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Old 13th June 2017, 21:02   #1
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Default An experience called Spiti in a Mahindra Thar

The incredible beauty and ruggedness of Spiti Valley in a short video to start with -



The following lines on a wall of Hotel Deyzor in Kaza sum up the experience of Spiti -

"Rudyard Kipling called Spiti "a world within a world" and it is not hard to see why. The giant rock mountains around could not have been carved by any mortal hand but only by the force of wind and water over millennia. In Spiti you will learn that there is another path into the future - a path based on the co-evolution between humans and earth. At first the traveler will only see the harsh life, but give yourself time and you will see the rare kind of purity the people live with. For the adventure traveler Spiti is a virtual "Natural Theme Park", there are seemingly endless array of activities to be enjoyed in the mountains." - The Shepherd

If you are a traveler who visits places for ticking them off the bucket list, Spiti is not for you. The essence of Spiti is in its people along with their surroundings, and to experience that, one has to spend time with them. Their simplicity, kindness and compassion are going to blow you away!

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Old 14th June 2017, 17:31   #2
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The itinerary

Day 1: Kolkata - Delhi
Day 2: Delhi - Dharampur
Day 3: Dharampur - Kandaghat
Day 4: Kandaghat - Kalpa via Bhimkali Temple
Day 5: Kalpa - Nako via Giabong and Ropa
Day 6: Nako - Tabo via Gue
Day 7: Tabo - Mudh via Ghungri Monastery
Day 8: Mudh - Phukchung
Day 9: Phukchung - Kaza via Lalung, Dhankar Monastery, Dhankar Lake hike
Day 10: Kaza - Langza - Hikkim - Komic - Demul - Kaza
Day 11: Kaza - Kee Monastery - Kibber - Tashigang - Kaza
Day 12: Kaza - Losar
Day 13: Losar - Kunzum La - Chandrataal - Losar
Day 14: Losar
Day 15: Losar - Batal - Chhota Dhara - Losar - Kaza - Tabo
Day 16: Tabo - Mashobra (Shimla)
Day 17: Mashobra - Kolkata

The Steed

2014 Mahindra Thar CRDe nicknamed The Sherpa!

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Vehicle Preparation

The Thar has been extremely reliable till date, so did not worry much about the preparation for the trip. Got the vehicle serviced and found out that the brake pads would last another 10K kms or so. But we did not take any risk and got them changed since it would be a 5000 plus kilometer trip and a lot of driving in the mountains.

The things that we carried were standard items needed for a long distance road trip -

1. Brake oil
2. Engine oil
3. Coolant
4. Fuses
5. Tyre inflator
6. Puncture repair kit
7. Tool box
8. Fire extinguisher
9. Jumper cables
10. 40 feet heavy duty tow rope
11. 2x20L Jerry Cans and sprout
12. Cloth changing tent
13. Coleman dual fuel stove
14. Walking sticks
15. Tripod
16. Fold-able chairs

This is how it looked!
An experience called Spiti in a Mahindra Thar-img_20170517_224224.jpg

Last edited by BlackPearl : 2nd September 2017 at 10:12.
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Old 20th June 2017, 23:23   #3
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Day 1 - Kolkata - Delhi

Distance: 1461 Kms
Moving Time: 21 Hours 40 Mins
Stopped Time: 2 Hours 26 Mins

We started from Kolkata at 11 o clock in the night. 2 other Bhpians were going on the same route, A.G.The Rambler (Anish) in his Tata Manza from North Kolkata and lovecars21 (Arunashish) in his Ford Figo from Asansol. Anish started half an hour later and the plan was that he would catch up with us somewhere on the highway. But plans don't always work out and that is a long story.
We reached Delhi at 11 p.m., 24 hours after starting, the longest in recent times. Team bhpian dip27in (Debdeep) was waiting for us on the highway. He took us to his apartment where dinner was ready! We ate to our hearts content and hit the bed after a short 'adda' session.


Day 2: Delhi - Dharampur

Distance: 313 Kms
Moving Time: 5 Hours 03 Mins
Stopped Time: 49 Mins

Bid goodbye to Debdeep and started for Kandaghat.

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Unfortunately the Club Mahindra resort in Kandaghat was full and we came to know about it just as we were having lunch as Giani Da Dhaba in Dharampur. Rajsri started looking in the travel apps for accommodation nearby as we had a confirmed booking the next day in Kandaghat. Found a place called Whispering Willows. The owner was kind enough to come down to the dhaba to show us the way to his hotel.

Giani Da Dhaba
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With Tau Ji
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We spent the rest of the day not doing much. The hotel was in a secluded place. The view from the veranda was nice. In the evening we went to the terrace and dinner was served there. Food was good.

Hotel: Whispering Willows
Rating: 3/5

Day 3: Dharampur - Kandaghat

Distance: 37 Kms
Moving Time: 1 Hour 13 Mins
Stopped Time: 12 Mins

It was just a 37 kilometer drive to Kandaghat. We were already acquainted with the beautiful property of Club Mahindra, sprawling over 20 acres, as we had stayed there in January 2016. The stay was nice this time as well.
In the afternoon I tried my hand at archery and it was difficult. Most of the arrows were not even remotely close to the target!

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We called it a day early as it was going to be a long drive next day.

Hotel: Club Mahindra Kandaghat
Rating: 5/5

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Old 21st June 2017, 17:56   #4
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Day 4: Kandaghat - Kalpa via Bhimkali temple (Sarahan)

Distance: 292 Kms
Moving Time: 9 Hours
Stopped Time: 1 Hour 26 Mins

On the previous evening I got the information from Debashis Da of TAI (The Automotive India) that the main road to Sarahan was blocked due to landslide. He had a tough time reaching there in his Ertiga. I was excited as usual hearing about the tough climb
We had planned to skip Bhimkali temple, but the road condition update enticed me. That would mean an addition of 2 hours to the journey time! We started at 4 am from Kandaghat in order to accommodate the detour.
We reached Bhimkali temple at around 9 am after carefully negotiating the horrible stretch of 12 odd kilometers. Met Debashis Da and his family and started the journey towards Kalpa after a quick visit to the temple.

Bhimkali Temple, Sarahan
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The road to Kalpa was beautiful and we stopped innumerable times to admire the lofty mountains, flowing Sutlej and the butter smooth roads.

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It had started to rain by the time we reached Kalpa. Our booking was at The Monk, near the beautiful village of Roghi. Initially we had booked a swiss tent, but the weather was chilly due to the rain. Mukesh, the co-owner of The Monk, suggested that we should shift to a cottage as it would be horribly cold at night. We immediately agreed to pay the difference amount and shifted to a cozy cottage.

With the co-owner of The Monk, Mr. Mukesh
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The Swiss tent that we initially planned to stay in
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After lunch we went to the Suicide point and the beautiful Roghi Village.

Suicide Point
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Inside Roghi Village
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A monastery in Roghi village
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View from Kalpa

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It was team-bhpian lovecars21's birthday and we planned to have a gala meet at HPTDC Kalpa where they were staying.

With the birthday boy Arunashish aka lovecars21 (2nd from right)
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Next morning, master chef Rawat conjured up a lovely breakfast consisting of apple paratha, apple curry and apple kheer!

The kitchen of the magician
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Hotel: The Monk Resort, Kalpa
Rating: 4/5

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Old 26th July 2017, 13:01   #5
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Day 5: Kalpa - Nako via Giabong and Ropa

Distance: 152 Kms
Moving Time: 6 Hours 11 Mins
Stopped Time: 2 Hours 44 Mins

After a 12 hour drive the previous day, we took it easy and started at around 9 am from Kalpa after a fulfilling breakfast prepared by Mr. Rawat. The plan was to fill-up diesel in Reckong Peo, but unfortunately the trucks had not arrived and no one could tell us when they would be reaching the bunks. We had to retrace our path back to Powari. There was huge line of tourist taxis in the fuel station at Powari and most of Himachal registered Innova drivers were unruly and did not bother about maintaining queue. While waiting at the bunk, we met Mr. Vishal and his family who were also travelling from Kolkata in a Suzuki S-Cross. It was almost an hour later that I was able to bully the Thar into the queue and did a full tank. Delayed by this unforeseen event, we hastened up the progress and did not stop till we took the detour for Giabong and Ropa, except for a few quick photo-shoots.

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The road towards Giabong was desolate and we did not see a single tourist vehicle en-route. One local car even stopped us to enquire if we had taken that route by mistake!

A monastery in Giabong, an attempt at a panorama with my One Plus 2
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After chatting for a while with the army personnel stationed at Giabong, we moved towards Ropa valley.

Near the beautiful Ropa Valley
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We soaked in the beauty of the Ropa valley before starting towards Nako. As we were entering Kazigs, the famous zigzag route, we saw a cloud of dust at a fair distance. It looked ominous and got us worried. After traveling for quite sometime, our fear turned out to be true. There was a landslide and it had resulted in a huge traffic jam. Luckily we did not have to wait for more than half an hour. Some of the cars were not so lucky and had to wait for almost 6 hours. We were extremely happy that we had taken the detour towards Ropa! Reached Nako in another hour or so and followed the signboards to the Knaygoh Kinner Camps.

Knaygoh Kinner Camps
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Inside the tent
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Dinner was served early. The dining room was cosy and the taste of the food was fantastic. Like most of the chefs in the Himachal region that we spoke to, Mr. Naresh also confirmed that he spends the summers in Nako and the winters in Goa.
Electricity supply was intermittent but the tents were provided with good quality solar lamps. It was quite cold in the night and the double layer tents provided good protection.

The next morning we woke up early to take a stroll. A few clicks of the place -

Nako lake
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Meditation Point
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Hotel: Knaygoh Kinner Camps
Rating: 4/5

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Old 26th July 2017, 16:04   #6
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Day 6: Nako - Tabo (altitude 10,810 Feet) via Chango and Gue

Distance: 92 Kms
Moving Time: 4 Hours
Stopped Time: 3 Hours 5 Mins

Breakfast at Knaygoh Kinner Camps was an elaborate affair with a lot of options to choose from. Post breakfast, we chatted with the owner Mr Shantiji for a while before starting for Tabo. After crossing Malling Nala, I found the steering to be feeling a bit heavier than usual. At first I thought it was due to the auto locking hubs not getting disengaged after being used the previous evening. Tried to disengage it after reversing a bit. Still the steering felt heavy. I got down from the vehicle to find that the front right tyre had lost a lot of pressure. It was quite an effort to change the tyre at that altitude, but I got the support of my wife. One observation was that all the bikers who went past us came back to offer help, though none of the cars stopped! We got the tyre repaired at Chango and headed for the Chango Nunnery.

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We were offered tea and cookies at the monastery and also met the nice gentlemen named Nawang and Tenzin.

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Took leave from the gentlemen and the nuns and headed for Gue (Pronounced Ghiyuh) Village. We had to take the detour from the main road through a gate.

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Gue is a beautiful little Himalayan village and the drizzle made it look even prettier. We could see the Gue Monastery from a distance.
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The road through Gue village mentioning the famous Mummy.
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The newly constructed Gue Monastery. The Mummy however has not yet been shifted here.
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After spending some time in the serene little village of Gue, we started for Tabo.

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About 20 kilometers before Tabo, we reached a place called Hurling. A nice cottage on the left beside the river caught our attention and enquired about it. It belongs to IPH and the caretaker Mr. Laabh Singh told that we could stay there for a nominal fees of Rs 556!

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But we already had a booking at the Monastery Guest House in Tabo. So there was no other option but to leave the beautiful place and continue towards Tabo.
The Monastery Guest house in Tabo had a surprise waiting for me. Outside the guest house there was a black board that got me drooling. I had prepared myself that I would get only vegetarian food in a place with such a name, but here is what I saw!

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The room was not great but it was acceptably clean and at 600 bucks a night we could not expect much. Raj Kumar was a genie, he did everything starting from cleaning to cooking, and he is one of the best cooks we have ever met.

Next morning we visited the Tabo Monastery just adjacent to the guest house.

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A peekaboo of the Thar through the monastery gate
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View from the monastery!
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Breakfast at the guest house consisted of Cheese Omlette and Ginger Lemon Honey Tea, GLHT in short!

The smile says it all!
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We started for Mudh after clicking a pic with Raj.

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Hotel: Monastery Guest House
Rating: 4/5 for the awesome food

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Old 9th August 2017, 15:22   #7
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Day 7 - Tabo - Mudh (Pin Valley, altitude 12527 Feet) via Ghungri Monastery

Distance: 69 Kms
Moving Time: 3 Hours
Stopped Time: 1 Hour 22 Mins

Tabo to Mudh was not much of a distance, so we started a little late. One can visit Dhankar monastery and the Dhankar Lake on the way to Mudh, but we decided to skip and do these on the way to Kaza from Pin Valley.

Dhankar monastery can be seen on the way, standing magnificently on top of the sheer rock face!
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The road to Mudh was one of the most scenic that we have ever experienced!

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Lord of The Rings landscape!
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The long bridge at Sagnam. Sagnam is one of the bigger villages in the Pin Valley and an important one. The road is usually open till Sagnam even in winter, barring a few days in case of heavy snowfall.

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Ghungri monastery came up on the way to Mudh. One has to take a short detour.
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We had booking at Tara Guest house in Mudh and I was in for another surprise once we reached. I had never expected the guest house to be so good at such a remote place! The view from the room was stunning.

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After lunch we went out to visit the village Monastery, but the road had been washed away by a huge glacier. We took a few pics from this side of the glacier and came back.

The monastery, with the glacier on the right that had washed away the road
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Temperature dropped at a rapid rate and by evening my Garmin Tempe was recording 4 degree Celsius inside the room.
All the houses in Spiti have a common sitting room in the underground where they have iron hearths (Hindi Chulha). Seeing us shivering, the owner invited us to this room and soon we found other guests and locals coming in to enjoy the warmth. The next 3 hours flew by chatting with all those who had gathered.

The following morning we heard familiar voices outside the guest house. Came out to find bhpian lovecars21 and his wife had just arrived for breakfast. They had gone straight to Losar from Kalpa and were on their way back as Kunzum pass was still closed!

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Found this cute little kid outside and my wife gave her chocolates!
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Another Thar had come from Delhi.
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We went to the see the new monastery getting built in Mudh. These two guys had come from Nepal for the intricate woodwork.
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Hotel: Tara Guest House, Mudh
Rating: 5/5

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Old 18th August 2017, 19:45   #8
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Day 8 - Mudh - Phukchung (Pin Valley, altitude 12123 Feet)

Distance: 17 Kms
Moving Time: 52 Mins
Stopped Time: 30 Mins

After breakfast at Tara Cafe, we bid goodbye to all the people and started for Phukchung. On the way there is a beautiful suspension footbridge in a place called Tailing.

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Thar crossing the long bridge at Sagnam
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The drive to Phukchung from Mudh was a short one.

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The homestay called The Hermitage at Phukchung, run by Spiti Ecosphere, was neat and tidy and the surrounding was beautiful. It was the perfect place to unwind. Not a single soul was there, apart from the owner of the guest house Rigzin and her son Sherub.

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Sweet little Sherub
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The Hermitage
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After lunch we went to visit the last village on that road. It is called KAA. This place is even more remote than Phukchung.

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We spent the rest of the day watching shepherds and their herds on the opposite mountain, reading books, chatting with Rigzin and playing with her son Sherub.

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In the evening one person came from Sagnam to fix the water tank that had been broken by wind a few days back. We also came to know that a greenhouse was washed away by a glacier last winter! It is difficult to fathom the harshness of nature and the difficulties that the people face in these parts unless one spends time with them. Their friendliness in the face of all the difficulties is hard to believe for us, the people from the plains!
Soon it was time to retire keeping in mind the early morning start next day.

Hotel: The Hermitage homestay
Rating: 4/5

Day 9 - Phukchong - Kaza (12030 Feet) via Lalung, Dhankar Monastery, Dhankar Lake hike

Distance: 80 Kms
Moving Time: 3 Hours 30 Mins
Stopped Time: 3 Hours 22 Mins (This includes the hike to Dhankar Lake)

Next morning it was difficult to say good bye to Sherub. He had gelled with us quite well and was not willing to let us go! But we had to leave with a heavy heart and a promise to come back.

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We had to drive till Atargu, the point where the road bifurcates, one towards Pin Valley and the other one towards Kaza. From Atargu we retraced our path to a place called Lingti and took the road towards Lalung.

Lalung Village
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Lalung Monastery
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A strange mud house opposite to the monastery
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Lalung Monastery was closed but we met Tendup Lama nearby and he invited us to his house for a cup of masala tea. He had a 75 year old student with him who was learning to read Bodhi script. The interaction between the duo was hilarious, one calling the other as "the old man"

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Tendup Lama went to Dhankar Monastery when he was just 6 years old and stayed there till he was 65. For the last 12 years he has been staying in the Lalung monastery, but frequently visits Dhankar. He told us which route to take and also mentioned that Dhankar lake hike was a must.

After spending some time with Tendup Lama and his student we went towards Dhankar. In between I had to engage 4WD due to a situation that I had put myself and the Thar in.

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We visited the Old Dhankar Monastery first. It was abandoned and desolate and one can see the new Dhankar Monastery at a distance.

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The Sherpa with its Direct Injection sibling in front of New Dhankar Monastery
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The new Dhankar Monastery was crowded and we thought it prudent to start the hike towards Dhankar lake. It was approximately 2 kilometers hike but quite arduous for us.

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It might seem to be an overkill but the walking sticks help!
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Dhankar Lake
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Old Dhankar Monastery from a distance
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After completing the tiresome hike, we started towards Kaza. The road to Kaza was stunning to say the least and we reached at around 6:30 in the evening after multiple stops. There was around 15 kilometers of bad stretch in between but not much to get us perturbed in the Thar. We had our booking in Hotel Deyzor and it was not difficult to find the hotel. It is outside the main market area of Kaza and the location is superb.

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While parking the car I saw a West Bengal registered Tata Zest. It turned out to belong to the same Bengali family we met during the Dhankar lake hike.
The ambiance and the decor of Hotel Deyzor was fantastic. It was very tastefully done up by Karanbir Singh, the co-owner of the hotel and an outstanding gentleman. As we settled in and waited for coffee outside, Rajsri and I watched a Bolero pickup being parked. As soon as it stopped, a giant jumped from the loading bay and came running towards us. It was Simba the St. Bernard!

The next two hours flew by playing with Simba, Hachi and Simba's daughter Zeeba!

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Dinner was done with excellent chicken pasta in white sauce and mutton roast!

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Old 28th August 2017, 15:20   #9
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Day 10: Kaza - Langza - Hikkim - Komic - Demul - Kaza

Distance: 90 Kms
Moving Time: 4 Hours 25 Mins
Stopped Time: 2 Hours 30 Mins

The initial plan was to visit the high altitude remote villages of Hikkim, Komic, Langza and back to Kaza. Demul, the hidden village, was not included as we had thought we would need to go back to Lidang to visit Demul. Discussion with Karan was helpful as he mentioned there was a rough road from Komic to Demul and it would not be a problem for our Thar. The Innovas are not encouraged to take this route due to several water crossings and muddy patches. So the final itinerary for the day was -

Kaza to Langza
Langza to Hikkim
Hikkim to Komic
Komic to Demul
Demul to Kaza via Lidang

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The entire route was scenic with some stunning vistas.

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We visited the Buddha statue of Langza. Langza is famous for the Tethys Sea fossils.

Details about the fossils can be found here -

http://www.incrediblespiti.com/langza-village/

Langza village from a distance
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The Buddha statue and The Sherpa
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The next stop was at Hikkim village that has the highest post office in the world at 15,500 feet! We met the post master and sent a few post cards to friends and family in Kolkata.

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From Hikkim we went to Komic, the highest village in the world connected by motor-able road.

Thar in front of the board proclaiming the highest motorable village in the world
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The restaurant in Komic
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One of the best egg sandwiches I have ever had. Unexpected in a place like Komic
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We took the Komic Demul route, which turned out to be stunning. We saw blue sheep in hordes but they were quite far off. I could not take a proper picture even with a 300mm lens. Another issue was that the afternoon sun was really harsh at those altitudes. The pictures taken with my One Plus 2 look washed out :-(

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Demul, the weaving village of Spiti
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Demul is also called the hidden village of Spiti. People believe there are more such villages in Spiti whose existence is not known yet. There is not much to see in the Demul. A monastery is there, but we skipped it. I bought a pair of handmade socks from a house in the village. We went back to Kaza from Demul via Lidang. We were anxious to go back to Kaza as soon as possible to meet Simba again

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Day 11: Kaza - Kee Monastery - Kibber - Tashigang - Kaza

Distance: 73 Kms
Moving Time: 3 Hours 38 Mins
Stopped Time: 1 Hours 19 Mins

The plan on the 3rd day in Kaza was to visit the nearby Kee Monastery and then the village of Kibber. Tashigang was not in the original plan, but after talking to Karan, we included it. The drive was supposed to be nice and there would be opportunities of spotting blue sheep. We started after breakfast and first stop was Kee Monastery.

Kee Monastery
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Next stop was Kibber.
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Kibber Village
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The bridge from Kibber to Chichhum. It was still under construction at the time we went.
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Chichhum village from this side of the bridge. One can still visit Chichhum on the way to Losar until the construction of the bridge is completed.
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Deep gorge formed by the river
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We decided to go offroad a bit. The place was enticing. However, it was so windy that the Thar was swaying. It was extremely difficult to get down and click pics. This is the best I could do under the threat of being swept away by the wind!
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Finally we were able to get close up shots of Blue Sheep on the way to Tashigang.
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Kibber to Tashigang was quite a bit of distance though there were plenty of shortcuts marked by tyre marks. Initially I was a bit sceptical to take them, but then lost my patience and took each and everyone of the rest

Tashigang village from a distance
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Zero tourists in Tashigang
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After returning to Kaza from Tashigang, we were famished and went straight to the Kaza market. The Himalayan Cafe looked enticing.

Thukpa and Momo at the Himalayan Cafe, Kaza
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It had become customary to play with Simba, Zeeba and Hachi after returning to the Hotel!
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Cute little Zeeba
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That evening we felt sad thinking about the next day. 3 days were over and we would have to leave Simba, Hachi and Zeeba and of course the wonderful Hotel Deyzor. Tried to alleviate the sadness by having Lasagna

Hotel: Hotel Deyzor
Rating: 5/5

Last edited by BlackPearl : 2nd September 2017 at 13:31.
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Day 12: Kaza - Losar (13350 Feet)

Distance: 60 Kms
Moving Time: 2 Hours 15 Mins
Stopped Time: 18 Mins

We bid goodbye to Karan and started for Losar.
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It was difficult to bid goodbye to Simba. He was a bit sleepy when this pic was taken.
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The approach to The Nomadic Cottage in Losar run by Nomadic Destinations
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The Nomadic Cottage
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We got the best room, thanks to the co-owner Sahil
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As soon as we stopped the vehicle in front of the cottage I heard a question. It was in Hindi and translating it does not convey the tone. The question was - "You have got Michelin Tyres and came to this place! Why did you get them? You will learn which tyres to use once you start driving more in the hills"

We, Bengalis, are usually soft spoken and are not used to such remarks, that too during the first meeting. I was a bit taken aback and could not reply properly. But I was not going to take it lying down. The question had come from Sahil, the co-owner of the cottage. Then he showed me that his Thar, that was standing there, was shod with Continental Cross Contact tyres.

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I was able to reply feebly that Michelins are quite good as well. There was no response to my reply, as if it was not even heard. That moment I realised that he is an interesting guy and it would be fun interacting with him

After lunch I got my courage back and re-ignited the debate with Sahil. I asked him that how could he pass a judgement without knowing my background and my experience. It was show-off time and this time I was prepared for the onslaught. So the conversation went like this -

Sahil Duggal (SD): So you think you have driven a lot off-road?

BlackPearl (BP): Yes, I don't think, I know

SD: Is this your first time in Spiti?

BP: Yes, but I have been to Ladakh, Aruna... (not able to complete)

SD: That's why, you travel here for a few years and you will know which tyres to use. Ladakh is easy, it is not counted. You have done offroading right, cross the bridge over the river and go to the opposite village. It will be fun for you. It will be off-roading.

BP: Ok, but will you get your Thar to help me out if I get stuck?

SD: See, you are already scared.

BP: I was joking

After this conversation, I had to go to the other side of the river, though I wanted to just lie down and enjoy the view from the room. This was ego at play in capital letters.

The village with the single house on the other side of the river
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The Thar enjoying the off-road experience
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It was a beautiful place but it was not off-roading. So I went back to the cottage and told the same to Sahil. This time he was taken aback a bit. He asked me if I had to use 4WD. The answer was negative and I had a smug smile on my face.
That evening we chatted a lot and started liking Sahil. He is not pretentious, does not talk in a sugar coated manner like many other hoteliers. He speaks out his mind and though it takes time to get adjusted to the attitude, it is fun communicating with him. Soon I was interacting the same way with him, no diplomacy, straight cut discussions.
It was cold in Losar and all of us were sitting in the common room with a big hearth. There were other tourists as well. One guy was particularly interesting. His name was Wout Bakker and he was from Netherlands. He wanted to ride all the way back to his country from India through Pakistan. Since Indian registered vehicles are not allowed in Pakistan, he bought a bike from Nepal and rode all the way to Losar. He was waiting for the road to open till Manali. We got the news from him that the dozer that was clearing road after Batal had broken down and it would take a couple of more days for the road to open. Wout planned to go next day again to get updates and if required would stay in Batal till the road was clear.


Day 13: Losar - Kunzum La - Chandrataal - Losar

Distance: 94 Kms
Moving Time: 6 Hours 16 Mins
Stopped Time: 1 Hour 25 Mins

Sahil told us in the morning that the road to Chandrataal had just opened and it would be in a very bad condition. His 4WD Bolero pickup would go there to setup camps and a Duster from Delhi also joined. The pickup and Duster left early and we started an hour later. The route to Kunzum/Kunjom Top was beautiful and treacherous with numerous water crossings due to melting glaciers.

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We met Wout at Kunzum
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Kunzum La
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From Kunzum La we went towards Batal. The plan was to go as far as possible and check the progress of the road clearing work. Unfortunately we got lost amidst the glaciers and since there was not a single person to be seen anywhere we decided to return and go to Chandrataal.

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Walking back to the vehicle after surveying if the Thar could go over a big patch of ice on what seemed to be the actual road
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The ice was fragile and broke under my 90 kilos of weight. The result was soaked feet. This is how I dried the socks and the pair of shoes
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From Batal, the fork for taking the route towards Chandrataal is around 3 kilometers. The route after the fork was even more treacherous with gushing streams flowing over the road. There was slush at a few places as well. About 4 kilometers before Chandrataal we saw a plain field on the left where the pickup and Duster were parked to setup camps. We moved ahead towards the the moon lake.

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The walk back to the vehicle from Chandrataal. It takes about half an hour of hiking each way for the last 1 km to the lake. It is not difficult.
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After spending about half an hour at Chandrataal, we started the return journey. The water levels on the road had increased further.

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We reached Losar safely after some careful driving. Wout planned to stay back in Batal till the road opens.
There were three families who had just landed at the Nomadic Cottage and the moment we reached, we were flooded with their questions regarding the route. We said that we did not have further updates, the dozer was still not fixed and there were around 200 meters of road left to be cleared.
Sahil came in the evening and the first thing he enquired was my feedback about the road to Chandrataal. I said it was fine for the Thar and he did not like the response. The rest of the evening we chatted with the new comers. There was this family from Chandigarh, Jaspreet and her husband KP. Jaspreet had been born and brought up Kolkata and spoke fluent Bengali. They had come in a Fortuner and were accompanied by Jaspreet's sister and her husband in a Honda City. Hats off to that guy for taking the City to Losar! Then there was Mr. Amit, his wife and son with their Innova. The "adda" continued till dinner.
We were supposed to leave the next day for Tabo as the road to Manali was not open. However, we were getting mixed responses from everybody. We heard that the Governor was supposed to come in a few days, so the road was bound to be opened shortly. After hearing all these we decided to toss a coin next morning and then take a decision.

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Day 14: Losar

Distance: 6 Kms

We woke up in the morning, tossed a coin and the result was in favour of staying back one more day in Losar! Conveyed the same to Sahil who was more than happy to accommodate us. After breakfast Sahil and I went for a walk. The topic was the route to Chandrataal. He was visibly upset that I did not consider that route to be an off-road one and wanted to know what I actually meant by off-roading.
After a bit of discussion he seemed to understand and I was sure that he would get a dig at me. His response was this - "we people, who live in the mountains, do not think that taking our cars into ditches on weekends like the urban people is off-roading. The routes where we need to engage 4WD is off-roading for us". End of discussion.

By this time the team Duster had come back from overnight camping in Chandrataal. They had got stuck in slush and a JCB had to rescue them. One of the Duster guys came to us and started a conversation. He was all praises for me that I was not a local and still went there and came back without getting stuck! Then we started discussing about team-bhp and Ladakh topic came up. Tanveer's (TSK1979) name came up as well. All this was happening in front of Sahil. At this point I mentioned that I was one of the first people on team-bhp to have done the Chushul to Mahe route way back in 2012. After hearing all the discussions, Sahil went to Rajsri and said "Your husband has really done a great amount of off-roading. I accept that Michelin tyres are good"

All these jokes and humour apart, Sahil and Ankit made our stay in Losar an interesting and fun filled one. It would have been a boring stay without them!

A bit later the Duster guys left for Kalpa. They were capable drivers and wanted to go all the way to Kalpa in one shot.

Team Duster preparing to leave Losar
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The Honda City also joined them as they had to be back in Chandigarh within the next two days and could not afford to stay in Losar for the road to open. KP and his wife Jaspreet left for Chandrataal in their Fortuner. Rajsri and I planned to spend the day in and around Losar. We visited the local Monastery atop a hill nearby. It was still under construction.

New monastery under construction
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Losar village from the hilltop
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By afternoon we got the news that one dozer had been cannibalized in order to supply parts for the other dozer working near Chhota Dhara to clear the road. However, that dozer had conked off again. Parts would have to be brought from Kaza and the road would be clear by afternoon next day. We decided to start next morning and wait at the point till it cleared.
Had our lunch at a restaurant in Losar market. The potato cheese momo was superb!

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The rest of the afternoon was spent chatting with Sahil and Ankit. Mr. Amit and family had gone to Chichhum and came back before evening. KP and Jaspreet came back at about the same time. The after market bull bar on their Fortuner had come off on one side due to the horrible road to Chandrataal and it was somehow fixed using a cloth. As soon as I saw that I knew my tool kit would come to help. Thanks to Mahindra that we carry several toolkits with us along with all possible combinations of nuts and bolts! After a bit of a struggle KP and I were able to fix the bull bar back properly.

Toolkit, nuts and bolts
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A group pic - Sahil on the extreme right and the owner of the cottage on the extreme left
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Hotel: Nomadic Destination Cottage
Rating: 5/5 - The food was strictly average, but still gave a 5 out of 5 for the location, the behaviour of the staff and providing all the basic amenities in a remote place



Day 15: Losar - Batal - Chhota Dhara - Losar - Kaza - Tabo

Distance: 129 Kms
Moving Time: 5 Hours 43 Mins
Stopped Time: 1 Hour 27 Mins

After waking up in the morning discussions on road conditions started again and we decided to give it a try. There was no point in waiting in Losar. We wanted to see the actual situation in Chhota Dhara. Mr. Amit and family wanted to follow us in his Innova. We bid goodbye to Sahil, Ankit and the others and started for Manali. After crossing Kunzum La we found a few people working on a road side bulldozer. Upon enquiry we found out that they were the ones working at Chhota Dhara. The fuel pump of that dozer had failed and they had come all the way here to get it from this one.

The cannibalized bulldozer
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We waited for the guys to get the fuel pump and then followed them till Batal. The Innova family decided to wait at the famous Chacha Chachi dhaba at Batal and we continued to drive. Soon we had to drive on the Chandra river bed strewn with rocks. This time we could find the road instead of getting lost like last time. Since fitting the fuel pump and resuming work would take some time, we took the opportunity to click a lot of pics on that desolate river bed.

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After about an hour we resumed the journey towards Chhota Dhara. When we reached the blockage point our hearts sank. We saw the Tata 407 carrying the same men coming back. Stopped them and found out that the fuel pump did not fit and they were going back to Kaza to get a spare. That is a minimum of 4 hours journey. It meant that even if they got the spare pump in Kaza, work would not resume till next morning at the earliest. We did not need a coin this time to decide.

The blockage point
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The broken down bulldozer
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After surveying the stretch of ice we realised that it would take at 3 to 4 days for the road to open even if the bulldozer worked all round the clock for the next few days. There was no other option but to go back to Shimla. We started at around 4 p.m. from Chhota Dhara, drove as fast as I could over the broken roads and reached Kaza by 7 p.m. The Innova followed us from Batal after we gave them the realistic view of the situation.
We filled up diesel at the highest petrol pump in the world and went to Hotel Deyzor to bid goodbye to Karan. He was worried about us as he did not get any news after we left Kaza 3 days back.
Resumed our journey towards Shimla at around 7:30 p.m. and reached Tabo at 10:30 p.m. We went straight to Monastery Guest house to meet Raj and request for a room. Monastery guest house was full but Raj took us to another guest house nearby run by the same owner. Room rent was Rs 500 and there was nothing to complaint as such, that too for a few hours of stay.

Maitreya Guest House, Tabo
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Hotel: Maitreya Guest House
Rating: 3/5

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Day 16: Tabo - Mashobra (Shimla)

Distance: 321 Kms
Moving Time: 8 Hours 15 Mins
Stopped Time: 1 Hour

We started early in the morning from Tabo and drove considerably fast. Crossed Reckong at around noon, filled up diesel at Powari and continued till Rampur. We took a much needed lunch break at Hotel Bushahr Regency.

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Food was good. Wish they could take care of the innumerable flies :-(
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Resumed our journey after the lunch break and reached Mashobra. We went straight to Club Mahindra Mashobra to see if any room was available. I waited in the car with fingers crossed. My wife was the lucky one. There was only one room left and that too one of the best in the property!
300 plus kilometers of high speed driving in the hills had tested my concentration and tenacity and I badly needed a night's rest. A good hotel is immensely helpful in rejuvenating tired mind and body.

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Hotel: Club Mahindra Mashobra
Rating: 5/5

Day 17: Mashobra (Shimla) - Kolkata

Distance: 1760 Kms
Moving Time: 27 Hours 20 Mins
Stopped Time: 4 Hours

Next morning we were too tired to start early. Had a filling breakfast and then slept again for a while before starting at 10 a.m for Kolkata

Ready to leave Club Mahindra Mashobra
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There was a huge traffic jam outside Shimla due to the ongoing road widening work. Lost a couple of hours negotiating the jam and had a tiff with an Innova driver as well, but no harm done.

After crossing Dharampur we got a shock. Giani Da Dhaba, where we had lunch a fortnight back, had been taken down due to the road widening work!

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Reached Karnal late in the evening just as the sun was setting and stopped at Burger King.

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Next stop was at Delhi to fill up diesel. The original plan was to meet the Delhi bhpians SS-Traveller, predatorwheelz, JKDS and dip27in. But had to give it a miss due to shortage of time. Next fuel stop was at Kanpur followed by Aurangabad. Reached Topchanchi in the afternoon and stopped for lunch at Shaan e Punjab. The guys there were so shocked seeing the dirty Thar, they asked me if they could wash it
Upon confirmation several guys started working and made the Thar squeaky clean.

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Lunch at Topchanchi was good and there onward it was a non-stop event free drive to Kolkata. Odometer showed 5533 Kms after the 17 day trip!

Thanks for reading!

***************
The End

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Old 2nd September 2017, 13:07   #14
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The itinerary of the entire trip in a gist so that it may help fellow travelers to plan -

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References

There is hardly any detailed travelogue on Spiti on Team-Bhp. There is an old one from ADC -

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...ti-lahaul.html

and one from ssambyal1980 in 2016 -

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...ure-sedan.html

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Old 2nd September 2017, 14:52   #15
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Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!

There is only one word which comes to mind.

No its not Awesome..

But Envy!
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