the distance. It is encouraging to see that a sedan can do these roads, I wonder though up to which point. Till the time I can get my own SUV I guess I can drive my sedan to enjoy these vistas.
You are really blessed to have such a wonderful happy family. The picture with your daughter eating her share of cherries is very cute. Frame it up for your living room wall :). Waiting for the rest of the travelogue.

There is no problem about taking a sedan till Kaza. Road ahead I wont comment as I have not gone. You just have to be patient and slow at lot of places so as not to damage your car. I realised that the hard way later.


Originally Posted by Figopian (Post 2816289)
Very nice start! And great pics too!! Keep them coming :)
Liked the Shahenshah resort snap!! Isn't the balcony deadly?

When I came to saw the room the manager asked us if we have a kid. When I said yes he told me not to open the balcony door. So the door remained locked for most of the times

Travelogue Contd......

05/06/2012 - Chitkul To Kalpa

The plan for today was to enjoy Chitkul till about noon, then proceed to Sangla, inform the FRH there that we won’t be staying, have our lunch in Sangla and by evening reach Chitkul. We were suppose to give a ride to the Canadian couple we met yesterday till Recong Peo. We were also told that the fresh water Trout Farm close to the FRH was worth a visit, so en route we decided to have a look at it as well.

We were thoroughly enjoying our holidays, so getting up early was out of the question. By the time we got ready and had our breakfast it was already 1100hrs. That meant it gave us about an hour to drive down to the river side and enjoy the surroundings. There was hardly a road going down to the river and it was at a steep decline too, but I nevertheless took it down to the river side, just to check the capabilities of my car. It was not that bad nor that difficult that it looked.

Though it was sunny, but still it was breezy by the river. The wind that was blowing through the valley was making it cold. Aira was enjoying throwing stones in the river and I joined in too. What fun being kids. After about a 30 minutes of playing and clicking snaps there we realized it was getting rather to chilly by the river (even in the sun) so we decided to come back to the car. Aira wanted to play more and more so she had to be forcefully taken back in the car. The car had become warm and very nice. With all the windows rolled up and no wind coming in it was so relaxing to sit in the car for a while and enjoy the views.

It was time to bid good bye to Chitkul and head towards Sangla for lunch. We picked up the Canadian couple and moved on. It’s always nice if you find good company en-route, I say nice because I love to talk to people from different cultures and values and find out what they think about India and so on. So we had nice conversation going in the car. Aira had also got used to the new company and was trying her best to impress them with her antics; luckily they were a good sport with her. I guess they did not have a choice either.

At Sangla, we realized that the FRH is on the other side of the river. For that we will have to cross a bridge then a dam site, and then go along the river back in the direction of Chitkul for about 4 kms or so. Anyway since we had to go to the FRH, we had no choice but to go. But what no one told us that this was most probably the most horrendous stretch of the road we would cover in our entire journey. It was narrow and it was port hole ridden, leave alone it being tarred. More over we had 2 more people plus their luggage (well luckily they were traveling light) that lowered the car even further. Either we or the other vehicle when came across face to face had to reverse more than a few times on the stretch. The under body of my car took most of its beating here.

Anyway, slowly and steadily, that’s like in about 2 hours we finally reached the FRH Sangla. There was a lot of activity happening. There were a lot of gun tottering fauji’s around who apparently looked quite surprised to see us there. Guess they were for the protection for the Officers and the families. I just smiled at them and straight went inside and met the caretaker. He was aware of our booking and was expecting us. I told him we could not stay there as we had plans to move on to Chitkul.

Actually apart from the road leading to the FRH, it’s otherwise a beautifull place to stay. The rooms were huge and were as lavish as they can get in a place like this. It would have been absolutely worth the price of Rs350/- that we would have paid for it. The reason why we did not stay there was

1. We wanted to see Chitkul
2. If we stayed there, we would have been stuck there till the next day, as I did not want my car to take any more beating by using it for roaming around on such a track
3. There were a lot of Fauji’s around. Not that I mind them I am sure they would have been very accommodating but it’s just that they were all in a group and we would have felt out of place.

The caretaker understood us and offered us tea before we left. But we refused tea as we wanted to see the Trout farm first. He told us to go 1 km further on the road till a bridge, park our car there as the road ahead is not motorable, and walk for another 10 minutes till the Trout Farm.

At the bridge there were about 20 other Army vehicles parked. Guess it was a big big picnic. We parked our car close to them and started a walk through the jungle. The walk wasn’t much and within minutes we reached the farm.

The Farm itself was big disappointment, apart from a few baby trouts in a single pond, rest of the ponds/ reservoirs were totally empty. Apparently the water source that feeds the tanks was broken in floods last year so now they are in the process of rebuilding the farm all over again, hence the quantities of fishes was very less. One thing we learnt was that they issue permits @of Rs.100/- to anglers who are interested in fishing in Baspa River. Also when the farm will be back into operation they will also sell fresh Trouts from here.

Disspointed, because we had made so much efforts to come here we started to return back. When we reached the FRH, there was a big truck blocking the way as it was emptying some cargo. That would easily take some 15-20 mnts so we all went inside the FRH for a cup of tea. By then most of the Fauji’s except a few had surprisingly disappeared so we were left at peace while we sipped our tea at the FRH.

We had a late lunch at Sangla and were headed to Kalpa. Luckily on our way, just about 4 kms from Sangla I filled in petrol. This turned out to be good as all the petrol pumps en route to Kalpa, i.e the one at Powari and the 2 in Recong peo were dry. This tank full would be enough to last me till Kaza.

The state of road till Karcham was bad but atleast it was much better than the state of the road from Karcham to Powari. But the roads got better once we turned towards Reckong Peo. With the roads even the scenery go better as we went higher. We dropped the Canadian couple at Recong peo and moved ahead towards Kalpa. We had no bookings in Kalpa, we did not even try any other place and headed staright for HPTDC Kinner Kailash Hotel. Luckily for us they had two rooms available and we grabbed it immediately.

The hotel is situated at a perfect location and all the rooms (as told by the receptionist) offer a great view of the Kinner Kailash Range. Atleast the room we stayed in was massive and was tastefully done up. The rooms, including the bathrooms were neat and clean and had all the necessary things required for tourists.

Since it was already 2000 hrs by the time we checked in it was time to freshen up and head for dinner straight in the restaurant. One mistake we did was that we did not pre order our food from our room so we had to wait for a while till the food for served. The food was great and the service was nice. We enjoyed it.

Back in the room, Aira was happy since the room had a TV, so she could watch her favourite cartoons before she slept. Parul was happy because the room had a heater as she was cold and I was happy because the Kinner Kailash Range was looking awesome in moon light.

So after doing some night photography we all slept. Another end to an exciting day...

Pics for the day

Patiently waiting for Breakfast at Chitkul
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Taking my car down by the river side
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By the river, against the back drop of snow covered peaks
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The river, the peaks and the green valley
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The other side of the valley. On the middle right corner you can see Chitkul Village
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A few panoramas shot by Sony P&S
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Aira enjoying with stones. What pleasure do they get in dirtying their hands??
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Ah well, I joined in too. What fun!!
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The Trout farm
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The only tub with some fishes. It was disappointing, but atleast Aira enjoyed!!
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The surrounding area of the farm were nice. It was a good walk
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The FRH at Sangla
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Enjoying a cup of tea in the garden
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Back on the road to Kalpa
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View of the narrow Sangla Valley
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It appeared that there was some fresh snow on the mountains
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Deep gorges, flowing river made for some exciting setting
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Our room at HPTDC Kinner Kailash. Pretty nice it was
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Aira enjoying her soup
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Night view of the Kinner kailash Range from the room
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The peaks glowing in the moon light
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Next Day- Kalpa to Sumdo…to be contd

Ketan 22nd June 2012 12:54

Re: Spiti Drive, June 2012 - Family, Friends, Border Posts, Wildlife and more...
Wonderful pictures and I'm sure it must have been a great experience! Loved reading your triplog and waiting for more episodes here. Lot of details you added surely helps. Thanks for sharing, I'll be back.

sameerg001 22nd June 2012 13:29

Re: Spiti Drive, June 2012 - Family, Friends, Border Posts, Wildlife and more...
Wonderful narration coupled with some good pictures, nicely written i must say :), enjoyed every bit of it. Waiting for more to unfold.

BTW your log has encouraged to me take my sedan there, i am really pissed off visiting all those crowded hill stations. I'm sure it must have been a great experience.

One question, how much you ended up spending on petrol ??


deky 23rd June 2012 13:25

Re: Spiti Drive, June 2012 - Family, Friends, Border Posts, Wildlife and more...
26 Attachment(s)

Originally Posted by Ketan (Post 2817317)
Wonderful pictures and I'm sure it must have been a great experience! Loved reading your triplog and waiting for more episodes here. Lot of details you added surely helps. Thanks for sharing, I'll be back.

Thank you, yes we all loved this holiday a lot!!


Originally Posted by sameerg001 (Post 2817360)
Wonderful narration coupled with some good pictures, nicely written i must say :), enjoyed every bit of it. Waiting for more to unfold.

BTW your log has encouraged to me take my sedan there, i am really pissed off visiting all those crowded hill stations. I'm sure it must have been a great experience.

One question, how much you ended up spending on petrol ??


Sorry, I did not keep a tab on exactly how much we spent on fuel, but it was around 16k for the 2500 kms journey from Jaipur

06/06/2012 - Kalpa to Samdu via Nako

Part 1

Next morning I got up at 0500 hrs to see the golden sunrise on the peaks of Kinner kailash range. I was disappointed as I could see through my room window that the mountains were covered in dense clouds. So I was back to what I enjoy doing the most, sleeping. With the clouds the morning at Kalpa was over cast and gloomy. It had started to drizzle a bit as well but we had to move on.

Today would be a long day as we wanted to visit the Nako Lake and the Village en-route to our destination for the day i.e Sumdo. Though we were told that only some stretch of the road after Recong Peo was bad and after that we would get the most amazing roads of this stretch we still did not want to take a chance. So we had decided to start as early as we could.

However hard we try on a holiday we always end up starting late. So today by the time we finished taking photographs of the surroundings, finished having a heart breakfast, finished paking and loading the car it was already noon. Half day already gone.

True to what we were told, the road leading from Recong peo towards Sumdo was really really bad. Pot holes, water crossings (made worst by the drizzle), slush, rubble and what not greeted us for the initial 15 kms or so. Luckily this time my car was not full hence negotiating it was easy. Suddenly the road got better and from it being the worst road ever we were travelling on the best road ever of this stretch. This is a proper two laned, well marked, and well divided two laned black top highway. Suddenly all rattling and rumbling noises coming out of the car due to the conditions of the road so far fell silent and it was just our voices and the music playing in the car that we could hear. This actually was feeling good because first I knew my car was still functioning and sounding perfect and second that we had to make up on lost time due to to starting late, so we pushed as hard as we could.

But just like the honeymoon does not last forever, these good roads also did not last for long. Around Spellow, we were back on broken tarmac. They are widening the road here so at the places where they have blasted the mountain, all the rubble is strewn all over the place. Though not many pot holes here but still the speed reduces a lot due to rubble.

It was already 1600 hrs and we were only approaching Poo. We were very late, we still did not have our lunch (though Aira had her packed Paranthas), we still did not reach Nako and we still had to go till Sumdo. Moreover at Poo we were flagged down by a JCO of the army and I was not happy about it. I knew what was coming and I knew if I stopped I will be wasting another 30 minutes there.

But I had to stop as our hosts in Sumdo had organized tea for us here and they said it won’t take long and we also thought that since they have made efforts and it would be nice to refresh ourselves, we stopped for a quick tea break. Also on our way back we would be staying at Poo, so we understood the directions of the accommodation from them and moved on.

After Poo the roads suddenly got much better and the scenery noticeably got dryer. Green patches from here on were rare to sight and only limited to where villages were situated. We reached Khab and after a quick photo break of the bridge we moved on, The Ka Zigs were a pleasure to drive on, not only because of the hair pin bends but also because the road condition was excellent here and as we went higher the views of the gorge below got much better.

Even Aira was very impressed at the Zigs, not because of the winding roads but because here she saw a group of bikers and she realized that a 2 wheeler can also be used to transport bag and baggage and used for commuting long distances. Till now she only thought a car is the only mode of transport for long distances. She was really impressed with the bikers and all the way till Nako she kept looking out of the window to search for them.

The rest of the road till Nako was also nice as its a new road that leads till there. It took us about an hours to reach Nako

Today’s Pics so far

We got up to a gloomy day, lots of clouds and some drizzle
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Room with a view
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The reception area on the ground floor & the dining on the first floor
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Waiting for breakfast to be served
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Finally ready to leave for Sumdo
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The Kalpa Observatory en route. I wonder if its even functional
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They still have postmen doing the job
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The route from Kalpa to Peo was amazingly beautifull
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But then after Peo, towards Sumdo it was horrible
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At places they were blasting the hill side to widen the road hence the mess
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Some good patches in between
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But the awesome scenery made up for bad roads
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Driving along River Sutlej
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The bridge at Akpa
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The roads suddenly got much better
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A temple en-route, maintained by GREF
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We were back again on “Not So Good” roads by the time we reached Spellow
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However hard they work, these things are bound to happen on loose mountains
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Approaching Poo
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Igloos at Poo
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Having tea in one of the igloos
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Suddenly after Poo the mountains got barren and greenery was only limited to villages
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The bridge at Khab
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The most amazing scenery, so typical of Kinnaur and Spiti
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The Hair Pin Bends of Ka Zigs
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The river forming a gorge
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Rest of the day…to be contd

deky 25th June 2012 13:24

Re: Spiti Drive, June 2012 - Family, Friends, Border Posts, Wildlife and more...
24 Attachment(s)
06/06/2012 - Kalpa To Samdu Via Nako

Part 2

Finally at about 1730 hrs we reached Nako. First thing was to look for a place to have a meal. We were yet to have our Lunch so the first dhaba we saw right at the entrance of the village we stopped and ordered for Maggie. Aira was fast asleep so we let her be and had Maggie in the confines of the car. Anyway it was too cold and too windy to be outside.

The place we had parked offered great views of Nako village. Nako village is at a height of about 3600mtrs and is surrounded by high mountains at all the side. This provided a perfect setting for taking photographs. After the meal and a quick drive to the Nako Lake we were on our way back towards Sumdo. Though I would have liked to spend more time at Nako because of its beautiful setting, but as it was getting we decided that if we had time on our return we will stop by here again.

We crossed the once famous Malling Nallah soon. This nallah was once famous for its raging current flowing over the road. But these days the villagers have diverted the water flow of the nallah hence all that was left of the nallah was just a small stream forming a small puddle on the road.

It was almost 1830hrs now, and the sunlight was fading fast. What we witnessed next was a moment that made our heart skip a few beats. What we saw was a live landslide happening on a hill adjacent to us. We saw a small portion of the mountain give away forming a huge mountain of dust. Luckily the debris fell on the river below. We did not even want to imagine if this thing happened on the mountain where we were driving and if the debris fell on the road instead of falling in the river.

We still had to go down on a zig zag road to reach Chango. Just after Chango we entered District Spiti. By the time we entered Spiti it was completely dark. The roads had started to deteriorate again and what was to come next was the most dangerous part of the entire journey.

Just before Sumdo I could see in the head light of the car that all sizes of stones were falling on the road ahead. Since it was kind of windy, loose rocks on the straight mud mountain on my left were rolling down on the road. As I stood there deciding what to do, we could feel that some stones had started to hit the roof of the car itself. It was dark and I could not have reversed, the road was very very bumpy with lots of rubble due to falling stones that I could not have gone fast. In seconds I decided that I would have to go through the stretch without waisting any more time. I slotted the car in first gear, took a deep breath and went as fast as I could in that section of about 400-500 mtrs. Apart from regular knocks due to small stones and one big knock due to a bigger stone on the roof and the bonnet of the car there were no hits on the glass, or else we would have had a shattered glass for the rest of the journey. Also luckily the car went over smoothly on the rubbled road with no major underbody damage or else the car would have stalled and we would have been stranded there with rocks falling on us.

I was totally shaken up with this experience. The landslide happening in front of us first and then the rocks falling on the car were enough to wake me up and realize that how important is it to start early in this terrain to reach our destination before night fall. Yes, these things are unpredictable and can happen at any time but atleast daylight gives you more courage to deal with eventualities better. I was no more to travel after sunset in such areas.

We had to enter our names and car details at the police check post at Sumdo. The cops saw me visibly shaken and asked me what it was. The guys were ever so considerate that they offered me tea and also offered my family to take rest before we proceed. But we declined as we just had to go till the Army Camp which was just another 3kms away.

The army TCP was aware that we were coming and had a gypsy waiting for us to lead us to our accommodation. The accommodation was so huge and comfortable that it would put the best of accommodation at any 5 star resort to shame. Also waiting for us on the table was a card inviting us for a dinner party in the mess. Luckily the dress code for us was mentioned as “casuals” or else we would have definitely not gone for the party.

The time mentioned for the party was 2030hrs and we just had about 15 minutes to refresh ourseleves and put on the best casual clothes we had. Hurriedly we reached the Mess at 2035hrs and yet we were the last ones to arrive.

It was kind of nostalgic to be attending a mess party after ages. This reminded me of the mess party’s my Dad use to take me when we were kids. Though we were guests and outsiders but still the love and affection we got here from these spirited officers was heartfelt. The bon fire, the food, the music, the snacks, the drinks and the dinner was all very special. Even Aira had found kids of her age and she had a gala time interacting with them. Though we had to remain a bit stiff, keeping the protocols in mind but Aira at her age was as carefree as she could be.

With an evening well spent amidst great company and with the incidents of the day being transferred to the back of the mind it was time to sleep and look forward to an exciting day tomorrow.

After all we would be taken to a border post in the morning.

The Pics so far

Nako- The village nestled in the mountains
Attachment 946775

Aira was fast asleep
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Nako Village
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A panorama of the village and the helipad, cricket is popular here as well
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Monks having an evening walk
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A panorama of the lake and the village
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After we left Nako. The green patch is nako
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It was getting late and was getting dark
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Last bit of sun rays falling on the peaks above
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Live landslide
Attachment 946785

The valley ahead
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The topography and the road
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A panorama of the zigs ahead
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This is where you enter Dist Spiti ( this pic was taken on the return journey as it was night when we crossed it)
Attachment 946789

This is the place where we were hit by falling stones (again pic taken on the return leg)
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Our accommodation in Sumdo
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The mess party and the bon fire
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Aira enjoying with her new friends
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Some night shots of the surrounding mountain peaks before I slept
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To be contd…..

sach.sri 25th June 2012 13:59

Re: Spiti Drive, June 2012 - Family, Friends, Border Posts, Wildlife and more...
beautiful pictures - it would have been bliss after the heat of Jaipur :). Specially like the pic of the mountain with last rays of the sun. Great going - bring it on!

girishglg 25th June 2012 15:56

Re: Spiti Drive, June 2012 - Family, Friends, Border Posts, Wildlife and more...
@deky very well paced TL indeed with those stunning pics of the mountains and roads! Top ratings!

Must say have been glued to this one from the last few days now and looking forward eagerly for the rest of it ( mean Border and Wildlife part ) as and when you put them down! Cheers!

With a drive so fresh, it actually serves as a very good updated guide for others on the route and stay options.

If possible please do a brief summary of the routes, stay options and road conditions at the end!

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