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Spiti & Uttarakhand in winter: 16-day road trip in a Renault Duster AWD

For such trips, it is a must to keep the car in top-notch mechanical condition. We did not have any backup vehicle & we encountered an issue with the Duster.

BHPian PointZero recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

The frozen waterfalls, The highest polling station, The holiest monastery, The highest village, The highest Filling station, The mud Houses, The highest level of the post office, The Mummy, Glaciers, the Lowest population Panchayat, the Cold desert, The frozen rivers and lakes - Well, so many things to list but I am sure that you have already drawn a picture of Spiti in your imagination. And it was not the lure of an imaginary land for us, we had been there before and this time we preferred the winter to witness how the valley looked covered with a white blanket. On the other hand, the smoother tar roads through the oak woods, the verdant hills, cascading waterfalls and a long drive from the origin to the mouth of the holiest river Ganga pull us to visit Gangotri to be endowed by the goddess Ganga.

It was October 2019 when Tanmoy (My Brother) & Soumyadip (My College Friend) agreed to sail for the North. We had a lot to prepare for the trip but one thing we decided was that we would not do any pre-booking for the entire trip. As we were only three men and no family members we could even spend nights anywhere with a little arrangement of shelter. For food and water, we chose to carry out a complete cooking arrangement to survive for 3-4 days. The biggest question was the vehicle.

When I plan for a long trip I always prefer the Lazy Turtle (My Bolero) over any other vehicle as I know my vehicle well and it still offers less electronics compared to the other modern vehicles. On the other side, we had a choice of Soumyadip’s AWD Renault Duster which is very capable, comfortable, fast (Compared to Bolero) and proven over the years. And we envy each other whenever any of us put some good pictures of our vehicle in some good place. It was obvious that we would select the AWD Duster not only for a technical reason but it can also be driven by both Soumyadip and Me whereas if we take the Bolero then it's only me who has to drive for the entire trip as Soumyadip is not comfortable to drive Bolero. And with a heavy heart, I agreed not to be overwhelmed with some good snaps of Lazy Turtles from the trip.

For such trips, it is a must to keep the vehicle in top-notch mechanical condition as we did not have any plan for a backup vehicle. Here we got an issue in the vehicle, the Duster was less than two years old and only 25000 KM run but sometimes noise was coming from the rear wheel bearing. Without any delay, we asked the Renault service center to replace the pair under warranty and they confirmed that within 3 weeks they would arrange an alternate.

Unfortunately, one week before the trip started we were informed that they could not arrange the parts and hence we needed to live with the faulty bearing. I was mostly worried about the situation thinking that even if the bearing works till we return from the trip the noise will increase gradually and it will be irritating for a long drive. Finally, we started the journey on 23rd December with our fingers crossed with the hope that the fault bearing would not cause trouble till the end of the trip.

Glimpse

Hibernation mode activated

Winter is coming

Driving in a winter wonderland

Standing on a lake

Memories made in the mountains

The relaxing murmur of a freezing river

The eye is always caught by light, but shadows have more to say.

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness

Itinerary:

  • DAY 01: Kolkata - Varanasi, UP
  • DAY 02: Varanasi - Karnal, HR
  • DAY 03: Karnal - Narkanda, HP
  • DAY 04: Narkanda - Kalpa, HP
  • DAY 05: Kalpa - Nako - Puh - Chango, HP
  • DAY 06: Chango - Dhankar - Kaza, HP
  • DAY 07: Kaza - Chicham Bridge - Langza - Hikkim - Kaza - Tabo, HP
  • DAY 08: Tabo - Chango - Rakcham, HP
  • DAY 09: Rakcham - Chitkul - Suru - Samla, HP
  • DAY 10: Samla - Chakrata - Tiger Fall - Quansi, UK
  • DAY 11: Quansi - Uttarkashi, UK
  • DAY 12: Uttarkashi - Bharwari - Gangotri - Harsil, UK
  • DAY 13: Harsil - Srinagarh - Khirsu, UK
  • DAY 14: Khirsu - Rishikesh - Haridwar - Rampur - Meerut - Yamuna Expressway, UP
  • DAY 15: Yamuna Expressway - Lucknow - Dehri, BH
  • DAY 16: Dehri - Kolkata

Preparation

Other than the periodic vehicle service and enough warm clothes we carried a few utility items which offer more confidence and in a worried situation it works like an additional insurance. Duster provides an ample amount of boot space and I already have the complete set we carried the below items with us -

  • 20L diesel Jerry Can and Spout.
  • Jump Start Cable.
  • OBD device with Bluetooth connectivity.
  • 50 feet long ¾ inch diameter nylon rope.
  • Antifreeze diesel additive.
  • Coolant & Brake Oil.
  • Electronic Tyre Inflator and Puncture Kit.
  • Shovel
  • Camping Stool
  • Sleeping Bags (-20 degree C grade)
  • Tent and Tent Light
  • Gas Stove and Butane Gas Canister
  • 50L ice box full of ready-to-eat or easy-to-cook food items.
  • 3 X 2L Thermo Flask for drinking water
  • Head Torch
  • Big Umbrella
  • Packing Tape
  • Car DC to AC (220V) Adapter
  • Tyre Chain (1 pair )
  • Oxygen Cans

DAY 01: Kolkata - Varanasi, UP

In the last few years, we learnt that if we start on a weekend from Kolkata we face unnecessary traffic in the city which continues till Durgapur/Asansol. The reason is that many people who stay in Kolkata for a job and used to travel to their native place for the weekend used to start on Saturday morning. So keeping this in mind we started on Thursday morning with fresh energy and current work-from-home options allow Soumyadip and my brother to travel on weekdays with their laptops. For the first day, we took many breaks as sometimes Soumyadip or my brother needed to take some important calls in a stable network. On the first evening, we reached Varanasi and decided to spend the night there.

DAY 02: Varanasi - Karnal, HR

As there was not much travel on a fast day, we were full of energy and started early. We kept the Purbanchal highway for the return journey and took the old route via Prayagraj, Kanpur, Lucknow-Agra Expressway, Yamuna Expressway & Eastern Peripheral Expressway. Thankfully we did not have to take breaks for office work as everyone was in holiday mode on the last day of work in the year. With typical food/tea breaks, we reached Karnal around 8:00 PM.

Somewhere before catching the Lucknow-Agra expressway

In 2017, we found a hotel in Karnal that provides a good stay along with safe parking. So without moving further we spent the night in Karnal and prayed for less fog the next morning.

DAY 03: Karnal - Narkanda, HP

This is the third time I chose Narkanda to spend a day there. Not just because of the location connectivity issues, the staying option in Narkanda Circuit House is also very attractive. It was predicted that the morning would be very foggy in Haryana, but after a couple of hours, the road was clear without any waste of time until we reached Narkanda in the afternoon.

Dense fog on Delhi-Chandigarh Road - Video

Before Narkanda we had to collect the antifreeze diesel additive and one of our friends there delivered us on the way. So we were all set for the next moves.

Reaching in Narkanda, I got a little unhappy. In December 2017 when we were in Narkanda, we saw it was almost covered by snow, however, this time the temperature was even lower than in 2017 still there was hardly any snow on the road or beside. Yes, the weather has changed a lot in the last 4-5 years but I was not sure that it has changed so much.

Similar frame from dec - 2017 with Lazy Turtle

Another from 2017 with Lazy Turtle

The last two times, we had a very good experience in a restaurant situated in Narkanda Market, so this time also we chose to spend the evening in the same restaurant to have some coffee and good food there. I am not very sure whether the quality has been lessened permanently or not but for the day it was not at all satisfactory. This is the day we started enjoying the sub-zero temperature.

DAY 04: Narkanda - Kalpa, HP

Going to Kalpa was not in the actual plan and we could have gone to Nako directly. However, Kalpa in winter is always a favourite place of mine. The main reason is that in the other season, many people reach there and you will face chaos. In winter most of the hotels get closed so spending some time watching the Kinner Kailash from Kalpa is simply fabulous and we didn't want to miss it. As it was a lazy day and less drive-in plan, we took many breaks in between and reached Kalpa after lunch. As usual, most of the hotel was closed, so we had only a few options to choose from but fortunately, the view from the hotel and balcony was amazing.

First snow in Kalpa, Himachal - Dec 2021 - Video

Reached Kalpa

This is the only day we got a little snowfall in the evening on this trip.

Continue reading about PointZero's road trip for BHPian comments, insights and more information.

 
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