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Old 6th October 2019, 13:13   #1
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Default Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour

During September 2019 my friend Partha Mitra and I undertook a self-drive expedition from Kolkata to Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh in my Ford Endeavour 2.2 Titanium. Our route was Kolkata – Varanasi – Allahabad Bypass - Agra - Greater Noida - Sonipat – Chandigarh - Shimla - Kufri – Sangla – Chitkul - Tabo – Dhankar - Pin Valley - Kaza – Lossar – Kunzum Pass - Chandratal - Batal – Gramphu – Rohtang Pass – Manali - Chandigarh – Panipat – Greater Noida – Agra – Lucknow – Allahabad bypass – Varanasi - Kolkata.

Total distance covered during this 13-day expedition was 4,706 km which required 112 hours of actual driving. The average speed over the entire trip thus works out to 42 kmph. Total fuel consumption, computed accurately by tankfull-to-tankfull method, was 385 litres of diesel which translates to mileage of 12.21 kmpl. Endy’s trip meter, as usual, showed a higher average of 13.4 kmpl over this distance.

Brief day-by-day account of the trip along with photographs are in the succeeding paragraphs.


Day-1 (15 Sep 19) : Drove 670 km from Kolkata to Varanasi. Took 12 hrs 30 minutes (actual driving time as recorded by Endy’s trip meter). Between Dankuni and Shaktigarh a large number of cameras have been installed and one must never exceed the official speed limit of 100 kmph. Widening of G.T. Road and flyover construction are in progress in many places in Bihar and U.P. which slows you down.

Natural beauty of my state Jharkhand always makes me nostalgic.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-1-jh.jpg

Partha Mitra and I posing near bushes of 'Kaash Phool' (Kans Grass) which heralds the arrival of Durga Puja in Eastern India.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-2-kash-phool.jpg

Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-3-kash-phool.jpg


Day-2 (16 Sep 19) : Drove 848 km from Varanasi to Sonipat in 13 hours. Good distance could be covered by use of Lucknow-Agra Expressway, Yamuna Expressway and Delhi Eastern Peripheral Bypass. Incidentally, the speed limit on the EP Bypass is 120 kmph. Lucknow-Agra Expy and Yamuna Expy still have 100 kmph speed limit. My Endy’s cruise control was used for many hours for the first time on these superb world-class expressways. I must place on record my appreciation of Google Maps for effortlessly taking us from Yamuna Expy to EP Bypass via Pari Chowk in Greater Noida and thereafter to Sonipat. My Ford’s inbuilt navigation system, which is at least 2 years obsolete at any time (I got it updated just 2 months ago!), does not even have the 301 km long Lucknow-Agra Expy and EP Bypass in its map database! Shame on Ford India.

Lucknow-Agra Expressway.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-4-lkoagra-expy.jpg

Yamuna Expressway.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-5-yew.jpg

It was great to see this charging station at the Ethnic India Tourist Resort in Rai (Sonipat).
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-6-rai-resort.jpg


Day-3 (17 Sep 19) : Drove 329 km to Kufri (8,400 ft) over 8 hours 10 minutes. As we commenced ascending the mountains, both of us started religiously following acclimatization precautions like remaining hydrated, well-rested and abstaining from alcohol.

Our spirits start soaring as mountains and ghat roads start.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-7-mountains.jpg

Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-8-mountains.jpg

Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-9-shimla.jpg

Most of Shimla has become a concrete jungle and we decided not to halt for the night there.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-10-shimla.jpg

Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-11-shimla.jpg

Kufri still retains some of its pristine charm. We found a nice Treebo hotel right on the highway.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-12-kufri-snow-view.jpg


Day-4 (18 Sep 19) : Drove 197 km to Kupa (4 km short of Sangla, at 8,500 ft) over 6 hours 40 minutes.

Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-14-way-sangla.jpg

Somewhere in H.P. between Kufri and Kinnaur Valley. Found this restaurant name very catchy and decided to pose with my beloved Endy!
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-13-2nd-wife.jpg

Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-15-way-sangla.jpg

Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-16-way-sangla.jpg

Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-17-way-sangla.jpg

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Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-19-tukpa-valley-gate.jpg


Day-5 (19 Sep 19) : Remaining based at Kupa, drove 55 km from Kupa to Chitkul (at 11,320 ft) and back. It was a leisurely day devoted to sightseeing, rest and acclimatization.

Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-20-chitkul.jpg

Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-21-chitkul.jpg

Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-22-chitkul.jpg

Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-23-chitkul.jpg

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Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-30-chitkul.jpg

Last edited by aah78 : 7th October 2019 at 18:10. Reason: Spacing.
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Old 6th October 2019, 18:37   #2
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Day-5 (19 Sep 19) : Continued from previous post. Some more pics from Chitkul, Kinnaur.

Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-31-chitkul.jpg

Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-32-chitkul.jpg

Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-33-chitkul.jpg

Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-34-chitkul.jpg

Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-35-chitkul.jpg

Road to Chitkul is narrow and a bit treacherous in some parts.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-36-return-chitkul.jpg

Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-37-return-chitkul.jpg


Day-6 (20 Sep 19) : Drove 183 km to Tabo (10,770 ft) over 7 hours 10 mins. On the way stopped at Nako and saw the small lake there (hardly worth seeing). Once again a leisurely day with a bit of sightseeing (Tabo Monastery) and more of rest.

Road to Nako.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-38-road-nako.jpg

Road to Nako.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-39-road-nako.jpg

View from Nako helipad.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-40-view-nako-helipad.jpg

View from Nako helipad.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-41-view-nako-helipad.jpg

At Nako helipad.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-42-nako-helipad.jpg

Nako lake.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-43-nako-lake.jpg

Road between Nako and Tabo.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-44-nako-tabo.jpg

Road between Nako and Tabo.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-45-nako-tabo.jpg

Spiti river.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-46-nako-tabo.jpg

Road between Nako and Tabo.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-47-nako-tabo.jpg

Entering the small village of Tabo.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-48-tabo.jpg

Tabo Monastery.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-49-tabo-monastery.jpg

Young trainee monks playing with their toy cars at Tabo Monastery.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-50-tabo-monastery.jpg

Apple orchard at Tabo Monastery.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-51-apple-orchard.jpg

View from Tabo Monastery.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-52-tabo-monastery.jpg


Day-7 (21 Sep 19) : Drove 129 km to Kaza via Dhankar Monastery (12,750 ft), Pin Valley and Mud village over 6 hours. Mud village was a disappointment as there is nothing much to see there. But Pin Valley is picturesque with its colourful mountains. Roads in Pin Valley are mostly dirt tracks but reasonably wide and free from boulders.

Going from Tabo to Dhankar.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-53-tabo-dhankar.jpg

Road to Dhankar Monastery.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-54-tabo-dhankar.jpg

Dhankar Monastery.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-55-dhankar.jpg

Dhankar Monastery.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-56-dhankar.jpg

Last edited by aah78 : 7th October 2019 at 18:12. Reason: Spacing.
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Old 6th October 2019, 21:13   #3
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Day-7 (21 Sep 19) : Continued from previous post. Some pics from Pin Valley.

Gave a lift in my Endy to a teacher who teaches in a primary school in Pin Valley but lives 30 km away. During winter months, when Pin Valley gets cut off due to heavy snowfall, she rents a hut near her school and lives away from her own home. The total number of pupils in her school from Class I to V is 15!
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-57-teacher-pin-valley.jpg

Pin Valley is known for its colourful mountains.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-58-pin-valley.jpg

Pin Valley is known for its colourful mountains.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-59-pin-valley.jpg

Pin Valley is known for its colourful mountains.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-60-pin-valley.jpg

Road to Kaza.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-61-pin-valley.jpg

Road to Kaza.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-62-pin-valley.jpg

Road to Kaza.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-63-pin-valley-kaza.jpg

Road to Kaza.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-64-pin-valley-kaza.jpg

Mountain goat.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-65-near-kaza.jpg

Spiti Valley attracts more bikers than motorists. I really admire them and salute them as being exposed to the elements on a bike is much more challenging than being safely cocooned inside a car.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-66-near-kaza.jpg

At the outskirts of Kaza we came across this Royal Enfield repair workshop cum hostel.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-67-kaza.jpg

Kaza town.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-68-kaza.jpg


Day-8 (22 Sep 19) : Drove 110 km from Kaza to Batal via Lossar, Kunzum Pass (15,100 ft) and Chandratal (14,000 ft) over 5 hours 50 mins. Encountered some very bad roads. The stretch from Kaza to Lossar was not too bad but after Lossar the road got quite bad. Chandratal is 13 km off the Kaza-Gramphu road and this 13 km stretch is mostly gravel road with stones and boulders strewn all over.

While taking a hairpin bend on the way to Chandratal my front RHS tyre suffered sidewall rupture. By hindsight, this damage was avoidable. I was taking an anticlockwise hairpin turn on a steep upward incline on a narrow broken road strewn with boulders. Long wheelbase cars like the Endy have a disadvantage in such situations (narrow hairpins). Firstly, a 3-point turning may be required. Secondly, the huge bonnet rises up and blocks forward view. Instead of 3-point turning, I tried to turn at one go and my front RHS tyre sidewall apparently hit a sharp boulder. We kept driving without any problem and found the tyre damaged and deflated only after reaching Chandratal parking place after a KM or so. We changed the tyre before starting the 40 min trek to Chandratal. Wasn't exactly fun & games at 14,000 feet for two oldies but our spirits never flagged.

From Chandratal we returned all the way to Kolkata without a spare wheel! The route Chandratal - Batal - Gramphu was really horrible and dangerous and we had our hearts in our mouths without a spare wheel. Once we reached Gramphu without further mishap, I decided to drive on without a spare wheel because the risk of sidewall damage was negligible and the worst we could expect was a puncture for which I was prepared (was carrying tubeless puncture repair kit plus tyre inflator).

Near Kaza.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-69-beyond-kaza.jpg

Between Kaza and Lossar.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-70-beyond-kaza.jpg

Between Kaza and Lossar.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-71-beyond-kaza.jpg

Between Kaza and Lossar.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-72-beyond-kaza.jpg

At Kunzum La.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-73-kunzum-la.jpg

At Kunzum La.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-74-kunzum-la.jpg

Near Chandratal.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-75-chandratal.jpg

Chandratal.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-76-chandratal.jpg

Posing at Chandratal. We had changed our damaged tyre before trekking 40 minutes to reach Chandratal. But our spirits never flagged.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-77-chandratal.jpg


Day-9 (23 Sep 19) : Drove 175 km over 9 hours from Batal to Kullu via Chhatru, Gramphu, Rohtang Pass and Manali. Road from Batal to Gramphu (49 km) was horrible. Mostly narrow dirt track with stones and boulders (of all shapes and sizes!) and many water crossings. Fortunately, the water crossings were not difficult because there is not too much water flowing during end-September. The good ground clearance and large wheels of my Endy ensured that I did not experience a single bottom scrape during this entire Spiti Valley drive.

Terrible roads between Batal and Gramphu.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-78-batal-gramphu.jpg

Terrible roads between Batal and Gramphu.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-79-batal-gramphu.jpg

Rohtang La.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-80-rohtang-pass.jpg

Rohtang La.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-81-rohtang-pass.jpg


Day-10 (24 Sep 19) : Drove 395 km from Kullu to Panipat over 10 hrs 25 mins. It’s mostly ghat roads till Baddi and it was a big relief to be finally back on straight, horizontal roads!

Gobind Sagar.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-82-gobind-sagar.jpg


Day-11 (25 Sep 19) : Drove 623 km from Panipat to Lucknow via Eastern Peripheral Bypass, Yamuna Expressway and Agra-Lucknow Expressway. Took only 8 hours of driving, averaging about 80 kmph.

Agra-Lucknow Expressway; 301 km long!
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-83-agra-lko-expy.jpg

Rumi Darwaza at Lucknow.
Spiti Valley in my Ford Endeavour-84-rumi-darwaza.jpg


Day-12 (26 Sep 19) : Drove 473 km from Lucknow to Aurangabad (Bihar) over 9 hrs 20 mins. The stretch from Lucknow to Allahabad Bypass (on G.T. Road) goes via Rae Bareilly, Unchahar and Kunda and was quite good. The stretch of G.T. Road between Allahabad Bypass and Aurangabad has several ‘diversions’ due to ongoing road widening and construction of flyovers.


Day-13 (27 Sep 19) : Drove 519 km from Aurangabad to Kolkata (New Town) in 9 hrs 20 mins. Our 13-day, 4700 km expedition ended successfully.


Some random thoughts / observations about our Spiti Valley expedition :

1) I have been driving on mountains and hill roads for several decades. In the past I had come across some pretty bad roads in North Sikkim, Ladakh, etc. But some roads I negotiated in Spiti Valley, especially on the stretch Lossar - Chandratal - Batal - Gramphu, were the worst I have experienced. It is definitely not for the faint of heart!

2) The 3 main dangers we found were (in decreasing order) (i) absence of mobile phone connectivity, (ii) absence of human beings for miles and miles, and (iii) broken and treacherous roads. We were definitely taking an undue risk by using a single car and only two guys (that too old fogies!). I would strongly recommend that such expeditions are done with at least 2 cars and 4 people.

3) At present only BSNL mobile works in some parts of Spiti Valley. But the signal is unreliable and data is very slow. All that is set to change pretty soon, maybe by early 2020, with the arrival of Jio. We saw massive optic fiber cable laying work by Jio all over Spiti Valley. As a matter of fact, digging of trenches by Jio to lay the cable ducts has made the roads narrower and more dangerous in many places. But as they say, "Today's pain is tomorrow's gain"!

4) My Endeavour 2.2 performed superbly. Buying the Endy in 2018 was one of my best decisions. It's in a completely different league as compared to my previous SUV, an XUV-500. The automatic transmission worked superbly on the hill roads and even on very steep climbs I found my engine power and torque more than adequate, with no perceptible drop in power at high altitudes. The suspension took everything in its stride and the ride quality and handling are awesome. Please note that Endeavour 2.2 is Rear Wheel Drive. Not once did I feel the need for 4x4. My rear wheels did not lose traction anywhere.

5) While negotiating hairpin bends on some very narrow stretches I felt that the Endy’s long wheelbase was a bit of a handicap. The short turning radius of the Endy (less than that of XUV) is a boon but sometimes 3-point turning is required.

6) Many people give conflicting and inaccurate descriptions of road condition and one needs to take such information with a pinch of salt. At Kaza we asked several drivers (car, bike, taxi) about the road condition between Kaza and Gramphu. The answers varied from "No problem at all, I did it in my Brezza yesterday" to "Road is completely broken. I saw a Scorpio stuck in a water crossing and returned to Kaza without attempting to go to Gramphu". The actual situation was somewhere in between.

7) H.P. Tourism rest houses are there in many places, but empty and unusable due to bureaucratic red tape. We visited a big Himachal Tourism rest house at Batal which had many well-furnished rooms, dormitories, functional kitchen with all necessary appliances and ample parking space. But the caretaker was nowhere to be found. BTW, none of the rooms were locked and we had half a mind to just crash in one of the 'VIP rooms'! When we checked with the famous 'Chacha-Chachi Dhaba' nearby, we were told that one can stay in the rest house only if one gets a prior booking from some office in Kaza! The net result was that scores of tourists were spending the night at Batal in very basic and sub-standard 'homestays' while the spacious rest house did not have a single occupant. There is a big Circuit House at Kaza which too I visited only to find it completely deserted with not a single occupant. Partha and I spent the night at Batal in a Swiss Tent which had an attached toilet. It was the only tented accommodation we used throughout the trip. All other nights were in hotels.

8) Many people take high altitude sickness or Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) lightly or casually. They do not fully appreciate the need for acclimatization. When we were in Kaza, we learnt about the death of a Bengali young man near Chandratal. His body was brought to Kaza for post mortem and his lungs were found collapsed. Reportedly, this guy had been feeling unwell for the last couple of days but did not take it seriously. Not only did he sleep in a tent at Chandratal, he went trekking in the mountains the next morning where he collapsed.

During our Spiti Valley expedition we also heard about the sad and untimely demise of Yogesh Sarkar of BCMtouring.com at Ladakh, apparently due to AMS. One must remember that even a person who has been to high altitudes without any problems in the past may experience AMS during a subsequent visit. I have been to many high altitude regions over the decades and, fortunately, never experienced any problem. Still, every time I return to the mountains I religiously take all necessary precautions such as climbing gradually over at least 3-4 days, remaining hydrated, abstaining from alcohol and avoiding strenuous activities. All visitors to Spiti Valley should preferably start at the Shimla end and exit at the Manali end because one gains altitude more gradually from the Shimla end.

Last edited by aah78 : 7th October 2019 at 18:14. Reason: Spacing.
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Old 7th October 2019, 18:16   #4
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Note from Support: Thread moved to the Travelogues section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 7th October 2019, 18:23   #5
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Excellent travelogue and wonderful images, Debuda, you and your friend have a had a ball. Truly inspiring.
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Old 7th October 2019, 18:49   #6
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Lovely Travelogue, Debuda. Beautiful pictures & very informative! Enjoyed browsing through.
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Old 7th October 2019, 19:58   #7
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It's wonderful to read your travelogue. The drive to Spiti valley by you two adventurous souls is quite an inspiration for many of us.
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Old 7th October 2019, 21:57   #8
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Great travelogue Sir. Beautiful pictures too.
That pose of you and the Endeavour below the signage saying "Second Wife" was wicked.
Glad to know the vehicle performed better than you expected and except for the tyre issue, all was good.
Most folks - myself included - assume the 2.2L engine on such a humongous sized SUV may be inadequate but your travelogue will put those doubts to rest.
Hoping to read many more travelogues with the Endeavour.
Happy touring.
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Old 7th October 2019, 23:45   #9
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Salute to your spirits sir.People like you serve the motivation to many. Thanks for sharing this wonderful travelogue.
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Old 8th October 2019, 00:21   #10
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Excellent write up Sir, we did this trip ex Chandigarh via Shimla just a few days after your start date in a self driven Brezza.

Glad that it was easy on the Endeavour, our Brezza performed alright in 99.9% of the terrain. The path to Chandertal was a challenge for the poor car with 4 souls & luggage on board.
Also somewhere between Batal & Grampu it couldn't go up on one particularly bad incline under it's own steam, the path was full of rocks underneath. We covered this at night so I don't know exactly where, the car had to be pushed by 4 people when the front wheels were helplessly spinning but made it out finally.
We also met a stuck Scorpio at this place who later turned off towards Leh citing bad roads in Spiti Valley!

To add to your observations, we learnt that google map driving time estimates can be off by as much as 100% in such terrains.

Saddened to hear the loss of lives in Spiti & Leh. RIP.

Last edited by raihan : 8th October 2019 at 00:31.
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Old 8th October 2019, 07:53   #11
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Coincidentally , Just yesterday, I was telling my wife and son that we should do a Spiti road trip during End March / April 1st week of 2020.

Lovely write up and clean pictures. Loved reading it.

Are there rental self drive options available from Chandigarh and do this ? I'm hoping the taxi union isn't a trouble creating body like the Leh ones.
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Old 8th October 2019, 08:56   #12
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Crisp details and excellent pictures. Loved reading through your travelogue sir. Kudos to you and your friend's spirit and the trip of 4200 km to Spiti valley. You had great company in nice looking white Ford Endeavor.
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Old 8th October 2019, 08:59   #13
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Nice crisp travelogue, driving around the Spiti Valley is one of the most challenging drives ever. You have no idea what gets thrown at you.

Quite brave of you to use the Endeavour, at times, we found the Kodiaqs a little too big during our drive. However, every type of vehicle seems to get there and back!

Our trip was hurried and crammed, you both made the most of it by driving slowly and enjoying the scenery.

Last edited by Aditya : 10th October 2019 at 08:47. Reason: Typo
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Old 8th October 2019, 09:47   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by raihan View Post
We also met a stuck Scorpio at this place who later turned off towards Leh citing bad roads in Spiti Valley!
We were told about a stuck Scorpio and vehicles avoiding the Batal - Gramphu route when we were trying to gather road condition information at Kaza. Wonder whether it is the same Scorpio you met.


Quote:
Originally Posted by jkrishnakj View Post
Are there rental self drive options available from Chandigarh and do this ? I'm hoping the taxi union isn't a trouble creating body like the Leh ones.
Rental bikes are certainly available, I'm not sure about cars / SUVs. Throughout our trip we did not face any issues with any taxi union regarding our private SUV.
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Old 8th October 2019, 09:59   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by debuda View Post
I have been driving on mountains and hill roads for several decades. In the past I had come across some pretty bad roads in North Sikkim, Ladakh, etc. But some roads I negotiated in Spiti Valley, especially on the stretch Lossar - Chandratal - Batal - Gramphu, were the worst I have experienced. It is definitely not for the faint of heart!
Excellent write-up and amazing pictures, Debuda! It brought back the memories of my Spiti Expedition of October 2018, with snow all around. Easily the best drive of my life. And yes, Losar to Gramphoo, has to be the worst roads I have ever experienced. But personally, I would rather that the roads stay that way. Some roads should only be meant for enthusiasts

On that note, do check out the same roads (Losar to Gramphoo) with snow all around and often flowing on the roads as well, from my drive in October 2018 in my Duster AWD with my small family of two humans two dogs. Link to post below:

https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/offic...ml#post4506203 (Renault Duster AWD : Official Review)
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Biking trip to the Wild Himalayas (Lahaul & Spiti Valley). Wanna Join? SJD@NewDelhi The Team-BHP Meet Section 4 21st June 2013 18:33
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The Highest Mountain Bike Race in the World - TRANS HIMALAYAN CHALLENGE -Spiti Valley dushmish Indian Motorsport 6 18th May 2009 16:51


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