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Old 30th January 2023, 17:14   #1
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Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2573.jpg

When I bought the Duster AWD in 2018, I had a couple of trips in mind. One was scaling Sandakphu & the other one was to enjoy the snow drive in winter Spiti.

Sandakphu was done and dusted in 2019 November.
https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/trave...sandakphu.html (A weekend road-trip from Kolkata to Sandakphu)

I had been planning for Winter Spiti since 2020, but every year, due to some reason this trip would not materialise. I was adamant on completing this trip in Feb 2022, but again due to some situation had to postpone it.

I was hellbent, come what may this winter, I will head for a Winter Spiti in Feb 2023.

Planning started from late October. I was not much keen on going with the expedition teams where they take 20-30 cars in a convoy. Plus, I am the kind of guy who gets irritated when there is a team leader or a boss kind of figure, whose instructions I need to follow! Blame my genes for this, which came from my dad's side!
Did some research, and I was more than confident, that this trip can be pulled out without any support team.

From the beginning the plan was with three cars. Two Duster AWDs (mine & Bhpian mountain_deep's) and one Ford Freestyle which belonged to Bhpian Arghya_heart. But in November Bhpian DogNDamsel12 confirmed, she had certain commitments in Feb, so the trip needed to be shifted to January!

Further research showed that very less people visit Spiti in Jan. All the homestays were empty. But everyone warned, the weather can be pretty harsh in January and snowfall will be unpredictable. Okay! That's even more fun! We can get stuck in Kaza for few more days! Awesome! Let's plan in January!

But sadly Arghya & his wife had to opt out from the trip as they had a close wedding to attend in Jan.
But there is always a silver lining. My old friend Aritra aka Bhpian Aray wanted to join us with his family for this trip from Hyderabad in his Duster AWD.

Now the the research for hotels began. I was not ready to use the pits instead of a proper attached washroom in Kaza. I started calling many home-stays, but none were offering us an attached washroom.

Finally, I zeroed in on Jigme Homestay. They offered us generator backup, attached washroom (they said they would supply us water in buckets), bed warmers, room heaters and tandoors at the common seating place. So Kaza was sorted.

Had to fix Kalpa and the default choice was the Grand Shambala. They offer the best facility during the winters in Kalpa. I was not bothered about the stay options in Shimla and other places, as I knew there are plenty of good hotels.

Now as the hotels and homestays were sorted, we needed to prepare ourselves and our cars for this harsh weather.

One of the biggest advantage we had was Bhpian mountain_deep's parents joined us for this trip and both of them are doctors. That was a great assurance for all of us. They are avid trekkers too, so they guided us well on what to do and what not to do.

The preparation:

For us-

We visited Decathlon on a weekend.
Bought the following -

Water proof trek boots
-18C rated down feather jackets
Warm Gloves
Neck warmers
Cottswool inner wears
Woollen socks rated for -12C
Down feather pants rated for -18C

Apart from the above we carried -
Medicines
Pulse oximeter
Oxygen cans
Flasks, so we can keep the drinking water warm. In plastic bottles the water freezes.
Moisturizers for harsh winters
Loads of dry food.
Powerful led torch and led lights which can glow for 72 hours without charging.

Now for the cars-

The nearest Renault service station from Kaza is Solan (approx 450 km). So we knew, if anything goes wrong, we won't get any support & we are on our own.

In winters getting fuel might become dicey, so we bought 20L metal jerry cans with a good sealing and a Groz funnel to pour the fuel.

1/2 inch Taparia tool kit, few spanners, an OBD scanner. Incase anything goes wrong, I visited the Ranault workshop and prepared myself for doing some basic DIYS. If I cannot change a spare, I made sure I can guide a local mechanic to do so and we kept the necessary toolkit and spares with us. All our Dusters were serviced with some basic checkups 15 days prior to the trip.

We carried few spare fuel injectors too!

Among the other spares we had -

Timing belt (The old one)
Accessory belt (The old one)
Diesel filter (The old one)
Air filter
Extra fuse
Jump start cable
M-seal
Tyre inflator
Tow ropes & D-Shackles.
Snow chains
Extra mats for traction
Coolant, engine oil, Brake oil for top ups
Puncture repair kit

The itinerary-

The plan was, I along with Bhpian DogNDamsel12 & Bhpian Mountain_deep will drive from Kolkata to Karnal in two Dusters. Bhpian Aray along with his family will join us somewhere on the Yamuna Expressway near Agra. Bhpian Mountain_deep's parents will fly to Delhi from Kolkata, and join us at Delhi/Karnal.

On the return leg Bhpian Mountain_deep will stay back at Gurgaon, as his office is in Gurgaon, and his parents will fly back to Kolkata. I along with Bhpian DogNDamsel12 will drive down to Kolkata & Bhpian Aray along with his family will drive back to Hyderabad.

6th to 7th Jan 2023 Kolkata to Lucknow
8th Jan 2023 Lucknow to Karnal
9th Jan 2023 Karnal to Theog
10th Jan 2023 Theog to Kalpa
11th Jan 2023 Kalpa to Kaza
12th Jan 2023 A drive on the road to Losar, Chicham bridge, Kibber, Kee Monastery
13th Jan 2023 Langza, Komic & Hikkim
14th Jan 2023 Kaza to Kalpa and visit Dhankar Monastery, Tabo Monastery & Nako lake on the way back
15th Jan 2023 Kalpa to Chitkul & back to Kalpa
16th Jan 2023 Kalpa to Shimla
17th Jan 2023 Shimla to Greater Noida
18th Jan 2023 Greater Noida to Lucknow
19th Jan 2023 Lucknow to Dhanbad
20th Jan 2023 Dhanbad to Kolkata

The introduction of the whole team & the cars.

The whole team-

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2693.jpg

Bhpian Aray aka Aritra Ray

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2513.jpg

Rituparna Mazumdar, Aritra's wife

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2511.jpg

Arish Ray aka Rion, who roasted us every-time we felt cold!

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2502.jpg

Dr. Dibyendu Mukherjee aka Bhpian Mountain_deep's dad

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2536.jpg

Dr. Debarati Mukherjee aka Bhpian Mountain_deep's mom

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2515.jpg

Bhpian Mountain_Deep aka Dyutimoy Mukherjee

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2766.jpg

Bhpian DogNDamsel12 aka Sukanya Bhadra

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2749.jpg

Yours truly

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2534.jpg

The Duster family

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_24781.jpg

The Duster which carried Bhpian Aray's family

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2490.jpg

The Duster which carried Bhpian Mountain_deep's family

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2489.jpg

The Duster which carried us

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2483.jpg

And a couple of teaser pics -

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2660.jpg

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2530.jpg

And a couple of teaser videos-





Enough of preparations done, let the journey begin, but before that I want to thank Bhpian Turbonath, Bhpian PointZero & Abhisek Toto Lahiri for their valuable inputs to help me plan this trip!

Last edited by Samba : 1st February 2023 at 17:12.
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Old 31st January 2023, 01:21   #2
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Re: Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive

Day 1 (Kolkata to Lucknow, 1020 km, 17 hours)



Started from my home in the evening. Our plan was to meet Dyutimoy at the Azad Hind Dhaba, have dinner together and start by 10 pm.

Till Panagrarh the traffic was a bit on the heavier side, but after Panagarh it eased out.

It was January, so we were expecting fog. Till Dhanbad there wasn't any, but as we neared Barhi, the fog started to build up.

The first tea break of the trip.

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-1-1.jpg

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-1-2.jpg

Due to the fog, at places the speed dropped below 70 km/hr, and at places we even had to drive at 40 km/hr. Whenever I got a local car in front of me, the drive through the fog became stress free. Otherwise the fog and the road conditions were not optimal.

We reached Aurangabad by 5-30 am. Post Aurangabad the fog cleared up. Google maps showed us to connect Purvanchal Expressway via Aurangabad, but we preferred to stick to the connecting road through Durganti / Durgawati and Ghazipur. After a small tea break at Mohania, we took right from Durganti by 8 am. In the next 1.5 hours we were on the Purvanchal.

At Mohania

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-1-3.jpg

With a couple of longish breaks on Purvanchal, we reached our hotel in Lucknow by 2 pm. We stayed at the Novotel Lucknow. We have stayed here previously too, and it is a good hotel to stay.

Finally, Dyutimoy's Duster got the much deserved runway! Those who know him will understand what I mean!

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-1-4.jpg

After checking in, we had quick lunch and took a power nap.

Kababs and parathas of Lucknow were waiting for us! Evening was spent at the Dastarkhwan.
My friend Ankit with his wife and kids came to join us for dinner. We had a gala time together.

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All of us together.

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The Rockstars.

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A great day should always end with a tasty paan!

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Day 2 (Lucknow to Karnal, 687 km, 11 hours)



After having a late breakfast, by the time we started from Lucknow it was already 11-30 pm. Sukanya was driving the Duster and I was coordinating with Aritra and was fixing our stay at Karnal.

Why should my car miss a pic on the runway? It's not slow either!
On the Agra-Lucknow expressway.

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-1-13.jpg

We met Aritra and his family around 4 pm after crossing the first toll on Yamuna Expressway. So all 3 Duster AWDs meet for the first time in this trip! The last time these three cars met was on the 17th January 2021 Team-BHP Kolkata meet.

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-1-14.jpg

We reached Greater Noida by 7pm. Dyutimoy went to pick his parents and we proceeded towards Karnal. We checked in at the Hotel Jewels by 10-30 pm. I have previously stayed here twice. This hotel is located close to the GT Road and offers good parking space too. The rooms were decent with good food. A good place to stay for an overnight halt. Dyutimoy and his parents reached here a couple of hours later.

After dinner we called it a day.

Day 3 (Karnal to Theog, 269 km, 7.5 hours)



The start time was as usual, late! By the time we hit the highway it was 12 noon.

We crossed Panchkula by 2 pm and we were cruising on the Himalayan Expressway. Few kilometer after paying the Himalayan Expressway toll 'The welcome to Himachal' gate greeted us and the climb up started! We were again in the lap of the mighty Himalaya!

That feeling kicked it! Now please do not ask me to define what is 'that feeling'!

We took our first break for lunch & I must say the pizza's were lip-smacking! We kept repeating the orders and we were late! But who cares!

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-1-16.jpg

View while having our food.

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-1-15.jpg

We resumed our journey by 4-30 pm. We were having fun on the 4 lane twisted hill road till Solan. Took right from Kandaghat towards the road to Chail to skip the Shimla traffic. The road was a bit narrow, but had sparse traffic. Took a small tea break at Kufri and reached our hotel in Theog by 7-30 pm.

We stayed in at De Exotica Crest Resort & Spa. This resort was suggested to me by Bhpian Turbonath.

It was an excellent stay with comfortable rooms, lots of parking and good food.

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-1-17.jpg

As prescribed by Dyutimoy's parents we started taking Diamox from this evening to avoid AMS in Kaza. Among the other precautions to avoid AMS, we drank loads of water and always kept ourselves warm and covered.

Last edited by Samba : 1st February 2023 at 02:17.
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Old 31st January 2023, 14:46   #3
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Re: Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive

Day 4 (Theog to Kalpa, 201 km, 7 hours)



The morning at Theog was sunny and beautiful. Soaking in the warmth of the morning sun, we all had a good time. Wanted to spend a bit more time, but we had to leave for Kalpa.

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-1-18.jpg

The roads were in great condition. At places one can easily cruise at speeds which were unimaginable even few years back!
Before Rampur, due to some ongoing road widening work a small portion of the road was in bad shape. Barring that, it was all superb.

We entered Kinnaur around 3 pm.
The famous natural entry gate to Kinnaur.

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-1-19.jpg

Car Photography on the way!

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We reached Kalpa by 5 pm. Checked in to our hotel, The Grand Shambala.

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-1-22.jpg

During sunset the Kinnaur Kailash looked beautiful. We had view rooms and I must say, the view was worth it.

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It was Dyutimoy's 25th birthday and it had to be a special one. On request, Devinder (manager of The Grand Shambala) arranged a cake along with bonfire and live music.

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2405.jpg

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Well, that's Mountain Dew in everyone's glass!

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Day 5 (Kalpa to Kaza, 218 km, 7 hours)



As-usual we were late. Our plan was to leave Kalpa by 9 am, but by the time we completed refueling our cars and the jerrycans from Rekong Peo it was already 11-30 am.
The morning was cold and cloudy. We could feel snow flakes with the wind at Kalpa.

Somewhere before Pooh.

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2449.jpg

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While we were crossing Pooh, we encountered our first snowfall.



After crossing Pooh, we were stopped at the checkpost and the army personnel advised us to stay at Nako or move back to Kalpa. According to them after Nako, Malingnala was in bad shape, due to rock falling and ice on road.

Between Nako and Malingnala

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2461.jpg

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We proceeded to Nako. Stopped at Nako and asked an army truck, on how safe it will be to cross MalingNala then. They told us, rock falling hae stopped, but there was snow and ice on the road, so we can proceed carefully.

With a sigh of relief we crossed Malingnala and were nearing Sumdo. Post Malingnala it was so windy, it felt like a blizzard.

Sharing the video of climbing up till Nako, crossing Malingnala and the descent from Nako.

So officially snow drive starts from here!



But as we were reaching Sumdo, we suddenly saw stones falling on the road. The road was filled with small stones/rocks. They were enough sharp to damage the tyres. I stopped the car to gauge the situation, Sukanya told me to cross the stretch by keeping the car on the right. I agreed. Gunned the car out of this zone.



Post this, again at Sumdo checkpost we were warned about snow on road. Army guys asked us to proceed with utmost caution.
We thanked them and proceeded further.



The snow was fresh, so there was no problem with the traction. Duster was comfortably cruising in auto mode.

Between Sumdo to Tabo

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2470.jpg

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2471.jpg

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2473.jpg

We crossed Tabo and stopped for a photo break.

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2475.jpg

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It was cloudy, super windy and chilling cold outside. Just after the photo session, Dyutimoy realized, his Duster's front left tyre was flat! It was totally flat and the inflator won't work. So we had no other option but to change the tyre.

It took four of us to change that one tyre! Our hands were freezing in the cold, and we were getting out of breath. But in the end we managed to do it in slightly under 20 mins. Thankfully there was no snow on the road at this point.

Post this point we were again driving on snow.

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_24781.jpg

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_24782.jpg

An Innova was on the way to Kaza. Even with snow chains the car was struggling. The passengers had to get down and push the car to the side of the road (It's in the 3 mins 25 secs mark in the below video). With the AWDs we didn't feel anything. It was a smooth sail for all of us. After this, on the way we crossed only one car, and that was a Maruti Gypsy.



It was snowing and the the wind was blowing in full blast. It was feeling like a snow storm at places. While it was snowing a little bit, I made thr mistake of not using the wipers constantly. It was so cold outside, that within seconds the snow turned into ice on the windshield. The wiper was not able to clear the ice. I tried to spray the windshield washer fluid, but the opening of the nozzles were filled by snow. Kept the wiper stalk pressed for a few seconds, so the water can melt the snow and come out. After keeping it pressed for 10-15 secs the nozzles got clear. But the washer fluid was not warm enough to melt the ice on the windshield. At last using the defogger in full blast helped to clear the windshield.

By then it was already dark. We reached our home-stay (Jigme home-stay) in Kaza by 6-30 pm.

This indeed was a memorable drive.

A video of the snow drive to Kaza in dark



Evening was spent with good food and the warmth of Tandoor.

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_24783.jpg

The parking

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2479.jpg

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2480.jpg

Last edited by Samba : 1st February 2023 at 22:11.
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Old 31st January 2023, 16:06   #4
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Re: Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive

Day 6 (Drive on the road to Losar, Chicham Bridge, Kibber & Kee Monastery, 78 km)



After a whole night snowfall it was a bright and sunny morning. I looked outside the window and the view was breathtaking.

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_24811.jpg

I casually went out and cranked my Duster. The engine refused to start.
It snowed all throughout the night, the outside temperature was -11c. But rest of the two Dusters started in the first crank itself. I immediately knew something was amiss.
2 to 3 times I put the ignition on for 30 secs and allowed the glow-plugs to heat the cylinders, but still the car was not starting. I put the OBD, and the rpm was not going over 280 to 300 rpm while cranking.
I checked the error codes and voila! The culprit was detected. One of the glow plugs failed!

Just beside our home-stay there was a mechanic. Mr.Vijay the owner of our home-stay called him, we poured some hot water on the diesel filter, primed the diesel filter valve. The engine slowly started to come back to life. But by then we have already cranked around 10 times. I was afraid the battery might get drained out. So decided, not to take a chance and use the jump start cable. We put it on Bhpian Arays Duster, revved it to 2500 rpm and cranked my car. On the next 2-3 attempts the engine came to life. Relieved!

After refueling our plan was to venture the scenic road towards Losar.

Refueling at worlds highest fuel station!

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2481.jpg

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Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2483.jpg

From Rangrik we drove for 20 km on that road before we turned back. We could have proceeded further, but we had to visit Chicham bridge, Kibber and Kee too.
The drive on this road was so scenic, that we were taking multiple breaks.

I have nothing much to write. Let the pictures say it all.
Sukanya was driving the Duster, and I had a good time shooting still pics and videos!

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2484.jpg

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2486.jpg

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2487.jpg

A perfect place to click Facebook and whats-app dps!

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And a video on this road-


Last edited by Samba : 1st February 2023 at 02:44.
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Old 31st January 2023, 16:17   #5
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Re: Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive

Day 6 continued



Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2530.jpg

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Our next destination was Chicham bridge. We were constantly driving on 3 to 4 inch of snow. The Dusters never missed a beat. It was sailing happily on the snow in auto mode. Even on deep snow, it was just a cakewalk for the car. The electronics were working exceptionally well. The driver had practically nothing to do. If the accelerator input was more, automatically the ESP was kicking in and cutting off the power. I was impressed, the way it was tackling the snow.

The drive to Chicham bridge



Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2539.jpg

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From Chicham, we drove towards the Kibber village. The road inside the Kibber village was in bad shape. Snow was piled up on the road. It was quite high and was scrapping the underbelly of the car. To be on the safer side, I put the 4wd lock here. Am sure, this can be crossed in auto mode too. But didn't want to take a chance.

Between Chicham bridge to Kibber.

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2552.jpg

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Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2553.jpg

A drive inside the Kibber village



Kibber

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Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2562.jpg

Last edited by Samba : 1st February 2023 at 02:46.
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Old 31st January 2023, 16:26   #6
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Re: Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive

Day 6 continued



From Kibber we visited the Kee Monastery on the way back to Kaza.

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2564.jpg

People drive their 4x4s and AWDs just to find Maruti Altos have already reached that place.

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It was getting dark. The pictures shared here may look under exposed, but I have kept it intentionally to keep the exact feel of the place at that time.

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Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2600.jpg

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2604.jpg

A video from this drive-

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Old 31st January 2023, 17:13   #7
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Re: Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive

Day 7 (Langza, Komic, Hikkim, 48 km)



We kept the car engines on from 11 pm to 7 am. So in the morning we didn't had to deal with any starting trouble.

It snowed the whole night, and the day was cloudy. Mr. Vijay told us to put the snow chains as the road on this circuit will have uphill climb on snow.

We decided to keep it open. If the cars struggle, we will lower the air-pressure from the tyres first, and if that too do not work, we will put the snow chains.

We slowly started the climb towards Langza, and the Dusters were doing more than fine. No wheel spin, no lack in traction or any kind of sliding on the turns. We reached Langza in an hour. It was bitter cold & windy. But the layers of cloths we had put up was enough to fight the cold & keep us warm.

The drive to Langza



On the way to Langza.

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After nearing the Langza village, we got a bit confused to find out the exact road to the Buddha statue. There was not a single soul around, from whom we can even ask for a direction. Finally I parked the car and walked a bit to figure out the exact left turn!

The famous Buddha statue at Langza

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That's me

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Our next destination was Komic. It's the worlds highest village with only a population of 114! We spent a good time enjoying among ourselves.

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On the way to Komic



From Komic we proceeded towards Hikkim, the worlds highest Post office. All of us posted letters from here, and some of us have received the letters too!

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The drive fro Komic to Hikkim



During this time, all the shops were closed. Even a cup of tea or Maggie was not available!

Last edited by Samba : 1st February 2023 at 22:07.
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Old 31st January 2023, 17:39   #8
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Re: Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive

Day 7 continued



While returning from Hikkim to Kaza we saw Ibex on the mountain slopes. We did witness some surreal landscapes too.

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Kaza in winters!

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Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2678.jpg

A small video of the drive down to Kaza from Hikkim.



Finally by 5-30 pm we were back to hour home-stay. This was our last night in Kaza with promises to return someday!

This time the whole Kaza was ours. Apart from our three Dusters, we had hardly seen any other vehicles plying on the road. Even if we add up, it will be less than 10!

Jigme home-stay provided us good food, the view rooms offered excellent view. We got bed warmer and room heaters too. The room heaters were mostly not functional as there was no electricity, and they were giving us generator backup. With the generator on, the bed warmers were working fine. Most importantly they provided us attached bathroom for every rooms with water supply in bucket. In morning they provided us hot water too. Overall it was a very comfortable stay even in this harsh weather.

Last edited by Samba : 1st February 2023 at 22:05.
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Old 31st January 2023, 19:56   #9
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Re: Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive

Day 8 (Kaza to Kalpa via Dhankar Monastery, Tabo Monastery & Nako Lake, 248 km, 10 hours)



It was a sunny morning. The homemade bread with jam, butter, fried egg and a hot cup of tea tasted delicious in the breakfast. The breakfast spread of the star-rated hotels may be missing here, but staying in a home-stay and having fresh home made food with a breathtaking view has its own charm.

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Dusters getting ready for the long day ahead.

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Few group pics before starting from Kaza.

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After driving for around 10 km on snow we were again driving on blacktop after three days!

Our first stop was at Dhankar Monastery. It's a 8 km detour from the main road. But visiting this Monastery is worth it.

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Scenic beauty on the way to Tabo from Dhankar.

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Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2716.jpg

Last edited by Samba : 1st February 2023 at 22:04.
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Old 31st January 2023, 20:33   #10
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Re: Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive

Day 8 continued



Dhankar to Tabo was a short drive. This time I was amazed to see the road surface in this circuit. In summer, one can forget suvs and have fun with low slung sedans or hatchbacks!

Tabo Monastery

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We left Tabo by 2 pm, and our next target was Nako lake. On the way, road widening work was going on before Malingnala. We had to stop for 15 mins as BRO was clearing the road after some blasting. This was a sad sight. In one way we are getting great roads to travel, but on the other hand we are damaging the ecology of the hills. The mountains in these region are quite fragile. We do not know, how we are going to pay for these modernization in the long term. Narrow roads has its own charm on the hills, but again we need good connectivity to remote places. So making good roads is necessary too. I just hope all these are been done by keeping the ecology intact!

We reached Nako by 3-40 pm.
Parked our cars and walked down to Nako lake.

The frozen Nako lake!

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The climb up from the lake was tiring, but it was worth it!

Had a filling snacks in a shop adjacent to the Nako helipad and we started to proceed towards Kalpa.

On the way be booked The Grand Shambala again. Our plan was to visit Chitkul the next day, but in Jan all good stays in Shangla, Rakcham and Chitkul were closed.

So we decided to stay at the cosy Grand Shambala again, and do a day trip to Chitkul the next day.

The drive down to Kalpa was uneventful, yet it was a spirited drive. Had fun tailing Aritra and Dyutimoy. They were literally flying through the empty roads.

Who knew the most adventurous part of the journey was waiting to unveil just a couple of kilometers before reaching our hotel in Kalpa!

Just a couple of kilometer before our hotel, there is a steep road with a curve followed by a hair pin bend. The road is narrow. Two cars from opposite direction can't cross each other.

Now this incline was covered with black ice. Okay, our Dusters climbed up without any drama, BUT! Once we reached the hairpin bend we saw a HP GOVT bus had skidded on the black ice and it completely blocked the road. The driver and the passengers had abandoned the bus. A Bolero pickup was stuck behind the bus too, & he too had locked the car and left. It's already 7-30 pm.

Now, we are on a narrow road which is blocked ahead, and we can't reverse back on a steep incline with a turn on black ice. Without black ice it's possible to take the cars down in reverse, but now it was impossible.

We were contemplating to park our cars and walk down to the hotel. Then I thought let's give a try, if we can slowly turn our cars in 4-5 attempts. Did a recce of the place and opted for a suitable place to turn our cars. Aritra turned it first, followed by mine and Dyutimoy's Duster. The spotters did an excellent job to guide the person behind the wheel.

A video of me turning my Duster.



After turning, now we had to bring our cars down the steep incline with black ice on a turn. Left all the three pedals in 1st gear and steered as little as possible to take the turn using the apex.
Missed a low range gearbox badly for the first time in this trip! Given a choice, any day I would have taken it in 4L, 1st! The incline was so steep, Duster reached a speed of 25km/hr in 1st gear and that's too high on black ice, plus we cant use the brakes also! Somehow after a bit of fishtailing all three Dusters managed to come down without any incident. The only grace was, this down slope had walls on both sides, unlike the place where we turned our Dusters. Took a sigh of relief and proceeded to our hotel by another road.

All's well that ends well!

Last edited by Samba : 1st February 2023 at 22:03.
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Old 31st January 2023, 23:52   #11
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Re: Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive

Day 9 (Kalpa to Chitkul & back to Kalpa, 154 km, 7 hours)



Kalpa to Chitkul is approximately 75 km & takes around 2.5 hours. So we were in no hurry. We started late for Chitkul. By the time we started it was noon.

The road was scenic and thankfully the road to Chitkul has not changed. It still retained its old charm. Driving on broken, narrow hilly roads has its own connect.

After Shangla, there was slush in the beginning followed by intermittent snow on the road. We thoroughly enjoyed the greenery with snow. Kaza was all white, but here it was a mixture of white and green. We reached Chitkul around 2-50 pm. Drove till the army board beyond which civilians can't proceed without permission.

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Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_2764.jpg

A video from the drive to Chitkul


Last edited by Samba : 1st February 2023 at 21:57.
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Old 1st February 2023, 00:05   #12
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Re: Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive

Day 9 Continued



We spent an hour clicking pics and soaking in the scenic beauty of Chitkul.

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Finally we left Chitkul by 4 pm.
Witnessed a beautiful sunset on the way back.

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The famous Sherawali temple on the road to Shangla. Last time we were here, we had met Shangla baba, but couldn't find him this time. Hope the old man is doing fine!

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We reached back to our hotel by 7pm. It was Dr. Debarati Mukherjee's birthday.
And once again Devinder arranged a cake with bonfire & live music for us. We indeed had a good time. Few pics from the celebration.

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Had a late dinner and called it a day. We all loved our stay in Grand Shambala. The food, ambience, room, parking, view from the rooms, everything was great. The library in the attic of this hotel needs a special mention. One can spend hours there.

Last edited by Samba : 1st February 2023 at 21:53.
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Re: Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive

Day 10 (Kalpa to Shimla, 237 km, 8 hours)



Mr. Shibu Varghese aka Jeep Captain was also staying in Grand Shambala. We had a brief chat before we checked out. They were heading towards Kaza on that day.

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The return journey was smooth. We took a small break at Rampur.

Just a day back Narkanda witnessed snowfall and it looked beautiful.

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After crossing Kufri, we were driving through thick fog & heavy traffic. We were already missing the empty roads which we enjoyed for the last few days. The last 10 km to Shimla took us a couple of hours. The traffic jam was horrible. Evening was spent in the hotel with a great dinner. Thanks to Dr.Debarati Mukherjee for her birthday treat in Shimla. We stayed at the Hotel LarRiSa in Shimla. This was suggested by Abhisek Toto Lahiri and it was indeed a great stay.

Day 11 (Shimla to Greater Noida, 400 km, 10 hours)



In the morning, everyone decided to visit the Shimla mall for some shopping. Sukanya, Dyutimoy and I were too lazy to wake up early, so we had a late breakfast and laze around till 1 pm in the hotel.

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Finally we left Shimla by 1pm.

We had some fresh orange juice on the way down.

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It always feels sad to get down from the hills.
But then there is always a next time!

We were on the Himalayan Expressway by 4 pm and took left from Panchkula.

The beautiful mustard fields of Haryana. We stopped for a small photo session.

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Our plan was to stop at Zhilmil Dhaba in Karnal and have the last group snack together. The chicken paratha tasted awesome.

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The last pic from this trip of the three Dusters together.

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Post Murthal, Dyutimoy & his parents proceeded towards Gurgaon, whereas rest of us moved towards Greater Noida. After so many days of great bonding, it was sad to part ways.

We reached Greater Noida by 10-30 pm & checked in at Hotel Crowne Plaza. We enjoyed staying at Crowne Plaza. A good comfortable stay with good food and ample of parking.

Next day our plan was to drive towards Kolkata, while Aritra will drive towards Hydrabad.

We chatted up till late night with some good food before calling it a night.

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_4784.jpg

Last edited by Samba : 1st February 2023 at 21:51.
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Old 1st February 2023, 01:49   #14
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Re: Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive

Day 12 (Greater Noida to Lucknow, 508 km, 7 hours)



Bhpian Altocumulus came to meet us at Crowne Plaza. We had the opportunity to sit in his swanky new Compass 4x4!

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We spent the morning in the hotel itself and by the time we left our hotel it was already 2pm.
Bid adieu to Aritra and his family at Agra. With a heavy heart we moved towards Lucknow while Aritra took the road towards Jhansi.

At Agra-Lucknow expressway

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We reached our hotel in Lucknow by 9 pm. We had a booking at Lucknow Hyatt & on reaching we got to know, we got a free upgrade to a suite!

Now who does not like such free upgrades!
The room was extremely comfortable, but the entrance to this hotel was messy. The security guys were clueless managing so many cars in such a small frontal area. They have a proper underground parking, but there is not lift! One has to take the stairs to reach the lobby. Barring this, it was overall an excellent stay.

We decided to have dinner in our hotel itself, but then we casually checked if we can get a cab for going to Tunday! We got one and immediately booked it. At 10 in the night we took a cab to Tunday to have their famous galawati kababs!

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Post dinner we returnrd to our hotel by midnight.

Day 13 (Lucknow to Dhanbad, 739 km, 11 hours)



Lazily we got ready and had our breakfast.

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Our plan was to drive down till Kolkata. We started at 11-30 am from Lucknow. My guess was by 2 to 3 am we should reach Kolkata. In the first 3 hours we covered more than 300 km. Thanks to Purvanchal Expressway. We reached Mohania around 4 pm. Mohania to Kolkata takes around 10 hours. So I was pretty confident to reach home by 2 to 3 am.
But Gmaps showed the estimated time to reach Kolkata was 6 am. I was driving nonstop at a good pace. The ETA to reach Dhanbad came down by an hour, but still the time to reach Kolkata was 6 in the morning. We reached Dhanbad by 10-30 pm. Dhanbad to Kolkata is hardly a 4 hours drive.
When we checked the maps, it showed the Bengal - Jharkhand border was red, and from Durgapur to Dankuni, the whole stretch was filled with yellow, red and deep red.
We were already enough tired. So decided to stay back at Dhanbad and cover the last stretch on the next day.

We stayed at the Hotel Vivana. It is located just beside the highway. Has decent rooms with safe parking.

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Day 14 (Dhanbad to Kolkata, 283 km, 4 hours)



In the morning, Gmaps showed the roads were all clear till Kolkata.

After breakfast we started from Dhanbad. We reached Panagarh really fast. Panagarh to Palsit took around 1.5 hours. Normally it takes less than an hour. But due to road widening work and diversions this stretch has been taking more time.
We reached our home by 3 pm.

5093 km of memories added!

Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive-img_4809.jpg

Last edited by Samba : 1st February 2023 at 21:47.
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Old 1st February 2023, 22:23   #15
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Re: Sailed through Winter Spiti in three Duster AWDs : Snow Drive

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing Samba!
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