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Old 22nd September 2021, 19:17   #1
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Default A Divine Call to Spiti Valley!

I had gotten Goldberg (My Ford Freestyle TDCi Titanium+) only because I wanted to travel across India with it. Then came COVID and we all know what happened next. This year I had decided post getting both the vaccine shots for us I’ll do the Spiti Circuit from Bangalore. The plan was originally supposed to include my brother as well, but he couldn’t manage to join us due to his work at the last moment. Nevertheless, that didn’t change my plan. I had been dreaming and planning this for a long time and I ensured nothing came in between it! So, it was me, my better half Aura(A) and Goldberg(G) on this trip.

Before the actual trip itself there were a lot of things to be done/purchased:
  • Getting a general checkup done for G.
  • Changed my windshield as it was making my wipers jump during heavy rain.
  • Appropriate shoes and attire for the trip (As per A: you can never have enough clothes :P)
  • Toiletries (Pee safe spray, pee buddy, wipes, tissue rolls for A)
  • Hand sanitisers, sanitizing spray, wipes for surfaces
  • Dry fruits, sleepy owl coffee, tea bags, biscuits, cup noodles and instant poha.
  • Packing our clothes, winter wears and shoes.
  • A good thermos flask for hot water.
  • DIY dustbins by stapling compostable dustbin bags in a paper bag.
  • I got a knife for A and a baseball bat to be kept in the car as safety precautions.
  • Apart from the regular medicines that we take A made a safety kit with other medicines. We needed a prescription to buy Dymox so got that arranged as well.
  • 12 litres of mineral water bottles, red bull and lots of chewing gums. Another great thing to carry is ginger candy when you are going up on high altitude.
  • Packed breakfast and lunch for the first day.
  • Withdrew cash.

Day 1: 4th September
Destination: Nagpur

I decided on this date as it would mean a gap of 1 month from our 2nd dose of Covishield. We woke up at 3 AM got ready and started at 4 AM.

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Luggage was loaded the day before.

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Starting ODO.

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Charged up for the next 15 days.

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Happy Faces.

The first stop was at 7:30 AM for loo/refuelling ourselves & G at an IOCL pump that had a Dhaba beside it. Entered Telengana at 9:20 AM. Light rains continued throughout. I entered Nehru ORR at 11:45 and told A that at this rate we will reach Nagpur way before ETA.

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Approaching Gachibowli exit on Nehru Outer Ring Road.

Alas, luck was not on our side, it had started to rain heavily, with heavy winds accompanying the rain the wiper got twisted into each other and broke(I can only think of an alignment issue caused by ASS when replacing the windshield as the cause for this)! I continued for some time and then realised it is not possible to reach Nagpur without wipers and pulled over. I called ford roadside assistance and they promptly helped me with the nearest service centre, which was in Karimnagar, had to drive back 150 km to reach the ASS (I wanted to get the wiper arm checked too, or else I could have got the wiper blades from any automobile spare shop).

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Condition of the wipers.

Had some food while being in conversation with the Mody Ford Karimnagar team to check the stock of spares needed. Started at 2 PM and reached the location at 4 PM. Finished our lunch and brewed a cup of sleepy owl coffee while waiting for the wipers to get changed. They were helpful and within 30 minutes I was back on track for Nagpur.

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Grateful for the quick service provided by these folks.

The road shown by Google was via a SH through a tiger reserve merging onto NH44, we had to keep our speed down. While it poured crazily all we saw were monkeys and cows strewn across the road. There were no lights on the road & as is the “norm” random people and animals kept coming out of nowhere.

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State Highways have their own charm!

We entered Maharashtra at 8 PM. Stopped at a Nayara Petrol Pump (sister concern of Essar) for a loo break and refuelling. The NH44 stretch leading to Nagpur post-Adilabad in Telangana is in terrible condition. G hit around 4 potholes which were the size of giant craters. I reduced my speed and followed an ambulance that was travelling from Kerala as it was super lit and ensured it didn’t hit those spots as a patient was in it.

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This Ambulance had 6 lights in front and the LED strips on the roof illuminated the sides too.

Entered Le Meridien at 10:50 PM after covering 1234 km in a day. A had pre-ordered fried rice and noodles and as per our request, they had kept the food in our room.

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Day's trip meter. My personal best till date.

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Look at his shine after the gruelling day.

I have a habit of checking my TPMS application after every ride. I found out the left rear tyre had some issues. On checking found 4 nails that punctured the tyre. I tried to use my puncture repair kit but had no success. The plan to start for Noida at 5:00 AM went for a toss.

Hotel: Le Meridian, Nagpur
Tariff: INR 6369/-

Day 2: 5th September
Destination: Greater Noida

There was a tyre puncture repairing shop near the hotel, but we got to know they opened at 8 AM which would have been super late for us. We started calling the numbers which came up on google but sadly nothing worked. So I went to the nearby shop, woke the person up and told him about the situation. He was nice and helped me get the punctures fixed.

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Not a place to be held up early morning when you need to cover 1000+kms.

Le Meridien folks were kind enough to pack a lot of items from the breakfast spread for us which became our lunch. Started for Noida at 8:15 AM. Entered MP around 9:30 AM. Nh44 was again smooth and sans any craters! Highway through Pench Tiger reserve has been made well with elevated roads and sound barriers on both sides.

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NH44 through Pench Tiger Reserve.

Took our first stop at 11:34 AM at the HP petrol pump for refuelling, loo and brunch. An old couple sells tea beside the pump and auntie makes great tea.

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Brunch Scene.

Started at 12:05 PM again and the next break was after 4 hours at an IOCL station. It had a common washroom but thankfully was in usable condition for A.

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Gowmata welcoming us in Uttar Pradesh!

G clocked 25k KMs in 1.5 years of being family somewhere in UP after crossing Jhansi.

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So many more milestones to reach for the both of us!

Not sure why Google made us enter Gwalior. It was a city of organized chaos! Cows and humans coming in front of the car and passing through this city was quite cumbersome.

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Smart City Gwalior. No one even has a mask on!

The next break was right after entering Yamuna Expressway around 9:50 PM. We took a veg thali for dinner and a cup of tea.

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Dinner for two.

Started for Noida at 10:10 PM. A fell asleep for a short while (she had eaten rice from the thali, a big no while driving or being the shotgun) on this stretch and even I was getting bored driving here. Reached Radisson Blu at 12:05 am. The hotel had aged, and maintenance wasn’t at its peak was quite evident. We did 1018 km on day 2.

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Day's trip meter.

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Cannot wait to hit the mountain roads tomorrow.

Hotel: Radisson Blue, Greater Noida
Tariff: INR 3345/-

Last edited by bigDaddy_In : 24th September 2021 at 15:52.
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Old 22nd September 2021, 21:11   #2
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Default Re: A Divine Call to Spiti Valley!

Day 3: 6th September
Destination: Narkanda

Got G refuelled from the petrol pump just beside the hotel and started for Narkanda at 6:10 AM. The speed limit on the Eastern Peripheral expressway is 120 km/hr (such a blessing).

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Fancy Toll Plaza.

Our breakfast stop was at the famous Gulshan Dhaba at Murthal where we reached around 7:30 AM.

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As the t-shirt says, BORN TO BE WILD ;)

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The white butter is oh so delicious and is not at all heavy! The must-try items are Aloo Piyaz paratha and the dal makhani.

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Jalebis never do any harm.

We restocked on mineral water and red bull cans(I feel red bull does nothing to help in staying awake, it’s just a fad!). Crossed Punjab and finally entered Himachal Pradesh at 11:40 AM.

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First sight of the mountains.

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After crossing 9 states, here we are!

I got off the new highway and took the old highway somehow. We stopped for a quick tea break for 15 minutes and started for Narkanda.

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G's first Himalaya experience.

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And A's first Himachal Trip.

Shimla was packed with tourists, I showed A where we had stayed during my childhood visit to Shimla.

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Shimla from a distance.

Our hotel was at Echor Cottages, which is just before entering Narkanda. The whole property was beautiful, but our room was the show stopper. Everyone at the property was super helpful and friendly.

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Stop for the night. Parking G was tricky. The parking space was on a piece of flat land downhill from the road. I forgot to take picture of the parking space :(

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Such a nice place to be in!

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We had their best room on offer.

The temperature change was evident. We didn’t have any lunch on the way so ordered for some snacks with high tea.

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Had to try ghee siddu, and it was delicious.

A booked the property via MMT with the dinner and breakfast package. Dinner was veg but freshly prepared and delicious. We started the trip’s data back up and decided to make backups every night so that the load wasn’t much in copying data. We got to know that a landslide happened at Jeori-Sarahan road which is part of the national highway 5.

We had two options for the next day, either Chitkul or Kalpa. With the landslides happening we thought of avoiding Sangla Valley and proceed to Kalpa. We spoke to the folks at Echor Alpine Crest property. They asked us to be in Narkanda till they update us with the landslide status. We slept early as we wanted to capture the sunrise early in the morning.

Hotel: Echor Narkanda Cottages
Tariff: INR 4012/-

Day 4: 7th September
Destination: Kalpa

We got all the clouds along with us it seems. It was a cloudy morning, so we didn’t get to see the sunrise, but the beauty didn’t diminish because of it! After a good hearty breakfast, I asked few cars coming from the opposite side whether the landslide was cleared, and they informed us that it was cleared so we proceeded for Kalpa at 9:20 AM.

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Morning Blossoms.

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Beautiful roads.

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First sight of Sutlej.

Reached Jeori to learn that it was still work in progress and no one really could say by when the landslide will be cleared. I decided to move ahead as much as I could(where I could park G safely) so that the moment it got cleared, I could cross sooner than get stuck in the traffic. So, G was parked on the side around noon and the wait started. Out came our stools from Decathlon to rest and chill.

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I found this funny.

Both of us went ahead to check the landslide out. Huge rocks had fallen and JCBs were in full flow to remove them. With God’s grace, there were no casualties.

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The whole mountain seemed to have fallen down.

Lunch was the instant cup noodles and protein bars. I went to the nearby BRO Barracks and asked for permission to use their washroom for A as there was nothing nearby. The officers were very nice, and they allowed her to use the washroom. They even offered us food as they knew we were stuck for so long! After 3 blasts and continuous work, the PWD managed to clear the road for one-sided traffic, and they started letting cars going downhill first. This was at 6:40 PM. Our side started at 7:20 PM and we managed to cross around 7:45 PM.

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Traffic was slow and steady.

The roads were dark and despite the best efforts to ensure everyone moved smoothly many cars tried to overtake each other in that single lane which resulted in delay again (Humans never learn).

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Entered Kinnaur at 8:10 PM.

We missed out on the beautiful views of this route but we were happy that we could make it to the other side.

Crossed Karcham dam which has one of the biggest hydropower generating facilities of over 1,000 MW. We learnt that most of the landslides which are occurring are due to the massive number of hydel projects coming up in HP. A campaign has started ‘NO MEANS NO’ to stop these projects in Kinnaur.

The location to the hotel Echor is not tagged correctly which we learnt the hard way. Because of the confusion, we reached the hotel around 11 PM. It was quite a walk from the parking to the hotel. We had booked the topmost rooms for the view again. A had called and booked verbally since the network was patchy. They accept cash and UPI payments, so we made the payment when we reached the hotel via g-pay. They had kept the dinner in our room itself. The hotel has a dog that sleeps in front of the guests’ rooms. She doesn’t bark at all and is super friendly.

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Apples everywhere.

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Room for the night.

Hotel: Echor Alpine Crest, Kalpa
Tariff: INR 3500/-

Day 5: 8th September
Destination: Tabo

The alarm was set for 5:30 AM to catch the sunrise but we carried the rain and clouds with us. I set the go pro up and slept for a while again. The Kinnaur Kailash range made a small guest appearance for us but it quickly got covered in the clouds.

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View from our room.

Kalpa has a famous suicide point which everyone visits but it was in a different direction, so I decided not to visit that place. We had breakfast on the terrace with a beautiful view and took a walk around the apple orchards.

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Such a lovely setting for breakfast.

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Our friend from Kalpa.

G’s tank was refilled at an IOCL bunk in Reckong Peo. On reaching Khab check post officials took details of the car and our destination for the day. Stopped for tea and loo break at a Dhaba maintained by BRO below the Khab Bridge overlooking the Sangam of Sutlej and Spiti River. Entered Spiti Valley at 12:30 PM.

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Finally we are entering SPITI VALLEY!

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Old 22nd September 2021, 23:13   #3
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Mountains have suddenly levelled up!

Our first stop was at Nako lake. There are 4 Buddhist temples near the lake. The lake is a holy place. Pin drop silence covers the place but it’s sad to see tourists throwing plastics all around the place.

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A posing in front of the beautiful lake.

We stopped at a restaurant for lunch at Nako. Had veg thukpa and chicken momo. We had the veg thukpa for the first time and it was delicious especially with a spicy chutney they gave. I was still hungry so had a plate of Rajma Chawal as well. The beans are quite smaller than the ones we are used to eating.

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Good food.

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Some off-road sections followed after crossing Nako.

There was another check post at Sumdo where they took same details. Jio and BSNL are the only networks that work in Spiti. Reached Ghiu/Gue village at 4:20 PM which has the mummy of Sangha Tenzing. The mummy was in one of the 6 stupas and after the earthquake of 1975, it was discovered by the ITPB. Researchers from Oxford University came in 2002 and with the help of carbon 14 dating found out that the mummy was in the same position from 1430 AD. The road was closed as construction is underway to make a temple for the mummy to be kept. We had to climb rocks to go see the mummy. It was a difficult climb but was worth it.

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Approaching Gue.

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G parked at a distance from the temple complex. Roads are closed due to construction.

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New building being constructed for the mummy.

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Mummy of Sangha Tenzing.

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Had some tea at the only tea shop there.

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Left for Tabo at 5:15 PM.

We booked Hotel Maitreya Regency on our way. Reached Tabo at 6:15 PM. A great hotel that served nonveg as well. :D Super near to the Tabo Monastery. The co-owner of the hotel is Dr Hari Chanda who is from Goa but visits the hotel for 3 months every year, very helpful and super jolly. We spoke to him for a long time.

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Stop for the night.

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Room for the night.

Hotel: Hotel Maitreya Regency
Tariff: INR 3186/-

Day 6: 9th September
Destination: Kee via Dhankar and Kaza

We woke up around 5:30 AM, brewed some sleepy owl coffee in the room, took a hot shower and went out to explore the town.

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Such a view to wake up to.

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Spiti River in her full glory.

After having breakfast at the hotel, we visited the Tabo Monastery. Chaering Dolma was our guide, and she explained the history of Tabo monastery. One can see the statues of the Buddhas of the past, present, and future. It is adorned with priceless collections of thankas (scroll paintings), manuscripts & extensive murals. The detailing is mind-blowing. The Tabo Monastery is protected by the ASI as a national historic treasure of India.

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There are meditation caves in the mountains which can be seen from the valley. Albeit there are stairs which can be used to reach, we gave up midway as we were super out of breath. We got some trinkets and gifts from one of the shops near the monastery. We had plans to send letters from Hikkim which has the highest post office in the world, to be on the safer side we bought stamps and postcards from Tabo as Hikkim Post Office most of the time runs out of postal supplies. Dolma auntie had informed us about a stretch that was filled with areas of shooting stones, and she told A to keep an eye out for any movement happening on the mountains as goats roam about for food and in turn, kicks the ground which makes the gravels come falling. One small piece and the car body will get damaged.

We returned to the hotel to complete check out formalities and bid farewell to Dr Chanda.

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I wish to be as fit and lively at your age Dr Chanda, hope to meet you again.

Left for Dhankar at 10:15 AM. Cloudy weather and rain followed us everywhere it seemed!

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All places we planned to visit in one milestone.

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Possing with my boy!

We reached Dhankar around 11:20 AM. Visited both the old and new Dhankar Monasteries. One must purchase a ticket of Rs 25 to enter the old monastery. It's high up and the view from the meditation room is beautiful.

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Dhankar Monastery from a distance.

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View of Spiti Valley from Dhankar is amazing.

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Entrance of the old monastery.

We chucked the idea to visit the Dhankar lake because firstly I didn’t want to overwork myself as I had to be driving throughout and secondly Dolma auntie told us that water had drastically reduced from the lake. If you are a fitness buff or have the strength to go 2.5 km uphill, then do visit the lake. We had lunch at the Dhankar monastery guest house. They even have rooms for rent which is 1500 per night. We took a Thenthuk and a thukpa. It started raining while we were having lunch (we thanked ourselves that we didn’t go for the trek else would have been stuck).

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Our original plan was to go to Mudh village in Pin valley and stay at Tara Guesthouse (this is the most famous one, there are around 6 or 7 more guest houses as well apart from this one) but 2 locals advised us not to go there as it had started to rain heavily and landslide chances were more. We didn’t want to take that risk, so we skipped Mudh village and went straight to Kaza. On the way, we met Tanzin who is in standard 10. She wanted a lift to Kaza from her village. She was going for her tuitions. Since she was wearing a mask, we took her in. Loved hearing that she wants to be a doctor and serve the people of Spiti Valley. She said she will study wherever she gets a chance to but will be back in her village. She told us that she either hitchhikes or waits for the bus to travel to Kaza for her tuition and back to her home!

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We didn’t have a booking for that day so tried checking if Hotel Deyzor had a room available or not since our booking with them was from the 10th. Unfortunately, they were all sold out. Jio works well so with the help of our jio-fi we searched for our options in MMT. Found this luxurious property called Spiti Village Resort at Kee. I had seen this for a long time but since it was on the higher side of the budget, I hadn’t kept it in our itinerary. Clearly, God had other plans. We booked a hut with the dinner and next day breakfast package. While it was a bomb that we spent, it was worth it. Starting from the room to the view to the food. Everything was amazing. They run on DG so power is available from 5 PM to 1 AM and again from 8 AM. Met many people and chatted about our experiences. Woke up around 1:30 AM to see the stars. The skies remained clear for very little time (yes you guessed it, clouds) the view was something for which we can wake up every night.

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Stop for tonight.

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Once the clouds cleared we were treated with amazing views.

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Room for the night.

Hotel: Spiti Village Resort
Tariff: INR 9424/-

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Day 7: 10th September
Destination: Kaza via Chicham, Gette and Tashigang

Woke up early morning to experience the sunrise, and it was a sight to behold.

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First sun rays on the mountains!

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We made a new friend, Cho Cho the Husky!

We had a hearty breakfast at the resort and started for Chicham Village around 10 AM. We had to cross the Chicham bridge which is Asia’s highest bridge. The bridge is at a height of 13500+ft and if you gape down you can see a 1000ft gorge below.

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Crossing the bridge for the first time.

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There were too many people near the bridge, so we found this spot away from the crowd to take pictures.

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It was quite an uphill drive till Chicham Village, we crossed 4000mts for the first time.

The village was quaint, and we didn’t see anyone around to talk to so left for Gette. We had to come back the same way and cross the bridge before taking the diversion towards Kibber Village.

A missed the direction so we couldn’t go to Gette (a hamlet: has 3 houses only) but we did see it from a distance.

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It was only us on this route. We could maintain a slow pace and enjoy the views.

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Crossed an unnamed pass at 4490mts elevation.

We reached Tashigang at 12:20 PM. There is a homestay there called Blue Sheep Homestay where we were offered lunch but we settled for some butter tea over some stories about their livelihood.

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Goldberg @ Tashigang.

Tashigang is a village with a total of 6 houses and 20 people! When the oldest person heard our apartment has more than 2000 people, he was in disbelief for quite some time. He has 4 grandchildren, who were very playful. A gave them fruitella which they absolutely loved and went into a binge mode like A does when she gets them as well. They showed us fossils which they found in the mountains nearby. The patriarch took us to his rooftop where he showed us the snow-capped mountains, a skull of a blue sheep and a yak head as well. Tashigang has the world's highest polling booth at 4650 mts.

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A happy family. :)

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View from the terrace of Blue Sheep Homestay or anywhere from Tashigang Village.

While returning we visited Key Gompa. The climb for me was super challenging as I was getting out of breath after every 2 steps. My SPO2 had gone down to 60 at one point! So, I couldn’t enjoy the beauty of the monastery.

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Key Gompa overlooking the valley.

We reached Kaza at 3 PM and checked into Hotel Deyzor. The hotel is truly an experience to stay in and if you don’t get a chance to book a room, at least visit their café for the food. One of the owners, Karan has travelled around the world in his bicycle.

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Room for the next couple of nights.

We had some evening snacks and went around to shop in the market. There is only 1 SBI ATM in the whole of Kaza which is out of service most of the time. Maximum shops operate on cash only, few accept UPI payments but in order to do so, the network has to be by your side. Hotel Deyzor had a Saint Bernard called Simba who was known to be ferocious, so the best tip was to ignore him. He passed away recently, and Karan got another St Bernard who is called Azizam. Azizam is the meekest dog and loves to sleep!

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Hotel Deyzor's beautiful cafe.

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Stop for the next couple of nights.

Hotel: Hotel Deyzor
Tariff: INR 6979/-(for 2 nights)

Day 8: 11th September

Today was all about experiencing the highest of multiple categories. The first one was to get G tanked up at the highest petrol bunk in the world operated by IOCL in Kaza.

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G did not need a refill, but I did not want to miss out on the picture.

I returned to the hotel and A had already ordered a scrumptious Iranian and Parsi breakfast.

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Can breakfast look better than this at 3800mts?

We started for Langza at 10 AM and reached there at 11:40 AM. It was raining and super windy. We realized that today would not be that peaceful as the day before because of the mad tourist rush.

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After spending some 10 mins, it started pouring heavily so we started for Hikkim which has the highest post office in the world. It’s at 4440 m elevation! The post office is in the house of the postmaster, Mr Rinchen Chhering who was not there when we reached, so it was his grandson Kanga and granddaughter Kanga Langzom who were running the show! Such friendly and happy faces make you feel warm inside despite the cold weather. We had around 20 postcards to write so we were there for quite some time.

The kids were chatty with us. We asked the younger one what he wants to be when he grows up and his answer was that he wants to be Elon Musk! We were bowled over by his answer and had a long conversation on his interests. They liked the hanging sanitiser bottles that we had attached to our backpacks and the granddaughter liked A’s backpack a lot. The postmaster returned from Kaza, and our letters were still WIP. He was so happy having a conversation with us that he asked us to stay back for tea! He also gave us a small gift. He retires next year in May.

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Mr Rinchen with his grandson Kanga.

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We also met fellow BHPian ramkya1 while we were having tea at Mr Rinchen's place. Apologies for not having a mask on, locals suggested me not to wear a mask as my SPO2 levels were below 70%

We wanted to send some books and gifts for the kids and took their address. On asking how they would know if we have sent the parcel, the postmaster said, “Itne saalo mein koi hume kuch nahi bheja. Kuch ayega toh pata chal jayega aapne bheja he”. It was such a humbling experience to hear stories from their day-to-day life and how happy they are with it. In the meantime, we also met a German Lady who wanted to send letters to the ISS for her Russian friend. I was shocked on hearing the cost of this post, only Rs. 30/-.

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Mr Rinchen assured all our letters will reach their recipients within a month.

From Hikkim we went to Komic where we reached around 2:05 PM. It is the highest village connected with motorable road. We stopped for lunch at the highest restaurant in the world. Some ginger honey lemon tea, seabuckthorn tea and Maggi made us happy.

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Ginger Honey Lemon Tea.

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Any idea why does Maggi taste better in the mountains?

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I got a bad cold and was having trouble breathing. Slowly we drove back to the hotel.

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Returning to Kaza, all downhill.

2 bowls of garlic soup was just what was needed. We slept off early.

Last edited by bigDaddy_In : 24th September 2021 at 16:25.
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Day 9: 12th September
Destination: Chandra Taal

Started for Chandrataal at 7:40 AM. The roads were smooth and well maintained till Losar.

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Scenic roads.

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There were multiple stupas on the road like this one.

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Reached there at 9:15 AM.

We had some tea and maggi for breakfast. Met a few bikers and had a good 30 mins of conversation with them.

Just after the village is the check post where your car number, name and contact number of the driver is taken. It started raining and smooth roads ended. Started the “unknown road” stretch as shown on google maps. I had to concentrate on each of the rocks and turns that were coming my way. A had to get down to remove rocks that I thought could damage G.

We crossed Kunzum Pass and also prayed at the temple of Maa Kali and Buddha. We took a 10 mins break before starting downhill. The rains and winds did not allow us to be outside and take photos of the magnificient views through this route.

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G all pumped up for the challenges coming up.

It was all downhill from there. After a lot of hairpin bends we reached the trail towards Chandratal.

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Rocky Mountain High

We crossed the first Nala with ease. Another 15/20 mins on the route we met cars who were turning back as a lot of vehicles were getting stuck in the next water crossing. I did not want to return back and had full confidence in G and we had to see Chandra Taal. Another freestyle was parked on the other side of the water crossing and on seeing my car he came down and informed me that he got stuck there last day and needed 5 people to push his vehicle to get out of the Nala. Despite the person’s best efforts to help us not get stuck in the place everyone was, we got stuck! Everyone was super helpful and tried their best to help us get out of the mess but alas all the instructions failed and our car stopped moving. 2 locals from the camps nearby helped me reverse the car and told me that I must maintain a constant speed of 30/40 to cross it. I didn’t have the courage to do it and it was not a place to be a hero, so they crossed it for me. Finally reached the Parasol camp around 1:15 PM.

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Stop for the night.

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Room for the night

After getting nice and cozy sipping some Kahwah and warming ourselves infront of the tandoor we decided to visit Chandra Taal. Since there is no network, all fellow campers had huddled in the tent with the tandoor and chatted away. We met a couple from Varanasi who had taken a tourist cab from Chandigarh. We checked with them if we could go in their car and they happily agreed and all of us got up on the Innova and up we went. There is a check post that takes your car number before you can go ahead. Post parking, the walk to Chandra Taal was around 15 mins. Although I was still not being able to walk fast, my breathing problem had subsided a little. A was carrying pulse logenzes with her so we kept popping them while walking.

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Tandoor and Kahwah.

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First sight of Chandra Taal

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Spent some good time at the lake. Although it was cloudy, the beauty did not diminish.

The beauty of the lake is something which I can’t describe in words. You need to see it to experience it. Once we came back we ordered some Maggi. Piping hot Maggi in 2 degrees is definitely comforting. In the evening came another round of Kahwah and garlic soup to help in keeping our bodies warm for the night. While I layered myself with warmers and my jacket, A layered herself in 5 layers of clothing! Post a scrumptious dinner of hot rice, dal, roti and sabzi we all went to our tents. As instructed by the Camp manager and other taxi drivers, I kept G’s engine on for good 30 mins before calling it a day. A was scared that it will be too cold to sleep there but it actually was super comfortable to sleep. The trick is to sleep in one single position so that the place remains warm throughout.

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G getting warm for the cold night ahead.

Hotel: Parasol Camps
Tariff: INR 4500/-

Day 10: 13th September
Destination: Manali

We woke up around 6 when the camp team was calling everyone to wake up and come out. Lo and behold we were covered in snow! It was the season’s first snow. Wherever you looked all you could see was white! It was in our good luck that we got to witness this beauty!

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But that meant I didn’t know if I could start for Manali or not as it was continuously snowing. The first thing I had in mind was to check on G. I raised the wiper arms, turned on the engine and removed some snow from him.

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Challenge Accepted by G and me.

We brewed some sleepy owl coffee for the fellow drivers and us while gazing at the spectacle. I was then mocked by a few Kia owners staying at the camp who told me that I must be mad for bringing such a small car here and I will have to leave my car here as their Kia’s could not make it across the Kunzum Top. I did not take this lightly and had a straight answer: “This is a FORD and not a KIA, I did not pay for BOSE music system and fancy DRLs but for a good engine, 6 airbags, traction control and solid build. See you in Manali!”. This response was fueled by the underlying frustration that I had about Ford’s exit from the Indian market. We will have lesser options of good cars from now on!

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Parasol Team took good care of us. The one in the woollen coat is Mr Bishan a.k.a. BSNL. He is a man truly attached to the mountains. I already made my Zanskar plan with him

It was the last day of the security forces stationed there so they lent their Sat phones from which everyone could inform their families about the situation. A gave my brother’s number as we weren’t sure if both sets of parents will receive the call or not. The snow stopped around 10 AM and around 11:45 the green signal came that we can start for Manali. A 4x4 was sent first to define a track for the rest of the vehicles to follow. The “roads” were covered in snow, slushy and were strewn with big rocks. G performed so well. I could feel how well the traction control system was working. We saw a Hexa getting stuck, an Innova spinning out of control, but G was moving ahead as if it was a cakewalk. I was super proud and shared a few glances with the Kia owners who were in the Camps 4x4 vehicle.

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A constantly had to get down and move big rocks from the track. She had to be fast as loose rocks were falling from above as well! On seeing this Devender Ji and Ramesh Ji (2 taxi drivers with whom I had formed a great rapport since the last day) told me to keep my car in between their Innovas so that throughout the route if there were any issues, they’d help. Who does that? It really moved me. We crossed Batal at 12:24 PM and stopped at the famous Chacha Chachi Dhaba for some tea and started after 20 minutes again.

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They and their dhaba are as famous as the Kaza Manali route

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One on the left is Devender Ji and on the right is Ramesh Ji

We crossed Chhota Dara at 2 PM and while I had to concentrate on each inch of the trail to avoid any damage to G, the fact that I had these two guys around me was a great reassurance.

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A small break after crossing Chhota Dara.

Last edited by bigDaddy_In : 24th September 2021 at 14:41.
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We see greenery and life for the first time on this route. We are getting close to Manali.

We had to make a stop at Chhatru for 2 hours since there was a landslide on the route, and everyone was waiting for confirmation to go ahead. I casually asked if I could be a good taxi driver for this route and both Devender Ji and Ramesh Ji confirmed with a big smile. They and their tourist passengers were all praise for how well G performed in snow and rocky trails. I am sure a few of them would have thought of a Ford Vehicle for their next purchase if Ford had continued. We had never experienced such terrain and it was worth all the effort we had to put in for reaching there.

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Lunch was Rajma Chawal and some tea.

One thing to note is they don’t have any washroom whatsoever at the Dhabas in Chhatru. If nature calls you must relieve yourself in nature itself!

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Clear skies after so long.

We started for Manali again and got smooth roads at 6 PM! I sped up as I wanted to reach Atal Tunnel before sunset. I had to put the Spiti Valley sticker on G in front of Atal Tunnel and get that recorded.

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Got the Spiti Valley Sticker on G before crossing to the sad side of Atal Tunnel.

Reached Hotel Shingar Regency at 7:50 PM. The room given to us was that of a mountain view. The lit Manali city could be seen through the balcony. We really wanted to try the Himalayan Trout so post a good hot shower we went to the Johnson restaurant for dinner. While I took a hot apple cider san any alcohol A took a hot chocolate-based drink which she loved.

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Celebrations with Good food and drinks.

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Room for the night.

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Stop for the night.

Hotel: Shingar Regency
Tariff: INR 2621/-

Day 11: 14th September
Destination: Chandigarh

Post a delicious breakfast with the mountains accompanying us we headed to visit Hadimba Temple. This is one of the only temples I like because it hasn’t turned into a business. The peace and calmness you feel once you enter is something one can get used to. We went to Mall road for some shopping but maximum shops were selling items which you get everywhere. We found a Tibetan store where they had unique things, so we splurged there a bit.

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We knew we will miss such morning scenes from the next day, so made the most out of it.

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Beautiful Hadimba Temple

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Started for Chandigarh at 12:15 PM.

The roads to Chandigarh from Manali was a pathetic experience. A single lane road with trucks plying continuously. Construction is on to make better roads so this is the only route as of now. Before hitting the hotel, we were visiting A’s ex-colleague's home. They met after 9 years so it was a mini-reunion. The road in Chandigarh is smooth as butter! Our stay was at Hometel@Sarovar hotel.

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Room for the night.

Hotel: Hometel@Sarovar
Tariff: INR 3606/-

Day 12: 15th September
Destination: Greater Noida

The breakfast spread at the hotel was really good and had a lot of options. Started for Noida at 12:40 PM. The roads were smooth and I was strangely hating it and wanted the SPITI roads back. A flying stone damaged G's windshield and I was pretty upset with it. To cheer up, I decided to take a U-turn on reaching Murthal for a late lunch at Gulshan Dhaba because you don’t say no to that delicious paratha and butter.

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Lunch was good.

Checked in to Crowne Plaza Greater Noida around 7 PM. Since we had a late lunch, we didn’t feel like ordering dinner. A had a cup-noodles at night.

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Room for the next 2 nights.

Hotel: Crown Plaza, Greater Noida
Tariff: INR 9401/- (for 2 nights)

Day 13: 16th September

G was getting his 30k service done today. I had booked an appointment at Gautam Budh Ford in Noida. Post breakfast at the hotel I went with G and A stayed back at the hotel. I did an underbody inspection of G and it looked like nothing happened at all, but front right alloy(must have brushed with a lot of stones when G got stuck at the Nala near Chandratal) and front tyres were gone apart from the crack on the windshield(Gautam Budh Ford needed 1 day time to get the windshield replaced so I planned to change it after reaching BLR). After getting G back around 2:30 PM I went back to the hotel to pick A up for a late lunch. The plan was to eat at Moti Mahal South Ex and drive around for some time. While the chicken tandoori can be skipped the butter chicken at MM made us drool. Drove around India Gate and went to Connaught Place for a walk. It gave the feeling as if I was in New Market in Kolkata. A found a Theobroma so we got brownies packed to get them back to Bangalore. We turned in early as the next day would have been a big drive.

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Scratched Alloys. Already placed an order for replacement.

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Collateral damages.

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Mr Dinesh from Gautam Budh Ford was really helpful in getting my car serviced on priority.

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Moti Mahal's butter chicken :D

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India Gate from a distance.

Last edited by bigDaddy_In : 24th September 2021 at 16:23.
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Old 24th September 2021, 15:20   #7
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Day 14: 17th September
Destination: Nagpur

Woke up at 3:30 AM, A made some tea and used the instant poha for a quick meal. Started for Nagpur at 4:55 AM. It started to rain, and it went along with us! Stopped for tea at the rest area near Vrindavan. We were lucky enough to spot Taj Mahal from a distance while crossing Agra.

The next stop was at Reliance petrol pump for refuelling somewhere in Rajasthan. Very few food options albeit there are a lot of Dhabas but they were all crowded. Saw a clean and empty restaurant after entering MP called Shaan e Punjab so we stopped there for breakfast. Had some sandwiches, paratha and tea.

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The roads were smooth, and we didn’t stop much. Lunch was at a swanky Dhaba called Satyam Dhaba in Sagar, MP. The food was freshly made and tasted good.

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Since our ETA was decent to reach Nagpur we had taken another break for some sleepy owl.

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Team-BHP Store: Please get the T-shirts back in stock.

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A showing off her office goodies.

Our last hotel stay was at Pride Plaza. The hotel isn’t doing good, and it was evident. We ordered food through the in-room dining service. The food tasted good thankfully. We had decided to eat breakfast at the hotel and then start as finding a decent Dhaba during these times are tough!

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Room for the night.

Hotel: Pride Hotel, Nagpur
Tariff: INR 4072/-

Day 15: 18th September
Destination: Home, Bangalore!

Last day of the trip. The breakfast spread had a lot of items but they all tasted very meh. We started at 8:15 AM.

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We got this picture taken after realizing we 3 did not have a picture together on this trip.

The terrible roads started, and I was thankful that I was driving during the daytime on this stretch.

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Stopped at a Sardarji’s Dhaba in Telengana for lunch. Started around 3:50 again.

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The final sundowner of the trip. I wish I could be on the roads driving and still pay my bills.

The roads became smooth again and I beat google’s ETA by 3hrs 15 mins and reached home at 10:45 PM.

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Back to Base!

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Room till we hit the roads again!

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Final ODO reading!

The only thing we lost during the trip was a torch but the experience we gained is something that is going to be with us for a lifetime. While we are back to our “normal” life, it feels uncomfortable in our own home, and we are missing Spiti and the people even more.

Things happen if you get the divine calling, only then do you win against all odds.

We are hopeful that life gives us more chances to experience this beauty over and over again!

Trip Stats:
KMs Driven: 6,389 KMs
Toll Paid: INR 6,730/-
Diesel Cost: INR 31,248.62/-
Hotel Cost: INR 61,015/-
Food + Water: INR 21,500/-
Car Service(General Checkup Pre-trip,30k Service): INR 6,736/-
+ Miscellaneous Expenses

Before I end this post I want to share my deepest gratitude to A for being such a wonderful life partner, G for keeping us safe and helping us explore terrains where I could not take 2 steps without gasping for air, @navsjab for helping me validate my itinerary and the good samaritans Devender Ji and Ramesh Ji!

If anyone reading this plans to visit SPITI or Ladakh or anywhere else in Himachal and looking for a reliable Taxi, please DM me for their contact. That is the least I can do in return!

Last edited by bigDaddy_In : 24th September 2021 at 18:20.
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Old 25th September 2021, 05:04   #8
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Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!

Going to our homepage today

Last edited by GTO : 25th September 2021 at 07:01.
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Old 25th September 2021, 07:41   #9
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Thats some drive you folks had! The Himachal part of Chandratal-Manali is a dream drive for every one!

And yes sadly we will miss the Fords! :(
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Old 25th September 2021, 08:20   #10
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Wow, what a wonderful journey that you guys undertook
And some of those pics were really breathtaking!

So encouraging to see that you managed to enjoy in a hatchback, ofcourse it helped that it was a Ford!
Reminds me that it is not just the car capability that's important on such journeys, perhaps it is the will and the desire to explore, that's equally (maybe more) important.

Loved your TL. Rating it 5 stars.
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Old 25th September 2021, 11:50   #11
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Originally Posted by bigDaddy_In View Post
I had gotten Goldberg (My Ford Freestyle TDCi Titanium+) only because I wanted to travel across India with it.
Wow! What an amazing travelogue! Fantastic locations, adventurous routes, great photos, and a lovely little car that looks to have handled this so well. The car looks great in those locations.

Your travelogue in an inspirational stuff. Thank you for writing this. And thank you for sharing all the finer details of hotels etc.

Rating this thread a well-deserved 5 stars!

Originally Posted by JoshMachine View Post
Reminds me that it is not just the car capability that's important on such journeys, perhaps it is the will and the desire to explore, that's equally (maybe more) important.
+1 to this! Very well said! Maybe there will be a few rare occasions or locations where the car's technical abilities (4x4 etc) maybe required. But other than that, it is all about the driver's will power and the ability to drive that car well on any sort of road conditions.

Last edited by Dr.AD : 25th September 2021 at 11:51.
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Old 25th September 2021, 12:28   #12
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What a beautiful log. The fact that you covered 1000+ on the first 2 days shows the eagerness to hit the hills faster.

Good pics too. And like DrAD said, big thanks for sharing the details I’d stay for each night. That’ll be immensely helpful for all.
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Old 25th September 2021, 12:50   #13
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Enjoyed reading your travelogue every bit with its amazing pics. Well planned & executed with the support of A & G.
I am sure you are looking at a another one real soon. Well done.
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Old 25th September 2021, 13:08   #14
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Thanks for sharing, write-up and wishing you many more such wonderful trips...
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Old 25th September 2021, 15:26   #15
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Excellent Travelogue! Very well-written with details of all your experiences. The best pic for me is your car covered with snow! It is lovely.

And good to see that TPMS helped to detect the puncture.

Glad to spend my Saturday reading this travelogue.
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