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Old 29th July 2018, 17:46   #1
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Smile Kinnaur & Spiti: Journey of a Lifetime

Hi,
Before i initiate, a big thanks to below bhpian whose travelogue became the inspiration and guide to plan the trip.

BlackPearl
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...ndra-thar.html

ssambyal1980
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...ure-sedan.html

gearhead_mait
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...g-bonding.html

Since there is already a lot of information on routes, planning etc. available on team-bhp which i used to plan i will not repeat it. Instead i will focus more on presenting the beautiful landscape and providing a peek into what you can expect when you plan to do Spiti, in short less of talk more of pics

Last December i did Gujarat circuit(http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...tra-kutch.html, the first long trip in newly acquired Bluebird. Since then the next on cards was Himalayas, unsure where to go, but was quite sure that it is going to be somewhere in Himalayan Range. As the norm is, started out by going through Leh travelogues and somehow i found the opinion among people divided, some called it none of a kind experience while others who have traveled to Spiti, recalled Leh as more of a commercial tourist place. On enquiring i came to know for sure that most people knew about Leh (among non travel freaks) but there was a small percentage of that group that knew about spiti. Though it does not imply i will not plan a trip to Leh but at that moment, it for sure meant my first hill drive will be to Spiti. Yes, it was going to be my first mountain drive if i exclude the ghats around Mumbai.
Spiti was decided, next was what all places, the choice was determined by 2 factors, the number of days we had on hand and the time we want to spend at those places. After a lot of juggling below itinerary was finalized:
  • D-1: Mumbai-Vadodara
  • D-2: Vadodara-Jaipur
  • D-3: Jaipur-Panchkula
  • D-4: Panchkula-Chail-Shillaru
  • D-5: Shillaru-Chitkul
  • D-6: Chitkul- Ropa/Giabong-Nako
  • D-7: Nako-Gue-Tabo-Dhankar-Kaza
  • D-8: Kaza-Mudh
  • D-9: Mudh-Langza-Hikkim-Komic-Demul-Kaza
  • D-10: Kaza-Key-Tashigang-Kibber-Chicham-Kunzum Pass-Chandrataal
  • D-11: Chandrataal-Losar
  • D-12: Losar-Kalpa
  • D-13: Kalpa-Panchkula
  • D-14: Panchkula-Jaipur
  • D-15: Jaipur-Ahmedabad
  • D-16: Ahmedabad-Mumbai

Once the destination was decided, next was to finalize the co-passengers. My wife missed out on Gujarat trip so this time i had to be extra cautious to accommodate her work schedule else it might just be my last trip! We own 1.3 S-Cross, considering the engine power and luggage space we planned to have only one additional person else we planned to go as a couple. After some discussion my brother-in-law could secure the leaves and he planned to join from Gurgaon. So the dates were finalized from 25 May to 10 June.
I did not plan much for Gujarat trip considering it is a well habituated place and i can find help when in need, but spiti is different and i decided to prepare well.
Other than the regular stuff i bought the following, again special thanks to my travel guide, team-bhp members:
  • Puncture repair Kit
  • Fuel Filter
  • Engine Oil/Coolant
  • Portable Oxygen cylinder
  • Tow cable
  • Hydraulic Jack
  • Jerry Can
  • DC to AC converter
  • Wet Mseal
  • FeviKwik
  • Thermal Flask
  • Flashlight
  • Headgear light
  • Air Pump
  • Serrated Knife
  • Wooden Plank
  • Cable ties

I also packed other than the regular medicines, diamox and dexamethasone for complexity and lots of ORSL powder. The only thing i wanted to carry but could not due to budget was wide angle lens, alas, may be next time.
Got the bluebird serviced for 10K mark about a week before and no issues faced since then, so good to go !

I prefer to pre-book hotels, budget hotels in peaceful locations with parking at places of visit and budget hotels with parking near to next day route for overnight transit halts . Hotel details along with my feedback will follow.

Itinerary finalized, hotels booked, leaves secured, luggage packed, Bluebird is ready to leave.

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D-1:Mumbai to Vadodara
Left around 2 pm from home, being afternoon not much of traffic and very soon we are cruising on the familiar NH 48. As most of us know its a delight specially when you have a long trip ahead since it allows to cover distance in a jiffy. Nothing much to write about this except we stopped at a couple of times, once at Sugar n Spice to have tea breaks and soak in the feeling that the long awaited trip has started.
Reached Vadodara around 9 pm and went straight to hotel where i stayed during Gujarat trip.

Some snaps

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Stay: Hotel 7Apple, Tariff: 1750, Nice clean hotel with inside parking, good for a night halt, did not had dinner there so cannot tell about the food, only complain is rooms are small.

D-2: Vadodara to Jaipur
Being a 700KM+ drive we started early, around 7 in the morning, took the Godhra-Udaipur-Rajsamand-Beawar-Ajmer route to Jaipur. Roads of Gujarat continue to amaze with added benefit of no toll. The roads of Rajasthan were also good but being NH, there was heavy truck traffic and lots of construction work making drive stressful. Being a tea addicted person, it was difficult to control myself in Gujarat where most of the places make wonderful tea.

Tale of overflowing tea cups:Gujarat

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Generally on such routes i pre-decide pit-stops and time by which i should be there, it helps me in maintaining time discipline. The lunch pit-stop was Udaipur, and i plan my stops at city out skirts, it resolves the issue of parking and also generally such places will not have waiting times. So in accordance with this framed principle i stopped after crossing Udaipur before 'Udaipur tunnel' at hotel "Palace on the Way", the food was brilliant only that the service was little slow but the food filled up for it.

Hotel Palace on the Way

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After a heartful lunch we lurched ahead crossing Rajsamand in a jiffy.

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And the first ticket for Bluebird , there was an interceptor after we crossed Rajsamand and we were doing around 100 while the speed limit was 80. Payed the fine and moved ahead, surprisingly the cop was well mannered and provided challan receipt as well the spots where next interceptor could be stationed !

Around this place i and bluebird got 1st ticket of life
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No more anticlimax from then on, i tried to look for non-existent signs of speed limits and drove on. Reached Jaipur around 7 pm and straight went to the hotel and crashed.

Stay: Sarovar Portico, Tariff:2400, Nicely done spacious rooms

D-3: Jaipur to Panckula
The plan was to pickup my brother-in-law from Gurgaon and then proceed to Panchkula and have lunch in between at Amrik or Haveli. Reached Gurgaon around noon, picked him up and left for a Punjali meal, decided on Haveli since had been to Amrik previously. Well the experience to me was mixed, the food was brilliant but it was very crowdy and noisy. Took some snaps and moved ahead.

Haveli
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Happy Faces
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There was heavy traffic from Gurgaon all the way till Ambala, before Chandigarh spotted this unusual place 'Sethi Dhaba' and decided to have a tea break. The decor of the place is very different with murals of funny quotes and figurines of famous personalities from Punjab like Milkha Singh and Sukhwinder Singh. Also the place had a wall where Mr. Sethi can be seen in presence of eminent personalities. The place was interesting and tea was kicker, required after heavy lunch at Haveli.

Sethi Dhaba
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Trying Unusual Selfie @ unusual dhaba
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Reached Panchkula by 6 pm and since we had some time, went to nearby microbrewery 'The Escape'. Had a good time relaxing after 3 days of long drive. From tomorrow the hill journey will begin.

Stay:The Cove, Tariff: 3200, Nice spacious well d'cored room

D-4: Panchkula to Shillaru via Chail
We got up early and left for Shillaru. The plan was to go via Chail and visit the Chail palace. Before Kandaghat there is a diversion which goes to Chail. Its a very narrow road and it takes some time to adjust to it for a non-hill driver like me.
Enroute Chail
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Wildfire
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Chail Palace
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Garden
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Attached Thumbnails
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Last edited by Bluebird_7 : 18th August 2018 at 15:15.
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Old 10th August 2018, 19:09   #2
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Default Re: Kinnaur & Spiti:Journey of a Lifetime

Lunch Spot
Prepared very good lunch but took a long.
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Chail to Shillaru

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Reached around 6 in the evening and checked the property, some confusion in transaction between MMT and resort took away some peace of mind and half an hour. Ordered some basic stuff in room and went off to sleep.
NH-5 was is very good condition with road marking and guard rail for quite a distance. Infrastructure is improving i can say that with confidence.

Hilltop Resort:Shillaru
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Cold breeze Effect
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Stay: Hilltop Resort Shillaru, Tariff:3300/3 people, Not recommended at this price for the kind of service and uphill drive from main road.

D-5: Shillaru to Chitkul
This was going to be entry to Kinnaur day. Super excited, left early around 7 am from hotel and soon the dream drive started to unfold. Roads are more or less good.

Morning in Shillaru
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Enjoyable Drive
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Entering Kinnaur
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Famous Cliffhanger
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Karcham Wangtoo Dam
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Everything was going as per plan but then there was an entry of anti-climax, a landslide We watched each others' face with jaw drop expression and i already started thinking of backup plan which was non-existent. Got down from the car and inquired from local people, and voila there is an alternate route by which we can go around and rejoin the highway, and the best part, it is a very short detour.

Landslide from the other side, which nearly crashed our dream
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Karcham dam, confluence of Baspa and Satluj River
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Enroute Sangla
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Finally Chitkul

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Last edited by Bluebird_7 : 10th August 2018 at 19:25.
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Old 10th August 2018, 19:14   #3
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Default Re: Kinnaur & Spiti:Journey of a Lifetime

Chitkul continued

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Morning view from hotel room
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I really loved this place. The weather was cold even in June with high wind speeds. There are quite a few places to stay including zostel. The best time spent will be sitting at the bank of the river and doing nothing.

Stay: Samaa Resorts, Tariff: 3000/3 people, nice place and the owner couple were very nice and courteous and told their story of setting up the place. They set up the bonfire for all the guests in the evening and sang songs along with others. Food is basic but it tastes wonderful in such places. Recommend this place for stay.

Last edited by Bluebird_7 : 10th August 2018 at 19:24.
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Old 10th August 2018, 20:43   #4
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Chitkul Kaleidoscope

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Old 17th August 2018, 22:03   #5
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Default Kinnaur & Spiti:Journey of a Lifetime

D-6:Chitkul to Nako

The plan for the day was to visit Giabong and Ropa and end the day at Nako. Left early in morning, thought of having breakfast at "hindustan ka aakhri dhaba" but it was not opened yet so clicked some pictures and moved ahead. Since it was a downhill drive we traveled the distance quickly compared to when we climbed up. Since we left early there was very less traffic. Since after today the next filling station will be at Kaza, so we decided to fill in our Jerry can, though basis our plan we could have easily managed without it but we thought of carrying so that even if for one day Kaza pump is out of order we can manage without changing our plans.

Morning in Chitkul
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Downhill Chitkul
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And then office work played spoilsport. An urgent office work meant the plan to visit Giabong and Ropa had to be cancelled. The below dhaba after Reckong Peo became my workplace for next 4 hours

Office work at 2300 m
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After finishing the work started for travel into the barren lands of spiti. Its amazing how landscape changes compared to fertile Chitkul.

Barren land begins
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Mighty Sutlej
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Rare Vegetation
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Reason for travel
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Happy happy
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At Pooh we called up our family informing that we will soon be out of network and will connect as and when we can find some connectivity.

Pooh-Place where we called our family
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Soon we reached Khab Sangam, confluence of Sutlej and Spiti river. I do not know why but the place has a charm of its own. The wide bridge with Reo Purgyil in the backdrop and the patriotic feeling accentuated by presence of army personnel.

Khab Bridge
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Khab Bridge-Reo Purgyil in backdrop
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The roads are good after Khab and there are 2 major loops, one just after Khab and another just before entering Nako village. I thoroughly enjoyed the drive

Loops before Nako Village
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As soon we reached Nako, we checked in to hotel Reo purgyil and left for walk to the famous prayer bell.

Fields of Nako
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Walk through Nako
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The climb
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Beautiful Village
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Wow
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Nako Lake
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Beautiful Dusk
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Prayer cast in stone
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One must visit place in Nako is Tashi Momo centre, just opposite Reo Purgyil hotel, they cook wonderful momos. We had a dinner of momos and again breakfast of momos next day.

Tashi Momo
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Hotel Reo Purgyil
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After wonderful dinner retired to the hotel only to begin again the next day.

Stay : Hotel Reo Purgyil, Tariff:3000/3 people, Most recommended stay, no doubt
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Old 17th August 2018, 22:49   #6
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Default Kinnaur & Spiti:Journey of a Lifetime

D-7: Nako to Kaza

The plan for the day was to visit Tabo and Dhankar monastery and reach Kaza for night stay. In the morning as we were about to leave we could not resist ourselves from visiting Nako monastery which we were not able to visit last day due to shortage of time.

Nako Monastery Outer Gate
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Nako Monastery
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Serene Buddha
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Prayer Wheel
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When we reached monastery early morning, the village had gathered and they were cooking food. Came to know an elderly person has passed and they were paying homage to him. Asked whether it is ok to click photographers, an elderly senior supervising replied in affirmative and asked to click photos and let the world know about their traditions, he is a thorough gentleman in pics below.

Village Gathering
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This Kid was being forced to go to school, made me remember my school days
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Star
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Walk through Village
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Thats Nako after exiting
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Shortly after leaving Nako, we encountered Malling Nala section, the road was in bad shape, though there was no water but the road is extremely narrow and treacherous.

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After crossing Malling Nala
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The place brings the best out of all
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Entering Valley
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Entering Gue Village
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Gue Village
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Gue Monastery
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Famous Gue Mummy
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Beautiful Art at Monastery Building
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Old 17th August 2018, 23:42   #7
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Default Kinnaur & Spiti:Journey of a Lifetime

Post lot of photo-ops at Gue we moved towards Tabo monastery. Majority of the road section is good.

Kids enjoying at Tabo
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Entrance of Tabo Monastery
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Beautiful Flag
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New monastery building
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Intricate work
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Wow
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Old mud Monastery
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Selfie before we leave
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One of the few man-made structure
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Happy Posing
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With beautiful ladies
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They sure are happy
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An then it happened, since it was already late evening, the wind was strong and we were in between Tabo and Dhankar when suddenly a big stone came hurling down the mountain and hit the windshield My natural reflex forced me to turn the steering towards the other side but quickly my brain regained control and i avoided taking a sudden turn which might have ended us down the mountain on river bed. Even after this some stoned kept shooting but i kept driving at a controlled pace since stopping was not an option under that condition. Finally we left the dangerous patch behind and the road opened up. Stressed by the event decided to halt to take a breather and regain senses as well assess the damage.
And boy we were extremely lucky, the stone first hit the wiper frame, then bounced and hit the windshield(later confirmed by dashcam video) and hence the damage was restricted to a crack rather than full damage. Looked at the damage and decided to continue the journey without any plan change since it seemed that the glass will hold though i knew the crack will eventually spread but i decided to take the calculated risk. Below is the windshield after hit.
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Beautiful straight stretch
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Vistas around
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Spiti River
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Journey is beautiful
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Old 18th August 2018, 00:16   #8
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Default Kinnaur & Spiti:Journey of a Lifetime

After de-stressing on Spiti river bed, we moved towards Dhankar, the plan was to visit Dhankar monastery and and then hike to Dhankar lake, but since we were already late and for night stay we had to travel to Kaza decided to visit monastery and give Dhankar lake a skip.

Gate at the detour for Dhankar ascend road
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Steep climb from the river bed
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Monastery in sight
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Monastery Entrance Gate
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The climax was not over. Here while reversing the car on a narrow road the left bottom side got stuck at embankment due to my oversight. The only way the car could move was forward but there was no space in the front since it was the valley side. After a lot of left and right movement and using bricks to hold the car while i take it closest possible to the cliff side managed to get out of the sticky situation. Left for Kaza for overnight stay at the famous Deyzor.

Hotel Deyzor
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Happy and relieved
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Old 18th August 2018, 00:57   #9
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Default Kinnaur & Spiti:Journey of a Lifetime

D-8: Kaza to Mudh

The plan was to visit villages of Mikkim, Phukchung, Ka enroute Mudh in Pin Valley. I have special love for bridges so there will be lot more bridge pics
Enroute Pin Valley
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Bridge leading to Pin Valley @ Attargu
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Remnants of glacier
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We walk miles for a beautiful view
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Ferocious Pin river
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Another happy poser
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Beautiful vistas continue
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Bridge again
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Mikkim
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Found Snow-kids again
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Somewhere after Phukchung
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Bridge leading to Mudh
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Enjoy the views of nature
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Old 18th August 2018, 01:20   #10
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More of Kaza & Enroute Mudh

Hotel Deyzor
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Simba-Adorable
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Morning in Kaza
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Highest Retail Fuel Pump
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Villages of Pin Valley
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Old 18th August 2018, 01:50   #11
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Reaching Mudh, we directly searched for Tara guest house, checked in, had some hot tea and we are ready to explore Pin valley.

We saw a ferocious stream coming out of a glacier and decided to trek uphill to have a closer look.

Mudh Village
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Thats Mudh village in backdrop
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Track we climbed to see the glacier
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Strong current
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Beautiful flower
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Glacier feeding the stream
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Locals checking what we figured out uphill
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Happy to pose
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Cute
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Feels so good
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This dog kept on following us wherever we went. He walked with us for more than 2 hours, seemed he was lonely and looking for company
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Post having the look at the source of the stream we walked down along the stream where it met the pin river.

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Back to village
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Moved back to the hotel, chatted, had tea and snacks and then went off to sleep. It was very cold in Mudh and we had to use two quilts to save ourselves but to me it was the best place in spiti.

Stay: Tara Guest House, Tariff:2500/3 people, everything is wonderful, best is rajma-rice they serve.

It was wonderful knowing sonam the owner. He manages the trekking operations and guest house while his 2 sons come over during summer to help him. The elder one is a professor while the younger one is pursuing engineering. The humility these guys have is worth emulating.
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Old 18th August 2018, 10:01   #12
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D-9: Mudh to Langza/Hikkim/Komic

The plan for the day was to leave Mudh early and travel to villages around Kaza such as langza, hikkim, komic, demul and then turn back to kaza for stay. While planning the trip, i planned such that after completing days' circuit we head back to kaza for night stay. But the cold in the morning was so severe that we got up and then went off to sleep again hence our time for the day was shortened. In hindsight to me it was a good decision to take adequate rest and probably skip few places rather than carrying a tiring body specially when i am driving.

Morning in Mudh
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This dog kept wandering around table and he was fixated on one thing-butter. As soon we moved he jumped and picked the pieces of butter and ran waging his tail. It was such an adorable moment. Look at his requesting face
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Old 18th August 2018, 10:52   #13
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Finally after a heartfull breakfast we left Mudh for Langza, now we have to travel with less breaks and photo-ops considering the time we lost due to oversleeping. The climb from Kaza to langza is steep and then it opens up like a plateau.
Enroute Langza, we found blue sheep at the top of the mountain and it was like a NGC moment. One has to very careful since the stones fall off the mountain due their movement so when you see such a herd, either stop or park away from the place. One of the family was watching the same herd but they parked towards the side of the mountain and suddenly 2-3 big stones fell near them, lucky it did not hit them.

Blue Sheep
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Place where we found Blue Sheep
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And then some humor. When we were viewing the photos sitting at Buddha cafe in Langza we saw a sort of apparition in shape of a human in one of the picture. Next half an hour spent discussing is it a ghost and then relating to events and place where we clicked the pic, the cave nearby, car loosing power etc.

The ghostly pic
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Enroute Langza
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Langza Village
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First sight of Langza Buddha
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Buddha Cafe @ Langza
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Bluebird stuffed to brim
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Beautiful Buddha
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Parking @ Langza
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The initial plan was to go to Hikkim from Langza and then to Komic and Demul finally returning to Kaza. But due to shortage of time we skipped Demul and went to Komic from Langza.

Komic
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The highest restaurant
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Komic Village
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Villagers drying animal skin
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From Komic we went to Hikkim. Instead of parking at the regular spot and moving downhill straight to the famous post office, we went ahead and parked at a spot farther from the post office and went walking around the village and meeting people.

Hikkim Village
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Parking @ Hikkim
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We were damn tired since we had walked for more than an hour at such high altitude. Needed rest and what could be a better place than lying down on mother earth
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The inevitable one
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With the most photo-ed Post master
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This kid was crying like anything but as soon he saw the camera he stopped crying and posed for us.

Future Instagrammer
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Old 18th August 2018, 10:57   #14
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More on villages of Kaza
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Finally after a hectic day went back to Kaza and retired to the hotel. Hotel Deyzor serves the best food in Kaza (my opinion). I tried 3-4 famous places like himalayan cafe and some other places in market but every time we would return to deyzor to have something. Story of Karan from Deyzor is motivating that many of the travelers would have heard but there is more to that story in future. He has future plans to move to farming and i was pleasantly surprised when i saw a bunch of local politicians discussing with him the civic problems and solutions that they need to propose to government. That is truly impressive for person who is not native to the place. The only problem with Kaza is the inflow of hippies from other countries who are high on drugs and create nuisance. I stayed for the night at Hotel Spiti heritage since could not find room at Deyzor but you guessed it right went to Deyzor for dinner.

Stay: Spiti Heritage,Tariff:2900/3 people. Good place to stay.

Last edited by Bluebird_7 : 18th August 2018 at 11:09.
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Old 18th August 2018, 11:51   #15
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D-10: Kaza to Chandrataal via Key, Kibber & Chicham

The plan for the day was audacious to visit Key, Kibber, Chicham and Tashigong before moving to Chandrataal. We knew it was going to be little tight but we went ahead with it. From Kaza we left for Key monastery.

Rangrik Village
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Key Monastery
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Sports @ Key
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After a wonderful herbal tea at monastery we left for Kibber.

Kibber Village
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Had breakfast at a cafe just outside Kibber village and moved ahead to one of the most awaited moment-cross over Chicham bridge.

Chicham Bridge
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Gorge over which this is built
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Chicham Village
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We spent a lot of time at Kibber and Chicham so had to skip Tashigong. We knew the water levels would have already risen since we will reach Chandrataal in evening which was not a good plan in first place, but we moved ahead with the plan without spending any further time.
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